Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One Year....

September 2013, Labor Day weekend
Potawatomi State Park
Sprinkling your ashes into the wind...
My heart will always belong to Door County.
I will meet you here every time I visit.
Our DC memories are golden.

And so here it is almost a year later.  Just a few more hours to go.  I believe you died at 3:00 AM when they resuscitated you.  But the time of death states 5:00 AM or something like that.  The fog had already set in long before you actually left us.  All day today I kept looking at the clock and remembering exactly what was going on one year ago.  The initial call that you were in the ER and then ICU.  Not necessarily a reason to freak out.  Of course it was never on my radar that you would actually die.  The phone call from my sister that said she talked to your doctor and it was a 24 hour game of chance.  Her voice in my ear through the phone lines telling me to, "JUST GO."  "GET THERE." "GO."  My shock and surprise.  My lack of being able to move my legs.  Just letting my friend take the kids and telling me what to do next.  "I'll pick up Lauren at school.  Call them now.  I've got the kids.  You pack.  You call your husband."  Her hands in my face as I crumble on the stairs and agonize over the fact I'm usually so good in these situations.  What has become of me? But when your Mom's life is on the line you just don't know how you will react.  Please God, I don't even believe in you, I question you always.....don't let her die.  Show me that you are real.  I swear I'll make a deal with you right here, right now.  Don't do this to us.  Pack clothes.  Move from room to room to room and break down every two seconds.  My sister calls to ask if I'm packing funeral clothes.  I say yes.  I hear her wail on the phone line.  I want to die.  This can't be happening.  This is not my life.  This is not real.  Get in the car and drive for what seems like a thousand hours.  My Aunt keeps calling to ask where we are.  I fluctuate between you won't die, you won't leave us to contemplating what life will look like without you.

And here we are.  A year later.  I'm still breathing and living and functioning and laughing and crying and missing you like crazy.  I still don't get it.  Still don't believe in God.  Nope, haven't found him or the light. Still angry, bitter and jealous if your mom or dad are still alive.  But I hide it mostly.  I have this number in my head of what is a good long number to live to and if your loved one hit that before dying,  I secretly have a hard heart to your sorrow. And then I feel like shit for feeling that.
Some days are normal. Some days I need to run fast and hard and do the hill to shake off the feelings that want to possess me.  At the top of the hill I summon the hawk and question and cry and reason and's just me.  Still breathing.  Still a mother-daughter-sister-wife-friend.

I miss you so much I can't even explain it.  I miss calling you on the phone to tell you about all the kid stuff. To ask you questions I already know the answer to.  Just to hear your voice.  Hear your laugh.  I can still smell you.  We sold the house but in my mind it is still ours.  I can tell you where to find anything in that house........I know what fills every closest and drawer and I know what the bed feels like when I lay next to you.  When I feel you breathe next to me at night.  The kids slept in the other bedrooms.  It was always me and you together in the king size after Dad died.

And what a number your death has done on the mourning of Dad.  It's like I lived through that all over again. But it's not the same.  I told you after Dad died that I was so thankful it was him that went first, not you. You agreed.  I needed you to see my babies.  To smell them and love them and bathe them and kiss them and have your amazing love impact them.  I keep you alive as best as I can.

I'm so sick of rising above.  I'm so sick of digging deep.  I keep telling my bestie and my sister that there better be a crazy good reason for all this.  That something will rise from this wreckage.  That I will "get it" someday.  That some sliver of understanding will make it's way into my life.

I haven't written for so long.  But all of these words were always inside of me.  I've been in prison not letting them out. It's slowly been killing me.  But I knew the moment would present itself and all would spill forth.

We are doing the best we can.  We have good days, great days, amazing days and shit days.  Days that feel like an eternity just to get back to bedtime again so sleep will ease the ache a bit.  But somehow we are doing it Mom.  Overall I think you are so proud of us and how far we've come.  And what is a year anyway? Nothing really.  Just a marker on the calendar.  It doesn't mean a damn thing.  Time goes on.  Life keeps on life-ing away. There is no time limit on grief.  This wound is still bleeding.  No scab yet.

You taught me everything I know.  You gave me your best.  I love you today and I'll love you tomorrow.  I'll love you forever.

The Kushman Family Forever.

