Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Girl in the Green Chair

Through her thick glasses, ever-sliding down her little nose, the four-year-old read a book quietly to herself.  Pigtails slightly crooked, seated in the seventies-defining, plush green chair, she could see into the kitchen where her parents were cleaning up from dinner. Something about that moment made her ponder something beyond the typical musings of a child that age, and she began to cry.  It was a quiet cry, not meant to garner attention, but carrying with it a true sadness.  Her dad, noticing the tears of his carefree daughter, knelt by her side and asked why she was crying.

"I don't want you to die."

It was an honest and simple answer.  She'd happened upon that moment everyone has when she realizes that, someday, she will be without the people who are the center of her world.  Her dad comforted her, and assured her that he would be around for a long time.  He insisted that she need not worry her little mind about such things, and they finished the rest of the story together.

As we get older, memories tend to fade, and the glimpses into our past become fewer and fewer.  Details blur, and some moments disappear altogether.  This memory is one that is as clear to me right now as the very day it happened.  I can close my eyes and be back there in the little green ranch on the corner of that dirt road.  There's a part of me that wishes I could find that old chair.  In a way, it represents a a piece of the comfort and security that's gone missing from my life, and I'd love to have a seat and pretend to be back there again...just for a bit.

Children, the ones who are lucky enough to grow up with loving parents, are grounded in the security of having people who will provide an endless amount of unconditional love.  I know that I relied on that security countless times throughout my life.  There was that time in third grade when a boy was making fun of my glasses, and I remember thinking, "Mom and Dad love me."  Those exact words went through my head, and the thought made me feel better.  I fell back on that security when I was adjusting to college and being away from home for the first time, when I became a new mother, and when I suffered a miscarriage.  Truth be told, that security has been an undercurrent my entire life and likely the reason I am where I am in life.  That little girl knew there would come a time when she'd be without that security, and she thought it would happen when they passed away.  It never occurred to her, all those years ago, that she might someday be estranged from her mother with no way to fix it, caught in a situation that would be entirely outside of her control.  Of course she didn't.  How could a child so young possibly imagine something so heartbreaking that her adult self struggles to understand and accept it?

I've done a great deal  of healing over these last few months, but events of late have reignited the pain that began almost a year ago.  Yesterday was one of the most painful days of my entire life, and the experience will be burned into my mind forever.  It had to happen, and I'd do it again if I had to, but I saw and heard things I wish I could forget.   In a way it feels like starting this all over again, but there's a difference this time.  I know the path I need to take to heal again.  It's already paved with family and friends, old and new.  There's a set of directions this time.  It'll undoubtedly have detours and potholes, but it's a much clearer route now.

The funny thing about growing older is that, while you start off life with one or two people who provide you with unconditional love, if you are as fortunate as that little girl in the green chair, you gather more along the way.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Well, hello there! Let's recap, shall we?

It's strange, really, that I haven't written anything here since July.  I was sure I'd be writing more once summer came around and school was out for a nice, long break.  I certainly can't say I didn't write at all.  In fact, I got quite a bit of footwork done on my memoir, planning and researching, but I did not pen a single blog post.  Not one.  When I think about it, I am pretty sure I was avoiding it, because I not only failed to blog, but I also stopped looking at my Twitter account where I keep up with my writer friends.  I stopped reading my favorite blogs and connecting with other writers. 

It is clear to m, now that we are back in the swing of a regular schedule, that I had to step away for a bit.  We are coming up on a year since things hit the proverbial fan, and for much of that time I was disconnected from my husband and kids. I was lost in a world of disbelief, crisis, and sadness I thought I may not fully recover from.  I had to take a break, heal as much as I could, and remind myself that there will be life on the other side of this tragedy.

Is the situation better?  No, not even close.  In some ways, it hurts more with every passing day, but we are learning how to live life that embraces the blessings we can count. 

