Thursday, February 26, 2009

Give it Away Part 2

And I quote:

"I ask...God forgive me. I am ready and willing, in prayer and meditation, to give it all away for You."

What the heck was I thinking writing that? Not that it was insincere, because I meant every word at the time I wrote it. But, did I really think through the possible ramifications of that statement?!

As evident in my blog posts and other writings over the last couple of months, I have been put to the fire, tested, drawn out, worked over, revealed, pushed, and I might just go so far as to us the big "s" word. I have suffered. I thought it just couldn't get any worse, and frankly the last couple of weeks I appeared to rebound. I likened it to a faucet that was abruptly turned off. All the gunk coming at me was shut-off like a switch. Life moved back into its routine and rhythm and I had a brief moment of peace. And, then, I had to go write something like that.

Now, I know this hasn't been a physical suffering, at least not at age 37. Only a fraction would even notice that all of this cesspool has been churning inside me. I have learned well and fast that suffering can never compared. And, always, I mean always you can find someone that is "suffering" more more than you. But in my own life, this is the low of lows. The challenge of challenges. The reveal and pain of reveals and pains. And so, to not say it is suffering for me would be denying all that I am dealing with. I am done with denial.

I like to stuff things down. I am a stuffer. Well, maybe not completely, but on the really painful stuff, oh yeah. It is easy as pie to cram it into a box, superglue it and leave in the back recess of your mind. You know, it can sit there for years, not bothering anyone. At least you have yourself convinced it is gone, over with, done. But actually, it is oozing out of that little box and slowly infiltrating other parts of your life. What you don't realize is how that goo starts crawling and creeping until everything in your brain, your experiences, your relationships - ALL of it is tainted by it. In the end, you can't view anything you are connected to without those slime-covered glasses. And, because you have to wear those glasses every day, you have now bought all the lies - hook, line and sinker.

Yeah, I know all the lines. Time will heal. God is with you. He won't give you more than you can handle (which is not in the bible, by the way). He will use this to grow you, etc. etc. etc. Well, at the moment, I think I have had all the growth that I can deal with for a while. Maybe this is blasphemous and I don't mean for it to be. I am just being very honest and true to what I am feeling.

Frankly, I am not finding much comfort in this dark cavern where I find myself residing. It's going to be a long, long road out of this place. At least He has made it very, very clear that the timing is right for all of this. And, I know He is providing the flashlight for the way out. But, it is still very scary. I can't see the end, only what is right in front of me. I keep tripping and stumbling over rocks, groping for something to hold onto and everything seems to covered in that cold slime from my past. Did I really give it all away for this? Oh, I am ready for the end of this journey!


Although it seems like yesterday that I did a "blessings in my life" post, life has thrown me an incredible curve ball and I am inclined to do it again.

1) Our business continues to grow in a year of job loss, economic downturn and dismal news. CNN could take a lesson and NOT go to commercial break with the following line, "Back in a moment with more grim stories." Ours is a niche market that actually does as well in down times as in up. But still, I salute my hard-working, stressed to the max husband, who slaves at this business from the moment he wakes to the moment he goes to sleep.

2) We are striving to play together as a family again. It takes serious planning and effort to do this. We joined the YWCA in town and have made the commitment to go once during the weekend and once during the week, together, all 5 of us, swimming. It has brought laughter and smiles. And, we all love the feeling of getting the blood flowing again in the form of exercise. Slothful weekend living...BE GONE!

3) We are going skiing this weekend. Right now, there are several things that do not bode well for this trip. It is supposed to rain, not snow, most of the weekend. The family that is going with us has sick children - one very sick one, too. And, without going into too many details, I am not quite mentally focused either. But, I will be thankful because of the opportunity and know that whatever happens, well, is supposed to happen. We are going as a family. It will be fun.

4) My little grandfather, in the latter stages of Alzheimer's, is holding his own in the hospital with a bout of pneumonia. I haven't seen him mutter a noise in a while, nor have his eyes open. I am thankful that when I went to visit him this morning, he opened his eyes, looked at me and made the attempt to speak. It was completely unintelligible, but I would like to believe he was saying hello, asking what I had been up to and complimenting little Lily who had accompanied me.

5) A reconnect with a friend of Ansley's in college brought me joy this week.

6) That I have friends far and near who I love and who love me.

7) Despite what I feel is a day of reckoning for me, that I can see glimpses of His mark all over it.

8) Noggin. I know, I am reaching here to put a tv channel in my list of blessings, but when you are mentally preoccupied, at least there is something your child can watch that she loves and you feel ok about. I will declare that their slogan, "It's like preschool on television," is a farce, but hey, it does make it a bit more palatable.

9) Ridiculously large volcano-shaped chocolate brownie (3 packages worth), covered with thick, rich chocolate icing, and snow-white icing peak. We won it at the cub scouts' dessert auction. Each time I walk by it on the kitchen counter, I take a bite with the fork that rests permanently on the side of the platter.

10) TobyMac. He speaks to my heart these days. I took E & S to Winter Jam last Saturday night. It was their first concert. He was the headliner. Some time ago, I think that man walked in a pair of shoes that seem to be perfectly fitted for me these days. I am thankful for his obedience to sing for Him. And thus, he is a blessing me.

Bonus blessing...this is my 200th post! A milestone, I believe, for me.

I could stand to hear how you are thankful for what is in your life - no matter how trivial it may seem. I need some other perspectives, please.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Songs From My Childhood

Someone created a new "note" on facebook yesterday that completely sucked me into the lost time vortex. I spent entirely too long on answering questions about myself and well, frankly, am a bit embarrassed by my attention to it. The note, you ask? "Music That Shaped My Life."

