Friday, December 21, 2012

I look at their faces

Every night when I put Anna to bed I look her straight in the eye and say, 'Anna, mama loves you more than anybody has ever loved anything ever before.'

I don't really believe that anyone can love as deeply and completely as I love her. I can't fathom how that can be true.

Yet I know that somehow this most singular, personal, individual emotion is universal.

It's being a parent.

And now, Sandy Hook.

Oh God. There are no words.

The horror is too great, and the realization in a new and most terrifying way, that our children are not safe is too much.

I can say nothing, and can do nothing. I can hold my own daughter tight and love her. I can pray desperate prayers for safety, of health and protection for her and for all children. And I can cry, and grieve. And when the news covers the funerals of those precious innocent victims and their pictures are plastered on the screen I can make myself look, really look, as much as it hurts. I can listen to their stories and to the horrible details of their death. I can listen to their names and try to forget his. And I cry.

That's all I can do, is let myself cry. Not try to heal, nor try to forget. But just let it hurt.

Because this should hurt.

I make myself look at their faces, and I let it hurt.

{Rest in peace sweet angels, we will never forget you.}

Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female
Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male
Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female.
Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female
Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female
Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male
Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female
Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female
Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male
Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, male
James Mattioli , 3/22/06, male
Grace McDonnell, 12/04/05, female
Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female
Emilie Parker, 5/12/06, female
Jack Pinto, 5/06/06, male
Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male
Caroline Previdi, 9/07/06, female
Jessica Rekos, 5/10/06, female
Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female
Lauren Rousseau, 6/1982, female (full date of birth not specified)
Mary Sherlach, 2/11/56, female
Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female
Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male
Allison N. Wyatt 7/03/06- female

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I cried through the Jul Fest program at church the other day.

I cried watching all the little kids in their costumes singing the cute Swedish songs. Some of these kids I'm getting to know; all of these kids I already love. 

I cried looking at the various people from church who played instruments, and sang, and made cookies, and volunteered so many hours and poured their hearts into this concert. I was moved to tears thinking about their devotion and love for our church. I cried because I love these people, and because I love this church.

I cried looking at the faces of dear friends who have made all the difference in our lives this last year and a half. Friends who snuck into our hearts and lives in unexpected ways and make them so much better, fuller.

I was crying because it will only be two years before Anna is up there in a silly gingerbread costume in front of all these people. It's easy to picture her little eager face up there singing her heart out and it's already too much for me to take. She's two too soon and when I blink she will be four and I cry because it's flying by, and life moves so quickly and this is our only shot, our only life and I keep waiting thinking it's supposed to be something more when it is already so much more than enough.

I was moved to tears singing the old swedish hymns thinking how much my grandparents would love Jul Fest and how I should have found a way to get Grandpa here for it this year. I cried because I miss them, I feel guilty for not seeing them more and because it will be my first Christmas home in Calgary without them. I couldn't control my emotions as a particularly beautiful memory came to mind of when Adam and I drove home from Banff with them one Christmas and sang our favorite hymns together a cappela in the car. I cried because I love them so much, and I cried because for most intents and purposes, Grandma is already gone. 

I most definitely cried watching sweet Linnea, a girl from our church with some significant limitations, beaming with delight as she participated in the Lucia pageant. Waving at everyone with such unadulterated joy and pride. She was so poignantly beautiful. 

And for sure I cried while we closed the service with Silent Night. Hundreds of voices echoing through the sanctuary that beautiful, haunting carol. Thinking of the many Christmas Eve services at my home church and how incredibly grateful I am for those people and that church and the legacy of faith that I have been gifted with. 

I have been crying a lot lately, but mostly tears of joy, or gratitude. Bittersweet tears, many of them. Thankfulness mingling with loss. Relief mingling with grief. A beautiful release.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I chose myself

I saw Adam and Anna off to Chicago and watched as my heart got on the plane with them. I sat staring through blurry tears as the plane took off and prayed that my love would be enough to keep it in the sky, to return them safely to me. They pulled away, my whole world on that plane, slipping further from my sight, my grasp, my control by the second. It would be four days until I saw her again, and all I could think was that I was the one who had made this choice.

