Saturday, April 21, 2018

Shaking Hands

I fell apart Easter weekend, a story for another day. But that emotional mutiny forced me to seek help and support and acknowledge a wounded heart that still needs a lot of healing...

It was in the middle of that emotional mutiny  that I got the last minute call and invitation to attend a Leadership Conference in Vancouver with Elder David A Bednar. (A member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles). With all the changes announced in General Conference, Relief Society presidents in our area were asked to attend...

I should have been thrilled with the invite, but instead felt this instant lack of worthiness to be there, its amazing where your thoughts go when you are struggling. And I wondered how I could manage to make the logistics work. But a dear friend stepped in and made sure I had no way of backing out of attending.

That friend also took me to the temple, something I desperately needed, but didn't realize how much until I felt the peace that can only be felt in the temple.

Saturday morning we entered the Langley chapel, were given name tags and assigned to sit in our Stakes. Nanaimo Stake got right at the front (Go Nanaimo) . They had asked us to be in our seats by 9:30, a half in hour before the meeting was to begin...We were surprised when Elder Bednar walked in early with the other visiting General Authorities.

Our area seventy Elder Murray came to the pulpit and announced that Elder Bednar and the other visitors would like to shake the hands of everyone in attendance (200+). Say what??? Being in the front we had just moments to understand what Elder Murray had just said. I hope I will always remember the love I felt as Elder Bednar  looked me in the eye, shook my hand and thanked me for serving...Tears flowed as I filed back to my seat. The spirit tenderly comforted me as I sat in the pew waiting for each one to file past . Such a sweet experience at the end of a most difficult week.

We all spent the next four hours with Elder Bednar, Elder Kearon, Elder Dube and Elder Murray in a Question and Answer session...It was truly an amazing experience. And taught me that even in the midst of turmoil, with our Heavenly Father's help we can continue to serve and help those around us... 

"Imagine how it would be if you didn't have to worry about someone taking it the wrong way"

"There is no rule against common sense"

"Unity is the prerequisite to receive revelation"

Much needed solace for the soul. 


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Reaching Adulthood

Man-child turns EIGHTEEN today. According to the Canadian government that means adulthood. (I'm guessing they haven't spent much time with any 18 year olds, lately). Every Kramer is now an adult. . I'm sitting here swinging  somewhere between stoic sadness and relieved wonder. Until yesterday this moment seemed like an eon away.....

I had barely reached adulthood myself when motherhood came, and by 25, I was the mother of five. Crazy really. I have never felt like a natural at this gig. and still feel like I'm in the middle of a test I haven't studied for....But somehow we managed figured it out together. I worried way too much about the wrong things when they were littler. Matching church outfits didn't matter. The repeatedly spilt apple juice and Lucky Charms all over the kitchen floor, didn't matter. Feeling like I had to maintain the unattainable perfect mother persona , absolutely pointless.

Somewhere between the diapers and the grad ceremonies, I became much more comfortable in the constant chaos and commotion and embraced my mothering awkwardness. I traded in the perfection trophy for a This Is Me t-shirt. They actually never noticed. 

Just love them it's that simple. Yes they will break your heart (many times actually) But that love will always be the bridge across the break. Adulthood is awesome., they are amazing. A milestone reached but nothing really has changed. I love them dearly and I'm their mother. Now will someone besides me please go clean the laundry room?!?1

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Compassion's Price

I struggle to feel understood sometimes, like I think most of us do. As I share my life experiences there is always a risk of sorts.  If someone knows the true nature of my  journey through tragedy, abuse and heartache will that bring hated pity or the "me too" of empathy ???

I have the privilege of serving with the women in our church, a calling that puts me at the crossroads of many families during their greatest joys and deepest heartaches. It has forced me into the stratosphere beyond my comfort zone and face fears and acknowledge damage and scars long ago hidden away.

I have sat in sacred places and shared experiences once thought too painful. Each time humbled at our heavenly fathers ability to give beauty for ashes.

Someone recently shared this with me.

As I have come to know you Robin, I have come to understand that you have paid a very dear and heavy price to have the level of compassion and empathy you have. People see your compassion, but they have no idea the price you have paid for it.

I don't think even I had thought about it that way before, but it is true. Compassion comes with a price and most of us have had to pay dearly for it.