Unless you have been residing on an Amish farm, you are probably familiar with "notes" on facebook. Maybe you have never completed one, but I know you have been tagged in one or, out of curiosity, have read one. Now, you and I sit here knowing entirely too much about each other and also about people we haven't seen since high school graduation. I think we feel as if completing more of these questionnaires somehow gives us the right to browse others' responses. Honestly, I know your life doesn't hinge upon whether you know if I have ever sat on a roof, caught a snowflake on my tongue or what my "Goth Name" would be. Black Dixie, by the way. And who in their right mind has answered "yes" to the YES/NO survey question "Have you ever used heroine?" We read this information, no, make that, obsess over this newly revealed and utter useless data like somehow all of this dictates whether we will remain friends or dreadfully delete each other in the dark of night. Regardless, we fill them out, pour over others and in our never ending quest to satisfy our own infinite curiosity, forward these suckers on hoping to have others join us in procrastinating on what we don't really want to do each day. For me, it was cleaning the kids room with a garbage bag, goodwill box and chlorox. Ok, so maybe facebook notes aren't so bad after all. I digress.

So, I receive this "facebook note" and immediately begin pouring over it. Seemed simple enough. Answer a few questions about meaningful music throughout my life. But, holy moly, did it make me work and dig into the recesses of my brain. My memory stinks. I had to search google and youtube with bits and pieces of titles and artists. For example, my need to answer the question, "A song that is linked to romance" brought only little snippets of melody and lyrics of an artist that made me swoon in high school, Terence Trent D'Arby. But despite this deep affection for him during my teenage years, I could only muster up the words, "terrence seven and song" in my search engine. And the word "seven" only burst forth because I remember being grounded for a week during my time of D'Arby love. On the first night of the grounding, a boyfriend at the time sneaked a tape of D'Arby's music into my unlocked car, which included the song "Seven More Days" in reference to my grounding. Regardless, the three word search (with misspelled first name Terence) revealed my complete artists' name and opportunity to listen once again. I took the moment to enjoy a brief walk down memory lane. Interesting how the mind connects memories. This also gives validation to why it took me so long to formulate answers to this note.

The first question on the note is: Song from childhood? I thought this was a pretty easy one. My answer: "Rainbow Connection" sung by Kermit the Frog. In fact the entirety that is the Muppets, the shows, movies, board game, stuffed animals, puppets and Christmas special are indelible in my mind. I still have the board game and Kermit in my footlocker of childhood memories in our basement storage room. The first Christmas in what I consider to be my childhood home, I was woken up by the sound of The Muppets Movie album playing on my new, deluxe record player with built-in speakers (pre-jambox days). Many days were spent singing along with my sister, also a Muppets freak. I was only 6, it was understandable. But she was 8, what was her excuse?

Never satisfied with an answer on these questionnaires, I dove into the memory files of those early days and came up with two more headliners. The soundtrack to the movie "Grease" and Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall." The movie "Grease" was released the summer before I entered 2nd grade which was 1978. I saw the movie at the old Town Centre Theater on Parris which is now Fuji Steakhouse. Notice the British spelling choice of the word "Centre" did nothing to deter its demise. This was my first exposure to a musical, even if in the movie form and I was hooked. I played this album until I knew every word, could act out every scene...people, I WAS Sandy. Occasionally, I would venture into the role of "Danny" played by John Travolta in all of his Aqua Velva, black comb and cuffed jean glory. As Danny, I would sing the song, "Sandy," while kicking a used “D” battery in lieu of the tin can that he kicked around after being ditched by Sandy at the drive-in. I know, it makes no sense. My transformation as Sandy was not complete until I donned a pair of pants a least a size too small (short and tight), my mom's high heels, scavenged a straw to use as a cigarette and sang, "Tell me about it, Stud." Wild, rebellious Sandy, a persona I thought was much cooler than goody-two-shoes Sandy. The highlight of my 7th birthday slumber party was a talent show at which every girl present sang or danced, surprise, to the song of their choice off the "Grease" album.

"Off the Wall" came a year later. Michael Jackson's first solo album was released in 1979, which was the year that marked my foray into formal jazz lessons at Lilo Ford's Dance studio. At 21, Michael Jackson was the original-skin, pre-plastic surgery, pre-pedophilia and let’s face it, less scary icon. Michael Jackson, the 1.0 version. In other words, he was still loved by millions across the globe – and not just Asia. This was also the soft spoken Michael Jackson who emitted little woo-hoo’s during his songs, which proceeded the grunting out of frustration “Billy Jean” phase. The entire dance recital that year had a nursery rhyme theme. Because our class had 10 girls in it, we were assigned the 10 Little Indians. Now how this is connected to Michael Jackson, I will never know, but our chosen performance song was to his first single off the album, “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.” And let me tell you…as a little girl, dressed up in a fringed skirt and feather head piece, capped off with my mother’s inexperience at applying stage make-up, I worked that “seaweed” dance move, the kicks and step-ball-changes until my little body couldn’t work it anymore. Which might be classified as a miracle in itself given the sheer volume of face paint my mother swathed on me out of fear that my face might be lost in the glare of the stage lighting. I guess a “hooker” was better than being “faceless.”

Those are the songs of my childhood. Certainly none of them rank up there as the all-time greatest songs in history. My interpreted singing and dancing didn’t add a thing to them and may have actually lowered their credibility. But, they were my entry into what would become a life-long love of music.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Because for most of us music is linked to our memories, this should enlighten others to your moods and phases of life. If nothing else, it clearly gives away your age! If your memory is like mine, you may need to list group names rather than song titles. You may not be able to limit to just one song. Take your time, use google and you tube. That is ok with this note. Further commentary as to your choices is appreciated. Delete my answers, fill in your own, and forward to others at will...

