Sleepless in Ajax

ImageIt is currently just after 6 AM on Friday, March 1st (Happy birthday 25 Tamika Chase, btw!).

I haven’t slept a wink. Not because I hate sleep. On the contrary, I love it muchly. It’s because where I am sitting (in our living room on my sofa), across from me on our love seat is my daughter Eliana. She is so peaceful; a mixture of curly hair, random eye rubs and light snoring.

Why is she on our couch at 6 AM and not in bed? Well at around 11:30 or so, she began to whimper and couldn’t be consoled back to sleep. When she gets into those mode, Wifey and I know that we’re in for a long night. After doing some visit (which consists of checking on her, giving her some water and singing songs), she told me something that really made me sad. She said, “I don’t like it when you leave.”

Now context: Today I go away for a few days on a retreat with some of the best people around (#insideout13) and had my bag packed. This is my first retreat, as pointed out by Wifey, that doesn’t have Eliana attending. And though my daughter knows I love her, she was sad that I had (and still have to go). So I did something quite fun. I took her out of bed and brought her down to watch a basketball game with me.

Now this might not be a big deal to you but this is something I would have wanted my dad to do with me when I was little (he’d more likely do it now if he had the time again…he’s a good man). I sat her on my knee and explained who was who and why this would be her favorite game. And I know she would remember who Kobe Bean Bryant is  or why the Lakers are important but she’ll always remember the time she fell asleep on Daddy after reading two Bible stories and watching the Lakers mash the Timberwolves.

I often don’t think of myself as a good husband or father (I mean I know I am but sometimes in the busyness of life and my own mistakes, I feel I fall short) but tonight? Tonight was a win. And so all night I’ve just watched her sleep (while also watching sports scores…) and EVEN got to hang with Liam too, which is normally NOT fun at 4 AM:)

Making memories. I’m glad early this morning I got to make some.

PS. – She just woke up and said “I had the best dream ever!” Now she’s talking about her cousin…

Marriage Blog: It’s Not Her Fault

prefix: Becca and I have been overwhelmed in a loving way at those who have read and commented on our posts dealing with our journey through Becca’ postpartum depression. We’ve both talked about how we don’t want to write to “capitalize” on that readership (hence my monday blog was this) but at the same time, we’ll open up a bit more from our story with Becca writing from her experience and I from a naive husband’s perspective. That being said, I will still talk about my amazing beard too, among other things that I like to talk about. But today, the postpartum story continues. And do look out for Becca’s blogpost as they come.

I have often heard that it is wrong to kick someone when they are down. I know this to be true but for a number of months I didn’t practice this in my own home. During my wife’s pregnancy and especially during after Liam’s birth, i did this. It’s hard to admit but I did. How? But quietly getting angry at Wifey without knowing what was going on in her. And I didn’t realize that in my actions that i was making things worse.

I saw her sadness and thought, “why can’t you snap out of it!?“. I saw her fatigue and thought, “maybe we (but really meaning her to be honest) should eat better…” and I saw her frustration and thought, “Life is good, why complain?” At the time, Becca was driving long hours to work and the drive was killing her. It always had but at this junction in our lives, it was worse. Her sighs were louder, her sadness more pronounced. Truth be told, she loved who she worked with but didn’t love her job and it was really getting to her. And at home She wasn’t able to play with Ellie. And after his  birth, she was always mad at Liam. He didn’t feed like Ellie or sleep like Ellie, or cry like Ellie…and she would let him know that. And I saw this…

And I kept it in. And grew in anger towards my wife.

*Let that sink in, Chris. 

I remember Becca mentioning on night, “I think you should read about postpartum depression…” and getting defensive. I mean, I KNEW about it. I read books, studied it for classes…but much of what people know in theory means nothing if it’s not practiced out when the time comes. And at that moment when healing should have taken place, my anger push her away…deeper into her depression. And there is nothing worse that being alone when you already feel alone.

My worst moment came during an extended family situation where the end result was me kicking a piece of furniture in front of my wife and daughter. Everything boiled over: my sadness, my feelings of failure as a husband, my naiveté, my embarrassment…

…There is no worse feeling than the ones you love seeing you at your worst. Nothing like embarrassing yourself because your own pride was wounded. And there is no bigger bittersweet moment then when you have to say, “I was wrong, I am sorry, what can I do to help?”

