Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Kindred Spirits

Almost two years ago, I bought Anne of Green Gables for Lucy.  I never read the book and heard great things about it.  I thought she would enjoy it.  I think she read one chapter. 

A couple of weeks ago, I ran out of my library reading material, so I decided I would read it.

And it left me with one question….

Why haven’t I read this book before???

I love it.

I absolutely love it.  

I’m not done with it though, because I restocked at the library and worked through some new books.  Sometimes I like to take a break in the middle of a story.

This book is really beautiful and has some lovely reflections about life.

There have been moments where I have gotten teary, and this quote absolutely made me cry. 

Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.

And then I rubbed my eyes, after I had been touching red pepper earlier, and I was really crying.

As an introvert, it can be hard connecting with people.  I like to be alone or with my people.  The people who know me best.

This past year has stretched me, being in a new space with a grieving heart.

What I have found is that there are some really lovely people around me.  Brand new people.  People from before that I have gotten to know.  And my old faves. 

These kindred spirits make me laugh.

They listen.

We are silly together. 

We can be still together.

They keep me connected to who I am and who I want to be.

So that quote, I was so touched by it.  I was so grateful that my reality includes kindred spirts…that I cried.

I hope you live in a world with kindred spirits too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Year of Firsts

Here we are folks, over a year out from losing my mom.  What a long journey.

Billy’s mom referred to this as the year of firsts.  Seems appropriate.

It was indeed a year of firsts without Mom.

I read through some old posts tonight, starting from last August through the 31 days in October.  You know, I went through the 31 days last October without a theme.  Looking at it now, the theme probably could have been 31 Days of Surviving Grief.  I read those entries and felt gratitude and relief.  That wasn’t my life anymore.  My life isn’t defined by crushing grief.  While there are still hard days, and I still feel stuck at times, it does not compare to the intensity of last year.

Last week, I thought about what I’ve learned this past year.  So I made a list.  And then I had to edit the list to make some of the language a bit more blog friendly.

· You can’t grow out of needing your parents.

· Some people are real jerks to those who are grieving.  But those people are probably jerks at other times as well.

· The grief never goes away.

· The grief can appear in the most random moments.

·It can be really hard to be a helper when you are dealing with your own crisis.

· When the grief feels consuming, it is time to ask for help.  Even the helpers need helpers.

· Holidays can suck.  Mother’s Day was the absolute worst.

· Support can come in the most unexpected places.  And from the expected ones, of course.

· Routine is healing.

And what I’ve learned from reading through those old posts…hope remains.

There are so many of you who have helped me through this past year.  Some of you have shared some of my darker grief moments.  I want all of you to know how much your thoughts, prayers, actions and words  of encouragement have meant to me.  There is no way I would have made it through this past year without all of your support.  Thank you.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Late July

This feels like the end of summer.

The kids have two weeks left of summer break.  And for those of you who are thinking, that’s a short break, I will reply…my kids need school.  Bad.  And they get a week off in October, so let’s not feel too sorry for them.  For those of who wishing that you were on the same school schedule, your day will come-hang in there.
In a weird turn of events ALL of my siblings are visiting this summer.  I have mentioned that I’m the youngest of six, right?  I haven’t seen most of them since the events of last August, and I have to say, it’s nice visiting when we are not in emotional crisis. 

My writing has pretty much become nonexistent.  Actually, my running has been as well.  But I feel like the source of that has been identified.  I have issues being alone in my head.  Stemming from last August, of course.  You will be happy to note that I am working on that.  Turns out the helper needs a helper. 
In related news, I am also working on my mindfulness to stop running away from being alone in my head.  As an introvert, I actually really like being alone in my head. It is generally peaceful.  I am looking forward to getting back in there.

