Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On Saturday September 13th at the Shops at Legacy in Plano, there is going to be a 5K and a 1 mile fun run to raise money for a charity called Heroes For Children. ( www.heroesforchildren.org) This charity literally gives money to the families of children battling cancer in the state of Texas. It was started by two moms who lost their children to cancer at the same hospital in which Joseph died, one of them in the very room Joseph stayed the majority of his time there. They came to our rescue more than once while Joseph was sick.

I wanted to do this last year but just was not emotionally ready.

I am creating Team Joseph for the 5K. We will be making Tshirts for our team and walking/running in both the 5K and the one mile fun run. This event is very family friendly, complete with bounce houses, face painting, family activities and a concert after the race by Eddie Coker, a well known local celebrity amoung children.

You are invited to join Team Joseph for Heroes for Children 5K Run/Walk presented by WFAA.

You can register for this event at:


If you are not in the area or cannot attend, but would like to help us reach our goal of earning $5000 for Heroes For Children, please make your donation at:


This is a VERY worthy cause and the hope and help they give Texas families is so very important.

The Heroes For Children blog:


Thanks all! I would love to see some of you do this with me. Most of you were here all through his illness and death. It would mean the world to me and be a wonderful first foray into helping the world know a generous soul named Joseph was here and left his mark on your hearts!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I took the boys swimming yesterday. Its an activity I have not done pretty much since before Joseph got sick. It was bittersweet...that child was a fish. He was the only of the four of us who would tan easily. Nick and Alex are redheads and have a redheaded complexion, but Joseph tapped into some mediterranean or gypsy blood and he would turn the most delicious caramel brown. He was afraid of the water when he was small and was overly cautious, but became cured of it in a sudden moment in which my brother Jeff picked him up under the arms and before he knew it, he was plunked straight into the pool and left to figure out for himself that he was fine (he had on water wings and adults were everywhere, in and out of the water). From that moment, the discovery of this new sensual experience was something Joseph could not live without and was one of his greatest laments when his central line kept him not only from swimming, but from even being able to take a bath instead of a shower. He loved the water and it loved him back. I can remember him chasing the ocean from the age of two in Hawaii, dancing on his tiptoes out after the retreating waves until my heart thought it would stop from watching them come back at him, knock him down, roll him sputtering and gasping to shore again, only to watch him get back on his feet and do it all again. I was sure he would drown, but he didn't. He seemed to have found some strange, subtle peace of respect and courage when it came to the sea. It was ironic that he was trepidatious at first of swimming pools but not of large, moving, living bodies of water. I certainly hope there is an eternal sea wherever he plays at now.

So I got into the water a lot and played with Nick and Alex, tried to tap into a sense of being carefree and enjoying the warm weather, the warm water. It was a good time and I got some sun on my shoulders. The boys loved having me there, captive to them by the restrictions in movement that water can provide, chanting "Barnacle!" as they clung to my shoulders and back, wrapping skinny legs around my generous middle and demanding that I then swim with them there. Even Nick did this, though he is easily at an age where this could be seen as "too close" or a slight to his newfound teenaged dignity.

Joe and I shared leftover pork chops for dinner last night while Nick was at a middle school social event at our church. He came home rosy cheeked and happy from being with his peers. He gets irritable with Alex now and then, which is unusual in our home these days. Even Joe has commented on how little the two of them fight now. I suppose it is normal, a sign of his growing distance from his brother in maturity and phase of life. It hurts Alex, but he has enough of his own friends and interests that I suspect he will weather it.

As for me, I have been moody, introspective, quiet and sad inside. I am so grateful for all the good things in my life. Joe and I seem to have turned a corner from the first year upheaval and conflicts as we learned to live with one another and to honor the relationship we have stated we want to have. We have not had an argument in a long time and when tension comes, we are getting better about giving us some space to work it through. I say we. What I mean is ME. I am getting better at not thinking he is going to bolt at the first sign of trouble. At trusting him. As such, I am getting more peaceful with the idea that we can be unhappy with one another and it not mean anything threatening. Its been good. In its own way it gives me room to face other emotions about Joseph being gone and how my life has changed over the past few years. This is certainly not where I expected to be at this point. Its probably better than I could have hoped for in many ways. Just minus one child. That's a big "just".

I feel more at home in my sadness and less like I fight to tamp it down. But this also means that in general, as a person, I am sadder. I live within it. It lives within me. I can feel it now at the slightest hint of thought or focus. It had been where I would drive it so far down that I could even marvel at how good I felt and feel some guilt for not being very sad inside. I was. I just didn't know how to own it, and I continue in many ways to fear it. It definitely sucks energy and light from my person. I have been having to force myself to work out for three weeks. Usually that goes around in a cycle faster than that. I find I am hungry all the time, even when I am full. There is something in me that is not filled that I also must learn to accept.

School is going well. I have three exams each week for the next three weeks, and in the third week I have my last lab practical as well. This is it, crunch time. The skeletal system, the muscular system are the big focus now. SO much freaking information. But I am excited. I can still fail the class at this point given so many exams are still ahead rather than behind me. Hard to believe when there are only three of the ten weeks of class left to go. But it also means four weeks from now I will be breathless and done with it and I have optimism that I will get the A that I want so badly. I think about six of us have As in the class at this point. We have dropped from 28 students to 21. The class is shrinking and more people are talking now about needing to retake it. I am proud to be toward the upper end of things. Proud in the sense of proving things to myself that I feared I could not do.

