Thursday, July 19, 2018

Birthday

Today Tana reminded me that my birthday is on Saturday. I had completely forgotten. In the back of my mind I knew it was coming, but only two days away??? It will be my first one without you. 

I’ve been thinking about past birthdays. The ones you made so special... Trips to the circus, brand new digital watches, white cakes with pink flowers. After I lived on my own you and daddy would call early in the morning and sing me awake with a laughter filled version of Happy Birthday. We’d talk about my plans for the day and you’d remind me that I wasn’t really a year older until the time of my birth: 9:30 am. 

After I became a mother I learned how different those birthdays must have been for you. Every one so bittersweet. Spending the day remembering every stage of labor and reliving the sweet relief of finally having your baby in your arms. I learned that those morning calls were as much for you as they were for me. They were your way of reconnecting with the baby girl grown up. 

Last year my birthday was a disaster. A cancelled dinner and a hurried visit tainted the taste of a store bought cake. I scolded myself at the time: “You’re turning 42. You don’t need your mama to celebrate with you.” But I did. And I still do. I’m turning 43 and I need my mama to celebrate with me. 

I wish I could have a do over of last year. I’d throw my arms around you and thank you for the cake. I’d be thankful for the short visit instead of wishing for more. I’d ask you to tell me the story of my birth one more time. We’d laugh about daddy talking cars with the nurse during your contractions. We’d compare labors and reminisce about you being there for Will’s birth. I’d make you take a birthday picture with me ignoring your pleas to put the camera down. We’d light my clown candle -the one you saved from my first birthday and lit every single birthday after that. I’d savor every single second I had with you. 

 I imagine Saturday will be a day full of mixed emotions. Celebrating with my babies but missing you. That seems to be the way of things right now. Being truly happy in the moment, but always having a nagging feeling that a piece of me is missing.  I have my clown candle and I’ll be sure to light it.  It hasn’t missed a birthday yet.  And even though I know wishes are silly, I’ll be thinking of you when I blow it out. 







Friday, July 6, 2018

Help

Yesterday I shared some pictures of how we celebrated the Fourth of July. We had a fun day and it felt really good to smile and laugh with our friends and my dad. Mama was mentioned several times, but I never felt overly sad. It was, for the most part, an easy, happy day. 

There was one portion of our day that I didn’t share in my happy Facebook/Instagram posts. It wasn’t included because I feel like it deserves more attention than what I can give in a social media post. 

Most of my friends know that I foster kittens for the City of Georgetown Animal Shelter. I chose this shelter because I read an article in the Williamson County Sun about their need for fosters. Over the years I’ve realized how lucky I was to have stumbled upon this particular shelter. It’s an amazing place full of people that genuinely love the animals in their care. They work hard to provide their charges with enrichment and stimulation (this is so important in preventing behavior problems and depression). They seek out training opportunities for both their employees and their volunteers. They evaluate each and every animal multiple times and council potential adopters about animals they feel will best fit their home and family. It’s these reasons and so many more that I continue to put so much of my heart into working with this one shelter. 

The animal rescue community is a tight knit group. The people are passionate about their mission and love to talk about their experiences. News of the Williamson County Animal Shelter’s plan to turn a livestock arena into temporary animal housing traveled fast. The county is expanding and remodeling their shelter and in order to speed up construction (thus saving tax payers money) they needed to move ALL of their dogs out of their current spot. At first there was much excitement about the creativity and ingenuity the county was using to save money and fix the problem of where to place their dogs. The Canine Corral seemed to be a quirky solution to a logistical mess. Then the Corral was opened and the tone of the discussions changed. There were rumblings of concern about cleanliness and disease containment, about temperature control, about stress on the animals. Where talk was once positive and enthusiastic it was now disgusted and concerned. 

As we were leaving the Fourth of July festivities we had to pass right by the Corral to get to our car. I decided to take the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. Surely it couldn’t be as bad as I was hearing. The kids are always up for window shopping for puppies so off we went. 

