What If?

July 14th, 2014

I’ve been going through old boxes of letters and cards and mementos transferring them to safer containers and I’ve found so many old letters from old friends and old boyfriend-type people. I’ve read a few along the way. One in particular made me stop and consider, what if? What if he had been ‘the one’ instead of my husband? Setting aside the obvious – that I wouldn’t have been in this thing called life with my companion and best friend the past 20something years, would my life have been better? Well, number one, I’d be a widow, because sadly my old friend is no longer here. But if I were to sit and list the things that would be different had I not made the choice I did, the number one thing on that list is that I wouldn’t have my daughter and there is really no need to list anything else is there? My life is full of joy, and sometimes frustration, full of laughter, and sometimes tears, full of love, and so no, it couldn’t be better. I’m so very glad I made the choice I made because otherwise I wouldn’t have her, and I don’t want to live in a world where she doesn’t exist.

There. Existential question answered, by the existence of one wavy-haired, brown-eyed ball of energy and love whom I’ve been honored to call my daughter for the last 9 years and 7 months or so.

Monitor and Adjust

February 27th, 2014

The title of this post refers to my favorite teaching strategy – monitor your students for understanding and if you find that they don’t understand, adjust your way of teaching that particular concept. It’s especially important with math because every kiddo understands math in their own way. I am not going to lie. I was a darn good math teacher because I always seemed to be able to find a different way to explain the concept and sooner or later, all the kids would understand. And it changed from year to year – which way worked the best.

I no longer teach for a living, but I still teach, because I have a child in school. And as a parent, you have to monitor and adjust as well. My daughter teaches me about teaching and she teaches me about parenting. She forces me to monitor and adjust my parenting strategies on a regular basis. This is a good thing! But it’s also a hard thing. It would be easier if I could just always parent her the same way and everything was rainbows and unicorns, but it’s not.

This school year has been exceptionally challenging for me as a parent. Not because my daughter is being difficult, but because she’s struggling with a specific thing in school. That’s hard! Because every parent wants to believe that their child is perfect and wonderful and can do anything. Well, every child IS perfect and wonderful and can do anything – just not always in the way that the school or the parent wants them to be. And guess what? That’s okay, too.

My daughter attends an amazing and wonderful charter school. (And I want to be very clear here – her school IS amazing and wonderful. I may not agree with every single curriculum choice they make, but it is still amazing and wonderful and I wouldn’t want her anywhere else, and she doesn’t want to be anywhere else. She loves her school. So, remember that – her school = amazing and wonderful!)

One of the curriculum choices her school makes is to emphasize math facts – they do a lot of timed math fact papers – most of them not counted as grades, but the math curriculum does include math fact papers that are graded. My daughter has always struggled with these fact tests. Not because she doesn’t know the facts, but because she can’t do them in the amount of time she is given. I have felt like I’ve been beating my head against the wall for the last few years trying to get her to be able to do her facts quickly and get good grades on her fact tests. I’ve researched math anxiety. I’ve read research about how timed fact tests affect kids and how they might cause math anxiety. I’ve tried strategy after strategy after strategy. She’s been in vision therapy (which is amazing and I highly recommend checking it out if your child struggles in school). I’ve spent money on programs to help her. I’ve yelled, I’ve begged, I’ve cried, she’s cried. I’ve wondered if she has ADD. I’ve wondered if she’s LD. I’ve read and I’ve thought and I’ve pondered and I’ve worked with her teachers and I’ve worked with her and we are still in the same place we have always been. So, I tried a different strategy a little while ago. I started ignoring her math facts. Whenever she gets a new set of facts, I make sure that she knows them and that I believe she knows them. And then I ignore them. We don’t talk about them, we don’t think about them, we don’t do anything other than make sure she does her fact homework correctly and turn it in. I tell her to do her best on her fact test and try to do just a little more each week, but as long as she does her best, that’s all that matters. And guess what? So far, so good. She isn’t getting 100%, but she’s doing better. Hallelujah! I’ve found it so frustrating because she understands the concepts (for goodness sakes, they are doing 4th grade math right now – her school is a year ahead in math), but she still doesn’t get As in math because of those gosh darn stupid fact tests! But, this is MY problem, not hers. Her job is to do her best. MY job is to accept that her best is not always going mean she gets an A in math. She is perfectly perfect just the way she is. I have not been perfectly perfect in accepting that, but I am getting better.

