Each sunrise a new day

Reflections & Ramblings: Volume Thirty-One

Each weekday morning Sarah and I wake up before sunrise to prepare a house full of kids for school. This means that we first get our two little boys ready to catch the bus to their elementary school, and now it also means that our daughter needs to be up and ready for me to drive her to school. It also means that the Boys Town girls that live with us are ready to go when I get back from dropping Lydia off, because once I get back home I have them all get in our fifteen passenger van so that I can drop them off at their school here on Boys Town’s campus, something we’ve been doing as a campus because of the pandemic.

Each morning is quite the whirlwind.

Winter in the midwest is not the most pleasant time to be doing this. The boys have to be bundled up to wait at the bus stop; there’s often snow and ice on the ground, and sometimes on the van when I take the Boys Town girls to school. Now, even though much of this morning routine seems hurried or rushed, there’s one major positive that I’ve come to appreciate each morning: the sunrise.

The drive to Lydia’s school.
A wonderful sunrise on the way back home after dropping Lydia off at school.
Another morning’s sunrise after dropping Lydia off, captured with my iPhone

For whatever reason, winter in Nebraska usually comes with wonderfully sunny days. And with that comes colorful sunrises and sunsets. The clouds that do happen to be floating around the sky only intensify the beauty each morning, and it often causes me to stop as I’m pulling out of the driveway to simply say, “Wow! Look at the sky!” The midwest can be fairly bland, but it can still deliver a fantastic punch of a sunrise and sunset.

Every day is just a little bit different. Some mornings have lots of deep pinks, some have more yellows, and some days the sky looks like it is filled with a bunch of cotton candy. (Those mornings tend to be my favorite.) With each passing moment on the way to school, the colors shift and the sky brightens. By the time I’ve dropped everyone off at school and am in my driveway shifting the van back into park, the sky has become a fairly uniform blue and the day has officially begun.

Beautiful sunrises have always been comforting to me. I used to wake up early on Saturday mornings with my college roommates and head to Pensacola beach before the sunrise. We’d leave early enough to stop at a place for bagels before driving over the three-mile bridge on our way to the beach. Once we got there, we’d throw some towels onto the sand and sit in contemplative silence while we watched the sun poke over the horizon along the Gulf of Mexico, the sounds and smells of the ocean and seagulls filling the air.

I’m a morning person. Always have been.

Adding Lydia to our family has created new dynamics and new routines. It’s honestly been a lot of fun for me thus far. Children are such blessings. They expand your heart, challenge your best intentions, and keep you on your toes. Of course this has been quite the emotional journey for her to navigate as well. Even though she lived with us for over a year and a half as a Boys Town youth, the transition to becoming our daughter is fairly dramatic. We are still adjusting to her calling Sarah and me “mom and dad.” (But oh how I love to hear call me “dad.”)

The transition out of Boys Town and into a new high school has meant she has had to leave her friends in one school and start from scratch in a new and much different sort of high school. That’s been a hard transition for her, an emotional one for sure, but it’s one that we are taking day by day.

It’s been a lot of fun to have her with us all the time now, though. Just hanging out, talking about life and love and the universe until 2am. Watching TV shows and making meals together. Even simply having another sidekick for errands around town has been fun. And she even appreciates things as simple as the floor mat cleaner at the car wash as much as I do!

Driving around town running errands with Lydia has been fun.
Lydia discovering the joys of the floor mat washer.

She makes being a dad of a teenager girl a lot of fun. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows all the time of course, there’s already been consequences and hard talks. But that’s ok. That’s how relationships deepen and expand. Sarah and I are very proud of Lydia and sometimes I still pinch myself wondering if all this is truly real. (It is!)

Today is the last full day of Trump’s presidency. What a long, grueling four years this has been. These last few months since he lost the election have especially felt long and painful. We’ve seen the images and footage of his supporters storming the Capitol, and our government is now having to prepare for tomorrow’s inauguration by sending 25,000 troops to the D.C. area. The government is having to even vet the servicemen and women who are being sent to the inauguration, as there’s a fear that insurrection could come from within the ranks of our own military. The streets in D.C. are weirdly barren right now. Hotels and AirBnBs aren’t accepting reservations due to safety concerns. The FBI and Homeland Security are on high alert, not simply at our nation’s Capitol, but state capitols around the country.

