When I am weak, then I am strong.

I don’t write very often now.  I feel like I mention that at the beginning of every blog post.  There is less urgency behind my need to express myself.  I feel resigned to the fact that my heart hurts day to day and the desire to share that has diminished.  My grief has become a constant background noise instead of a immediate din that needs to be explained.

Today marks four years since the morning Jen died.  I woke up seconds before my sister breathed her last.  I was sleeping in her hospital room, curled up on a chair with my brothers and nephews and parents arranged around the room in various levels of sleep and sorrow.  My father sat on Jen’s left, stroking her hand and Chris sat on her right, softly speaking to her.  Her breathing was ragged and loud; it was clear that the time was coming soon.

Some silent whisper from God woke me up that morning in time to hear my father and Chris say to Jen that they loved her and that she should stop fighting and let go.  Seconds later, I heard Chris cry out in mourning and I knew she was gone.  I prize those few seconds where everything was still and I was able to see her go from my perch across the room.  Slowly, everyone else in the room started to stir and we all gathered together. I know Jen would be pleased to know we were all there for her.

Many days I feel so weak for being sad all the time.  I cried at a wrestling tournament a few weeks ago singing a lullaby to Finn because I just missed everyone so much.  There was nothing special about that song or that place, I just couldn’t hold back the tears anymore.  That seems weak to me.  And if you have met me, you probably know that weak is one of the last words I want anyone to use to describe me.

In fact, I spent a majority of my childhood trying to make sure that everyone around me knew just how tough I was.  That meant that I was often aggressive, pushy and punchy.  That meant that I was bossy and take-charge and controlling.  My edges have softened, but I think some of that still hangs on.

But in church on Sunday, I was reminded what it means to be weak.  In 2 Corinthians, Paul says: (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10) “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I’ve read this many times.  I’ve had people send me portions of this as inspirational encouragement, but I don’t know why it stuck out so much this week.

First of all, I realized that it’s pride that makes me want everyone to notice how strong I am.  It’s pride that makes me feel like I have to put up a front all the time. It’s pride that makes me feel better when I can hold back those tears and no one knows that I’m hurting still. I have a student I admire who will just let it out when she needs to.  She doesn’t worry about it too much – she just quietly cries all over her physics work because the math reminds her of her dad and she wishes he was still around to help her with it.  I want to be like her in many ways.

Secondly, I realized that my focus is in the wrong place.  When Paul says he pleaded with God to take the weakness away, God’s response had nothing to do with Paul.  God’s response is about HIM.  God doesn’t say, “You’ll get stronger in time” or “Don’t worry!  No one is watching.”  God points to himself and says that He is enough. His grace is sufficient.  I lose sight of the fact that God is working in me when all I feel is weak.  I forget that this plan is bigger than me.  I forget that this plan is bigger than my reputation or appearance.  I forget that this life has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Christ.

Finally, I realized that my attitude was all wrong.  I should not be ashamed of my weakness or spend all my energy hiding it.  I should boast in my weakness because in my weakness, God’s power gets to shine through.  In my hardships and difficulties, when I am less, God is more.  And I should boast gladly!

So here I am, folks, I’m a wimp.  I cry at pretty much any movie I watch and most of the time I’m watching Disney movies (and still crying).  I can’t take a long drive or watch a comic book movie without missing my dad and I can’t wear the color purple or talk on the phone without missing Jen.  I can’t make eggs and rice or meatloaf without telling my kids a story about my brother Jake and I certainly can’t look at the moon without crying about Luna.  I wake up every morning and forget for a split second that I’ve lost all these people and when that split second is over, it feels like the wound is opened fresh.

There are days when instead of getting sad, I just get angry.  I am impatient and short-fused and spend more than a reasonable amount of time making the mom face at people who aren’t even my children.  I snap at my mother-in-law when she offers to do my dishes.  I make my kids go to bed an hour early because I am afraid I’ll yell at them for nothing and make them hate me.  I mumble to myself about all the injustices I feel like I’m experiencing and then paste on a fake smile when someone comes in the room.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

It is not enough to admit my weaknesses.  I think the next part of this is to acknowledge the perfect power of Christ.  God in his perfect wisdom uses these weaknesses to direct me to Him, to make me more like Him and to reveal Himself to others through me.  When I am weak, my message is strong because my message is that God is BIG and God is in control and God is good.  God is enough.