1. Song from childhood? Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog (Muppets in general)
A little later...Michael Jackson's Off the Wall. My first album.

2. Your high school class song? Free Bird by Lynard Skynard (I know, what were we thinking?) At least it is a considered a classic, right?

3. Your first CD?
The Four Seasons by Vivaldi

4. Song most memorable or favored from your teenage years? I have a few..
What I Am by Edie Brickell
The Cemetery Gates by The Smiths
The entire INXS "Kick"album, played before tennis matches
The English Beat, The Church, The Connells and U2
The Descendants fed my punk/angst side
Something ridiculous by Tone-Loc spurred on by Jennifer
Guns N Roses driving to N.DavidsonHS for classes with Katie and Chip

5. Song most memorable or favored from college or young adult years?
The first year of college - hands down, The Indigo Girls and Jane's Addiction
Later...ABBA Gold, Dillon Fence. Bizarre singles - "Ebeneezer Goode" by the Shamen (I wonder if anyone will know that song) and "Supermodel (You better work) by RuPaul.
Scott J. and Elizabeth S. help me out here.

6. Song linked to any job? And, really, why?
Hmmmm - The soundtrack to the musical RENT (to make me feel like I had not sold out) and Madonna's Ray of Light CD (I was in sales and this got my blood flowing)

7. A song that brings you infinite happiness?
"In Christ Alone" because of Ansley. In her last few months, I remember her standing, bald, both hands in the air singing with all her heart to this song. Sad, but fantastically beautiful. Also "Ill Fly Away" the Jars of Clay song. One of her funeral picks that we had much discussion about.

8. A song linked to sad times?
Paul Simon's "Graceland" which was given to me by my father the first Christmas my parents were divorced. Sad, but I still love the album.

9. What song is linked to some angst/rebellion for you?
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. Will never forget the first time I heard it and what it did to me.

10. A song that is linked to romance? Jeff Buckley (I can barely listen to him), Sade, Barry White (who doesn't think of that with him on?), and Terence Trent D'arby (although he is so cheesy to look at)

11. A song you wish you had never heard? Anything by Slim Whitman because Ansley tormented me with the ridiculous notion that I loved him and wanted to be married to him. Despite the utter impossibility of this idea, she would drive me to tears with this fact. Hate even hearing his name.

12. A song that won't leave your head? "Nah nah nah nah, Hey Hey Hey Good bye"

13. A song that was played at your wedding (or you would like played there)? I Will be Here by Michael W. Smith, but performed by a friend. Nice, but would probably not choose it again. Correction noted below - Steven Curtis Chapman, not MWS.

14. A song that you will admit, for the first time, loving? Barbara Streisand, "A Piece of Sky Actually, I'll just say it - I like most her stuff. While I am at it - Neil Diamond, ok?

15. Your favorite 'wild times/party' song?
In the Netherlands - "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor and a Dutch song "Vlieg Met Me (Naar de Regenboog) by Paul De Leeuw. But, whenever I was going out in the US and heard this song, it was always an awesome night..."Big Country" by Big Country. I know, strange.

16. Your best road trip song? Journey, REM, Boston, Alison Krauss, Bob Marley. Anything I can sing to, or rather warble to.

17. Your favorite sad/quiet times song? "Praise You in the Storm" by Casting Crowns and "Valley of the Vision" CD. Other quiet times...Nina Simone (slightly depressing jazz) and Ain't No Sunshine by Bill Withers

18. What is in your CD player or the last song on your mp3 player? Car CD player TobyMac, Alvin & the Chipmonks, WOW 2009 and 2 Veggie Tales CD. I have kids.

19. What is your current fav? TOBYMAC! Love him!

20. Your all-time favorite song? I'll come back to this one. Really need to contemplate.

Your life's song, ya know, what song best describes your life? "Lifesong" acoustic version by Casting Crowns - to be played at my funeral.

I added this one: Song to my kids: " Lovely Day" by Bill Withers

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Fresh Scent

I remember when he came home smelling like cheap perfume. "Hell-oooo," he called as he entered the house after a day at work. He made his way to the bedroom where I was dressing a child after a bath. He bent down to give me a kiss upon the cheek. As he did, my nose sniffed and my back stiffened a bit. There was a different scent surrounding him.

I was used to years of the stale scent of cigarettes, sterile office funk and even sometimes a bit of his greasy lunch. However, for the last several months, he had been fighting the addiction of nicotine. An addiction of 15 years that was a monster with which to be reckoned. But, he was determined and well, was forced to end it because of suffering a mild heart attack at only 34. During our 8 years of knowing each other, I had never known his "normal" scent. It had always been masked by the heaviness of a pack a day habit. But, within the first week of his battle, his natural smell slowly emerged, as years of the toxins slowly released from his pores. But what my nose hinted at this evening was not this newly known scent, this was more floral.

"What is that smell?" I asked.
"What smell?" he immediately responded.
"You smell like cheap perfume." I said with a little bit of indignity.
"I do? No I don't," he said.
Did Tammy (his assistant) wear something new that somehow caught wind of you?" I inquired.
"No," he said as he walked into the closet to change clothes.

