I saw you in the grass today

I saw you in the grass today. 

I held Elijah in my arms while he nursed. I was irriated for the length of time it was taking to get out the door. Rushing to get everything in order and get Noah to daycare on time.

But everything stays still–I'm forced to stay still–when I have to nurse. And while I did, you showed yourself to me.  

I looked out the window to see the sun drafting shadows on the grass. And there, underneath the tree that divides our yard from our neighbors, your face looked at me.

It was the closest I've come to seeing you again without dreaming.  

I was afraid to look away to never find your face again. I asked you what I could learn from this moment. You didn't answer then. But while I was driving Noah to daycare, you did. 

You said to focus on bravery. To use your experiences to teach about bravery. To use other's experiences too. To share your story through my eyes. To find the wisdom through the heartbreak. To find the beauty in the brokenness. And to shine light in the dark. 

I'm always, and still, inspired by you, mom. Thank you for showing me the way. 

Allergies and gardening

Today my morning began with an allergy fit. My eyes were on fire, my nose a faucet. 

Temporarily the symptoms subsided providing me with enough time to sqeeze into my spanx and get to church 10 minutes late.

After our usual grocery-shoping-post-church ritual, I watched a handful of videos on no-dig gardening. Last year I did used the lasagna garden technique. This year I'll do the same but now I know more and will learn from my mistakes. I'll also implement some things I learned today through the videos. 

There was one garderner on the youtube channel that gardened, and walked through her garden, barefoot. I like that about her. I also liked that she had a calming voice. I hope to have a garden like her some day. I subscribed to her channel. 

My allaergies have continued to be a pest today. I will get to the bottom of this. For now, I'm going to enjoy some hot chocolate in my pj's and watch a movie.

Stand me up

I waited for you all day. You didn't show. I cried. 

I looked out the living room window towards the street in the direction you would've been coming from. The first hundred times I looked it was light out. Now it's dark and I've given up.

I tried calling you. You didn't answer. I'm not sure if I'm more scared to have you answer and say something happened or for you to say nothing happened at all.  

I was excited to see you. I'm wearing something I feel pretty in. I did my hair.

I'm furious at you but I'm sure if more at you or myself.

Why do you do this to me? Why do I keep letting you?

I know I deserve better than you. I know you'd disagree. I think that's why you take advantage of me. But I know there's someone out there who would never stand me up like you do.

2 years, today

2 years ago today, I arrived at the hospital, like I had for the last 3 weeks, knowing the end was near.

I walked into my mom’s room where she laid in the same position as the day before, with her eyes closed, breathing heavily. Her medication was on it's highest dosage, locked in a clear plastic box just in case anyone felt the need to steal. 

Jimmy, her fiance, had his head buried in a book. At the time I was annoyed for this. Now, I understand his need to escape the pain.

Bunches of flowers were withered, bags of junk food and bottled war half emptied throughout.

The room smelled of mom, the lotion she was known for, something like exotic coconut.  

The blinds were open, shining natural light onto mom, casting long dark shadows beyond her body. 

A pack n' play was floated around the family room the babies to nap in while we stayed day and night at the hospital watching, waiting, hoping, sometimes praying. 

Like I had researched online after the hospice nurse alerted us, her feet showed signs of mottling. Her skin was blotchy with tones of gray telling me that her heart was no longer pumping blood properly. 

I was tired, relieved, scared, heartbroken.

It was my [step] dad's birthday. 

Are you good enough?

There's a question that I've heard asked more times today than ever before: Am I good enough? 

This question got me thinking about why this is a growing concern right now–why are their more people today struggling with the fear that who they are, what they do, and how it all looks, might not be good enough?

When did everyone stop believing in themselves? When did everyone start comparing themselves to people who are nothing like them? 

I have a thoery.

I believe we've become so attached to the way we look and how much people "like" us online that if we don't get any likes, comments, or followers that means we're not good enough. We're not successful. We're not as good as everyone else so that must mean we're not worthy. And if we don't have X amount of followers than we'll never be successful. 

Basically, we're ranking our self-worth based on algorythyms and images of people we've never met. 

I've learned this the hard way. I've found myself getting triggered when I would see another artist painting art that looked like mine, or another artist who is doing something I wished I had done first. I, too, have studied Instagram feeds to locate some sort of formula that would amount to their success so then I could follow that formula and create my own success. I have invested more time than I'd like to admit on growing my following. 

I don't blame myself. I don't blame you either. We've all done it because at one point in our lives we were told to "fake it till we make it" or "find someone else who is doing what you want to do then learn from them" and because we've had it cycled through our brain so many times that "more is better".  

