Saturday, October 19, 2013


A Facebook post that I made last week, unintentionally was the starting point for a war between my cousins on my newsfeed. I didn't mind it, as a matter of fact it was a nice distraction from my own sad thoughts which hit hard at night. The post all began because Rob, the girls, and I are rarely apart. Because of this Lily watches somethings that might not really be so age appropriate. In this case that was Fox news.

Let me clarify, that it was Rob who left it on. His right wing tendencies have mellowed after years of marriage to me (on the same note, my liberal tendencies have softened as well). He still likes Fox news for the money reports. He left it on when he went to shower and Lily continued to watch it, probably because she loves gossip and well, have you watched Fox news? That night the conversation went something like this:

Michael Douglas flashes across the screen and the newscaster says "Micheal Douglas believes he might never have had throat cancer." I quip "I don't want to hear anymore more about what has gone into that man's mouth" (wink wink nudge nudge). Lily very thought fully asks "Does smoking cause cancer? If you drink marijuana, will you get cancer? I know you will become a drug aleck." I choke and don't know how to respond. Caroline looks up from her phone and says "You smoke marijuana, not drink it." Thanks for your help Caroline! Rob and I explain that yes smoking anything can cause cancer and you shouldn't smoke things. We also add (this is a point of parenting pride with us) that we have never smoked anything in our lives (now don't ask me about Boone's Farm Strawberry wine). I finally asked where this was coming from. She sweetly says "It was on Fox News. Dad left it on this morning."

Of course, this had to become a post. My very funny cousin posted something snarky about what happens to children who watch Fox News, my other cousin was offended by his word choice, and "Cousin War 2013" was born. I tried to be diplomatic and end it, but it finally died down on its own.

I have been thinking about my little family a lot lately. I think that one of the reasons that my girls gravitate toward Latin American friend is that sense of family. The Latin American families that I know here are very family centered. Their children are everything and they spend as much time as possible with their families (this includes extended family). It is nothing to bring family from their country of birth to live with them. Not because they are trying to take over the world, but because they are trying to take care of their family. La familia is everything. I love to listen to how loving Caroline's friends are over the phone to their families. Even the boys have no qualms ending with I love you. When one of my father dropped off his little boy to school, he said "Besos" (kisses) and his little guy ran to kiss him good bye (no embarrassment or cheek rubbing).

Rob and I feel the same way about our girls. We enjoy their company. I really hope to live near enough to be with them as adults. The family across the street from us has their young adult married children living with them. I love watching how they enjoy their time together. The have cookouts and built a snowman during our first snow (then excitedly took a family picture).

Here's to family.

And So On

It is hard to believe that it has been a month since I lost my mother. I want to talk to her everyday. It still doesn't feel like she's gone. Life has gone on despite it all. My brother, step father, and I have been grieving in our own ways. I have thrown myself into working and activities, staying as busy if not busier than usual. Underneath it all, I am very fragile and very tired. I just don't show it.

The girls are the girls. Caroline and I went shopping for a homecoming dress. It was sad and strange. We found a nice dress. She and Cristhian are going next weekend. She earned an academic letter for her freshman year. The awards ceremony is on November 9th. I am so very proud of her. Her classes have been tough this year, but we knew that going in. I think that she is doing a wonderful job. She also got a job taking care of a 15 year old German Shepard after school. Yes, doggie hospice seems to be the perfect job for my girl. Rob and I being us, explained in detail what to do if the dog dies. Caroline being Caroline quipped "Yeah, I guess you can't call 911 for a dog." Lucky doggie, she gets to spend her last days with the sweetest of girls.

Lily has struggled a bit as well. She has the same spelling curse as Caroline and I. Math, however, she loves. I still haven't figured out how to get her to read more. Violin is going fairly well. She is going to play in a concert at the Mormon Cathedral (I think that's the right word choice) for Christmas. I am so excited for her. She is finally sleeping in her room and through the night. As a reward she got a Beta fish. According to Lily, he is also afraid of the dark and needs the lights on. So much anxiety in this kid. I have come to the realization, though, that laying down rules with her and sticking to them lessens the anxiety. It makes sense, trying to control everything makes you anxious (just ask any parent).

As a family, we have laid low this fall. The weekend that we planned on having a fun family outing was rainy. Most weekends have been soccer and violin and errands and cleaning. All the regular stuff. Life goes on, even with a hole in your heart.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Things I Want to Tell You

Caroline's friends took her to buy a dress the day after you died. These are two newer friends, bold and sassy, but they love our girl for who she is. They don't hang around her because she is sweet and listens. They don't go to her only when they are sad. They like her for herself, moods and all. They haven't given her a label. When you were in the hospital, they brought her snacks. One of them gave her an infinity necklace after you died. She found a wonderful dress, taupe with a bold black tribal pattern. She tried it on and carefully said "It made me think of Gramma." She wore it to your funeral with black tights, combat boots, and her funky glasses. Cristhian came so she would have someone who was there just for her. Together they looked like the poster for young "hipsterling" couple. When she started to cry, I unknowingly pushed his hand away and held our girl. He didn't mind. He stayed by her side the entire time, except when he took a break to play with Lily.

The weekend before you passed, she got into a shoving match with a girl during her soccer game. The girl kicked her on purpose, and Caroline wasn't going to take it. I wasn't there to see it. She texted me to tell me about it. I was secretly so very proud! Right after I read her text, Lily caught a huge catfish (remember, when I left your house, I said we were going camping?). Lily held it in her arms and let it go back into the lake all by herself. Our girls are so strong!

