Posted in authentic, chef, everyday musings

Why I didn’t want to tell my son about the death of Anthony Bourdain

I didn’t even know him.

Not really.

But yet it was almost like losing a close friend.

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Photo by the Wall Street Journal digital artwork by Lisa R. Howeler

I’d had a crappy night of sleep with two sick kids and I had reached for my phone to see what time it was. There it is was on my screen- a note from my sister in law expressing shock to the obituary story she had attached.

“No. It isn’t possible.”

I thought this over and over in my bleary-eyed, not fully awake state.

The man who had taken me around the world so many times without me even having to leave my house was dead. I typed out the word “nooo!” to my sister-in-law, as if that word would stop it from being true.

I felt numb and sick to my stomach. It must have been his heart, I thought.

Or something he ate.

He was always eating weird things and something finally got him. Or a car accident or his plane went down while they were traveling to somewhere exotic.

My heart sank when I clicked the link. I was in shock when I read the words.

Suicide?!

Suicide?

Suicide.

It’s like the word wouldn’t even make sense to me.

Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide.

I follow him on social media and recently I had noticed he was looking thin and tired but he travels a lot so I figured he was exhausted. It had been a stressful couple of years. A whirlwind break-up followed by a whirlwind romance and then all that traveling.

Now all that traveling I loved to watch him do was over and the only trip he’d most likely be making was a one-way flight back to the states to be buried.

Suicide.

I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the horror of it all and the horror for Eric Ripert, his best friend, to find him that way. And his daughter. Oh, my heart ached and my head felt funny at the thought of her being told.

I’ve never been a traveler – partially because of finances and partially because I’ve lived a life of fear. Tony made me want to live a life of courage in my small world and if I couldn’t go to all those fancy places just yet I could at least watch him visit them. My son learned about much of the world from a very young age while his dad and I traveled with Tony.

We let him watch episodes we probably shouldn’t have at 4 and 5 and he was introduced to death on an episode where a pig was slaughtered. Granted, this was the age when “No Reservations” was already streaming so we could fast forward the scene, but my kid is wise beyond his years and he knew what was happening despite our attempts to shield him.

We haven’t been able to shield him much these last couple years – not from heartache and anxiety and death. First, the big loss was our dog of 14 years, the dog that had always been his. Then it was a 17-year-old cat, again there all his 11 years. Then the worst blow came four days after Christmas this year when he lost his great-aunt, who had lived with his grandparents since he was four. His head was spinning. School pressure was mounting. Panic attacks were becoming the norm.

We’ve walked through it with him with every loss, every question, every tear, and every crying storm. All the advice says you have to tell your child directly and bluntly about the person who has died so they don’t feel they are being lied to or misled.

When I told my son about his great aunt I was apparently too blunt. I was so nervous because I’d never had to tell him something so hard – not even the death of his dog could compare to this. I blurted out “Dianne died.”

Died. I used the word died because all the articles I found on Google told me to. “Don’t use the words ‘passed on’ or ‘went to a better place,’” the proverbial “they” said. “It needs to be clear to the child the person is dead and never coming back.”

I was so numb from the sudden loss I really didn’t think it through because that advice was for young people, not 11-year olds who clearly know the meaning of the word “dead” but would also understand the term “passed away” would mean the same thing.

He clearly knows what death is and here I was that morning knowing I needed to rip the news of Anthony Bourdain’s death off like a band-aid but, ugh, crap and darn it all to hell, I simply didn’t want to. Especially because I had to add the word “suicide” to the ripping.

“For a little while today I’ll shelter him,” I told myself. “We don’t have cable so he won’t hear it there.”

And all the traditional advice says the news of death must come from someone the child loves so I knew I couldn’t shelter him for long.

The ripping started with the lifting of the edge and then just one fast, hard pull. When I told him he said “oh that’s sad,” but he didn’t take it as hard as I thought. He did, however, express the same denial I did when I told him they thought he’d taken his own life.

“That’s just not possible,” he said. “I don’t believe that part of the story.”

We both agreed it wasn’t possible and we comforted ourselves in our denial of it all.