The next day, upon entering our house, he leaned to give the "honey, I am home" peck on the cheek.
"AHA! I smell it again!" I exclaimed. "I know I smell something, Jay."
"What?" he said.
"You know exactly what I am talking about!" I began to shout. "What is going on? I want to know." I could feel the bile begin to rise in my throat, my heart beating faster and faster. This couldn't be happening.
He hung his head and I knew this couldn't be good.
He began to mutter, "It is Febreeze."
"Febreeze?" I said, completely flabbergasted. "What are you talking about?"
His words spilling quickly from his mouth, "I have started smoking again and I didn't want you to know. So, to mask the smell, I started spraying myself with Febreeze before getting out of the car. I am sorry."
"Ok, that is THE most ridiculous thing I have ever heard," I said. "Febreeze." I let out a deep breath. With much relief I hugged him and told him to take a shower. I wanted that scent gone!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

We are all on a journey. Everyone has to figure this out themselves. I don't believe that since I am in a different place than you (notice the word different, not better or worse, just the word different), that somehow I am closer to God than you. God loves us all equally. He desires to have each of us in His fold, close to Him. My "knowledge" doesn't put me in better standing with God, that is for my own pleasure and enjoyment.

Have you ever read the story of the prodigal son in the bible? It was actually a tough one for me at one time. It doesn't matter if I toil every day of my life, have every bit of the bible memorized, etc. and another person only one day, the reward is still the same. Meaning, it doesn't really matter where we are in the journey - early, middle, late, heaven is there for us all. We should be joyous in that fact.

My choices to limit what my kids see and experience is to protect their hearts and minds from the really cruddy influences I had growing up. I don't want Sadie to think that relationships begin, are in crisis and are resolved, all within 30 minutes. Or, that her measure of worth is found in boys and popularity. I could write a number of other accounts for her and Ethan. It is not because I am walking some bizarre line of legalism. It is because they have their whole lives to fill up with the world, so why push it now? Let God be their influence, not the world.

I am not preaching to you, I am just trying to explain myself in light of your statement. With that statement should come an explanation of exactly where you are at the moment. I don't know where you are, so why don't you tell me? What is your relationship with God? Jesus? Tell me. Then, read my blog.
“It is in the quiet crucible of your personal private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born and that God’s greatest gifts are given in compensation for what you’ve been through.”

A friend shared this quote with me during my time of heavy grieving this year. Although I loved the hope it gave at the time, I had not yet experienced the noblest dream. I feel as if I am in that "noblest dream."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Give It Away

A friend's father passed away last summer. It was after a long, drawn-out and painful battle with pancreatic cancer. He spent the last 6 months simply wasting away. Her father remarried many years ago to a lovely woman. And, for the most part the entire family got along quite amicably. That is, until he died.

What seems to be at the heart of the disagreement is that her father left everything to his new wife. Now, let me make this very clear, my friend and her two siblings could care less about money or even the bulk of the possessions. However, they want something, a small trinket of their father to remember him by. Additionally, these items might consist of birthday gifts, possessions that were directly linked to their life before she entered the picture and or even connected to his genealogy which should have no value to her. And yet, she is completely unwilling to part with anything, and certainly not these few pieces requested by my friend and her family.

I pondered this predicament. It makes me very sad for all of them. But it also brought to mind what I am unwilling to let go. What am I holding on to for some misplaced security or simply out of fear that should conjure up the same feelings of sadness about the state of my own soul?

In my early walk with Christianity, part of my hold out on believing in Jesus was that I felt I had to give up my old life. All the things that I held dear were now against the law, or so I thought. And, I wasn't ready to let them go. Life was not going to be enjoyable. I started my walk on some ridiculous tight rope of piety. But, as I grew in my faith, I began to understand how unimportant these things were to God. And, how much more important relationships are. When I recognized the traps of performance I jumped off the tight rope, landed in the net and started walking on solid ground. It was painless and superbly easy. As Paul says in Philippians, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things."

My advice to my friend was to just give it more time. She should make a kind request to her father's wife to please not dispose of his things without giving the children a chance to pilfer through. She may not know of a special memory tied to an item. And, for my friend, as time passes, the significance of the clock, the photo, the books, will diminish. I am certain that as the grief is dealt with, it will be easier for his wife to give it away, too.

I encourage each of us to look deeper into ourselves to what we are clutching so desperately to that is of this world. Possibly we are holding onto something that we aren't fully aware of its existence. It is so ingrained and embedded from years of this practice or behavior, we don't know it at all.

Like an onion, the outer layers of ourselves are dry and brittle, easy to peel and discard. In fact, they almost come off themselves. The early years of believing are like that, I think. Easy transformation, little knowledge. But as you get closer and closer to the heart of the onion, the layers are tighter, tougher, more compacted and unified to the core.

Somewhere over the last year, I reached a point where I thought, well, I have dealt with a lot of those transgressions and the sins that held me hostage. Those chains don't hold me anymore. I am in pretty good shape. And then, God used people and circumstances to force the examination of layers around my heart once again. Those layers that separate me from the fullness of His love and grace.

I have walked a few years as a believer, some 12-13 years. As I journey this road, I have discovered that to relinquish more and more of myself is increasingly difficult. Rather than deal head-on with what God brought into the light, I chose to walk away. I found myself trying to find those old peels, searching through the stinking filth of the wastebasket because it was just a bit more comfortable than facing the truest part of myself.

But there is no walking, skipping, or running away. Those old peels will never feel good again. I ask...God forgive me. I am ready and willing, in prayer and meditation, to give it all away for You.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

There is loss and then there is Loss. There is grief and then there is Grief. What differentiates between the two? Is solely the connection between the two people. Or do you factor in the journey to death, the story behind the loss? Is it worse to have the knowledge the you are dying? Or is that fact harder on the ones surrounding you? Is it worse to not have the chance to say goodbye to those that are left?