* The next section contains pictures that I took. There were several signs saying pictures and video aren’t allowed. My concern for the dogs housed there was greater than my need to follow their rule. Please be aware that you may want to scroll past them if you are squeamish. 

The first thing we noticed was the noise. Rhodes immediately covered his ears and commented that it was LOUD. It was more than loud. It was painful. The whirring from huge industrial fans, blaring patriotic music, and the barks and shrieks from the dogs combined to create a hurricane of sound that was both overwhelming and agitating. A shelter employee tried to explain to the kids that they weren’t allowed to put their fingers in the kennels. We had to resort to gestures and charades to finally understand the rule because it was impossible to hear her. It was THAT loud. 

Then there was the smell. A horrid combination of urine, feces, and bleach. A different employee was walking around pouring straight bleach on random spots on the concrete floor. At the time I assumed the spots were urine. As we continued our tour I realized it could have been blood she was treating. I took this picture of one of the places where we found blood splattered on the ground. I never saw what caused the blood. A dog fight? Was someone bit? 



The humidity and heat were stifling.  The bleach fumes and the temperature caused Will start wheezing. This thermometer was attached to one of the kennels. 



There were huge industrial fans placed sporadically among the kennels. They did help get the air moving, but did little to cool things down. 

Most of the dogs looked healthy, but there were several that should have been removed from the adoption floor. This poor pup was obviously sick. There was vomit on his kennel floor and all over his bed. He was pacing between his bed and the door to his kennel in what looked like distress. This should have been noticed and cleaned in the time we were there. It wasn’t. 





We left soon after seeing that dog. The kids were getting upset and I was worried about Will. 

We have all felt the growing pains our community is currently experiencing: traffic is bad, the wait time for a table in our favorite restaurant has increased, lines at the grocery store are awful. These are all minor inconveniences and we deal with them because we know good things are coming (Yay for Zoe’s Kitchen and Jason’s Deli).  While The Williamson County Animal Shelter is noble in its quest to grow with the community, I can’t help but think it’s at the expense of the animals currently in their care.  The treatment of these dogs shouldn’t be considered a growing pain. It isn’t an inconvenience that they can’t breathe due to bleach fumes. They shouldn’t be subjected to noise pollution so intense it made one of my children cry. They aren’t sacrifices to be made for the greater good. 

One way to start improving the conditions for these animals is to get people talking. Our community cares. It is full of compassionate people who I have to believe wouldn’t condone this mistreatment if they knew it was happening. 

Here are several ways you can spread the word:

Call or email The Williamson County Sun.
512 930 4824 Ask them to do a story about The Canine Corral. 

Write a letter to the editor of The Williamson County Sun 
Letters@wilcosun.com

Call Department of State Health Services, PHR7
Phone: 254-778-6744 

Call Williamson County Animal Control 
Ask to speak to a supervisor and make a complaint. 






Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dear Grant,

Dear Grant,

You came home today from your writing class with a funny look on your face. You told me you’d read my blog and that you were surprised I felt so sad. I apologized that you were upset and sent you off to play, but after some thinking I feel like I left some things unsaid. 

Grant, what you’ve seen with my actions and read on my blog isn’t me keeping a secret. It isn’t me being fake or disingenuous. What I’m doing is called
grieving. I know you’ve heard this word before. Grieving is messy and complicated and nobody does it the same way. Sometimes it takes people a long time to feel better after someone dies. Sometimes people don’t grieve at all. This isn’t smart. Don’t do this. It will make you miserable later, sweet boy. Most people grieve like I am. We have moments of feeling really really icky and moments of feeling almost normal. The rest of the time we feel mostly ok and we do the best we can to get thru the really icky times when they come. The tricky thing is we never know what can bring on the icky moments. That’s why sometimes you’ll see me start crying out of nowhere or I’ll be happy one second and sad the next. 