Lately I’ve come to a peaceful coexistence with math. It’s okay if she doesn’t get As in math right now. It’s okay if she can’t do 100 facts in 3 minutes. When she’s in college is it going to matter that she couldn’t do 100 facts in 3 minutes when she was in 3rd grade? No, it’s not. And what is really important? What is important is that she knows her facts. She knows them. What is important is that she understands the math concepts. She understands them. What is not important is that I can’t “fix” it. That is not important because that is about me, not her. Just because I’m a good teacher doesn’t mean I will have all the answers. And being a good parent doesn’t require me to have all the answers and be able to “fix” everything. In fact, being a good parent means I need to allow her to struggle enough to learn to overcome adversity. That’s hard. That’s really really REALLY hard. Who wants to let their child struggle? Not me. But, guess what? Learning to struggle and get through it is a very important lesson for life. Life is not always easy. Sometimes life is really really hard. But, if you learn how to struggle and get past it, life will not defeat you. So, I have to be the parent that lets her kid struggle a little right now. That’s hard. But it’s okay.

It’s been a long process for me to get to this point. I thought about changing schools. I asked her if she wanted to go to a school that was easier. She most emphatically did not. I’m glad she didn’t. I’m glad I didn’t make that choice. She gets As in everything else. And she is a very smart little girl. I fear she’d be bored in a different school. And since bored little Karin = always in trouble for talking little Karin. I think she’d take after me, so I’d rather school give her a little more challenge so she doesn’t have time to be bored and get in trouble for talking. ;)

I thought about fighting with the administration over the math curriculum. (When you’re a desperate mom not wanting her baby to struggle, you think of these things.) But, those are generally battles you don’t win, and I finally realized that what I really need to do is to reframe my responses to the curriculum. The curriculum is what it is. I don’t necessarily have to like it, but I have to live with it. I don’t have control over the curriculum, but I do have control over how I respond to it. It’s not the curriculum’s fault that she struggles with timed math fact tests. It’s not anyone’s or anything’s fault that she struggles with it. That is just how her brain is wired. When I was finally able to accept that her brain is just not wired that way and realize that it doesn’t make her “not perfect”, I was finally able to let go of my anger at that ‘stupid curriculum’ for making my baby struggle. It was much easier to blame the curriculum than to blame myself for not being able to ‘fix’ her struggles. When I finally realized that I didn’t actually need to ‘fix’ anything, I was able to let go of the anger. Monitor and adjust.

My kid has an amazing brain. I’m not the only one who thinks so, so I feel confident in saying that. Really, every kid has an amazing brain, but for now I want to focus on my kid’s amazing brain. Did I say her brain is amazing? It is. Her teacher told me she asks fantastic questions. And she does! I agree with this! I’m glad she asks fantastic questions in school, too. I had to figure out the best way to work with that amazing brain at home. So, in the last couple of months, I have completely changed how I work with my daughter on homework. Homework is no longer a two hour long emotionally draining ordeal. It now takes her 30-45 minutes (as it should). I have to sit with her the entire time and keep her focused on the task at hand (because that amazing brain would much rather be thinking about a million other things than homework), but I can do that for 30-45 minutes. I’m working with her really hard on study habits and not making careless mistakes on her math papers (she needs every point on the math concept tests – silly mistakes need to be eradicated ;)). We laugh a lot more and I yell a lot less. Sure, there are still days when I get frustrated with her and she gets frustrated with me, but they are rare instead of commonplace. Homework is such a small part of life – and so are timed math fact tests. It’s more important to focus on the good rather than the frustrating – the big picture instead of the minutiae. Monitor and adjust.