I have been a bit shocked to have experience levels of sorrow and depression this year that would rival the first month of her passing. It rattled my brain and my body. It has been 2 years, and yet, there were moments this past week when I couldn’t exhale without tears and crying. I can look back at the last year and see very few moments of sadness. I could talk about her without any emotion, no tears, not even watering. I could recollect tough times in our relationship almost from the outside looking in. Those on the receiving end of my verbal recollection would react with tears and sniffles while I stood there unphased by what I was saying.

Death is a crazy thing. It makes people behave to the antithesis of their character. They make terrible choices in grief. They can’t think clearly, the grief masking reality, marring their ability to anticipate consequences. Sometimes they chose to forget all that they knew when their loved one was living. That which brought closeness in the last stage of death or in the birth of the grief is gone.

Grief is cyclical. There is no reasoning to the cycles, when they appear, their order, their presentation. Grief circles are sometimes small and sometimes all encompassing. They arrive in the form of anger, sadness, depression and even antipathy.

I am sure that there are a few in my midst who think that I should be over it by now. Controlled in my sorrow and grief and memories managed.

Is suffering comparable?

Does any one really know the levels of another person’s sorrow?

Signs of a Lighter Heart

A tough week last week. I didn't write much, didn't think much past my own sorrow. I am working on getting back into the groove this week. Much of the sadness is behind me which actually is very interesting. I mean, does a passing day really make that much difference? Topic for future post.

A habit I am trying to establish is to make a list of what brings me happiness and joy on a regular basis. Focusing on the positive, not the negative. Gains instead of losses. God's blessings even if small. And it is:

1. "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor. I recently heard this song on the radio and not only did it pump me up in a major way, it brought back a flood of wonderful memories of my year in the Netherlands with a group of girls (I call all my friend girls) that are still very close to my heart. That song was our mantra while being immersed in a different culture, far from home and families. A remix of the song was very popular in the bars that year and so we belted it out regularly. But, this time I also heard myself singing it in a new light. Instead of singing this to my independent spirit (the original intent by Ms. Gaynor), I sang this song to my grief, loneliness and depression which seemed to appear with such force I was knocked to the ground. Here is a snippet of the lyrics for those that don't remember.

and so you're back
from outer space
I just walked in to find you here
with that sad look upon your face
I should have changed my stupid lock
I should have made you leave your key
If I had known for just one second
you'd be back to bother me

Go on now go walk out the door
just turn around now
'cause you're not welcome anymore
weren't you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye
you think I'd crumble
you think I'd lay down and die
Oh no, not I
I will survive
as long as i know how to love
I know I will stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my love to give
and I'll survive
I will survive

2. Loving little Dixie, our dachshund puppy. She has brought such delight to my day, despite the lack to total house training and even a bout of vomiting. I could let her sleep with me, curled up, every night. I just found her snoozing on top of a laundry basket full of dirty clothes sitting in the sunlight.

3. A scarf. I received this scarf just the other day. It is made from Ansley's clothes. The first Christmas after her death, I had a lady make Colby and Gray quilts of their mother's clothing. Anyone who knew Ansley is well aware of her eclectic and fashion-forward taste in clothing. The quilts were amazing. There was enough material left for 3 more quilts so intended to have more made for my own 3. Last week the quilts arrived along with several surprises - 2 teddy bears and 2 scarves. They are gorgeous and I think my new wardrobe will consist mainly of blues and browns in order to wear the scarf every day.

4. My little Sadie, with her two front teeth missing. I can't look at her without smiling, no matter what is coming out of her mouth. Well, almost.

5. My little Lily's acceptance of a new discipline technique, the marble jars. Thanks, Beth, for that suggestion. She is working so hard at changing her whining, crying and fit throwing. I am amazed at the changes in a mere 4 days. Chuck E. Cheese, here we come. Ok, so that is NOT on my list of happy thoughts, but it is her reward once the jar is full of marbles.

6. My little Ethan's request to snuggle, even at age 8. I went out of town for the night on Valentine's Day. Upon my return, he just wanted to sit close to me with his head on my shoulder and talk.

7. My friends. Yes, you! What an outpouring of thoughts, well-wishes and love on Friday. I felt very, very blessed and loved on a day when I was floundering in the deep. Never underestimate the impact this can have on someone.

8. Peanut Butter pie. Had a divine slice at the beach. Whipped, light, pb mousse with an oreo cookie crust, topped with chocolate morsels. Sinful.

9. The squirrel is OUTTA HERE! A week ago Jay fixed the squirrel cage to a wooden squirrel box he had fastened to a tree. We let the squirrel get acclimated to his new surroundings for a week. On Saturday, Jay removed the bottom of the cage so the squirrel would be able to roam, forage and most likely get eaten at his leisure. I know, I am terrible.

10. And, finally, but not least by any measure, my forgiveness. Over the past several months I have allowed my mind to move away from Him and onto earthly things. It has been more than a struggle. It has been soul wrenching. I brought it to Him over the weekend and well, you guys know. I am back in the fold. Still working out the details, but definitely moving back to where I need to be. God is good!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thoughts in grief

Today is ok.
I am going to be ok.
This is not as bad as I thought.
I will keep myself busy.
I hope so-and-so doesn't call.
I hope so-and-so does call.
Only one winner.
Why didn't he say anything?
Who has forgotten her?
What was her smell?
Is she really gone?
Why can't I get anything done.
Why did I make an impossible task?
Why do I cry upon exhaling?
Why is there no laughter?
I want to laugh.
I don't want looks.
I don't want pity.
I want her.
Today is ok.
I am going to be ok.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I don't have much to say. At least not here. My writing has taken a definite leap into deeper and some what darker places. One day maybe these private entries will find their way into some sort of novel or article, who knows?

