Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last Day of the Year

Today’s post is part two of yesterday’s ending the year with gratitude theme.  I wanted to share a snapshot of some joyful moments this past year.

· There was a particularly warm day in February.  Our house had just gone under contract.  The projects that Billy and I had been feverishly working on for a month were over with.  So on this warm day, we sat outside in our tshirts, drank beer, soaked up some sunshine and dreamed about what life would be like when we found our next house.

· A few months later when we closed on the house we purchased, I drove by the house on the way home from work.  We closed that morning but didn’t have occupancy for a few more days.  I drove in the valley that night and had a full heart knowing that our dream was coming true.

· Sister Runner and I ran a half marathon together.  Now while the actual running was a bit of a burden, I am grateful that I have the ability to run.  And the scenery was amazing.  And Sister Runner was incredibly motivating.  And she posed with me every time she saw one of the photographers.  She’s hilarious.

· The night during those dark days in August when we went to bed and Katy wanted to talk all about my mom and how special she was. 

· Halloween night we had a bonfire with the neighbors.  We stayed up late (way past my 8 pm bedtime) and laughed.

· The day my dad closed on his houses.  Seeing his relief and finally some hope again for the future.

· Watching Lucy in the church Christmas pageant.  My quiet Lucy had a speaking part.  This Christmas was a difficult one, and seeing the confidence Lucy had in herself made my heart joyful.

· This current vacation that I’m taking.  I’m enjoying some much needed time off.  And not that work has been so overwhelming, but I have been in such a desperate need of a break from the day to day.  We have organized, hung up pictures and stayed in my pajamas.  I already feel rejuvenated and still have a few days left.

I’m hopeful that 2015 will bring more joyful moments than sad ones.

I’m hopeful that 2015 will bring some much needed healing to my family.

Seems fitting to end the year with hope.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Positive Notes

As this year draws to a close, I can’t help but feel relief.

Some of you had a great 2014.  I get that.  I am genuinely happy for you.

Some of us had a 2014 that….left a lot to be desired.

To be honest, this year was heartbreaking with joyous moments filled in the cracks. 

And it would be really easy for me to get down on this year.  But leaving the year with negativity is not how I want it to end.

I’d rather end this year with a spirit of gratitude.  Gratitude for those people and moments that have helped me get through.

So for the next two days, let’s focus on that.  Let’s focus on the positive from 2014.

Today, I would like to share a bit about some special people from this year.

· My family rallied like no other.  Those two weeks in August were obviously the worst of my life.  I am grateful for the people I spent them with.  I can’t describe the exhaustion we all felt.  It seemed that when one of us was fading, another would carry this burden.  I am grateful that I didn’t have to experience those dark days of August alone.  And on that note, when I found out the news about my mom, the news that it was time to say goodbye, I am so grateful that Sister Runner just happened to be visiting.  I hope she gets a real vacation in 2015.

· While I thought I had a challenging year, Sewer Sister had way more obstacles.  I am so grateful that she is healthy.  And I am grateful that her children did such a good job taking care of her.

· My brave dad is daring to continue his dream.  He is teaching me that life must go on, even when we don’t know how. 

· Billy is steady and strong and keeps the balance in this house.  He keeps his opinions of my crazy trauma to himself, or at least voices them when I am out of earshot.  He carries the burdens when they get too heavy.

· My beautiful girls have handled so much change this year with grace and positivity.  They are quick to give a hug when they sense I am feeling down.  And they are always up for a marathon of Doctor Who. 

· When we were in between houses, Billy’s parents took us in.  Even our ridiculous animals.  They always made us feel welcome.  I still miss happy hour with his mom. 

· I am grateful for old friends.  Friends that provided kind words during hard times. 

· I am blessed to have coworkers that I consider friends.  They were there in those first weeks of my mom’s diagnosis, to picking up the slack when I had to disappear in August, and have been understanding of my trauma since I got back.  Their prayers, good thoughts and words of encouragement have helped me regain my confidence as a professional helper.

· When Billy and I moved this summer, we knew the location was amazing.  I had no idea that the neighbors could match.  We have had bonfires, parties and just everyday fun that I have so desperately needed. 

