Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Send sunshine

It's 50 degrees here today. And raining. And I haven't seen the sun yet today and it's almost lunchtime. This is definitely October in Seattle. I need to go get my full spectrum light and use it, but it's in the basement and that's just way too far away right now. This is not my happy time of year.

So I totally broke Ethan last week. After Vivian's dance class, we wanted to go get a treat with friends and the girls wanted cupcakes. Ethan started crying at this thought, since something on the walls of the cupcake place bothers him. I ignored this and took him along, as he sobbed and walked behind me. When we got in the store, he went and hid in the corner and cried. And then threw up everywhere while I was paying for a cupcake. I didn't react at first and the cupcake girl looked horrified. I'm just so used to him throwing up randomly that it didn't really register for a bit. And then I cleaned up the mess with bleach and the cupcake girl still looked horrified and was texting and I assume she is now never going to have children.

The girls ate their cupcakes and Ethan cried  more and then threw up again (thankfully in the bathroom this time) and we went home and he laid down and went to sleep and slept for 14 hours. And then was fine. And we are never going to the cupcake store again. I love the kid, but his issues are so random sometimes. It's hard to explain to people that my kid is essentially allergic to stickers and random wall decorations. So weird.

In other news, Vivian is showing some skills in the area of math. Which isn't suprising, given her family. We were counting coins the other day and she asked if she could count by tens and then keep tally of how many tens she'd counted, so she had a running count. I fear we may have another accountant on our hands (we already have MANY in the family).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The school year is off to a slightly sluggish start

Ethan's struggled with his reading for... forever. He finally started making progress late last school year. It's required a ton of time and effort from his assorted teachers and specialists (of which he has many) and has required a lot of time and attention from Daniel and I as well. He ended the school year just below grade level with reading.

Vivian started K a bit ahead of where Ethan had started, but not much. However, she also started K at just 5 years old, whereas he was already 6. So I wasn't too worried about her. She ended the school year also just below grade level, but I thought her skills were coming along. We had planned to spend time this summer working on reading, but with one thing and another, it just didn't happen. Still, I didn't think anything of it.

So,  imagine my surprise when Vivian came home from school telling me about going to see a teacher that gave her Skittles. She informed me that only she and one other student went. When she named the student, I asked her if she was working on reading with this other teacher, because I know the other student that's going with her and that he is a poor reader (I volunteered a lot in her class last year).  Turns out that she has been assigned to see the reading specialist (they eventually sent home information to us about it). For some reason Ethan is not seeing the specialist. I'm a little confused about the whole thing, but as long as she's getting extra help, that's great.

But having two kids struggling academically is challenging. Both have quite a bit of homework on top of needing to read 20 minutes or so daily. And both need help with their homework, since they lack the reading skills to do it properly, so our evenings are very interesting around here. Fortunately Vivian's math skills seem pretty good and Ethan is doing decently with math as well, so there's some glimmer of hope.

I never wanted to be the type of parent that expected their kids to get straight As or anything like that. I was a very good student, but my husband wasn't particularly and he's still very successful in life. There are more important things than letter grades. As long as the kids are trying hard and I'm trying hard to support them, that's fine with me. I'm more concerned about them learning to treat people well and learning to ask questions about life and stuff like that.

That being said, it's still not where I expected to be with school, especially this early in their school careers. It's a fine line between getting them the extra help and practice that they need and not wanting to overwhelm them and give them an early dislike for school. They have a lot of years ahead of them!

Monday, September 28, 2015

In which my kids went back to school and it was a really good thing

This summer will definitely be one that sticks in my mind for a while. It was just endlessly LONG. I had deliberately not signed the kids up for any camps or anything particularly structured, which turned out to be a good thing, in light of the amount of time we spent up in Vancouver. And because Daniel needed to help out his family with things related to his dad's illness, he was away from us a lot. So it was mostly just the kids and I, together, day in and day out. And then my parents came at the end of the summer and entertained them. But then school didn't start because of the strike and my parents left and Daniel was gone and the kids and I were back to staring at each other.

All that to say, we really were happy when school finally started. Originally they were going to wear shorts and summerish clothes for the first day, but by the time school started, the weather had changed.



So far it's been an interesting adjustment to 2nd grade. It's definitely more academic and more structured than K or 1st grade were. Ethan seems to like his teacher though- he told me that she's very smart. And she was a reading specialist for many years, so hopefully she'll be able to help him make progress. He also has a new Resource Room (special ed) teacher who is being filled in on some of his quirks by his old Resource Room teachers. They aren't letting him get away with his little tricks. He still lives on another planet almost all of the time, but as a friend said to me, "It seems to be a nice planet. He seems happy there." So true.

Vivian has the same teacher that Ethan had last year. The teacher is very pretty and dresses very stylishly and she really likes Vivian, so it's been a good match so far. The teacher is also about to have a baby, which Vivian finds fascinating. Vivian's been playing with some of her friends from K at recess and is slowly making new friends in her 1st grade class. I went upstairs to pick her up one day last week and she still is the tiniest one in class. She's also probably the youngest. Ethan's the tiniest and the oldest in his class :) Poor short children.

On the Ethan front, we removed his feeding tube about a week and a half ago and the hole is almost closed up. He hadn't gained as much weight as his specialist wanted, but we also weren't using the tube anymore, so it was time. We had gotten off the "fatten Ethan up" train this summer with all the stuff going on, but we're in full fattening mode now. Chocolate peanut butter cups and potato chips all day! It's good to be him.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The hardest parenting day

Saturday was my father-in-law's funeral. We'd traveled up after he passed, then back to Seattle for a GI appointment for Ethan (he got his feeding tube taken out! Hurray!), then stayed for the delayed first day of school (teacher strike), then headed back to Canada after school on Thursday. Meanwhile, back in Canada, it had been a rush of setting up things for the funeral and picking up relatives and eating with out-of-town relatives and more preparing for the funeral.  We were all very tired by the time Friday rolled around.

Saturday saw Daniel and my sister-in-law out early to meet up with Daniel's brother and mom and head to the funeral home. I woke up before the kids and sat in the computer room and cried. To date, there has only been one day when I knew things would never be the same, and that was when we left Ethan to go to the hospital to have Vivian. Attending his grandfather's funeral would also change his world. It was so hard to go into their room and wake them up and get them ready to go to the funeral.