I become a better parent every day, because she teaches me how to be a better parent to her. She’s an emotional little bundle of joy. She cries over Hallmark commercials and sweet youtube videos. She laughs with abandon. She dances to 80s music with me. We are enjoying each other again. I’m not the grumpy mommy who just wants her to get her homework done already. I’m the nice mommy who lets her go outside and play if she gets stuff done quickly enough. She needs to go outside and play. She needs to use the imagination in that amazing brain. I just needed to be reminded that her brain is amazing even if she can’t do 100 math facts in 3 minutes. There was nothing wrong with her. There was something wrong with my reaction to it. I think I’ve fixed that now. Even I still have to struggle and learn how to overcome adversity sometimes. Parenting is hard. Parenting an only child has its own specific struggles and challenges that are different than parenting more than one child. Yep, parenting is hard, but it is so worth it. None of it would matter if I didn’t love her so much. That’s why I try so hard and why sometimes I try too hard. But, I’ll get there. I just have to remember to monitor and adjust.

To Bake or Not To Bake

February 22nd, 2014

Coming out of silence because I am disturbed by what the Arizona legislature has done, but I’m also slightly disturbed by some of the reactions to it.

So there’s an uproar over a law that the Arizona legislature passed about businesses not being sued if they choose not to do business with a certain class of people because of their religion. Or something to that effect. I don’t really care exactly what it says because I think it’s misguided, pointless, unnecessary, and probably unconstitutional.

That being said, I believe that a businessperson should be able to refuse to do business with whomever they want to UNLESS it’s because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion. (I think I got them all in there.) HOWEVER, if you choose not to do business with someone because you’re uncomfortable doing the specific event or service, then I have no problem with that. If you don’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding, you shouldn’t have to. If you don’t want to photograph a bar mitzvah, you shouldn’t have to. If you don’t want to work on a white woman’s hair, you shouldn’t have to. And so on. And honestly, if someone doesn’t want to do business with you, why the heck do you want to do business with them? Just turn around, walk out the door, and FIND SOMEONE ELSE. Sheesh. HOWEVER, if the business accepts the job, signs a contract, or shakes hands, then they should damn well be professional and do the job, whether they are comfortable or not. Not doing so is just flat out unprofessional. If a business breaks the contract, sue them. I don’t care, that’s their problem for breaking their word. If they just tell you they don’t want to do the job in the first place, then walk away. Suing them at that point is just vindictive. (Unless of course, they call you nasty names and it’s obvious they are haters – then you can do what the heck you feel like. But if they’re polite and respectful, just walk away, okay?)

And that’s all I have to say about that.

The End Is Near

July 28th, 2013

For anyone who is still reading this thing – I doubt there is anyone, but maybe some of my friends still check now and then – this will be going away soon. I barely use it anymore – Facebook seems to have replaced it and I have a private journal on my computer that I can use if I really want to get deep. I may have a blogger blog again at some point. We’ll see, but I can’t really justify paying money for hosting when I’m not using it. So, I’m in the process of saving all of these writings – they’re important to me, still, and they tell the story of my kiddo! As soon as that’s done, it will disappear (or disappear as much as anything online can).

Anyway, thanks to those of you who were along for the ride as long as it lasted. I <3 you!

Hurray for Critical Thinking Skills!

December 19th, 2012

LG was writing a thank you note to her R.E. (religious education) teacher…

LG: Mom, does R.E. have period after the letters?

Me: Yes.

LG: If it’s the last word in the sentence, do I put another period?

Me: No, just one period, but that’s a very good question!

I love that she stopped to think and when it didn’t seem right, she asked for clarification. Love that she’s using that brain!