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Posted in authentic, everyday musings

The soldier’s hat

I remember the day Harry gave my son the VFW hat.  We were at a celebration at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars where they were honoring Harry because he was moving from the area to live with family.

I had taken Jonathan with me so I could grab a photograph for the local newspaper, but also so I could say goodbye to Harry, who I had interviewed years ago about his service during World War II. We had visited Harry at a nursing home a few weeks earlier while also visiting my aunt. My son, Jonathan, was 7 at the time.

I told Jonathan that Harry had fought for our country during World War II and to free the Jews during the Holocaust, something we had been talking about one night when he had asked me some historical questions. I remember how horrified he was about Hitler treating the Jews so awful and because of his age, I left out the worst of it, mainly only telling him how much the Nazis had hated the Jewish people and how wrong it was. After I introduced Jonathan to Harry, who was in the hallway sitting in a wheelchair, Jonathan, without prompting, saluted him.

Harry was touched and overwhelmed. As I sat and chatted with Harry, often having to almost shout since he had lost some of his hearing by then (he was almost 93), Jonathan drew a picture of Harry in the war, jumping out of airplanes and fighting in the Phillipines. Again, Harry was touched and impressed with Jonathan.

A week later when we attended Harry’s farewell celebration, we were surprised and emotional when Harry asked to see Jonathan and handed him two of his VFW Commander hats. Harry was thrilled to see Jonathan and smiled and talked to him, thanking him again for the salute and the picture.

We were definitely sad a year later when we heard Harry passed away. He had dedicated more than three decades to the local VFE post, where he served four years as post commander, 20 years as post quartermaster, 10 years as district quartermaster and three years as district commander. During his time at the VFW he had been named an All-American post commander, an All-American quartermaster three times, and also received several awards through the VFW.

DSC_4820DSC_4821-Edit-2When Harry passed away the  new post commander, Dan Polinski, told the local paper about the countless times Harry and others of Harry’s generation had stood in all kinds of weather to honor veterans who had passed away. Dan remembered one specific day where the rain was coming down, cold and stinging, against their faces.

“The younger of us, and I use that term loosely, said to Harry, O.C. Spencer, and some of the other World War II guys, ‘Listen, you guys, don’t stay out in this.’ The wind was whipping and it was brutal,” said Polinski. “Harry, and O.C., and all of the old crew — all of the old World War II guys who had stood with this Color Guard guy at many other funerals — just said, ‘No. He would do this for us.’” (Morning Times, Sayre, Pa. August 1, 2014)

I can attest to Dan’s story because I remember those rainy Memorial Days (in fact, I remember more rainy Memorial Days in Bradford County than sunny ones. It seems it always rains when there is a parade or a ceremony to honor veterans here.) I covered a few of those ceremonies for local newspapers and when I first saw Harry, and fellow World War II veteran O.C. Spencer, standing out in inclement or sweltering hot weather, I wondered why someone didn’t get them a chair or an umbrella, or usher them inside. Looking back I know it was because they stood not only to honor the fallen and those who served but to honor our country. They did what so many of us don’t, or won’t, do. They did what they’d done years ago when called to fight; standing when others turned or walked away.

DSC_5342_1We keep Harry’s hats sealed inside the clear plastic case he handed them to Jonathan in and we keep them in an honored spot next to a sealed American flag given to Warren’s family after his great-grandfather passed away. And when we do pull the hats out we not only remember the man who stood at every Memorial and Veterans day service, no matter the weather, in full uniform, honoring those who served and those who fell, but the man who came home from war, worked with troubled youth with his wife for a decade, worked hard at every job he did, and also showed us how to persevere during the toughest times in life.

It’s hard sometimes to look at the local Color Guard during Memorial Day services and not see Harry standing there, rifle propped against his shoulder, back straight, jaw firm, gaze steady. I find myself choking up at the memory of the dedication he showed and how a new generation is missing out on the lessons of perseverance his mere presence there taught us.

What is important, I remind myself, isn’t that he isn’t here anymore, but that he was there at all and that there are people still around who will work to keep his memory and legacy alive.

