In my experience these last few days, there are few things as
necessary as neighbors. I have the best ones ever. Joe and Tonya, you
are the best.

What can I be doing, especially given what has transpired over these
last two weeks, to be a better husband? Whew, that is a good question.
I think, at this time, a better question would be - "how can I better
understand?" or "how can I be more involved?"

I am accompanying Amber to her initial interview tomorrow. I need to
be there, as I have really felt out of the loop, lately. I want to
partner with Amber in her treatment, as I need to be able to help her
as much as possible. I will get as much information as they allow me
to have.

That should be a good start.

Soli Deo Gloria


Moving Forward

Moving Forward

Today is the gloomiest day of the year, according to a study - I don't know who put it out, but that is what I heard on the radio this morning. In actuality, I should be right there in the "glooming", as it were. However, I seem to have a preternatural ability, lately, to shunt away gloominess, and embrace happiness. I think part of that is in acknowledging the crappy and not trying to hide from it - as a really big part of me wants desperately to do. But, what is, is, and so I might as well get on with it. 

To quote the sooth-sayer Michael Strahan, speaking of yesterday's NFC Championship Game, played in bitter cold (-2 degree temp at kickoff) "If we gotta be in it, we might as well win it". I am definitely in it, so what else is there to do, but win it, right? How do you win something where, at best, you are an observer? I feel (wait, I actually am) so out of the loop as to what is going on with here treatment, etc. That is so very frustrating. A bright light at the end of THAT tunnel, however, is the fact that I will actually participate in checking her in to the program that she is entering tomorrow. This will be such a good thing, as I will be there (I can't be a part of the interview, but I will be in the building) when they conduct the entrance interview and directly after, so that I will be able to hear what the doctors and counselors are proposing for treatment from the start. For nothing more than peace of mind, that information will be invaluable. 

I have to accept the fact that this is something that I can have no direct influence on. All I can do is accept the fact that she is in treatment and wants to come home and wants to be with me and the kids. So I need to do whatever it is that I can to facilitate that, to allow it to happen as quickly as possible. A friend at work says the best thing I can do for her is take care of our kids. Well, yeah, that is about the only thing I CAN do. 

I need to hear from other people who may be going through this. How do we help each other deal with the acute loneliness that is inherent in going through this process? I have a great stable of really cool neighborhood friends that are pitching in as far as the most difficult part, in my mind - logistics. My Daycare Provider - Actually took my kids today (MLK day, so Amber was supposed to be with the kids, and Sarah had the day off), instead of spending the day with her daughter (its her second birthday). Her backyard neighbors, our friends Joe and Tonya, have picked up our kids a couple of times, and I need to ask them to pick them up on Wednesdays for a time now, as I have to work late on Wednesdays, and Amber won't be able to do that for a while. Thank you. 

Family has been very important, as well. My sister and her husband brought their kids over this weekend and cleaned my house. All I asked her to do was watch my kids so I could go see Amber, but they put on their aprons and the house is spic and span! Awesome. My brother has offered to help in whatever way he can. I have to think about what that might be, maybe this weekend he can come over. My oldest son is spending time (coincidentally, I might add, the timing here was fortuitous) with his maternal grandfather and his wife in Minot, ND. Also might be going to my parents in Williston, ND, this week for a few days. This has been really good for him, as well. He is growing up so much, just in these last two weeks, to hear the difference on the phone. He is actually having conversations, not just saying what he is told to say, which is great to hear - another milestone, I guess!

Brecca and Declan have been so good. We are blessed with children that have the temperament that they have, very easy-going, life is a river, I am the water type of flow. There are times, like this morning, where independence slickers to life, and over-all, that is good, but my fuse was very short this morning, and so I was very short with Brecca for no really good reason - which I realized and immediately apologized to her for, but, you know, she is such a great kid, and to have yelled at her like I did this morning does nothing to help the situation. I really need to remember that, and I have, up till this morning. 

Prayers, please - I don't ask for much, just a quick prayer for my wife and children - that she find healing and that they flow through this period like water.


Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and earnest pleading, together with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Phillipians 4:6


From January 14th,

(quickly - here is a picture of Brecca, my little princess, brushing her teeth. I think I am in trouble with this one, she is just going to "cute" me out of any trouble she might get into. I took this with my iPhone, which takes surprisingly good images - this one at night in low light - I am impressed.)

an email to Amber's dad.
Amber says she talked to you. I saw her on Sunday, and she looks really good. I think she misses the kids, and they miss her, but…
I ask her to describe it to me. It is very difficult for her to do, and for me to understand completely, as I have absolutely no frame of reference here. I can only access it mentally by the term "helpless", which for your daughter MUST be frustrating. She told me that in your talk, she could tell you kind of felt like you wanted so bad to just say "buck up, and get on with life!". She understands. I told her I have felt - feel - the same way. I wish she could just understand that every day can be a happy day if you choose it to be. Every situation that you are in is just that, a situation. Not something to cause you anxiety about. I want to tell her that, but I know that that is not what her problem is, and I am not going to be able to help her in that way. I can only pray that she gets the help she needs, which she seems to be getting - that the help she gets allows her to function, if not on an even better level than before - that I understand what is going on and am given the opportunity to partner with her in her "therapy" by asking salient questions and understanding the answers and implications.
It seems, from her conversation with you, that that is the tack you are taking as well. I can't think of a better one.

Soli Deo Gloria

This is actually from January 15th.

 It is an email thread with my mother, who had asked me how I was doing. I consider these next few posts a bit of a primer.

You know, last night was more of the same. Kids were fantastic, I made dinner - okay, so I asked what they wanted and Bean said Rice Krispies and peanut butter sandwich, so what could I do? I mean, that's easy.

This morning was hectic, I will admit. I had to get up earlier (and by extension, get the kids up earlier) than normal as I had a dentist appointment. The dentist office emailed me about 10 yesterday morning to confirm/remind me, and I think that, at that moment, for a fleeting minute, I felt crappy about the whole situation. I considered changing the appointment, but I wanted to get it out of the way. So I just, you know, decided to wake up early, get the kids up and dressed early, and just do it. I called Sara and asked her if it would be ok to drop off the kids early, and she said yes. So I emailed the dentist saying "7 is fine, but it may be 7-ish, because I am alone with the kids this week and I just want to give myself and you a bit of a warning that the kids may not cooperate fully" etc. That turned out to be prescient, as Bean was not happy about getting dressed this morning. I should have just put her in my bed, got Declan dressed and then dealt with Crabby-pants, but I engaged. It wasn't so bad, I didn't hurt her or anything, but she was kicking and screaming and crying and, I think, just frustrated at the whole idea of getting up. She actually woke up with a wet diaper (which she has been doing lately, waking up at the first sign of wetness, which I think is a positive thing, LONG TERM. Right now it is just a pain. But I think her expectation was getting re-jammied and go back to sleep, which has normally been the case. She just happened to wake up at the right (or, in her perspective - wrong) time. After I got her dressed and calmed her down a bit, I put her in my bed and let her watch "Higglytown Heroes" and got Declan up, who also struggled - but that I am ready for cause he always does it.

Also, yesterday I had to take the car in, as it was making grinding noises. Needed a new wheel bearing and new front brake pads. Rains - Pours. No big deal, and we really like the place we take the cars. Just to say that I have new found respect for Single Parents - and will continue to encourage kids to NOT become one!

Other than that, I feel totally blessed to have the support structure that I have, and am doing really well. You know, none of my kids has cancer, Amber and I still have good, well paying jobs, I can make extra cash with my photography skills, and I have a great family and great friends.

I quoted Phillipians 4:6 in my "signature" about 6 months ago, and was reminded of it by one of Amber's friends, whose daughter is Brecca's age and has neuroblastoma. In his Caring Bridge journal entry last night, he describes how his daughter is experiencing what they hope is side-effects of one of the drugs she is taking - namely blindness and a seeming in-ability to recognize things she should be able to recognize. Terrifying. But he signed off with the Phillipians verse, and stated that it is very difficult for him do "be anxious in nothing" - but what else can he do? I find, by contrast, it is very easy for me. If you can, throw a prayer in the direction of Nate Dahl and his family, as they are experiencing much more trying times than I am.