Today is going to be quiet. I am working for a while, then going home. I may take the boys swimming again. I have housework to do, laundry (the bane of my existance and the one household chore I am certain was part of the punishment to Eve for eating the apple), the floors and bathrooms. I have been invited to brunch and shopping tomorrow and I need to weigh that out along with how long I will need to study for the exam Monday night and make a decision about what I can and cannot afford to do. I would love to go if I can.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

One of those days

I have not had one of these days in a long time. I just feel so heavy inside, so down. My chest feels heavy, my eyelids feel heavy, my arms and legs. It is as if my very soul were a rock in my mortal body and I just want to sink into the earth, to be one with it, quiet, warm and without outward sense or feeling. I didn't sleep well last night and I am sure that has something to do with it. I was out of sorts for other reasons today anyway. Then Stewart told me he found some disposable cameras in his home and took them to be developed. There were pictures of Joseph on them. I look at them and feel like I am starving for him. I almost wish I had not looked at them. That I could find enough pictures of Joseph to put in a box and take them out, one at a time, one a week or one a month for the rest of the years of my life. That there might be still new expressions to discover from him still. That these are not really the end of my experience with him. Not the end of his life. My throat is clogged with tears. It is awkward and exposed to sit here at my desk at work. I don't want to go home. I don't want to be here. I feel right now like there is nowhere for me to be that would offer any safe haven or relief, nowhere that would guard me from this onslaught. It is not unfamiliar, but it did take me by surprise. I was not prepared for this today. I miss his smile...his antics...the way he was such a free spirit and so unconcerned with what others thought of him, but not in a rebellious way. He didn't feel any need to be "different" outwardly, just to accept his differentness inwardly. He held onto his youth in a way that was so uncommon for his age. He still enjoyed the parts of his life in which he was a child, yet also definitely had distinct inclinations toward becoming a man. I remember watching him pick up Seventeen magazine in line at Target and the intensity on his face as he started flipping through it to find the pictures of the girl in a bikini on the front. How he would keep my Victoria's Secret catalogue on the floor beside his bed next to his Pikachu and origami creations half finished (I kept waiting for him to make origami out of Victoria's Secret pages). How he still talked to Santa the Christmas before his relapse. How he still would hug his mother far more often than get exasperated with her. I have not had a day like this in so long. Every beat of my heart is painful. It literally aches in there. I yearn for something I cannot have.

I love his smile. Big badass two handed sword with a precious "Aren't I cool?!" smile. This was from when we went to Medieval Times Orlando on his Make A Wish trip.

This was in the NASA gift shop on his Make A Wish Trip. Silliness with him and Alex.

This was at Santa's Village the Christmas after he got out of the hospital. The police officer was, I think, calling Santa for him.

The last picture we got of all the boys together with Santa. Christmas 2005.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I have to admit, I feel particularly vulnerable as we get into the EMDR to post about it here. I have many friends who are of an alternative mindset and who are more open to the ethereal and the discovery of inner self. Those are people with whom I am anxious and eager to share my spiritual journey. I also realize there are many people out there, like myself frankly, who have a healthy dose of skepticism for anything that can't be concretely nailed down and who see those who practice or believe in things that can't be proven as being rather hokey. There are going to be times I don't want to share what happened in my sessions and I hope that all who read here can be respectful of that. I hope too that when I do choose to share, that those who read can do so with respect for the difficulty of the pathy my life has taken in regards to my grief. I think I definitely put myself out there as an emotional exhibitionist and that its pretty natural to see that as "normal" for me and to have come to expect it. It IS normal for me. But even with the little bit that was done yesterday I can see where I may want to avoid both the vulnerability of full disclosure but also avoid reliving what happened. I can also see where I will want to share at times what went on, mainly in hopes that the other parents who have experienced loss as I have can maybe read here and garner some tidbits of hope or healing as they come to me.

Apparently there are three different types of EMDR that can be done. The first one the therapist usually engages in called "Safe Place", and this is what we did yesterday. I do not remember what the other two are called yet, but I will get there eventually and likely share that as it comes about.

Basically the closest I can come to relaying what we did yesterday is to liken it to a guided meditation, which I have only done once in my life before. The saving grace for me in this is that there is actually a goal, one that is not suspicious nor kept in secret, known only to the therapist. We establish the goal together, Jordan and I. The goal of "safe place" is to carve out a well grounded place to go in my head at the end of EMDR sessions, which can be traumatic and emotional to do, so that when I leave at the end of my sessions I leave in a state of calm and with a feeling of safety. Considering that was one of my concerns going in yesterday, I was happy to know we were going to do this. It is all we did yesterday and it alone was intense.

My biggest struggle in any of this is the feeling of exposure, vulnerability, the struggle to silence my desire both to "do it right" and to not look stupid or hokey. I have a deep fear of appearing weak, helpless, vulnerable or deluded. Getting past that alone has been a challenge for me. I like facts. I like the concrete. I like solid things. The ethereal is a bit too gossamer for my exacting mind. This is, I recognize, probably one of the areas in which I am going to have the greatest growth and which I hope will lead me to a greater sense of inner peace. I am a thinker and problem solver by nature and definitely not trusting of anything I cannot easily follow a logic pathway for. It is likely one of the reasons I did so well, at least on the outside, through Joseph's death. Though I didn't like anything the medical industry had to say about Joseph's condition, odds or declining health by the time the end came, I could understand how it all came about. It made sense and even within the horror that was the particular truth of Joseph's apparent fate there was the odd, dark comfort of it at least being a condition my logical mind could trace and understand, at least on the medical level. I knew his body was failing. I understood the mechanism of his cancer. I understood what the ventilator did to his lungs. I understood why they would not function anymore off the machines. I understood the importance of honoring Joseph's wish not to continue on life support if life could not be regained. Logic carried me through it, but the moment of his death was the moment logic failed me. I have never understood, even with all the medical knowledge, WHY he had to die. Where he has gone. What I am supposed to do now. Why he had to suffer. Why the definition of suffering had to be put so concretely into my head through images of my own child's body and psyche grasping futilely for solace that I could not give, that would not, would never come to him. Logic can make no light of these things, and you must believe me, that if there cannot be some light somehow cast upon both the memories and the feelings that come from those images, I will never have peace and will slowly corrode inwardly until I no longer care if there is any way out of the internal darkness of it, until I cease to be who I am, until I become someone different, changed in a way that makes a monster of the pure. I still believe in my purity of spirit. I stand wide-eyed at the precipice of hope, afraid to trust it. Hope failed me in so many ways. But what else is there when one gets to this point?

If thinking could have healed me, I would have been healed by now. Thinking was not, is not enough. So I seek out that which I do not trust, understand or even really believe in, hoping I will find some other pathway to inner peace. I hope even the most scientific minded of you can respect my journey on some level. After all, I had to believe the science at some point. Even if I cannot pinpoint the mechanisms of why it makes me feel better, I can watch and feel the changes those mechanisms make in me.