As I expected, Ethan walked into the sanctuary of the funeral home, sat down and started weeping. He really loved his grandfather and just kept sobbing that he wanted Papa back and that he was so sad. We eventually went to sit in the entry area, where he cried for about another 30 minutes. It was so hard, as a mom, to see him in that much sadness and not be able to do anything but just hug him.  By the time the funeral started, he had calmed down and sat on Daniel's lap pretty quietly for most of the service. Vivian was more or less unaffected by the whole thing. She was happy to only be able to see Papa's face in the casket, as she had been worried about seeing too much of his body. We made sure to not make the kids do anything that they weren't comfortable with, so she stayed to the side with some cousins at the end of the service when the rest of us went up to pay our final respects. Ethan chose to come up with us, but hid behind Daniel.

The service itself was really lovely. Several of Daniel's (many) cousins are pastors and the service was full of remembrance and of Jesus and the hope of Heaven. The sanctuary was full of many friends and family, all there to celebrate a life well lived. At the graveside, the pallbearers did an impressive job of carrying the very heavy casket down a slight hill, over slippery grass and in the pouring rain. The graveside service had more prayers and goodbyes, before the casket was lowered and buried. The kids, honestly, found this part of the process pretty interesting, as it involved a backhoe and dump truck. Heavy machinery is always interesting to kids!

Chinese funerals are followed by banquets, and about 60 of us gathered at the restaurant to share a meal and chat. Vivian was a little confused by the fact that the plate of chicken included the chicken's head, and I was horrified when Daniel ate the eyeball from the fried fish head.

We came home yesterday after lunch, so that we would have time to get the kids ready for their second day of school. They went off this morning without much fuss, so hopefully it will be a good day. They are both on the second floor of the school building and they look so little going up the stairs together... I'm glad that we're getting back into a routine though. Ethan in particular needs routine. And I need Ethan to not be grouchy, so being back in school works for us all.

What a summer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Loss

Throughout this summer, Daniel's dad has pretty consistently declined after Daniel has left to come home. So it was no surprise to us when he slipped into an unconscious state on Thursday. Daniel had come home Wednesday after saying his goodbyes. On Friday I was sitting at my computer, catching up on work and taking a conference call. The call wrapped up at 11 and minutes later a skype message came in from Daniel, saying his dad was about to pass. I called the kids down from the living room and the three of us prayed for a peaceful passing for Grandpa.  And he passed shortly after that.

By Friday evening we were up in Vancouver, where the kids did an excellent job of being funny and loud and distracting and helping with the first tough evening. Daniel's parents had been married just short of 52 years, so his mom is, understandably, very sad.

We stayed through Monday with his family, helping take care of funeral details, gathering old family photos, sorting through things. In a bit of timing that worked out for us (but pretty much not anyone else), the kids haven't started school yet because of the strike. So they didn't have to miss any school for our travels.

I'm in charge of the photo scrapbook for Daniel's dad. It's been a sad/happy morning, looking back at old photos and remembering fun times, but also seeing the faces of those who have passed on.

It was quite a summer. The cancer started right at the beginning of the summer and he passed just as the weather cooled and the leaves began to change. It's such a strong visual, the obvious changing of seasons around us as we leave one family season and enter a new one. Lots of changes. Daniel is now the only "Daddy" in his immediate family. Ethan is the last with the family name. Daniel's mom has never lived alone before.

The kids have been coping really well. They are old enough to understand the idea of and the permanence of death, but aren't so old/emotionally mature that they are grieving.  The funeral on Saturday will probably be hard for them, especially for Ethan.  There's the possibility of an open casket, so I've been talking them through that as well and reassuring them that they don't have to do/see anything they aren't comfortable with.

Back to photo sorting.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

All of the feels.

Daniel has now been up in Canada since Thursday night. His dad rallied for a few days, then was in terrible shape last night, so Daniel stayed the night with him in hospice.

Daniel's dad has always had an interesting relationship with the rest of the family, at least from my perspective as someone coming into the family from a different culture and family background. His dad was firmly in the role as provider when Daniel was growing up and Daniel's mom and grandmother did the parenting type stuff. Culturally and for the era that Daniel grew up in, this was pretty standard. I've been with Daniel for about eleven and a half years and have had only a handful of conversations with his dad, as his dad's English isn't the best and I am terrible at small talk with anyone. The relationships in the family revolve more around Daniel's mom and it always seemed sort of like Daniel's dad just came along for the ride.

When his dad got sick, it hit Daniel hard. He wanted to change their relationship as much as he could in the time that was left. He went up on Father's Day to spend time with his dad and has gone up most weekends and lots of other days since. But there have always been things to do and to decide. Shopping to get done for his mom. Medications to sort, doctors' appointments to get to. There hasn't been time to just sit and talk.

Until now. Daniel's found himself in the role of primary caretaker for his dad. He is the one making sure the visitors don't get too overwhelming and that the pain isn't too much and that his dad isn't being constantly pestered with questions and is just allowed to be and to rest.

I was on Skype with Daniel most of the night last night, because I have spent the night in hospitals before and I know there is no night as long as one spent in a hospital. Even so, I didn't know the details of the night until he called this morning. I am so glad he stayed. He spent last night praying with his dad and holding him and playing Amazing Grace on the CD player. Daniel's been able to tell his dad that he loves him and that we love him and that he will be missed and that we look forward to seeing him again in Heaven. I'm glad Daniel has those memories now.

This picture makes me weep every time I've looked at it since Daniel took it and sent it to me. 


Friday, September 4, 2015

The end of the summer.

My parents are in town and we took them up to Vancouver last Thursday so that they could say goodbye to Daniel's dad. On Friday, when we went over to see Daniel's parents, his dad was still alert and able to walk around the house. He was in some pain, but it was largely manageable. We all planned to come home Saturday, but on Saturday morning his dad was in more pain and his mom was exhausted, so we left Daniel behind (thankfully we'd gone up in 2 cars) and headed back to Seattle. Through an enormous wind storm. We got stuck in traffic, almost got hit by a falling tree, had to search for somewhere to eat that had power... eventful trip.

By Tuesday, Daniel's dad was ready to leave home and go to a hospice facility. Wednesday he settled in and had visitors. And by Thursday he was in extreme pain, had to be sedated and was largely unresponsive.  I think he's ready to be done, ready to go Home. Daniel went back up Thursday night and now the kids and I are packing and waiting for the call that says it's time for us to come up. My parents are still here, of course, but are heading home in a few days, so may be on their own at my house for a bit.

This has been the craziest summer of my life. I semi-joked that I need to show the kids pictures of Daniel because he's been gone so very much. I'm glad he's able to support his mom in this time though, she needs to lean on him. It's just incredible that his dad first went to the doctor because of a cough in June, had been told about his cancer by about the same time school let out for the summer and is likely going to pass away right around Labor Day. I've lost track of how many trips we've made up to Vancouver and Daniel has gone about twice as many times as we have. He's pretty much existing on coffee right now.