It was absolutely what I needed, and it was a win-win-win situation for the three of us. For Adam it was golfing in Chicago, for Anna time with her Grammy and Grampy, and for me -oh for me - a glorious child-free California weekend with my best friend. I bought a plane ticket to the opposite end of the country with equal parts giddiness and dread, knowing how hard it would be to walk away, yet knowing how much good it would do me. I welcomed the thought of days where I would be just me, the parts of me that I haven't been in so long. I longed to be just Sheri and not mama-Sheri. I chose independence over her. I made that choice.

And the weight of that choice hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized I would miss four days of this, and four nights would pass where I wouldn't kiss her goodnight  and remind her that I love her more than anyone has ever loved anything ever before. What if she forgot? What was I thinking?

She would yell 'mama!' and I wouldn't come running and she would look for me and I wouldn't be there. She would want me and I wouldn't be there. She might need me and I wouldn't be there. What kind of damage would I inflict on her with all this not being there? How would she ever trust me again? I mean, she was going to need me, she had to need me... oh... what if she didn't need me?

God forbid... what if something terrible actually did happen... and I wasn't there, all because I chose myself.

The burden of choice was too much.

So I sat there and cried.

Then I got up, bought a latte and read my newspaper.

And got on that plane... gloriously alone.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

about Anna (21 months)

She says her best friend is 'dada' or sometimes 'grandpa'. She runs the other way laughing and jumps headfirst into the pillows when you try to get her shoes off, change her diaper or get her to eat. She answers "Anna, do you love (fill in the blank)?" with a kiss, sometimes wrapping her arms around my head and pulling me down for extra emphasis. She is distressed by the smallest crumb or mess and is always ready with a kitchen towel to wipe up a mess. Every mess. Any mess.

She has big blue, blue eyes and perfect lips. The world's smallest hands and feet and lots of straggly fine hair.

She slept till 1 today and sometimes wakes up at 7.

She eats a lot when she feels like it and nothing at all most of the time.

Frozen peas are her favorite snack. "mElmo" was one of her first words despite never watching Sesame Street. She favours her cars, her tractor, her Dora ball and her farm. She hasn't passed a rock without needing to pick it up. She runs wherever she goes and her hands are always full, always carrying something, anything.

Her nos are often accompanied with a sudden and dramatic full body collapse onto the ground, other times simply with a flailing arm and shaking head. They are always repeated but have many levels of urgency and intonation.

She says 'yah' all the time too. Really excited she yells 'ya ya ya ya ya YAAAA!' and if she wants your attention she gets it not with 'mama' or 'dada' but 'YAYA!'

She wants to be outside all the time but doesn't like going in the car. Where we live, you can't have one without the other. Strapped in her car seat with her legs bowed out because she's too long to sit backwards and too light to turn forwards she immediately demands her milk and her papi, both in the most pathetic voice possible. Speaking of soy milk, nearly everything we own is covered in it because every sippy cup seems to spill and she often asks for milk not because she is thirsty but just because she can.

Even her skinny jeans often end up around her ankles.

She loves taking baths and you better not even mention the word unless you are prepared to drop everything that very minute. She has walked straight into the freezing sound and into lakes, not looking back, not waiting for us and not even noticing that she was fully clothed, and soaking wet.

The other day she climbed to the top of the big kid playground and to the top of the twisty slide before I could reach her. Other times, she won't take a single step unless I'm holding her hand.

Even we can't figure her out.

She can smile and point at the pictures of her cousins and family on our fridge for hours. She absolutely loves 'babies'.

She manages to be extremely affectionate while not even remotely cuddly.

She knows all her body parts and about a zillion animal sounds including a falcon, rhino and what she thinks hippos say. She will come up with an answer for any animal sound you ask her to make. But she thinks all letters are "OOOh", every colour "boo" or "wellwo" and every number "too". We have some work to do.