So. Back to yesterday. Jordan guided me through the creation of a mental "safe place", done with light weight headphones on my head that played soothing sounds, alternating rapidly between one ear and the other. Eventually I tuned this out and became unaware of the shifting of it, though he tells me it was that way the whole time. He impresses me in that he openly admits they do not exactly know how or why the EMDR works, only that the vast majority of the time that it does. "I don't know" is an honest answer, an answer I can respect.

I had trouble at first with feeling extremely exposed. Jordan is very serene. I am learning that the mellow, slow way that he speaks is actually an indication of a very relaxed and accepting state on his part. We are developing a good rapport and he smiles easily, which I like. After our session yesterday I feel safer with him, affectionate, perhaps even a little bit protected. It was a giant leap on my part to give in and let myself do this exercise with him. He seems very invested in my situation and compassionate. He seems to feel a large amount of faith that this could be a doorway out of mental anguish for me. There are times when I can literally feel his sense of inner fulfillment in helping me. Last night it was profound, as we finished up and he walked me to the door. He is doing this because he believes in it. What is interesting is that he was an engineer in earlier years. He has reinvented himself many times, another fact that I can respect.

So basically he asked me if I am a mountain person or a beach person. That made me smile...it really does seem most people have a strong affinity for either one or the other. I am more of a beach person and said so, though I love both. So we went with that, calling up that image. The sounds in my ears were of water running, trickling really, though as I sank deeper into my mental image I easily turned that trickling sound into the warm rumble of surf. Don't ask me how, I really don't know. Every 30 seconds or so he would slow and the stop the sounds and ask me to describe what I saw and what I feel. He guided me into becoming aware of my physical body even as I pictured this vivid mental picture...apparently some people have trouble with the mental picture, but I am imaginative and creative and this was easy for me. I walked on the surf, felt the bubbling of foam around my ankles, felt the heat of sun on my shoulders. I was on Myrtle Beach, the moody gray ocean Joe took me to in the summer of 2004, and I was walking far along the sand, past the hotels and developments. When I grew lonely in that walk, my mind put a warm hand in my own, though it seemed unattached to any particular person. Mostly I thought of Joe, but that idea came and went and I let it without struggle. Jordan helped me feel the heaviness of my limbs, the way my body actually forgot to breathe for a moment before switching into the subconscious level of breathing that comes with surrendering to sleep...deep, belly breaths that felt so good. Literally my limbs began to tingle with a sense of letting down, letting go. I could feel the weight of them pulled toward earth, sinking me into the couch. It was warm, heavy and so intense, to feel my mind let go to this degree that tears were pouring proliferative down my face. I was not crying in any sense of sadness. It was relief. Relief to let go for a while. I had no idea how badly I needed to relax on a true physical level as well as mental. Jordan put tissues in my hands. I have no idea if he understood it or if that was a strange reaction to the depth of that meditation. I feel sheepish about it now. I didn't weep, I just leaked. It started very quickly after we started the meditation and continued all the way through it until we were done.

He encouraged me to practice going to that place on my own through the week, that the more I do it, the better I will get at voluntarily calling up a place of peace and serenity in my mind that also manifests in my body. It was interesting in that last night we learned about the parasympathetic nervous system, and that in essense, doing what I did with Jordan yesterday was basically learning to override the parasympathetic response to stress. He told me that some people actually have things come attack them in their vision when they are doing it, that some people, especially at first, have trouble staying with a peaceful mindset and are tormented by "foes" even in the midst of trying to establish this "safe place". He stated that with all I have been through, that I was able to stay within the safe place on the first try meant I have a very strong ego. I will have to look up what that means, as I am pretty sure it is a psychology term rather than a term meaning what it usually means to say someone has a big ego.

This feels like a lot of rambling. I am going to go ahead and post this without reading over it..its probably more honest that way. All I can say is, despite my skepticism, my body responded to what we did yesterday. Tears flowed out of me like a river and we didn't even talk about Joseph at all. But most importantly, I left feeling like something was set loose a little bit, that the world was a little bit lighter on my shoulders. A little bit greater sense of inner clarity. Not much. But perceptible.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I return to see Jordan today. It will be the first dose of EMDR, a treatment known to be effective 85-90% of the time against post-traumatic stress disorder. To say I am skeptical would be an understatement. To say I am dreading it would be even moreso. It involves thinking deeply about a traumatic memory while different stimuli is applied to the body and senses with the goal of re-routing where in the brain the memory is stored, to in essence reprogram it for a different, lesser spot on the emotional scale. I am frightened of this. I have never purposefully sat and remembered things we went through together, only ever been caught up in the spontaneous memory of them, only ever claimed by them and left helpless. To voluntarily go into that room is in my mind akin to voluntarily walking back into a nightmare. Its just impossible for anyone who has not lived it to guess at the things we saw and lived through, parent to child. I am scared. I feel like I just got some equilibrium simply talking to the counselor, doing a little bit of meditating and through guidance and understanding from Joe and other important people in my life. Its hard not to keep running from it. Supposedly the treatment will leave the memory less powerful and more peaceful. Not take it away, just lessen the violence of it, help re-categorize its disturbing nature. Given how little I believe in things beyond the scientific when it comes to medicine, its no wonder really I am afraid. I am afraid I will go through something truly horrifying and there will be no remedy at the end, no payout from doing it. I know from when it takes me unawares how breathtakingly debilitating those memories are.

Joe and I talked a lot about nursing school over the weekend. To say he is on board with me is such an understatement. He could have so easily found someone whose stage in life was closer to his own, whose location was closer to his family, whose financial standing was independent, who didn't need the kind of support I do, who didn't come with the kind of baggage that I do (loss of a child, child with a brain tumor, etc). That he did this voluntarily and whole heartedly makes me feel so blessed. I know enough about myself to know I would be okay without him. But I also know enough to know I am so much happier with him. He is going up to Ohio/Indiana for a few days at the end of August to see his new grandbaby, who could be born any time now and to visit Drew, the grandson he already has as well as to see his children. Its the first week of school when he is going, so I won't be able to go with him this time. I am glad he is getting to go visit. I will probably do tons of girl stuff while he is gone.