Theresa Ann Collard Kushman
January 19, 1945 - September 12, 2012

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I feel myself getting stronger.  Preparing to spill forth my truth.  This usually happens.  Like the bag of Amish friendship bread starter on the counter my new neighbor gave's bubbling and fermenting, taking shape and preparing for it's next stage.  That's me right now.  Circumstances beyond my control have brought forth this new me.  Sure, It's still me inside.  That same girl you may have come to appreciate or love or enjoy to be around.  I'm usually the girl to bring the fun.  But I've made some tweaks.  My heart as been ripped out, stomped on and then handed back to me as if saying, "Here, do with it what you can now."

But I come from a long line of strength.  I come from a long line of hard workers.  And those genes, those genetic ties....they tell me to get up and get going.  To dig deep.  To run my own race.  To lean in to these new feelings and to feel the pain.  Wallow in the pain.  And by wallow I mean not to be depressed but to let the love and light of all things Mom & Dad wash over me.  Wash over me like a rebirth.  A baptism.  Because in my darkest hour I choose to rise again and learn how to fly with broken wings.

When I run down the trail near the library, near all the huge oaks I look up and try to find my hawk.  The hawk sighting lets me know Mom is with me.  I summon that hawk.  And just recently that hawk was carrying a mouse or a bird in it's claws.  And I just rejoiced in the beauty of nature.  This crazy circle of life that I am a part of.  The sun shining warm against my skin.  The smell of grass in the Spring air.  The garage sale signs indicating the weather has finally changed.

It's coming.  I can feel it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Alive Again....

Friends, it's been forever.  I have so much spilling over my heart and soul and mind.  So very much to share.  But I'm not quite ready yet.  And I told myself today that just because I haven't written in over a month doesn't mean I'm not a writer.  On my run today this song came on my ipod and it always fills me with joy and love.  When my Dad died a friend sent me this Warren Zevon album.  He wrote this particular song knowing he was dying.  So I just embraced the tears and filled my mind with the flashbacks of all that was good, all that was precious and shared between my Mom and I.  I felt her strength fill my cells with healing and understanding.

So this is what I share today.  Until next time....
It's Art Show time at school again for L.  Reflecting on the past so we can move forward, stronger, into the future.  "You always think you will have more time."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Six Months....

Love you and miss you every day Mom xo

At wine club on Thursday night a fellow writer friend agreed that when her head/heart are full she has a hard time writing.  We also agreed that sometimes all it takes is a quick photo and few words to make a new blog post.  Yet what I feel inside could fill volumes.  So maybe if I just start, just anticipate writing a few words it will all work itself out.  

I read something a few weeks ago that said "we write from our wounds."  Amen, Sista.  I also cannot get away from everything in the Universe telling me that when I am at my lowest that something good will come.  Rise from the ashes so speak. (Mom was cremated so I smile here.......thinking of all that could rise from her ashes, in me, in my life.....)  As I fell asleep last night I kinda shouted inside my head to God, "I'm here and I'm ready for you to show me how any of this will end up being great!"  Then I screamed "Show Me! Show Me! Show Me!" a bunch of times.  And now the lyrics "pray to a god that I don't believe in" come to mind.  Because when I say "God" I have no idea what that means or who the hell I'm talking to.

Today I thought about the foundation in life of all things great that my parents gave me.  I'm pretty sure it's enabled me to get through 41 years of my life and be here right now.  All they did, all they sacrificed has given me the strength to survive.  Six months ago today my Mom took her final breaths of air in an ICU hospital unit in my hometown.  She had been resuscitated and she certainly didn't look so great.  She'd been through 24 hours of every test and attempt to keep her alive.  But the infection tore through her body like a raging fire.
The Christmas of hats....always laughing and having fun together xo

But as my sister said, she was still alive.  She was still MOM.  She was still HERE.  She still smelled like Mom and her skin still felt like Mom.  My sister said, "I should have just crawled in bed with her at 3:00 in the morning when we knew things weren't looking good." This breaks my heart.  But until the end, that very last breath and time of death is called you just don't get it will be the end.  You keep hoping and praying and doubting and then feeling bad that you are doubting.  Doubting yourself and your belief in god.  Yet you'd give anything in that moment.  I'd have made a deal with god or the devil himself.  I would have done anything to keep her with us.

And as painful as it is or sounds, life has gone on.  Almost every dream I have about Mom is the same concept:  I am telling her how hard it's been without her. (She's alive in all my dreams and I have lots of dreams about her every week)  I fill her in on all the details of our life since she's been gone.  I even tell her all about her funeral!  In the last dream I gave her all the details of how we emptied the house in a week.  I told her about the funeral thank you cards!  This is what I did...I told her about freaking everything!
Thank you cards that my sister and I made after Mom's funeral...