I'm ready to get back into the blogosphere, and I thought that a little recap of some older posts would be a great way to rejuvenate my reader's interests while also introducing new readers to where it all started for this little blog of mine.  So in the style of Kasie Whitener, here goes:

  1. Dear Mom...  I wrote this at the beginning, and I took to down for a while, but it truly captures the essence of why this blog was born.
  2. My Girl:  So many of my posts were written in absolute sorrow, but I am pretty sure I smiled ear-to-ear the entire time I worked on this one. 
  3. Post I Wish More People Had Read:  This experience has been excruciating for me, but my pain and suffering is nothing compared to his. 
  4. Our Rocks:  My entire family would be far worse off without these two guys.  This post even ended with a little humor!
  5. Comfort:  This is where we are now, finding comfort in the positive, keeping memories precious, moving forward and finding joy in what we have in our lives. 
As I put this together, I had such a hard time picking just a few to highlight.  Each post is so close to my heart, and each is a piece of this journey that continues.  These are the ones I went with, and if they tug at your heart, check out the others.  You won't be disappointed.

It feels great to be back, and I think the best is yet to come!

Dear Mom...

Dear Mom,

I love you, and I miss you more than you may ever really know. I miss the real you, the one who is so very different from the unrecognizable person have become. I miss the little things, like the 2 phone calls every night. At times, I know I used to get annoyed by them because I'd be trying to get dinner ready and help the kids with homework, but I miss them now. They were normal, mother-daughter conversations, and I miss those. Whitney Houston died last week, and if things were normal, we would have talked about that. I would have reminded you that we listened to her tape everyday on the way to daycare for more days than I can recall. You would have reminded me that, during one of her tours, I asked you to call Whitney and invite her to stay at our house when she came to town, and we would have laughed about it. We didn't talk about it, though. There are times when you don't want to talk to me at all. Then, there are times when you are so angry and mean when you talk to me, and it crushes my spirit. I know that, right now, you want me to call you, but I am afraid. Throughout my whole life, you've never truly been mad at me, and it scares me that if I call you'll hurt me again. If I could talk to you, though, there are some things I'd tell you about.

The real you would be proud of us. You have always been helpful to people in difficult times of their lives, and that has rubbed off on us. You'd be so proud of the way we have tried to help you, the way we have tried to be so tough. We have spent more hours than we can count trying to find the help you need. We have continued to try, even though our efforts have made you hate us. You would also be happy to know that your daughters are taking care of their dad. He's simply devastated, and we are doing everything we can to comfort him and help him get through this. I know the real you would want that for him. You know how he is, so independent, and you'd be proud of how pushy we are being, forcing him to let us help him. I also think you'd be happy that so many people are reaching out to all three of us and making sure we have the support we need.

The real you would be sad to know that I have experienced the darkest days of my entire life because of the anger and hatred with which you have become filled. You would be upset to know that my birthday may never feel the same because of the letter you sent me this year, and you'd be embarrassed to know that you carry it around with pride. The real you would be devastated to know the horrid, damaging lies you are saying about us. If the real you could look at this person from the outside, you'd accept our help, because you wouldn't like this new person and you would want the old you back. You should know, however, that I forgive you for everything. I forgive the real you, because the real you didn't do any of it. I forgive the real you, but I may never get the chance to tell the real you that. I'm starting to think I'll never see her again. I hope I'm wrong.

I love you, Mom.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Newberry Award, a Pulitzer Prize? The Sky is the Limit for this Kid

The middle of June in New England can bring just about anything in terms of weather, and this particular night it is steamy and humid as the families of the eighth graders squeeze into the gymnasium for the graduation ceremony.  Truthfully, I had no idea what to expect having never been to such an event.  I figured certificates would be awarded, the teachers might talk about what an amazing group of students these kids were, and then they'd be off to enjoy their dance.  Well, those things did happen, but they also handed out awards, both academic and character based.  I watched a number of my daughter's friends receive much-deservedved awards, and it made my heart smile.  As the principal approached the podium to present her award, I had no idea the flood of emotions I was about to experience.

The Principal's Award goes to the student that embodies the academic and social values our school supports and promotes, not only here, but outside of school as well.  This is a student who has been a valuable asset to her school, her classmates, and her family during her career here, and it is my pleasure to present the award to ...

As my beautiful, talented and kind child walked from her seat to accept her award, I literally watched her transform from the pig-tailed little cherub to a confident young lady with every step.  Special moments danced in my mind, all the goals she has set for herself and achieved.  I have always known she was special, my family has always seen it, and now it was apparent that others see it as well.  Needless to say, I was a blubbering mess at what I thought would be a run-of-the-mill ceremony.