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Posted in authentic, everyday musings

Dying ways of life and why we fight to hold on to them

When local farmer Scott Walrath recently told me farmers are stupidly in love with farming, I totally got it, maybe more than others who aren’t farmers would. For a long time I was in love with print journalism and now it, and farming, are two dying ways of life. I say ways of life because that is what both are. They are not occupations. They are something you live and breathe and that runs in your blood, dark like the ink in a press. .

DSC_8896DSC_5712-Edit_1In farming there is never a day off, always a cow to help birth or equipment to fix, or fields to work. In print journalism my brain was always working and thinking of the next story. Even if I was not at the office I seemed to always have my ears open to a tip or a feature story idea. Every person I met or place I visited had the potential of a news story or art for the front page. Art, in newspaper lingo, is essentially a main photo to anchor the front page and grab the readers attention so hopefully they will buy the paper.

More and more today, though, people aren’t buying the newspaper and even if they were, the paper to produce the newspaper is so expensive many papers are either raising prices or laying off employees.

New tarrifs on newsprint coming into the United States have raised prices more than 50 percent in some cases. The increase in expenses is leading some papers to drop the size of their papers down as they try to balance the decrease in demand, the rising prices and the difficulty with employing a staff. Small, privately owned newspapers, much like small, family owned farms, are being hit the hardest by the changes.

45bc5-lisar-howelerlisar-howeler58c50-lisar-howeler2ccopyrightlisar-howeler2ccopyrightI find myself trying hard not to think about a world without a physical newspaper to hold in my hand, one where scrolling on a computer or phone replaces the turning of the page. One where we no longer close our eyes and smell the ink, for me the smell of stories yet to be told. Similarly my brain often fights to silence the thoughts and frightening visions of empty barns dotting rural Pennsylvania’s landscapes of open fields, filled with corn or wheat or simply lush green.

Ah, those dying ways of life that a few of us still fight for, maybe because we are stupid, maybe because we are stuck in the “good ole’ days” or maybe because it runs in our blood and we can’t imagine doing anything else.

Posted in authentic, stay at home parents, Storytelling Photography, Uncategorized

Creative funks smell and feel funky

It isn’t unusual for me to hit a creative funk in the winter. Days are short, the sun hides behind clouds and it’s too cold to take the kids anywhere to explore.

I still try my best to take photographs inside the house, or whichever building we have sought shelter in from the nasty cold of winter, but honestly my heart usually isn’t in it until the warmth comes back.

This winter has seemed particularly long, probably because of the loss of my aunt in December and some stress my son was facing, but also the blasted cold weather and gloomy clouds.

DSC_7860With that Daylight Savings Time thing we do here in the States, we now have longer days (which simply means more daylight hours). This is a wonderful thing if you have sun and less exciting if it’s simply a gloomy, rainy or snowy day.

Last week marked the official  first day of Spring, but our weather hasn’t realized that yet and has remained cold, for the most part. This week we are supposed to have an upward trend and I’m hoping that will mean an upward trend in our moods too.

DSC_8308-2Despite the cold we have had sun and the sun makes the cold slightly less oppressive. It also creates some pretty lighting opportunities in some of the rooms of our house.

DSC_8313This week we are looking forward to mild, but still warmer, temperatures that will hopefully afford some more opportunities to escape the house and breathe in some fresh air.

So how about you, fellow creatives, or even you non-creative folk? What’s the weather like for you and what do you do when you find yourself in a creative funk?

Posted in authentic, everyday musings, Faithfully Thinking

When you realize what you thought ‘won’t happen here’ is actually here, right in your backyard

Sitting in our homes in rural Pennsylvania we often watched the news and thought to ourselves, “Whew. Glad that’s not happening here.”

We watched children being killed in their schools by children their own age and drug dealers being arrested and drive by shootings and little babies being killed by their mother’s live in boyfriend.

And we thought, “Whew. Glad that’s not happening here.”

We thought that until one day we were picking up our local newspapers and turning on our local news and suddenly, as if out of nowhere, it was here. 

There it was – a teenager dead – only 13, by suicide. Rumors that he was bullied and rumors that he was just depressed and couldn’t pull himself out of the pit.  Many didn’t know why but they knew it hurt. A family was hurting. A community was hurting.