The hardest part of all this is not telling her about all the big and little things in life.  My sister I have each other.  But there is absolutely nothing or anyone that can replace your MOTHER.  She's the beginning and the ending of everything!  If Mom likes it, agrees with it or hates it and questions it, well, it's your MOM and it makes everything better.  Decisions were easier, sweeter if you had Mom's two cents.  Even if she really didn't say anything I'd just feel better having talked to her.  Knowing she knew.  Knowing she knew made life sweeter, safer, simpler.
Mom & Tracy at Tracy's wedding....Tracy is wearing the pearl crown Mom wore when she married Dad

I was in Target today and my sister texted me that it was six months today that Mom died.  She didn't remember.  I didn't remember.  That's the thing.  You aren't counting down days to mile markers.  You are crying and hurting and dying everyday over the little things.  Because that is truly what life is:  the little things + the ordinary things + the mundane + the day in and day out + the average days all totaled up in the right hand column to = A LIFE.

I have an extraordinary one.  "Livin' the dream" is our new saying in the house.  We say it jokingly when the days are boring and long and we spend a weekend inside the house with the kids driving us insane.  We say it when the hubs works a crazy work week full of driving and long hours and stress and then works all weekend from home too.  I say it when I unload the dishwasher for what feels like the seventeenth million time.  I say it when I am folding yet another load of laundry.  I say it when Evan calls from the bathroom "Can someone come wipe me?"  (and WHO would that someone be besides me?!)  
Dad & Mom...
Classic elegance...I mean really....Dad in a white jacket?  My vintage obsession may have started here!

We joke but these really are our finest days.  We are healthy.  We have enough money to live comfortably and save for a comfortable future and kids college.  We have heat and groceries and few worries.  The kids are growing and changing and learning new stuff every single day right before our eyes.  But most of all we have each other.  We have love.
Mom & hubs at Tracy's wedding....

And if anyone taught me this it was my Mother.  For this I thank my lucky stars every single day.  Some days are yoga pants and sports bras.  Some days are lipstick and skirts with colored tights and cute shoes.  Some days I can bring the thankfulness and some days I am devastatingly someone sucked the life right out of me and I'm sleepwalking through the motions of my life.  

But six months or six years........I will still feel all these feelings.  It's called life.  It's called grief.  I am here.  I am doing it.  As Glennon Melton from Momastery says, "We can do hard things."  You bet your ass I can.  Every damn day.
Mom (Terry), My Grandmother Regina (Terry's Mother) holding me and Regina's Mother, My Great Grandmother, Gertrude Sisson....Four Generations...(Very aged photo that I need to restore)

And for the love, can it stop snowing already in Illinois?  It's killing me!  I need Spring.  I need it NOW.  We are road tripping to Florida for Spring Break with our besties and despite that long, hellish drive ahead of us  I cannot wait to be on the beach with an adult beverage in hand wearing a floppy hat and laughing with my BF.  Sweet Jesus. (whoever he may be) COME ON.
Wearing my Grandma Kushman's Mother's ring (Gretchen) that my Mom bought her: 
(Birthstones from L to R: Dad (Tom), Me and Sister Tracy) 
and Mom's class ring...have you ever seen a more beautiful class ring?  So art deco delightful!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Festival of the Sugar Maples....

Sunday Funday with the kids....
Just as Curious George has done, (that show has been on repeat for days!) they are anxious to see how maple syrup is made! Last March in Stowe, Vermont we went snow shoeing and saw the trees ready for sap collection but we were leaving on the day of the festival.  
We headed out for a brisk yet refreshing walk through the woods.  We learned how the Native Americans first learned to tap the trees and make syrup and how the process changed throughout the years.  Our local McHenry County Conservation District does a great job with everything they do.
The volunteers are passionate and energetic...
I'm very much over winter.  It doesn't bode well with a broken heart or down trodden spirit.  However, it makes you feel good to get out of the house, take a hike and shake off the melancholy mood for a few hours.
 The sunshine always make you feel better on so many levels.
(Lovely knitted hats by my friend Nancy! xo)
The woods were bright, sunny and alive with shadows.
 Next up in the lesson we learn how to tap the tree.
 Lauren holds the spile in her hand.  
 Lauren takes a try at auguring out a hole for the spile.
 Evan made friends with everyone he encountered and ran up ahead the whole time.
 Lauren, Evan and Owen...
 Lauren runs to catch up...
It's been too cold but.....
 Any sap in there?
 Evan gets a first hand view of the boiling sap in the evaporation room....
Lots of steam!
It takes 8-12 hours of cooking the sap to produce the syrup....
This was a great visual for the kids...
Did you know it takes 40 gallons (milk jugs) worth of sap to make ONE gallon of maple syrup?  That explains the expense right?!  I buy my syrup at Costco.  1 liter for $14.57!~  A great deal.
Nothing better than a breakfast Mom doesn't have to cook!
Cafe 20 in Marengo was fantastic and highly recommended!
Later the kids and I cozied up on the couch and I caught this wonderful shaft of light....Which reminded me of my Mumford & Sons obsession..."Lover of the Light..."  It's like the yellow tote is there to be filled with all the sunshine!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Chasing Grief....