Also, I keep getting stuck.  I will feel really good and then go back to that dark place with the silent companion of grief.  I realized something today.  I do things that really make me feel good-I sew, I do yoga, I journal.  And then I think, oh, I feel really good.  And then I stop doing those things.  And then the grief rises back up to the surface.  I think the lesson here is that even if I feel good, I still need to do those important things to take care of myself.  The irony here is that as a helper, I have told others to do that…while sabotaging myself.  Let’s not judge here.  Perfection doesn’t exist, remember?
So here I am, in all of this messy grief, with the hardest weeks in front of me.  At least, that’s what I imagine.  I don’t want to be blindsided again.  Remember Mother’s Day?  When I thought, I’m totally fine, and then I ended up avoiding facebook for two days because I simply couldn’t be reminded of this holiday?  Yeah…I’m just going to assume the next few weeks will be difficult.  If I’m handling it better than I thought, well, that will be a pleasant surprise.  Like realizing that you still have beer in the fridge.

Obviously, I need to head into these next few weeks with some planning.  No matter how good I feel, I need to actively do those things that center me, that help me feel connected to the world, that help remind me that I am not in that dark place of last August.
On another note, many friends seem to be going through a similar journey.  Your situation might be a bit different, you may be at a different place in your story, but I see that heartbreak, I see that struggle.  I want you all to know, I’m thinking of you, I’m praying for you, and I hope that you find peace in your heart.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


A couple of weeks ago, the cattle returned to the pasture near our house.
Everything felt right with the world.

Yesterday, the cattle were grazing along with the gentle deer.
It was just too much.

I can’t explain why these images are so soothing.
Maybe it’s the demands of being a helper.  I enjoy the peace of this place.

Maybe it’s this journey with the silent companion.  Seeing familiar images, knowing that the world still carries on, is healing.
I suppose the why doesn’t matter.

The truth is that is brings comfort.
Just like seeing a little girl curled up on the couch with a book.  Or hearing a bigger girl sing in the shower.

Some days, I hold onto these moments tightly.
The simplicity of life is found in these moments.

At times, life is full of complications and heartache.
It’s nice to find this quiet joy.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Feeling the Feelings

Mother’s Day turned out to be the low point that I hoped it wouldn’t be.

This grief still sneaks up.

I’m sure that the weather we have been having had some impact on all of this.  A week of rain, which eventually turned into snow.  So it snowed on Mother’s Day for the second year in a row.

I don’t know how I ever survived a Midwest winter with all of the cold gray days.
A week without the Colorado sunshine and I’m close to the fetal position, having vitamin D withdrawals.

During these low points, I try to do everything I can to take care of myself.  Sewing, exercise, reading.  Avoiding eating a bunch of cookies.  Avoiding facebook for a couple of days.  All of those good self-care things that my social worker self knows how to do.
Still with all of that, it doesn’t make the sadness go away.  And frankly, it shouldn’t.

Some days just feel crummy.  And that’s ok. 
Because I know that if I pretend to be happy and ok, the sadness just lingers on.  And it seeps through anyway.  So I go through all of this trouble pretending and still feel like crap.

It’s ok to have low times.  Because I know that tomorrow (or maybe in a couple days), I’m going to feel a lot better.
Sadness is real. 

But wow, does it make other people uncomfortable.  Some people want to cheer you up out of the sadness or talk through the sadness until you aren’t sad anymore.  I will admit, that as a professional helper, this is so challenging.  To simply be with someone in pain.  To accept that you are not there to fix them, you are simply part of their story.
I don’t expect anyone to fix this.  It is nice to have folks that I can talk to, who can lend an ear, who can validate that this is real for me and that it is ok to feel like crap.

Maybe that’s the self-care that we don’t always talk about as helpers, feeling the feelings.  It’s ok to have a low day.  And while I’m having that day, I’m taking care of myself with all those great things, but those great things don’t need to erase the pain.  It makes it tolerable.  It gives me hope that it won’t last forever.
Because I know by now in this journey with the silent companion that there will be an upswing.  If there wasn’t by now, I would see a professional helper.  Maybe I should see one anyway.  I go back and forth about that one.

For now, I’m not going to pretend.  It’s exhausting.  And grief is already exhausting. 
I’m going to give myself permission to feel whatever it is in the moment.

And take care of myself.
And finally watch the sun rise.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Being a Mom after Losing Your Mom

I didn’t realize that being a mom after losing your mom could be so hard.  Although, I suppose I never thought about it until I was there.