Anna narrates her life in an incessant and incomprehensible language. She speaks in sentences and paragraphs, tells stories and asks questions that only she can understand. She takes her books off the shelves, flips through and reads them out loud before tossing them across the room.

She loves cleaning up messes, throwing out garbage and even carrying the garbage can. She 'helps' with the laundry, unloading the dishwasher and getting the mail. Feeding Jack and giving him treats is her new favorite thing. She absolutely loves 'Yack' and greets him with a 'hey bubbo!' every time she sees him.

She has the girliest, sweetest, highest little baby voice you will ever hear. 'Uh -oh' is her favorite word and when she wants ice cream (iced coconut milk) she yells NNNNNUUUUMMMMMMYYYY!

She has learned to vault her tiny little body up on the couch and the bed on her own and begs for us to spin her, throw her, turn her upside down. Adam is teaching her to do somersaults at her cue.

She loves attention. Eats it up. Demands it. Expects a captive audience - from strangers and friends alike. Puts on a show whether she knows it or not. But only on her terms.

She waves at strangers in the car, crossing the street and any other time often yelling out 'BYE!'. She will give out hugs and kisses too. If anyone is laughing anywhere she takes full credit for the joke and laughs back. She stands on the sidelines until she decides that she wants to be in the center.

If we take so much as one bite of food she will remind us to pray, folding her hands together, whispering under her breath and ending with a loud, mmmmen. And my heart melts.

She was born with a stubborn streak that soon turned into defiance. Always maintaining eye contact while nonchalantly disobeying. A perpetual battle of wills, her and I.

If you cry she probably will too. If you get scared or alarmed she will too. She takes empathy to a new level. The sweet girl has more than a little of her Mor Mor in her. She simply bursts into tears if she thinks she's disappointed you and has only one level of sad - extremely devastatingly sad beyond all belief.

The tears come easily and so do laughs. Her mood swings faster than our cat's. I often stare at her in wonder. She blows my mind. In the best way possible.

She looks just like her dada yet reminds me so much of me sometimes. A better version of me.

It doesn't take long to get to know her, and she makes friends wherever she goes. She's a piece of work, she's hard to put into words, and she is our whole wide world.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dad's speech

Today is Father's Day. I am one of the lucky ones. I absolutely adore my dad (not to mention my husband, father-in-law and grandpas), and I think he likes me too. 

This is the speech he gave at our wedding. I think it will give you insight into the man who raised me and whom I'm proud to call my dad. Like I said, I am so lucky.

Today I am known as the father of the bride.
I used to be known as the man who lived with 4 blondes.

Those of you who know me, know that I love my girls.
Those of you know me REALLY well, know that I REALLY love my girls.

As you hold your newly born daughters for the first time, the last thing you think of are sons-in-law. And as of today I have 3 sons in law.

Just the other day Joan said something that I thought compared me unfavourably to my sons-in-law. So I said, other than being


What do they have that I ain’t got?

She said hair and good grammar.

I should mention that all 3 of the sons-in-laws come from boys-only families. Collectively 11 boys, zero girls. None of them have ever lived with a sister.

So I was thinking that I should conduct a seminar on living with a Hendrickson girl. It’s probably too late for Matt, but I think that Tyler might be interested and Adam definitely needs it. There is so much they don’t know.

For instance, they probably don’t know that women don’t ask questions. Questions are only statements in disguise.

For example:

If you think the words – “are you actually going to wear that shirt?” are a question, then you really need to take my seminar.

But today is about Sheri and Adam.

We first met Adam at Pilgrim Pines Camp in New Hampshire a few years ago when we went to visit Sheri who was working there for the summer. Sheri had told us about Adam and wanted us to meet him. When we got there and were about to meet Adam, Sheri told me to act mean because he was scared of me. I tried, but he wasn’t.

But then why would anyone who is


With hair and good grammar be scared of anyone.

One day at camp I was walking down the road through camp and I saw Sheri and a couple of her friends approaching me. As they got closer Sheri said something to her friends and although I couldn’t hear her I thought she said, “watch this.” So I was ready.