When you grieve it’s important to find something to help you feel better when those icky moments hit. Some people paint or draw. Some people exercise. I write. I get out all the yucky feelings and try to make sense of my jumbled thoughts. This is called processing. When you’re sad or angry your thoughts get jumbled a lot. Sometimes you don’t know what it is that is making you feel bad you just know you do. Processing and writing help me figure it out so I can begin to feel better. Confusion = unhappiness  Clairty = peace Remember this... it can help you even in situations other than grief. 

Grant, something else I want you to know is that I always write the truth. Always. BUT, when I write it’s always at emotional times. It’s when I need to figure things out or I want to get something off my chest. This means that what I write is going to sound very very dramatic. This could be confusing to you (as it was today).  When you read my blog please remember this:  It’s how I felt at that moment, but it’s not how I feel all the time. 

Ganky, you are a writer. You’re a great writer and you have gotten so much better this year! A piece of advice from one author to another: to grow as a writer you’re going to have to read. Reading things that make you think and push you to feel will bring out a new depth in your writing. I’m sorry that my post shocked you, but if you felt something new then maybe it was a good thing. Maybe one day you’ll write an essay about the day you learned how to grieve. 

I love you. 
Mommy

Sunday, June 3, 2018

One Month

You took your last breath one month ago today. I haven’t heard your voice longer than that. Your last words to me were: “I’m really sick, Lissy”.  They were over phone. Daddy holding it to your ear. So proud that you were conscious and alert enough to talk to me.  I could feel the hope radiating off of him through the distance. You were gone less than a week later. 

This month has been an odd mix of beauty and despair. My grief has taken me on a journey back in time. It’s brought up forgotten memories of my childhood. Times full of laughter and innocence. It’s made me grateful for your mothering in a whole new way. It’s brought my relationship with Laurel into a sharper focus. She will reach for my hand and I’ll dissolve into tears. Her sweet voice says she loves me and I choke back sobs. It’s as if I suddenly understand what is at stake. The sacredness of the mother daughter relationship has moved onto a whole new plain having now given birth to a daughter and witnessed the death of my mother. 

Losing you has unearthed a sense of envy that I haven’t experienced before. I find myself watching families. I watch the hugs, the waves, the familiarity- all knowing that it will break my heart a little more. I just have to see it. I have to see what I once had. What my children won’t have. Am I a glutton for punishment or am I peeling off layers of hurt to find my new normal? I don’t know. 

I still reach for the phone to call you. I have so much to say. I find myself keeping a list like I do for my friends when we haven’t seen each other for awhile. “Tell Mama...”  I wonder how much you’ve seen? I had a moment of anxiety when I was getting rid of something of yours. “Is she watching? Am I making her sad that I’m not keeping this?” Then I decided that you and Aunt Pam were probably giggling at my
angst and I shook my fist heavenward. It felt good to share a joke with you, Mama.  I miss laughing with you. We did so much of that. 

Dad brings me loads of your things to sort through every few days. I now have your beloved Franklin Covey planner that you carried for years. The last inserts are from 2013. They are full of reminders you’d given yourself as your memory started leaving you. Your home phone number. Directions to my house from yours (even though it was only 3 minutes away). I also have the planner I made you a few years ago. The Franklin Covey had become too complicated and I made a simple one in hopes it would help you not forget birthdays, Christmas shopping etc. It didn’t help. Your dementia was too advanced by then. It didn’t have one mark from you in it. It broke my heart that my help had come too late. I am finding so much comfort knowing that you are now whole again. You don’t have to have reminders or help. You aren’t embarrassed anymore. You are perfect and healed. 

Mama, I love you more than words. I miss you every single day. Be happy. Be whole. 




 


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dizzy

Grief is the by far the biggest dichotomy I’ve ever experienced. 

It’s only been two weeks that we’ve been without you, yet it’s already been two weeks. 

I feel raw, exposed, and wounded. Always seeking cover. Happiest when it’s finally dark and I can find asylum under the weight of my blankets. Yet I’m almost offended when my sadness isn’t acknowledged. The cashier chirps “Have a nice day!” and I want to snap at her “My mother is dead. YOU have a nice day”. 