A couple of months ago, the girls and I were in the car when this story came on the radio.  They interviewed this woman who was working on the other side of the world.  I think the story was about whatever job she had.  The reporter asked her how she ended up so far from home, and she reflected that after her mom died, she felt that she needed to run away.

When I heard her say that, I thought, I want to run away too.  And I don’t know where that thought came from, but the idea of running away from this silent companion of grief…well…there was a certain freedom to it.
Then I felt this hand on my shoulder.  It was Katy.  She had been listening to the story and put her hand on my shoulder to comfort me.  We were both quiet.

It’s obvious that the girls are more aware of things than maybe I would like for them to be.  I guess part of me wants to shield them from this grief.  From this sadness and heartache. 
But they’ve seen me at some bad moments.  And I know, deep inside, that it’s ok for them to know that we can be sad when we lose someone that we love.

The girls give me these looks sometimes, it’s almost like a head tilt, where they are wondering if I’m sad.  And sometimes I smile at them.  Even when I want to run in the other room and cry.  And sometimes I don’t smile because I can’t.
I have these lapses.  I’m ok, and then I’m good and then suddenly I’m not ok.  My guess is that my parenting during these past months reflects that.
I wanted to rush through the holidays.  The day after Christmas, Billy asked if I wanted him to take the Christmas tree down and I probably said, YES!, a little too urgently.  He thought it was sad that I was so excited for the holidays to be over.

I suppose it was sad, but anyone who has ever been grieving knows how much the holidays can suck.  Yes, suck.  There is no other word.  And I was delighted to have them over with. 
And then I felt a little guilty that I probably wasn’t the best holiday mom this year.  It’s not that I had a bad attitude.  I just didn’t want to think about the holidays.  Because thinking brought the sadness.  And I was in survival mode.  You can’t take time for personal reflection when you are surviving.  You are just getting through.

So right now, I’m having one of those good times and am finally able to sit down to write again.  At least for today.
My upswing has arrived just in time for a holiday about moms.  After I lost my mom. 

That deep sadness isn’t there like it has been with the other holidays.  There is sadness, and I miss my mom.  But there isn’t that crippling grief.  At least not today.  And I hope not tomorrow either.
Because during these upswings I would like to think that I am able to be the mom I want to be.  The mom who listens to her kids.  The mom who knits with her oldest gal.  The mom who reads poetry with her littlest lady.

The mom who isn’t thinking about running away.
I’m thankful that the lapses are improving.  And I seem to recover faster from the not ok times than before.

I also know that grief is a journey.  It is always with you.  It shapes who you are.
Kind of like being a mom.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Creating is Healing

At the beginning of February, I realized how tired I was of grief.  Tired of that shadow.  Tired of those consuming moments.  Tired of overthinking.
Fed up, I suppose.

I spent a lot of time with my sewing machine.  I even sewed her a cover.  Lots of sewing with some knitting thrown in. 
And I have to say, this month has felt pretty good.  I have felt lighter.

For the most part, I’m a self-taught sewist.  I’ve had some lessons (both formal and informal), but most of my learning comes from internet tutorials, youtube and the many mistakes that I make.
Of course, I have my favorite websites and youtube instructors.  Every Friday, I allow myself a little extra time to go through my favorite sites for inspiration.  One morning, I realized that two of my favorites (Vanessa Vargas Wilson and Jenny Doan) paired up for some projects and an interview.  I may have actually squealed when I saw this.  Look folks, it’s the small things, right?  During the interview, Vanessa was asking Jenny about any healing benefits of quilting.  Jenny discussed how many of her students come to quilting after a loss.  She shared the following reflection….creating is healing.

That really put this past month into perspective.
Grieving is about loss.

Healing is about the future.  It is about moving forward.  It is about getting back to life.  Or recreating what life is like.
And I get it, there is no end date to grief.  Feeling fed up with grief doesn’t mean that it’s gone.  There will still be sad moments.  And I know that I will always miss my mom. 

Healing is moving forward with the sad moments.  Not letting them define my life and thoughts anymore.
Crafting is only one part of this picture.  It’s exercise.  It’s eating 4 ½ cups of produce (almost) every day.  It’s finding connection with people.  It’s making time for myself again.