Grateful for a moment of understanding and clarity and empathy.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Terrible mistake, Divine clarity.

Saturday was busy and I came in the door exhausted at 9:30. I jumped in the shower and got ready for bed. Sleep was the only thing on my mind. My legs and feet were tight and throbbing.

I went in search of Advil. Realizing the bottle was empty I grabbed the blue dosette sitting on the top self in the medicine cabinet hoping there was some left in there. Nope. (It's the seven day pill container I throw in my purse, every time Grant and I leave town. Usually filled with over the counter stuff and a dose of Grant's Seroquel)

The dosette was empty, except for the Monday and Thursday compartments. The white caplets in both compartments looked identical to me, in the haziness of a near dark bathroom. Thinking it was all regular strength Tylenol I popped three pills into my hand. Then swallowed them without a second thought.

I crawled in bed quickly and fell asleep...Less than hour later I startled awake shivering uncontrollably, I yelled at Grant to turn off the AC rattling above my head. I felt woozy and foggy. My arms and legs were jerking, I felt disjointed. I looked up and saw Dallyn hovering beside me. I thought he had died and was coming to me as an angel. I was instantly terrified. Grant told me Dallyn wasn't there, he wasn't even home from work yet. "What's wrong with you? Just go back to sleep."

I was still shivering, I got up and stubbed to the bathroom attempting to get in the shower to warm up. I turned on the water and then realized I couldn't coordinate my legs to step in the tub, my head spun. In a moment that can only be divine clarity I looked at the bathroom counter to the still open dosette and realized one was Tylenol and the other was Seroquel. Oh my GOD, oh my god, oh my god. I took Grant's Seroquel. I screamed for him.

How much did you take?


He called poison control. I tried to vomit.

Call an ambulance I begged.

Poison control told Grant anything over 100 mg is a problem. I had had nine times that. 900 mg. And asked how close the hospital was. 10 minutes.

If its any longer you need to call an ambulance.

Grant got me in the van and Alex drove. Poison control had already called the hospital, they knew I was on my way.

I got in a wheelchair unable to hold my head up. I mumbled through the questions at triage and they took me back to a gurney.

They put in an IV port, hooked me up to a continuous monitor my  heart, O2 and blood pressure.

 I couldn't lift my head. My heart racing faster than I have ever felt in my life. My mouth dry as a desert I could get words out. I thought I was going to die at any moment.

My head felt separated from my body. I had little control over either.

 The next 14 hours felt like a nightmare. I would startle awake my heart racing and racing, my head swirling. Unable to adequately express my needs or questions or fears. I wondered when death would come. I was poked and prodded. Had several EKG's. Unable to ask or understand I was terrified.

It was after noon on Sunday that I woke up with a doctor talking to me. My head still so foggy but I could comprehend some of what he was saying...

My heart handled the crisis. It would take a few days for the Seroquel to leave my system, but there should be no lasting effects or damage.

Okay so I wasn't going to die...

The were still concerned about my lack of coordination, shakiness and difficulty walking. And told me it would be some time until I could go home. (Picture a new born giraffe trying to walk from the gurney to the bathroom.)  I reminded them that I did have cerebral palsy and that it might be making the muscle control issues worse. They agreed and let me go home.

It took days to clear the fogginess and have my physical strength. It is going to take even more time to work through the effects of trauma.

This has been really hard on my sweet heart too. His guilt.

"If the medication wasn't needed and in the house, this would have never happened."

Not being able to help me in the way he wanted because of his own illness is heartbreaking to him.

I am still trying to make sense of it all. Looking for understanding and purpose. This is just one more thing to add to the list in a very challenging year. Will I ever be worthy of normal? How could I have been so careless and stupid? Why now? (shoulder shrug)

How grateful I am for the many acts of great kindness we've experienced this week. Especially for the friend who drove and showed up on our doorstep and knew exactly what to do and say to give us both the courage and hope to continue. There are indeed angels who walk among us, there wings just hidden from view.

It's just going to take some time....

PSA: Don't ever take medication out of its prescribed bottle and store it in anything unlabeled.  I have since thrown out all our dosettes. And I will never again buy Tylenol or any other medication in forms that looks so similar to Grant's meds.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Broken and Blessed

I've known this Sunday was coming for a while... It's been weeks since Grant first talked to our Stake President. I've spent that time trying to convince myself that today wouldn't hurt. I prayed I would keep my composure, that by some miracle my heart wouldn't betray me....