Ok. I wasn't ready for tonight. I have been handling this very well, in my opinion. Here is the crisis, what are the options, do it, be done. As of 8 o'clock this evening, I had a time period where I would at least be able to come home to my wife. There was a definite date. Sunday was the date that she would be coming home. As of 8:05, all that changed. I guess it changed earlier than that, technically, but as far as I was aware, it was 8:05.

Amber had a relapse with her depression. She went to her initial therapy interview - and I was talking to her prior to this, she seemed fine - and shortly thereafter was a mess again. Her sister took her to the hospital, where they denied her entrance. With good reason - they said that hospitalization at this point would not help. Intense therapy is what she needs. So she will be starting an intensive day program for at least two weeks where she will go to an outpatient site daily. she will then be going back to her sister's place at night. 

What upsets me the most about this is how she was released from the hospital - basically on her own recognizance. "There you go! Don't have too much stress! Therapy starts next week!" I can't believe, given the complexity of the human mind and the chemistry involved, that they didn't think to admit her into the intensive out-patient therapy setting right away, then decide if that is something that she needed or didn't need. Not let her out of any therapy for three days, plus two more this weekend. We are now five days behind in the game. Had she been in the program from the start, they would have been able to assess by now whether or not she needed the intensive program, and started it already. 

Let's not get me started on the medication. Too late. She is on medication (I don't know what - I am seriously out of the loop on this) and is having difficulty sleeping. She was given a mild sleep aid, but it wears off really early, and so she is exhausted. Tell me that being exhausted doesn't cause stress in the first place. I know, I am exhausted as well. Tonight they gave her ambien cr - which is extended release. Why not start with a lower dose of an extended release in the first place. I know, every body chemistry is different, and we don't want to introduce drugs into a system unnecessarily. However, if one of the possible side effects of a drug is sleeplessness, isn't it incumbent on you as a professional, especially where depression is involved and how insomnia can effect that, to address that at first with an extended release version of whatever? Now, I can't tell you what communication Amber has had regarding this, because I haven't had any communication with anyone about it. That is another galling thing about this whole situation. 

I didn't handle the news of the change in situation very well. Jasmin, I am so sorry about my initial reaction(s). Thanks for calling back after I hung up the phone the first time - and for answering the phone after the second time I hung up on you. I just didn't want to say what I needed to say out loud "to you". I know this hasn't been exactly a picnic for the two of you.

Speaking of exhaustion - I must sleep now if I am at all going to function with the kids tomorrow. Thank you Annie - bestest sister ever - for coming to help me out tomorrow.

There but for the Grace of God go I


I haven't posted in a while, and there is a reason. I have just started a new blog here, under the name "Better Husband, Better Dad", with the intent of improving my relationships with my wife and kids. And not more than two days later, my wife is checked into a hospital, dealing with depression. Here is a little bit of a breakdown of what has been going on. A delicious irony, as a matter of fact.  A little back story, first.

Amber has been on Prozac and others off and on since before we met. She went to a therapist on Sunday, Jan. 5th. for a routine visit - she has been going since she first noticed a little depression some time ago and has been on Effexor for about a year, I think (dates are fuzzy) - and the therapist asked her if she felt she was happy, or something similar. She thought about that over the next few days, and then on Wednesday, (from what I gather) she realized that it wasn't "happy" or "unhappy", but mostly that she was no longer engaging with the kids. She has been only looking forward to bedtime (or even after bedtime) and was not enjoying spending any time whatsoever with the kids. And it wasn't even a passing thing - it was prevalent. Her days at work would slowly tick down to when she would have to go get the kids. Dread. 

I think she was very successful at thinking her way around it, but by doing that, by pushing it back and not examining it, she was making it worse. Wednesday, she called me on the way to pick up the kids. She was crying, saying that she just didn't feel happy, and explaining the therapy session, etc. She said she was taking the kids to he sister's, and I needed to come and get them. OK. I go get them, and her sister explains that they (her mom, herself and Amber) decided to take Amber to the hospital. She was checked in early Thursday morning, and was there until Tuesday. She is now, at the behest of her doctors and counselors, staying with her sister until Sunday (to which she is admitting a slight twinge of anxiety about - but her meds aren't fully working with her yet). She feels much better and has been back to work. 

