I remember her backyard.  She was not a blood relative, but she was the closest thing to grandmother I would ever know.  She lived in small white house on a corner lot.  There was a garage with only slivers of white paint remaining.  In it, a small vacant apartment.  There was a cellar off to the left of her back porch.  A swing set and a tractor tire full of sand decorated the area between the garage and the house. Sometimes I remember a large garden and sometimes I remember playing Red Rover where the garden would have been.

My childhood was probably a mess during that the years that I played in the yard, ran next to the house, raced over the top of that cellar, and danced between the sheets hanging on the line. What I remember though, is playing in the vacant apartment in the garage, making up stories about who used to live there.  I remember running in and out of the house and laughing hysterically when her sister “Weasel Bug” would come over.  I remember dancing with my best friends, twin boys, the same age as me.  My sisters and I would pretend they were our grooms on our wedding days.

Her little kitchen.  Her old fashioned refrigerator.  Her peanut butter, butter, and honey sandwiches! Playing cards at the table for hours.  The way she said, “shuffle, oh, the buffalo.”  I still say that when I play cards and shuffle the deck.

I remember spending the night at her house with our friends.  Several of us girls in the spare bedroom and the boys on the the hide-a-bed in the living room or vice versa.  We would stay up late stifling giggles and thinking up shenanigans. We would hold our breath and try to be quiet when we heard her coming to tell us to be  quiet and then laugh when she left.

Things didn’t stay that way.  She was our babysitter, but we were there all the time.  It never felt like daycare.  It felt like love.  It felt like family.  It felt like home.

A couple of weeks before 2nd grade, we were dropped off.  I don’t remember the day, so it was probably a mundane drop off, like hundreds of times before.  What was different I would not realize for hours, maybe even days.  

I don’t think it was the first time we had been left longer than expected.  I think I know because I remember an answer she gave all the time, “She’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes.” We must have asked her a lot, “When is my mom coming?” The last time, no one ever came back to get us.

Things started to change.  I think she had a feeling of what was about to come and didn’t want it to happen.  I think she felt stuck.  School was starting.  She didn’t have a car, she didn’t have a driver’s licence.  She was too old and didn’t have the kind of money she would need to keep 6 girls. She knew she would have to call for help or we wouldn’t go to school and then what?

I was 8.  I was in 2nd grade the first time I went to live in a foster home. After my first foster home, we moved to a new town, a town where we could start over.  For a couple years, we would spend one week of each summer with her.  Those were really great weeks, but things were not the same.  I was not the same.  I was older.  The things that had happened and were happening affected me. I grew up fast.  No more childhood innocence to protect me from reality.

The only thing that stayed the same was how very much I loved her.  And to this day, the memories of being a child at her house transport me to some of my happiest memories.

I wanted to visit her today.  I wanted to remember her and the beautiful gifts of love and happy memories she’s allowed me to carry all these years.  They protected me.  The 10 years that followed my 8th year were full of some pretty tough stuff.  There were more foster homes, an emergency protective shelter, violent arguments with my parents, depositions and court hearings, and more, lots more.

Eventually, I was able to pull back together the pieces of me that lay broken like a shattered glass.  I’m not sure she even knew everything I was going through, but I felt like she did and often felt like she was with me.  I remembered her always.  Dorothy Pearl was my family.  She left an incredible mark on my heart.  I will remember her always. And now, I have my own little Mary Pearl to keep Dorothy’s memory alive.

Made for this

I was made for all my joy.  I was made for all my sorrow.  I was made for everything in between.

I never knew I wanted to be a mother.  When I was pregnant with my first I was scared and convinced I would fail. The day she was born and nearly everyday since, I’ve thanked God that he gave me the gift of motherhood.  Being a mother might be the single thing that makes me feel most loved.  I’m not talking about my child’s love for me.  I mean God’s overwhelming love for me.  Being a mom to my children is such a personal experience and knowing that God gave me my children and made me their mom, makes me feel very well known, very believed in, chosen, and loved.

I wasn’t made to be just anyone’s mom.  I was made to  be their mom.  God made me specifically for it.  I know it.

Physically, he made me for it.  I am 6 feet tall and I have an athletic build.  I played sports all of my life thinking and being encouraged to so because I looked like an athlete.  Much to my dismay and probably to that of many a coach, I was mediocre at any sport.  A kicker though, is that I was very strong.  In college I could bench my weight and squat twice my weight.  If you think that made the shot put go any further though, you are as mistaken as I was.

Now it makes perfect sense.  I have three sons with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  They are growing weaker when the rest of the children grow stronger.  I am their legs when they can’t walk, I am their elevator when the stairs are too steep.  I am the lift that gets their mobility scooters into the back of the van.  I am strong enough to do all of that.  God made me strong, not for sports, but for the children he would someday give me.

I am tall and long.  When a double door entrance is not accessible I can hold both doors open at the same time so that my boys can ride their scooters through. I can push a stroller in one arm and hold a baby in the other. My hands are as big as I’ve ever seen on a woman. I can hold more that one hand at time.  I can grasp three little hands in one to guide my littles through a busy parking lot and hold the hands of three brave little boys all at once as we wait in line for a blood draw.

Emotionally, God made me for it.  I grew up in and out of foster homes.  I weathered a lot of storms.  I learned how to continue to live life and strive for better despite the challenges in the obstacle course of life.  God prepared me for the pain and grief of having children with a fatal disease.  When they were diagnosed I remembered how to live life and strive for better despite the challenges and now I can show my children how.  God made me resilient for the children he would someday give me.

Spiritually, God made me for it.  I remember several experiences from early in life, when i very strongly felt his presence protecting me.  Even during periods of my life when I wanted to be left alone, I remembered that feeling.  And know, I look for it.  I see it in my day to day and it strengthens me. God gave me faith, for the mountains I will move for the children he gave me.

God made me for it in other ways.  I have master’s degree that virtually goes unused as I am unemployed and would very happily like to stay that way.  I only started it because it was free through my employment at the time.  I was so quiet. It was the foster kid in me that hated to draw any unnecessary attention to myself.  I hated to be in front of people.

In that masters program there was a professor that would not allow us to sit and answer a question and for so many projects we had to get up in front of the class. I became very comfortable in front of people.  I’m an advocate for my children now.  I talk about Duchenne everywhere I go.  In front of large groups, in front of students, last month I had audience with my United States representative and two US Senators.  I’ve talked in front of the FDA for my boys.  God made me an advocate the children he gave me.

I learned, I’m still learning that when something goes wrong, not to ask “Why Me?” Instead, I want to ask, I try to ask, “How have you prepared me for this?” And I’ve learned that sometimes he has prepared me by blessing me with a skill or a strength He knew I would need.  Sometimes, it is person put in my life for that exact moment in my life. Sometimes, there is no answer and then I have to find the courage and faith to just trust that God made me for this.