I am weak, but I am not perfectly weak.  I witnessed perfect weakness on this day four years ago, when Jen’s human body achieved perfect weakness and God’s grace took her from this world and this world’s weaknesses.  Jen was one of the strongest people I know, but she knew when to let go – NO ONE would call her weak. And through her God was and is glorified.

So those of you struggling through grief (and there are a lot of you), I encourage you to embrace your weakness.  For in your weakness, you are strong.  In your weakness, GOD is strong.  His grace is enough for us.  He is enough for us.  And I am praying for you.

Advertisements

The Sun Shines through the Trees

I have a confession to make.  I haven’t been writing in my blog because I haven’t been feeling like I had anything important or wise to say in my grief.  In fact, my father’s death hit me like a ton of bricks, as the cliche goes and I haven’t felt quite the same since.

There was a day this past summer when I was riding in the car with my mom on the way to Lancaster when I noticed something was different.  I looked out the window at the beautiful scenery and I didn’t feel sad.

We were on our way to Green Dragon – a huge flea market – and were going to spend the day with many of my extended family members.  I brought all four kids, including the newbie that was just weeks old.

0821151228

Taking a break from the flea market shopping to take a picture with my children.  You can’t see it, but I’m wearing Finn too.

The last time I had gone to Green Dragon had been with BOTH of my parents, and I was already preparing for moments where my eyes would fill with tears and I’d have to hold it back.  Memories of laughing with my dad and eating with him and walking with him. Wishing he was still with us to buy big jugs of beet red pickled eggs and munch on sausages and pretzels.

But they didn’t come.

Well, the memories did, but the tears didn’t.  Not that I wasn’t sad that he wasn’t there to form NEW memories, but I wasn’t sad about the old memories.  I was actually happy about the old memories.  Happy to have them.  Joyful to share them with others.  Glad to remember him and those moments with  him.

My dad had been dead for over a year at that point and that was the first time I could feel like I was peeking over the mountain that is my grief. It’s almost like every time someone I loved died, the grief was piled higher and higher and it became more and more difficult to pull myself up to the summit so I could see the sun shining on the other side.

And for the past year, I think I’ve been stuck clinging to the edge of my grief by my very fingertips, getting more and more exhausted trying to hold on.

I’ve struggled with anxiety and insomnia.  I’ve worried and cried and worried some more about who was going to die next and what I would do if I lost someone else. What if the house catches on fire?  What if I drop this baby down the stairs?  What if that ache in my stomach is actually cancer?  As though being hyper-aware of every possible catastrophe would allow me to be better prepared.

I’ve struggled with depression.  I’ve carved a seat in the cushions of my couch that held me for days, wearing the same sweatpants and t-shirt the whole time. I’ve told myself that it doesn’t matter.  That I shouldn’t worry because as time goes on, more people are going to die. That’s just a fact of life.  People die.  I’ve chanted in my head a quote I heard when I was very young:  “From the moment we are born, we begin to die.”  As though being fatalistic would prevent me from having any hope and therefore keep me from feeling disappointed when someone died.

I was clutching my grief to my heart with all my strength.  Holding on so tightly that I couldn’t function in normal life.

But that day in Lancaster, I was lying on a picnic blanket staring up into the sky through the dark green leaves of a summer tree, listening to the tones of the voices of my family around me – not the words.  Just the tones. The bright tenor of my Uncle Joe and the warm altos of my aunts Chrissy, T and Mecky.  The sharp squeals of small children laughing and playing. The whispered sigh of a Nana holding a new baby while he sleeps.

And I realized my grief was beneath me.

0821151351

This is the exact view from that morning.  