The kids are so far handling things well. We talk a lot about Grandpa not hurting anymore in Heaven and what a good long life he has led. Ethan gets a little emotional, but Vivian doesn't yet. She rarely gets emotional in general though.  Today I realized that Ethan's wardrobe consists of sweatpants, shorts and Minecraft shirts, so we had to make a quick trip to the store to buy something funeral-appropriate. The end is close.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bike rides and the continued suckitude of cancer

Daniel rode his bike to Vancouver, BC this weekend. He's the type of person that finds it fun to ride his bike 200+ miles on the weekend. I worry about him. The ride went well though and he had fun chatting with other riders and he continued to be extremely fast at riding and said this ride went better than when he did it 15 years ago. He's in crazy good shape now, so I'm not surprised. It's been so great having him commute to work on his bike- all the biking has relaxed him and even got him off of 3 of the 4 medications that he was taking for his rheumatoid arthritis.

The kids and I dropped him off at the start line at 6 am on Saturday morning, where I gave him a hard time about the fact that, out of the hundreds of riders there, we were the only family with small children up that early and in tow to the start line. Then we came home and I napped and the children, being small children with endless energy, did not nap, but did something with electronics. We spent the afternoon at the world's loudest new play area and ate sushi and finished the first Harry Potter movie. Then I tried to sleep on the tiniest piece of my bed that was not occupied by Vivian or a cat.


She also stole all my blankets and left me with just her princess sheet. She's so generous. 

Sunday we got up and somehow got the car loaded and the house ready and made it to church only about 5 minutes late, which I took as a great success. I haven't sat in the church service at our own church in months, thanks to travel and teaching the preschool children's church, so it was lovely to be back for the service. 

And then we drove to Vancouver and eventually met up with Daniel at the finish line of his ride and met his friends and then headed to meet up with his parents for dinner.

A week. It had only been a week since we last saw his dad and the decline was shocking. He's losing weight rapidly and now is in pain in his bones (the cancer has spread there). The doctor is concerned that the cancer has spread to his liver as well.

We've been up there almost every weekend and had planned to stay home this coming weekend, since we're heading up with my parents in just over a week. As we drove home last night though, I knew Daniel couldn't stay away this weekend. It's hard to be helpless to make things better, and I know it helps Daniel to be there and doing things for them like running errands or moving furniture. I sorted his dad's medications into pill boxes yesterday and felt better about it, just DOING something to help. 

On our way out Daniel's mom was giving the kids big hugs and then she was standing by the door chatting with me (we don't chat a lot) and I am kicking myself today for not giving her a hug, because I could tell she needed one. We are not a hugging family- she's hugged me something like 3 times in the 11 years I've been around and they never hug each other. Next time, for sure. 

I don't want to adult anymore. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ethan is Eight!

I'm sitting in my dining room trying to wrap my brain around the idea of my first baby being 8 years old. Not sure how that came about so quickly. It's not been a stellar birthday so far. 8:30 am found me scrambling to get dressed and move my car out of the driveway as one of the subcontractors for our bathroom arrived a day early. Then our contractors showed up and the house got loud and I had thing to do for work this morning, so that was all fun. I let the kids play Minecraft on their kindle while things were crazy and now they are crying because the battery on the kindle is dead and I said they need to do something else for a while and that they can't have it back as soon as the battery is charged.

Electronics are not my friend this summer and have been largely banned because EVERY time, playing with them ends up with crying and/or fighting. NOPE.

Anyway, that all to say that it hasn't been a very birthdayish birthday. But he did celebrate this weekend. His main birthday desire was for Vivian to go away for a while so he could play the Kindle in peace. Fortunately, one of her friends was celebrating on Saturday, so she and I went to the zoo and saw former kindergarten friends while he played. Then it was into the car and up to Vancouver for all of us, where he got to swim for a while, have sushi for dinner, cake with Daniel's family and TV before bed. So I feel better about today not being particularly birthdayish. There will be cake later, mostly for my sake in having gotten through today. :)

So, Ethan at 8.



We've managed to fatten him up pretty well this summer, thanks to a steady diet of chocolate peanut butter and chocolate chip pancakes. He's actually on track to have his feeding tube removed in another month if we can keep up the weight gain! As of last week he was up to just under 41 pounds! Making progress!

Things he loves include- all sports, Minecraft, video games, comic books, and fighting with his sister. He still has an endless abundance of energy and happily stays up until late at night, just lying in his bed and talking to himself about video games. Or sports. His life goals are a bit contradictory- he either wants to grow up and be a professional athlete or just finish college and then play video games all the time. I believe he's still aiming to have at least 5 kids. It'll be interesting to see how he works all of those things out.

He has a few friends at church and at school, but the center of his life is his sister and they are pretty much lost without each other. Even though it's been a challenging summer with Daniel's dad's health and our bathroom remodel, it's also been a fun summer to listen to them interact and make up stories. Super Ethan and Super Vivian have been spending a lot of time defeating foes named Mac & Cheese or Poop & Pee.

My mom posted on Facebook this morning that she had an 8 year old grandson and my first reaction was to think "who is her 8 year old grandson?" And then I realized it was my kid. Which fits, because my reaction when I first met him took place when I was coming out of anesthesia from his birth and the nurse said "here is your son" and handed me a baby and I just laid there and thought "son? I don't have a son!". Before realizing that I, in fact did.

It's been a crazy 8 years, but I think I'll keep him. It's fun watching him mature and grow and develop his little personality. I can't wait to see what future years bring for us.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Being a witness to the process of dying

We're just home from another trip up to Vancouver. Daniel had just gotten home from Vancouver on Tuesday night, so we had planned to take this weekend off before heading up again later. But on Thursday, the home care nurse came to talk to his parents about future planning. Nothing for right now, but to start thinking about when his dad will need to go into hospice care and being realistic about my mother-in-law's inability to care for him alone, as she is also very frail.

This conversation seemed to make the reality of the situation click for my brother-in-law and he and Daniel realized they still had tasks to take care of. And my mother-in-law was, understandably pretty sad after the nurse visit. So back into the car we went on Saturday morning. Because if there's one thing that my kids are excellent at, it's making lots of noise and being completely silly and serving as a fantastic distraction from the realities of life. The current state of my home is evidence of that.

This is a new thing for us and a new state for our marriage. We've been together a little over 11 years and in that time we've lost Daniel's grandmother (to old age in her 90s), his uncle (hit by a car), his aunt (cancer, went quickly), and my great-aunt (float plane accident). With the exception of his aunt, no one was sick, they were just here and then not.  We've never been through this situation of watching someone we care about gradually get smaller and sicker and knowing that the end is coming soon.