I get my lab practical back tonight. I can't wait to see my grade.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I shouldn't be awake, but alas, I am. The coffee is brewing and my lover is tucked into high thread count sheets, warm and inviting as Mexico in winter time and the house is quiet and my own for a short while. I wish I could stay asleep past 7:30 but I pretty much have to be sick to do that. I am just not hard wired for sleeping the day away, no matter what time I go to bed. I have always felt that is rather an advantage, except when one has night owls for friends and the party is just getting warmed up when you leave!

It was a fun party though. I truly enjoy the eclectic mixture of people I hang out with. Greg introduced us to his new girl, Cindy, last night and hosted a group of us in his home to celebrate life being good. I can think of no better reason to get together with friends. We are a rather interesting mix of people, folks who are very left brained in nature but who have very right brained pursuits for leisure. After a meal was shared and we found out we are truly sad at the video game Rock Star (I think someone might have called the cops...not really, but I kept picturing them arriving), Greg broke out the Hookah and Alan broke out his spanish guitar. Joel played drum and Heather sang, Becca and I cuddled like puppies and all was right with the world for a few hours. I can think of no better way to spend a Friday night. I got over my shyness relatively quickly last night. I love it when I get my head on right, stop worrying about my weight and whether people think I am ugly and worry instead about letting people know in my softness and smiles that I savor them. It always comes back to reward me with the sense of belonging and goodness, a feeling of being liked, cherished, blessed. When I remember that people in general mirror back to you what you project, I usually have a lot of fun. My head and heart were in the right place last night. I am grateful for the unique nature of my group of friends, for the creativity they inspire in me and for the easy affection that is always near the surface and ready to be tapped. The shyness that can rob me of pleasure just was not there last night and I am so glad for that. I hope to find increasing control over it and maybe put it away forever someday. It steals the good things about having people who care and emphasizes my solitude. Solitude has its place but I use it more as a shield than a tool.

Tahiya (my belly dance instructor and good friend) had a link in her blog yesterday to an article about the power of being silent. I really enjoyed reading it and intend to read it over again to garner more from it. It was the kind of thing that I felt like I could not absorb in just one reading. I have always valued silence in my home, probably a little too much. But one on one, between people, it makes me positively fretful and squirmish. I can be such an open door in terms of facial expression, emotion behind my eyes and the tendency to blurt. Silence makes me nervous. I need to learn to be less afraid of what people can see in me, especially when around friends. I need to learn to be okay with extended eye contact. It feels very brave to meet someone's eyes and hold it without anything being said. A soul to soul connection that feels so exposed and raw to me. What do I fear they will see? What do I avoid seeing in them?

Today is going to be pretty mundane. There's a lot of work to be done here in the house after an intense week of school that lead to a degree of neglect. Clutter everywhere. I need to put in some hours at work and definitely want to hit the gym. Whatever lull claimed me for about a week there, when I felt motivation slow and grow heavy, has disappeared. I am really wanting to be buying some new clothes in the fall and to fit into my favorite jeans by Christmas.

Have a great Saturday.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Today is a happy day. I had a lab practical last night that was just giving me fits in terms of my stress level. I was convinced I knew nothing, nothing at all, not one thing. But I got some time to review during the day and to take some self-quizes online that give a grade immediately. I knew more than I realized and I started to feel a little more optimistic. By the time review with my classmates was over just prior to the practical I was really ready to get it out of the way. My instructor is very generous and gives us a word bank from which to choose our answers...it helps, but by no means makes it a shoe-in. If you are at all confused about placement or function, particularly in the brain, you are just plain screwed, word bank or not. Plus there are 48 entries on the word bank and you only get 90 seconds for each two question station. So basically, if you don't have at least some idea what you are looking at and trying to identify you won't have enough time to ponder over the word bank and figure it out. Its a very stressful format for testing, at least for someone like me. But I am gratified to say, as I sat down and started scanning the word bank just prior to beginning, I was relaying definitions in my head for each word on the list that I came to. The practical went more smoothly than I had dared to hope. I am getting better about silencing the voice of panic and listening to my inner knowledge. I got five wrong, got a three point extra credit question right and in essence then only missed two. I got an A. I am ecstatic...can you feel it? It warms me all the way through and through. I was so proud to come home and tell Joe.

Tomorrow night we have a party to go to. There will be people there we know but likely more people that we don't. Not my nor Joe's most ideal social situation, but we are trying to be more adventurous and less home-body-ish. Not that there is anything wrong with being homebodies. I just am not good at talking to strangers. I have no idea what to say and small talk has never been my forte. In fact, if its not particularly meaningful, I have the tendency to say nothing, which doesn't exactly lend itself to a night of merry-making. I will have to stretch myself and be brave. I have no idea what it is I am afraid of when I get socially shy. I used to be far more outgoing, but since becoming an adult my social abilities have most definitely taken a hit. I need more practice.

I feel such relief today to have gotten through this week. The exam Monday with the lab practical on Wednesday was consuming my every thought, to the point that I have no idea what to think about now that it is over. The idea of the exams come to mind and then I get giddy realizing its all over and I did pretty good. I got an 87 on the lecture exam and a 90something on this lab practical. Next quiz is Monday night, next exam a week from Monday. I just have "normal" studying to do this weekend, not insane studying. I feel like flying!

I have signed up for A&P II in the fall. I managed to get it on a day/time schedule where I can go back to belly dancing again, which I am excited about. That was my weekly girl time and I feel a little lost without it. I don't kid myself that I am any kind of a dancer, but I enjoy the mental images it can bring forth of myself and I love hanging out drinking wine with the girls one night a week.

People are starting to notice my weight loss. I personally do not see it at all. I am trying out HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training. It is supposedly a fantastic way to burn fat when combined with weight lifting. It certainly left me sweaty this morning.