These people have helped me through 2014.  I suppose that’s when you understand how important people are to you.  When they help you carry on during those dark moments.

I want to say to all of you, thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you for bringing humor back into my life.  Thank you for giving me hope in the darkness.  Thank you for being part of my life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


I have to say, it was a bit challenging celebrating a day of thankfulness this year.
A couple of years ago, people started posting what they were thankful for every day in November.  I really loved reading those.  But then I noticed the negativity set in when others would post, “we should be grateful every day, not just in November.”   Were they really getting upset over someone else’s gratitude?  I think those people missed the point of the exercise. 

There is power in words.  And there is power in being grateful.  On purpose.  Even when the world seems to suck at times.
Gratitude can change perspective.  Gratitude heals.

So here are some things that I am grateful for…right now.  Because I need this right now.  I need to be intentional with my gratitude.
· My oldest sister visited over Thanksgiving and cleaned the worst baking pan known to mankind.

· I found amusement in watching my stick-thin niece get creative with her many helpings of Thanksgiving dinner.  An open faced turkey, gravy and mashed potato sandwich.  Genius.
· I finally got to watch the second Hobbit movie.  In my pajamas.

· I was more active this weekend then I have been in weeks.  Hiking, biking and “yoga.”  Quotes are necessary if you would have seen my moves.
· Although going back to work after a long weekend was difficult, I was grateful to return to a job that I love.  And I am grateful for the memory of when I found out I got this job. My mom was in the grocery store parking lot with me, and we got to share that special moment.

· And I’m grateful that in a moment of intense grief, when I silently wondered how I could ever return to this work and listen to other people’s pain, that an old friend of my mom’s told me that I was doing the work I was meant to do.  And she couldn’t have possibly known how much I wanted to run away from this work…and how much I needed her to tell me to stay.
How does that happen?  How does it go from movies in my pajamas to serious?  This grief thing has a mind of its own.

Certainly this list doesn’t capture everything.
But the point isn’t to capture everything.

This is about the power of gratitude.  The power of saying that despite life being hard, there is still good in the world.  This is about hope.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Sometimes I think, I need a few days off from writing.
And then it’s 17 days later.

The grief has been weighing me down this month.
I have been quiet with this burden, so it has been coming out in other ways.

I haven’t been sleeping well.
I’ve been forgetful.

Things are foggy.
I felt lighter in October.  Even through the bad days, I was still moving forward.

Maybe all of that daily self-reflection that was painful at times was actually clearing my mind.
Maybe this is grief exhaustion.  Is that even a term?  Seems fitting though.

Time to regroup.  Get back to those things that help my soul.
Move forward again.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Last Day

Well, here we are.  Day 31.
Out of the past few years of this challenge, this has been the hardest.

I want to thank you for following along. 
These posts certainly haven’t been easy to write.  Big Faith took me a few days to finish.  I’m not sure exactly why.  The emotions rose to the top every time I started working on it.

I’m sure that for my family, these posts haven’t been the easiest to read.
But this is where I am.

Sometimes, feeling raw and exposed.
Other times, feeling hopeful.

And on the occasional day, moving forward.

This post concludes my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

When the Words Finally Came

I’ve mentioned before how hard it was for months to post anything.  My writing was pretty much non-existent.
My mind was so full of chaos.

And then my dad asked me to write something to say at my mom’s funeral.
And the words had to come.

I thought about posting some of what I wrote before and decided against it.
But it feels right now.  For a couple of reasons.  There were many people who loved my mom, and it wasn’t possible for them to come to her funeral.  I thought these words might bring them comfort.

And the other reason is that this week has been a hard week.  And for no other reason than I miss my mom.  Sometimes in this grief, the sadness is so deep.  I want to remember the life that my mom had.  The special person that she was.
So here it is, folks.  I made some edits for privacy reasons and took out the greeting/ending.  Otherwise, here we go.  My mom.

Mom had a life well lived.  She had a life full of family and friends. 