I'm, admittedly, not close to my father-in-law. We've probably only had a handful of conversations. The language barrier is big and therefore we don't know what to talk to each other about. He's not a particularly talkative person in general and mostly keeps to himself. So I'm not dealing with this cancer diagnosis as one who is emotionally involved with him, but as one who knows how much those left behind are going to hurt. My kids love their grandfather and he loves them. And Daniel's really reeling from this all as well. The people I love are going to have their hearts broken. My mother-in-law is going to lose the husband that she's had for over 50 years, who has been with her through some serious hard times and many joyful ones as well.

This is hard. Even with knowing that we will all be together again someday in Heaven and we will be free of this life's pains and sickness. It's just hard.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bathroom remodel

Our main bathroom is currently ripped out down to the studs.  There is an electrician in there now wiring things. Our contractor is worried that the lighting we chose wont work well for me putting on my makeup.  He can clearly see that I do not actually wear makeup and I keep pointing this out, but he still seems concerned. Oh, and the sink that we chose and purchased and assembled with the cabinet is too big.

My husband is not answering his phone. He is in meetings or something. This bathroom remodel is his project, but I'm the one who has to make on the spot decisions. I dislike this intensely. I'm also the one who has had to keep the kids busy all week so that they do not impale themselves on power tools. I have no idea where one of our cats is.

Might I suggest not doing a major remodel at the same time as dealing with a close relative with a terminal illness? We're a little on edge.

And then I went upstairs and found that Vivian had gotten marker on the couch. With the markers that I repeatedly asked her to not take upstairs.  That resulted in her being disciplined (I threw the markers away) and then she threw a massive temper tantrum. I'm sure the electrician is very impressed by my parenting skills.

I can see why home improvement projects get expensive. Once you're into it, you'll do anything just to get it done and functional.  I do not even care at this point, and we're only on day 4.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Monday was a no good, very bad day.

We went up to Vancouver last Thursday night, right after Daniel got off of work. Even though the first part of the trip was just for hanging out and having fun, I was still so stressed that we had to pull over by the side of the road so that I could throw up. Stress manifests in stomach issues for me. It's lovely. We spent the next few days swimming and then staying at a rental property and doing local sightseeing in the 95 degree weather. I melted.

And then Monday we loaded up the car and headed back to Vancouver and dropped the kids off at my sister-in-law's sister's house (thank goodness for large Chinese families!). We'd been told that Daniel's dad (FIL) had an 11 am appointment, so we left early and all arrived at the cancer center by 10:40. Turns out the 11 am time was a check-in time for a 11:15 blood test. So after the blood test, we planted Daniel's parents in the cafeteria and walked over to the nearby mall for early lunch. We'd been told as well that the real appointment was at 12:15. Turns out the 12:15 time was to meet up with the interpreter to do paperwork. That we'd already finished with his dad. So then we went to a different waiting room and sat while the clock moved very, very slowly towards 1. Around 1:10, the 5 of us were finally issued into a small exam room.

The first doctor we saw was a resident and boy, does he need to work on his bedside manner. He spent quite a while asking Daniel's dad about his symptoms and how he was feeling. I understand it was necessary questioning, but the way he went about it was painful. He wrapped things up by asking FIL what FIL's understanding was about the cancer. FIL responded that he thought it was a small tumor and not widespread.

That's when Dr. Rude responded by saying "It's actually a very large tumor and it's spread to your bones." At which point no one in the room moved a muscle or so much as twitched, except me. I started to cry a little. I'm a really non-emotional person normally, but in this particular family I'm actually the wildly expressive one. I think they were all too much in shock to respond right away.

There's one possible treatment that will buy him a few more months, if his cancer shows the right genetic markers, but it's terminal cancer and no other treatment is being recommended.  We've spent the past few days emailing and calling back and forth with his parents and brother and uncles and cousins and making sure everyone understands what's going on. Really understands. Medical stuff is hard enough, even without the language barrier factored in.

Honestly, I've probably spoken just a few sentences directly to FIL in the entire decade that I've been a part of the family. He's a very quiet man and his English is poor. But he's a really good man and this is all really hard on Daniel. And I know it's going to devastate Ethan in particular. The kids love FIL so very much. They know he's sick, but they are kids and in their world, sick people get better. And they are old enough to understand when he does die and it's going to hurt them. I hate not being able to head off a painful situation for those I love. Cancer is the worst.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The second-to-last day of school.

Well, I've pretty much made it to the end at this point. Lunches are packed for tomorrow and I'm getting ready to make the kids' "last day of school" signs. Plans have been made for post-school ice cream celebrating. I just went by the school to watch Ethan eat his "summer birthday kid" popsicle. He was less than excited to see me. This is the same kid who sobbed for a good 20 minutes last night at the idea of growing up and having to move away from me. I really never know where I stand with those children.

I've been spending the last week and a bit frantically scheduling all the things that I can't do easily when the kids are at home. Dentist appointments and pedicures and hair cuts and such. Even though I knew the end of school was coming, the reality of them being home all day hadn't occurred to me until it was almost too late. I'm very quick these days.

No good news on the Daniel's dad front. He's been in the hospital since Wednesday, after a bad reaction to a medical test. Still waiting for test results. Every so often, Daniel and I just look at each other and say "THIS SUCKS." There is no other term for watching a parent go through something like this. We know that he will either get better or he will get to go be with Christ in heaven, and we will see him again someday. I'm just not ready for this. Prayers greatly appreciated.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The horrible week that was simultaneously also pretty good. This makes my head hurt.

It's 70 degrees and the sun is shining and a breeze is blowing. It's Friday morning at 11:30 and I've only been up for a little while because this morning was Dads and Donuts day in Vivian's class, so Daniel had to take the kids to school. Birds are literally singing in the trees right outside my dining room, where I am sitting and typing this. And the baby who lives next door is babbling and laughing with her grandmother. Right in front of me is a gorgeous flower arrangement that I got at the first day of the local farmer's market. We had dinner there last night, so I didn't have to cook.

The flowers. 

It's been a good week. The kids are done with homework and we've more or less commenced our summer slothfulness, despite still having a week and a half of school to go. Early slothfulness is okay though, because my kids teachers are also pretty much counting the minutes. Vivian's teacher tore her rotator cuff this past weekend and is in pain and Ethan's teacher is in the first trimester of pregnancy and feels awful. So it's a mutual limp across the finish line.

But in the middle of this pretty good week, we got a phone call that felt like a slap across the face. Daniel's dad has been having an assortment of health issues for a while now and finally got in for tests (they live in Canada. Enough said). And in the middle of Daniel's phone conversation in Chinese with his mom, he suddenly spoke English to me and said "Dad has lung cancer". And then went back to talking to his mom about the details. 