And then there it was again – a teenager charged with not only threatening to become a school shooter and trying to buy a handgun so he could become one – right here, in our backyard, down the street from our homes, at the school we send our children to – but also being charged with rape.

A teenager.

A kid.

A child.

Someone’s child.

One of our neighbors.

One of God’s children.

Filled with hate at an age that should be filled with hope.

We live in a small collection of towns, two in Pennsylvania and one in New York. Their borders blend together and spill over into each other. Sometimes we like to pretend life here is fairly idyllic and that we all sit on our front porches in a rocking chair and wave at the children riding by on their bikes.

But, that’s not true, and we know it and we don’t like it.

Our towns are hurting.

Our neighbors are hurting.

Our children are hurting.

And hurt people hurt people.

Behind closed doors there are drugs being pushed through needles into veins while a baby sits to one side and plays with a rattle.

Behind closed doors young children are being ignored or told they aren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough or enough at all because if they were mom and dad might spend a little more time with them, stop drinking, stop shooting up or stop smacking them in the head no matter what they do.

Behind closed doors people are frightened.

They are frightened of not fitting in, of not measuring up, of there being no God, of there being a God.

Behind closed doors people ask if there was a God then why did their mom die, why did their dad leave, why is their mom more interested in drinking or smoking or snorting than hugging them and telling them it’s going to be ok?

Behind closed doors is the anger that has been pushed down day after day and week after week and year after year and now it’s spilling out and all over and it looks like arrogance and it looks like boldness, but what it is is fear, sadness, despair, loneliness, emptiness, apathy, and anxiety.

Anxiety looks a lot like anger when you don’t know where to turn.

Fear looks a lot like anger when no one listens.

Loneliness looks a lot like anger when no one cares.

Despair looks a lot like anger when you feel rejected and lost and confused and twisted all up inside like a rope tied tight on a tree limb.

Let’s be honest, we’d rather keep the doors closed. We don’t want to know what is happening behind those closed doors because if we knew we’d have to do something and if we had to do something we’d have to get involved and if we had to get involved we might get hurt.

And then it would go around and around and around again.

Hurt people hurt people.

The first time I heard someone say that – hurt people hurt people – I was angry.

I was the one that was hurt. Why should I care if the other person was hurting?

I didn’t care.

I didn’t want to care.

I never would care.

But eventually I did. 

I hurt.

The other person hurt.

We hurt together.

When we hurt together we no longer wanted to hurt others.

Maybe that’s what we need these days.

Maybe we need to hurt together.

So, it’s here now, not only there – on the news, on the TV, in the paper – in another community.

The pain is here.

Death is here, knocking on our doors.

Hate is here, walking the halls of our schools.

We can take away their weapons, we can lock them away, but until we stop the hurt they will keep coming.

The hurting want the pain to stop but if they can’t stop it they want others to suffer along with them because then they won’t suffer alone anymore.

They will find weapons even if laws say they can’t have those weapons.

They will use whatever they can to hurt and take away just as they have had things held back or taken away.

How do you stop the hurt? 

How do you heal a heart?

How do you whisper hope to a soul lost in the darkness of feeling worthless, unneeded, unnecessary? 

You don’t.

He does. 

God created us, He will heal us.

Then why is there pain? Why is there hurt? Why do humans hurt each other?

I don’t know.

There is sin and I don’t know why.

There is hurt and there was a fall from heaven of a heavenly being who said he would be God and God would not. When that happened pain entered what should have been a perfect world.

God doesn’t stop it. 

I don’t know why.

I don’t know why we are here or why we keep living or why we keep wanting to live.

So many of us want to live. 

Many say they want to die. They tell the world they want to die.

They tell their friends they’ll make sure they die, on their own terms and in their own way, but really, if they could only see through the fog that has fallen on them they would admit – it’s not that they don’t want to live it’s that they want someone else to tell them they are worthy of living.

Isn’t that what we all need? To know we are worthy. To be reminded that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by someone who loves us even when no one else will.

