Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Here we are again friends, early in the morning on a holiday in the dark whisper of dawn, the world tiptoe on the precipice of family joy. I have my cup of coffee with it's delightful mint chocolate creamer, a treat for me in my solitude, the house filling with amazing scents that harken back to times before my conscious mind can construct a solid memory.

This has been a year of blessing for me. I find this interesting to muse upon, as we had a difficult year, yet somehow come out of it with so many dreams coming true that it takes my breath away. I cannot imagine what I have ever done to deserve to be this happy, and perhaps the crux of the matter lies in the contrast of the incredibly hard five, six years before Joe and I moved in together. Regardless, my ability to be thankful this year feels downright celebratory. Here is my list for 2009:

As always, my foremost gratitude in life is for the presence of my family and my friends.

Joe, you remain a powerful force for good in my life. There are no words to describe the serenity that comes from sharing life with someone who not only cares for you, but allows you to care for them. Your ability to let me care for you, our home and our relationship by the definitions we have created together fulfills me on a soulful level, down to the marrow of my spirit. I am teafully thankful to have been found by you, for the steadfastness of your faith in me even when I have lacked faith in myself. Thank you for being there this year to celebrate the triumphs. We bought near to our dream house, survived our first major lifestyle crisis as the economy fell down around our ears and kept the faith as we moved forward together. And the day when that letter came, you took out a bottle of expensive wine, placed it on the counter and told me either way, it was coming open regardless of what the envelope would reveal; that the triumph was in reaching that point at all given the years and years in which I doubted my abilities and suffered within my doubt and my fear. And when the letter did come open and I trembled in the sweetness of success, you alone were there to witness my joy. You have seen the lowest point of my life as I lay on the floor and wept the loss of my child; you have seen the highest point when I achieved the right to pursue my heart's dream in his memory. Thank you for bearing witness to my life. I can only hope to love you with the same loyalty and constancy as you have done for me. I do not know how I came to deserve you, but you are a gift to me and I am so very grateful for you, for all you provide, certainly materially, but even moreso, emotionally. You are incredible and I see it, every day.

Nick, Alex, you remain the lights of my life. Every year you move closer to manhood and every year I grow more in awe of who you are becoming. The days when you discuss your tastes, desires, concerns and viewpoints with me leave me misty with pride and the ones in which you ask of me the hard questions of life with faith and hope that I may have answers for you leave me humbled. There is no blessing in life like that of having children, of knowing parts of you will exist in another facet, another world, the ones which you create for yourselves, and it is my incredible privilege to be your mother. Thank you to you for sharing yourselves with me, for your incredible lack of rudeness, angst and for always treating me with such respect. I know it is not the popular way to be and I recognize it is something within you yourselves that I cannot touch that has made you that way. I thank God for you every day of my life and I look forward with hope to the future you are creating.

Stewart, you continue to be a wonderful friend and partner in parenting. I cannot imagine our family without you and though Joe and I marry this year, I am so thankful that I do not have to choose. Thank you for all the years of your loyal friendship, your faith in me, your faith in yourself and your openness to our atraditional family life. You are a wonderful person and I love you.

Mom, you remain a powerful force within my heart that grows stronger with every passing year. The softer sides of me that I learn to treasure more as time goes by, my ability to evaluate what is truly important in life and my strength of spirit without a doubt has come directly from you. I love your sense of fun, the value you place in tradition and family, the light of your smile and your endless compassion and sympathy when the need for it takes over me. You are always on my side; there is no substitute for you, no comparing the knowledge that from the first breath I took, there is someone on this earth who loved me as you do. Caring for you during your surgery was a privilege for me and the faith and trust you showed me gave so much back to me; the dignity and determination with which you met the challenge stirred me with pride. We only ever get one mother; I am so, so glad you are mine. Thank you for being proud of me, for loving me and for all the times we have played and shopped and talked together. I love you.

Heather, I know we hardly ever get to spend time together these days, yet we have transitioned nicely to email penpals for now and use the neenernet to keep up. I am grateful that you make the effort, for the ways you let me see what is going on in your world and for your constant, pragmatic view of the world and of me. You are one of my biggest fans. That someone like you cares for someone like me is a blessing and I am thankful for your friendship, for our laughter, for the easy and uncomplicated affection we share.

To Joe's children and their spouses, I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you have let me into your hearts. You are a part of his past that I can only know by knowing you. Thank you for letting me know you; you held his love long before I, and I am grateful for the easy friendships that are developing between us. You enrich my life with your personalities, your energy, your youth and your optimism. Thank you for letting me into your worlds and for coming into mine. I am blessed. To Mary Ann, Joe's sister, thank you for your constant affection and easy humor. I have loved the gradual unfolding of our relationship over the years, seeded first in the tragedy of Joseph's illness and blossoming now in the sweetness that simply is life. You are deep in my heart.

My attention this year is drawn to gratitude not just for people, but for institutions. I am thankful for my job; getting laid off at Cooper Clinic was devastating, but if ever there was a way to do it "right", Cooper Clinic did that. It is something to be grateful for. I am thankful to have found another so quickly after that event and for the flexibility of my new position. I am grateful they wish to keep me on part time when I start nursing school.

I am grateful for my education, for whatever it is inside me that made me able to return to school, make the grades I have and to earn my spot in my first choice of nursing schools. I am grateful for what this goal has done for my grief process, giving it an air of hope and optimism while still honoring the depth of my loss. It has helped immensely with the sense of conflict that comes with learning to live again when one's child has passed on. I am grateful to be happy and grateful to be okay with being happy. And even moreso, I am thankful that I want to be happy, that the pursuit of it exists within me still.

I am thankful for prosperity, for peace, for our beautiful home and for the self knowledge that enables me to pursue those things which make me happiest in life. I am thankful that I recognize the value of my friends, my children, my soon to be spouse. I think self knowledge and awareness is a gift that is usually hard come upon. If I had to go through that fire, I am grateful for the treasure it yielded to me.

Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone. May you have a day aware of your blessings, down to your soul.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

39 Years Old

Happy birthday to me. Today, my friends, is my birthday. 39 years. I had no idea I would live this long nor experience the things that I have in my life. Heck, when I thought of 39 as a teen and young adult, that pretty much sounded like someone rolling off the end of the conveyor belt. I had no idea I would feel this good at 39, that I would still feel so young. That 39 would not be too late to pursue dreams, have sex, fall in love, enjoy the world, laugh with friends. When I was younger, I thought life would pretty much be over by 39 and then I just tried not to think about it anymore. It was, after all, so very far away. Now here I am! And I would take 39 over 20 any day of the week. Well. The wisdom of it. I would not mind my 20 year old body back. Maybe just the boobs. Or the tummy. Or my thighs. Hmm. Who am I kidding? I would like all of it back please! Maybe next time around.

Plans for the day include meeting up with Mom at her house to await the arrival of a Russian cosmetologist who is going to theoretically make me bride-worthy through the artful arrangement of hair and make up. I have never met this woman. She has a lot of the letter Z in her words and her voice is low - REALLY low. She got irritated with me on the phone when we confirmed the appointment yesterday because the first time we talked I gave her the wrong zip code. It is hard to explain how many zip codes within a 10 mile radius I have lived in during the past 15 years and how easy it is to give the wrong one, so I just cheerily apologized and gave her the right one. She has done hair and make up for models and commercial shoots. I think I am going to need to sit down and be very, very quiet while she takes care of me, because she is just a little bit scary. Her voice is so low that she might actually be a he. I have no idea. I have as yet to actually meet her. The joy of the Internet. You too can find perfect strangers online and ask them to come to your home and do your hair. It would not surprise me if she shows up in a leather jumpsuit with a hair dryer attached to one hip and a small crop attached to the other. I like this woman.

After the hair and make up, once I am inappropriately formal for a Saturday afternoon, I am going to go shopping with my mother for a dress and other clothing. My soon to be step-daughter is getting married next Saturday and I have been on a mission to find The Perfect Dress. You ladies know exactly what I mean by this. The dress that says "Effortlessly classy and a little bit sexy but not trying to be sexy because that would be inappropriate and I really don't want to draw attention to myself but in case you look I want to look great" kind of dress. I know this dress has to exist somewhere and that somewhere it has to be cut to fit my oddly disproportionate body. I can't be the only woman on the planet with no boobs but tons of ass. I have lost about 55 pounds since November. This means nothing in my closet fits the way it should. It also means trying on endless clothing, a feat which has begun to throw out my back as I pull dress after dress over my head. I think it may be a side effect of the process, which involves a free-fall of material over my rapidly disappearing breasts, only to come to a clumped up halt on the shelf of my rear. I then commence to dancing in the dressing room as I attempt to stuff 50 pounds of butt into a 30 pound tube. I think enough of that would strain anyone's back. It is a good thing this whole mess is due to weight loss and not gain. It is the only thing saving my self esteem. I am like the socially awkward wanna-be in the world of sheath dresses. Never met a sheath dress I didn't like, yet they treat me so badly. Sheath dresses disdain me in the worst possible way, pretending to be my friend and in the end only pointing out that I am still fat and need more boobs.