As my daughter gets older, and her personality and potential develop, I liken motherhood to waiting for the upcoming release of a much-anticipated movie starring a favorite actress.  She isn't a drama student; has no dreams of being on stage, though I imagine that if she set her mind to it, she could win a Tony or an Oscar...or both.  That is the kind of young lady she is becoming, full of ambition and already leaving a trail of successes behind her.  This kid has excelled in everything she has attempted, and she is just on the verge of true accomplishment as she enters the next phase of her life.  I often find myself watching her, or thinking about her, overwhelmed with gratitude that she is in my life. 

One of my favorite stories shared with me recently was told to be by a close friend who's known my daughter for several years now.  This friend is active in the schools in town and often finds herself walking the halls, encountering the children.  She pointed out to me that, while many will walk by her without a glance, my daughter always makes it a point to smile and say hello.  That anecdote simply defines who she is; A kind, genuine person who will say hello to adults and embrace fifth graders, without a care about who is watching or judging.  Though she is a popular kid, popularity does not matter to her.  When others have been mean to her, it is almost as if she cannot comprehend it, she has not a mean bone in her body.  Of all of her qualities, that is my favorite.  Of everything she is good at, this is the most important.

And what is she especially good at?  What does she want to pursue as a career?  She wants to write.  She envisions herself as a published and wildly popular author.  A lofty goal?  Yes, writing is not an easy field, but if anyone can make it happen, it is this girl, and when she wins her first Newberry Award or Pulitzer Prize, I'll be just as proud, and cry just as much as I did on that warm evening in June so many years ago.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Patterns of a Naive Girl

As I sit here, after much too long away from the keyboard, I am noticing a pattern in my behavior.  We are going on eight months of trying to navigate through the tragedy surrounding my mother, and if I had made a prediction at the onset, I would have thought that by now we would be in the clear.  She would be back to her old self, calling a few times a day and commenting on my Facebook posts.  Dad would be happily settling into his dream condominium, appreciating what seemed to be in jeopardy months ago.  I'd be planning summer visits to their place, kids in tow, making up for the hectic school year that prevents us from being together as often as I would prefer.  That's what I thought right now would look likem but I was wrong, big time. 

I am naive, a trait I have pointed out before, and that could be the driving force behind my repetitive behavior.  Here is how it seems to go:
  • A number of weeks will go by without speaking to her, the longest being six weeks.  This is when my naivete kicks in, and I start to think maybe things are not as bad as I had thought.  Maybe this is a situation I can somehow work with, somehow create a new kind of relationship within her world.
  • Something happens that makes me call her; she leaves a voicemail, sends a Facebook message or text.  Off the bat, her voice makes me tremble, and it feels good to hear the voice I have missed so much.
  • The conversation starts out light, and inevitably goes quickly downhill.  I find myself on the receiving end of screaming threats and attempts to make me feel badly, as if I am partially responsible for this horrid situation.  No matter how poorly it goes, however, I never stop listening, never hang up on her.  At this point, I am getting used to predicting when she will hang up, and I always make sure I get in an I love you before it happens.
  • She hangs up, and I realize that it is, in fact, that bad.  Perhaps worse.
This last cycle is when I realized the pattern, and I imagine it will continue for the rest of my life.  She was my mother for my whole life;  she loved me and cared about me for that whole time.  That is the person my memory will recall when weeks go by without hearing from her.  That is the person I miss, the person I know is somewhere deep inside, and simply unable to surface.  I will forever love and adore that person and hold her tightly in my dreams as I slowly try to let her go.

As I reread this post, I realize that it sounds as if I have lost some hope.  Honestly, I have, which says a lot coming from a perpetually optimistic person like myself.  This has gone on for a long time, and it is only getting worse with each passing day, week, and month.  I have run out of ways to help.  As that eternal optimist, however, I choose to shift my positive energy to the great things I foresee ahead.  I think that is where my posts will go next, because that is something I can control.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Defining Uncertainty: In Life, Crap Happens