It’s still there.  Ever present. Inescapable.  I am constantly standing on top of a mountain of grief.  But it’s not the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night.

Standing on the summit, I can see the sun.  The Son.

And feel hope.

Hope in knowing that life – no matter how hard or sad or complicated – is not about our brief time on this Earth.  And that hard times will keep coming, but I have hope that God will refine my heart through them.

That his purpose is greater than what I can see.  Maybe even greater than I will ever see.  Definitely greater than I am capable of seeing.

So, today, on the third anniversary of Luna’s stillborn delivery – the day we celebrate as her birthday, I ask you to have hope. To remember that God is calling us to lives of difficulty and trial.  But to lives that glorify Him.  To have hope that life is not actually about this time here.  Or about the death that ends this life here.

I went back and read some of the blog posts I wrote when I lost Luna and I wonder who the heck that woman was.  I want to meet her. Her words filled my heart with joy and my eyes with tears.  My grandmother quoted one of my blog posts recently, and I didn’t recognize those words as my own words.  Like I had lost a bit of myself in my struggle with grief.

But I slowly feel it coming back.

I just have to look up to see the Son through the trees.

Memories: The Good and the Bad

Two years ago around this time, my brother-in-love Chris gave me a call and told me I needed to get my butt to Hopkins because Jen was probably going to die from the leukemia she had fought for over a decade.  I know he used gentler words than that, but that’s not what I heard.  What I heard was that my world was about to crack into pieces yet again.

My gut told me to drop everything and get there.  I called out of work for the foreseeable future, got a sub who could cover for me even if I gave them really bare-bones sub plans and I gathered up my family for Baltimore.  When I stepped onto that elevator in the Weinberg Garage (or GARE-ahge as the machine greets you when you pull in), I felt a wave of anxiety for a split second.  What if Jen looked awful and I would only remember her that way?  What if her death wasn’t peaceful and I had to steel myself to handle it to support her and to support her husband and boys?

Then the wave passed.  I would endure anything to spend Jen’s last moments with her.  If she was convulsing and vomiting blood, I would hold her hand and coo her name in her ear. I would remember that these moments were not about me or what I would remember or how I felt.  These moments were about drinking up the very last seconds of Jen’s life so that I could somehow make it without her after she died.

Those few days (I really can’t remember how many actually.  It felt like forever.) were hard.  Most of us were camped out in the waiting room or on the floor in her hospital room or down the street at my other sister’s apartment.  We were smelly and hungry and on edge and we had a variety of nurses and doctors coming in to say goodbye to Jen because she had touched them in some way during her treatments there at Hopkins.

There are moments from those days I will never forget.  Good moments.  Like when we snuck Bo (then only 3 years old) into Jen’s room and she opened her eyes for real and we saw that magnificent smile on her face.  She reached out for him and held his little hand and seemed herself for second.

2013-03-049511.18.18

Or when someone mentioned Rico and she rolled her eyes in classic Jen style. Cuddling with my siblings and nephews on the waiting room furniture, joking and laughing and trying to forget what was happening in the room down the hall. Rico’s ridiculous slippers. (Please someone tell me we have a picture somewhere!)  Jen’s cool smooth skin as I held her hand and talked to her like nothing was happening.

IMG_20130410_213438

But there are things that I won’t forget that are difficult to think about.  The look on her face when she needed her meds increased.  How dry and shriveled up her tongue got because she was breathing with her mouth open.  The panic in her eyes when she felt like she needed to throw up.  The sound of the oxygen pump bubbling next her bed reminding me how she couldn’t do something as basic as breathing. Tears dotting her sheets. Falling in and out of sleep in the early morning hours, seeing my dad and Chris sitting Jen’s left and right sides, whispering to her and holding her hands.  Hearing Chris yelling when she finally slipped away. Not wanting to leave her hospital room because that meant it was really over and she was really gone.

But all the fears I had about only being able to see those few last moments – the ugly moments of vomiting blood and slowly slipping away?  They were completely unfounded.  How could I focus on those few moments when I had a lifetime’s worth of beaming smiles, goofy faces and happy memories?

