Thursday, June 19, 2014

I try to set one night a week aside to just sew. Or craft. Or do anything but clean and pay bills and do the things that really need to get done and would be the responsible thing to do. It actually takes discipline to do this. I would think I would have no problem diving into a project and neglecting the unfolded laundry. But it actually takes effort to stop myself from cleaning and just pushing everything aside to make room for my sewing machine on the table. Tonight I sewed with every monster truck my three year old owns. Which is twelve. He spent the evening gathering them up from around the house and put them in a nice circle on the table. I worked around them, both because I think he will be happy to see them all still circled up when he wakes up in the morning and also because cleaning is a slippery slope and I have to be very strict about not going down it on my no cleaning nights or the next thing I know I have a clean table, or folded laundry, but nothing creative to show for the night. And being creative is good for my soul. And as a busy mom of three youngens I need to do things that are good for my soul to continue doing things that are good for theirs.

Tonight I decided to finish the Superman cape I started 3 weeks ago. It took less than an hour to do, and I have I'm sure spent more time than that moving it from place to place these past three weeks to "get it out of the way" as well as talking to my son about how I will get it done as soon as I can, but so goes my life these days. It was a simple project but one that I am excited about because I know that my 3 year old will love it. It's fun to make things for him because his expressions of excitement and gratitude are so rewarding. I once brought home a spray bottle from the dollar store that gave me days of "Thank you mama for getting this for me". (I had actually gotten it just so I could have a spray bottle to use for this and that, but I didn't have the heart to tell him and I let him have it as his own and sucked up all the gratitude I could from it.) His love language is definitely "gifts", which is frustrating at times when he has his eye on something expensive, or when there is always something else that he would like. But as the spray bottle shows, he is pretty easy to please. And when the "gift" he is after is something I can make for him then the reward of making it for him is twice as sweet.

Anyway, back to the cape. I used the tutorial from And I added a logo. I did a lot of searching to learn about Superman and I learned that he doesn't actually have his logo on his cape. But I learned this after I had already cut out and appliqued the logo, and my son gets excited when he sees the logo and all things superhero so I just went with it and put it on the cape. I printed a logo from the internet (don't remember where exactly I found it) and used Steam a Seem to attache the red S to the yellow background. Then I used more Steam a Seam to attach the logo to the cape. Then I stitched it on, which took some time, and almost a whole spool of thread, and tried my patience at times. It is certainly one of those things that you just shouldn't look to closely at but from a distance you can tell it is the superman logo and that is the important part. After the logo was appliqued on I continued following the directions from the tutorial on howdoesshe. I liked this tutorial because it was so basic and simple and not overwhelming. She didn't even pin the two pieces together! I love this. This is so how I work. And it is how three year olds work too. It's actually one of the things I love most about three year olds. The only thing I added (besides the logo) is that I did a finishing stitch around the entire outside. I did this for two reasons. The first is that I hate sewing openings closed by hand. It just seems like more work than using the machine. Even if it means sewing a few yards by machine versus a few inches by hand. I know it probably isn't, but it is how I think. It's the same reasoning that makes me carry all my groceries from the car in one load, even though it hurts my hands and I drop things that I later have to pick up. But still I do it every time. I also thought that finishing the edges would give it a, well, more finished look. But that might have actually been a mistake because I think it may have actually just highlighted my wrecklessness with the way I sewed the edges together. But again, the intended audience here is a three year old and I know that he will never notice the specifics of the edges so it was pretty easy for me to let it go. I actually pretty much just raced through this project. Patience is a virtue, just not one of mine. At least not when I am sewing. Which is why I love a project like this every now and then when the details don't really matter. It is so freeing to just race through a project and not get hung up on the little things. Or, frankly in this case, even the big things. God bless three year olds and their imaginations and lack of high standards for detail and reality.