If you had ever been to any of Mom and Dad’s homes, you knew that Mom loved to garden.  When we moved, the house was new and the yard was a bit… limited.  In fact, half of the back yard was covered in straw to hold down the grass seed.  But Mom and Dad knew that it could be special.  Over the years they added trees, planting beds, statues and Dad’s wood working creations.  Mom’s garden statues made her so happy.  When you would visit their home, Mom loved to give a tour of her planting beds.  When she would visit us kids, she was happy to bring her gardening gloves and dig right in to make our homes special too.

Mom was silly.  Mom loved to have fun.  Mom loved to laugh.  A few years ago, some of us were home the weekend of the Kentucky derby.  Mom organized a betting pool for the winning horse.  We printed out pictures of the horses and had to pin a picture of our horse to our shirt, and of course, because it was the Derby, we had to wear a big hat, selected from the vast amount of dress up clothes that she kept for her grandkids.  She would stay up late playing cards with the family.  She loved to win at a game of Scrabble.  She would throw herself right in a tournament of volleyball or ladder ball.  She would worry about you if you hadn’t played your turn yet in a Words with Friends game (and perhaps get a little impatient with you too).  She loved to cheer on the Chicago Cubs, sing during the seventh inning stretch and celebrate with the Go Cubs Go song after a win.

Mom had a way of making everything special.  Mom loved to send cards.  Years ago, Mom had a greeting card program on the computer.  She loved to make us personalized cards.  She always remembered special occasions.  When she was shopping for a gift, she was incredibly thoughtful.  Over the years, Mom would make us special birthday cakes, always personalized with something that was special to us.  For sixteenth birthdays, she would decorate the cake as a driver’s license with our face in it, she might add a special cartoon character or toy as the decoration.  Mom and Dad’s home was filled with Mom’s special treasures.  Souvenirs from trips, inspirational sayings, pictures of family.

For many years, Mom had a career working outside the home, but to be honest, I will always think of Mom as a homemaker.  Mom had a special gift of creating an inviting home and making people feel welcome.  She would prepare special meals for guests-a big pot of her chicken and noodles or lasagna.  She was always thoughtful of special touches that would make people feel welcome.  If you were coming to visit, she would make sure that she had things that you liked to eat.  Growing up, Mom took in our friends and made them feel welcome.  As we grew, she welcomed our spouses as if they had always been a part of our family.

The other night, one of my daughters was talking about Mom and she said, “She was a very special lady to me.”  I’m sure that we all feel that same way about Mom.  Mom was a kind woman who made friends easily.  She was loved by many.  She had lifelong friends who lifted her spirits during hard times.  She treasured visits with her siblings and their families.  She was embraced by my dad’s family and was always seen as a sister, not an in-law.

Mom loved her family deeply.  She provided comfort after a bad day.  When we were struggling, Mom would send an encouraging note (in most recent years through email) to let us know that she was thinking of us. She had a daily calendar full of inspirational quotes.  If she felt the day’s quote would provide comfort, she would let us know.  She cheered us on and encouraged us always.  Sometimes even cheering some of us on during the Illinois Marathon with her signs and cow bells. 

She loved being a grandma.  She liked to pick out a small toy or treasure for them.  She liked to bake with her grandkids.  She would sit down on the floor with the kids and play with toys, dress up clothes, color or work on a puzzle.  These moments brought Mom so much joy.  And as the grandkids grew, she was so proud of the adults they were becoming.

Last year, Mom and Dad celebrated 50 years of marriage.  Their journey together spanned six children and eleven grandchildren.  Mom’s love for Dad was a quiet one.  It was an undercurrent that was present through the ordinary tasks of daily life, like ironing Dad’s shirts, to standing close to Dad during the struggles that we all endure in life.  Watching them in quiet moments, you could catch a glimpse of these two young kids from Nebraska that chose to make a life together and were still in love all these years later.

 Mom was a woman of big faith.  She had a favorite bible verse from Phillippians that we included in the program because it was so important to her.  Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”  She kept it on the fridge as a constant reminder. 