Daniel's parents speak English, but definitely have issues with understanding in some situations. Even with people who know their comprehension level. So here's how the information has been traveling around the family. Daniel's parents are given information by their doctors (whose names are Indian and so they may or may not have accents, I do not know). Daniel's mom tells Daniel what's going on, in Chinese. He tells me in English. No one really understands the medical terms or tests, so translating it back and forth is particularly complicated. 

Yesterday, Daniel's sister-in-law went and got the report from the doctors to scan to send to Daniel's brother who, of course, happens to be in Asia right now on business. They also sent the report to me and I translated it into basic-er terms, because I am a scientist by training and have worked on a lot of cancer issues and everyone else in the family is an accountant or computer programmer or something related. And the news right now is that there are still a lot of questions about what stage and what to do for treatment. His next test to find out more is another week from now, so we wont know much more for a while. 

We've watched a lot of people around us go through this battle of parental illness. It's not something we've personally dealt with. As it happens, neither have our parents.  All of our grandparents either died young, had abandoned the family years before (yes, this happened with multiple of our grandparents) or died suddenly in their sleep. My mom's mom is still going strong. We've been really fortunate in that way. 

Prayers appreciated as we go down this unexpected path. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Six.

Okay, so a couple of things are baffling me. One- it's June? June already? And why are we still not done with school... we still have more than two weeks to go....

And secondly- how is my tiny baby a 6-year-old now? I just don't know how to deal with this. Six. I have two big kids, not little kids. MY BABY IS SIX!!!


We spent the weekend in Portland and had an absolute blast. It was a perfect birthday weekend with lots of fun activities, dinner with friends, lunch with the kids' great grandmother, shopping at IKEA (actually, that turned out more stressful for mom and dad than fun, but whatever. Bathroom remodel. Stay tuned). We had perfect weather and good food and just an all around good time together. 

So, Vivian on her 6th birthday. She's a darling little girl with a steel core hidden beneath the fluff. She still cannot be bribed, pushed, or negotiated with if she doesn't want to do something. But when she does, she inevitably will do it easily and well. She loves to cross monkey bars, hula hoop and jump rope. Biking she is relatively apathetic about. Same with school things except recess. She has a good group of little friends at school and loves her kindergarten teacher.  She loves presents and pandas and panda presents. 

She still prefers sleeping with Mommy to sleeping in her own bed, although progress is being made. I know that one day that snuggly little girl wont sleep next to  me anymore, so I don't worry too much about it. She loves playing with her brother and taking care of him and talking about their mutual imaginary friends. 

Most of all, Vivian is a princess. She still loves wearing dresses every day and prefers to have on a crown as often as possible.  She's definitely my daughter :)

Vivian challenges me and makes me laugh and makes me smile and makes me crazy and I wouldn't have it any other way. Daniel and I are so blessed to have her in our lives. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

I went to Jamaica and all my husband got was a lousy jar of Jamaican Jerk seasoning

My husband? THE BEST.

So, a month or so ago, my editor sent out an email to ask if anyone wanted to cover a press trip to Jamaica and I immediately threw myself at Daniel's feet (so to speak, since it was over Skype) and begged him to let me go.  I've been doing a bunch of extra work for my company and part of it has included setting up lots of fabulous trips for other people and I was feeling itchy to pack my own bags. Without hesitation, he said yes. I then repeated the begging process to my boss and a week later had a plane ticket to Jamaica in hand.

I've traveled a good bit to tropical destinations at this point. (I know, I have the best job ever). But Jamaica was unlike any I've visited before. It reminded me a bit of Hawaii, with it's beautiful mix of mountains and blue seas and beaches.  It was warm, but there were generally enough breezes to keep me from completely melting.

I can't share all the details of the trip here because I have an actual blog post due for the site I write for, so you'll have to go look for that in a few weeks. But it was lovely and if you have the chance to go to Jamaica, you should. So, so beautiful and fun.





And then I came home and snuggled with this baby and all was well with the world. 

While I was in Jamaica, Daniel kept working his usual hours, more or less. And, of course, Ethan had an allergic reaction of some sort on the second day I was gone, necessitating a doctor's visit and staying home from school (he's fine now). And I came home last night after 5 days gone to a clean house and happy kids and even part of the laundry done.  I am keeping my husband.  He is the best! 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tomorrow is my birthday. This is a very important fact for all to know.

My birthday is tomorrow. I'm turning 38.  It seems like a nice number, so I'm okay with it being so close to 40. I'm a big fan of even numbers. Although, it's been pretty funny with Ethan learning about even and odd numbers and him realizing that we all are at odd number ages.  He goes around saying "we're all odd!" To which I reply "yes, yes we are."  A little math humor gets me through the day.

I was thinking about my birthday this week. Not so much just the presents and celebration. I think about that year round. But being in my late 30s.  I've also been thinking a lot about my increasing crop of very grey hair.  I have so much now that, on my last visit to my 88-year-old grandmother, she looked at my hair and exclaimed "Wow! You have a LOT of grey hair!"  This is the same grandmother who, after we spent days in the hospital trying to have Ethan, and I ultimately had a c-section after 4 hours of pushing, asked why I couldn't have just waited 2 more hours so that he would have been born on her birthday. She makes me laugh. I'm awfully glad to still have her around.

Anyway. So I have a lot of grey hair and I'm turning 38.  I've decided to embrace these things.  As I was telling a friend at the park yesterday, I was a late bloomer in terms of self confidence and self acceptance. I had a perfectly nice experience in high school with good friends. We weren't popular, but we were accepted and liked. When I went to college, I got fairly significantly lost in a relationship and it took me a while to climb back out from where I sank to after that relationship ended. But then I spent a summer in Ukraine and later moved to a different part of Ukraine to live for a year. Living alone in a country on the other side of the world gives one a lot of time to figure out things about oneself.

And then I came home and moved to Seattle and went to grad school and got established in a career and made friends and had tons going on. And then I met Daniel and we fell in love and moved and had Ethan and then had Vivian and moved again. So here I am, turning 38 tomorrow.  I have a husband who is my best friend, two fairly well-behaved and adorable children, a house that I love, good school for my kids and the most fun job I could ever imagine having. I have social causes that I care deeply about and a church that encourages my faith. I like me. Yes, I'm excessively round and try to avoid speaking to other human beings for the majority of my day. But I've come to accept my quirks and foibles.  They make me me.

Because you care, random facts about me.