She will teach tomorrow morning and then has an initial consultation with her new therapist in the afternoon. She picked up the kids from daycare last night, took them to Jasmin's and I came and got them after I worked overtime here. She said that that was a very good thing, after she got over the initial anxiety about seeing them again for the first time. At the same time, she is very glad that the staff insisted she stay with her sister before going home. 

Last night was probably the most difficult for me, as I got to see Amber again, but she didn't come home. That sucked. But I know that this is a small blip in our life together, and at the same time has been very good for me. I have had to do everything at home, get the kids to swimming, get dinner (breakfast cereal and peanut butter sandwiches qualify as dinner in my book!), get them to bed, get them up and dressed (which is what I do anyway), blah blah blah, all by myself. (ooo, so proud, huh? As though it isn't what your wife has been doing these past 9 years! B- Double "O" - B) And I have been able to do it with no problem whatsoever. A very big confidence boost. Now, I appreciate the difficulties that single parents, what their situations present. I know that without the help of my friends Adam and Sara and Joe and Tonya, not to mention the sacrifices Amber's sister has made (she picked up the kids on Friday and Monday) and conversations with Mom and Dad, I would not feel nearly as confident. 

I think I will take the kids grocery shopping on Saturday, and we'll see about how I feel after that!


the FAbulous Family

HEre is a picture from this summer, during our fabulous 4th of July celebration at our friends, the Volkman's cabin. Beautiful. From the left, Brecca, Amber, Declan, Yours Truly, and Colton. 

I have a great brood, and I am getting less tired as they get older! Actually, Amber and I were talking the other night about how blessed we are as parents of these guys, because they have all slept through the night from a very early point - especially our youngest, Declan. I think he was about 6 months old when he first slept through, and has since (he's 16 months now). Of course, the next night, he puked three times (I must say, however, that he went right back to sleep each time…so still). the night after that, Amber didn't feel well, then the next night it was Brecca's turn to throw up three times (we were running out of sheets!) and I threw up the next morning (January 31st - we were supposed to have a New Years Party that night as well!). We thought that all of us had turned the corner, when New Years Eve, Colton came into our room complaining of an upset stomach - and then later he threw up three times. So - in the span of four nights I think I got about three full hours of consecutive sleep - and then last night I just could not sleep, as I was struck by the inspiration for this Blog. I cannot say how thankful I am for my Christmas gift of a Caribou Coffee Gift Card this morning! (Thank you Barb!)

Lesson? Maybe a "don't count your chickens" type of bromide would suffice, but I like to think that the real lesson here might be to mash your hands more thoroughly.

Soli Deo Gloria



This list was originally taken from my post at the strobist Flickr group discussion of New Years Resolutions - and actually the first item, is the inspiration for this blog.

Better Husband, Better Dad - those first, because they really matter more and it makes me look better in the eyes of those who know who I am and might be reading this.

Think - this is all part of the Strobist mentality, right?

Structure - it follows

Play - see bhbd, as well as with light

Do - I sit a lot and think, "wow, it would be cool to…". I resolve to figure out how to actually do

Give - A: Thanks - to God and to those who help (or hinder, cause that is really help, in a more roundabout way) B: Time - to those who need it most - right now my children and my wife, then my core group of neighbors and friends, then others as it is available. I would like to mentor someone, somehow. C: Money - I would like to test the theory that those who give, receive. Notice, this is the last in the list, and really is the last priority and possibility. I have three kids. That is why I put money last, but it is still on the list.

Intend - this was a hard one to figure out an actionable item for. I am not necessarily one for action items, but I can see how they are helpful. I wish to live my live with more of an intent. Be intentional in my thinking, be observant in my reactions and so forth. I think there is a Proverb in there somewhere.

That is my oath.

Now I need to get some sleep, and think about what BHBD actually means