I won’t circle the wagons. I won’t call to my sisters to lean into and cry on. Yet when they come anyway I cling to them as if they are my very breath. Desperate for the light they provide and greedily taking the balm they offer my torn spirit. 

I shun the things that remind me of you. I trim back my rose bushes. I put the photos on the highest shelf. Yet I look for signs everywhere: feathers, cardinals, butterflies.  I dream about you. Frantic plays full of jail cells and chains. I’m being kept from you. How do I get you out?  How much do I owe? I wake up sweaty and sick. 

Oh, Mama. I’m dizzy with the need of wanting you. Yet I’m dizzy with the want of needing to forget. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Muffins

Today has been a rough day. It was Muffins With Mom at preschool. I’ve been telling  myself I didn’t have to go, but I woke up feeling like I needed to. Laurel and Rhodes have been so excited about it and I really didn’t want to disappoint them. So with a few deep breaths and lots of prayers in we went. 

I took one look at the crowded room and knew I’d made the wrong decision. I could feel the tears welling up as I prayed that I just get through this breakfast.  I moved us towards the buffet line and asked each twin what they’d like like on their plate.

“Muffin? Strawberries? Yogurt?”
Blank stares 
“Laurel. Rhodes. What do you want to eat?”
“Eat?” 

Oh, heavens. I might as well be asking them to MAKE me breakfast. 

I fill a plate and we venture out into the crowd to a table. When we get settled they both refuse food and commence to just stare at me. I’ve never felt awkward around my own children but this really was. I pick at a muffin and chat with a few friends who stop by to offer sweet words of condolences (which brings my anxiety way down) and it’s finally time to take the wonder twins to class. By the way, they have never spoken or eaten this entire time. 

After dropping Rhodes and Laurel off in their class I reach for my phone to call mom. It’s my habit to call her after drop off and I know she’d think the awkward muffin breakfast was funny. She loved twin stories. As I’m pressing the button labeled “mom” it hits me that I won’t ever make this call again. Nobody will ever appreciate my stories like she did. She would ask me to repeat parts just to be sure she had the details right for her retelling to daddy later. 

I let the phone fall back into my purse and finish my drive in silence. Tears are streaming and my stomach aches in a way I’ve recently become refamiliar with. It’s taken me awhile to realize what it was. It’s the same feeling I’d get at camp and when I went away to college.  I’m homesick. 

Mama will always be home. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Now

The numbness is wearing off and the pain is settling in. I wonder if grief is like surgery. F always tells his patients day three is the worst. 

I find myself at times gasping for a breath I didn’t know I was holding. The tears begin and my chest contracts with an ache I’ve never felt before. Sort of like a charlie horse in my broken heart. It surprises me  mirroring the middle of the night leg cramps I used to get growing up. “Eat bananas” you’d tell me. If only you could give me advice on how to get through this. 

Sleep and Hunger evade me. I force myself to eat but everything tastes like I’ve burnt my tongue. Grief even has a flavor. I try to sleep. I get into bed and stare at the celing. I can hear the cat purring above my head and feel the cool air from the fan. My mind wanders to what the calendar holds tomorrow and I realize it’s the day you will be cremated. I have a fleeting thought that it’s good you won’t be cold anymore. That you hate to be cold. 

I can tell that the kids are starting to wear thin of my tears. Laurel sighs when she catches me crying. I refuse to hide my grief  from them.  You are worth grieving for. Your death has left a space in my heart. In my daily life.  I want your grandchildren to see what mourning looks like. What filling that space with peace and tears and gratitude looks like. They need to learn how to pay tribute in the small corners of the every day. How to honor a family member who sacrificed and suffered. 


Oh, Mama how I miss you. I see you everywhere. In Laurel’s long thin hands. In my climbing roses. In my hot tea in the mornings. I know these small things will bring me comfort in time, but for now they are the salt in my very new raw wound.

I know you are finally whole and complete and it is my turn to ache and be broken.