Dona Nobis Pacem

December 15th, 2012

April 20, 1999. Do you know what happened on that day? I had to look the date up, and I was shocked to find it happened 13 1/2 years ago. I didn’t realize it had been that long. It was the Columbine High School massacre.

I remember that day. I was a teacher then. But I wasn’t a parent. I reacted to it as a human being and as a teacher. It was heartbreaking. It was unfathomable. How the families of the 12 students and 1 teacher who were murdered got through that horrible time I don’t know.

December 14, 2012. Yesterday. We know what happened. 20 precious (apparently 1st grade) babies were murdered along with several adults. I haven’t stopped crying. I can’t stop crying. This time, I react as a teacher of young children and as a parent. And it’s the reacting as a parent that is breaking my heart. As my husband said, this is every parent’s worst nightmare.

If you’re like me, when your child is at school, and you get a phone call from the school, you heart just drops. You know they might be sick, or hurt, or worse and you take a deep breath before you answer the phone. Usually it’s nothing too big – they have a fever or they threw up or whatever, but every time that phone rings, your mind goes through every scenario possible until you know what happened. To think of these parents getting phone calls from the school about there being a shooting and to think of 20 parents having to find out their precious angels, maybe with Christmas gifts wrapped and hidden in the closet, were gone forever…I can’t…I can’t even fathom the pain of that.

There is a lot of talk going on out there about a lot of different things – I don’t necessarily agree with everything that is being said, but I understand the need to say it. When someone does something this evil, this completely immoral, this horrific – we need to talk about it. We need to figure out what went wrong and how we can prevent it. A school is a place where our children should feel safe. Should BE safe. The reality is that our children ARE safe at school. The odds of something like this happening are very small and we need to remember that. We can’t wrap our kids in bubble wrap and keep them with us every minute of every day, no matter how much we want to. When I got the news about this tragedy yesterday, my husband and I were just down the street from our daughter’s school doing some errands and it took every ounce of strength in my body to keep me from rushing over there and getting her and taking her home and holding her tight. I’m not going to lie, when I finally saw her in the pickup line that afternoon, I cried.

I cannot grasp why this happened. When children are killed – sweet innocent babies – or anyone in a situation like this really, there is no explanation, no way to understand why. And I think when things like this happen – our first question is always “Why? How could someone do something so inherently evil and unfeeling?”

I do believe at least part of the answer lies within the mental health care system. It almost always seems that as the information about the shooter unfolds, there is evidence of mental health issues that have gone untreated or have stopped being treated. Mental illness in this country carries a stigma with it. If you’re mentally ill, you’re labeled as ‘crazy’. People ignore it. People don’t know how to deal with it. And people don’t get help for themselves or their children or loved ones, and then sadly, things like this happen. I don’t know that this shooter had a mental illness. Preliminary reports say that his brother said he had a “personality disorder”. Time will tell, I suppose, but will we ever find out what drives a person to massacre small children? I don’t know. I know that other issues will be the things that people want to address about this situation, and I think we need to have some discussions about those things, but I really and truly believe that the biggest discussions we need to have in this country are about mental illness – how to recognize the signs of it, and how to get people the help they need without making them feel stigmatized. I am in no way saying that having a mental illness is an excuse for doing something so horrific because it. is. not. But I am saying that maybe in addressing mental illness in a better way – making treatment easier to get maybe – perhaps we can keep these things from happening. I don’t know the answers. I just know that something horrible happened yesterday and my heart is broken. And I want us as a nation to find a way to keep it from ever happening again. No parent should ever have to lose a child in this way. Ever.