Jobs I have held: Babysitter, college library employee, college admissions department employee, EMT, receptionist at an eye doctor office, animal testing technician, missionary, telemarketer (seriously, this is where my hatred of the phone comes from), customer service rep, grad student, toxicologist, mom, grad student, travel writer. One of these days I should figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Successes and failures

If you're on social media, you may have seen a picture going around. It's a photo of a scale at some sort of medical office. And it has a sign next to it saying something to the effect of "this only measures your relationship with gravity, it doesn't measure your kindness or creativity or friendships..." I have not gotten the exact things right, but I think the general idea comes through.

It reminds me of a prayer that my Chemistry professor had us pray before every test. I went to a Christian college, so praying before tests wasn't that extraordinary.  And I'd forgotten about his prayer until it came up on an online board last year when we were sharing memories of college. The prayer went like this (again, not exactly. It's been a long time since college). "Help us to remember that our performance on this test is not a measure of our worth as a person or our value to God."

These are the messages that I don't think I've been conveying well to my kids.  Not the weight one, although we've spent 5 1/2 years trying to get Ethan to gain weight, so it is an issue a bit.  But I want them to keep the proper perspective on school and good grades. Yes, they're important to me. I want my kids to live up to their potential and try as hard as they can to do well. But I don't want it to define them.

Last week, Ethan leveled up in his reading.  This is a big deal.  So much of a big deal that his special ed teacher called me immediately. I knew she was excited. And he shared the news at his friendship group (I have no idea what that actually is...) and was happy to tell my parents when we chatted on Skype that night. I'm excited too, because he's finally into books with a plot!

And a few days later, as we waited for the school bell to ring, a kindergarten teacher who has no direct involvement with Ethan's reading and who is not Vivian's teacher and was not Ethan's teacher last year, came up and congratulated him on leveling up and made sure he'd told me.  It was amazing- so many people at school are cheering on my kid.

I emailed the principal and teachers and therapists and all of Ethan's people to thank them for supporting us. And they all wrote back about what a joy it is to teach Ethan. Yes, he struggles in school and can be a pain sometimes, but he's just overflowing with love and friendliness.  We can't walk down the hall without people saying hi to him- he knows pretty much all of the teachers and staff and older kids. I love that. He makes people smile and want to support him.  That's the type of attitude that I want to see in my kids and I pray that I can figure out a way to not mess it up too much in the future. :)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Kindergarten and first grade are complicated!

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you've seen some of the math problems that Ethan has been assigned. I'm not kidding, some of them have flat out asked us to solve for A and B. We're talking algebra, people. Then the next week will be standard addition problems and I can breathe again. I'm not struggling to do the problems myself, but explaining it to Ethan is an entirely different story. Just hoping to not mess him up too bad. Then there's the mindnumbing horror of their reading homework. Ethan's reading at a mid-first grade level and Vivian at a mid-kindergarten level. We sit down to work on homework and I say that I want them to both read 2 or 3 books, but usually am curled up in the fetal position and wondering if it's too early for a shot of vodka after only one book.  "THE WORD IS OF! IT'S THE SAME AS IT WAS ON THE LAST SIX PAGES! OF!! OF!!!" (Fortunately that screaming is usually confined to the interior of my brain).

But having a boy go through school first, I missed out on the interpersonal drama that comes with having a daughter. I knew it started early- Vivian had some issues with being bullied in preschool. And most of my friends last year had daughters in Ethan's class, so I knew there was an issue with popular kids and cliques and stuff like that. But Ethan's fairly oblivious to anything except running around and kicking a soccer ball or catching a football. As long as he has a ball or people to run with, it's a good day at recess.

Vivian has been coming home this week and telling me stories of the kids meeting up in groups at recess and having conversations about adult things, like kissing. She tells me that they are all a little concerned that kissing is involved when people get married. But then she also tells me that they were trying to get one of the little boys to kiss another little girl. And then yesterday she came home and told me that another classmate kissed her twice.

Oh, and she also has been telling me that her closest friend now has rules and steps for Vivian being her friend and that Vivian is no longer her friend because she hasn't met all the rules and steps yet. Vivian is not upset by this at all.

I just didn't know how grateful I should be for having one kid who exists pretty much totally outside of any social interactions and is more or less completely fine with that. All of this drama with 5 year olds!

I did email the teacher this morning to keep her in the loop with the kissing issue and had several conversations with Vivian about appropriate behavior and standing up for herself if someone is making her uncomfortable.

I'm just not even going to let myself think about middle school and high school yet to come.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My cat keeps hogging the heater

It got down to 50 degrees here in Seattle and the sun went back behind its normal February clouds, so I've spent the past day and a half huddling in front of my space heater and quietly whining to myself. And every so often I notice that, despite the space heater being on and only a few feet away, no heat is getting to me. And I usually then look over and see this.
And then I yell at her, because she has a fur coat on already and I am COLD and then she stares at me blankly and then I try to rationalize with her and then she turns away from looking at me and settles down in front of the heater for a long stay.

I need to talk to more actual human beings during my day.

Things that I have done while I was not here. Spent a lot of time with a headache. Everything is in bloom here already, meaning spring allergies in the middle of winter, meaning sinus issues. Dislike. Spent a day down at the state capital building speaking with various state representatives about abolishing the death penalty. Almost went into a meeting with one of them with my skirt tucked up in my underwear. Good times. Oddly enough, while down at the capitol, I was sitting on the steps inside the building and eating a free baked potato, provided by the state potato lobby, when a childhood friend whom I haven't seen since my wedding walked past.  Totally random. Free potatoes bring people together!

Celebrated one of my best ever Valentine's Days with Daniel and the kids on a local beach on a 65 degree day with gorgeous views.


Celebrated Chinese New Year with friends and with these two.


Went to a Beth Moore conference. It was really good and I got a lot out of it. But I did have to gaze directly into the eyes of another woman and repeat a bunch of stuff that Beth made us say and I've barely recovered from the last time we had to do that when my church was doing another one of her studies. Introverts beware! 

Celebrated mine and Daniel's 9th wedding anniversary. He took the day off work and we hung out in downtown Seattle. We couldn't get up to the room where we got married this year (it's closed for renovation) to take our annual picture, but he brainstormed and we went to a taller building and took a picture looking down on Smith Tower. On a side note, we have a terrible time taking selfies. I think we're just too old.

Today, while freezing in my living room, I am setting up review trips to various beach resorts for other people. And working on a client report about previous beach trips that various coworkers have taken. This is not an ideal activity on a grey Thursday.  But, no snow here this year, so I can't complain too much. 