I'm really excited to give it to him. But it will have to wait because I don't want to give it to him until I finish the tutu that I have been promising my two year old for months. I know things don't always have to be fair. And really since we added a third child 6 weeks ago the fairness in the house has been pretty much non-existant. Which is what makes me want to be fair in this instance. So, hopefully I can whip out a tutu in the 30 minutes that it should take to make a tutu for a two year old. I do already have the material. I have had it for months. I adore buying material. I almost feel that just by purchasing the material I am completing the project, which of course is far from the truth and the reason that I have so much material and so few finished projects. Sigh. Maybe one day I will have lots of finished projects and not enough material, but that is not the current season of my life. But maybe with each "No Clean Night" I will get one step closer. As long as I stay away from the fabric store first.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year.....?

Happy New Year! New years has been my favorite holiday (a tight second with Christmas Eve) for as long as I can remember. I love that it is a chance to celebrate with out the stress of getting gifts for people and much of anything else. I also love the idea of new beginnings and all the excitement and opportunity that a new year holds. When I was a child we would spend new year's eve with my cousins' family. Now we spend it with my parents and my siblings and their children. For the most part we all do Christmas on our own and New Year's Eve is our chance to all be together. We eat, play games, eat and at new years we break out the noise makers. We also break out our phones and call our loved ones that aren't present to shout a happy new year to them. I love New year's Eve.

This new year has gotten off to a rough start. Yesterday I was on call at the hospital and I spent my day with a family whose child was pronounced brain dead as the result of abuse from mom's boyfriend. Heartbreaking. Happy new year. I came home emotionally exhausted to my sick daughter who much to my chagrin had not magically healed from her fever and excess boogers as I had unrealistically optimistically hoped for. So I took Max to the family party while my husband stayed home with the feverish booger monster. Being with family was fun and my 3 year old, with just a few tears and melt downs, stayed awake to ring in the new year with us. Max fell asleep in the car on the way home. An hour later Maggie woke up, and didn't go back to sleep until her nap at 11 am despite all our efforts, threats and bribery. And my husband, who was taking the 2-5am shift informed me that she now had red bumps covering her face. A rash as a result of the virus that had invaded her? Who knows. Happy new year. Max refused to nap, even after only sleeping 6 hours. We persevered and showed up to the family luncheon just one and a half hours late. Well, Max and I showed up at the lunch. My husband took the sicky to run errands for an hour while we lunched with the family. Better, we thought, to potentially infect strangers than our own family. Don't judge us too harshly, we were losing our minds and this felt like the least harmful solution to save our sanity. And, just to top it off this all happened while the air quality website that I have found myself addicted to confirmed that the air outside had in fact reached "unhealthy" levels. Happy new year. Of course, I have all of this in perspective. After all, I did spend yesterday with a mother that was receiving the news that she would have to "let her child go". I'm well aware that this is not really a life shattering bad I am experiencing. It just wasn't the cheerful entering of a new year I had hoped for. But, the new year started despite it all.

And here I am, trying to make my plans for the new year like I do every year. I feel like I am starting this new year in a weird place. Last year was a rough year. But the real rough, not the kind of rough of the last few days. In 2013 my sister died. I'd like to say, "see you later crappy year, I'm gonna make this year better!", but that doesn't bring a sister back the way it might motivate a person to really lose weight this year, or apply to school, or whatever goal was within a person's power to control. And in the end I am just further away from the last time I saw my sister, heard her laugh, and held her hand. I want to make 2014 a great year, but it comes with a new ache that I know will never, ever go away. And also a new awareness of the other aches and pains that likely lay ahead that I can't control either. So, with a new humility and realism about how much of my happiness I really create, and really, how much happiness should be the ultimate goal anyway, I am planning how to move forward in my new year.

A few days ago in a make-shift family home evening I asked the members of my family what they would like to do in 2014. Maggie answered, "play this" as she pointed to her new legos. Done. Thanks baby girl for creating an obtainable goal that I can definitely make happen. Max's list was a little longer but I think still completely doable: Play with cars and trucks, Play with trains, Go to the fabric store to get a shirt to wear with my tractor pants (that I sewed for him), Ride my new bike. My husband made a list too. It includes taking some trips, running a marathon, buying a house, starting a profitable company and buying and house (and a dog and a snow blower to go with it). Now we are starting to get into some bigger hopes for the new year. But as big as his hopes are I realize they are not as big as mine. My list includes visiting my sisters that live out of state as well as my parents that live just a couple of hours away but that I don't see enough, buying a house, sewing lots of stuff, having a clean, organized and cozy home, being home more, paying off debt, nurturing friendships, planning activities to do with my own little family as well as my siblings and their families, enjoying my time with my kids more, improving my marriage, and (to top it all off) being happy.