It’s realizing that my life does not look like how I thought it would and still moving forward.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Wherever is Your Heart

We went to see the last installment of The Hobbit movies over Christmas break.  There was a line near the end that was lovely.  And apparently misquoted everywhere because I tried to find it for you and came up with several versions.  And the version in the book just wasn’t quite the same.
Here’s the one I liked the best:

If more people valued home above gold, this world would be a merry place.
And what does that really mean, that concept of home?


Feeling loved
Being comfortable in who you are

And in a world full of comparison traps-who has more money and stuff, who is the better mommy, who is more fit, it is easy to forget about the basics.  At least it is for me.
I get caught up in my head and forget that this is what life is really about. 

There is beauty and joy in simplicity.
A warm day in the winter.

The sunshine on my face.
Comfort with family and friends who get me.

The quiet clicks of knitting needles.
A peaceful moment.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blank Space

I read this really lovely blog post the other day.  The following words captured my heart:
I need lots of margin in my life. Not just for margin’s sake, but because unless I have margin, I create junk, I have no energy for being intentional with other people, and everything I do seems to take twice as long.

I could have written this.  I need copious amounts of down time.  And my routine.  Like a small child.
I am awed by people who are busy all the time, life full of activity.  You folks are my heroes.

And I used to get down on myself for not being that person.
Until a couple years ago when I realized that it’s ok that I am not that person.

I have a complicated work life.  I love the work I do, but at times (many times), it is emotionally draining.  I need to recharge.  I need to rest.
It’s ok that I like to hang out close to home and enjoy my people. 

And that would be ok even if I didn’t do the work that I do.
One of the best things that has happened in the past couple of years is that I have given myself the grace to be myself.

And I’m not perfect.
Because perfection does not exist.

Don’t get me wrong, there are so many moments when I am hard on myself.  I feel like I don’t measure up to some standard that I think I should be living up to.
I’m a work in progress.  That’s another post I suppose….

Reading that post reminded me that it’s ok that I am this person. 
Down time is something I need so I can be kind to people.  It helps me be more caring, understanding and forgiving.  And it helps me be kind to myself as well.

Recently, I have let go of some of my down time.  I was filling up those cracks with necessary tasks at work and at home.  And it started catching up to me.
One lovely part of giving yourself grace is recognizing that as a human, you have limits.  And I’ve reached mine.

So I’m trying to let go of burdens (real and imaginary) that weren’t even mine to begin with.
And hoping to fill that void with absolutely nothing.

The beauty of margin.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The View

There are moments when I have to remind myself that just because the calendar changed, it doesn’t mean that life automatically takes a turn.
We had to say goodbye to our dog a couple of weeks ago.  For the first time since Billy and I have been together, we have no pets.

It seemed like one more thing.
But wait, this is a new year, only full of positive happenings.

Hmm….maybe that’s not how this works.
Maybe the new year doesn’t wipe the slate clean.

The new year certainly provides new opportunities for hope.  It doesn’t mean that life will be unicorns and sunshine, though.
I’m trying to keep some perspective and not lose hope.  We are still in January.

I remind myself that last year ago at this time, Billy and I were starting to rev up for our move.  So excited about the possibilities.
And now a year later, we are enjoying life in our little corner of the world.

It’s about how we see the world around us.
In the midst of this current sadness, I could think about the upcoming year in terms of oh, not again.  Instead, I am not going to allow this to define my year.  I did a lot of that last year, describing it with negativity.  Dismissing the joyful moments that occurred.

Instead, I am going to remember the joy filled dog who gave good hugs. 
Rest in peace, JJ.  I hope Elwood Wilson is once again licking off your eye goobers.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Silent Companion

I finished watching the first season of Broadchurch.
Wow.  Just wow.

Wonderful show.
The writing for this show is lovely and real.

The way the writers captured the experience of grief was beautiful. 
Grief was described as a shadow that you get used to.

There are some days when I find myself in disbelief that my mom is gone.  It’s always with me.
There was a scene in one episode where a family member starting crying tears of grief during a happy moment.  Another character explained it as saying that things get a little muddled.