Work is really overwhelming right now. It feels like I can't do anything right or on time. I spend all this time doing something only to be told that it didn't need to be done after all. I find myself getting bitter and losing my temper. I know I can I figure out a way to handle it. I would figure it out quicker if I could talk to you, but I know I'll figure it out.

Lily joined chorus at school. She is so excited! She has been chewing her nails to the quick and licking her lips raw again. It was so exciting to see her step outside of herself and do something new, take a moment to stop worrying. She makes connections in her violin lessons that astound me. She stays late at group classes to watch the older kids play. She still hates to practice, though. It's all baby steps.

Caroline got to go to her first music festival. A couple of college boys were flirting with her. Luckily they left before I hit them with my backpack.

Caroline and Rob ran a 5K today and then she went to her soccer game. She is so tired, but the running seems to give her a release.

My class is sweet and funny. No one is running away from me or trying to choke me this year. Yesterday, when I was explaining how our evacuation drill works, one of my little guys raised his hand to tell me "I growin' a mustache." I bit my lip not to laugh and remembered that there is so much more to my job than paper work.

This is going to be a beautiful fall. The leaves seem so bright this year. Rob went out front and used the leaf blower to make a leaf tornado for Lily and her friends.

I miss you and love you so much. I am trying to take care of everyone here. It's a lot harder than you'd think. For someone with such tiny feet, you left big shoes to fill.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lessons from Grief

 Most people cannot understand the way my brain works. I do appreciate their trying. I also really applaud those who have been with me the longest and nod their heads while thinking "WTF?"  I really don't process or think like most people. Many brain is like a bucket of bobbing apples, one thing after another bobs to the surface. There is no rhyme or reason. I make lists because it is the only way to hold on to one apple or another before they sink or float away. If I tried to explain my thought process to people, they'd be bewildered. I know I am and I live in this head.

There is one odd constant in my adult life. Death has hung out by shoulder like some sort of bitchy "frenemy." I can't seem to shake the SOB, ever since the terrifying dream that I had in college about Rob dying in a car accident. I spent my 20's waiting for the jerk to finally play his hand. He waited until my 30's. It's like The Seventh Seal. I picture myself running across a field hand in hand with death.

It just occurred to me that everyone who really knew my past is gone. I was telling Caroline about this summer school class that I got to take about the history of NYC during my last summer in Connecticut. I couldn't remember if it had been one week or two. I said "I'll ask Mom." Then the next words out of my mouth were "Well, fuck! I can't, now can I?" How does a person with a brain full of bobbing apples remember her past? At the memorial I was able to tell my cousins the oddest clearest memories of them, but I can't remember my own stuff. This is why I write, I am sure of it. This is my brain's way of imposing order and clearing things out so I can function day to day, so I can sleep.

Things that I have learned (This is my experience, I am not a trained grief counselor. I could never be a counselor. Eventually, I always say the thing that people don't want to hear. I can be too blunt.):

1. Forgive. There are a few things that happen in families that are unforgivable. For the most part, though, most things can be forgiven. No one ever gets a prize for being right or holding onto a grudge the longest. My father and I had such a difficult relationship. The crummiest thing is that the week after he died, all of the sudden, I was able to understand his story. I got it! It was like someone turned on a switch. This knowledge would have been so helpful when he was alive. All of the times that my mother hurt my feelings or frustrated me hardly matter now.

2. For God's sake take pictures! Get them off of the computer and don't let it crash. The everyday moments are the magical ones. What are you waiting for? My greatest regret is the only picture that I have of Lily with my Gramma is when Lily was born. She died when Lily was 2. I feel like such an idiot. I could say in my defense that I was stressed and battling depression, but I still suck.

3. Accept the condolences. People want to help. Let them say sorry. You will hear the same things over and over. Accept it. They are trying. You feel like crap, but there is no need to spread that feeling to others.

4. Stuff does not equal the one that you lost. Hording the belongings of the person you lost will not keep them alive. Your memories and stories do. Lily talks about my father like she knew him. She was born 1 1/2 years after he passed. It was the stories that taught her about him, not the boxes of clothes and junk that I horded. The only thing excluded from this is pictures. See number 2. Pictures help.

5. Create a new normal, but don't change too much. The sooner that you get back into a routine the better. It will feel strange and almost disloyal. It is not, trust me. Some routines are harder to break. I really want to call my mom. Tonight, I want to tell her that I am reading a book that she would like. Every night there is something different. Until I get used to this, I think that I am going to start a new journal just to jot down what I want to say. What I want to tell her is never profound and yet it takes up a profound amount of room in my mind.

6. Yes there are 7 stages of grief. They start the minute you find out the person that you love is sick or has passed away. In my experience, they do not follow an order. It is not a list to check off (wouldn't that be nice?!). They come like an unpredictable roller coaster and they seem to follow you for the rest of your life. Grief doesn't go away. You don't get over it. You learn to cope. Most of the time you cope well. Some days you don't cope at all.

7. No one type of death is better than the other. If you lose someone suddenly there is no closure. If it is a prolonged illness, you watch them fade away. Sometimes you are relieved that their suffering is over. Most of the time you feel cheated no matter what. It isn't like in the movies with final wishes and tender moments of sharing (at least for us). It is not pretty. I guess if you lost someone in their 90's it would feel like a life well lived. Except for my grandad, no one in my family has lived past their mid 70's. My dad was 52. My mom was 62. I feel cheated.

8. You will feel sad. You will feel sad a lot. It is normal. No need to apologize, but don't let it take over your life or define you. See number 5.