It felt good to write the list, but as I look it I haven't the least bit of an idea about how to make a plan to actually make all of that happen. If I have a weakness, and I have many of them, it is trying to do more than I can ever actually do and then feeling disappointed and frustrated at the results.  I have learned a lot in the last few years about how to lower my expectations (in a good way). But I still find myself wanting to do so much. Really wanting to do it. And planning for this year is no exception. But, I'm putting it on hold. After all, I am operating on only about 5 hours of sleep last night in the mist of a lot of stress and demands. So I am going to end the night with the good feeling of all that I want to accomplish without the reality of actually making a plan. And I'm okay with that. I'm sure that no matter what I do the new year will be a nice mix of happy and sad, good and bad, and a lot of ordinary days. That is just how life is, no matter what we do. Still, I want to add a little more meaning for myself to it all. And I will. Starting tomorrow.

Happy new year! Welcome 2014! For better or worse (and likely a mix of both) here we go.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bubba Teeth

My friend's mom passed away today. My heart is breaking for her. I was thinking about our group of friends and the heartaches we have all suffered in last few years. And as I was thinking one question came to my mind: "Where is the picture of us with our Bubba Teeth?"

Before I get to the story of  the Bubba Teeth, I want to give a little background about this group of friends. We call ourselves the Polyester Sisters because one thing we have in common is the history of being incredibly embarrassed by the crazy polyester (double-knit polyester to be specific) that our mom's wore. We embraced it. Made a joke about it. Make quilts out of it. And made it our identifier. But our love of polyseter (the double-knit kind) is not the most amazing part of our group. The amazing part is that we have been friends for life. Literally. Like since birth. And more amazing than that? Our parents are friends. And some of us are relatives. It's a little complicated to explain the details of how each of us are connected to our parents. It's not really that necessary. Through the years I have learned that something I took for granted is not all that common. And while I think it is great that there are friendships that have been together since High School, or the first grade, in my head I silently think that to me that feels a little late to start a friendship and then I realize how unique, and dare I say lucky, us polyester sisters are.

We are lucky in friendship. But we haven't been lucky in all areas of our lives. And that is where the Bubba teeth come in. One of our sisters lost a baby, unexpectedly and without any good explanation, a few weeks before the baby was due to be born. Tragic. Heart breaking. We all mourned with her. At this same time one of my sisters (by blood and by polyester) was preparing to move herself and her four small children across the world to a different country AND send her husband to war all at the same time. Terrifying. Overwhelming. We empathized with her unimaginable anxiety at this situation. And these two things were on top of the other stresses and heartbreaks of everyday life. Things like jobs and unemployment. Wayward children and feuding family members. Depression in ourselves and others. Unrealized dreams. As was our style we gathered together at someone's house to just be together. For some reason that night we ended up at the store. Honestly, I can't remember why. But as we were leaving the store someone spied the candy machine full of Bubba Teeth. We wanted them. We all wanted them. Our hearts were heavy and our reflexes slow. We stood looking at them for some time and discussing our temptation to buy them but lamented the fact that we didn't have any quarters. Was it worth getting change fore? And then one sister (the one who had lost the baby) smiled and reached into her purse. She pulled out a bag of quarters that she had either because she collected them from her rental property's coin laundry or she used them to run her rental property's coin laundry, I can't remember which. But I remember the feeling of "meant to be" as we made the quick decision to put them to use. As soon as the teeth came out of the machine the entered our mouths. And the giggles started. We laughed and laughed and laughed. We made our way back to the house. We laughed more. We took pictures and laughed while we did it. And then I think we probably did some more crying. But in the middle, in the sea of sorrow and fear, we had an oasis of laughter based on those silly Bubba teeth.  I kept those Bubba teeth in my car for months after that. And now and then, when life seemed bleak or overwhelming I would put them in and smile.