Grief chased me around every corner today....every nook and cranny.  I couldn't escape.  It pulled on my apron strings like a toddler as I cooked dinner.  It found me in a drawer when I pulled out the instructions to Mom's wig holder. (of all things!)  I ripped it up in a bunch of small pieces and threw it in the garbage and said out loud, "You will never have to wear a wig again Mom."  Grief found me in a drawer in the basement guest room in a pen from a resale shop Mom and I explored in Stowe, Vermont....almost a year ago already.  Grief found me in the dust bunnies as I cleaned.  

I've come to understand I might as well get used it.  It's like a part of me now.  The bruise that never fades.  The tears that will always spring to my eyes.  The soft, slow ache of my body.  The never-ending thinking of my brain.  The quiet contemplation.  The never knowing when it's gonna hit you kinda feeling.  I must make this thing my friend.  Get to know it better.  Throw myself into.  Avoiding just doesn't work and damn how I wish it would be that easy.  To not go there.  To not look at photos or think, think, think of all the what-ifs.  (and in the what-ifs I am thinking only of the sickness parts....I feel complete in all that was said, all that existed between Mom and I, but as I've said before, she could have lived to be 95 and I would still have had desires)  With a love so great as a mother and child how could you possibly not keep desiring more?  Just one more hug.  Just one more phone conversation.  Just one more piece of advice that she gives that you know you will share with your own children later.  

Last Tuesday grief found me and took hold of me.  It felt like suffocation.  Today I kept kicking it away.  Looking on the bright side.  (I'm soooooo sick of the g-damn bright side by the way)  But what choice do I have?  I can make a list a mile long of the ridiculous piles of goodness in my life but at the end of the day this fact remains.  It's been FIVE months now.  I tell myself daily that it's "whatever takes" mode.  No right or wrong.  Just survival.  Just doing life.  Just getting through.  There are no answers.  There are no solutions.  Just time.  

My sister texted me today to tell me that she received the boxes I sent.  She sent me a photo of where she put the owl I sent and the texts that transpired between us were light hearted and funny.  And at some point I just burst out crying.  In that simple moment all I wanted to do was be with her. Sometimes I feel so incredibly sorry for myself and yet she is the one person on the face of the earth that gets it.  She knows what Mom smelled like.  She knows what Mom's skin felt like.  She knows the sound of her laughter. She knows our history.

So I did my best to kick grief to the curb today.  I kept incredibly busy and was in some sort of grief-stricken, Spring cleaning, nesting mode and blew through this house like a tornado.  Just when I think there is not a thing to get rid of in this house I manage to amass a small corner to stuff that I'm ready to get rid of.  The influx of all the good memory filled family stuff has enabled me to let go of all the other stuff.  Not that things ever mattered much but today I just needed to eliminate any clutter.  To rearrange and organize.  I'm a person that likes stuff thoughtfully placed everywhere.  I'm definitely not a minimalist when it comes to decorating but today I felt obsessed with eliminating.  It filled me with such calm.  I heard "what you don't have you don't need it now" lyrics from U2 on the way home from picking Evan up from school and it rang true.

On March 1 we will close on the family home. The only family home that has ever existed in my life. Birth to home. Oh sweet Jesus that's gonna be one helluva post.  It's been brewing inside already.  I can feel it. The words are finding me already.  There is happiness, relief and the inevitable sorrow.  The word bittersweet has never been truly understood in my life until now.

Right before the kids went to bed a Bob Marley song came on the radio and we had what I called an "impromptu mini dance party" and let me tell you friends, if there is anything to help stave off that bitch of grief it's a little "I don't want to wait in vain in for your love" from Bob.  Slowly healing..........whatever it takes.  Rising above.  Manufacturing JOY as needed.  ("I don't wanna....I don't wanna....I don't wanna wait in vain for your love)

I love you all
tlka   xo

Friday, February 22, 2013

Wounded Birds and Warriors....