In all though, I am feeling pretty foxy these days. Life has been very, very good to me of late and I have been happy. Frighteningly so. Waiting for the sky to fall because it all feels too good to be true kind of happy. I just remind myself that life is cyclical...the good and the bad, they circle around. I am enjoying being in the good part of the circle.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Andrew Kippley died today. It is only 5 in the morning, so some time in the last five hours, he breathed his last breath and flew from this world of suffering. He was truly an amazing young man, just 16 years old. I am awash in sorrow for his mother, my friend, Amber and awash with my own helplessness.

Increasingly newly bereaved parents contact me, reaching out in desperation for a voice that they percieved as strong and knowledgable over the past few years as I detaild Joseph's journey, his death and my grief. I cringe inside when they do. It is not that I do not feel for their loss. Quite the contrary. It tears me up that children are still dying of this disease. That any parent must still watch their baby suffer in this way, fight so hard only to lose and leaving behind forlorn memories of a life fractured by illness and dreams that will never come true. I am overwhelmed by their fresh sorrow, my own face only recently turned from my own shock. I am sure that to most two and a half years seems plenty long to have moved forward and I suppose in some ways I have. But going back to those days with another is not without a price. I am learning I think that "mentor to the grieving", at least right now, is not a role I am prepared to or equiped to fulfill. It simply crumbles me inside, both with the stunned swiftness with which I can be sucked back to those emotions and with the helpless agony of having nothing to offer or give beyond the acknowledgement that others (myself) have been there and lived to tell the tale. There is nothing anyone can say, do or give. Least of all me.

I miss my child daily. Not one morning goes by that his face does not come to mind, not one morning that I don't feel that tanging ache of not having seen him for two and a half years. I miss him. When it rains I think of his grave, so solid and dignified at the foot of that hill at the national cemetary. I think of his sweet young body buried far below and wish I could unearth it and look at him. I do not know if these thoughts are unnatural or normal. They do not consume me. It just passes in and then out again of my consciousness. I am aware of and able to touch the fact that he is not here and never will be again.

I was once told there would come a moment when I could consciously choose to go on living, that I would find some way to say good-bye in my heart. I always imagined that would be a moment of peace and of healing, and I suppose to some extent it has been. But it was not one moment, it was and continues to be a string of them. And there is an air of acceptance more than peace about it all. I accept I will carry this sorrow all my life. I no longer fight it with the fury and rage of the early days. I accept I will never get another day with Joseph and I accept that my soft inward yearning for him will grow more personal and silent as the years go by. So perhaps the word "accept" is stronger right now than the word "peace", though I do have peace much of the time. Not peace in the sense of serenity beyond understanding, like some angel or entity who has infinite wisdom. It again goes back to that word, acceptance. I accept this is mine, just as Joseph was mine. I accept for whatever reason, this has happened and I have to continue onward.

Two weeks ago I got my acceptance letter into nursing school. I have earned the right to achieve the memorial to my son that I whispered to him in our final farewell that I would do. I am proud. I am strong. I am ready. I can do it too Joe-Gi. I can face my fears with the dignity and pride I saw in you every day. I too can focus on the future and minimize the difficulties that come with getting there. And maybe, just maybe, I too can be transformed to something more than just myself through the experience. Maybe I too can change people's lives.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The World As I See It on Friday

I look for rivers of moving water, for words and contemplation that find and tickle my own. My voice has gone quiet, hiding, rabbit-like in stillness behind the boulder that is the weight of my life and my fear. Somehow through all this time and these places I have stopped listening inwardly to anything but the most gutteral cries - the weeping and celebrating of a hundred different kinds of every day, to the point that I no longer feel the urge to even record them in their redundancy. I grow bored at having become a reporter and not an editorialist. My motivation has always been to stroke and to paint, much the way an artist puts out impressions of his mind's eye, taking things apart until you no longer know what it is you are looking at but yet you feel it instead. I have wanted words to be my art, and they are. It does not matter how many other painters are out there. I grow small and unsure as other excellent writers find voice, readership, popularity and fame. I shall sit here and hum my soft tune and see what the morning shall bring me. This is my dirt road, my blue sky that I sit on and only I can see and paint it as Sheri would.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Heart so full

It would appear I have decided to live. This may come as a silly statement out of the blue in this way, when I have not been writing much and life itself has surrounded me so completely. I know I have given a good impression of strength and determination many times on this blog, but let me tell you, it is far from a constant feeling. I think often times the things I have said here that sound brave and strong are as much to convince myself as anyone else. Not all the time. But sometimes.

There is something about having decided to get married that puts life on a different level since Joseph's death. I have lived with it long enough now to know it goes where I go. I no longer fear leaving it, him, our memories behind. But there is a difference between letting life happen and in making conscious decisions to take giant steps forward in an optimistic direction. It seems nothing but good things have been happening to me lately, and my heart is so full I cannot give words. There is no angst in my being right now. Sorrow, yes. Gosh yes. But not debilitating. Not shameful. And I feel, for the first time in a very long time, hopeful.

The wedding plans are simple and to the point, just the way I want it to be. Warmth and intimacy are the most important things. I won't walk down the aisle. I won't even have a wedding bouquet, maybe just flowers in my hair, maybe a jeweled comb, maybe nothing. I have my dress, which comes in around September 19th. We have the week for our honeymoon reserved off from work. We are working on invitations and the menu. The guest list has been written, rewritten and revised. For a while the whole thing grew bigger and bigger and my mood darker and darker, until I realized I was just trying to make a church wedding work in my mother's home. I don't want a church wedding. I just want intimacy and gratitude and fun. Elegance. Our closest friends and family. We can have a party with all our extended circle after we get back from the honeymoon. But for this wedding, I am quite certain there will be fewer than 30 people there, though the guest list sits at 54 right now. It is the week before Christmas and just three weeks after my cousin's first wedding just after Thanksgiving. I don't expect my family will make the trek to Texas. My family is huge. Big. Catholic. German. Wonderful. I have cousins galore on both my mother and father's side. It is just impossible to do a small wedding in my family and invite everyone. We will invite my closest friends, my siblings, Joe's siblings and children, Stewart, my aunts and uncles, my Grandma. And that is pretty much it for this, my second wedding. I just want to focus on getting married. Not so much on having a wedding. I hope it turns out as tasteful, intimate and beautiful as I see it in my minds eye. And if it doesn't, I hope at the end of the day I remember...I am Mrs. Joe Sellars and that is what I wanted all along.

The boys are thrilled. They sought clarification that Joe would be their step-dad now, then sought clarification that it didn't mean that he would try to be their dad. I reassured them they already have a fantastic Dad. Joe will always and ever be a friend, a mentor if they want it, and another adult they can turn to in times of need. But no. He will never try to be your dad, Guys. They seemed relieved and gratified by that. Nick's first questino when we told them the news was wanting to know if we had told Stewart. I am so lucky. I had actually told him and he is so happy for Joe and for me. He will be at the wedding. His being at peace with it, truly at peace with it, has allowed them in turn to feel it is not a betrayal of their father to be happy for us. Thank you Stewart. We love you.

I am at peace tonight. My life is calm, secure, prosperous and good. I am loved and protected. I feel a tinge of sorrow, knowing for me this is a large step forward away from Joseph's ordeal. I feel a tinge of guilt. I have to believe Joseph would wnat this for me too. That he would want me to seize life in the way he didn't get opportunity to. That comforts me. I feel his blessing deep in my heart.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nick looked so tall when he got into the car this evening after I picked him up from his Dad's. His shoulders are starting to broaden and he has that lanky look now of a teenaged boy who is changing rapidly. It makes me sad. It makes me proud. He continues to be a sensitive soul and I continue to wish I were more in tune with that when it really counts. Sometimes I feel as if I am eaten alive by mother-guilt. I wish I could be perfect for them. I wish I was before, I wish I were now. Neither is the case and never will be. The best I can hope for is that they will always know that they are loved. It rushes by so fast, this growing up stuff. I found a few pictures of Nick as a toddler in my drawer tonight, clutching his "Baby" and staring into space, the play area I had set up in the living room just behind him. All the toys in the picture still look familiar. I could still operate them, still name which were favorites, which were neglected. It seems like all those things still ought to be around here somewhere. Where did they go? What did we do with them? I wanted that Little Tykes picnic table for them so badly. What ever happened to it? It bothers me how much I have forgotten. It bothers me that my days of having young children are gone. It gratifies me that I still have a good relationship with my boys. It warms me that they love to hug me and tell me they love me. It gives me peace when that wicked, critical Mommy Monster takes hold of my brain. I don't know how to be less susceptible to it but I wish that I were.