This face is so Jen that it hurts. :)

This face is so Jen that it hurts. 🙂

I remember those things about the day that Jen died, even though it’s been two years.  I remember those things like they happened yesterday.  I feel those things in my gut, even though it’s been 728 days since she died.  But it’s with the same clarity and detail that I picture days like these:

On the way to Lancaster, PA to visit Green Dragon and pig out on Amish goodies.

On the way to Lancaster, PA to visit Green Dragon and pig out on Amish goodies.

Jen stepping off the elevator the first Christmas after her diagnosis.  We talked the nurses into letting her come down to the lobby so she could celebrate with her babies who she hadn't seen for three weeks.

Jen stepping off the elevator the first Christmas after her diagnosis. We talked the nurses into letting her come down to the lobby so she could celebrate with her babies who she hadn’t seen for three weeks.

jen and will

And look how happy she is to see them!

Laughing with her at a photo shoot that she demanded so that we could get pictures together "just-us-girls."

Laughing with her at a photo shoot that she demanded so that we could get pictures together “just-us-girls.”

Jen was more than her last moments.  She was more than her last days or years.  Jen will be remembered forever and her story and life have impacted more people than I will ever know.  I am thankful for every second I had with her – even the ones I’d rather not think about.  And I’m trying to live a life where I am like that with everyone I love.  I am thankful for every second I have with them because I am unsure when it will end.  I find peace in knowing that as long as I enjoy the now, the later will be full of memories I still enjoy.

Jen, you’ve been gone for two years, but in reality, you’re not gone.  You color every moment of my day.  You’ve trained me to know what you’d think in every situation and you’ve shown me how to learn from you even when you’re not around.  I miss your physical self – your hugs, your laugh, your voice – but you are with me forever.  And I praise God for you every.single.day.

As Time Goes By

Do you ever think about the people who used to live in your neighborhood?  Your house?  Who used to sleep in your bedroom before you bought that house?  What happened to them?  I remember taking car rides with my dad when I was a little girl and I would spend the time looking out the window and wondering what everything would look like a hundred years ago.

I actually think about this often. When I’m out driving around, I look at houses and I wonder about what went on inside them.  Because on the outside, my house looks normal (a bit ratty, but normal) and cheerful maybe.  Random passersby would have no idea of the loss we’ve experienced or the pain we’ve felt.  They have no idea that this Saturday when it was snowing like crazy, the family was gathering to celebrate a man who died almost a year ago on my parents’ 39th wedding anniversary.  They would have no idea that the smell of bacon, scrapple and sausage was because my dad loved big breakfasts (although, I think he would have wanted some fried potatoes too).  They would have no inkling that half of the family was unable to get out in the snow and were having their own celebrations at their homes.  They wouldn’t be able to share in the memories and stories we told about the ones we love.  They would drive by and completely miss out on what was happening inside.

What history am I missing in my little house?  What happened to the generations of people who lived here before me?  Over time their stories are lost and I find that sad because I could have learned from them.  I would have grown from them.

Modern American families have lost the ability to prepare for death.  We expect that all of us will be healthy and well and that if we’re not, the doctors should be able to fix it.  Death comes as a surprise these days – even if we know that someone is sick!  Jen had leukemia for eleven years and I still expected the doctors to run in at the last minute and say that they had an idea for something that would save her.

And all of us take for granted the days we have with our loved ones.  We assume that we have lots of time left with them to say the things we want to say.  To do the things we want to do.  We think we’re doing ourselves a favor when we avoid thinking about death.  Why be so morbid? I don’t think being prepared for death is about being afraid.  I think being prepared for death is a celebration of life.

Imagine a time when disease was commonplace and death was everyday.  Didn’t parents prepare their children for death instead of hide it from them?  Oh, how I hope these losses in recent years have helped me to prepare my children for the possibility, no – the EVENTUALITY of death.  How I hope I have not made my children afraid of death, but instead make them see it as a distinct part of life.  As I live this life, I am more and more convinced that it is our duty as parents and relatives to prepare them for loss.  From simple loss, like a broken toy, to big loss, like the death of a loved one.  They will lose things.  They will lose people they love.  And if we don’t teach them to deal with it, who will? Society?!  I don’t think so.