Why is that I have so many many words floating around in my brain, so many emotions, so many beginnings to so many posts that it simply seems easier to not write?  But then not writing makes me feel not good and I feel bad for not writing and it's a vicious dumb circle that goes on for days.  When in fact, it is true solace that I seek and gain when I spill forth the stuff....whatever it may be.  So here are words.  Haphazard as they may be.

I spent last week Thursday-Monday in my hometown.  I haven't been back since a month after Mom died. And we can't even count that because I was still in some shock-protecting coma and I just went into "army mode" and did what I needed to do.  (removing all the things still left in the house and packing them into a U-Haul)  The last time I had a U-Haul in the driveway was when I moved to Illinois after college graduation.  Both times there was pain.  But the first time was a growing pain.  This time was a growing pain on an entirely new planet and one I most certainly didn't choose.

I didn't drive by the house or put myself through any rituals to agitate the sadness. I just let it come as it may. I visited with family and spent a few days in Wausau with the hubs.  He skied.  I drank and read and thrifted and researched where to eat.  I sat in a hot tub, drank a bloody Mary and checked out a winery.  I ate duck.  I slept like a rock in the hotel bed.  I talked and talked to the hubs without four million interruptions per minute from the kids.  (My Aunt watched the kids because she rocks. so hard).  I broke down a few times but nothing out of the ordinary.  I thought I was prepared for all the ups and downs that come with a grief so powerful as your Mom dying.  I actually thought to myself  that I've been feeling incredible since my Austin trip.  How strong  I feel and how could this possibly be?

And then I woke up on Tuesday morning and felt like a wounded bird left for dead out in the bitter cold of February.  I literally could not stop crying all day.  The flood gates were open.  I felt raw and sad and lonely and bitter and angry and weak and tired and spent.  Absolutely every thing I touched, thought about or encountered made me cry.  And that's the thing about grief, you never know when it will knock you on your ass.  When it will kick you in the knees.  I walked down the stairs of the basement and had to stop and sit and cry.  We finished the basement (mostly) for Mom. For her recovery. A lovely little suite and kitchenette and bathroom and she never really got to fully appreciate it or use it when it was 100% finished.

The guest bedroom upstairs has become a storage room. Door closed, cold, blinds shut....Every time I open the door I flash back to Mom sitting in the bed recovering from a stem cell transplant.  A f'ing stem cell transplant that gave her a whole three months of no drugs or treatment, oh wow.  Great.  When I get really sad/mad I just want to use the F word like no body's business.  Insert a bunch of them right here.

So here's the thing.  I may have learned a tiny bit about myself in these 41 years.  I went to sleep on Tuesday night knowing that Wednesday would most certainly have to be better.  I knew if I just went to sleep and got up and started over the next day that I could most certainly manufacture some inspirado.  (That's an old-school saying my girl B and I would say when we needed to get going, get inspired, make it happen!)  I put on some brightly colored lipstick, a hat and some big sunglasses and took Buddy Boy to school.  I did errands and just kept moving.  I kept thinking of the first year after Dad died and kind of channeled Mom.  What would Mom do?  What would Mom say?  Just. keep. moving. forward.  Fake it 'til you make it. (that's my new favorite saying)

Yesterday I took Evan and his buddy on a preschool field trip to the local theater to see Martha Speaks.  There is nothing like the theater to make you feel inspired.  Seeing the little faces look up at the stage...(and the fact that my attention span right now lends itself quite nicely to a one hour production!)  We went to a cafe across the street for sweet treats for the boys and chai tea for me.  I took lots of photos despite their disinterest.

I cooked dinner a few times this week despite my lack of interest.  I just need to keep going.  And when everything crashes down like it did on Tuesday I need to understand it's all part of the journey.  I didn't ask for this, didn't want this, hate this....but I don't have a choice.

I told a friend that I come from a long line of strong women.  They showed me how to do this.  I talked on the phone today forever to a college friend.  She needed me and I needed her.  Sometimes we just need to speak our truth.  To not care if our stories are pretty or if we are the perfect mothers or wives.  Or even if we are doing a good job.  Some days I'm mom of the year and some days I suck.  Sometimes we need to relish in the journey.....that our similarities far outweigh our differences.  There is greatness that lies ahead.  I can feel it.

Marianne Williamson posted something on her facebook page this week that said something along the lines of "in our darkest grief our truest selves are revealed." I'm here.  I'm letting the waves crash and wash over me as they come.  Some days I am a wounded bird and some days I am a warrior.  This is my truth right now.

Mom's favorite saying was "This too shall pass."  Amen Momma. xo