I made it through Superman and I meeting with the Stake Presidency. I made it through the opening hymn as long as I didn't look at my Superman sitting on the stand this last time. I found the courage to look up just as they announced Superman's release from the bishopric. Tears rolled down both our faces....

Grant stood moments later to bear his testimony and in that moment my heart betrayed me. I was sobbing. Grant has wanted nothing more in this last year and a half than to simply serve with a bishop he loves. Time and time again a cruel illness making that simple desire, impossible. Why??????

I listened as my sweet husband bore a valiant, humble testimony of our Heavenly Father's love and the truthfulness of the gospel and I simply sobbed. His spirit and his countenance shining as he stood at that pulpit, his perfect faith undeniable. His illness has robbed him of so many things, but never his testimony.  Tears of sorrow mixed with gratitude.  Seriously heart. Get. It. Together.

I look down at my phone as an email scrolls across my lock screen. The sister sending it a few pews behind me.

For you, Robin....

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (quoting Vance Havner):

Christ loves broken things
It takes broken clouds to make rain
It takes broken ground to make grain 
It takes broken grain to make bread
It takes broken bread to always remember Him 
It takes broken hearts to come unto Christ.

Thanks my friend. There are blessings in our broken lives.

It took every once of strength and courage to make it through the rest of my responsibilities for  Sunday, tears only a moment away....Grateful for the many added friends attending our ward conference today. Heavenly Father knew just who we would need to make it through today. I will be forever grateful for his tender mercies that show me that even though we don't know why this needed to happen we know we are not alone in this.

Tonight we are still a little broken and wonder why, but know we are so blessed.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Oh Dallyn?!

Dallyn told me "go ahead blog about it", he's calling my bluff or he wants it recorded in the books of family history to teach his future children, either way I'm counting this permission to share....

I've been parenting for exactly  8,502 days according to google and here's the thing, I still have no idea what I am doing. No seriously, no idea....

Every time I think I've got this gig in the bag, one of them throws me a curve ball and y'all know I'm not super sports-y.

Dallyn got suspended last week. Yes you read that right, suspended.

"Skipping Law Class whilst [breaking a law]"  No, no the irony is not lost on us either.

Grant and I had 20 mins before our brilliant scholar walked in the front door to decide how to handle this.

After 10 minutes of awkward silence.....

"You better not YELL, Robin." Grant said.

"You better not yell, GRRRRANT" I snapped.

Yup we totally have this parenting gig in the bag.

We watched Dallyn take the slow walk of shame from the car to our front door...head hung low.

Sit. Explain.

There were tears and excuses and anger and talk of unfairness and harshness. But by all estimations,except maybe Dallyn's. He deserved the consequences.

We both explained that this was a great lesson that when we choose a behavior we do not get to choose the consequence and then talked of his consequences at home....

"Can't you phone the school Mom, someone else's mom did ?!?!"

"And tell them what??? How dare you hold my kid accountable???"

Yeah that's a solid NO.

Seventeen is hard. Parenting is hard. But no one yelled.

That evening after hours of yard work I asked Dallyn what he wanted for dinner....

"Do PRISONERS get to pick their food????" {not quite the humility I was hoping for, but an A for comedic timing}

Time served. Consequences in progress. Oh Dallyn, I love you.

If you ever need tips on what one wears to meet with the principal, bright and early on a Monday morning , I'm your girl.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Supporting Heartache

My phone rang and I happily answered it, thinking it was my dear friend Michelle....But instead it was her husband the Stake President, great guy and friend but not Michelle....

Pres.W asked if I would be willing to speak at Stake Leadership and share our family's personal struggle with mental illness.... A physician, social worker and the LDS Family services coordinator would also be included in this training.  He acknowledged the tender subject and asked that I please have Grant's blessing on whatever I felt I should share...then he asked that a participate in a conference call with the Stake presidency and the other three participants, so we would all understand the purpose and desired outcome of the training.  "I'd be happy to do that...."

I hung up and shed a few tears...I was humbled and honoured by the request, but there was also some fear....I'm not a doctor, social worker or counsellor... Will my message be understood without the risk of added shame or judgement...the others would be sharing clinical experience, but my message was personal, the cost higher...