Sure, my kids see me at my worst.  Like when I start crying when I’m cleaning a room because I’m afraid of cleaning away the last vestiges of Jake, Jen and Dad.  Or when I illogically demand to watch a pretty silly movie because it reminds me of someone I love.  But I hope my children also see me at my best – when I can show them the peace that I have in Christ and the hope that we will see our loved ones again in heaven. When I can feel happy in the memories I have with Jake, Jen and Dad and we can laugh and smile and talk about how they would have enjoyed our celebrations.  When I can teach them what my loved ones would have taught them about faith, creativity, individuality and strength.

So, no.  I don’t hide death from my children.  Bo was 14 months old when Jake died, and we had a discussion with him about Jake’s death.  He totally understood what was happening and cried with us in our mourning.  But he also gave us more hugs, gave us more reasons to smile and reminded us of all the sweet things about life with Jake.  Even at just one-year-old, Bo learned from his loss and helped to teach others through it.

More than that, my family and I have resolved to CELEBRATE our loved ones at every opportunity we have.  Of course we celebrate them on birthdays and anniversaries, but we also celebrate the anniversaries of their deaths – not by mourning, but by gathering together and remembering them together.  By being together with the loved ones who are still alive and creating more memories and taking every opportunity to enjoy the life we have.

So, my family, the two-year anniversary of Jen’s death is coming up in about a week. Where are we getting together?  What are we doing?  I’m thinking we need to crank up the New Kids on the Block and watch the movie Annie (the old one – NOT the new one) and eat some gummy bears, peach rings and sour gummy worms.

End of First Trimester Blues

Please tell me I’m not alone here, but at the end of my first trimester, I get this obnoxious case of anxiety.  Sometimes I feel like everyone else is celebrating because they can finally keep down food and they feel somewhat normal again.  But not me.

This has happened with every pregnancy to some extent, but definitely in the last two pregnancies after losing Luna.  I hate leaving the first trimester.

When all those awful first trimester symptoms disappear – the nausea, the fatigue, the intense moodiness and the constant need to pee – I don’t find myself feeling better.  I find myself worried that since I no longer FEEL pregnant, I must not BE pregnant anymore.

And maybe I don’t need to pee constantly anymore, but I still go to the bathroom as often as I can to make sure I don’t have any spotting or bleeding.  To check and make sure that nothing is happening.  It’s too early for me to feel the baby moving so I have no way to know unless something happens.

I very nervously wonder if I could somehow change my next OB appointment to a little sooner so I can hear a heartbeat.  I count down the days until that doc takes that little box, squirts some goo on my belly and attempts to find the swish-swish-swish of a tiny heart.  And I am practically in tears waiting for them to find it.  I seriously consider buying myself my own doppler to check myself…weekly…daily…maybe three times a day…alright…whenever I can.

That moment when they find the heartbeat is the first time I’ve really breathed since the end of my first trimester.  It’s like that tiny swish swish is the air being let out of a giant balloon in my chest and I can finally breathe.

So if you see me between now and my next appointment in two weeks, please know that my puffed up chest is not pride or snobbiness or anything.  It really is just a case of anxiety and if I seem a little distracted, please know that I’m just praying.  Constantly asking God to calm my heart and to help me trust Him more.  Fervently asking for His protection over my tiny baby and praying for that tiny swish swish in two weeks.

Luna Turns 2

This Sunday (November 23) marks the two year anniversary of the day we delivered our Luna Eugenia.  She was delivered stillborn after being diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder called Turner Syndrome.  We still celebrate this day as her birthday.

In the hospital on Luna's birthday.

In the hospital on Luna’s birthday.

I also had the privilege of starting a new chapter in Biology class this week – Genetics.  I hadn’t anticipated really getting to talk about Luna so close to her birthday, but it just so happened that today we looked at karyotypes and I got to show them hers.