I am a planner.  It’s the way I have always been.  I need to know what’s going on; where, when, who’s going to be there.  It used to really throw me off when plans changed last-minute or if “The Plan” was just to see what the day would bring.  Then November happened, and suddenly my life became the definition of uncertainty, and I must say that I have been able to adapt much better than I would have expected.  Some of this has come from within, and some has come from the inspiration of others.
So, are some ways I have defined uncertainty recently:
The Wedding
This was a wedding that was planned to the every smallest detail.  Truly, my sister should plan events for a living.  There was very little question as to how the days surrounding the wedding would play out, until we found out the day before that my mother would not be there.  The mother of the bride.  This was not how it was supposed to be, and at the crux of this realization, I was not sure I could make it through intact.  It was an impossible situation:  How do you move forward without such an important person?  Well, we did not have a choice, so we had to just figure it out. We didn’t have time to process the enormity of this tragic turn.   We cried at the rehearsal and during picture-taking, walking down the aisle and on the altar.  We cried at points during the reception.  In allowing ourselves moments of weakness, we were able to find moments of strength, and it made all the difference.  I gave the toast without any hints of a quivering voice.   I was able to laugh as my son danced with more rhythm than any eight-year-old should have and catch up with old friends.  It was the beginning of my own transformation into a person who could more easily accept reality and the things that are simply uncertain.

The Accident
I left my teaching job this fall to take an administrative position, and as excited as I was for this new challenge, I knew I was going to sorely miss a dear friend and fellow teacher when I left.  As teachers, we were on the same wavelength with everything, like we shared a brain.  As friends, we connected in the same way, including our adoration for ridiculous television shows and boy bands from the 90’s.  I got to know her husband and witness the true love they shared as best friends, and I watched her become a mother. I loved every second of reliving the trials and tribulations of having young kids through her experiences.  Then, in January, tragedy struck in the most cruel and incomprehensible way.  While changing a tire on the highway, her husband was struck and killed, leaving behind his best friend and his three young children, all between seven years and 8 weeks.  You want to talk about uncertainty, talk to this woman.  She’s developed the kind of strength I wish she didn’t need;  the kind of strength that produces an article like this.  The kind of strength that allows her to plan events in his honor and organize shopping trips and concerts to maintain normalcy in her life.  She is taking life by the horns, and living each day full tilt, because you just don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.  She’s an inspiration and someone with admirable determination to overcome her uncertainty, but I wish she didn’t have to be.
Life is unpredictable.  In the words of the priest leading his funeral, “We all want answers.  We all want to know why, but in life, sometimes crap happens.”  My take from this realization is to embrace the whims of life.  My school district’s budget is in shambles, and I may not have a job come fall.  I have plan B and plan C, and I am not going to sweat what I can’t control.  My mom may never be the same, and she may never welcome me into her life again, but I cherish every memory of the good times.  I appreciate every friend and family member who is a part of my life.  We can’t control life, but we can control our attitudes and reactions to it to make the best of what we have.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Sort-Of Brother

Leading up to a remarkably different Mother's Day, I spent the week counting my blessings.  It was my way of keeping tears and pity-parties at bay, and for the most part it worked.  I have a lot to be thankful for, and many I have already shared:  My husband and brother-in-law, my dad, and my sister.  I even had the good fortune of being featured on a blog series titled Life Changing Moments.  This post introduces a new family member; one that I know I can count on for a shoulder when needed, and a laugh at any given moment. 

My uncle was ten-years-old when I was born.  Poor kid was poised and ready to be the doted-upon, youngest child in a family of seven, and then I made my debut as first niece and grandchild, pigtails, glasses and all.  We spent a lot of time together when I was young, and I know I was a monumentally huge pain more often than not, much like a little sister can be.  Like siblings, I think we can both look back on those tumultuous times and laugh, knowing they brought us closer with each spat and squabble.  I wonder if he remembers:
  • the time I went into his bedroom, after being told specifically NOT to, and glued his model car pieces together in a big tower that I was quite proud of...until he saw it.
  • that he told me his fish would bite my fingers off if I put them in the tank. (They were goldfish.)
  • when I went to Florida to visit, and I got mad because he went off with his friends instead of playing with me, so I took my Me'me're's advice and removed the wheels from his skateboard while he was gone. (I was five...it was actually quite impressive work.)
Those are simply a few of my shining moments.  A total pest, and yet despite all of the hassle, I know he's always loved me, and he has proven to be an unwavering pillar of strength during some of life's toughest moments.  I know remembers:
  • the very last time my Me'me're was taken to the hospital before she lost her battle with cancer.  He was only eighteen, I'm sure he knew what was happening, and he stayed with me instead of going to the hospital.  I remember it as if it were this afternoon. The sun painted the sky a bright orange color as it set, and we sat outside together for the longest time.  I don't even remember going in the house, or what happened later that night.  I remember that he could have been at the hospital, but he was with me, siting in the side yard, silently watching the sun set on life as we knew it.
As you can imagine, he has been rock-solid through this tragedy.  At the onset, he sat for hours in the hospital waiting room, called and texted with updates, and held me close as her gurney was rolled down the hall to the ambulance bay.  He gathered clothes, made trips between houses and hospitals, and did his best to get Dad to eat.  I know for a fact, there is nothing he would not have done.  Every family needs a man like this, and I am so grateful that he is part of ours.  It is my hope that if he is ever in need of the kind of strength he's provided for me, I can be strong enough to hold him up and make the kind of difference he has made for me. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Jodi Picoult Was Right