“Make America Great Again” — what an incredible and dangerous scam.

The coverage of Trump’s last days in office has somehow overshadowed the deaths of thousands of people due to Covid-19. In the last fourteen days, the United States has been averaging over 3,200 deaths related to Covid-19 a day. Hurricane Katrina had over 1800 deaths, 2977 people died in 9/11. The numbers are staggering.

Today, the sources reporting the total number of deaths due to Covid-19 will report our 400,000th death. And that is extremely likely to be a low estimation of what the true number of deaths really is. That seems like a mind-blowingly high number. Even WW2 had less than 300,000 Americans die. Soon the number of deaths will surpass the American death count of both WW1 and WW2 combined!

Of course, the civil unrest due to Donald Trump as well as the aura of grief, loss, apathy, and pandemic fatigue remain the backdrop to my own feelings of grief that remain from the loss of my brother. Sometimes it feels surreal, and other times it feels very overwhelmingly real. I have all these pictures of him on my phone still because I used any photo I could find of him for the slideshow during his funeral. And now when I see photos of him sometimes I smile and am reminded of a good memory, but sometimes I just start crying knowing that these photos and memories are all that I have left of him. I’ll never get to take another one. The finality of it all is just so hard to reckon with.

Libraries could be filled with books by authors writing about their experiences of grief. Although, how grief is experienced is profoundly unique to each person, it is such a universal experience at the same time. Perhaps it’s because in the human experience, loss seems to be more common than love.

I’ve been drawn to stories of grief for many years now. Watching stories, listening to stories, reading stories. It’s where I have found people are the most real, the most authentic. I’m drawn into that sort of authenticity. I’ve listened to “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” for a few years now, a podcast with stories exclusively about grief and how people manage various feelings of hardship and loss. I look for movies and shows dealing with grief on various streaming services. The other day I happened to be scrolling through suggested movies on Netflix and came across a movie called “Pieces of a Woman.” I had never heard of it, but it was clear that it dealt with a story of deep loss and grief, so I watched it.

I find it fascinating to kind of analyze how people grieve. I constantly ask myself, “Is that like me? Is that what I’m feeling? Is that at least similar to what I feel right now?”

Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.

I have been taking more photos recently, trying to follow through with my own desires of creating more content. Lydia and I have been participating in a weekly photo challenge hosted by 52frames.com. Each week there’s a theme, and each week you submit a photo that is related to that theme that you took within that week. Sometimes following through on these sorts of projects is hard to do, but Lydia and I are challenging each other to stick with it all year. So far we’ve completed three of the challenges. The goal isn’t necessarily to create gallery-worthy images, but rather to learn various photography techniques and to push yourself to follow through with the challenge of trying to be creative each week. It’s been fun thus far.

If you want to keep up with them, just head to the website fiftytwo.photos – it’s a little website I created for Lydia and I to post our weekly photos.

The theme this week was “Get Low.” Here’s my photo this week:

I “got low” by getting down on my stomach for this shot. It’s of my favorite basketball hoop on campus.

This past week marked the fifth anniversary of Micah’s diagnosis of Kabuki Syndrome. It also marked the fourth time we’ve now recognized and celebrated this day with a cookie cake with the girls in our home. It’s a great opportunity to explain what Kabuki Syndrome is as well as celebrate another year of life and health and growth for Micah.

A few years ago Sarah wrote a post explaining why we celebrate his diagnosis day. You can read about that here. Below are some of the photos of Micah from this year:

Tomorrow, the sun will rise like it does every day. But tomorrow will start with one president, and end with another. We’ll also have over 400,000 families in this country that will have lost a loved one due to Covid-19. We are living in historically difficult times. Many of us find ourselves hanging on with whatever energy we have left just to get through some of these days. But stay strong and let’s do our best to love well. Hopefully I don’t sound too cliche when I say this, but Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I have decided to stick to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I couldn’t agree more.

Published by Andrew

a ragamuffin dad planting some sequoias

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