I want to write and write and write and I both have no ideas of what to say right now and I have no time. So this is it for now. Maybe more later, another day, somewhere far off. Maybe I will find something poignent or intelligent to say. Maybe I will find an idea for a novel or a short story or something besides all this mundane reporting on the life of one very ordinary woman. I am amazed any of you still read here and I don't mean that in a self-depricating way. More just...nobody is sick. Nobody is out of work. Nothing terrible or exciting or interesting is happening. That car-wreck that was my life not so long ago has been cleaned up and the streets are bare, dry and smooth, the sun on my skin and my head tipped to the wind. I can't imagine anyone being entertained by this, but I am glad if you are on some level. Makes me feel important and God knows that is one of my favoritest of favorite feelings. :D

Monday, July 14, 2008

This was a wonderful weekend. Nothing in particular happened other than a lot of study time . I got to have lunch with my girlfriends yesterday while Joe went golfing. He grilled some chicken breasts last night with the goal of having some left over so I can have a hot dinner before class tonight. We snuggled on the couch like lovers while watching TV later than we should have, but we just weren't ready to end the day I think. We moved the cuddling into the bedroom and eventually fell asleep, his unique and masculine scent lulling, his arm warm and snug around my waist, my eyelids heavy, heart drunk with love for him.

I have an exam tonight and my eyes tear up every time I think about it. Its silly. I know its silly. But there are times when I get really honest that I admit to myself how badly I want to accomplish this and how frightened I am that my early mistakes in college will keep me from it. I mean, I failed Computer Keyboarding people. How do you fail Computer Keyboarding and then go on to work as a medical transcriptionist? How do you fail Intro to Computers...TWICE. You party a lot, that's how. You hate school and your parents for making you go. And you refuse to comply until people just give up on you. At that age there is no way to tell what you might want someday for your own self. The stupidity of youth, always assuming you will always stay young, that people will always and forever be trying to dictate to you, so you stretch and squirm and struggle to make them let go, only to realize with breathless panic that there is nothing but self on the other side of that struggle. I feel as if I hover over and empty space and if I stop flapping my wings I will fall. I forget so easily that I have already landed somewhere safe and this is a voluntary journey now, not one catapulted into out of angst, but a choice based on quality of life decisions. I just want it so bad and fear not getting it so much. One of my best friends is a nurse, and she tells me frequently and in strongly worded ways how my personality and life experiences will make me successful in that profession, and I believe her, my own inner voice having whispered the same things. She tells me stories of her work day and I feel an inner yearning, almost the same feeling I would get as a teenager when I looked at a boy I had a crush on but knew would never want me. I am in love with nursing and afraid I will never be worth of it. It makes it hard to focus and hard to have faith in myself. I have an exam tonight and a lab practical Wednesday night. Pray for me.

I have been missing Joseph so much, feeling his absence so much more the past week than I have been. I try to stay within that feeling, to not struggle to bury it nor to make it some big production of grief, but to just let the sadness stay along with the other things. I want to say I think I am figuring this out, but its not something to figure out as much as accept. I think I am growing a little more accepting, both of the times when he and his death are with me and also the times when I need to put it away and not think about it for a while. There is more sadness but less guilt. I think the guilt is more destructive than the sorrow. I miss him. I hate what happened to him.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Have I ever told you about my older brother?

Jeff is older than me by 18 months. He figures into the earliest memories I have of my life, including what is likely the earliest thing I can remember. My Dad had a motorcycle way back then. I was very small, I don't even know how old. Apparently for whatever reason on this particularly day he had lifted Jeff up and let him sit on the motorcycle and I began to throw a fit, wanting to do it too. And my memory at the time was Jeff's retort to me that I would just pee on it. It makes me smile every time I remember it. I absolutely worshiped Jeff growing up, and we were close when we were little. He would put my necklaces on for me before church or tie the bow of my dress. If I wanted to dance or play house, he often would oblige me. If I wanted to play Barbies, he got out his Six Million Dollar Man action figure, who would go off to work doing Six Million Dollar Man things while Barbie kept their house and tended their babies. He could definitely be a big bully and he was very secure in his position as the "head" of our little sibling threesome, ruling us with a fascist iron fist. He controlled the music, sat in the most comfortable seat available whenever it was available and controlled the remote when television watching became that advanced. I can't imagine though what it would have been like to grow up without him there showing me what came next. When he began to eat more, I began to eat more, wanting to emulate him. I was desperate to keep up with him. When he reached puberty, suddenly our 18 months of age difference became a millenium of division. I was no longer tolerated or even particularly liked. Suddenly I really was the proverbial little sister, and the teasing and making fun that came with him finding his way in the world absolutely crushed me. My personal hero wanted nothing to do with me, and I watched with bitter jealousy as he was nice to sisters of his friends and to my cousin Paula, who was so pretty. I realize now he had his own journey of growing up to do, figuring out the differences between the sexes and how to handle attraction and life, how to become a man, and that I was not to have a role in those discoveries. At the time all I knew was he had turned against me, and I bled inside with missing him. Things did not improve for a very long time. The injuries I felt by his rejection in puberty lingered long into adulthood. We did not communicate well and I always assumed he still felt the way about me that he had when we were teens. A softening took place when Alexander had his brain tumor. I was shocked and moved when he told me he could not concentrate at work the day of Alexander's surgery from pondering and worrying, and when he came up to see him carrying a stuffed animal from a fellow at work he'd told about Alex, my heart melted. It was slow progress, but it was progress. And as Joseph fell ill and traveled the long road to heaven, walls crumbled further. The day Joseph died, I have a wonderful memory. Joseph had been pronounced dead shortly before, and I had gone out to make the call to Joe to tell him Joe-Gi was gone. Jeff simply came up behind me and placed his hands heavy on my shoulders, squeezing me, patting gruffly, his throat seemingly closed up and locked. I do not remember if I even acknowledged him. I had not been able to shed a single tear until his touch freed me somehow. I don't know to this day if he even knows how burned into my memory that is. He has his own family and has done so well for himself. His boys are beautiful, as is his wife, Stacey. He had his own health issues while Joseph was sick, ones that were serious and severe, but I was unable to worry the way I would have if my attention had not been drawn to Joseph. Since then things are softer. My heart is softer. He is a fantastic father, a good provider. I am proud of him. I don't see him as much as I would like. Our lives are close in that we live just minutes from one another, but far in that we are at very different stages of child raising and have extremely different interests. But I admire him. His mark is on my life in the kind of music I like to listen to, the type of logic I use at times and in the way I relate to men. I have fantastic, happy memories of combing through South Dakota streams on vacation looking for gold, of him riding a horse that tried to knock him off of it, of days spent piled on his bed with Ryan (our younger brother) and a tape recorder, saying silly things and then playing ourselves back with a vast sense of entertainment. Of him hooking the clasp on my necklace. Of dancing crazily in the living room with him while Mom played her accordian for us. After Dad died, we found a tape in his things that had Jeff's voice at about 11 years of age recorded on it. I was stunned to hear that his voice and Joseph's were identical. When Joseph was born, I named Jeff as his godfather. And Joseph was growing up to have a resemblence to Jeff that was uncanny.