The conference call came in the middle of a crazy Sunday for me, I was emotionally tired and have to admit my dislike of such calls. When you're a visual communicator, not seeing facial expressions and body language is frustrating, but I did know most on the call well and relaxed quickly...

I was instantly touched as the Stake explained their desire for leaders to better support those who struggle with mental illness through compassion, love and understanding. Without the idea of healing. I was suddenly grateful I was on the phone and could easily hide my tears. It was as if all those times of misunderstanding, stigma and shame that have come since Grant's diagnosis were being washed away as these men and woman so kindly expressed their love and compassion for my family and so many others who struggle. Their words, my tears, my tender healing....Oh how I wish everyone who has every struggled with mental illness could have been on that call. Such a gift for me.

A few days later, I woke up with the words I should share leaping from my mind to paper, the worry had mostly subsided as I felt my heavenly fathers help in choosing just the right experiences I should share in my short 5 minutes....

I spoke on Saturday with the most normal pictures of my family now and my family as a child purposely chosen, projected behind me....

Dear Brothers and Sisters it is a privilege to stand before you today and share our family's deeply personal struggle with mental illness, I do so with our Heavenly Fathers help and my husband's blessing and encouragement.

One might say I won the lottery when it comes to mental mother a gifted teacher battled bipolar disorder her entire adult life, by fifty eight she had lost her independence and cognition, peace never came, the tragic circumstances of her death at 62 we will never fully understand. 

My father an accomplished jazz drummer battled alcohol addiction. As he aged he sank deeper and deeper into its grasps. By 70 he lived in self imposed squallier. When Adult protective services stepped in six years later, we were finally able to get him into care. He died a few weeks later the effects of alcohol, dementia and malnutrition to great to recover from. I miss my mom and dad every single day.

My sweetheart and I married young and our five children came quickly. Looking back over those chaotic first years the signs of Grant’s severe mental illness were everpresent, but it wasn’t until a work injury and a pain killer addiction lead to a manic episode that the heartbreakingly familiar diagnosis of bipolar disorder came. He was 26.
We have waged battled this unforgiving illness ever since with the help of inspired physicians, psychiatrists, clinical counsellors, friends, church leaders and the never-endinglove of our heavenly father.
We know the agony of failed treatments, lost stability. We know that without education and understanding judgement, gossip, shame and stigma do indeed exist even in the church and have at times experienced the added burden of someone else’s ignorance. 
But long ago, while still acknowledging that this illness is adifficult one, we choose not to focus on the negative. 
Some of our sweetest, most sacred moments have come as my sweethearts illness has raged... most have been simple acts of kindness...  
I think of a simple email from our stake president when he knew Grant was struggling. “You are loved, thought of and prayed for.”
I think of the time Grant sent an angry and frustrated email to a church leader. A message the leader could have easily taken offence to. Instead the leader saw the cry for help and simply responded “I hear you, let’s talk”
I think of our new bishop who showed up in a time of need in our home and simply said “Look Grant, I don’t just want to be your bishop, I want to be your friend”  
I think of new home teachers who on their first visit asked 
Grant please tell us how bipolar disorder effects your life and how we can best support you and your family”
And then they just listened, never once giving a single word of advice...ending our visit with “we are here to love and support you”
I think of the time my dearest friend sent a text message in the middle of Elder Holland’s like a broken vessel talk in General Conference. “Robin, I’m shedding tears for you and Grant and all of those I love who struggle with mental illness” and together we wept.
Leaders and friends do not need to fully understand all the facets of mental illness to be a support to individuals and families. They only need to understand that the compassion and love needed looks no different than the compassion needed for any other heartache, just continue to love them like the Saviour loves you.
Yes I know the sorrow of mental illness in the loss of my parents. Yes my sweet husband’s illness will be our constant companion the rest of our lives. But there is joy in the sorrow. That joy comes in the absolute knowledge that this is part of Heavenly Father’s plan for our family, thatthe atonement is real and that, when Elder Holland’ssays...
“I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind.
It’s true.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ amen

Such a sweet experience for me. I am so grateful to live in a stake that recognizes and validate our tender struggle. I will be forever grateful for my dear dear friends who truly run to succour us time and time again.