Luna's karyotype, showing the missing X chromosome in the bottom right.

Luna’s karyotype, showing the missing X chromosome in the bottom right.

We looked at the missing space where an X chromosome should have been, and I told them about how grateful I was for the technology to allow us to know what was going on with our baby girl.  I asked them to imagine being pregnant and thinking that everything was going well until one day you go in to the OB and they can’t find a heartbeat.  That would have been more difficult to bear than what we had. I am grateful for the six weeks between diagnosis and death that I had to value and savor every single moment with Luna.

There was also a rare chance where I got to speak to my students about why we named her Luna.  I explained that the moon has no light of its own and only reflects the light of the sun.  In the same way, as a Christian, I know that I have no light of my own and I only reflect the light of Christ to the world.  Luna’s name and Luna’s story remind me to shine brightly for Christ no matter what the circumstances are.

moon

I anticipated these holidays being difficult without my dad, Jen, Luna and Jake, but I have found that my mood has been better recently.  Perhaps the constant reminders of those I’ve lost have actually served to keep my focus in the right place.  Maybe I’m just happy that I get to see the rest of my family more during the holidays.  Regardless, I’m thankful that I get a little break from the grumpiness and anxiety of my grief.

I came up the stairs in MACA to go to my lab and there was a slanted rectangle of light on the floor where the sun was streaming in a glass door.  You know the kind.  The kind where the light hits all the particles in the air and it looks like a snow globe and the whole world seems to glow.  I stood in that doorway and felt the warmth of that sun and it really felt like a hug.  I don’t usually say cheesy things like that, but it really did feel like a warm hug. And it made me think about what I have to be thankful for.

1)  I am thankful for Luna.  For the experience of having her.  For the reminder of how to live because of her.  For the warmth of knowing her. For my children who still talk about her and make things for her.

The ornaments I made this week at MOPS.  My children reminded me to include Luna on everything.

The ornaments I made this week at MOPS. My children reminded me to include Luna on everything.

2)  I am thankful for losing Luna.  Without losing Luna when I did, I would not have been able to be in the hospital when Jen died.  She died two days after my due date with Luna and I would have had a hard time being there with a newborn (or being so enormously pregnant).  Also, if I had not lost Luna, I would not have Joe.  And Joe lights up my world. He hugs like my dad, bosses me around like Jen and makes goofy smiles like Jake.

My Joe and the smile that makes me smile.

My Joe and the smile that makes me smile.

3)  I am thankful for my family.  Both living and dead.  I have learned so much from all of them and I value each and every one of them.  They shape me.  They support me.  They make me who I am.  They are funny and smart and attractive.  They are kind and generous and patient.  They are everything I am not and everything that I am.  They fill all my gaps and make me into someone whole.

new school

Even though my struggle through grief hasn’t been easy and I have so much to work on, I am thankful for the life that God has given me.  It has given me a platform that I wouldn’t otherwise have. It has taught me to rely on Christ when I have nothing left.  It had made me compassionate and patient.  It has created in me a grateful, joyful heart.

My parents with us on Luna's birthday.  I am so thankful my dad could be there to hold my hand.

My parents with us on Luna’s birthday. I am so thankful my dad could be there to hold my hand.

That God really knows what he’s doing, doesn’t he?

So when Sunday rolls around, we encourage you to think for a moment about the light you are reflecting and we hope that Luna reminds you to reflect the Son as brightly as a full moon.

Camera Shy

When I was a child, I remember smiling big for every picture – posing and innocently smiling and carefree.  I never worried about how I looked or thought about how the picture will turn out.  Who cared? Someone loved me enough to take my picture.

So cute and showing no signs of insecurities...