If we are really honest, we don’t want to see behind those closed doors because we don’t know where to start.

“But there are so many,” we think. “We can’t save them all. We can’t stop it all.”

We can’t save them all. 

Maybe we can save one.

And then one more.

And one more.

And one more.

And that one can save one and on it will go until maybe not all are saved from the darkness of hurting others but there are more than there were who can see light instead of dark. 

 

 

Posted in authentic, everyday musings, Guest blog posts

Windy, your ears are freezing

 Sometimes my dad writes little stories about growing up. That’s when I realize I must have got the storytelling bug from him.

This is something he shared this week on Facebook.

Story, photos and captions by Ronnie Robinson.

”Windy, Your Ears Are Freezing”

It was a calm but frosty minus zero morning; one of those mornings you could see particles of frost glisten in the air as the sun arose. Windy and I met each other at the Laddsburg Pond Bridge. It is the coldest spot in Laddsburg. It was one of those days that was just too cold for Willis Howell’s school bus to start.

Windy, full name Harold Wandell, was a foster child who homed with the loving Effie and Stalwart Carl Norris. He had walked the mile down from the top of the hill. Not much communication in those days and I don’t know if they had a phone but neighbors just met-up. We were there to wait for the bus that did not come.

Windy was one of the older boys that would help put the chains on the bus when it would get stuck in a snow drift. That would be a 20 min delay. But a frozen up bus or bad storm could be a 2 hour delay or a no show at all. Some times we would pile up in Willis’s station-wagon for the first part of the route, then go to his place and see if the bus would start so as to pick up the remaining students for the trip to the high school.  Windy never wore a hat to school. The top of his ears were starting to turn white and I said “Windy I think your ears are freezing”. Then we made our way to New Albany.

 photo and caption by Ronnie Robinson | This is the new bridge.In my mind, I see one with narrow steel rails.
photo and caption by Ronnie Robinson | This is the new bridge.In my mind, I see one with narrow steel rails.
 Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | The view of the road from the old Corson home going past our home.
Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | The view of the road from the old Corson home going past our home.

I don’t recall walking or running or how but I remember us being there and then getting a ride to Wyalusing in a milk truck that was picking up milk from the platform at the bottom of Dempsey Hill. You see, we were not that loyal to school but there was to be a WVHS Rams wrestling meet that day and we were on that team.

Another event I remember well was: “The After School Blizzard.” Mary,Mary Inez Corson and I got of the school bus one blistery evening to walk the two  mile (well not quite, it was a quarter mile)  up the dirt road to my place. My parents lived there too. The wind was fierce and cutting. It was difficult to see. It was blowing frozen sheets  and chunks of icy frozen snow from the fields.The  previous snows had melted from the sun shine and then refroze. They were now breaking up and air-born in the strong wind. I think the drifts were making it more difficult also, but the blowing ice and the snow is what I remember most. We had to shield our face from getting hit by them. I was about thirteen then and I felt so manly proud because finally I was able to be ahead of my adventurous mentor and surrogate sister. I walked backward some and I could see her still walking.

 Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | You may see a set of foot prints. I vividly picture two sets.
Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | You may see a set of foot prints. I vividly picture two sets.

Thinking back on this now with a touch of shame I realize it would have been more manly-mature of me to help her.

She may have been wearing a skirt. Girls in that day wore skirts. Sometimes they carried snow pants with them. Also being a good student she may have been carrying books. I don’t remember anything after getting to my home. Mary had to walk the five hundred more yards to her home.

Mary, my forever friend, died suddenly at the age of 56. She donated her body to science. She lived in Texas with her husband. My wife Carolyn and I spoke with her when she and her husband were in Bradford County for her father’s funeral.

The portion of that conversation I recall was about being born again. I hope to see my sister again in the “Land Of No More Storms.”

Posted in authentic

A loss is a loss no matter how “small”

The ultrasound technician told me he couldn’t see a baby, a heartbeat, anything that should have been there at 12 weeks gestation. I didn’t know what this meant, imagining that somehow we had been off on our dates and it was too early to see anything in an ultrasound, but then again, I knew we couldn’t be that far off our dates.