It took me a lot of time, counsel and tough talks with Becca to realize something that all husbands need to know:

It wasn’t her fault. My wife didn’t ask God for the test of depression to prove his glory. She didn’t get herself tangled into darkness to then find herself bound by something. No. Her body failed her (As ALL our bodies will in some form at some point) and she hadn’t received the medicine and counsel to be her again. She was unable to love us as she wanted to, not unwilling. And there is a big difference there.

So what did I do when this revelation came about:

Marriage Blog: Post-Partum Depression

prefix: I am writing this with my wife’s full knowledge and support though it is hard for her to read. She herself is a blogger and I look forward to my own uncomfortability as she writes how this affected her. Please encourage that too!!!

Depression is a real thing. It’s not made up. It hits us at different points of our lives for different reasons and without help, counsel, prayer and sometimes medicine, it can easily take over one’s life, making them a shell of who they want to be.

How do I know this? It happened to my best friend: Wifey, during and after her pregnancy with our second child.

We found out we were pregnant with Liam on Ellie’s 2nd birthday. We had been trying but Becca’s symptoms hadn’t kicked in like they did with Ellie, so we were completely taken back not only by knowing he was coming but that we missed so much in the getting ready. For some reason it really bugged Becca. More than normal. Things became different from there…

Becca’s always been quieter (she IS married to me so I take up a lot of room in the noise dept!) but now her silence was moody, sad even. Sleeps were longer, conversations shorter. She had less energy than with Ellie and more, how-do-I-say passive hostility. Much of that was because now while being pregnant, she had to place attention to our bubbly 2-year-old non-potty trained daughter and me, who is a handful. The pregnancy took much out of her…even the birth didn’t move her. She was almost placid. Tired is an understatement when a woman gives birth but there was an extra lethargy to her. She cried a lot more too, and Becca is not a crier. At all. At first her tears made sense to me; she missed Ellie, Liam wasn’t as good a sleeper or eater as Ellie was, she was disappointed about moving to formula so soon after his birth. But still, it was different.

I should stop here to say that I didn’t notice much of this when it was happening. I was too busy trying to be a fixer. Or making sure I wasn’t the cause of her grief. My thoughts for many of the above things were

  • You hang with Ellie, I’ll take Liam. I didn’t realize how deep her sadness went.
  • Couldn’t argue the sleep thing. The beginning was rough!
  • Who cares if we move to formula now. Other parents aren’t us. Her sadness was only heightened by what she saw other parents doing via social media. Their “lives on-screen” made hers seem like a failure, deepening the spiral.

My thought was, tomorrow will be better. Let’s get out of those pyjamas, go for some outdoors time and everything will be okay. But it got worse. There’d be days of sitting on the couch and not moving. Blank stares while Ellie roamed around, Liam just being a baby…It just didn’t make sense. Plus, as a husband: no sex, no affection. My Wifey was different. And I didn’t now how to help her. So I did what I thought best: I took care of everything else. Shopping? Check. Ellie? Check. Cleaning? Check. And on and on. But that made things worse.

One night while at work, Becca called in tears asking for me to come home, as something had happened that threw her off. And I did the worst thing possible. I didn’t go straight home. I waited to make sure all was well at work and then did. Stupid. It was there that our talks on her being depressed began…and continued for some time with help from good friends, family and staff where we work. Becca got some medicine and began to come back to her normal self, though she may be dependant on them for the rest of her life. And if I ever thought this was hard on ME, I can only imagine how this ordeal has changed and affected her.

I’m summarizing a two-year ordeal here to get to this point:

So you love/hate/tollerate Halloween, eh?

When I was either 8 or 10, I remember being on Rue Des Cageux in Pierrefonds, Qc out getting candy on Oct 31st, when I rang a door to no answer. stubbornly, I rang the door again; I was NOT going home with a half empty bag. The door opened and a man said, “We don’t celebrate Halloween. We’re Christians.” He then closed the door and went back inside. I was perplexed. “Shouldn’t Christians WANT to give and be nice?” my young mind questioned as I walked to the next home.  I mean isn’t it better to give than to have a dark house and sit in your basement until 8 PM?