I have always loved to write.  Up until recently, it was mostly for my own enjoyment; a hobby more than anything else.  There have been times when I have written more than others, times when a spark of creativity grabbed hold and held on for a while.  Those are typically times that coordinated with school vacations and I found myself with unfamiliar down time.  What I am experiencing now is markedly different, and it is reminding of something a favorite author shared with me years ago.

A title at our school book fair caught my eye, and though my two-year-old didn't leave much time or energy for reading, I could not resist. After one page, I could not put it down.  I'd never read a book so quickly, devouring every word.  That book was My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, and she had inspired me.  I tried to start writing, and I struggled.  I was teaching full-time, and I had two kids.  I was frustrated, so I emailed Jodi, because I am bold like that.  I asked her how she was able to spend so much time writing with a life so similarly busy in comparison to my own.  Much to my amazement, I got a reply ten minutes later.  Among other bits of advice, she revealed this:
"I can't not write.  I have too much to say."
That was six years ago, and I will be honest in saying that I didn't quite understand what she meant.  I had ideas, and I had some skill, and I really wanted to write.  When all was said and done, though, if I didn't get some writing done, I was okay with that. 

That was then, and this is now.  I understand what Jodi was talking about now, because I feel the same way.  I am coming off one of the busiest weeks of my school year so far, full of evening commitments, and I have struggled to squeeze in time to write.  My arms ache, like words are stuck inside, waiting to come out.  I feel better when I write, and I am so fortunate to have discovered that.  For me, I guess it took a tragedy to ignite that spark into a full-fledged flame that will light the way for my future.

So, thanks Jodi.  It took six years, but I get it now.  I, too, can't help but write.  I also have too much to say.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Leibster Blogger Award...Who, Me?

When I began this journey of trying to channel my feelings and mixed-up emotions into something positive, I imagined that the path would take me to a place where I would write some posts, my friends and family would enjoy my musings, and perhaps I could affect some change in the world of mental health along the way.  In just a few short months, this path has lead me to a part of my life where I simply struggle to go a day without writing something.  The passion I have for writing, both personal pieces and fiction, has been reignited out of a tragic situation, and I will embrace it because I believe in finding a silver lining whenever possible.

In the back of my mind, however, I held tight to an inkling that my writing was merely okay...not much to people outside of my circle.  On a whim, I became a part of a writing challenge and met some people who I consider to be fabulous writers, and now one of them, Rebecca Barray, has nominated me as a "Writer Worth Watching" by nominating me for the Liebster Blogger Award.  To say that I was moved is an understatement.  I will forever be grateful to her for the confidence boost she has provided me, which will do wonders for the direction of my path moving forward.  Now, it is my turn:

The Liebster Blogger Rules are:
1. Thank the one who nominated you by linking back.
2. Nominate five blogs with less than 200 followers.
3. Let your nominees know by leaving a comment on their sites.
4. Add the award image to your site.