I used to think that verse meant that if we were patient, life would have a way of working out.  But sometimes life doesn’t work out.  And Mom knew that.  What I think Mom was trying to teach us when she would quote this verse is that faith is about letting go of our expectations out of life and appreciating the quiet beauty.  Mom knew that life doesn’t always work out the way we want.  And most times, there is no answer why things don’t work out.  Life has pain and grief.  But we have to carry on.  We have to be grateful of the people around us and those special moments that we are given. 

I hope that we remember that. I hope that we are grateful of the moments we were given with this special lady.  I hope those moments bring us comfort when the waves of grief seem too much.  That’s how we can honor Mom’s kind, loving spirit.


This post is part of my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Rising

Sometimes this grief gets the best of me.

I think I’m ok.

And then I realize that I’m not paying attention to anyone.  I’m counting down the hours again.
I’m drifting.

This feeling rises up.
Sometimes I can’t stop it.

Sometimes it’s a memory that brings it.
Sometimes it’s nothing at all.

Sometimes I can’t talk about it.

Because there is nothing to say.
I miss my mom.  I am heartbroken.

Sometimes as quickly as this feeling comes, it goes back down again.
Until the next time.

This post is part of my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here.

Big Faith

I’ve thought a lot about my faith this year.

And how it waivers.

And how it’s hard to maintain hope.
I think about my mom and her big faith.  Big faith is being diagnosed with cancer and telling your family to pray, instead of worry.

I wonder if I could be a person like that.
A person who is tested beyond measure and still has hope.  A person who sees the storm clouds and knows that whatever happens, God is by their side. 

I think about how unfair life can be.
No one ever told me life was fair, though.

And faith isn’t about fairness or getting what I want.  It’s about generous mercy.  And grace.  And love.
And not being alone.

And when I think about my faith these past months, that is what has brought the most comfort.
I am not alone.

This song gets me….
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

Those moments in the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, when I am feeling heartbroken, when I miss my mom so much that it hurts to breathe, I am not alone.
Those moments when I am fearful of living, scared of what will happen next, unable to love without fear, I am not alone.

I feel it in the most broken pieces of my heart. 
I am not alone.

Maybe in those hopeless moments, that is what my mom wanted us to know.  She wanted us to pray.  She wanted us to reach out instead of trying to take on those heavy burdens by ourselves. 
Because we are not alone.

This post is part of my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here.


Sometimes all of this self-reflection can be painful.
We are in the final stretch of 31 posts over 31 days.  These 31 days without a theme.  Messy grief could be a theme.

And I’m relieved that these 31 days are almost over.
Writing these posts has been like poking a wound.

And it was completely unintentional.
I didn’t set out to write about grief and pain.  And I certainly didn’t mean to expose this vulnerability.  Obviously, this is what is on my heart.

Unfortunately, the end of the 31 days doesn’t mean the end of these feelings.
That’s the thing about grief.  One moment, I think I am ok, focused at work, and it seems like a moment later, I am missing my mom.  These feelings rise to the surface so quickly at times and then return to the broken part of my heart where they came from.

There’s no predictability here.
I suppose that’s why this feels messy.

Messy and painful.
And real.

This post is part of my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here.


 The weather finally changed here…at least for a day or two.
We have had a very mild fall.  Lots of 70s and near 80s and plenty of sunshine.

Earlier this week, I watched the storm clouds hover over the mountains.  I knew that eventually they would come down.
Reminds me of months ago, seeing the storm clouds.

Sometimes the winds shift and the clouds don’t come down.
Hope is that feeling that the winds will shift.  Or that the storm will pass through, and everything will be fine.

But the clouds did come down.
The reality of life two months ago is that the winds didn’t shift.  And the storm was worse than it appeared in the distance.

There is one thing about this storm.
There’s no going back to the darkest days.

Those are behind us.
Now we are left with moments.  Some moments feel like the sun is shining through.  Others feel like the worst part of the storm.

I know that one day, those moments with the sun on our face will last longer than the others.

This post is part of my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Sometimes I wonder how the girls are doing with all the change.
My insightful Lucy has been pretty quiet.  I know that one day, it’s going to all come out.

It’s Katy’s brutal honesty that I think captures what we are all feeling right now.
Last night, we were snuggling in my bed, winding down after a full day of activity.