Jeff with Joseph at Joseph's First Communion:

This is Jeff and his family now:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Yesterday's visit was both harder and easier. I am getting a little more used to Jordan and his way of talking, his mannerisms. He laughs readily and I like that about him. Its too easy to talk about this stuff and get very morose within myself. He gets my sense of humor.

Last night wasn't "therapy" per se I guess. He had me do a written outline of my life from 1992 to the present. It was awfully long and convoluted. Typing it out was hard. Watching him read it and listening to him ask for clarification on certain punctuation points of my past was interesting. And when he got to Joseph and began to read, he fell silent, stopped asking many questions and just read it. And I found out of nowhere suddenly, just knowing this stranger is reading Joseph's story, I have tears falling down my face.

So of course, I lose everything I have been practicing. I didn't reach inside and let myself feel the emotion. Oh hell no. I started scanning his eyes as I made my throat close shut, willing the welling wetness to knock it off. When it became obvious THAT was not going to work, I let a few fall but turned my head away and oh-so-slowly wiped my face on my shirt, thinking if I just took the edge off it would ease up. Nothing doing. So I sat there in a quandry, a box of Kleenex conveniently on the table beside my chair, my eyes on it as the heat stung my cheeks, feeling a feverish burning. Here is an example of my warped and embarassed thought process when it comes to being vulnerable: "If I take a Kleenex, he will see me. He will know I am crying. But if I DON'T wipe my face and the crying happens to stop in time he will see my tears...and know I have been crying. And if the tears don't stop and I take a Kleenex and they still do not stop he will see me not only crying but doing the unfeminine task of blowing my nose. But if I don't blow my nose I will have snot running onto my lips and he will see that I am crying. Help!" *panic*

"Ok. Wait a minute Sheri. This is a therapist's office. And you are sitting here watching him read Joseph's story, your son, who DIED. And he told you emotions are not bad and to be accepting of them. So okay. Accept."

So I sat there and let the tears run down my face, feeling so so so exposed and vulnerable. I HATE crying and really really hate anyone to see me cry. Really really really hate that. But I did take a tissue and he did look up when I did. And just said "Heavy isn't it?"

And I nodded mutely. And he continued to read. He was very gentle, accepting, NOT patronizing, which is SO important to me. He saw it. Spoke it. Acknowledged it. And then let it go. I was grateful for that much at least.

Did I mention how much I hate to cry?

So we didn't really DO anything but yet we did. The next session will be my childhood timeline. Then we start the EMDR. We'll see how it goes. I do think this is going to help. A lot.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

So, tonight I go back to see Jordan, my cosmic new age therapist. I probably should not poke fun given that I am the sad soul paying money to get his help, eh? Its been an interesting week. We are probably two or three sessions away before we start the EMDR he says, just because of the volume of life changing events that have happened in the last five years. I have to bring to him a written history dating back to when I married Stewart tonight and had to watch a couple of videos on conscious living.

I have been doing good at just stopping myself when I feel something and trying to take note of how my body feels. I am, frankly, numb in a lot of places. I had no idea. I can't feel certain parts of me at all in terms of whether muscles are tight or heavy. I have no awareness of large chunks of my body. I feel my chest in the heart area a lot. I feel behind my eyes and in my nasal passages and I feel my neck and occasionally my shoulders. But even these small awarenesses make me really think about the emotion I am having and make me more able to self-sooth, though I am not sure that is really the goal. I suspect I am supposed to more get to a place of ethereal acceptance, a place where no self soothing is necessary because nothing is "bad" or "good", it just "is". Which makes as much sense to someone like me as it would if you stood on your head and talked to me in Swahili. I kind want to smile politely, bob my head while backing away slowly and planning my escape route. Which I think is probably telling me to be honest that this is where I need to be. I NEED to be a little uncomfortable in order to move forward I suspect.

I feel like I have been getting over irritations and such a lot faster over the past week. I still feel them, but somehow having noted, even for just a few moments, the way they make my body feel physically I find not long later I kind of realize the feeling went away without me realizing it and definitely without me fertilizing and growing it. My the gardens that have taken root in my psyche in times past. All thorns and brambles and very few peaceful meadows. Joe and I had a wonderful weekend together, so peaceful, contented, happy. He had a birthday and got to go golfing and I really just delved into something I don't get to do a lot...housework, cooking, being alone, thinking. I love being home alone and doing domestic things with the anticipation of my family to return to somewhere warm, safe, welcoming, fragrant. It fulfills me on a level that probably seems very unemancipated to some. It would not be enough all by itself I suspect, but when I don't get it, the more achieving parts of my life are not enough either. I love to nurture those I love. So, for his birthday, I got him flowers and put them out, put out the little card I got him and made him a cake from scratch and this fussy Martha Stewart Grand Marnier Buttercream Frosting for it. He seemed so happy when he got home and we just really got wonderful intimate time together, talking and talking, me watching him smile. He's not gotten to golf very much since moving here and he hooked up with a good trio by chance as a walk-on that day. The energy and light in his eyes made me happy too.

Interestingly, learning all this introspection about how my body feels has lead me to realizing that I feel like utter crap a lot of the time, particularly in my stomach area. And certain foods I start to actually get a little afraid of eating, specifically simple carbs. The after effects of indulging in simple carbohydrates is dramatic. Plenty of mental and physical fatigue, lethargy, bloating, cramping, gas (Yes, I know, looking at my tender face makes it hard to imagine such a fragile butterfly could ever float a biscuit. I shock even myself at times). So, for the last two days I have just not wanted them. Cut them out completely. I don't feel better yet, but we'll see what comes. Maybe it is something else making me feel yucky but cutting out the garbage like bread, cake, brownies, potatoe chips, white rice is a good place to start.