I am gearing up for Friday. Two years she will have been gone. Much more emotional this year. I am not very stable and well, for someone who LOVES control, this is somewhat of a death statement.

I spent this weekend with some ladies from our church at a retreat. It was very relaxing, full of wonderful teaching and as predicted...emotional. I had quite a bit of mental distraction going on so I am not sure that I fully inhaled what was presented. Maybe just a whiff here and there. But, in the midst of it all, I asked my friend, Beth, who I met when we were both pregnant with our second children, nearly 8 years ago if I would be considered a "crier," you know, emotional. Her emphatic answer, "NO! But, you should be."

I concluded that because it seems I cannot walk around these days without a tissue, I am in fact, going through "something." This is not the first something, but a cycle that seems to have started when she was still alive and has become more frequent since her passing.

Another conclusion I have drawn is that I am beyond being able to get this under control using only my abilities. Challenging my independent self to the core. This is extraordinarily painful to admit. I hate myself for all the times I looked at someone "emotional" and thought why can't they just pull it together? Just, "suck it up." Wow. Get a load of that mercy. Think there is an award out there for the most merciless person on the planet. Some things are truly out of one person's control.

Plans are in place to help me, aid and assist me in this journey and for once, I welcome them with arms wide open.

Monday, February 09, 2009

A February Conversation

Pushing Lily on the swing at the playground. The air is tepid, not too warm. The weather tempting and teasing us as leaves are not yet on the trees. Buds have not yet even formed on the branches – still barren and harsh, jagged. Exposed. Her hair in two pigtails, tied up in white bands. The fine wisps of hair framing her face, floating like feathers in the breeze…dancing in rhythm with the movement of the swing. Back and forth. In and out.

Lily talks and sings. Her made up little melody sweet and discordant. I don’t care. It is joyful to me.

She asks: Mommy, when I grow up, I marry Keegan?
Me: Well, why do you want to marry him?
Innocently, she answers, "Because he is nice to me. And, he lets me play pirates with him on the playground. Can I marry him?
Me: Lily, you have to be a grown-up to get married.
Lily: Some in my class are 5. I am not 5.
Me: That’s right, but you will be 5 soon enough.
Lily: Why does it take so long to grow-up?
Me: It will be here soon enough. Being little is great, Lily." I wanted to add, it is easy and simple, but she will know that herself soon enough.
Lily: I want to be a grown-up.
Me: Why?
Lily Because you are a grown up, Mommy. And, I love you.
If only life stayed so sweet and innocent.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Scraping and clawing at the dirt
She cultivates life's needs
Fingers nimbly work and are
dirty and moist.

Roots and twigs entangle
Jagged rocks cut and bruise
Black, thick mud fills
the time worn wrinkles of her hands.

She sits exhausted and consumed
The work more than she planned
Sweat beads on her brow
She sits back on her soiled knees.

Her face raises to the sun
Its warmth fills her
Her eyes close in response
the heat pouring over her face and body.

She leans back
arching her neck
She is satisfied.

She feels the coolness of the earth
between her toes and her eyes open
the work is always before her
Her hands dig deep, toiling once again.

Friday, February 06, 2009

I'm Leaving On a Jet Plane

Ok, so not really. I am not leaving on a "jet plane," but I am leaving in Jay's Suburban for a women's retreat in Myrtle Beach this weekend. I am looking forward to lots of cackling and clucking as the hen party commences.

I remember the first time I had a weekend away after having been a stay at home mom for a couple of years. It was to the Celo Inn for a weekend of scrapbooking with my sister and dear friends Robin, Amy and Amanda. I was the last one to be picked-up because I was "on the way." When the car pulled into the driveway I ran out the door and seriously squealed and screamed. I was that thrilled, overwhelmed and over the moon to have a break from the daily grind. But that was many years ago and now that children are older, I don't seem to want that whole weekend away any more. Just a day or two. I miss them.

And here is one reason why:

This week, Ethan was chosen to have a list of compliments made about him by his class. And, here they are - note the theme:
Ethan is very funny.
Ethan eats everything.
Ethan is very funny and crazy.
Ethan is very crazy and cool.
Ethan is really funny.
Ethan is fun and funny.
Ethan is very funny, talkative, and smart.
Ethan is very funny.
Ethan is super funny.
Ethan is smart
Ethan is a very good friend.
Ethan is very funny.
Ethan is very, very, very funny.

I will save this list so that when he is having a bad day, he can read it and know that in 3rd grade being funny is probably one of the best character traits as defined by his peers.

I know I have written a bit about my ridiculous infatuation with Rock Band drumming. But, part of that craziness is that I play it with Ethan. It is "our thing." Our band, Weesnog, was aptly picked from a Sponge Bob reference. When we are on, baby, we rock. We have these discussions about the level of difficulty, our ability to play, even pains we incur from playing our instruments. And when we get that last power play and in unison, bang that last is all high fives, smiles and "Yeahs!"

Older children are fun. And as the above referenced song continues, "Oh babe, I hate to go."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Ethan came to me this afternoon and asked, "Hey Mom, is this butter? "Cause it says it's not butter." I turned to look at what he was holding. It was the container of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" butter. What do you say to that one?

A 7 year-old Teenager

Could it be? Dare I say? Should I put a stop to this NOW?

Sadie came bursting through the front door this afternoon announcing that she had to call her friend, M, because M has something she,"just HAD to tell her." With that declaration, she threw open her monogrammed messenger bag, grabbed a piece of paper contained within and thrust it to me. I couldn't make out what was on the paper and said, "What is this?" Sadie replied, "M's phone number," and bounded away to get the phone.