Summer class is going great. I have a 100% average and am enjoying the class so much. It is just a freshman level course - Intro to Sociology, but it really gets me thinking and then requires me to write, sometimes as many as four papers each week. I love it. Such a wonderful change from all the science courses, which I can do well in, but which do not come easily or naturally the way deep thought and writing do. I love my instructor and the rapport we have. I love thinking about life and society and evaluating all the things that I pre-judge as right and wrong and what conditioned me to think the way that I do. It is a fun course and a refreshing change from the human body.

Joe and I have set a date. December 19th. The wedding will be very small and held at Mom's house, in her lovely backyard. We are in the midst of trying to decide where to go on a honeymoon and hammering out the basic details of the wedding. I am trying not to get caught up too much in all of that though. At the end of the day, I just want to be Sheri Sellars and to have good memories of our friends and family, smiling and happy with us. All the frills and froo will not be the part I remember.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Triggered

Alexander is fine. More than fine. No sign of recurrence. Absolutely no sign, still, that anyone was ever digging around in his brain for 14 hours straight. He has no deficits of any sort and does not have to return to the neuro-oncologist for another year. And thus, again, I can breathe.

It is impossible though to go into that hospital, into the childhood cancer clinic and not become immersed back in the mental world that we lived in during Joseph's last 18 months of life. A girl with no hair and her head wrapped in a scarf, seeing my longing gaze and looking at me with knowing, soulful eyes. The urge to close my eyes and touch her head because it might, it just might, for one tiny moment feel like him. How lonely my hands are for him. The child in the corner with his head in his mother's lap and her exhausted, worried face staring into the world's chaotic void. The urge as Alex tromps through there like an athlete amoung handicaps to call out "I am one of you! I am one of you too!!", all the while feeling the absurdity of that. Of course I am. We would not be there otherwise. How bizarre that I can miss that club so much, and yet shy so far away from the club that is other grieving parents. I still can only share that in measured doses.

How I can see a woman at a store with a two or three year old towhead scampering all around her shopping cart, listening to her call to him, keeping him close enough for safety but giving him enough space to satisfy his lust for independent motion and feeling a shocking well of absolute, insane jealousy mingling with the bemused tenderness as his hair flopped around with his bouncy run. He kind of looked like him. He kind of moved like him. For a moment I wished that was my cart. My groceries. My boy. I picked up my sliced ham and went home.

It is probably natural for me to feel it at this time. So many changes going on with the new house, the new engagement, Alex leaving grade school, Nick starting high school. I wish Joseph were here for it all. I miss him with an inner desperation. I have not made much time for missing him of late and I have learned the hard way, it will not be put away. The more I look away from it, the more insistent it seems to get. I probably need to just take a little time this weekend, maybe go out to his grave.

Joe gave me my engagement ring a couple of nights ago. It is perfect, brilliant, beautiful and much more ring than I ever would have expected or felt right in asking for. A beautiful nearly colorless 1 ct princess cut solitaire on white gold. I thought I wanted a round stone, but this one just suits my hand beautifully. I love the weight of it there. I love the sensation. I wake in the night and feel it with my fingertips almost subconsciously. He has incredible taste and spoils me so much. I showed the ring to Nick last night, who promptly bent over my hand and kissed it, then went back to his Gameboy. I asked him why he did that, laughing. He just smiled and said "For luck!" Thank you Baby.

Alex's Yearly Review

Alex has his yearly appointment with Dr. Sacco, his neurooncologist at Children's Medical Center, this morning. I had managed to put it completely out of my mind with everything else going on in the world right now, so it hit me like a gut-snap during the day yesterday. There are just so many factors that make it unnerving, probably the largest of course is the potential to find out his tumor has returned. I have not been in a hospital for a while now, so going to Children's Medical Center, experiencing the smells and the things I see there also puts me off balance. It makes me miss Joseph, triggers feelings that I ought to be able to find him somewhere. All of those familiar things are still there - the lights, the antiseptic scents, the kids in various stages of wellness, the exhausted looking parents, the struggling kid-oriented decor meant to mask the hospital reality, the doctors, nurses, therapists, cleaning people, all with their own color of scrubs - it confuses my mind for a few moments. All of it is still there. How can Joseph not be? And that particular reality combined with why we are there - to see if Alexander's tumor is back - can bring a small part of me to my knees somewhere inside. A hand wrapped tightly, holding my still beating heart.

But Alex is six years out from his surgery now and it is unlikely we will find a thing. I hold onto that like a security blanket and ignore the internal whispers that remind me we have seen the face of Unlikely so many times that I can pick it out in a crowd. At least we have graduated from having to have these visits four times a year to having them once a year. And at least now I can approach them with the memory of how relieved I feel when it is all over and we have gotten the "all clear".

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Goin' to the Chapel and We're....

*pause for dramatic build up*

So!

Joe has asked me to be his bride. And I have, of course, accepted him. And we are both pretty happy about that! It will be wonderful to make the life we already live together a legal thing and to have just one day that we can celebrate the happiness we have found in one another with those who love us. We are planning a very low key affair, small, sometime in December most likely.

The proposal was pretty laid back, low key, very intimate. We have been exhausted from this move and the renovations on the new house. We finished moving out on Saturday night and on Sunday morning hit the new house hard, getting boxes in the rooms they go in and arranging furniture, organizing the kitchen (Thanks Mom for all your help!), hooking up appliances - you get the picture. After the day before, moving into the new house in 100+ degree heat, around 2 PM Sunday I just hit a brick wall. So fatigued I could weep. Mom headed home and Joe sent me upstairs to get a shower, saying we could just read and relax the rest of the day. I was so relieved! I came down after my shower with a wet head, no make up, wearing the rattiest pair of hot pink yoga pants you ever saw and a tank top. I cuddled down on the couch, a breath away from drifting off. He was in the kitchen putzing and came in with his wine decanter and two glasses. He had opened up a very good bottle of wine and I assumed we were just toasting our first moments alone in our new home together. He poured, handed me a glass and we looked around at all we have done and talked about it a little bit. I cannot describe how tired I felt...it was surreal to be that fatigued. I could barely life the glass. We toasted the house and then he just smiled and said "So...will you marry me?" I think I laughed and I said something along the lines of "haha...you don't mean that!". He said he did mean it. I asked him if he was serious and he said that he was. And all I could think about was how AWFUL I looked at that moment! I said something along those lines and he said if I was any more beautiful he couldn't stand it. And then I started crying. :love:

No ring yet and no date set, but those things will come and I am enjoying looking forward to them and talking with Joe about them. There's still a TON left to do in the new house, but it is shaping up beautifully and we are feeling pretty happy with the decision to buy it and renovate it. We had our first margaritas on the back porch together last night while Joe grilled some chicken for us in our first home cooked meal since about two weeks ago. Right at this moment I do not care if I ever have take out again! Give me Joe's grilled chicken any day.

Joe started his new position on Monday and it is going well. Nick and Alex are back from camp, over the swine flu and staying busy this week with vacation bible school (they are counselors there) and Alex playing softball with the youth group at church.