I have been struggling with sorrow lately (as I stated in my previous post) and figuring out how to be happy while there is so much sorrow in the world. I have had a question, that I know I had an answer to before but I couldn't find one to now: How can I be happy when there is so much sorrow?  Isn't it insensitive to laugh when others are crying? Isn't it disrespectful to the sorrow, to laugh while we grieve? For weeks I have been struggling for an answer. And today it came to me..... in a memory of Bubba teeth. Life, without laughter, isn't life. We need the laughter with the sorrow. We need the laughter to make life worth living in spite of all the sorrow. Without the laughter (ie happiness) we would have no loss to mourn. As I pondered this concept I remembered the thoughts that my sister wrote before she died. They were her parting thoughts, things she wanted to say to us that she had loved after she was gone. I treasure these words from her. The first thing in them is "Don't cry. Yeah right, me the big cry baby. Of course you can cry. But please laugh too. I have loved laughing with all of you." There it is, from someone in the midst of the sorrow. She was experiencing it for herself and the cause of it for the rest of us. And in her wisdom, at her parting, she gave us permission to cry and laugh together. And she told us how much it meant to her that she had been able to laugh with each of us in her life. It's just like a big sister to teach you something even after they are dead. It's okay to laugh. It is more than okay, it is necessary. Life is full of tears. In my little group of polyester sisters that totals only eleven people from only six different families we have lost to death a total of four parents, four children, and four siblings. And that only accounts for the sorrows that come from death. There are so many other avenues for sorrow in addition to death.

Sorrow will never go away. And I understand now that the only thing we can do to really deal with it is to make sure that laughter and joy never go away either. The truest sorrow of all would be if we had no joy to mourn losing.

So to my friend tonight who has lost her mother to death, I mourn with you. My heart aches for you. I have cried with you today and I plan to cry with you in a few days at the funeral, and in the days between now and then, and the days that follow. And in addition to all this crying you have my word that I will also laugh with you. We laughed today. And we will probably laugh together at the funeral and in the days between now and then. And we will for sure laugh many times and for many reasons in the days that follow. As your friend I promise you this. Because sorrow is a part of life, laughter must be also. And the truest of friendships and the most resilient of lives are those where laughter and tears exist together.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


The other day I came home from work feeling very down and discouraged. It had been a tough several weeks at work with a lot of sick kids that just kept getting sicker. That day one story that we thought was getting happy suddenly got sad again. As I walked out of work that day I decided that I really, once and for all, needed to quit this job. And almost as soon as I thought of it I heard a firm "No!" answer in my head. Or my soul. I have been wanting to quit for a while. To stay home with my kids. This is a reason I could be at piece with quitting over. But quitting because times are tough and it is hard to see so much suffering is not acceptable to me. Right now I am having a hard time understanding why, but I know firmly that it is not.

I drove home that day with a very heavy heart. The image of a mom standing over a bed, looking down at a tiny baby that was struggling to breath and open her eyes, connected to many, many tubes attempting to save her, the mom's husband's arms wrapped around her shoulders, tears streaming down the mom's face. How do I make sense of this, again? I got out of my car and started the walk to my own house, trying to figure out how to switch gears from mourning with those who mourn to being a happy and upbeat mom to my kids. (It's not that I don't believe that mom's should be allowed to mourn, or that kids should see it, or that I have to be upbeat all the time. But I learned a long time ago that it is not fair to me or my friends and family, or practical, to take mourning home from work every day.) I thought I would have a couple minutes to sort it out and switch gears as I made my way up the elevator and down the hall to my own apartment. But as I opened the door to the building I heard children laughing. My children. I was washed over with love and joy and gratitude. And guilt. As I put a smile on my face and swooped up my own little one and kissed her all over I couldn't reconcile my good luck with the tear-streaked face I had left at the hospital.