So basically I am trying hard to just roll with it. All I can say is, its only been a week and I am feeling more accepting of my life. That right there is huge. The very idea of accepting my life the way it is causes me great anxiety. I am practicing just talking to myself gently and saying its okay to be anxious. Almost like there are two "me"s in here. One lost and broken and griefstricken and scared...the other calm, capable, strong, guiding. The two halves of what Joseph's ordeal has made of me I guess.

On a lighter note, we dissected a cow eyeball last night. Nothing like something staring you in the face as you stab at it with a scalpel. They were stored in a big white bucket, as if it were plaster. Or paint. Bucket-o-eyeballs. I was careful not to drop it. And then how to choose? Do I take the glossy gray one with plenty of globulated fat at the back? or the more opaque black one that seems to have been cleaned with a bit more tenderness? Oh joy.

Good news is, I got a 104 on my quiz last night. Bad news is I have a quiz on eyeballs on Wednesday night. Then I have a lab report due on Monday night, a quiz in lab on Monday night, an exam in lecture on Monday night and a lab practical (exam) on Wednesday night. *twitch*

I'll update more after my ethereal visit to another land later today.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Have you ever watched The Bucket List? If not, you should. It was one of the better movies I have seen in a while. Watching it with Joe was just a joy. I love anything that makes him laugh. His laugh was the first thing that told me I was in big trouble with this man. Its so whole, so real, from his gut. I love hearing him laugh and I love it when he laughs so hard he actually doubles over. The change in pitch of his laughter, the squint of his eyes. I smile now just thinking about it. Joe's laughter fills me with joy.

We watched this movie tonight. Joe has gone on to bed but I am not ready yet to sleep. I don't have a "bucket list". Do you? I probably should. I think I feel and understand better than most people how brief our lives really are, particularly among people my own age. Hell, I am 37 years old, soon to be 38. Well, sort of soon. Three months. That's nothing! The material point is that I still feel like I am 25 inside me. I don't FEEL like a nearly 40 year old. And it strikes me how fast the past 37 years have gone. I can remember being a child and thinking I would NEVER get to grow up, and how I would brood on how long it was taking. I won't be so cliche as to wish myself back. I can think of things that happened at pretty much any juncture of my life that would be sufficient reason not to want to go back there. But I do want to understand and savor where I am now. And I want my message to be clear to those left behind if I should die prematurely. I just don't happen to know what that is yet. I used to think that was a kind of insurance against something catastrophic happening. Now I know it is just a lack of clarity on my own part. Everyone dies. Everyone. Would you want to know, if you could, the exact date that your life will end? I kind of do. But yet I am glad I don't. I just know I want more time here, with my boys, with Joe, with family, with the ability to learn and grow and contemplate. I don't want to die yet. Luckily I have no indication that I am about to, unless you count a terminal case of overthinking most of life's normalities. She died of desperate problem solving Your Honor. I am so at risk for missing the forest for the trees.

Today was a good day, a relaxed day. Nick and Alex went with Stewart to his parents' house for the Fourth and came home exhausted and with rounded bellies full of cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Joe sent me out on a walk this evening. I was very resentful, not wanting to do it, but he had issued me a challenge to walk two miles in the amount of time it takes him to run three. I am happy to report that my competitive nature is as defiant and determined as ever, and I walked my two miles in three minutes less than he ran his three miles. Granted he had one more mile on me, but now he feels compelled to run his three miles in the time it took me to walk two. This could wind up being painful for the both of us as we trump one another's clocked times.

So today was easy. I bought a lottery ticket. I got Tums at CVS and Nick new hiking boots at Target. I folded laundry and watched way too many episodes of What Not To Wear, a show that is completely addictive to me and is annoying enough to drive Joe to sit outside with his beer in 100 degree weather rather than listen to it. I had two showers, a handful of tortilla chips, chicken breast for dinner and wore a strapless sundress. An ordinary day. An ordinary life. Fourth of July, 2008. Joe is here. Nick and Alex are healthy. Nobody is sunburned, not even Joe, who spent the day outside with his shirt off and finishing staining the fence along with mowing the lawn. Loving me and our life in his deeds. Nobody is sick. Nobody has anything to really complain about, not really. The world is still and soft, wrapped around me as I wonder what comes next at the same time as feeling so blessed for what IS.
Its early morning on a holiday and nobody is awake yet. I'm enjoying a rich cup of coffee and looking around the lovely home Joe provides for us and working on being in the moment, feeling the physicality of my body in a blessed and happy state of mind as much as I am working on feeling the same when I am anxious or grief stricken. There is warmth. Looseness. A greater alertness and awareness of my surroundings. Deep relaxation and yet plenty of energy. Its so nice.

Its really my least favorite time of year right now. I am not a fan of the heat nor the long summers we have here. I like tempermental weather. Give me a melancholy rain that makes me want to huddle on the floor and play Uno with Alex with a pot of stew on the stove. Give me a violent storm that fuels my passion and creativity. Give me a cold front moving in that heralds a coming holiday that will bring my family back to me for a while. But this stifling sameness day after day I find too steady and reliable. Last night Joe was outside enjoying a frigid beer and watering the lawn and shrubs in front of our house. I wandered out there just because I enjoy talking with him and being together. I wondered as I stood there...what would I notice if I were one of those people who really like summer time? And I just stood there and savored it all. The fact that I was barely dressed. The greenness of the grass and the warmth of the breeze. The people out walking and the happy faces of the dogs walking with them. I should probably try conscious appreciation more often and in more places/situations.

So today is a holiday. Tomorrow is Joe's birthday. I am waiting for him to tell me what he would like for dinner. I have some studying to do. We are working on the neurological system of the body. The amount of organic chemistry we are learning blows me away. My brain just wants to skip over all the details of that and I have to force myself to really concentrate and then committing it to memory is its own unique challenge. Fortunately there are a lot of resources online for learning A&P, and so far I am doing really well. I have had people in class approach me to ask for my help, which makes me laugh. But I share the websites I use with them and tell them how I study. We'll have a study group here next weekend, as the week after we have another lecture exam and lab practical back to back. I went to class a little bit later than normal this past Wednesday and wound up with a seat further back in the class than I usually have. It definitely made a difference, both in terms of the kinds of students sitting there....lots more joking, nudging and whispers...and in my own energy level and focus. I will be making sure I am there plenty early from here on out. Competition for the front seats is fierce and I have to pretty much get there an hour early to get a front seat or second row seat.