I am feeling very, very blessed these days.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Remember to be happy

I was reading the journal of another mother who lost a child to cancer this morning. She spoke in it of coming to a startling conclusion...that she has to remember to be happy. The grief is always there; it has become the foundation, and she was reminding herself to remember to seek out happiness and joy. I do not think I necessarily have trouble being happy but there are definitely times (perhaps more often than not) that I forget about the pursuit of happiness, particularly every day happiness. I am often startled at how many times I find a sense of internal irritation at voices from others interrupting my thought pattern; how many times I am intolerant of changes of mood, scenery or emotional ambiance when I have gotten my thoughts lined up in a particular course. I am not good at changing directions. Children in particular make it difficult for me. Their moods go from one spectrum to another without thought or reasoning. They don't get stuck in any one flavor of the soul; they sample from the world of emotion freely and exhaustively. But always, always they are in pursuit of happiness. Even when they are upset, it is usually because of something that interrupted that pursuit, not upset in general. Joe and I have a lot of joy and are good at pursuing dreams and ambitions together. My boys are still boys and playful, silly and spontaneous. But I often sink into irritation when I should not, simply because it feels like a great labor to move out of my internal dialogue and into their external one. I seem to have forgotten how to play. It is something I need to practice. It makes all of them so happy when I am open and receptive to external positive influences, less brooding, less protective of myself, less closed. I need to remember to actively seek happiness. I am blessed that so much naturally occurs in my life. I need to enjoy it more fully.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer

Summer is really here! It has gotten fairly hot out rather rapidly for having had such a mild spring. For a while there I wondered if the Texas heat was actually going to make an appearance this year. Of course, I need not have wondered. It is here, as expected. Nick and Alex are leaving late on Saturday evening (they pull out at 9 PM) with the Scouts to spend a week at Scout Camp in Colorado. I love being in a place financially that we can make this kind of a trip reality for both of them, and I love how each time they go on one of these trips without their father or I, they come back a little bit more of the man they will become and a little bit less of the boy that they were. That being said, my heart is giving me pangs on a regular basis throughout the day. This is Alexander's first major trip with the Scouts. Nick has done this one before, but not Alex. And given all of Alex's medications and reliance on them to sustain life along with the fact that he is my baby, I am having a great deal of anxiety about this trip. He, of course, is chomping at the bit to go. I try not to imagine all the things that could go wrong, but it is proving difficult. I worry. Letting go is hard.

The house is coming along nicely. Joe is doing a ton of work there during the day and I am rather envious that he gets to do that while I am stuck behind a desk and telephone. I love watching the changes unfold as they take place and working to make that happen, though coming back at the end of the day to a house that is different than it was at the beginning is fun too. I feel like a slacker though. He is doing all the hard stuff and I just show up, ooo and aaahh at the beauty of it and then feed him. Its keeping us busy though and will for some time to come. I do love working by his side and cherish making those memories. We work well together.

This is pretty dull, but all that I have time for right now. School started for summer this week and registration for fall begins on the 23rd. I have immunizations to accomplish and an application to turn in for nursing school...and I got notice yesterday that it is time to start forming Team Joseph again for the Heros for Children 5K fundraiser in mid September. I can hardly wait to do that again.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Busy

I think my reading audience has dwindled from the 1000+ I had while Joseph was ill to a scant maybe 15 or 20 at this point. I just don't feel that urge to write very much anymore, or at least not as much to write about my grief. Perhaps this is a time of redefinition where I can rediscover the ironies and humors inherent in life and start practicing harder letting all the angst and sorrow become more of an underscore rather than the primary melody. The truth is, I am a little sick of myself right now. I am tired of the emotional waves that keep coming through this whole moving process.

We close on the house on Friday afternoon and this weekend will be an intense one of demolition as we remove about 80% of the floors and base boards to make way for the contractors who will start next week. We'll start painting too. I have to pick out wallpaper. Who uses wallpaper anymore? I don't even know where to go to shop for it and am hoping my Mom will have both ideas of where to shop and wisdom about what looks good once its up. Here in Texas as a general rule walls are always textured and wallpaper is not really a possibility unless you are willing to refinish them first. But this house has several rooms with smooth walls and very loud, dark wallpaper. I suppose I could still paint if it comes off easily enough, but that's a pretty big "if". I have never really seen a wallpaper pattern that whispers an impassioned "Live with me for ten years at least!", so we'll see how I do with that. I could use help shopping and picking it out, but my social time with girlfriends has taken a hard hit since Spring with all the house buying and school stuff going on. I hope once we are moved and in that things will start to settle down again. We close tomorrow and move in the weekend of June 20th officially. We are leasing this house back from the new owner for two weeks....a motivated, single young man who currently lives with his parents and works for a bank, buying his first home. I hope he will be happy here. We certainly have been and its bittersweet to be moving away so soon. Two years is a pretty quick turn around.

So life has been a whirlwind of tile, hardwood flooring (not laminate...I hate laminate...pressed cardboard Yekkkkchhhh!), carpet samples, paint colors, blinds, area rugs, furniture (we got the coolest new breakfast set on Craigslist this week...see pics), turn this off, turn that on, move money here, activate this account there...we have so many debit cards floating around right now we had to mark them with Sharpies to keep track of what is for what.

I am hoping to go to the house tonight to take a ton of "before" pictures. It won't be completed renovated when we move in but a large chunk of it will be started...namely the floors done and the entryway repainted. I am hoping to have the kitchen painted and the boys' rooms by then as well. Maybe even the master bedroom. I am getting a bit ambitious. School starts this weekend too and I have not even bought my book yet.

I apply for nursing school by the end of next month. I got my requisition in the mail from my PCP to check my titer levels and see what immunizations I need of the list required to apply for admission. My transcripts are in order and my application filled out and ready to send in. I doubt I will get in this time. I have one pre-requisite that I am still missing and will take in the fall. But I am going to go ahead and try. Sometimes the Spring admission has fewer applicants, so I may be able to get accepted still missing that pre-req. We shall see.

Nick is ill for the first time in three years. Breaks my heart for him and kind of ruins the last week of school for him. Hopefully he will be feeling better today now that he has a couple of days of antibiotic in him. Alex will be getting the Presidential Award at school today for his grades and citizenship. He is very proud to have a certificate coming that is signed by President Obama.

That's all for now! Have a wonderful day! Here's the new table...that thing in the middle is the pedestal showing through the glass top.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sweet 16

I have been feeling pretty locked up the last few days. Joseph's 16th birthday is tomorrow, and for about a week now it has been slowly migrating into my chest and settling in there. The physical nature of grief doesn't frequently hit me anymore, so that when it does, it takes me by surprise and just exhausts me inside and out. I have had my share of tears, of wondering, of anger. I have also had my share of moments with him, with his presence as I now percieve it.

I have taken a huge step and am allowing Joe to go to the cemetery with me today to decorate Joseph's grave. His birthday is always on or just after Memorial Day weekend and so far I have always gone alone. I hate that it already feels familiar, just two years after his death. That I already feel like I have a "routine" for the difficult days, the anniversaries and punctuation points. I've always held my grieve close to my chest, but I have done a better job of sharing it with Joe this time around. I am finding it helps to tell him in a soft, matter of fact way that I am struggling. He is one of the most perceptive men I know and can always tell when something is "off" in me but does not always know why. That can leave a lot of room for interpretation and misunderstanding. Telling him I am grieving more actively, that I am in internal emotional pain, has helped him to know what's going on with my complicated self. Given that he actively desires to show me he cares about this pain in my heart, letting him know bluntly what is going on helps us both. Its taken me a while to be able to say it out loud to him and to admit it to myself when these waves of sorrow come upon me. Surrendering to the impenetrable nature of my grief has been difficult. It requires a degree of vulnerability and it requires an acceptance of the loss. Letting go of all vestiges of denial has been difficult, but has definitely happened at this point. Joseph is in heaven.

Life in all has been good. We close on both homes on June 5th, which is not far away. We will lease our current home on Gardenia back from the new owner for two weeks while we do some basic necessary cosmetic work in the new house. It is in need of floors and some paint, both of which are easier to do without any furniture in the home. Mom had a great idea when she came to see the new house yesterday, suggesting the boys, who have been angling for ways to earn some money this summer, be allowed to make painting the garage their own project. Joe and I are mulling that over and leaning toward a favorable decision. They can't do much damage out there and it will be a big enough job to keep them busy and make them stretch their work ethic, but not so huge as to overwhelm. They are both excited about their new rooms and think that having an "upstairs" to the home is the coolest thing ever. They are intrigued by the jetted tub in the master bathroom and grumbled a bit that there isn't one in the kids bathroom, which made me laugh. The house really is a big, wonderful project, needing cosmetic updating inside all over the place. Joe and I are both excited and looking forward to the transformation. I'll post pictures here as they come available. Here are a couple of the front of the home as it sits now, being eaten alive by overgrowth of shrubbery. One of the first orders of business after we move in will be cutting back the overgrowth so that you can actually see the house!




Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day 2009



I take a deep breath this morning. I am up early, a half hour earlier than usual. There is so much on my mind that rest seems almost impossible. This house is officially under contract and only something major and untoward will derail its sale now. And yesterday we entered the option period on a new home of our own, probably about one mile from where we live now, in a newer neighborhood, a newer house, larger, more impressive from the street with bay windows that look out upon a pair of large trees, their knotted branches crawling in a kind of orchestrated pathway toward the sky that is both rustic and charming. There will be a yellow kitchen with white wainscoting when I get done with it, a study den with cherry hardwood flooring and a master bathroom so splashed with sunlight it will ease my soul just to enter into it. I'll take some pictures and post them soon along with the changes we make. Its in great condition but needs paint and some other updating.

It is Mother's Day today and I am glad I got up early, to take my soft moments with Joseph in my mind and heart. I ache with missing him this morning in a way that closes my throat with the depth of my yearning. I can see the last Mother's Day card he gave me, could go pull it out of my memory box if I wanted to. And I might at some point today. Its funny to have a whole day dedicated to thanking mothers for doing what we do. And I love having it when it comes to honoring my own mother, who is in Greece this year on a much deserved, very long vacation. But when it comes to me, I have to smile inside. Being Joseph, Nick and Alexander's mother is such a privilege. It was so eye opening as I came to feel and know that through Alexander's brain tumor and Joseph's leukemia. I know I had no idea until after those ordeals just how blessed I have been. It seems an easy, flippant way to communicate and those words seem inadequate to me for what I feel in my heart as I think of and enjoy my boys. As Joseph slipped away from us and I visited his Caringbridge page to let the world know he had gone on to heaven, the knowledge that it has been the privilege of my life to be his mother was so humble and raw inside me, and I recorded that there, on his page. And it is true. These precious, sacred souls who will grow to struggle through life as adults themselves, just the way I and you and everyone has, were mine for this brief flash of time. I love that they are planning to honor me today. They get so excited to have the opportunity to show me how they feel about me, and Stewart is taking me out to brunch with Nick and Alex early this morning. I feel Joseph's absence and I reach forward in my soul for feelings of his presence. I am still and will always be his mother, and I am thankful that even death cannot change that. A love deeper than death, for all of my children. And from my own mother...for me.

I plugged my Zune in this morning to charge it so that I can take a long, cathartic walk later today. I sat here before Joseph's picture in the early morning darkness, gently tearful, listening to the rain stop falling, lingering wetness dripping in thick, rich sounds of fertility with birds waking to call sweet Good Morning. A very old song came on my Zune, one I had forgotten I ever downloaded... a cheesy song from the 70s that I loved as a little girl. And I heard and felt Joseph's spirit and wept with that strange bittersweet combination of sorrow and gratitude.

You might wake up some morning
To the sound of something moving past your window in the wind
And if you're quick enough to rise
You'll catch a fleeting glimpse of someone's fading shadow

Out on the new horizon
You may see the floating motion of a distant pair of wings
And if the sleep has left your ears
You might hear footsteps running through an open meadow

Don't be concerned, it will not harm you
It's only me pursuing something I'm not sure of
Across my dreams with nets of wonder
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love

You might have heard my footsteps
Echo softly in the distance through the canyons of your mind
I might have even called your name
As I ran searching after something to believe in

You might have seen me running
Through the long-abandoned ruins of the dreams you left behind
If you remember something there
That glided past you followed close by heavy breathing

Don't be concerned, it will not harm you
It's only me pursuing something I'm not sure of
Across my dreams with nets of wonder
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love

Across my dreams with nets of wonder
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Learning to be okay

We sold the house this weekend. It was on the market technically two days and we had two offers in. The realtor for our buyer came by last night to drop off earnest money and stayed and chatted for a while. My ego was loving all the accolades being given about how nice the house is - the beauty of the wood floors, the lushness of the backyard, the gorgeous upgrades we did in the bathrooms. Selling a house is a rough way to get compliments on it though. When the contract came through, I wept. Joe had countered the original offer, which was very good in and of itself, with an amount we didn't really think would come through. Truth be told, we aren't quite ready for this to happen this fast. We have nowhere to go, nothing picked out yet. So we still have nowhere to go, nothing picked out, but will essentially be a cash buyer. I am hoping to find an older home from the 70s in Plano that needs fixing up, to buy it relatively cheap and to go in and make it too into an uncommonly lovely home. I love doing this. For me, it will be my first home purchase. Joe bought this one for us. This next one we are buying together. The economy and circumstances keep me pretty quiet about my excitement over that, but it hums inside me when I am alone with my private self. It is a very proud thing for me, to have enough money to buy a house.

School is almost over. I have given myself a lot to think about this semester. Basically I kept school in a quiet background. I did my homework, did my studying, but worked consciously hard on not letting it be a focal area of my life. More like a hobby. The result was that I learned more, have higher grades and enjoyed the class. Note to self: All that mental anguish gets in the way of the goal it is trying to reach.

How many things in life can this be said about? Most things I suspect. I know I have addressed it time and again, but learning to be okay with being okay after the loss of a child is a huge hurdle, one I suspect most people don't get past. It feels like a sin against your child, his memory, your love for him if you are able to go out and not only appear happy but actually be happy. Learning that sadness and joy are not opposites, but in fact live side by side, hand in hand, that this is the paradox that life is, in all its complicated glory, can just about take you over the edge. We don't think that we are supposed to be happy within sadness, or sad within joy. But there are threads of one within the other and it bears noting that contrasts are specifically given by the Artist I think to make things more noticable. Punctuation points if you will. I am growing more accepting these days about so many things. My capacity for grief. My capacity to love. That I am the kind of friend who doesn't need constant interaction to continue affection, that I am a bit reclusive but also a bit of a partier. That my desires don't necessarily conform to what would be considered normal or respectable for someone of my age in my situation. That I have never been and never will be the kind of woman who makes men yearn and other women wish they were me. That I am my own unique self and within that self is power, compassion, the will to go forward, the ability to weild knowledge, wisdom, change. It feels good to be getting good with me.

Joseph's 16th birthday is fast approaching, on May 26th. It occurred to me yesterday and has lingered like a little shadow in a corner of my mind since. Experience tells me that shadow will grow as the day approaches. Wisdom tells me it will overtake me from time to time, but release me from its grip in a wisp of shaken smoke and life will continue forward and Joseph's spirit will continue on with me. I can both be glad Joseph has a birthday and yet dread its approach.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Alexander's Journey

I spend so much time here focusing on Joseph and his cancer journey, his death, my loss. I often get people who ask me how I can hang onto hope. They don't know how I do it. They could never be as strong as me. They could never handle it if that happened to their child. I have to say, when my head isn't necessarily in the right place and I am not feeling charitable (because usually I DO understand that most people MEAN well even as they stick their feet in their mouths), it angers me. Yes, you could. I am sure nobody MEANS to imply they love their child more than I did and do mine. Surely they don't mean to say that. They are trying to pay me a compliment and 90% of the time that I how I take it. 10% of the time, I am cranky and think "Bullshit!"

In any case, this young man is a big reason why I can see miracles even in the face of the tragedy of Joseph's loss. Alex is 11 years old now, but when he was just barely turned 5 we found out he had a brain tumor called a Craniopharyngioma. This is a benign brain tumor that behaves malignantly. What that means is that it cannot spread to the spinal canal, but it can invade different structures in the brain and it is a recurrent tumor. It tends to come back. Believe it or not, in the brain, a benign tumor can be just as bad as a malignant one. There's nowhere for the tissues to go when locked inside the skull. Any swelling is bad. And benign tumors do not respond to chemotherapy. Some respond to radiation, but radiation to a five year old's brain can be devastating. We had no choice but to go forward with all the risks involved in the attempt for a complete resection.

Alexander's tumor was about the size of a golf ball and had grown around to encapsulate his pituitary gland. It was near the optic nerves and the center of the brain that controls personality and appetite. We were warned he might come out of his surgery blind, a completely different child in personality and with the inability to ever feel full again..that he may have an appetite disorder that causes him to have the drive to eat incessantly. We were warned he might develop a criminal personality, that he may eventually die of severe obesity at a very young age, that we may need to get a chain and lock for the refrigerator. And of course there were all the usual risks of digging around all the blood vessels of the brain and what have you. It was a very dark time in life, as Stewart and I were going through our divorce right in the middle of it and things were not as settled then as they are now. To be honest, I don't like to talk about it much. What's weird is that it looks like a walk in the park compared to what Joseph went through, but it wasn't. It was horrible.

We had a party for Alex the night prior to surgery at Chuck E. Cheese. He was in preschool at our church and his little friends came to be with him. It was as if he were celebrating, as if he really knew what was coming. I suppose on a rudimentary level he did. He had "lifesavers" on his head to be used by the surgeons the next day to help locate the tumor, but that didn't seem to bother him or his friends. They had a blast.