One of the things you have to learn early on if you work in a hospital or any field where you are constantly exposed to suffering is how to cope with it. How do you live a happy life when you are exposed to so much sorrow? You learn that you can't take all the emotions home if you want to continue to work in the job. You have to figure out how to make peace with it. One of the ways I had made amends was to realize that  I too would have my days of suffering. I would have my moments of loss and mourning. But if it wasn't my turn I didn't need to take on the emotions of those who were currently having their turn. After all, before their own heartache they had been able to rejoice and live life day to day - I should have that same experience. It wasn't that I lost the ability to have empathy or to support those who are grieving. On the contrary. I am filled with empathy. In countless ways I am a stronger and softer and more understanding person because of my role of being a witness to sorrow. And when I am with the person I am completely present, and sensitive, and sincere. My heart truly and completely aches for and with them. But when I leave I try to separate and re-enter my own life.

This "strategy" of remembering that it is not my sorrow, that I will have my own sorrow and it is not my turn has always been rather effective for me. And I would think that based on that I would be "coping" even better at this time. After all, I have just (and am still) experiencing my own personal sorrow. I just buried my sister, much too soon, and after much too much suffering. I am carrying my own cross of grief right now, which makes me think that I would be more willing and able to not carry others' grief too. But what I realize is that I have never completely separated my grief from theirs and refused to carry it. I realize it is not possible. All grief is connected. Because I have had my own loss I am more sensitive to the loss others are experiencing. And because I am carrying my own weight, I have less room to carry others. Even though in my heart and soul I really, really want to. But I'm tired from carrying my own. And from watching so many others carry theirs. And I am tired. Exhausted. But not just physically. My soul is tired. Their is too much sad. Too much.

So why can't I be at piece with quitting? I know I am not alone in this desire. I talk a lot with my co-workers about this. We are all tired. We all entered this field because we wanted to help people. And it is painful to realize again and again that while your heart and intents are in the right place, things are often out of your control. One of my co-workers worries that her son's Birthday has forever been ruined for her because one of our patients died suddenly on his Birthday and now every Birthday party she has for her son reminds her of a patient she feels like she failed, and his family left behind to mourn, on the day she is meant to celebrate. She knows she can't take it all on herself, but she struggles yearly with how to be happy when others are mourning. We talk together about our "second careers". One of my friends and co-workers second career dream is to be a bagger at a grocery store where the biggest question she has to ask each day is "paper or plastic". No one lives or dies based on this question. Or gets offended. Or has their life turned upside down forever. Before I started working at the hospital I had a job in a law office and I spent a lot of time filing. I used to alphabetize folders and think about how I wish I had a job that had more meaning. Now there are many days when I craze to alphabetize. Just me and the alphabet. It is set. It is all decided. It is virtually impossible for me to screw it up. And no one is crying about the alphabet or mourning the life that should have been. Common second careers include opening a bakery, working in a flower shop or a book store and being a travel consultant. My own second career involves me writing a column for a magazine. From home. In my pajamas. On hard days we talk about our second careers a lot. But most of us show up to our "first career" again the next day. And the reason why is what I am trying to answer for myself in this moment.

They say some professions are not so much jobs as callings. I guess to an extent I believe this. And in my own life I feel like I am doing the job that I was meant to do. And one of the reasons I keep showing up is because I feel like I belong there. At some point I realized that while it hurts to witness suffering the suffering would not disappear just because I wasn't seeing it. If a person cries and no one is around, the person is still crying. And it doesn't seem fair to me to leave someone crying just because I don't want to hear it. It doesn't seem fair to me to turn my back and walk away just because I can. I want to be there. The paradox is that while it hurts me to see so much suffering, I receive some relief knowing that I was present, that I didn't turn my back, that I (hopefully) did something to help. And while I understand the importance of good boundaries for self-preservation, I also understand that their is a peace that comes from walking into the fire rather than walking around it. And I don't want the fire to be stronger than me. I believe that is where the firm "no" came from when I wanted to quit. Quitting is okay. I hope I might be able to do it someday. But I need to do it on my terms. Not on sorrows terms. I don't want sorrow to win the battle. I don't really know how to fight it right now. I know in the past I knew, but I have forgotten. The only thing I remember is that I shouldn't let it win and there is a reason and a way. And for now, until I remember the res, I guess this needs to be enough.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Preserving Energy