Last night, my daughter’s school had their holiday concert. It started with the principal asking us to partake in a moment of silence in light of the tragedy in Connecticut. It ended with the school choir singing a slightly off-key version of Dona Nobis Pacem. It didn’t matter that it was off-key – maybe that made it even more poignant because it was performed by sweet innocent children not so different from the ones whose lives were taken away much too soon. As I watched the 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders performing last night, I looked at their sweet innocence, at the joy on their faces, and I thought of those parents who will never again see their children smiling at them and my heart broke some more. I am so very lucky that my girl is alive and healthy and with me today. I will never EVER take that for granted. I think about how maybe the morning for some of those families didn’t go so smoothly and maybe there were harsh words exchanged, or they were rushed and they didn’t get the chance to say a proper goodbye, and how those parents have to live with those last memories of their children for the rest of their lives. I think about how sometimes maybe I’m too hard on my girl and I need to lighten up because really she’s an amazing kid and I’m so very lucky to be her mom, and what if something like this happens and she’s not with me? I can’t fathom losing her. I can’t imagine going on without her. I can’t begin to comprehend what those parents must be feeling today as reality sets in and they have to go on without these little lights in their lives. I think about how scared they must have been in those last moments of their lives and I hope and pray that it was over quickly and they didn’t suffer for even an instant. I believe with all my heart that these angels are with God and that his angels were there with them in those last moments, but they are with God much too soon. I pray that those families, and really all of us, find peace. Dona Nobis Pacem. Grant us peace.

Little Girl Version 8.0

December 2nd, 2012

Dear Little Girl,

Today you turn 8 years old. Well, to be completely accurate, it’s been a few (very busy) days since you turned 8 years old, and I almost forgot to write this, but I couldn’t let the occasion pass without my yearly letter to you.

Read the rest of this entry »

That Don’t Impress Me Much

August 12th, 2012

As usual, I’ve been glued to the television for the past two weeks watching the Olympics. I read somewhere that more women than men watch the Olympics and I thought that was really interesting. I guess that makes sense as the American women athletes have certainly been killing it this Olympics. Did you see the women’s world record setting 4×100 race? I watched it over and over again because it was just that awesome.

Speaking of sprinting, let’s discuss the most talked about sprinter in the world – Usain Bolt. While his sprinting ability is quite impressive, his attitude is not. I am not a big fan of cockiness. He does back it up with results, but to say that he’s the greatest athlete of all time or that he’s a legend? Tell me that when you’ve won the decathlon, Usain. Sure you can sprint – you can run fast – and you are arguably the greatest sprinter of all time, but that’s all you’ve shown us. When you can be proficient in 10 different track & field events, then maybe you can be the greatest athlete of all time. Tell me that when you win gold medals in 2 Olympic games, not just for sprinting but for the long jump as well a la Carl Lewis. Sure, you can run faster than he did, but can you jump farther? Tell me that when you win 8 gold medals in one Olympiad, or 22 medals over the course of an Olympic career – including swimming four different strokes (in one race). If anyone has the right to be cocky and claim to be the greatest athlete of all time, it’s Michael Phelps. Did he act cocky or proclaim himself to be the greatest? Not so much. I think he handled himself very nicely, under the circumstances. Perhaps the great Bob Costas said it best – there doesn’t seem to be anyone more impressed with Usain Bolt than Usain Bolt. (Have I ever mentioned that I love Bob Costas?)

So no, Usain, you’re not the greatest athlete of all time. Nor will you ever be. Greatest sprinter? For now. Legend? Maybe. But that remains to be seen. In the meantime, a large dose of humility might be in order.

Just When You Think You’ve Got It All Under Control

June 12th, 2012

Was that title from a song? It seems familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it. If anyone can figure it out, let me know!

I thought I was doing really well with the grieving stuff. Oh, I know that it’s a work in progress, but I’ve been doing pretty well. Until this week, that is.

I’ve been so tired, so unmotivated. I’m managing to what I absolutely have to do, but nothing more. My entire body aches. I’m not sleeping well. I’m exhausted. I have no appetite to speak of, although I’m making myself eat. And today I was wondering what on earth was wrong with me? I haven’t been this way in a long time. And then it dawned on me – especially after I realized that Sunday is Father’s Day and I haven’t even started putting together the photo book that Mike requests as his gift every year – that Father’s Day was the likely cause of my problems.