I believe we've all become observers and consumers instead of cultivators. We're watching everyone have their impressive little lives on social media, when in reality, thier life's (and our own) are far from what we see in those beautifully curated squares. We're paralized by consuming their lives (their stories, their successes, their beauty) that we stop cultivating our own. 

But the thing is, Instagram is not our real lives. Our self-worth, our success, our lives were never meant to be reliant on social media or other people's judgement. Who we are, what we do, how we do it, the happiness we cultivate, the love we share and beauty we experience–in it's truest form–can only be found offline.

I know you've read similar articles before (like the one I'm writing right now) but have you actually taken a step back from Instagram to get in touch with yourself? Can you actually say (and believe wholeheartedly) that you are good enough? That what you do does matter–your voice, your beauty, your love, your art, your story, your imperfections, your everything, matters?

I have a feeling you're reading this because you might need the extra nudge to take a break from the noise in order to cultivate what matters most like writing your story, sending a card, visiting with your neighbor, going for a hike, cooking a meal for someone in need, calling your mom, reflecting on the day, sqeezing your loved ones extra tight for another few moments.

Whatever this article inspires you to do–do it now before you unconciously click through the apps on your phone and allow inspiration to deflate you once again. Better yet, delete the apps right now. You can always reinstall them when you're ready to jump back in (that's what I do). I encourage you to actively create the life you want to live by going and living it! 

Lastly, I know I'm not sitting next to you in real-life to say this to you personally, but I want you to know that I believe in you. I know that you're good enough. And I know you have everything you need right in front of you.  

Top 3 things / April 20th

My husband and I often reflect on our days, after a long day of work or parenting, by asking each other what our top 3 things were of the day. I'd like to share those things with you here every so often. So here's my top 3 for today:

1. Watching Noah get so excited about going to the zoo. The first thing he said when he woke up is "see Evan. Go to zoo?" (Evan was a friend we went to the zoo with)

2. Fitting into a pair of shorts that I havent fit into for a few years.

3. Making an amazing meal that was healthy, fresh, organic and delicious! It was blackened wild-caught salmon served on a bed of local green, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and honey, garnished with a few avocado slices. Then I made myself some chocolate mousse made from avocados, maple syrup, coconut oil, cocoa, and vanilla extract. Food aside, the feeling I had after I took the first bite of salmon was so rewarding. I felt like I was "me" again. I was taking the time to make healthy meals that nourished me. I was taking the steps to make better choices about my body and what goes init. This might sound small but this is something I've lost touch with the past several years. I've made a lot of food decisions based on my emotions, greif, anxiety. So it's nice to be back to a place where I don't feel so sad, lost, stuck or anxious. I feel in control and ready to keep feeling this way every day. Also, I've cut out dairy, sugar and caffeine from my diet, which is worth mentioning. Oh, and Elijah has only been waking up twice each night too (rather than 3-4x), so that's helping me feel more rested, finally. 

Pistachios

I remember going to dad’s work around the corner from our home. There was a gum ball machine in the reception area stuffed full of pistachios.

That was my first time trying pistachios. My fingers would be stained red from the shells.

I’m not quite sure why I was at my dad’s work that day. Where was my mom? Was she working?

I remember sunshine beaming through the open garage door, which I could see from where I sat, waiting for dad.

The receptionist was the garage owner’s daughter. There were 3 or 4 of them. They were all so pretty and nice.

Across the street from the garage trailers were neatly lined on a patch of grass facing the road. I believe this was their way of storing them while also advertising them. Adjacent from that patch of grass was the bar that my parents met in.

She was a bartender, he a patron. She was 25, he was 20. She was a mother of 3 and recently widowed, he was fresh out of college. They married in a courtroom.

My mom said she proposed to him. Their reception was at my grandparents house (dad’s parents)—just a few houses down from the garage.

I remember that day. Eating cake. Playing in the creek. Drinking soda from a can. Playing with my uncle—the one that’s only 2 years older than me. At that time I was about 4 or 5 years old.

9/11

This morning I woke up from a dream. In the dream a large burning light came soaring down from the sky and hit the earth. The earth shakes and a loud, almost deafening noise followed.

I knew in that moment it was the end. 

I was in the dining room of the house I grew up with my oldest sister Mandie to my left and my niece Ruby to my right. I competed with the noise and shouted to my family I loved them. I wanted–I needed–them to know I loved them. 

Moments later we rushed out of our house and into the streets where we knew there were other children who needed help. When we got to closest house there were a few children outside crying from confusion and fear. We did our best to console them, gathered them and kept moving. 

Then I woke up. 