As we reached each other we didn’t stop and not a word was spoken, but Sheri just stuck out her hand and I pulled mine out of my pocket and put $20 in her hand. As they walked away I could hear one of her friends say,

“How do you do that?”

I didn’t hear her answer, but I suspect it was, I can make him do anything.

Sports have always been an integral part of Sheri’s growing up.

We had family ski passes for many years and we would also usually spend a week at Panorama Resort in BC.

This started when Sheri was about 6 years old, and her first venture on skies was when we were at Panorama. The first day I spent with her on the bunny hill trying to get her to let go of me. She was afraid of falling and leached onto my leg. Finally I discovered that if I skied backwards in front of her she felt comfortable enough to ski on her own. But each day she grew more confident and about the third or fourth day we would take the chair to the top and ski down together. Ability and confidence grew quickly.

On our last day there that week we had taken a warm up run together and were about to get back on the chair when she suddenly darted forward and jumped on the chair ahead of the one we were waiting for. As her chair left she turned around and yelled to me,

“I’ll wait for you at the bottom.” And that’s pretty well the way it has been ever since.

When she was in high school she was very active in Young Life. Among other activities they ran a ball hockey tournament each year. Sheri told me she wanted to play in it so I took it upon myself to teach her some of the finer points of the game. Joan and I were watching her first game when the opposing player with the puck made a move on Sheri and tried to get by her by going between her and the boards. Sheri waited until the last second and then stepped up and just hammered her into the boards. I was thinking what a sweet hit, when the referee blew his whistle and gave Sheri a 2 minute penalty for roughing. I found out later that it was the first time in the history of the girls’ non-contact ball hockey tournament that someone was given a penalty for roughing.

And her father was so proud.

When Sheri was in high school, she attended a school some distance from our home because it was the designated school for the bilingual students. This necessitated taking public transportation each day. One day I questioned her as to why she was leaving for school so early. She told me she like to get there about a half hour early because then she could go into the cafeteria, get a cup of coffee, sit at a table and organize her materials for each of her classes for the day. She said that her day just goes better when she does that. I remember thinking, ‘she’s 16 years old and she’s demonstrating more maturity and smarts than most 60 years olds. Including me.

I was so impressed with this that I convinced her to skip a day of school and go skiing with me in the middle of the week. The beauty of going skiing in the middle of the week is that nobody is there. Never a line up and you can ski hard all day. When we got to the hill it was snowing heavily, which it continued to do all day. The rides up on the chair were miserable but each run down we had an inch of two of fresh powder. We stopped for lunch and went right back out. We skied until the chairs stopped.

As we headed for home I remember wondering if I had pushed her too hard because it was pretty uncomfortable on the chairs and we were very tired. Before I could ask, she turned to me and said, “THAT WAS THE BEST DAY EVER!”

Joan and I have had many great days with Sheri. Many great years.

And we know that Adam and Sheri will have many great years. And we couldn’t be happier for both of them. We obviously think that Sheri is special, but we also think that she has a special guy.

Special guys don’t just happen, they are made. And what makes them is a combination of many things. But by far the biggest thing is FAMILY.

So today I would like to commend Mark and Ann for the job they have done in raising Adam. I’m not sure if older brothers are always a positive influence but I do know that they factored into his upbringing. Your collective values are reflected in Adam.

We all want the best for our children and we love to see them make good choices, and that is why we are here today. They are both making good choices.

So thank you all for coming. The fact that so many of you have chosen to come to this little corner of Canada is an indication of the esteem that you hold for our young people.

We are very proud of them, and somewhat proud of ourselves.

So enjoy the rest of the evening and the rest of the weekend.

Thank you again for coming.

Thank you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

and just like that it's over

Adam in his white coat - first day of residency

Adam has all but finished his residency. He has hung up his white coat.

I must have blinked.

He's spending this month in training for his upcoming Chief Resident duties, and is formally done with his three year residency in internal medicine.

It's over.

It was three years ago that we made the monumental (to us) move from Chicago to Seattle. We had finished our degrees, celebrated in Europe and left behind everything we knew and loved. It was time.

