Posted in Family

Family Reunions

Before everything went down with my family, we had a wonderful five day escape to Idaho for my husband’s family reunion.

If I’m honest I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing. I had only really met my mother and father in law and my husband’s siblings. I’m an introvert. A house with a bus-load of strangers (and the added pressure of getting along with everyone) was a tad bit terrifying to me.

And overwhelming. Not just to me, but for my son Caleb as well. Caleb has ADHD/ODD and is by no means a social butterfly either.

I was worried about drama, because these things are inevitable in large families.

I was worried about seeing my husband’s birth mom and adoptive mom in the same house for two days straight.

I was worried because I didn’t personally know all the men that would be there. And with the statistics being that 1 in 4 children are sexually abused by a relative or someone they perceive to be a close friend/authority figure, I think a small amount of anxiety is healthy in this regard. Momma bear instincts and all.

I was worried because I don’t do crying. Which is also inevitable at family reunions.

But as much as all these stressors were very clear to my husband, I also knew that I had to be the right example for my children. I HAD to be joyful, excited, and at peace about meeting more family because it would affect how my children reacted to this experience. This was important to my husband. So I put on my big girl panties and my smile and off we went.

The reality is: What worries a person who struggles with anxiety like me are often scenarios imagined (chronically) in our head that more often than not, never happen. We make big “what if” monsters entirely out of our imagination.

The truth is, none of the things I worried about held any ground. At all. The most I had to worry about was what did I want on my french toast for breakfast one morning.

It was soul-refreshing and wonderful.

There was plenty of sunlight and fresh air.

There was games, conversation, and laughter.

There was worship. And of course, where there is worship with the Hass family there’s me singing off-key.

There were pictures and family trees and genealogy building.

There was geocaching!

There was late nights talking or playing skip-bo. And of course, there was a game of Catan!

There were “new family” – people who like me, married into this family and didn’t really know everyone either.

And my kids had a blast. To the point where they didn’t want to leave and said they’d miss their cousins!

I was a little bit “socialized-out” and took some naps to help cope with the insane amount of noise and activity. But it was nothing a Tylenol couldn’t handle and I got back in the game as soon as I felt better.

All of this to say, my husband’s family is doing it right. Have the family reunions when people are alive and well! Don’t wait for funerals to bring family together! Looking back after my own experience with my mom’s passing, I’m so thankful to have spent time with everyone and have all these wonderful pictures that my kids can look back on and remember.

Specially if everyone lives in one country and aren’t separated by political asylum visas and dictatorships.

Posted in Family

Sprinkles of Grace

Good friends like Ralfie are around even though I had not heard from him since 2011.

Getting the gloom and doom out of the way in the last post, I have to say I also experienced “sprinkles of grace” on this trip to Florida. Any moment when I smiled, laughed, or felt joy was like a refreshing rain after a summer of forest fires and unbearable heat in Alaska.

And I’m sure my mom would’ve wanted it that way. She hated funerals and cemeteries. She didn’t want people mourning her and moping around. She even hated flowers because they remind her of funerals.

I am here to let you know that it’s ok to feel joy in the middle of grief. It doesn’t make the grief any less valid or real. And I readily embraced any comfort given to me.

Comfort came in the way of hugs with family I haven’t seen in ever. My family in Canada, for example… It had been 24 years since I last saw them! We only hung out for like one night, but it was so nice to be hugged and prayed for by them.

Later on my cousin came down from New York and spent two days with us. That was fun. I had grown up living with or close to him most of my childhood, or visiting his home over the summer when we didn’t live five minutes apart.

I always love hugging and spending time with my mom’s youngest brother and his family.

Then there’s family that’s not really blood but might as well be. My mom and Yeiby had met back in 1997. We were roommates in Venezuela from 97-99, then again in Homestead FL from 2001-2004 or so. We are talking about years of meals together, doing each other’s hair, helping with homework, etc. What the Bible calls “a friend who sticks closer than a brother”. I could spend time with them any day! That felt like home to me.