I hope everyone has a happy Fourth of July. Enjoy your families!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A New Journey

So yesterday was my first visit to this new age-ish counselor that I have decided to see. Joe is fully behind me and it is a good thing, as my mind frankly wants to dismiss anything this person would have to offer as being far out and a little bit kooky. I tend to gravitate pretty rapidly away from any kind of extremism. But the knowledge that I am having issues managing my grief that I have been unable to "think" my way around kept me on the path. The recognition that I have all but abandoned any kind of spirituality in regards to both myself or a higher power moved me in that direction too. I cannot help but feel there is a source of untapped power inside me somewhere. I don't think I am a Power Puff Girl or anything like that, but I do think that I have the ability in me to achieve balance and inner peace. I certainly hope so. Joe and I were talking about something yesterday. It was a pretty straight forward issue, but I began to think about it, to turn it over and over in my mind, and I wrote him an email sharing these thoughts with him. He pointed out to me how I was complicating things just by letting my brain work it like a puzzle, how it amplified it and changed the nature of it. And later on, he kissed me, drew me into his arms and softly said he hopes the new counselor can help me find some peace, that my mind being this active and anxious to think my way through things is actually its own little stressor. That touched my heart so deeply. I had not realized it really, but he is right. I do tend to steal my own peace due to a line of logic, thought and constant inner knowledge and evaluation making it difficult to just peacefully and lovingly accept that not every emotion needs to be solved or expressed (particularly the negative ones). That sometimes they just are.

This is a little bit of what Jordan (the therapist) and I discussed yesterday. He is a very deadpan, calm, accepting person. I am very used to getting kudos for my busy, quick, logical thought process and we spent a lot of time talking about the methods he uses and where it can benefit me. It was interesting as we got into a brief exercise to find that though my thoughts and inner mental workings have value, that he would acknowledge them gently and with praise for their accuracy, but encourage me not to feed them, to just let them happen and pass through.

I have always thought that the words "feelings" and "emotions" were synonymous. but by the line of thinking I am going to learn to practice, they are different. Feelings give rise to emotion, but you can have feelings without having emotion. A feeling is the physical manifestation of a series of events inside the body that then lead the brain to make a spiritual diagnosis of sorts....rapid heart rate, chest tightening, the sense of congestion behind the eyes, limbs growing heavy, a sensation of being about to cry, throat closing up....all signs for me of an emotion I feel a lot these days....fear. Or more accurately, anxiety. Basically, in learning to use conscious thought to recognize a feeling is happening, I can learn to hopefully stop having feelings I ignore, then react to without even identifying it. If I can learn to gently feel the physical aspects that signal a feeling, and then let the natural subsequent thoughts come as a result of that physical manifestation without judgement but also without indulgence, I can begin the process of reacting to things consciously and intellectually, giving credence to such things as the value of whomever is before me, the real size of the problem or issue or situation presenting itself (I tend to be very one size fits all...any upset is huge and must be worked on, worked out, reacted to, expressed) and to learn to both let more go and to be more accurate, thoughtful and effective in expressing things that should be expressed.

I am cautiously optimistic. This is definitely outside of my comfort zone. I am Sheri the Wordsmith, the student, the keeper of the crisis. Not Sheri the Inner Empath. It is new ground and I feel like I am lost, insecure and vulnerable. I don't want to turn into a hokey new aged barefoot hippie who waves her crystals around and steps into your sphere to share in your energy. I don't think that is what is happening here, but my logical, tattered, problem solving mind doesn't seem to really know how to accept there is not always something to be solved. So I will learn to solve the problem of always having to solve problems, and the problem of creating problems when there are no problems to solve because I don't know how to just be in the moment. Clear as mud?

I will say that as I waited for my appointment to start, he had a very eclectic waiting area. Sculptures of Jesus and crosses mingled with antique china, pictures of family from the 1920s, sculptures of ladies with flowing hair and upturned faces breathing in some unseen breeze, some welcome wind of change. And beside me on a tiny antique end table...there were crystals. Huh.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My urge to write is having a bit of a lull. So many things are going on in my head and heart over the last week.

School is going well. I have a very solid A average in the class. I got a 93 on the lab practical last week and a 93 on the lecture exam, and have nothing but 100s on my homework and lab quizes. I hope I can keep it up. Making an A in A&P will breathe renewed life into my drive to be a nurse.

I have decided to enlist the services of a grief counselor. I don't write about it much here, but it is becoming apparent I am trying too hard to ignore the anger and unresolved horror of Joseph's death. It is beginning to take form in my relationships and through various things at work and school. Joe is, as always, tremendously supportive and a driving force behind my ability to keep going. I am grateful. There are so many places I would have simply quit if not for him.

I am down 13 pounds now and the work outs are going well. I see more improvement in the way my clothing is fitting me than I am seeing on the scale, but honestly, right now my motivation stems more from the outlet exercise is for me than on the subsequent weight loss. We had a seminar here at work on stress management. They had a little "stress scale" questionaire for us to fill out. Anything over a 12 meant you are in serious trouble and need to seek help. I scored a 33. Mkay then. See the above paragraph about seeing a counselor. Joe researched and purchased a heavy punching bag for me this weekend and is going to get me some boxing gloves. He is working on hanging it up in the garage for me so that when I need to let off steam or figure out what I am feeling (it often is so insidious I don't even realize I am having issues) I can go out and pound the crap out of it. I am looking forward to that. It was such a sweet thing for him to do. He has taken the brunt of my maelstrom and its a miracle he sticks by me.

The counselor I am going to see specializes in something called EMDR and utilizes nondual wisdom, eastern medicine techniques and westernized knowledge to assist in overcoming posttraumatic stress, unresolved grief and the like. I like that it is a more goal oriented approach. I don't want to sit in front of someone detailing all the things that made me unhappy through my life for the next five years. I want to learn to live within what has happened and be a better person for it, but a whole person, a happy person, not a person who is desperately trying to force herself to move on. I like the sound of what he does, but at the same time I subscribed to his daily newsletter and its a lot of ethereal mumbo jumbo that I frankly don't see myself jumping on the bandwagon for. We'll see what happens. If he lays crystals on my breasts and tells me to inhale I am so outta there.