It’s the first Father’s Day without my dad. And it’s kind of silly, really, that it’s affecting me so strongly, because it’s not like we’ve celebrated Father’s Day together since the year my mom died, but I guess when he was alive, there was always a chance. There was always hope. And now he’s gone and there will never be another chance. So, yeah. Grief rears it’s ugly little head when I was least expecting it. This is my typical cycle when those big “dates” come up – the week before I’m a wreck. And then the date comes and goes and I move on. It just so happens that this week coincides with Dance Recital week. So we have dress rehearsals and performances and I really really can’t afford to not be 100% right now. But it is what it is. And at least now that I know what it is, I can deal with it a little better.

And come next week, it will all be over. Thankful am I to have a husband who doesn’t worry about whether or not his Father’s Day gift is late. And who will jump in and help me get through this week on my low energy cycle. So very blessed to have him as the father of my child. And so very blessed to have had a dad who loved me, even though the last several years were rough. I do know he loved me. And that’s a good thing.

The Little Voice Inside My Head

June 6th, 2012

Do you ever hear that little voice inside your head? When you do, do you listen to it or do you ignore it? Today, I listened to it, and I am so glad I did!

At VBS, I lead the music vocally and I run around like a crazy woman trying to animate the kids and their parents, etc. It’s lots of fun – tiring, but fun. There are parents that sit there and refuse to participate. There are parents that stand up but then act like a stick in the mud and don’t even crack a smile. And then there are those that totally get into it and lose their inhibitions and participate and enjoy themselves. I appreciate those people so much! All week, one of the parents (who I later found out was actually a grandparent) has been totally into the music and participating and she just lights up my day! So, as I was leading the music today, the little voice inside my head told me that I should speak to her afterwards and let her know that I appreciated her enthusiasm. So, I listened to that little voice inside my head and guess what? She used to sing in the choir in the state she used to live in, but had never had the nerve to talk to the choir director (in this case my hubby) about singing in the choir here. She’d talked to someone in the choir a couple of weeks ago and he had encouraged her to talk to Mike, but she hadn’t yet. So, when I talked to her, I told her to talk to Mike. And she did. She just needed that little push and that little voice inside my head was pushing me to give it to her though I didn’t know it at the time. We had a great time talking to her – a really great lady – and we are looking forward to her joining our little choir family! Her granddaughter happens to be LG’s age, so they’re in the same VBS class and will probably be in First Reconciliation classes with each other this year. And another random thing in common – her birthday is the same as my dad’s. And she has 6 siblings like my dad had. And although she’s a grandma, she’s only a few years older than we are.

Anyway, my advice is to listen to that little voice inside your head. It might be telling you something that will make a difference to someone else.

P.S. I like to think that little voice is the Holy Spirit working! :)

Four Funerals and a Wedding

June 2nd, 2012

From the beginning of April until today, we’ve attended four funerals. Today we attend a wedding. Mike and I have sort of joked about the title of this post. And by joked, I mean had to find something to laugh about because it’s all just too depressing. So, instead of being like the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, we’ve done it backwards – four funerals and a wedding. I’m really glad that it’s ending with a wedding, though.

I don’t want to say that the months of April and May were completely devoid of joy, because they most certainly were not. LG had her piano recital, my BFF graduated from college at long last (and got a job!), her oldest daughter had her high school dance recital (and danced a most beautiful duet with her best friend), a beautiful end of the year report card for LG, graduation parties, and so on. There was a lot to celebrate in the past couple of months and a lot to be happy about. But, the sad stuff hit really hard. Two deaths were not surprises, but that doesn’t make it any less sad. Two were completely out of the blue and so very very hard to deal with. It’s been a sad sad eight weeks. But, I’m hoping with this wedding, we’re turning the corner to happier things and we can finally deal with the sadness we’ve already faced and not have to deal with anymore piled on top of it, thank you very much. I think we all just need a break from bad news. So here’s to the almost newlyweds. Thanks for giving us a celebration!