I looked over at my peacefully sleeping husband and thanked God I was alive. And thought that if I knew the world was going to end, would I live my life differently? Would I change something about myself or how I spend my time? Am I doing what I was put on this earth to do? 

When I realized what the date was today, I knew I had to share my dream with you. Most of the time when I recall 9/11 I'm in disbelief that something so tragic, so heartbreaking, so scary actually happened. But in the world we live in today with so much evil, there really is no saying what could happen next. So be sure that what you're doing right now is worth it. Make sure your loved ones know you love them. Make sure that if today was your last day on earth, you're happy, you did your best and you have no regrets, because you never know when today will be your last.

I wrote this story years ago. In my quest to start assembling my book, I will be posting old entries like this one. Then soon, I will begin to put this puzzle (my life/my book) together.  

Look up

The ceiling needs attention just like I did. 

Now that I have the ritual of bathing each night after the boys are in bed, and writing while I soak, I suppose it’s time to share the love and repair our ceiling.  

I can see a crack that’s opened like a wound with brittle edges and a mysterious core.  

Freckles of mold. I should turn the fan on every time I shower, but I don’t. The loud humming disrupts the small pleasure of a shower. 

I should’ve painted the ceiling years ago when we painted the bathroom just before Noah was born. But I didn’t. The idea of painting it felt completely unnecessary at the time. 

In a way, the ceiling is a reflection of my carelessness. That same carelessness that had me in survival mode without any self-care rituals. With a loss of self. I was neglected and falling part.

I’ve cut corners and I’ve lacked discipline. Both of which I’m trying to get better at.  

I wonder what it would feel like to have the bathroom completely finished—tiles framed, ceiling painted, cupboards organized, everything always in a state of clean?  

Co-sleeping

I stayed up too late. I need to be quiet when I walk into the room. I need to keep the flashlight on my phone partially covered with my fingertip to see. Don't step on that creaky floorboard. Keep the handle of the doors turned as it shuts so it doesn’t making that awful loud sound. Turn the white noise machine down so I can actually sleep. Lay on the opposite side of the bed to write that idea down on my phone so that the blue light doesn’t wake him up. Don’t use scented products during bedtime wash to make sure he doesn’t get a whif when I slide into bed. Don’t allow the comforter to create a breeze as I pull it over my body. Don’t toss and turn. Put your phone down. Close your eyes. Get to sleep. He’ll be awake before you know it.

Self-care

To be honest, I had no idea what self-care really meant to and for me until a few months ago when I chose to pause my art business to focus primarily on caring for my two children.

I can now say that self-care, for me, is much much more than a pedicure and a face mask.

It’s knowing what your body needs and making it a priority. It’s asking for help when you need it. It’s saying no to commitments when I already have way too much on my plate. It’s creating boundaries between work, family, and friends.

It’s creating anchors that ground me and give me stability when I feel like I'm in survival mode.

It’s building in rituals of self-care that make me feel good, allow me to reflect, provide solitude, and encourage self-growth and peace. Which, ultimately, helps me and everyone around me.

5K

Today I ran the same 5K that mom and I ran 4 years ago–the same month her symptoms began.

Although I was definitely in better shape 4 years ago, and had Mom to motivate and push me through, it was awesome completing this goal today!

I’m too tired to extrapolate on this but I wanted to make sure I wrote about it before the day was over. 

The first time I almost drowned

I almost drowned, twice.  

The first time I was under 10 years old. I wagered with myself how deep I could swim in the cloudy lake. I had to know if I could make it to the bottom. 

My siblings surrounded me yet we’re focused on their own swimming quest.  

My parents watched from the boat—the one we washed and waxed in preparation for the weekend lake-getaways.  

I began my journey to the depths of the lake with each inch of water getting increasingly colder the deeper I reached. 

By the time my fingers brushed the sandy bottom of the earth (I did it!) I had a rush of panic fill my body like a balloon because my body had run out of air. I rushed to the top of the water feeling like I could explode into a white light at any moment. 

Then I found air.  

I gasped, filling every corner of my lungs with plump, cool, fresh, life-giving air.  

I can’t remember if anyone noticed that I almost drowned. I was too freaked out to make a scene. I was also the kind of kid that kept things easy for my parents. 

 

The story of the second time I drowned will have to wait another day. Right now, it’s time for me to go to bed and get some rest for my 5K run.  

Stretchy

I packed mostly dresses and tights. These were the only things that were stretchy enough to accomodate my postpartum baby fat and nursing my 9 month old son. I'm certain I looked pregnant to people. I didn't care. I tried to look pretty. Feel pretty. 

All I wanted was more sleep and for my mom to get better. But I didn't get either.  

I also packed a black dress, again, just in case this time was going to be it. And it was. 