Katy looked at me and said, “I wish Grandma wasn’t dead.”
Yeah, me too.

I appreciate how she doesn’t sugar coat the raw pain that we are all feeling.  She doesn’t dance around this grief.  She confronts it, head on.
In those moments when I feel I have to be another person, I remember Katy’s strength.

I remember that it’s ok that I’m not ok.

This post is part of my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here.

A Hole in My Soul

I’ve had these moments where something good (or bad) happens and the first person I want to talk to is my mom.
It feels empty.

I was warned about this from one of my uncles. 
Apparently this feeling is never going to go away.

And when I start to feel sad about that, I hear my mom saying, I’m still with you.
But it’s not the same.

And while I am grateful that I know she is with me, I would rather have her really here.

This post is part of my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here.

Sisters' Day

A couple of months ago, the girls created a new holiday.  It’s Sisters’ Day.  It’s on the 4th of every month.
I was working (at the last minute, of course) on sewing a baby shower gift the other night.  We were all downstairs crafting.  Does a weeknight get any better?

The girls were feverishly making gifts because they realized they missed the last Sisters’ Day.
Lucy was practically jumping out of her seat while watching Katy open her gift.

It warmed my heart to see such kindness.
In those dark moments of sadness, I think about the gratitude I feel for these lighter moments. 

The moments that remind me that life keeps going. 

This post is part of my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

At Least

It is a fact that there are other people in the world with more painful circumstances than my own.
Sometimes, in an effort to remind myself of that, I think in “at leasts.”

…at least my mom didn’t suffer for years
…at least I was older when my mom passed

…at least I am ok
Or maybe I am trying to make myself feel better by thinking that I shouldn’t complain because others have it worse.  Honestly, none of those thoughts or the many other “at leasts” that I come up with make me feel better.

Because the pain is still real.  And even if it isn’t the worst pain in the history of the world, it is still my pain. 
I wonder what would happen if I had these thoughts in the context of gratitude.

I am grateful that my mom is at peace.
I am grateful that I had 36 years with my mom.

I am grateful for the memory of a loving mother.
I am grateful that I am surrounded by friends and family to get me through this.

That gratitude brings a lot of pain to the surface.  Simply writing that was painful. 
But it was real.

And hiding behind the “at leasts” isn’t real.  It’s not genuine.  It’s pretending to be ok.
And it’s ok if I am not ok.

This post is part of my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Brain Rest

Do you ever have a dream that you wake up and you are getting ready for the day, only to wake up in real life and realize that you are still in your bed?
That happened to me this morning.  And in the dream I was making coffee, and it was spilling all over me and the floor.

That was kind of a relief to wake up.  Even if I also realized that I fell asleep after the alarm went off.
It was one of those days where I was tired from the beginning, but kept plugging through.  At least I didn’t have spilled coffee to clean up.  This is why I like to prep the coffee maker the night before.  At 5 am and still in a fog of sleep, I haven’t always been that successful making coffee.

Here I am at the end of the day, feeling the same tired as when I woke up.
I want to find an excuse.  But I simply don’t have one.

Sometimes my mind is on overdrive, and I want to have a reason for things, an explanation.  I know that’s human nature, to try to make sense of the world. 
These past months have made me hyperfocused on the figuring out of life.  Seeking understanding when sometimes there is no explanation.

I think that’s why quiet times have become so important to me.  There is nothing to figure out in the stillness.  No distractions. 
And the quiet times don’t mean silence.  It’s watching the penguin show with the girls, it’s running while chasing the girls on their bikes, it’s making a meal for my family, it’s sewing yet another baby shower gift at the last minute.

The quiet times are slower, yet I feel refreshed and energized afterwards. 
Maybe I didn’t have enough quiet in my day today.  Maybe the day was filled with too many to-dos.  That can’t be helped in the working world.

But I can return home and create that here.
I can snuggle in the afghan my grandma made while I type these words.

I can watch Lucy read.
I can watch the dog sleep.

I can listen for the sound of pages turning on the book Katy is reading upstairs.
I can take those small steps to create some quiet tonight. 

Create some rest for my brain.

This post is part of my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here.