I bring this up because Each year on the last day of October, millions of kids get dressed up after school and either among their friends or with their parents, go to different doors in their neighbourhoods to collect candy. To most kids, it’s an excuse to be Iron Man, Captain Jack Sparrow, a Cupcake, a lion, a ghoul or a witch while (and I’m emphasizing here) getting free candy. The houses that give candy always have their outside light on, some steps are covered with pumpkins and decorations. And the houses that have their lights off either hate kids and visitors, have a religious stance against it or simply aren’t home.

Now for Christians and people of other religions, Halloween comes with its own, how-do-I-say struggles. On one hand, we want to be lights in a dark world no matter what. This is why we go to war-torn countries, get involved with pulling people out of sex trades and the like. So it’s funny that on the supposed darkest night of the year, many Christians house lights are off. And on the other hand, Halloween in its current form highlights the occult and many evil practices, and so churches do Halloween “alternatives” (candy, games, prizes with no costumes so church kids are away from the ‘world’) and protect themselves from the evil outside. These same Christians, I hope, want to reach their neighbors for God and have it in their hearts that their stance is a part of their witness.

Some Christians don’t do Halloween because it’s “Satan’s Birthday” (never proven). Some Christian do Halloween because they weren’t allowed when they were kids and this is their rebellion. Some Christians don’t do Halloween because to do it is to accept evil in the form of costumes. Some Christians do Halloween because they enjoy dressing up and acting (not in the hypocrite sense…I mean actual acting). Some Christians don’t do Halloween because it celebrates all that the Bible speaks against. Some Christians do Halloween because the same Bible compels them to go into evil without being of the evil world.

What about me? I’m a pastor at a church. I aim daily to shun evil and cling to the light. And for 3 years, I have skipped my church’s Missions Mania Halloween alternative night and taken my daughter trick or treating. And the event is a really good one that many people love and come back to year after year. So why am I a Halloween-er? (Click on next page to find out!!)

Netflix, TV and My Kid – A Parent’s Tale

“It’s not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, but somehow I managed to fit in eight hours of TV a day.” – Homer Simpson, B.A. and father of The Simpsons.

This, for many people, is their unspoken motto. A life filled with sitting in front of a flat screen/laptop watching hours of episodic television, 24 hour news TV or March Madness. That statement is much of my life’s story (minus the troubled Bart-like kid), for growing up I had 3 parents: Mom, Dad and TV. Much of my pop culture nerdish quotes and ideas come from hours as a kid, teen and at times, adult, watching and learning from TV. From Perfect Strangers to Community, Summer to Winter Olympics, from Lost to Fringe, from live to PVR/Netflix and online, TV had been a part of my framework and a part of how I see things.

Now I’m not writing this blog to tell someone to turn off their TV and get to running outside or fasting or something.  Nor am I writing to invite that for myself from a loving commentator. I think there’s someone much Bigger than I am who can do that. I’m writing because I have a daughter who like her father loves TV. And because she loves it and we let her watch it (with we hope, wisdom), it’d be good to talk through how we do it and hear from other how they walk their kids through it, if at all. So here’s how we’ve done TV with Ellie and what I’m learning in the process.

  1. Some cartoons aren’t good for her. At first we simply left a Canadian channel called Treehouse on all day while she played for background noise. And in all honesty, sometimes we did it for a break too (any “Oh man I’m not alone!” chants starting?)! And what we would hear would most often by fine but some shows, even for kids, would promote behaviors that we didn’t want her to see as approved. And this goes for me (and you) too. I talk about that on number 4.
  2. Know the limits. Winters are the worst for this. It’s not like you can go outside at minus whatever to ride a bike and Lord knows craft time, if you’re not a craft person, can be draining. So the easy decision is to simply turn on the TV and walk away. And for a time we would do that. Now we let her watch some educational stuff for a bit then turn the TV off and enforce play time. And that might be in her room with toys, might be coloring, but it is something away from the ‘tube.
  3. Talk with her about what she sees. I think good parents know when to simply say no and when to explain a no, even to a 3-year-old. The reason to explain isn’t to get them on your side or even the Lord’s side but instead to help them start to think critically over what they take in. This past summer Ellie was watching a kids show on my iPad through Netflix when a character said something I found inappropriate. My initial instinct was to take the iPad and walk away. Instead, we had a short talk about being nice and kind with our words. Did it stick? She’s three. But I do believe that the seeds are there.
  4. Set an example. Man this is hard. Am I on my phone in front of her all the time, checking emails (not tweets, if you remember)? My iPad? Even a book? Am I paying more attention even to writing this blog than to playing with her and her brother? It might not be a TV but if it’s something and it’s for a long time, it might at well be a TV. I have to take my own breaks, even when she’s sleeping. And I also have to constantly reevaluate what is appropriate and not. As I read today through Jon Acuff’s Quitter, “Discipline begets more discipline.” How I do things will affect her greatly, to make better calls, take better breaks and know when something shouldn’t be in her life.