Our first year in Seattle was marked by loneliness, change, excitement, new jobs and a big health scare from our cat, Jack (which was traumatic at the time). Last year in Boise we dealt with loneliness, change, pregnancy, adjusting to parenthood, and the intense trauma of my mom's cancer. And now, somehow, it's been almost a whole year that we have been back in Seattle. This time there has been slightly less newness, less loneliness, less change. We came full circle but have landed in a completely different place.

I couldn't tell you just how many hours Adam has worked in the last three years, or how much blood, sweat and tears he has literally shed along the way, but I can tell you he has grown tremendously as a doctor. The wisdom, experience and confidence he has gained is absolutely evident. It has been so much fun to watch. Residency has been good to him, and good for him.

I am so very, very proud of him...

... I am also proud of us.

It has been a hard three years.

It has been a great three years.

It has been a trying three years.

Almost more than anything it has been a short three years.

And just like that they are over.

Adam's white coat - worn out and hung up
(I started to cry while writing this post - so make of that what you will).

Friday, May 4, 2012

one thing we're doing right

We've been Anna's parents for 17 months now. We've had plenty of time to make mistakes, to forget all the resolutions we secretly made about the kind of parents we would be.

We were NOT going to be those parents who let their kid blatantly and repeatedly misbehave, and we were certainly NOT going to be those self-defeating parents who laugh at their kids' bad behaviour. We were going to be consistent and strict and most of all we were not going to be pushed around by some baby.

And then she started to cry - a lot. And now her infant cries have turned into toddler tantrums. She throws a fit at the drop of a hat. To make matters worse she's so dang cute. If she's not threatening us with tears, she's grinning at us with her big buck teeth and crinkly nose, smothering us with kisses or fluttering her long lashes. We are putty in her hands, and at 17 months she knows it well.  So she watches more TV than we like, her pacis make it out of the crib far too often, and she wins the mealtime battle consistently.  We let her do things in the name of 'exploring' and 'learning' that would better be called 'mischievous' or 'ill-advised'. We do not always remember that we will one day reap what we sow.

So yes, we have failed her, we have failed ourselves. We have ignored our unspoken rules of parenting time and time again.We've done what we thought we would never do and haven't been as consistent as we had planned.

But - giving myself some grace - there are some things that we have done absolutely right. She's bursting with life and smiles and kisses, friendly to a fault and scarily charming. She is smart and she is inquisitive. She is funny. She is loving and curious and very much her own person. She is adventurous, knows no fear and is silly, silly, silly. She observes the world around her and then assuredly asserts herself in it. She commands attention and works a crowd. She is bold, she is unabashed, she is precocious. She is - ahem - determined. She is affectionate. She is secure. She is happy. We may not be able to take credit for these characteristics, but we can take credit for nurturing them.

Most importantly, I dare say that we have succeeded in our number one goal, one so important that we put it into words.

She is well-loved and she knows it.

More than anything in this whole wide world I want Anna to know that she is loved.

Some worry about spoiling their kids with love. I may worry about spoiling her with possessions or permissiveness, but not with love. It's not possible.

So I kiss her 80 million times a day. I play with her. I sing silly songs to her. I commend her when she's been good and gently reprimand her when she is not. I hold her close and whisper in her ear that she is loved, that she is strong, that her creator doesn't make mistakes, that she makes me proud. I tell her how excited I am to spend the day with her, how blessed I am to be her mama. I beam at her and clap with her and give her more and more kisses.

Sometimes late at night as we're falling asleep Adam and I will ask each other, "do you think she knows how much we love her?" We cannot say for sure. But it's pretty clear that the answer is yes.

You cannot love somebody this much and not have them know it. There is no hiding it.

We love her and she knows she is loved.

That is something that we are doing right.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The decades old debate

I expected that having a baby would change any feelings I had about staying at home versus going back to work. What I didn't expect was that it would leave me even more conflicted.