May Was Supposed to Be Better, Wasn’t It?

May 14th, 2012

Have you ever gotten a phone call from a friend, and answered it joyfully because it was your friend, and then been completely sideswiped by them telling you bad news? That’s happened to me twice in the last two months. You could kind of say three times, but the third one I pretty much knew was going to be bad news. The first one was my friend J telling me that her mom had passed away unexpectedly. The last one was our beloved Bass Girl, telling me the same thing. J’s mom dying was a shock, but it wasn’t as much of a shock as Bass Girl’s mom. Her mom was only about 49 years old. She wasn’t in the hospital having surgery. She hadn’t been in the hospital. There was no warning. Nothing. Just a phone call that completely turns the world upside down. And changes everything.

It’s hard enough to understand that Bass Girl has lost her mom at 26 years old, but I think the thing that people have felt over and over again is heartbreak for Bass Girl’s youngest sister who is set to graduate from high school at the end of the month. It is just killing me to think that this time that should be so happy and so joyful is now a time of mourning for a mother that shouldn’t have been taken away so suddenly.

And I’m not going to lie. I’m a little angry at God right now. If He had to take her at all, why couldn’t he have waited until after her daughter graduated? Why did it have to be today? Just why?

I’m heartbroken for the whole family, for Bass Girl and her husband, for her three sisters, for her grandmother, for her dad. I am thankful for them that they were all able to be together yesterday, on Mother’s Day. That no one has to feel guilty for not being there. They were all there with her and I imagine it was a happy day of being together. That is a blessing.

And I guess that’s all you can do when someone dies, especially so unexpectedly, is to look for those small blessings. There is so much about this that is sad, so much. And there are many reasons we can be angry when we lose a loved one or we see a friend lose a loved one. And I guess the only way we can get through these times is to look for the blessings. To remember the joy. And to search for the peace. It will take time to find it, but it will come.

And Bass Girl, if you read this, please know that I love you. We all do. And we’re here for you, no matter what. Just call and we will answer. ♥

Can We Just Fast Forward to May?

April 23rd, 2012

Maybe I just need to stop talking about this and no one else will die? Because yes, someone else I know has passed away. It was someone I knew personally, although not closely. I am, however, close to many members of his family. He had a massive heart attack and then later the decision was made to take him off life support. He was a very good, kind man, and lived a full, rich life, but still, I grieve for his family tonight.

I think that’s all I’m going to say for now. You probably already know how I feel. So I’ll leave it at that. Except – this month really bites. I’m ready for it to be over and done with. And May has got to be better, right? I’m going with that for now.

Please Let the Rest of the Year Be Uneventful

April 21st, 2012

In the past three weeks, I’ve been directly or indirectly affected by the deaths of five people. Four of those people were parents of friends. One was an employee at my daughter’s school and a friend of a friend. Three were from cancer – three different kinds. Two were surprises, but only one was so immediate that her family didn’t get to say goodbye to her. Of course, whether it was a surprise or not doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

Can I tell you something? I’m exhausted. I don’t mean to make this all about me – although it is my blog so I guess it is kind of all about me. I don’t WANT to make this all about me, because I know for every bit of exhaustion I feel, my friends feel far more. Of the people who died, I was only close to one, and so I only grieve for one. For the other four, I feel empathy for their families’ sadness. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to lose a parent. I know how hard it is – how much it hurts – how much it feels like nothing will ever be the same. And it won’t. But I am not the one who lost my mother or my father or my spouse. So, I want to make it clear that it’s not all about me.