There has been some drama in my extended family and it has been exhausting. People are talking mean about other people and getting easily offended. Accusations are flying along with half truths and assumptions. Not to get into the details, but to give you an idea what I am talking about it involves land and money that was my grandpa's when he was alive. You know, totally material things that really don't matter in the grand scheme of things. Why is it that we are so guilty of wasting so much time and energy in this life on the things that won't matter a bit in the next? I have stayed mostly silent on the issue because I can't keep up on what the issue really is anyway. But yesterday in a moment of weakness I joined the conversation, only to be met with a counter attack. It was the first time I inserted myself and the last. Honestly it's not about anger for me. It's about exhaustion. I have been exhausted by the family situation, and I learned yesterday that I am even more exhausted by efforts to address the situation. I am in a period of my life of significantly limited energy so I need to preserve what I have. I have decided that for now I will only focus my energy on things that 1-) I have some control over and 2-) are positive in my life. To get myself started I made a list of ten things I can do that meets these requirements:

1- Fold laundry, imagine how cute my kids look in their clothes, put them away and admire "the laundry
     chair" being clean (such a rarity!).
2- Watch The Bachelorette (I know it is weird, but it really does fit. Somehow that show indulges me in a
     world of fantasy while at the same time making me appreciate my own life more than ever)
3- Sing a long to the radio in my car at the top of my lungs. Dance along a little too.
4- Sew something. Anything. Preferably for my kids.
5- Spend less time on Facebook and more time reading a book
6- Call my sister and inevitable talk for hours, probably mostly about things that are out of our control
7- Take a walk. Stop to smell the roses.
8- Try out a new hairstyle. Get a new cut if I am really brave.
9- Jump on the bed. Invite my kids to join me.
10- Take a bath. With bubbles. And a good book. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Boy, this grief is something else! I knew my sister was dying and I tried to imagine what it would be like. I tried to prepare myself. I learned right away, I think the moment I got the call that she was gone, that it is impossible to prepare oneself for a grief like this. My wise friend and colleague said that she has heard this from people before and (this is the wise part) you can't prepare yourself for grief because it is not a cognitive process, it is an emotional one. I have been talking with one of my sisters a lot. She is angry. All the time. She says that mean thoughts go through her head constantly and she is annoyed with people over the smallest of things. Yep. That's grief for you. Another sister says she isn't angry at people, she just doesn't have the patience for them because she knows that they don't know what she is going through and she doesn't want to bother explaining it to them. She has detached herself from people. Yep. That is grief too. Me, I am sad all the time. I feel depressed. I have never actually felt depressed before but I have encountered it a lot in my personal and professional life so I recognize the signs and symptoms. I sit in my car trying to get the energy and motivation to something. Anything. I always tell people that I think medicine can be a very good thing for depression. I think maybe I should get some medication. Only thing is, it's not depression. It's grief. I think this is the worst part of it all: you can't medicate grief. In fact, you can't really do anything for it but let time work its magic. I guess you can do some things. Like I talk to my sisters a lot. I spend a lot of time staring at pictures of Joydell. I think about it, almost constantly, and try to work through all the spiritual questions it has raised for me and what I really believe after all. I think of how she would want me to live my life and I try to do it. But in the end, she is still gone and I am still hurting. Because while you can do things to support yourself (and others) through grief, there is nothing that makes it better or takes it away. I'm a fixer. I think most of us are fixers. If something is lost we find or replace it. If something is confusing we do our research and find the answer. If something is broken we fix it. But you can't fix grief. You just have to wait it through. Honestly, I can't imagine how I will ever not hurt this badly when I think about my sister. In fact, it seems to me that with time I will just hurt more because it will have been longer since I have heard her voice, held her hand, laughed with her, listened to her stories and her opinions. But everyone tells me that with time it hurts less. And so I am trusting in that. And in the meantime I am getting through it one minute at a time.