My nominees are:
  • Anne Kimball's blog, Life on the Funny Farm, is a place I visit often for a good laugh and some heartfelt writing.  Unique family and a writer with a great voice.
  • Monique Liddle's blog, Bends in the Road, was born of her receiving two diagnoses that forced her to change the course of her life.  Inspiring and humbling.  The sky is the limit for Monique.
  • Veronica Roth's blog is one full of variety, and you cannot stop by her site without checking out Sophie Storm.  Not only do I love the writing and story, it is where I was inspired to revisit some of my own fiction.
  • Claudia Karabic Sargent's blog is another spot full of literary variety, including some touching stories I have connected to personally.  The format is gorgeous and creative.
  • Kasie Whitener's blog is one that I find to be one of the most moving blogs I've discovered, and her writing style is phenomenal.  Her post about the Pulitzer Prize winner made me laugh out loud!
Check them out...you will not regret it!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Sister, My Best Friend

Peanut butter and jelly. Yeah, I think that is a pretty good metaphor for my the way my sister and I are together. Totally different, each with it's own unique qualities, and awesome together. This nightmare has affected so many people, and seemingly more and more everyday, but she and I are experiencing the same exact thing: Our mother has been replaced by a stranger.  The fact we are so different has allowed us to compliment one another's strengths, and to step in and take on more when the other hits a wall. When I allow myself to reflect on the last several months, I know that it would have been worse without her, if that even seems possible.

My sister on her wedding day.

We haven't always been this close. For quite some time, our differences drove us in opposite directions. It always seemed that we were in different places in our lives and had a hard time connecting. We always had a genuine love for one another, but it wasn't until recently that our relationship really developed into something I can't imagine being without. I have an admiration for her that I'm not sure words can capture. She is so strong. This girl has been through hell these last few months, and not just involving my mother. As if this crisis isn't bad enough, she's had her own struggles, and yet she comes out like a true fighter. Has she had her low points? Yes...she is human, and these have been the times when I have done the best I can to be the shoulder she needs. I don't have a fraction of the strength she does, but I use what I have to build her up. This girl also has a confidence that makes me so proud. When she wants something, she puts everything has into getting it, and God help the person who gets in her way. (Just ask her husband! Oh, our poor husbands...they'll get their own post soon!) She has marched into situations, asked the right questions, speaking their language and blown us all away. The youngest in the family has been our leader and rock throughout this. Yes, this would have been way worse without her, and I don't even want to think about what worse could look like.

Dad...My Hope: Robert DeNiro Plays Him in the Movie!

I love my dad. Watching him go through such pain has been the hardest part of this whole entire ordeal, likely the most difficult thing I've yet experienced. My most extreme emotional outbursts, the deepest points of my sadness, are all associated with the pain I've seen him experience. The cycle of life prepares us to eventually care for our parents and worry about them, much like they did for us as we grew up. I've expected and planned on this since I watched my dad care for his ill parents when I was young. He set the example. It's simply what you do when your parents need you. Now, he is hurting and I want to take care of him, but how? There are no treatments to drive him to, no medicines to pick up and make sure he takes. His heart is broken and his dreams are shattered. With every fiber of my being, I just want to fix it, but I can't. I wish I could shield him from the pain he feels, but a shield does not exist that is big enough for that task. I'm angry that this is what he gets stuck with at this point in his life, when he should be getting ready for life as a "Snow Bird". I'm upset that he is experiencing a sadness I can't comfort. Anger and sadness aren't going to do anyone any good, though. This is our new reality, and it will take a while for all of us to get into what feels like normalcy. Until then, here are some positives that I will help him focus on:

· We have an ironclad family surrounding us. The three of us have gotten more support and love from our family than most people get in a lifetime. Blood relatives, in-laws, chosen family; They have come from all over to build a us a safety net. Hours on the phone, time spent at hospitals, carefully worded emails of support, legal advice...I could go on and on. My one hope is that someday, each and every one of them will know how much they have helped us and how much we appreciate them. Maybe someday we can be their rocks. For now, we will simply cherish them.

· He has grandchildren who absolutely think the world of him, and they need him. He is such a good grandfather, and has a genuine interest in them and their lives. Kids have a way of lightening things up, no matter how dark a situation, and I will help him remember that. I'll make a more concerted effort to ensure that they connect more often. They have lives of accomplishments and moments of joy ahead of them, and he has those moments to look forward to as their grandfather.