The midwife told me I had a blighted ovum, or an empty gestational sac, which happens when a pregnancy doesn’t progress beyond the formation of the egg and it attaching to the uterus. A positive pregnancy test shows a pregnancy is underway but often a woman will not get any of the pregnancy symptoms a woman would if the pregnancy was viable. Sometimes, though, she’ll still get these symptoms and it isn’t until the ultrasound that she knows there is no baby and there will won’t be a baby.

No one seems to know why this happens but, from what I’ve read and been told, it is a fairly common occurrence and women should have no problem getting pregnant after a blighted ovum.

It was a wait and see game after that first ultrasound but I was told by the midwife that most likely I would begin to miscarry in a few days. It was about two days after the ultrasound when my body spontaneously began to miscarry. I was one of the lucky ones. Many women have to undergo a procedure where the contents of their uturus are surgically removed. I was relieved when the miscarriage started naturally. The entire situation was so surreal I’m not even sure I can say I was upset by any of it. In the months before I had been under tremendous stress from a family situation and by this point my brain seemed to have gone into a protective lock down mode. I felt emotionally numb by the time the bleeding began.

Since my experience I’ve read many stories about women with either a blighted ovum or very early miscarriages and many times these women seem unsure they have the right to grieve, since their baby never fully formed or passed away at such an early part of the pregnancy. Because I had the same internal dialogue, I can very much relate to this line of thinking.

It wasn’t lost on me at the time that I had suffered some sort of loss but it wasn’t until recently I began to deal with some of the feelings from that time, maybe because I became pregnant three months after my miscarriage with a little girl who is now asleep next to me for her afternoon nap. I was caught up in the fallout from a marriage crisis, the pregnancy and birth of a baby and then the adjustment of having a baby and 8-year old at home. Life rushed by and I never thought much about that previous loss until a couple of months ago when I paused and reflected on how numb I had felt that weekend I miscarried at home and never really let myself think about what could have been. There could have been five of us instead of four or maybe there never would have been because our youngest would simply be a few months older than she is now.

And then I thought about how I never gave myself time to grieve over the loss, which was devastating for our then 7-year old who had waited so long for a sibling. I cried some but never really gave myself time to feel sad.

I told myself the early miscarriage wasn’t worth being sad about. I had two friends at the time who had recently suffered late term losses and I knew that must be much more devastating to cope with. I had no right to cry when they had suffered so much more.

My mom and I both had children eight years apart, with a loss in between, and we both had our son first and daughter second.  I know she knew what it was to lose, but I still felt my early loss wasn’t as serious. My mom had suffered a loss at seven months. She’d had toxemia and the baby was delivered prematurely, at a time when very little could be done to help babies delivered that early.

Then my Mom reminded me one day that our early miscarriage was a real loss because it was the loss of hope and the idea of what was going to be but then never was. And that’s what a pregnancy loss, no matter how early, is. And it isn’t only the loss of a pregnancy –  it is the loss of an expected life.

Grieving this loss, even a very early one, is important. Make sure, no matter what, you find a way to let yourself grieve. I don’t mean you have to grieve publicly, wail in the streets or make all your friends listen to every detail while you sob into their shoulder, but find some way to grieve – either in the quiet of your room or the pages of your journal or sharing with a friend. Grieve in a way that makes you feel comfortable but grieve.

Don’t be afraid to show others that you hurt, for as long as you need. If people truly love you they’ll let you grieve and support you as long as you need them to. They’ll recognize that this is how you’re working through your thoughts and feelings about this season in your life. Those feelings are going to range from deep sadness to anger and denial to eventual acceptance. There may be times you aren’t even sure how you feel and maybe you’ll even feel nothing, like I did, for a very long time.

That’s ok and it’s normal and don’t let anyone tell you different. There is hope and healing, but it takes time, not a definitive amount, but a different amount for each person. Recognize and honor your own time table and accept that it may not be the same as someone else’s but also recognize and remember you are not alone, that there are so many other women who know what you’re going through.

Posted in authentic, everyday musings, honest stuff

One of us. One of the mourners.