I just realized, seriously just realized, that she got the phone, turned it on and dialed her friend without any assistance from me. How worried should I be? Well, it is a good thing, right? I mean, if there is some sort of 911 emergency, right?

Before she made her phone call she started to go up the stairs to make her call, "in her room." At least I had the sense to stop her and stated emphatically that she was not old enough to have "private" phone calls. Anything she needed to say, she could say right here, with me, on the sofa.

As I type, listening to this phone call, I am giggling. It is ALL about dogs.
"I was at WalMart and they had the cutest dog stickers."
"Oh, M, they have these scented chew bones."
"She [Dixie, our puppy] is sitting here with me."
"That's nice."
"Did you know what I can hear right now? Theodore(the squirrel)in his cage."
Editor's note: So, not everything is about dogs, but pets in general.
"How does it work? How does that vacuum suck everything up?"
Editor's note: Ok, that one did me in - is my 7 year-old really talking about vacuums???? Funny.
She just hung up the phone and said, "Well, that was a nice phone conversation."
She galloped away to the kitchen for a snack.

Looks like a new room has just been added to the ol' parenting domain. Can someone help this mom with some rules of phone etiquette and management that I might employ with my children? And, is she going to hate me later in life that I have documented this first-time phone call?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Likelihood of Survival

The following statement was from a man whose tandem parachuting partner died from a heart attack during mid-jump. He was able to remain calm because as he said:

"The likelihood of you surviving, you know, decreases absolutely amazingly by factors exponentially if you panic," he said.

Hmmmm. It took me a few years of my life to realize that I have a higher than normal ability to panic. I have no, nada, zero, zilcho useful skills when it comes to emergency situations. Heck, might as well just put normal, every day situations in that category as well. Though I may appear to have it all together, underneath it all, my mind is just churning with the absence of rational thinking. I make the following argument, though I doubt many who know me really well will wonder why I even make the effort. They already know the truth.

Case #1:
Car collision with lake on Willie Bodenheimer Road 1988
The reality is that I was a very inexperienced driver behind the wheel of a 1979 black Ford pick-up truck with no power anything and only an AM radio to keep me company. It was a Goliath of a machine and I had to sit on two pillows in order to maneuver the beast. It was a cold March morning and I had my highly valued term paper on the uni-seat beside me. Willie B. Road was one that I drove on my way to and from school and was not a "paved" road, but a rural road comprised of tar and loose gravel. As I turned onto the road, my time-wasted, yet, coveted paper went flying into the floorboard. Mistake #1 - I reached down into the floor board to retrieve it, thus taking my eyes off the road. As I peered through (not over) the steering wheel I realized that I was off the ride-hand side of the road. I could hear the driver's instructor's voice in my head. "If you run off the side of the road...DO NOT PANIC. Slowly bring it back onto the road." Mistake #2 - The use of the phrase "Don't panic" only increases panic. I did try to bring it back onto the road, but instead of releasing the gas or even better, braking, I pressed the pedal harder in my attempts to "not panic." The truck began to fishtail. And, off to my left I saw it - the pond, complete with geese. I knew at that moment, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was going in it with my truck. So, I happen. The water was about hip deep as I exited the truck. As I made my way (paper in hand, by the way),to the shore, I took one little glance back and saw the pillows floating away. Imagine calling your dad on that one.

Case #2:
Fire in a large convention building in the Netherlands 1994
I was speaking to a group of Dutch girls to recruit them to be au pairs in the U.S. It was an informational meeting and while speaking, a lady came into our room, following by a medium amount of smoke. She calmly said, "There is a fire outside our room, we need to exit the building." On the outside, I remained calm. I didn't say anything. I didn't start screaming or wailing my arms around. We were asked to get our things and follow the fire exit signs. Which I promptly did. Once outside the building, I found that I had a pocketbook, which not my own and...a stapler. Yes, I was the hero that day as I saved the stapler from certain death. Or, did I think could use the stapler to stamp out the fire? Who knows? What I do know is that I did NOT have my complete faculties about me and just needed something in both hands in order to leave that room.

Case #3:
Driving in mountains in Washington State vacation trip 1999
Jay and I took a one year anniversary trip to Seattle to visit friends. While there, we decided to camp one night in some mountain range. Was it Mt. Olympus - I think, but my memory of that is fuzzy. What I do remember, quite clearly is that morning Jay was feeling flu-like and decided to sleep in the backseat during the drive leaving me alone to navigate. I didn't want to miss the opportunity to make this scenic drive and catch a glimpse of Canada (I know, why?) from a towering mountain top. As I drove up the mountain, my heart began to beat faster and faster. Those were really steep drop-offs (even though I was on the inside of the road). There weren't a lot of barriers to prevent one from driving off the side. And I could see myself driving of the mountain. I started to emit little panicky noises. I checked the speedometer - I had slowed to a snail pace of 10 mph and couldn't muster the strength to increase my speed, despite the enormous amount of traffic behind me. The last curve was a doozy as you couldn't see any road ahead just this curve into nowhere. As I rounded the corner I saw it...the parking lot. I parked, facing another drop-off, and seriously thought the car was continuing to roll even though the emergency brake was on. I exited the car and laid down flat onto the pavement for what seemed like hours until Jay popped his head up and asked me what I was doing. He had missed the entire episode. Needless to say, he drove us down the mountain while I laid down in the back.