His life will never be the same, and it will never be the way he dreamed it would be at this point in his life. There is a lot of muck to wade through before his new life really takes root, but it will happen. He will be happy again one day. As his daughter, I will never stop striving for that. It's the only thing I can do.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Country Store

I will gratefully say it again:  I had a great childhood; Picture book quality, to be honest.  I have so many fond memories of growing up in my little town, and my recent trip home brought me back to a place that, for me, could be a stand-alone symbol of those good times. It represents an almost-weekly tradition that my dad and I shared, and something I've wanted to capture in words for quite some time.

It was typically a Sunday afternoon, and always in the spring or summer.  We'd grab our bikes from the garage, his red and mine purple, and we'd take off. If I close my eyes and put myself back there, I can still feel the sun shining on my face and wind blowing my hair all over the place.  Along the way we'd chat about school or friends, and we'd pass by "The Pits", which I think was an intended development at one point, but ended up being the high school keg party spot.  It was only two or three miles away, and we'd be at The Old Country Store before long. 
Once there, we'd lean our bikes up along the railroad fence that ran down the side of the parking lot and head inside, passing the big Native American statue that stood alongside the entrance.  Walking into that store felt like stepping back in time.  As soon as you crossed the doorway, the smell of pickles was the first thing to hit you.  They have these two huge, wooden barrels full of pickles.  I don't know of anywhere else you can even find something like that!  The inside was constructed entirely of wood, wrought iron, and glass; A real old-fashioned General Store.  Our trips always had a predictability that, today, brings me such comfort.  We'd each grab a soda, in the authentic glass bottles, and a bag of fresh-roasted peanuts so we could go sit on the brick stairs and share a snack.  Sometimes we talked, sometimes we just sat and watched people come and go.  Each and every time is a cherished moment in my life that I wish I could recreate when we are having a bad day.  What I would give to just go back for a carefree bike ride, some peanuts,  and a soda.  It seemed so simple back then.


I think I'm gaining some clarity for my blog direction.  Sign up for email alerts on the left, follow me on Twitter, and connect with me on Facebook...you won't want to miss this!

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Will Rise Above This

This is a post I pictured in my mind as entirely different than it will actually play out.  I imagined my final post about my mother as a post that would describe how amazing it felt to see my mother return to her old self again.  I envisioned a triumphant post about how we had finally found what was needed, affected some systemic changes, and that it worked.  I wanted to be sharing with you all how it felt to talk with her again, like we used to, and the joy my heart felt to see her reunite with her grandchildren.  It was going to be a happy ending to my family's misery. 

Scratch that. I can't even be in control of how I express my feelings about the worst experience of my life.  Other people can go on and on, hurling false accusations of abuse, but I can't write about how I am making my way through the hardest part of my life.  I did not want to bend under the pressure of a threat, but there's too much at stake for me.  Another defeat...if I choose to look at it that way, and I don't.  I will rise above this loss, like I have risen above every loss since November.

In the coming days, I will be making major changes to this blog.  It'll look different, and it'll be called by a different name, but I will still return to it, like an old friend, and I hope you will as well.  I will continue write about my life, and how I handle trying times, and those of you who have been along for the whole ride will have the inside scoop, so to speak.  You'll know what's behind those posts, like cherished friends with history. 

I am deciding to view this as an opportunity to change things up, and give my readers some variety.  I am not exactly sure what that variety will include, but I promise you that it'll be worth stopping by to read.  You have all provided me with so much support and encouragement.  It's the least I can do for you.

Stay tuned...this will be good. 

(Oh, and that memoir?  Still gonna happen.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

I Grew up in a Small Town

No I cannot forget where it is that I come from, I cannot forget the people who love me.
- John Mellencamp

The circumstances of my life of late have landed me in a place where I am often seeking out peace and comfort.  Oftentimes, I find them nearby; A favorite T.V. show with my husband on the couch, a manicure with my daughter, a trip to our favorite ice cream shop with my little guy.  Then there are the calls and emails with loved ones, who forever make time to listen and offer encouragement, and I am truly blessed to work in a place where I am surrounded by happy, smiling faces all day long.  This week, with a little extra time on my hands, I sought out comfort in a different way, totally on a whim, and I am so happy I followed my instincts.  I went home to the town I grew up in, and it made my heart smile.