Out of the two of them I worried about telling my 11 year old son the most. I dreaded it, in fact, but then I dreaded more the delay in being able to tell him; a delay caused by his spending time with a friend and then unexpected weather. My daughter is only three so I knew telling her her great aunt, who was part of her grandparents home and who we saw almost every weekend, had died would be hard, yet somewhat of a vague concept to someone so young.

But I knew he, at 11, would be hit with the full brunt of the reality of it and I knew his innocence bubble, chipped away at by the death of his dog earlier in the year, would be shattered by the blow. He’d been at a friend’s house when we first heard the news and we left him there to be shielded for a little while longer because we knew that’s what she would have wanted – him having fun instead of at home and grieving. 

Then, when it took longer than we hoped to get to him, so we could break the news, we felt at a loss and like someone else in our family, not just her, was missing. We wanted him with us so we could grieve together, as a family.

When the news was finally given and the tears rushed down and the arms tightened around his small, grieving frame it was a type of release and a new type of prison all at the same time because now he was no longer shielded, but one of us, one of those who knew loss and who mourned

She had been one of the first to hold him, to kiss the top of his soft, fuzzy head the day he was born. She’d rocked him, cuddled him, played games with him and even though she was bossy in her later years, as her health worsened, she was the one who joked, who blew wet kisses with fart noises on his cheeks, and always told him to “get over here and give me some sugar.” She was the one who pulled him close and made him promise to “never stop being the sweet boy you are, baby.”

Goodbyes were never said without a hug and her slobbery kisses. Afternoons were rarely spent without her falling asleep in the chair and then waking up for him to show her his latest project.

Sometimes she was grumpy.

Sometimes he was grumpy.

Sometimes we all were.

Sharp words were blurted, flounces made, doors slammed. But then apologies were made, embraces came and “I love you” was said.

Oh the emptiness felt in that house without her there.

Oh the emptiness felt in our hearts.

The pain of the loss is like hands squeezing hard on our insides.  

We wait for her to come down the stairs and tell us something funny she read online or show us her latest gadget. We think we hear her move above us in her room. We think we will soon hear her sing, as she often did, to be silly, the first few lines of “You Are My Sunshine.”

So we laugh in her honor. 

We sing to remember. 

We embrace and blow fart noises on faces to never forget how she touched our lives and made it better just by being her.  

Posted in authentic, everyday musings

Find time for your soul

There is usually at least one big blow up from me at bedtime on school nights and it’s usually directed at the 3-year old who thinks bedtime is playtime. I know it’s my own fault for trying to put two children with an eight year age gap to bed at the same time. I know it’s my fault for not remembering she’s three and that winding down to the point of relaxation can be hard for a toddler.

And I know it’s also my fault for not finding a little more free time for myself where my soul can be still and listen to my heart. 

After I’ve stomped away to pout and decompress in the bathroom on those crazy nights, I usually remind myself of all these things I should remember.

She’s exhausting and frustrating but I would never give up the playful moments we share between somewhat tired and incredibly exhausted nor the quiet moments when she finally gives in. I love to hear her and her brother’s giggles and watch her jump “jus’ one more time,” for the tenth time.

I love to feel her body tiny, warm, solid and completely surrendered to relaxation and rest against me. The moment I look down and see her eyes closed and her face relaxed is  full of internal elation because once she’s asleep I can have a little bit of free time for myself, if I’m not too tired.

Many times the free time I do find myself with is so short I try to do too much – watch a show, edit photos and write a blog post all at the same time. In the end I often find I have accomplished very little and my head is a jumbled mess of thoughts and sheer panic that I won’t have time to do all I need or want to do.

My goal this next year is to choose one task I want to finish in that golden hour between when the two of them fall asleep and my eyelids won’t stay open anymore.

Today I chose blogging during her nap. At bedtime it may be catching up on a favorite show (of which I have only a few) or reading a chapter in a book or listening to a podcast. Whatever I choose I am grateful for those little moments of mental rest when my soul gets some much needed attention.

How do you step away to recharge your soul?

Or do you?

If not, make that your goal this week. Find time to make space for your thoughts, your feelings and for your soul to breathe.