The surgery took a total of 14 long hours. He has an incision from one ear to the other, zig-zagging across his head to keep his hair falling naturally and not just on either side of a long scar, creating an unnatural part. His face was folded forward through to his brow and the front portion of his frontal skull removed. They then went along the side of his brain to approach the tumor up from underneath and to remove it painstaking bit by bit. Every hour or so they would call us from the O.R. to tell us how things were going. We were given our own private waiting room. It was hell. Friends came and played cards with me, which helped.










The tumor contained a viscous, oily substance that is very toxic, and some of it spilled out as it was resected. After he was cleared to go home, his head swelled up like a mushroom and he was raced back to Children's, where he was diagnosed with chemical meningitis...probably the most frightening part of the whole ordeal. He was a pretty sick little guy, with no desire to play, talk or interact....which is truly disturbing in a five year old.








Alexander lives his life with a host of medical management, as he has no endocrine function at all. The pituitary gland is the "mainframe" gland that controls most of the other glands in the body. He has medications that replace those functions and gets growth hormone injections six out of seven days of the week. Without his medications he would swiftly die. We are going on six years since the tumor was removed and Alex continues to thrive. He is a straight A student, plays sports, makes friends and is active in Scouts. He has a normal life expectancy, though he will need to be checked for recurrence all his life. Should the tumor return, as he gets older, the less risky it will be to do radiation on it, which should eradicate it forever. This is my Alex in his school picture for this year...fifth grade. His scars are nearly undetectable. He is the most inspiring person I know.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dappled Light


Closets can become a very intimidating thing for anyone who has lost someone close to them, but perhaps most so for a parent who has lost a child. And one cannot move from a home without having to do a fair amount of closet cleaning and organizing, first for the sale of the home and then for the move itself. Needless to say, there's been a fair amount of closet cleaning in my life these days. I marvel that for a house that Joseph never lived in, and for a woman who was so careful to put everything I have of him in one place under the presumption that I still want to know where he is, so to speak, that little pieces of him continue to leak out of my neat organization and into the furthest reaches of my home and my mind. It is symbolic on so many levels. I cannot contain my grief. I cannot relagate him to the past nor to a neatly controlled place in the present. Because he is not in any one place, connected with any one thing. Joseph is always here, always with me.

I found the above picture while organizing and thinning out our closet in the master bedroom yesterday afternoon. I am pleased to say that while finding such memories still knick my heart with pangs that can only be categorized as pain, it is the kind of pain that tweaks a smile even as it tempts the tears. Proof he was here, and by its inexplicable location in the closet, perhaps proof in its own way that he still is...not so much that I think he is haunting or physically rearranging things, but more a sense that just the way belongings tend to "wander" about a home, his spirit undoubtedly wanders somewhere, everywhere. The picture is poignant and inspires both memory and thought...a glimpse, a "where's Waldo", a impish look, a "here I am, down here"...a reminder that if I do not pay attention, I may miss something precious, something joyful and fleeting.

Moving is so hard. I have so many worries, so many questions and so much baggage from my past. We are upgrading our home. We've both worked hard for it, we've planned and saved and talked and handled our money with utmost responsibility and care. There will never be another opportunity like there is right now in terms of the tax break and the interest rates and it would be foolish not to take advantage of it when we have both the means and the desire to do so. But I find myself, as I wander through beautiful homes, catching my breath, holding my stomach against inner turmoil and feelings of anxiousness...as if I need to hide. As if I do not belong there. It is so much more than I ever hoped I would have. When Stewart and I divorced and the world fell apart in every sense (and I with it), I came to accept I was going to only have so much in life. That I only deserved so much. At first there was anger at the death of so many dreams, but then there was acceptance and an eagerness to embrace what hand I was dealt and to get on with it. I put away the dream home idea, put away any thought of ever having any kind of financial prosperity. And I was fine. I lost the bitterness and any sense of entitlement. Alexander's and then Joseph's cancer solidified that into my soul and I became a better person I think. But somewhere in there apparently was a tiny voice that recognized mistakes made during that horrible time and whispered "You got what you deserved".

Joe moving here and buying us a house fulfilled so many dormant desires that I no longer touched. It was like throwing open the windows in a dusty, cobwebbed attic, cleaning everything in sight and revealing a treasure-trove put away. A life partner. Daily support. A leave-taking of loneliness. A lovely, physical home surrounded by green and flowers, filled with the life-standards of comfort, forgiveness and joy, beyond but including contentment. There was no restless bird inside to silence or sooth...it had long gone quiet in my refusal to pay it heed. But it flutters again now as we look at improvements still further, squawking out warnings of the danger of asking too much of the universe. We have been given our slice of happiness. Do we reach too far (do I reach too far) to dare to dream of more? I feel the yearning forward, countermanned by the anxious backward pull, the niggling fingers of fear up my spine and the difficulty imagining myself there amoung granite countertops and brand new appliances. I have realized I still feel somewhere in me that perhaps I do not deserve it. I recognize it won't be hard to get used to a bigger home, a nicer neighborhood. Will I continue to recognize my blessings if I become surrounded by a still more bountiful serving of Plenty? Does accepting there is more to be had lead to a natural inclination to always seek out More? I do not want to be a suburban grasper. I simply want to be happy. We could use more space. We both like nice things. But I struggle with my fear of loss, of being punished for daring to awaken that optimism, particularly in times like these. And I fear I am still haunted by an inner sense of undeservedness.

Joe listens and understands. The stress of buying a new home is not lost on us, but so far it seems to have awakened a deeper communication, solemn, serious talks about finances and fears, hopes and desires. I love talking with him. I love exploring his mind and how he delves into mine. And I love the glasses of wine and the touch of his hand that always comes, drawing me to him....the mental connection of long deliberations, perhaps inevitably, seeking to solidify in the silence of physical, emotional.

Nick and Alex get home from scout camp around noon. I have no doubt they will be filthy, tired, jubilant, arguing. I look forward to seeing them. The air today is silken with damp, the sky hidden behind thick clouds of spring. The day is busy. Life is busy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blessings

I have never been a cereal eater. My stomach, which continues to have a real affinity for pretty much any kind of food, will tolerate its consumption readily enough but my sense of what is and is not food gets tangled up in what I refer to as
"the mush factor". This basically refers to the fact that cereal turns to goo about four minutes after pouring the milk and that I find this disgusting. I marvel though that those who enjoy cereal seem to have an almost addictive passion for it. In particular it seems to occupy a mental list of favorite night-time snacks for them. It would never occur to me to eat cereal at night and honestly seldom occurs to me to eat it for breakfast.

So it is out of the ordinary for me that I poured a bowl and attempted to eat it this morning. Joe brought it home yesterday. I liked the name of it. "Bountiful". Who wouldn't want to try something called Bountiful? Who wouldn't want a peice of that? Bountiful smells like pancakes. And falls apart even more rapidly. I could not finish my bowl...the soggy mess stuck in my throat, nearly making me gag...an interesting phenomenon given that it actually tasted just fine. I contented myself with drinking the flavored sweetness of the milk and left the mush to its own devices, where it promptly deflated and disintegrated to cold gruel. Yuck. I felt vaguely misled by the name.

Joe and I venture into the waters of change again. We are two cautious but confident travelers it would seem, battered a bit by the harsh blows of life but able to see it is worth it to press onward in a calculated fashion. We decided over the course of this past week to go ahead and put the house on the market as we had been planning to do when Cooper Clinic laid me off. The new job is acceptable and seems to be a good enough fit. The neighborhood we live in has seen a surge in home sales, with the majority of them staying on the market between 9 and 11 days prior to getting an offer. There just aren't that many homes in Allen in this price range, and it is a place people tend to want to live. It is a nice suburb with good schools, low crime and a slightly less frantic pace of traffic than you find in Plano, just to the south. The incentives to buy right now are unparalleled. The interest rate as we got our preapproval last week made me giddy.

So we spent yesterday purchasing things to spruce up the curb appeal. We trimmed back the monkey grass, straighted up the base of the crepe myrtles and sculptured the bushes back to neat, clean lines. Joe edged the sidewalks; I swept along behind him. We had picked out flowers at Lowes and spread red cedar mulch and planted them in the flower beds. "A spash of color, to draw the eye" our realtor advised. It looks better now than it ever has. We played music while we worked - Jimmy Buffett, Jim Croce, mixed songs from the glory days of the 70s. The wind blew like a gale and it never quite warmed to where we'd hoped, but the recent rain made the Texas clay more workable and the smiles exchanged in passing waves of dappled sunlight and ruffling hair felt like punctuation points of pure, unadulterated joy.