As I type this I realize that the last thing I want to hear is someone telling me that it will get better. I have learned a lot about grief from this experience and what I do and don't want from people. There is a good chance that not everyone feels the same as I do. But there is also a good chance that many people do and that, if not exactly the same, what all grieving people find supportive will be pretty similar. Here is what I have found is helpful.

1- Talk to me about my sister. I love her dearly and think of her constantly so it is just natural that I would want to talk about her. Talking about her helps me keep the memories alive. It helps me to validate my feelings about her and about her death. But let me guide the conversation. Let me talk about what I want to talk about. It's okay to ask questions, this shows interest. But please ask questions that show interest and not questions that are to satisfy your own curiosity and feel invasive to my grief or her dignity.

2- Acknowledge what she meant to me. I have noticed that often in grief people like to jump on the bandwagon. I saw this with my sister. I have seen it even more with some of the "high profile deaths" that you see on the news or that are extra unexpected or dramatic. People get caught up in it and talk about how sad it is, and I think they really do feel sad. But then their lives go on. For those who were extra close to the loved one life is never the same. I remember walking away from my sisters grave site and at that moment it hit me why I was annoyed by some of the people that had come to grieve my sister's death that hadn't really been that close in life: they walked away, acknowledged the sorrow of the situation, and went on with their lives. I don't fault them for coming to grieve with us. I appreciate the support and their kindness. But when I walked away from the grave site, like so many others that were really close to my sister, I was taking some of the hardest steps anyone ever takes. I was just starting to grieve and figure out life without her. We shared some of my sister's experience with others on Facebook. It's how most of us do a lot of things these days. I really appreciated joining with others in this forum to grieve together. (My sister lived our of state for most of her life and so the people loving and grieving her were physically disconnected. Facebook connected us, and I loved that.) One of the things that touched me the most is when people would say "Pray for her family". For me this acknowledged the special role she had in our lives and the grief that is unique to family, and really close friends, that the other grievers don't experience.

3- Acknowledge what I am feeling. I'm feeling sad, angry, confused, lonely (even with others right next to me), and tired. Acknowledge how hard it is to feel all of these things. And then say you are sorry and show genuine concern. Don't tell me the positives of the situation or that others have it worse. Don't rush me in my grief. Don't try to cheer me up. I'm not ready to cheer up. I have good reason to not be cheery right now. And don't say too much. You don't have to fix it. You can't fix it. Please just share your love and kindness.

4- Be gentle with me and forgiving. I'm not doing my best work right now, in my job or in my friendships. But I am doing the best I can. I may not be fun for you to be around. I'm not fun for myself to be around either. I may not give you my full attention. My attention is wrapped up in memories of my sister and questions of life after death and replaying the events of her life and death in my head. As you can imagine, it doesn't leave a lot of room for me to think about other things. Even your good news. I'm sorry, but it won't last forever. Please be patient with me. I may show up with my hair not washed and my clothes not ironed. And my house is probably a huge mess. I'm trying, but I am tired. Grieving is exhausting and sometimes things like cleaning and ironing just don't get done. Please don't criticize me for it or worry that I am falling apart completely and need serious help. I'm just putting a lot of energy into grieving right now.

5- Don't give up on me. I know I am not a lot of fun to be around right now. Grief can feel very selfish. But I am not really the one being selfish, the grief is selfish - it takes everything. I may not answer my phone or return calls right away. Please don't stop calling me. I need people in my life. I need to know you are there when I am ready to laugh again and talk about frivolous things. I may be a bump on a log right now, but sometimes I need to be a bump on a log next to someone rather than all alone. Sometimes being alone terrifies me, like I will suffocate with sadness. Even if I am not adding a lot to the conversation or laughing at the right times let me be with you. 