So, thoughts? Ideas? Do you own a large TV but never use it because of different principles (side question: then why have the TV? But I digress…)? Was TV never a big deal for you? If not, what do you find is? How do you help your kids think while they do? If you don’t have kids, how to figure out what you watch and how much is too much?

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Parent Real Talk: Feeling Sucky

If you’re a parent, you’ll understand this feeling: inadequacy.

This isn’t what we’d project on Facebook with our fun family pics or on Twitter with our happy 140 character notes, but more often than not, behind the front door of our homes, we sometimes feel this way. Especially when it comes to how we raise our kids.

The other night, Ellie was taken by SOMETHING. She was kicking her brother, crumpling her face while crossing her arms, cry screaming (which is a mixture of both crying and screaming) and just not listening to us at all. The night ended up with her in bed crying at 7:00 with no snack, me standing outside her room angry that I yelled at her (there is a difference between being stern for her sake and simply yelling because I lost my cool) and Liam picking his nose.

That night I felt like…I wasn’t a good dad. I know I am but there are days where I just feel…inadequate.

Question for Parents: Ever known that feeling? What seems to trigger that for you?

It’s worse when you’re out somewhere and you kids seems to…dare I say “embarrass” you. You know those times when they are the only kid who throws themselves into a foam-at-the-mouth, roll-in-the-dew (#seewhatIdidthere, Cobourg Camp peeps?), punch-kick-claw-yell-cry state while other parents look on with that face? You know the face…that smug look that says, “If that was my kid that would NEVER happen!” And it is so embarrassing, isn’t it? I know it is for me.

The real talk truth is that every kid has moments like that, whether we want people around us to know it or not. If a kid doesn’t:

– Sleep long enough or sleep too little
– Eat enough or sleep too little
– Play enough or play too little
– Feel the sun or to the moon
– Find out there is no Santa or some fictional character
– Suffer from first world problems like “Sorry no McDonald’s, kiddo” or “No Ellie, we’re not getting Starbucks banana bread (told you…first world yuppie problems)”

…They will freak out. And the younger they are, the harder it is to explain to them why they can’t have what they want and why they shouldn’t respond they way they do. So there are only a few things I can do.

1. Pray a lot. Becca and I picked up a cool booklet by Mark Batterson called “Praying Circles Around Your Children“, based on his book “The Circle Maker.” Without giving away too much of the book, the main gist is to help give parents direction on HOW to pray for their kids on a regular basis. The other night, I made a list of things I will speak over my children. For Ellie, kindness and honesty (among other things). For Liam, humility and love.

2. Apologize. I lose my cool sometimes. If you’re a parent, you know what that’s like. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to say sorry to a three-year-old who would rather play than listen at the time but if I live a life of apology, maybe when they are older, they’ll learn that being wrong and admitting it is okay.

3. Say “I love you” a lot. Today Ellie asked me, “Daddy, do you still love me when I do bad acts?” I told her that I could never NOT love her no matter what she did. Out of that, on her own, my three-year-old said, “Daddy, I’m sorry for hitting and yelling…”. She apologized for something she did the last week. Love brought out honesty from her, not my yelling.

4. Still discipline. Sometimes my kids are going to need to be disciplined and as a good dad I have to do that. But I have to talk afterwards.

5. Not compare myself to other parents. Hey other parents: I know you have sucky days when you get mad at someone else because you had a bad day at work or something. Because I know that, that face don’t mean nuthin! People without kids, know this: Your kid will mess up. Your kid will do dumb things. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It just means you’re like every other parent, whether they say so or not:)

6. Remember that kids remember. Today I saw a tweet from Mark Driscoll that made me pause (Thanks Taigan Bombay for retweeting him). It said, “Men, we need to be the kind of men we want our sons to become and our daughters to marry…because they will.” I think that goes for all parents. Our kids will be like us no matter what, so let’s all aim to be the best we can be.