I found myself surprised when it was all finished how much my back ached, how tired my legs felt. I retreated to the shower to wash the red stain off my hands and pluck the mud from beneath my fingernails. I swear there are few pleasures more acute than that of getting clean after hard labor. Joe and I met on the back porch, showered and clean, a bottle of crisp white wine and two glasses in his hand, his book overturned on the patio table and Michael Buble singing my favorite songs on the sound system. I curled beneath the red knitted blanket some kind soul gave me at the hospital in one of Joseph's darker days, picked up my latest Anita Shreve selection from the library and smiled, watching the wind blow two recent dress purchases in sizes I have not seen in many years, watching them dry in the sun. We sat there together, we two, for an hour or more, reading, exchanging bits of banter...companionability bringing continued waves of peace and gratitude as the day began to fade. Unseen signals kept us on a timetable known and important only to us two, guiding the preparation of steak and lobster tails (T-bone for him, filet for me) on the grill, the formation of spinach salad with hardboiled eggs and bacon, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes with butter and salt. The light left the outer world and we retreated indoors, talking with animation...something I can marvel that we still can do this many years later, that we still have so much to say. How many lovers has time forgotten who were every bit as much contented and together as we? We love on borrowed time, our lives brief. My knowledge of this enhances the depth of my emotion, giving clarity, sweeping away so much pollution from long ago, the musky shadows of youthful expectations and romantic idealism dissipating like the mist that they are, leaving only that which is true. I am lucky to have found someone. I am lucky I was raised how I was. I am lucky to have such a life.

So we will find another house, something closer to our "dream home", a term that makes me laugh a little bit. My dream home is right here, not defined by windows and walls, but bound up within the understanding between two souls who have both known sorrow, heartache, failure. The dream home goes with us, no matter what building we house it in. I am fortunate to have what I have in my life. I am even more fortunate that despite the life lessons that brought me here, I have been given a spirit of understanding exactly how rare and precious it is.

Yesterday was a very, very good day.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dear Joseph

Dear Joseph,

Here we are, our third Easter without you. It doesn't feel very Easter-ish today with the rain, the chill and the blustering, howling wind. But it is a day of renewal nonetheless and a reminder of why I believe I will see you again. How do they celebrate Easter in heaven?

I wonder now how interested you would be in all this Easter Bunny traditional stuff. I suspect you would still enjoy coloring eggs with your brothers. Your artistic bend was deep and true to your soul. You'd be tall, I have no doubt. Next month you would turn 16 and be geared up to drive. You'd be finishing 10th grade at Vines and this coming school year would be your first at the Senior High, the very school I myself and your father graduated from. It is strange to think of, some kind of twilight zone that almost came true.

My thoughts today are on your funeral, where you remain in my mind's eye a 13 year old boy who died, my boy. It is interesting that I can vaguely imagine you older and more mature, a hazy vision on the periphery of consciousness, like looking at an image through frosted glass. Again, an echo of what might have been carried now only on a windy whisper, no longer an air of promise, but one of wistfulness tinged by sorrow. Nothing that happend to you was supposed to have happened from my motherly point of view. It is two years since your death and I now look back at you with a paradoxical sense of your having really been here and yet a wonderment of angst and fearfulness that perhaps you were never more than a spirit that flitted in and then out of my life. It is hard to reconcile the solidity of the being that I held and comforted, that I bore from my body and physically nurtured and raised...and the physical nothingness that you have become now. It is all swirls of emotion and sense, lingering shadows of a boy...a beautiful, wonderful, flawed, human boy. I miss your laughter, the steadiness of your love, the unceasing goodness that warmed from inside out of you, the impishness, irresponsibility, occasional orneriness, disobedience and independence. You were everything a boy should be and many things that many are not, sex and age aside.

I chose songs of resurrection for your funeral services on purpose. I did not want that final public farewell to be an agonized, teeth-gnashing, God-cursing affair that showed the horror and fury of my heart at the time. I guess at some level I knew I would want to look back on that event and be bolstered by spirital statements of faith that I still can have difficulty grasping with conviction but that fill me with hope and give messages of soothing peace, for you and for me. I enjoy now remembering the music and the experience, how many people were there, how many lives you touched. I hum the music and feel a surrender inside.

So that is what this day is about for me now. I think I will always be prompted to remember your funeral on Easter. Its the one day of the year the songs from your services are played out loud to the world. I don't go to church on this day...I cannot, at least not yet. But I hear and remember. I sing in my heart. And this year, I am touched by the knowledge that life itself is fundamentally a very, very good thing. None of our ends from here will be anything but poignant, and eventually all of us will walk the pathway you have set off on. That knowledge comforts me too, oddly enough. Yours was too soon, but not unusual nor even incorrect. It was not wrong for you to die. Premature is a different thing than incorrect. It enables me to look forward in every sense, to the life I have left to live to the inevitability of its end and our reunion. And it allows me to look back, to the fullness that was you, your universal nature filling a house, a room, a life, my heart with the unstoppable personality you were and still are. Acknowledging the goodness of this life let's me touch and hold the goodness yours was. It lets me be okay with the goodness that still is. I no longer have to try so hard to be happy Baby. You would like knowing that fundamentally, I am. And part of the happiness is that you were here with me...and that I believe you will be again.

I love you. I miss you. It is Easter and you are still here with me and in me.

Love,
Mom

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Eeew! A bug!

So I am doing my usual thing, up early, before anyone else, where I can enjoy my thoughts and activities in solitude, without interruption and without having to give any attention at all to anyone else. I love this time of day. One of my favorite parts is making the coffee for Joe and I. Its a tender thing, a sweetly submissive gesture of love and caring that I make most every day, but on weekends I get to enjoy it. I get to enjoy what it means to me, I get to enjoy the smell of it brewing. I get to enjoy knowing he is snug and safe in our bed and will awaken to the rich scent. I even enjoy the heaving hiss of the coffeemaker as it struggles to crank out our daily dose of legalized addictive stimulant.

So this morning is no different. The windows are all open...it is damp and cool and going to be a nice, somewhat cool day with highs in the 60s. The birds are all aflutter and everything is beginning to put on its spring finery. Foliage greens are so crisp at this time of year. I have been doing some research for a homework project on a very rare syndrome and coming up frustrated as I try to find enough information on it to equal a four to five page report. So I give myself a break and get up to make the coffee. I love opening the coffee container, the smoky scent of the grounds, the slight crunch of the spoon as it digs into the depths and pulls out small mountains of fragrance and the promise of warmth.

As it brews, I go back to my studying, punctuated by visits to social sites like Facebook and MySpace...guilty little vices that are harmless until they get in the way of things I really ought to be doing. When the coffee is done, I am ready. I procur my cup and the creamer from the fridge. I go to the coffee pot, already anticipating that first warm cup that I will now get to enjoy in guilt-free solitude.

And there, staring me in the face, right at the very top of the water indicator line of the coffee machine, INSIDE the machine....is a bug. GACK!! There's a bug in my coffee machine! I lean forward and study this offending entity. What's he doing there? He's a big one too....what is he? A beetle? A roach? There has been far more bugs this spring so far than I am used to dealing with in the house, but this has just gone too far now. I tap the glass and God help me, it moves. GACK!! How did it survive the brewing process? And now what do I do?? I can't DRINK this! It percolated in bugginess! And how do I get the damn thing OUT of my coffee pot? A vinegar pot won't kill it or remove it. Bleach will kill it but not remove it. I want coffee but I am NOT drinking from that pot. What do I do?

So I go back to the living room, empty cupped and unfulfilled, distressed. No coffee. And a coffee pot with a bug in it. That means no coffee tomorrow either unles the offender should choose to leave. Because as a certified bug-o-phobe, that sucker is not getting a confrontation from me. There is only one way to deal with bugs...avoid, avoid, avoid. Besides, since he's in the water indicator, I cannot possibly get him out unless I take something like a pipe cleaner and squish him up in there, which will do me no good at all. Then I have a SQUISHED bug in my coffee maker. GACK!! There's nothing to be done for it. Joe will have to take me out for coffee when he gets up and we'll have to buy a new coffee brewer. Bug 1: Sheri 0. Never say I'm not a gracious loser.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Just Musing on a Spring Morning

Here we are in April and it is Good Friday. I wish I spent more time on spiritual matters. I have taken to quiet little prayers more often lately, slightly more formal than my usual ethereal means of sending thoughts out into the Universe and hoping they get picked up somewhere by a loving God. I can absolutely consume my own mind with worry and as such turn myself into a neurotic without meaning to. Its not fair to those who love me to see me eat myself alive. I am my own macrophage. Negativity is like a cancer. It just grows and spreads without any awareness. I am working on healing myself of this.