Now I understand with my heart as well as my head why some parents don't want to return to work. I completely understand not wanting to leave your children if you have a choice. I understand enjoying being with your baby so much that you don't want to miss one single second. I believe that many feel more fulfilled in caring for their children than they ever did at their day job. I agree that caring for your children is as trying, demanding and draining (if not more so) than a typical job. I am painfully aware that child care costs can be hard to justify. As expected, I have an even deeper understanding, empathy and desire to support those who stay at home. I get it. I do.


I also see that working outside the home can bring a much needed balance to one's life. I get that adult interaction can be sorely missed. I understand wanting to feel like your own person, apart from your child, for a few hours a day. I understand wanting to perform and excel and be challenged professionally. I can imagine that many must miss their jobs, their coworkers, their office. I understand craving a regular schedule - `to get up each morning, shower and get dressed. I know full well how weekends aren't really weekends unless they are different than work days. I understand, empathize and fully relate to those who choose to go back to work. I will always have their back. I get it. I do.

So I was right. Having a kid of my own did change how I feel about the whole thing. Except I still don't have any answers.

If I had a job to go back to, I know what I would do. What would be best for me. But I don't. And I stay at home. For now. And perhaps for longer. Until the perfect job lands at my feet. And I love it and hate it. I'm busy and bored and challenged and fulfilled and lonely and content and unhappy all at once. I cherish every moment I have been given with her and yet I desperately long for some space. I want to get a job and yet I don't ever want to give this up.

It doesn't make much sense.

And there is no right answer.

At least not for me.

The tornadoes and the flood

A year ago we got news that mom was in the hospital and that they were running tests. They didn't know what they were looking for.

A year ago we got news that they found cancer on her liver. Metastatic.

A year ago we were hit with a tornado.

Suddenly, completely and without warning. The pain was violent.

We reeled. We reached out to each other. We hung on for dear life. We reeled some more.

Then there was a lull in the storm and we started to hope. It looked like it probably wasn't cancer after all. We waited for results. Tentatively, we hoped.

A second tornado hit. Absolute in its devastation.

We were wrong. It was cancer.

The pain was violent.

We held each other up. Taking turns being strong and being scared. We cried together and hoped together. We read and researched and clung to every encouraging word we could find. We waded through the uncertainty and sought desperately for answers and found very few. My sisters gave birth to their babies, I took care of mine, and together we rejoiced in what we could.

We mustered up all the strength we had. We have a lot.

Two tornadoes.

Now a flood.

The waters are slowly rising and we can see them approaching. It's terrifying. But we have been given time. Time to save what's most important. Time to evaluate. Time to act.

Time to fight.

So we're building up walls. Calling in reinforcements. The best doctors, the most cutting edge treatments. Blessing upon blessing.

Progress, research, hope.

And prayers. We're building a fortress on the prayers of the hundreds - no thousands - who are lifting mom up in prayer.

The rising waters are a formidable foe indeed, but we've been given time and we're fighting the fight. A fight we're going to win.

The news hit us like a tornado.

Now we're dealing with a flood.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I resolve

I don't make new year's resolutions.

But this year I'm going to be intentional about some things. I resolve to make room for some more of what I love - what brings me joy, pleasure, contentment, peace - and fight against the insidious habits that take up too much room in my life. I need this.

So may 2012 bring:

more reading - I haven't read ONE SINGLE book in 2011 - I used to average about one a week.
more writing - I don't want to admit how much I love writing. But I do.
more exercise- kickboxing, stroller strides, boot camp - etc., I miss exercising. I haven't done more than take the occasional walk since we moved from Boise. This is a gaping hole in my life.
reinvestment in some lapsed friendships - I embrace the constant evolution of relationships and don't fight against change. However, there are some old friends that I simply miss, and would love to reconnect with.
less McDonalds - this is not a joke.
baby free time - Time that is just me. The adult me.
something new - take a class? start a book club? learn how to sew?
more DIY - I realize I have sold myself short. I've have some good success. I'm going to keep trying my ideas out.
on that note, less selling myself short.
less worrying.
more hoping.
more enjoying.

more grace.
more peace.

Here's to a new year. I resolve to not let it pass me by unheeded.