I was raised in a small town, and there were small town spots that stand out in my mind as meaningful and memorable when I think back to my youth.  With my patient kids in tow and camera in hand, we hit a bunch of those spots.  The first school I attended when we moved in, my middle and high schools.  We stopped at the little ice cream place I would walk to on half-days, and the little blue store I would walk to with my best friend when we were at her house.  There were two places, both near and dear to my heart, that deserve mention.  I'm just going to talk about one today, and save the other.  They each deserve their own special day.

Their House

I had the best friend in the world growing up, and though we live thousands of miles away and are in sparse contact now, I cherish that friendship as if it were gold.  Driving through town, I was not even sure I would remember how to get to her parents' house, but nostalgia brought me there.  I pulled up in front, not 100% they still lived there. I sat for a bit, trying to muster up the courage to take a chance and knock.  Then, from around the corner came a man walking a big, beautiful golden retriever.  It was my friend's father, and I was frozen for a moment.  He looked exactly the same as the last time I had seen him.  He recognized me right away, enveloped me in a familiar, fatherly hug, and invited us in to visit with them.  Seeing her mother was even more emotional for me, and I had to muster up self control to keep from crying.  I practically grew up in this house;  These were like second parents to me, and it felt so warm and welcoming to be in that living room again, chatting as if it had not been over 13 years since I had last been there.  I hope the card I sent conveys how much it meant to see them.  I'm a planner, and not at all one to just pop-in, but I am grateful I did, and I am sure I will do so again. 

Things may be a messy right now, but in the words of Katy Perry:

This is a part of me that you're never gonna ever take away from me.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Guys

I know it sounds caveman-like, but I really believe that most men want to be able to take care of their loved ones and fix their problems, whatever they may be, no matter how complicated.  They want to have the answer and make everything okay.  It isn't always possible to fix it, but they sure do try.  That is certainly true about my husband and my brother-in-law, and it is a quality that I hope we are instilling in my son as well.  They have been such incredible, rock-solid foundations for my sister, dad and I throughout all of this, and I truly believe that without their support, we may have crumbled at this point.  Without them, we would be lost.

I had the honor of toasting my sister and her new husband at their wedding, and it turned out to be even more meaningful a moment than we had anticipated when I was asked to be the Maid of Honor.  (I refuse to be called a Matron...sorry.)  In my toast I described how his love had made her a complete and joyful person, and how his love for her had actually brought my sister and I closer together.  Of course, I did not reference my mother's changing behaviors during the toast, but it was clearly on our minds, and as I looked at my new brother-in-law, I felt at ease.  Before me stood a man that I knew I could count on to take care of my sister.  Their vows said, "For better or worse...", and this kid had already endured some of the worst life has to offer before he had even said, "I do."  The pre-wedding time usually involves the couple completely self-absorbed, stressing out about reception and honeymoon details, but all the while knowing that once the day came, it would be wonderful, and they would have their whole lives to live happily ever after.  My brother-in-law literally watched his fiance's family fall apart right before his eyes.  I sincerely believe that many would have run for the hills, but not this guy.  He could have, but instead he jumped in and continues to provide that protection and support that has helped hold us all together. 

My husband, on the other hand, he had no flipping idea what he was in for when he married me.  We will celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary this year, and fourteen and a half of those have been pretty normal.  Sure, we've had our share of sad times as we've lost family members, suffered a miscarriage, and both lost jobs, but nothing that was ever as all-consuming as my mother's illness has been.  He has, for all of this time, known me to be an easygoing optimist.  He was used to seeing me smile 99% of the time, and then this crisis descended upon us, and he had to watch me fall apart at the seams.  He had never seen me in such a dark place, and I know that's been hard for him because I can see it in his eyes, but you'd never know it otherwise.  His dedication to this family has blown me away.  When I look back on all he has done, though, from supporting Dad to leaving work early for yet another crisis, I have to say that there is one thing that has been the most beneficial.  He has been unwavering in his intent to keep things as normal as possible.  If left to me, holidays may have been skipped, and parties unattended, but he would have none of it.  He's maintained a life for us that resembles normalcy, and that has made all the difference.

Those are our guys.  I could go one forever, really, but I won't.  What I will do is end this post in a way that will make them smile.  It's only fitting...they've kept us smiling all this time.  So guys, what do you get for being so amazing?  What's your prize?  When you and your friends are hanging out, drinking beer and trying to one-up each other with mother-in-law tales, you will win every time!