They certainly do get muddled.  Feelings of joy one moment and intense sadness the next.  I have moments where I am overcome.  On Katy’s birthday, we all ended up in separate cars driving to the restaurant.  It was just me and Katy in one car.  Everything was great, and then I turned the corner and this giant full moon was rising over the pasture.  My mom loved the moon.  And I felt like she was saying happy birthday to Katy.  And I was happy and devastated at the same time.  How is that even possible?
I know from my work as a professional that there is no such thing as closure.  There is no getting over it.  I’m sorry if any of you had this fantasy, and I ruined that. 

And it’s not that I’m trying to get over anything.
There are certainly moments that I am trying to get through.  Trying to survive.  And that’s enough.

I will continue this journey with my silent companion.  A journey that is complex and murky. 
A journey that will never end.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Good Year

I’ve been thinking about my goals for this year.

Do you make goals or have resolutions?

I’m trying to keep it simple this year.

Thinking about the word discover and how I can create goals that match that.

Fitness.  Finding what works for me-yoga, riding the stationary bike on cold days, the real bike on warm days, the occasional run.  Keep on eating all that produce.

Creativity.  More writing, more sewing, more community with crafters.

Relationships. Connecting with family and friends, new and old.

I’m looking forward to this year.

You know how my word last year was hope?  Well, it seemed more like struggle.

And hey, life isn’t easy.  No one ever promised me that.

I would still love a year with more happy memories than sad.  A year of making connections instead of saying goodbye.  A year of healing. A year with joy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Good Change

The sun is out at 5 pm again!

I love that about January.

The sun comes back.  A bit longer every day.

I will take every minute.

That’s the great thing about seasons, the change.  I like the contrast.

And the change of the seasons is predictable.

Probably the only change that I have actually enjoyed in months.

Usually change comes too fast or too slow.

It takes you by surprise and not in a happy way.

So I welcome these changing days.  These days of more sunshine.  The random days of winter where it is so warm you can sit on the deck and have a beer (not applicable in all states).  The return of another season of Downton Abbey.  Planning my garden.  Dreaming about the new year.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Somebody that I Used to Know

See that big hill at the bottom of the picture?  That used to be part of my regular running path, as well as the park that surrounds it.

Today, I don’t think I could make it up there without having to stop a few times.

This park has good memories for me.  It was only a couple of miles from our old house.  It was a big running milestone for me when I could make it to the entrance of the park.  It was a bigger deal when I could make a giant 12.5 mile loop around the park.

The views are beautiful.  One day on a run, I was startled by a herd of elk.  And even when the park was flooded, its recovery brought me hope.  The inspiration picture for my word of the year in 2014 was taken in this park.

Running through this park gave me time to think.  It gave me the opportunity to prove to myself how strong I could be.

My last good run of 2014 was actually in the spring.  It was right after my mom was diagnosed with cancer.  And it was in this park.  I saw those trees again, I felt hope.  It was the last time I ran in the park.  Hopefully, not the last time that I will ever run in the park.

This late spring and summer were filled with crummy runs.  Obligation runs.  I was only running because of a race that I registered for.  I lost my heart for running.

I have felt a lot of guilt about not running.  But I still don’t want to do it.

2014 changed me.  In a lot of ways besides the running.

And I’m not sure that I will go back to that same person I used to be.

And how could I be that same person?

And even though I am not that person, that doesn’t mean that I am less than.  And I need to give myself the grace to believe that.

I’ve thought about my one word for 2015.  What is it that I want to stay focused on this year?  Last year it was hope, the previous year it was awake.

This year, I think a well suited word is discover.

If I am not the person I used to be, then who am I?  This year, I would like to spend some time working on that.  Getting back to the person that I want to be.  And is that even the same person?

We can’t go through life without change, both good and bad.  But I feel like I have been just trying to get through, a new survival mode.  I neglected those people and activities that nurture my spirit. 

This is going to be a year of figuring out what the new normal looks like.  This is going to be a year of returning to what has kept me strong and finding renewed joy.

This is going to be a year to discover this new/old life.