Bedroom door

I was there when you had your second miscarriage. I was a sunny day. Nick was running errands. But you weren't alone. I was there and I witnessed how painful it was. 

Since that day euclyptus hangs from me. The same euclyptus from your mother's funeral bouquet. 

I remember when you first moved in and set up a tripod in the bedroom. You and Nick held each other and smiled while the camera captured a few moments. That was before the miscarraige and the births of Noah and Elijah. 

Now I hold silence for the baby to sleep while you and Nick unwind from the day or when Noah runs from room to room. 

I'm kept closed most of the day but when I'm open I enjoy the human touch and watching each of you walk back and forth past me. 

I know there are several versions of me throughout the home but I feel I protect the bext room in the house. 

I wrote the above as a writing exercise from a workbook I’m using to help me write my book. The workbook is by Beth Kephart, titled “Tell the Truth. Make it Matter.”. It’s funny, like Beth mentions in the workbook, how writing in the voice of something that is not me actually forces me from the shadows. More exercises and writing to come... 

Pencil

I’ve never really had a home but most of us don’t. We float around from home to home, being used and lost every few months.  

When I was younger I looked my best. Never dull, never chewed on, never taken for granted.  

Now my age shows. I have scratches from falling, but marks from deep thoughts just before my head hits he paper.  

My first and only sharpen of my life was made by a knife. My point appears faceted like a cut diamond, rather than smooth and pointy like a golf tee.  

I hear that my eraser can harden over time, leaving marks instead of removing them. I hope I take care of myself well enough that that never happens. 

I’m happy to be where I am. I feel it’s where I’m supposed to be. But I sure do miss my brothers and sisters. I wonder how they’re doing?  

I wrote the above as a writing exercise from a workbook I’m using to help me write my book. The workbook is by Beth Kephart, titled “Tell the Truth. Make it Matter.”. It’s funny, like Beth mentions in the workbook, how writing in the voice of something that is not me actually forces me from the shadows. More exercises and writing to come... 

 

Home sick

I never liked school. To get out of going one morning, I whined and cried to convince my mother I was sick. 

The second I knew I had her, I laid it on thick. She openly contemplated that maybe I contracted an eye cold. I secretly disagreed, knowing she was wrong and I was perfectly healthy.  

My brother and sisters were running out the door to catch the bus when I started my act. 

I’m not sure why I was so dead set on staying home from school that particular day.  

But what I do know is that that day I had the couch to myself, the television tuned into MTV and my mom’s undivided love.

Maybe that’s why I felt the need to stay home that day. Not because I was sick, but because I needed that time alone with my mother. 

Lasagna

I remember the first time you taught me how to make your lasagna. I was around 13 years old. It was in our old blue house—the one that caught on fire. You showed me how to boil the noodles, lay them on wax paper to cool. Then how to cook the ground beef, put a small amount of sauce on the bottom of the pan, swirl it around to cover the bottom, then add the first layer of noodles. On top of those went the meat, the cheese, the sauce, then repeat until ingredients were gone. Your secret ingredient—that made the casserole soupy (a trait we all loved)—was cottage cheese instead of ricotta.

You didn’t cook much. Most of our dinners were prepared by a company named Schwans. They delivered frozen meals every month, which was always clearly marked on the calendar. You were quite busy with work and running us kids around back then. If you weren’t able to cook, we just assembled a meal with the packaged food in the fridge or pantry.  When you did have something you cooked [mostly] from scratch, it was good, and I was interested to know the recipe. Except meatloaf. I never liked that. Pork chops too. They were always so dry. But I don’t blame you, I know from personal experience how hard it is to maintain moisture in pork chops. 

I don’t know how you did it, mom. 4 kids, who all played sports after school, you worked all day, dad worked day and night. You were the one who I remember being around the most, which tells me that you had the duty of caring for us on your plate more than dad did. You must’ve struggled and felt like you never had time for yourself. Maybe, and I think I might be right, you lost yourself, because, how could you really retain who you are when you had us to care for through those circumstances?

I wish I had become a parent sooner so that I would have realized these things about being a mom, and your experience with being a mom, before you passed away. I imagine what it would be like to talk with you about this. The struggles of early motherhood. The challenges of disciplining children. The hardships that create wedges in marriages, relationships, children. I feel like you’d understand better than most.

Speaking of food—one of my fondest memories of food with you is when we would bake cakes for a birthday party and have leftover frosting. You would then take that frosting and make saltine-frosting sandwiches. There was usually only enough leftover for a few of them. So we each got one or shared one. My favorite was chocolate frosting sandwiches. I can’t wait to make them for my sons.