My high school biology teacher came to my mom’s celebration of life (the only one of my friends who could make it!) and then connected my sister and me with a trunk full of mangoes, star fruits, avocadoes, and even a jackfruit! Which we tore up… and now that I’m back in Alaska I’m bummed cuz I want more fruit…

And as a way of saying thank you for the trunkload of fruit we came over and made Arepas for their Dungeons and Dragons group. Which was fun! Got to connect with old friends and meet new people.

Not only that, but while in Alaska my husband found the time to take the kids to Dave and Busters, because no one wants to grind without stop. So they had sprinkles of grace as well.

I actually feel worse for my cousins who had to leave Venezuela, because through this grief of their favorite aunt, they were alone. Alone in Peru, or Chile, or Argentina. I was able to connect with family and reminisce, cry, and pray. They were left to their photos and Whatsapp. There’s nothing like a hug from family during these hard times, and leaving your parents in search of a better life is a hard time enough as it is.

Posted in Family

Stop this ride! I want to get off!

Just passing through…

I haven’t even had the time to sit down and blog the past two months. And that’s because everything came like a hurricane – the good, the bad, and the ugly – all at once. I would not have chosen this; if I had a say in the events of my life I’d schedule them out, give me a chance to recover. But in the span of only 15 days:

  • My oldest son needed oral surgery and major orthodontic appliances
  • My mom went in the hospital with pneumonia, in FL
  • We passed appraisals and inspections on the house, got ready to close
  • My mom’s cancer came back in her lungs
  • I booked the soonest flight to FL from AK, in the middle of everything here at home (Thank God for my friends Tony and Tracy who worked together to get me a ticket within an HOUR of getting “the news”).
  • My mom passed away in her sleep before I boarded the plane.

What followed felt like a Lifetime movie, and I was jumping through hoops to keep everything moving.

My mom holding me in one of her Venezuelan beach adventures…

I processed my mom passing away from the floor of the airport in Phoenix, AZ. That’s about all the time I got before I was on the ground making decisions, and planning her ceremony.

Her entire ceremony was at the hands of none other than my sister and yours truly. Thankful for the friends who helped, kept us company, or at least brought us food.

My sister had to move out of the apartment she shared with my mom, so we were also going through boxes and drawers, deciding RIGHT NOW what to do with all of my mom’s belongings. $160 worth of shipping costs from FL to AK later, and a suitcase costing me $130 on United Airlines, I can honestly say I kept as much as I could because I wasn’t ready to let her go.

Mom, Sister, and Me with the pink suspenders. 1991

I was too busy to be angry, but I felt angry anyways.

Back home, my husband closed on a home, packed our apartment, worked 60+ hours a week and moved us into our home (and completely out of our apartment) all by himself. Well with heavy lifting and a lot of help from friends the Saturday we moved. But all the packing, all of the paperwork, all of the childcare, all of the kid stuff was entirely on him while he’s working two jobs. I’m surprised I have any husband left and he didn’t just fall apart and die on me. Entirely grateful for having him in my corner.

The only family able to be there for the Celebration of Life. Family from Canada, Miami and me (from Alaska). She left behind another 9 siblings in Venezuela and nieces/nephews scattered all across South America and Portugal who would’ve loved to have been here.

While I was gone I would keep in touch with the kids and my son’s appliance broke, in the evening, while Dad was working. That made me feel so helpless. If I was home, I’d call the emergency line and get him to his orthodontist after hours. But because I wasn’t home, my husband had to take a morning off work to get him in. I felt a little bit like I was failing. I felt like I was being torn in two – half of me in Alaska, the rest of me in Florida.

So now I’m home! I came home to my house, to all of my belongings in boxes I can’t sort yet, to needing to figure out where the grocery store is or my new church… to having to set up mail service. And with weeks before my husband and I start teaching through AK Exploring Studies/AK Exploring Science. I’m still running… But it may be a good thing. I wouldn’t know what to do if I just sat still for a moment with nothing to do.

Teresa Karalus
August 14, 1962 – July 12, 2019