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

Thursday, February 7, 2013


live band on rooftop overlooking the Austin capitol

Friends, it's been forever.  Fifty million swirling things to write about in my head but I'm in one of those stuck places.  Like I can't just sit down and empty my thoughts out here?  Um, yes.  This is exactly what a blog is for.  

It's 11:50 A.M.  I'm still in my pajamas and the T.V. has only been on cartoons.  I made three pieces of bacon and ate a sandwich for breakfast.  I just called the hubs and asked him to fax a death certificate to Wisconsin Public Service.  What the hell?  I hate even saying the words "death certificate".  How did we get here?  How did I make it five months since Mom died?  And why is my word not enough to explain that I need to stop auto payments?  Bite me.  And she didn't even give me the standard "sorry for your loss."

January 23 marked the second year anniversary of my MIL's death.  And I forgot.  I completely forgot.  Am I so consumed with my own grief, my own life inside my head that I forgot to acknowledge it to the hubs?  But I'm not writing about grief today.  The more time that passes since Mom died the more I am able to compartmentalize.  To make room for it.  To put it away sometimes.  To care for it.  To let it unravel.  To be strong for others.  To dwell in it.  To be okay sometimes.  To still be angry.  To go through it and not around it.  Still sucks.  Still in shock.  

I just read this essay about distinguishing between pleasure and joy.  Very interesting.  This got me thinking.  I recently attended a friends wedding in Austin, TX with a group of long time friends.  And by long time I mean like love-me-long-time since grade school kinda friends!  Precious golden gems.  The kind you can never take for granted because they are so far superior to the rest of life's acquaintances.  My Mom always said that you have many acquaintances in life and just a few friends.  She very well may be correct.  (Aren't Mom's usually right?!)
The Elephant Room for live jazz...

Anyway, my mantra/motto for the trip was JOY RISING.  Because really people that is exactly how I felt.  From the time I departed for the airport, alone, no kids, no hubs I literally felt like I was going to jump out of my skin.  I haven't been on a four day trip like this since Lauren was two years old.  But this time felt different.  Turns out it was exactly what I needed.  I felt at any point in the trip there were tears behind my eyes.  But not because I was sad.  Because I was so filled with giddy JOY.  

And on a side note it was planes, trains and automobiles to get to Austin but not one bit of that mattered because we were all together.  That, and we had many mini bottles of liquor on the plane.  I'd also like to send a shout out to Michael at the San Antonio National car rental who literally said, "You can have any car on the lot."  Group morale soared!  Then we carried on like the road warriors we were in our big pimpin' black Yukon.  

"MOM, come and wipe me." (that was Evan.  I get this interruption once or twice per day and I got it approximately 30 minutes after I arrived home from my JOY trip.  Nothing like wiping a butt to bring you back to reality.)  Record scratchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  Angelina Jolie said it best: "The great thing about having a bunch of kids is that they just remind you that you're the person who takes them to go poop."  Amen, sista.  
Austin city lights...

So back to the JOY trip.......surrounded by friends that love and accept you for who and where you are in life.  All stuck inside a two bedroom condo.  I pretended it was college again.  I didn't care if the bedroom was a disaster.  Clothes, make-up, jewelry.......scattered everywhere.  Getting ready together like before you'd head out for 25 cent tappers in college on a Thursday night.  Sharing clothes, make-up and jewelry.  I'm the eye shadow girl.  Sista's had smokin' eyes!  Taking turns for the shower.  Making sure we would eventually get out of the house.  All of it, just glorious.

And the below is primarily for my own benefit.  So I don't ever forget the fun time charlies.
Bloody Mary's for breakfast, food stands for giant hot dogs at 2:30 A.M., roadies, frontal lobe development, acknowledging change in one another, having conversations with love even though we disagree, listening to healing stories of death, divorce, pain and hope.....sharing food and passing around plates so everyone can have a taste, convincing the D.J. to play "It Takes Two", opening champagne when a friend arrived last minute, alka seltzer, Sandeep....these are a few of my favorite things.

And JOY vs. pleasure?  Well, I'm not sure I have all the answers yet.  But what I felt on this trip was that being 40+ really does wonders for all of us.  C-section scar comparisons, school curriculum discussions, rehashing who stood up in our weddings, our sex lives (egads!), why we named our kids what we did..........laughing until we cried. Drinking too much and doing shots (always trouble).......bring it.  

Bring all the joy and freedom that comes from being 40.  When I was 21 I would have been far too self conscious to get up on a bar and dance or get my photo taken on a jackalope or ride a mechanical bull.  (for the record I was the jackalope gal and all other rock star activities were done by my girls)  Staying up until 3:00 A.M. every night.  Feeling those freedoms all over again is damn good for the soul.  Feeling that level of connection and bonding..........what a gift!  

Watching our dear friend finally get married.  Feeling like family amid her family and friends.  Knowing that we wouldn't have missed this for the world.  Because showing up in the good times and the bad times is what we do.  
Sparkler send off at the wedding...

I wrote a bunch of cards out today to friends and family.  It's my thing.  I love writing a handwritten card and thinking of it as it makes its way to the person.  It's like a little bit of sunshine in the world when they open their mailbox and find it.  I said in one card, "Our family may be small but it's MIGHTY."

True dat boo.  

Then my sister received this email from a friend today:  

Family isn't always blood.
It's the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are.
The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.

Remember the show Thirtysomething? 1987 premiere.  Yikes.  I was obsessed with this show.  As my Great Aunt always said to me, "You are an old soul."  So perhaps this would explain why my sixteen year old self enjoyed this show.  Well I distinctly remember Polly Draper's character Ellyn Warren dating a divorced man with a small child.  The child had to do a streaming consciousness journal for a school project.  Ellyn became kind of obsessed with this journal.

I just feel like this was a stream of consciousness post and I thank you for your support!  I swear no drugs or alcohol have been consumed yet today.  Yet being the operative word.