The cat fell asleep and is now blocking less of the heater, so I like her a bit better now. 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I'm considering running away to join the circus

My kids were especially loud this morning and then I went and dropped them off at school. And sat quietly in the hallway and cut out ears for the paper teddy bear headbands that the kids are going to wear for their Valentine's Day party. I kind of love sitting quietly in the hallway at school and mindlessly cutting things out. Makes me feel productive, unlike the endless piles of laundry and constantly dirty floors at home. And then I went and helped out in Vivian's not-at-all-quiet classroom and the kids were especially loud in there too. I blame the weather. It's been unseasonably warm here and we're all getting spring fever. Unfortunately, it's only January.

I got an email from Ethan's teacher and special ed teacher yesterday, giving me a heads up about more problems that they are having with him in class. I had to wait a while to reply because what I really wanted to write was "sorry my kid is such an absolute pain-in-the-butt lately", but that seemed like a poor parenting choice. But he kind of is.  He has the memory span of a forgetful gnat and feels that he needs to be helped with everything. Unfortunately, even though we try to get him to be independent and do things for himself, he's got Vivian convinced to do most things for him at home, and then that translates to helplessness at school. So we have to add that to the LONG list of things we're working on with him.  He's a sweet kid. I wish that everything in life wasn't such an uphill battle for him.

And today in V's class, I noticed that she's one of the lowest readers in the class. Nothing problematic, but I feel I could be doing more with her, but I'm totally burned out after I deal with Ethan and his stuff. She's doing fine though, and she is one of the youngest in the class and I need to not stress out. I don't typically struggle with mom guilt, but it's been rearing its ugly head lately.

I love my kids and I enjoy spending time with them and seeing how their brains work and laughing at the funny things they come up with. But they've been challenging lately and I'm tired.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Insane football games and whiny children

I think the stress of the Seahawks/Packers game somehow broke Ethan. He's in fine form with the whining and the crying today. Despite a playroom full of toys and a bedroom full of stuffed animals, he has declared that he has absolutely nothing to do other than wrestle with his (80 year old and rather fragile) grandfather. We opted to not let him do that, so he's whining and crying.

Seriously, that football game yesterday? I finally ended up hiding in the living room while the rest of my family watched in the family room.  So I missed all of the crazy plays and had to watch the recap later on in the evening. Couldn't take the stress of it all. And apparently, me leaving was some sort of sign for the Seahawks to play well, since they started scoring as soon as I left the room. You're welcome, Hawks fans.

Thankfully, my 13-month old niece (she's not actually my niece, but she's as close as I'm going to get) also had no interest in football, so we had a blast playing in the living room. She actually cried when I left after the game was done. I'm relatively certain that she likes me better than my own children do. 

Last night was Vivian's turn for a total meltdown after our long day. She declared that she couldn't sleep alone in her bed and accused me of loving Daddy more than I love her when I opted to sleep in my own bed with him instead of on the floor on her twin mattress with her. Did I mention that my in-laws are here for all of this fabulous kid behavior?

In totally random news, I served avocado slices as a side dish last night. My mother-in-law wasn't sure what she was looking at, and when we translated it for her, she mentioned that she'd never eaten one before. She gamely tried it and even took a second helping. Cross cultural education through food! Being a part of a mixed culture family definitely has its entertaining moments- you never know when something so basic to you will be a total novelty for someone else!

Why I personally do not believe the death penalty is right or backed up by the Bible

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It's a day when we remember a great man who stood up for his beliefs and all of the people who sacrificed greatly to change the status quo in the United States. It's a day to remember their fight for justice and equality. As we all know, there's still a long way to go in our country, but at least some progress has been made.

My friend Jimmy is on my mind today.  He's celebrating MLK Day from behind bars on death row in Alabama. He's an African-American man who made mistakes, but who likely got sent to death row because of false witness of someone who had a lot to lose himself.

Last week when a Georgia death row inmate was getting ready to be executed, I heard an official use the typical response to justify the execution. He quoted Leviticus 24:20 "eye for eye, tooth for tooth". There are some problems with this argument though, as I see it.

1) God did command the Israelites to put to death those who took the life of someone else.  He also made a lot of other commandments in the laws set forth in the book of Leviticus. Have you read through the book of Leviticus lately? There are laws covering food, sex, health, farming... you name it. And Christians follow almost none of those rules.  I grew up in a Judeo-Christian church and we followed the dietary laws of Leviticus. But even we didn't follow all of the other laws. Because they were laws given by God to a certain group of people in a certain time period.

Later in the book of Numbers, when the Israelites were living in cities, a new system was set up with cities of refuge for people to flee to if they had killed someone. These were set up to ensure that the person got a fair trial and the circumstances in which the death had occurred could be sure to get a trial before the assembly.  This book even mentions that no one should be put to death based on the testimony of one witness.

And in the book of Matthew, Jesus pointed out that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  The old covenant, with its rules and regulations was fulfilled or completed with Jesus's death on the cross.  We no longer live under that covenant. 

2) When the death penalty was put forth in the old covenant law, the system consisted of God to Moses to the instruction being carried out by the people.  In our current system, you have police and lawyers and juries and judges. You have people who have their jobs to defend by successfully arguing legal cases.  You have people who are put on the stand to testify who may have ulterior motives for what they say.

Back when I was working as a toxicologist, I did a lot of work that was related to expert testimonies in legal cases. And I can tell you, our main goal was to prove our side of the story. The other side's job was to prove their side of the story. We didn't swap information and weigh the decision. We worked to prove our point and win.  Same thing is true in criminal cases. Even if someone's life is on the line. The popularity of the recent podcast, Serial, has been a great example of that. A man was sentenced to life in prison (Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013 and commuted the sentence of the 4 death row inmates at the end of 2014, so even if he had been sentenced to death, it would no longer apply). And now that a popular podcast has brought new information to light, there are doubts about his guilt. Because our justice system is terribly broken.

As Christians, we are called to love and serve one another.  We are called to seek justice. When someone is put to death by their government, that's final. There's no chance for them to be witnessed to anymore. There's no chance for them to witness to others, if they have become Christians. It's final. There's no going back, even if new information comes to light later on and the sentence is found to have been a mistake. We're putting people to death who have mental issues while serial killers can admit guilt and plea bargain their way to a lesser sentence.  This is not justice.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More stuff about the death penalty that's weighing on my heart

First off, I'd like to say that I really don't want to be thinking or writing about the death penalty. But it's so heavy on my heart these days and I do have this small platform and I feel strongly that God is calling me to say something.

Yesterday on Facebook, I saw an article about a Saudi blogger who had been sentenced to receive 1000 lashes for what was reportedly cyber crime and ridiculing Islamic figures. He had received the first of the 50 lashes and there was a lot of outrage about this punishment, as it has a good chance of killing him.  When I read the story, I was felt sick to my stomach and almost threw up.  This man is being punished in such a barbaric way. How could a government do that to its citizens?