…Tonight when I got home, Becca and I had to have a long talk with Ellie about her recent behavior. It was crazy to see Ellie embarrassed and saddened by her actions. She even tried to hide, reminiscent to two people who tried to hide from their own discipline so many years ago. Yet when all was done, we had a dance party.

Thankfully when things are done right, the ending is always sweet and filled with awkward attempts at dance moves meant for teenagers and NOT 30 year olds.

Parents: Please pass this along to other parents to hear their thoughts! How have you dealt with your own feelings of inadequacy?

If you have a similar story, I’d love to have some dialogue with you on it. Leave a comment OR email me at cchase101@gmail.com. We’ve all got a story, so let’s share them. Also, feel free to subscribe to this blog by clicking the “subscribe me” button. Thanks – Chase

I Hate Chris Chase (Based on a True Story)

The other day while I was fabrezing my beard, I logged onto my WordPress to see the movement of my latest post. While doing this I noticed something quite…unnerving. Someone did a google search for me. Now before you say, “Calm down there Mr. Narcissist!” Look at what the search was (this is not made up):

Now that’s pretty crazy, isn’t it? First, I’m not google worthy. Secondly, HATE? Wowzers! Like the person couldn’t even just search my name or my work or something but that they actually “Hate Chris Chase.” And it’s not general hate. Nor is it invitational hate (as in Let’s hate…). It is personal hate…and its something that I’m sure they didn’t expect I’d ever see.

So I saw that and my mind went racing to figure out who would do such a thing. I mean…I am loud and while not as loud as I used to be, I do get up there in volume. I sometimes put my foot in my mouth at the pain of others, but I am much better at saying sorry now than I was back in the day. Could it be someone from my old youth group (I do wish I had more friends from that time in my life at times but life is what it is…)? Someone who I spited accidentally or maybe purposely? Could it be Frank Grimes (go to 0.21)? So then who could it be…this really bugged me,

Because no matter how confident you are, especially if your identity isn’t found in yourself, or something/one else but rather in Christ, you still want to be liked or even loved by others. Call me weak. I call it human. We’re all built for relationships. No one is above wanting to be accepted. Even snobs want love. Even bullies want love. Bullies bully cause they don’t know how to ask for love. And when you find out someone doesn’t like you, most of us, when we’re alone get really bothered by it, even if for a split second. And trust me, it sucks (if I had a dime for how many time I got blamed for a friendship flame out i’d have at least 25 cents). The weak part is when you can’t get over it, i guess.

So I got pretty sad. Then angry. Then wanting to find a way to track the person down and simply ask them why…then I decided to create a back story for this person…and that made me laugh a lot. Cause it was good.

Then, after 3 hours  (or so…) of laughing to myself I realized that I wasted my time on this person’s  anger/resentment/unforgiveness/fear/narcissism/sad googling/mistake (hard to believe but there is more than just 1 Chris Chase in the world) and realized that “haters gonna hate”, I guess. And even if their anger is justified (albeit not gone about in a healthy manner) I’m no better if I sit there and hate them back or even dwell on their hate. So, I decided to leave it. Until I blogged about it…and went through it again. But now I’m fine…i think…lol.

 

I guess the beard really isn’t for everyone. Real Talk.

…And to my friend, the googler…It’s all good. Thanks for reading the blog anyhow. Hopefully we can make amends one day. And if not, I hope you have diarrhea for a month

…kidding:)

(*added today) I guess I also have to admit that we all have hate in our hearts too. I mean we all don’t like/trust/accept people. There are some we connect with and others who we don’t as…easily. I need to work on that in MY life as well. Love (and hate) is a two way street…

PS. The beard lives on. The beard drinks hate and produces grey hairs of wisdom.

PPS. I normally have my phone on vibrate but when it’s on loud, this is my ring tone – 

If you have a similar story, I’d love to have some dialogue with you on it. Leave a comment OR email me at cchase101@gmail.com. We’ve all got a story, so let’s share them. Also, feel free to subscribe to this blog by clicking the “subscribe me” button. Thanks – Chase