So cute and showing no signs of insecurities…

Then I was in kindergarten, and all of a sudden my school picture was a big deal to me. I practiced smiling in front of the mirror in my room so that I would look good in it. Teeth?  no teeth?  Hair up?  Hair down?  All of a sudden, the final product mattered.  I remember agonizing over what shirt to wear (I settled on a red shirt with a picture of Mary the mother of Jesus on it) and how I was going to wear my hair.  I tucked it behind only one ear and when the photographer tried to tuck it behind the other ear, I pouted and pushed her hand away. Then I tried hard to smile, but thought my teeth might look funny, so I ended up with a tight lipped grimace that conveyed more of a get-me-out-of-here attitude than the sweet little girl I was trying to show the world.

What are you doing with that camera? (At least my kid seems happy to get his picture taken...)

What are you doing with that camera? (At least my kid seems happy to get his picture taken…)

Thus began a lifelong struggle with cameras. While I love seeing pictures of me with my loved ones, I had a hard time posing for said pictures with any kind of confidence. Even when I tried to look normal, my face just somehow took the presence of a camera as an invitation to twist into a variety of monstrous expressions that should never be recorded on film. My junior prom picture is evidence of that, where I stand snarling at the camera while my “just a friend” date (now my husband) looks debonair and confident. No, I will not show you that picture. Or my face becomes an angry stare that promises retaliation when the camera is put away.

Get that camera away from me.

Get that camera away from me.

And so began the habit of making purposefully hideous facial expressions in photos. So now when people say to me, “what are you making that face for?” I can pull a Jim Hansbrough and say, “For free.

Love this picture of my daddy.  Look at the muscular abilities of his face to morph into such an expression!  That is one talented man.

Love this picture of my daddy. Look at the muscular abilities of his face to morph into such an expression! That is one talented man.

In fact, I think we all inherited that method of camera avoidance from my father. Make a silly face on purpose and people will stop taking pictures of you.  And it works! Like a charm!

My sister, father and brother demonstrating that inherited method for making cameras go away:  stupid faces.

My sister, father and brother demonstrating that inherited method for making cameras go away: stupid faces.

Except now the problem is that I wish I had more pictures of me with the loved ones I’ve lost.  Didn’t I love them in real life? Weren’t we with each other a crazy proportion of the time?  Why aren’t there more pictures of us together?  Why don’t we have record of these amazing relationships in my life?

Even as babies, we learned to make faces to keep cameras away.

Even as babies, we learned to make faces to keep cameras away.

So here is my request to those of you who are apt to take photos of me. Please do it. Do it despite my protesting. Do it despite the fact that my face will by impulse contort itself into an expression that would frighten small children. Do it as often as you can. Do it as annoyingly as you can. Your chances of success will probably be greater if you capture some candid moments so my face doesn’t know a camera is around, but make me pose for them too.  Make me pose with the people I love.  Point a camera at me and make me stand next to my mom or my siblings or my cousins and put my arm around them like I love them and tell me to smile even though we all know that could end poorly.

My students get me.

My students get me.

And those of you who are professional photographers?  Try your hardest to make me look at least a little normal.  It’s a challenge, I know.  But try.

Especially the extra weird ones that like to dress me up with props and pose with me.

Sometimes I let them dress me up in costumes first…but at least she posed with me.

Record these moments that we all want to look back on because having them recorded will help us remember. And even if that means I have to be uncomfortable for all of five seconds while you snap a picture, at least my children will have it on record that I love them because I am willing to get my picture taken with them.

I do really love these kids.

I do really love these kids.

And while I know this means we will have to tolerate the likes of you, oh family photographers, I am willing to do it because I wish I had more pictures of those who are gone now. I don’t want my silly selfish insecurities about how the picture will turn out to keep us from recording family history.  It makes me so sad that I don’t have more pictures of me and Jake or me and Dad or me and Jen. So forget my silliness and take more pictures of me. Please.

In the same vein, don’t get mad when I take pictures of you. So there. More photos. More happy memories. More memories we can share. More opportunities for laughter.

The whole family can get in on this silly face thing.  Even the in-laws are adept at these skills.

The whole family can get in on this silly face thing. Even the in-laws are adept at these skills.

Maybe it's not genetic, because it seems to have spread to my husband's side of the family...

Maybe it’s not genetic, because it seems to have spread to my husband’s side of the family…