Joe took me to lunch yesterday, which was just so lovely. We have such an abiding romance between us. Some of the most peaceful moments in my life have just been walking down a quaint street somewhere gazing in windows as eclectic restaurant menus and holding his hand. Being with him brings me serenity and security, which conversely can feed this desperate phobia I have of loss. We talked at lunch and I confessed some very neurotic thoughts, fears that he will leave me, fears that his obligations to his ex wife will eventually lead him to let me go. I felt like a child confessing these things. I realize on a logical level that they are both without grounds and are unfair to him. He seemed to grasp that it is not a lack of trust in him that makes me spin that direction and I am so thankful he didn't get annoyed with me for my childish mental fretting. Its been preying on me for quite a while now and I feel so much more settled today than I did yesterday after airing it out. I was so ashamed for thinking those thoughts and then for letting them bother me. My fear of loss is not normal and I recognize that I must lean more heavily on the things I know and let myself dwell less on the things I fear.












He was gone last week to Florida to see his sister. I missed him so very much that I laughed at myself. I got weepy the first night he was gone, coming home to an empty house with no lights on and no dinner made after school. It drove home to me the degree to which he both supports and spoils me. I kept myself busy after that with visits with friends. Saturday I took Stewart and the boys to Scarborough Faire and met up with some friends of mine and Sunday Joe came home again. Those are the pictures posted here. Nick and Alex absolutely loved it and got lost in a dreamland of medieval intrigue. I hope I get to take them back again this year. There was so much to see and do and we didn't get to see everything they wanted to. And we just love being able to dress up and immerse ourselves in whimsy. Honestly, its good for my soul. I am so serious so often. I like being able to tap into a more playful side. Obviously my friends enjoy it too, which helps me relax and not worry so much about my hair or my appearance. Its a little sexy, a little bit fun, very flirtatious, somewhat baudy. Just enough to be intriguing, not so much that I shy from exposing my kids. Nick's head was on a swivel watching all the girls in corsets. :laugh:

Friday, April 3, 2009

You Were the Pride of Our Hearts

"It's so difficult to let you go

Though death's left us no other choice

We're mourning the loss of never seeing you again

Of never hearing your precious voice

It seems that in life there are certain times

Which are more than "simply unfair"

When our hearts search out for better answers

But cannot seem to find them there

And such is the case at your passing

Contemplating the briefness of your life

All the great things that you still would have done

If you'd been granted a little more time

It isn't difficult to envision the possibilities

For look at what you'd already done

The difference you'd made in so many lives

In all that you had become

Perhaps you were simply too good for this life

So God called you back to Heaven

That your life needed no further testament

Than the goodness you'd already given

But regardless of the reason

For why you had to depart

We'll miss you every single day of our lives

For you were the pride of our hearts!

Thank you for being our example

Inspiring us through your courage and drive

We'll cherish all the precious memories

You lovingly created in our lives

For truly, your life reflected

A wisdom that few, so young, can see ..."

-author unknown

Monday, March 30, 2009

Three paces removed

I think I am avoiding coming here. I am blogging in my mind constantly but when it comes to making time to sit down and write it out for real, I find a hundred other things to do and focus on. I don't know...sometimes I wonder if I am only capable of intense creativity when things are going poorly. And though it is not ideal in many ways right now, its not going poorly enough to push me to the internal angst that makes me determined to capture the internal sensations in written word. And if I am not writing something that feels right, I don't want to write it at all.

The truth is, I am in a bit of a holding pattern, just holding still to see what the world is going to usher in. The new job really does get a little bit better every day. It has some aspects of sales to it, which I thoroughly am enjoying and doing well with. I still feel angry though when I think about the new job. I am resisting letting myself settle in. I think to some extent forevermore I will struggle with things that happen beyond my control. I seem to have an unspoken internal belief that I have punched that card, hit the life time maximum, so to speak. The universe apparently has other ideas. I would plead my case if I knew where to direct my irritation.

Revisitation of my grief has cycled around anew. Joseph's absence is like a wound that festers internally and occasionally comes to the surface once more to show itself. I miss him so much sometimes that I would swear something physical were wrong with me. It gives me chest pain. I have been crying in the car a lot, doing a lot of thoughtful, conscious yearning for him. I find myself frequently afraid inside...fearful of th swift passage of time, fearful of Nick and Alex aging. Fearful of my own aging. I feel intensely OLD inside. I am not joking when I say I am constantly discovering anew that I am only 38 years old. I think of myself in much older terms. I see someone without youth when I look in the mirror or at pictures recently taken of myself. I am suddenly obsessed with reading the labels on skin care products, though admit I have not crossed over from my usual pragmatism into insanity enough to actually purchase any as yet. But I walk around in a near constant state of a knowledge that life will soon be over. I suppose if my outlook were not so guarded and cautious right now, this could be a time of fantastical personal growth. Maybe it still is, just not in necessarily a good way. There lingers within a fear of my own shadow, a desire to huddle into my family. I am disturbed by my own moderate nature just now. I am used to being a woman of somewhat powerful emotional extremes and this internal lack of give-a-shit is either really, really healthy or really, really not. I just can't find myself interested in debating whether or not Obama is doing a good job. I don't seem to summon any massive emotional response to anything going on in the world now, steeped as I am completely in the sense that things tend to turn out exactly as they are going to. I continue to be remarkably unafraid of death but yet conversely massively fearful of suffering. And I struggle against a sorrow that I have gotten so old so fast, that I will never talk to Joseph again in this lifetime in any language that makes easy sense to me. My missing of him is intense and clingy. It wraps around me and carries me along with it. I put it here, I tuck it there, keeping it neat and tidy and mostly out of my way. But its there, on my person, and seems to have a mind of its own as to when or whether it pokes its head out and touches me. My sorrow continues to be tinged by intense colors of guilt as well, for his suffering, for his death. For things I failed to do as a mother. I try hard to just let these thoughts happen without judgement or prevention, but it is difficult. The grief is more intense now than ever, yet more manageable. It is familiar. I am lonely inside and often caught somewhere between feeling unsure, afraid and resigned. Sometimes I feel incredibly motivated and full of energy for a life, my life, which is not yet done....direct oppposite of the other....the feeling of falling away, of looking through frosted glass at the lives of others buzzing onward, oblivious and busy, of being tucked outside of the world. Grief is a lonely, lonely road. I try to be graceful within it and believe I am most of the time. I no longer even want to rage at the world. But I do note the pale distance that is there between myself and those who have never known real tragedy. Usually it is breached simply by letting it be there. But sometimes it rears up and yawns in my face. Three paces removed, all this space between me and everyone else. I can still hear them, see them, even touch them. I wish I could understand and control then why it feels so different and so far.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Baby You're Not Lost

Its interesting how in time, after enough losses, the unresolved or just intense emotions about one bleeds readily into another. Yesterday was just a hard day all the way around. I think its finally sunk in that I am not going back to my old job. Its hard to go from a position where I was sure of myself, well liked, respected in my craft and in general competent, confident, well compensated and happy day after day back to a place where I am not as well compensated, not as confident, certainly not yet respected or even necessarily well liked and most definitely not comfortable. I am ashamed to report my frustration and grief welled up at one point yesterday and I teared up at work. I am one of those people who never cry in front of others if she can help it. Which is not to say I don't break down. I just in general tend to save that for solitude. Nobody gets anything from it but me. In any case, I was mortified that my frustration at being two weeks into this job and still not up to speed boiled up and dripped down my face and off my nose.

Today was better, partly because I squared my shoulders and resolved it was going to be, partly because the family is starting to get excited about Ben's upcoming wedding next week and the fact that we are all once again coming together for a celebration. I can't wait to go on that trip. My anticipation helps me to underline that work is not the only source of happiness or satisfaction in life. I am more than my job. And if one aspect of my life is not ideal, the others are still there, just as good, just as fulfilling. I need to be more mindful of what things I pay attention to and what I allow to roll off my back or go by unnoticed. I think I have had a few things backward for a few weeks now. Good to feel myself wake up a bit. All it took was the mortification of letting someone else see me cry in frustration. I certainly don't want to repeat that little episode. Gah.