6- Don't get freaked out by the things I say. I remember a mom I worked with once say at that death of her young daughter that she didn't want to be on this earth without her. I admit, it freaked me out. Did she want to kill herself? And what about her three surviving children, wasn't it insensitive to them to say she didn't want to be here when they were still here? But now I get it. I have said it. I don't want to be on this earth without my sister. I don't want to. But there are a lot of things I don't want to do. Like get out of bed, go to work, pay bills, do laundry and more. But I do them. So while I don't want to be on this earth without my sister, I will be here without her. When I say I don't want to be here without her it doesn't mean I want to leave, it means I want her to be here with me. I didn't understand this when I talked with that young mother. I'm embarrassed by it. And I'm sad because I feel like I failed her but freaking out and over-thinking what she said. If I could go back in time I would simply say, "I know you don't. Being here without her doesn't feel right. She should be here with you." 

7- Don't get freaked out by me. I don't understand everything I am experiencing myself. Like the way I can hold my two amazing children that mean the world to me and somehow not feel joy when I look into their eyes. Or the way that I do sometimes feel that if I had the choice (and I realize I really don't) I would choose to leave this earth and everyone on it to be with her (including those two kids of mine). Or how I can sit for hours and do practically nothing. Or how I cry out of nowhere. Or similarly, somehow merge seamlessly from laughing to crying. Please don't get freaked out. Just stick with me. And remember that I have experienced a big loss and my world is trying to sort itself out and resettle. And then remind me of this because doing so will help me to feel less freaked out myself. 

Those are the things that come to mind right now. I don't know if they are profound or if they even make any sense (refer to number four) but they come straight from my grieving heart. Sometimes I really hate that knowledge comes from experience. I wish I could have my sister back and unlearn all the things I listed above. But we don't always get to make these kind of decisions in life and, as stated in number seven, life is full of doing things we don't want to do (another thing it turns out my mom was right about). I'm not into playing Polyanna. In fact, I really hate that movie Polyanna. Sometimes life just sucks and it is okay to just acknowledge that and not try to turn it around. So I won't say that my new insight into grief is something positive that came from this situation. I'm not interested in thinking about the positives that came from my sister suffering and dying much to soon and leaving us all behind. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Acting Big

Midnight. It's the first week of May. It was two and a half weeks ago that they told us they estimated she had three weeks left, tops. But the doctor assured us that she had been wrong before. I wonder if she will be wrong this time. I can't predict anything about this situation anymore. Except that I know how it ends. I just don't know when or what happens in the meantime. It was a beautiful day in April when we they gave us the news. I thought how cruel it was to get that news on such a beautiful day in April. She had made it through the cold and snow of winter in Utah. We had made it through the flu season without her catching any of the many illnesses that were going around, illnesses that would have been detrimental to her fragile lungs. And now, with summer on the horizon they were telling us that it was all coming to an end.

Tonight, as I have done many nights in the last two and a half weeks, I put my babies to bed and kissed my husband goodnight. Then I got in the car and drove the 20 minutes to my brother's house where she is staying. Our plan tonight was to watch a movie. I hoped that would happen. But I didn't know if I would watch a movie or watch her sleep. I never can predict these things these days. I ended up doing a little of each. As I turned off the TV and told her goodnight I wondered how I had ended up in this situation. It doesn't seem real. I am 36 years old, but in the room with her I feel like I am ten. I feel like a little girl who is "acting big". I don't know what else to do. I don't know what I am doing. I am muddling through, doing my best, all the while trying to convince myself that it is real. I am trying not to hide or shrink from it. I'm doing my best to avoid future regrets. I want to get every minute I can with her. I want to add more love and memories to our jar, knowing that I won't be able to make any more deposits soon and I will have to live on what is in there for the rest of my life. I am trying to be true to her, to my role as a sister. I am trying to love in actions and not just words. I am trying to protect myself from regret and heartaches far worse than death. I am trying to be true to myself and what I know to be true. But mostly, I am just trying to show up. I believe that showing up is the most important thing, 90% of the battle. So for her sake and for mine I am trying to show up. And I pray that while I muddle through the other 10% something will go right. That somehow in a situation where it all seems so wrong, something will seem right. For now, and for all the days to come with this a part of my memory and a piece of who I am now. For her sake and for mine I just want to keep showing up. And maybe while I am "acting big" I will actually grow enough to absorb the impact of it all.