Case #4:
Birth of second child 2001
Having been through this already once, you would think that I might have worked out all of the panic possibilities. Alas, I had not. Child #2 was brought into this world by induction. In the delivery room there were two nurses getting me prepped and ready. While I was answering questions to the one nurse (are you allergic to anything, etc.), another nurse was preparing the iv. Now, I have had tons of ivs. Never an issue. But, for some reason this particular morning, I was fixated. I thought she was going to stick me before I had a chance to "prepare." I thought she wouldn't even let me know what she was going to do and just go for the jab. But, for some reason I didn't think to ask the interviewing nurse to pause, so I could make my concerns known. Instead, my body went into a tailspin. I began to get dizzy, my eyesight blurry, my head light. All I could mutter was...I don't feel so good. They took my bp and it was something like 56 over 40! No wonder! My brain was being deprived of oxygen all because I couldn't say, "wait."

Obviously, I do not have a "high likelihood of survival." I rest my case.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


There just seemed to be something missing today. In fact, it has been building steadily for a while now. A void, depression, near despair. And, then, it hit me, like it always does. Out of nowhere and painful. She is missing. A piece of me. Gone.

I needed her today. And, she is not here. I cannot hear her or touch her. I am angry about it. More than that. I am full of vile and fury. Life is not what is was supposed to be I want her back. I want her love. I want her humor and her understanding. I want her hands that comforted me. I want her laughter. I want that person that knows me better than anyone else to be here for me. I want my support, my cheerleader. I want my sister.

The tears on my face are hot and stinging. I haven't sobbed and wailed for her with such intensity in a while. Sure, little tears, but not the soul rattling level of this evening. And, I don't think I am finished. The anger has been bubbling on the surface for a while now and I was afraid to unleash it. And, now here it is. Out. Out in all of its rawness and ugliness and darkness. Exposed to the world.

The bitter winds of winter remind me of the time of her death - February. The day just around the corner. After nearly 2 years, I thought I had escaped the inevitable anger stage of grief. Perhaps, I wouldn't have to deal with that. I was hopeful. But here I am, collapsing on the floor like the day she died, unable to figure out how to navigate this world without her.

For two years, I have kept vigil. Searching for what, who, anything to fill her spot. Not a replacement, but just something to soften and lessen the hole. My search has been futile. There is nothing. Nothing but more time.

How I Roll - Take 2

Well, How funny. Before you read this post, you MUST go read the one right under it, "That's Just How I Roll." Ok, so do it. Yes, right now, or this post can not be fully appreciated. Did you read it? Ok, proceed.

The minute I hit "publish post" on my entry for today which, incidentally, ended up being at 9:30 tonight, Lily came into my room. As she approached the bed she said, "I am scared to go to bed." She proceeded to climb into my bed and snuggled up as close to me as possible. Ethan also scampered into the room and was requesting something ridiculous like to start playing Rock Band or to get a snack way past his bed time. As I turned to looked at him to find out just what planet he thought he live on, Lily began to cough.

You know the one. The one that you know is a little different than something originating from the lungs. And, before you can put your finger on exactly what is happening, the cough turns into a gag and subsequent pukefest.

It was the worst kind. It went on and on and on. The arm used to cradle her was now cradling the pool of stomach contents and bile. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to get the two of us off the bed without the massive amount of "stuff" being strewn across our bed and sheets, penetrating deeper into our hair, further staining our clothing, littering the floor and ultimately being forced down the shower drain.

Ethan stood there in shock, not moving an inch. Sadie came running in and turned on this freakish little Nurse Nellie routine, shouting, "I'll got get the....," and she trailed away, not really knowing what to actually get for us. Jay, who had already fallen asleep beside me, continued to sleep through the entire ordeal. And, all I could think about was protecting my precious laptop from an encounter with yuck.

I roused Jay from his sleep with a loud, "SAVE THE LAPTOP!" Meanwhile, Ethan remained fixed, occasionally sticking his head out to examine what was covering us. He began to emit his own gagging noises and I banished him from the room. Sadie came running back into the room, throwing paper towels at us along with the family "puke pot." At that point, I figured I should just make a run for the shower holding Lily in my arms, sticking together with the putrid ejection.

Sadie helped Jay, who had finally gotten out of bed, collect the soiled clothes, the bed linens and towels and start the laundry. She even asked him if she needed to unload the dishwasher! Something about that makes me giggle. But, she wanted to do everything she could think of the help. She was ALL about action! Precious.

It reminded me of the time that Lily got into Jay's heart medication when we were trailer camping at the Oak Hollow Campground while we rented our nice, cozy house to market visitors and ended up staying 3 days at Brenner's Children's' Hospital (future potential post). During the initial discovery, Sadie transformed into the "emergency director." She really tapped into this high-level leadership mode. While I was in panic mode, trying to track down Jay, Sadie shouted orders to everyone to get their shoes on and handed me MY purse and said let's get in the car!

Back to my night...Ethan poked his head in every once in a while to check for more contents, discuss the nastiness of it all and crack a couple of jokes - what is it about an 8 year old and vomit? In the shower, Lily cried little tears and declared it was the hot dog that Daddy made her eat.

Once clean, laundry begun, sheets changed, Jay promptly went back to sleep, Lily too. I sit wedged with her and the "vomit bucket" as I type. Sadie and Ethan decided to sleep in the living room on the "new rug." Again, I am at a loss as to why anyone would want to sleep on the floor rather than a bed, but whatever. For some reason the new rug is a draw. I just tucked them and Dixie in and gave them a kiss. As I bent down to Ethan, he thought he would be cute and pretend-gag right in my face. Nice. Sadie wanted to read about dogs and Dixie nipped at my heel.

I sit here, still smelling some tiny bit of wretchedness lingering somewhere, missed. I think about what I wrote in "That's Just How I Roll". Had my plans for this evening remained unchanged, I could have missed out being the target of projectile regurgitation. And, I would have missed these little snippets into my children's personalities, a chance to comfort my littlest one and remember that my purpose is right here, rolling with them.