And then I turned on the radio later that day to hear about the state of Georgia preparing to execute a man who had been convicted of murder. The murder was videotaped by the victim's (a county trooper) dashboard cam, so there was no doubt of his guilt. However, this man also apparently suffered from mental issues and there was doubt that the proper testimony regarding his issues was heard at the sentencing trial. He was executed yesterday, by the state.

We in the United States hold ourselves up as citizens of a progressive country with a great justice system. But the truth is that our justice system is complicated and full of lots of people who are out to seek after their own political or career gain.  And sometimes that means that innocent people or people who are mentally ill are sentenced to death and even executed. Often with untested drugs that cause suffering, something that we should be beyond here in an enlightened country (and trust me, the other methods of execution that have been used in the US are equally barbaric when you look at the details of what goes on). There's no going back after someone is put to death by their government. And while this is all going on in our own country, we get upset at news stories of innocent people in other countries being sentenced to death by their governments and we sign petitions and pray for their release.

In addition to the facts about life on death row, I spent a lot of time last year learning about what life is like for those sentenced to life in prison. And from what I read and learned about in class, it's an incredibly awful punishment as well. Sentencing a person to life in prison is not letting them get off lightly for their crimes. It's a disgusting, terrible, awful way to live.

I don't know what I'm supposed to do with the things I've learned over the past year. I'm a middle class white woman living in the suburbs. This isn't an issue that ever touched my life until I took that class last year in grad school. But now I'm upset and angry and I just don't think the way that many states in the United States are acting is right. I'm proud of my own governor for suspending the death penalty last year.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

January, so far

On Tuesday morning, I wrangled the kids out of bed at dark o'clock and headed to the school for an early morning IEP meeting with Ethan's teachers and therapists and assistant principal and I have no idea who else because 1) it was the second day back after break and 2) I was not really awake yet. And we sat and went over the 18 pages of assessments and goals and then I dropped the kids off at their classes and went home and hid in my bed for the rest of the day. And then Wednesday morning I put on my gym clothes and then took the kids to school and then came home and hid in my bed for the rest of the day.

I always have this weird reaction to Ethan's IEP and also to his medical appointments. I don't feel bad about them at the time necessarily, but then I spend two days barely functional, just completely worn out and only able to do the bare necessities of life. I'm always surprised by this reaction- the IEP meetings are largely a positive thing- I get to interact with the big team of people who is working to help Ethan and see their goals for the next year. But it's still 18 pages of reminders that my kid has problems and so many challenges. Not that he seems to know that, Ethan is a "glass completely full" kind of person. But still.

Today is better and I put on my gym clothes this morning and actually went to the gym. And did laundry and started cleaning the bathroom before getting distracted by something on Facebook. And the sun is shining and all is well again in my head. At least to the level that things are ever well in my head.

In other news, on Sunday night I made all of Vivian's cheese sandwiches for the week and washed and bagged up all of the grapes for both of their lunches and cooked all of the chicken nuggets that I had left for Ethan's lunches. I estimate that it's saving me less than 2 minutes per day, but it's amazing the difference it makes in my evening routine, to just have one less thing to deal with. Definitely a win for me.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

What happens when you spend a year corresponding with a death row prisoner

As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, I recently spent two years back in grad school, this time deviating far from my previous education in the sciences, studying law and public policy.  The classes had a varying amount of effect on me and some were more challenging than others.

Last January, I started a class that, for 16 weeks, dealt with two issues that definitely fell into my avoidance category- abortion and the death penalty. We had 16 weeks of discussions and arguments and reading and I despised it at the time. I didn't want to think about the tough issues. It was much more comfortable to continue on my life as a upper middle class white woman living in my affluent neighborhood with my cute children and gainfully employed husband. I did not want to step out of the bubble. Unfortunately, I had a 4.0 GPA going into the class and I had no intention of letting that slip. So avoidance was not an option this time.

One of the assignments for my class was to pick three death row inmates and correspond with them weekly for the entire 16 weeks of the class. Writing to a death row inmate is more challenging than you would think. Every state has different rules for correspondence and they are often buried deep on the state's website. Eventually I did strike up several correspondences- one with a man in Alabama named Jimmy and one with a man here in Washington State named Robert.  Both really impacted me, but writing to Jimmy was a life-changing experience.

Since this post is already getting long, I wont explain all of Jimmy's case, but will link to a 1994 NY Times article about it. Basically, a five day! trial, a death sentence and doubts about whether the right man was even arrested in the first place.

I've been writing to Jimmy for a year, weekly for the duration of my class and about twice per month since then. Every single letter from Jimmy is basically the same- a list of praises for the wonderful things that have happened to him that week, encouragement to me to spend more time praying, discussion of Bible verses that he's been reading, questions about my family and effusive thanks for my letters. You see, ending up on death row changed Jimmy's life. He grew up the only boy in a family raised by a single mom. He only met his father briefly. He did commit petty crimes before being sent to death row.  And I believe, based on what I've read, that Jimmy is innocent of the crime that sent him to death row. But he never talks about that. He's alluded to false testimony that sent him to death row and has talked about how he has forgiven that man and prays for him. But he never focuses on that. He knows that he is where God has sent him to be. He prays with his jailers and other inmates and counsels his family through letters and phone calls.

I hate that my friend is on death row, but I believe as he does that he is where God wants him to be. For now. Corresponding with Jimmy has given me a front row seat to the amazing effects of Jesus's sacrifice on the life of a sinner.

But death row. Do you know that there is not really any rhyme or reason for how someone gets sentenced to death row? Numbers of inmates on death row and the cases that sent them there vary widely from state to state. Here in Washington, the worst serial killer in US history is NOT on death row. And, as has been discussed on the news a lot lately, many states are using untested drugs to put people to death in ways that are sometimes incredibly painful. Do you know why? Because many of the drugs that used to be used were supplied by European companies. And most countries around the world, including those where the drug companies are located, view the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment. They hoped that, by refusing to supply the drugs, the death penalty would stop being used in the US. They did not succeed.

In  my class, we spent a lot of time talking about Imago Dei or the image of God. And how all people are made in his image and we, as Christians, are called to protect it. Which we're pretty good at doing when it comes to unborn babies. But we stand by and say nothing  when our government takes the life of a man. Even though some of these men are later found to probably not be guilty of their crimes.

I know this is an issue on which there are Biblical arguments on both sides of the issue. I'm not expecting to change anyone's mind. But I think that we need to be informed before we have an opinion. My friend's life deserves defending.