But, still. I’m exhausted. I think that exhaustion stems from several things. First of all, my friend died, and I’m sad. Second, my friends are grieving, and that makes me sad. But lastly – and maybe this is the thing that is affecting me the most – each subsequent death and the two funerals I’ve attended in the last two weeks, brought back all the feelings I felt when I lost my mom and dad. So, it’s hard. And it’s exhausting. Grieving is exhausting. And the thing about it is – it never really ends. It gets easier, but it never ends. Yesterday, I was at the grocery store. As I was walking out, I saw one of those claw machines – you know the ones where you can win stuffed animals. And it made me think of my dad. Every time he saw one of those machines, he would win my mom a stuffed animal. The memory made me smile. But it made me sad, too. I know the day will come that it will only make me smile and not make me miss him, but I’m not there yet. So it made me sad.

I don’t know if there will ever come a day that being at a funeral doesn’t make me think of my mom and dad. I don’t know if it’s possible to separate those things. I do know that this month has been very hard. Hard for me. Hard for too many of my friends. I am hoping that everything that was supposed to happen this year has been compacted into this one month and the rest of the year will be uneventful like the beginning of the year was. That’s what I’m hoping. In the meantime, I’m exhausted. And I know my friends are beyond exhausted. They are hurting and sad and beginning the hard work of grieving.

My daughter constantly tells me that she wishes no one ever had to die. I tell her that if no one died, there wouldn’t be room on the planet for everyone to live. And that our bodies get old and break down. But if they didn’t get old, and they didn’t break down, I think I could live with a more crowded world if it meant that our loved ones could always be with us. It doesn’t work that way. But sometimes, I like to imagine it could.

Grief All Around

April 13th, 2012

Tuesday we said goodbye to my friend J’s mom. It was a beautiful service. She was very involved in our parish, so involved that three priests and a deacon officiated at her service. Now begins the hard work of grief for my friends. I do not envy them that at all. Something my friend J said in her eulogy really struck me, though. She said that her relationship with her mother had not ended, it had only changed. What a beautiful way to look at death. As I said before, I don’t believe that our parents ever really leave us. Our relationship with them just shifts. And if we listen carefully, we can always hear them. They will always be whispering in our ears. They will always have our back. And the place in our hearts that we reserve for them, does not diminish, it merely grows stronger.

Today I got the news that my best friend’s mother in law will probably die today. And so I watch more friends begin the work of grief. And work it is, hard work. It always feels like there’s so much left unsaid, no matter how long you have to say goodbye. And even though sometimes it feels like the waiting will never end, it’s still never enough time. How can it be when you are letting go of someone you love? How can you say goodbye forever? For those of us who believe in an afterlife, it isn’t forever, but the loss of our loved one’s physical presence in our lives brings an acute and bitter pain. A pain that never completely heals, but dulls with time. An emptiness that never goes away.

And so, another funeral to attend. Another friend to watch grieve. More feelings of helplessness because I can’t fix it for them. I can, however, be there for them – an understanding ear, a shoulder to cry on. The worst part of it is, that I know it’s only the beginning. I may have no more parents to lose, but many of my friends still do. And sadly, this scenario will be repeated over and over again for many years to come. This is the pain of growing older. We like to complain about our physical aches and pains, but it’s really the emotional aches and pains that take the worst toll. But we do get by, we do move on, we go on living, because we must. My daughter calls it the circle of life, and so it is. With living comes dying, with joy comes sadness, with love comes loss. But the greatest gift that God has given us to deal with these things, is our family and friends who support us, who hold us, who cry with us, who grieve with us. Grief can be a lonely adventure, because it is something that we must all do for ourselves and our own. Each of us approaches it differently. Each must find their own way. But we are never truly alone. God’s hand guides us, as do the hands of our lost loved ones, and our family and friends are always there to catch us when we stumble, to give us strength for our journey.

My dear friends, please know that though you face a difficult and painful journey it will get better, it will get better. Hang in there.