Thursday, September 11, 2014

Catching Up

I didn't realize it had been almost 2 years since I had written. Many reasons for that - busy with a toddler, busy with life, the loss of my dad.

The past year has been probably the hardest of my life. On Halloween last year my dad died unexpectedly. It still doesn't feel entirely real sometimes. I hadn't seen him since my brother's wedding in Hawaii, we were supposed to see him this past July at the family reunion. He was supposed to meet Henry there.

Grief is a confusing, isolating, awkward, unending thing. For a few months I felt like it would crush me - the sadness, the guilt, the longing to just see him on more time to say goodbye, the regret of things that can't be changed now. Trying to hide some of that devastation so that I could still function for my kids. Feeling like I couldn't explain my own emotions well enough to even reach out to someone to help me through it all. (I can't recommend strongly enough finding  a good grief counselor - helped immensely!)

It's gotten easier in the past couple months. Easier to talk about. And to think about. But the waves of sadness still hit me out of nowhere at awkward times. A joke I know he would love. A movie I think he'd enjoy. An accomplishment I want to share with him. I miss him.

I've learned a lot this past year, especially about finding a new normal when all you want is to go back to the old normal. Hard things happen, things we don't choose for ourselves. And I am blessed to have an amazing support network of friends, family and church/Bible study groups to support me through that. My husband was nothing short of amazing after I got the call about my dad, and has continued to help in ways that I'm not even sure I know or will ever know about.

We're spreading my dad's ashes in a couple weeks. It all feels so final. There is something beautiful about completing his final request, about returning him to the earth, about being with my brother and sister to say a final goodbye. But I feel so panicked. Like a little kid freaking out about pulling off a Band-aid - the anticipation is usually worse than the actual. But I don't know what feelings to expect. And I'm so, so tired of this whole process.

I'm not sure why I'm publishing this. Maybe so someone else going through this knows that they're normal in their feelings. Maybe so the people who know me know that I'm still struggling. Maybe so I can look back someday and realize that grief really isn't unending, that it just feels that way when you're in it.

It feels good to write again. Maybe I can get back soon to stories of the craziness that is parenting the gremlins. They are growing up way too fast.  I probably should have gone to law school to be able to win arguments against my 6 year old.  Perhaps that's a project for when Henry starts school.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Day of Kindness

First off, I apologize for taking so long to write this post.  I have really been struggling over whether or not to even post about what we did for my birthday because I didn't want it to come off as me looking for a pat on the back for "all the nice things" we did.  I don't want to take away from how much that day meant to me by flaunting it.

 Because that day of kindness was truly the best birthday I have ever had.  It was so fun looking for ways to go the extra mile.  I was caught off-guard by how people's reactions affected me.  I was brought near tears many times throughout the day.  And then to think that so many of you reached out on that same day made me feel so happy.

I'd like to share my two favorite "random acts" and then also let you know what others sent to me that day via text, facebook, email, twitter and in person to let me know how the kindness was spreading.

1. I made two dinners for two families in Anna's class who have new babies at home.  These were by far my favorite reactions of the day.  I've been on the receiving end of this and know how much a pre-made meal can mean after a night of no sleep and a long day of demanding kids, housework, etc.  It made me happy to pay this one forward.

2. The kids and I took cupcakes to the fire station down the street from our house.  The fire fighters were so sweet, talking with both Anna and Henry, and invited us to come back when it's a bit warmer to look at the fire trucks.  Just made me want to cook for them even more!

Some of the acts of kindness sent to me by others (and some of the rest of mine mixed in):

  • Returning shopping carts (in a snow storm, no less!)
  • Buying a friend a shot of tequila
  • Surprise deliveries of baked goods
  • Holding doors open for people (this was Anna's - she made a point to open and hold every door for me the whole day)
  • Paying for the next person in line at the drive-thru
  • Sharing a parking pass with a stranger
  • Offering a shopping cart to someone at Aldi so they could save their quarter
  • Treating a friend (or a stranger) to lunch
  • Showing a bit of extra appreciation for a server
  • Surprise flowers for a friend
I'd also like to offer a very special thanks to the friend who dropped by in the afternoon, unexpectedly, and offered me the opportunity to take a nap.  A nap!!  I got to take a nap on my birthday and it was fabulous.

Did you commit a random act of kindness in November?  What did you do?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wednesday Plans and Weekend Recap

I'm getting so excited for Wednesday!  I've spent quite a bit of time thinking, planning and baking in preparation for our day of kindness.  I've also been going the extra mile where I see the opportunity because I'm paying attention.  I'm so hopeful that I can keep some of this enthusiasm for spreading kindness throughout the year.  Because something as simple as a stranger holding the door open for me to wrangle Anna and the 1,000 lb baby carrier through really makes my day so much easier.  And it's such a simple thing.

I hope you all are having as much fun coming up with fun ways to spread kindness this week.  You don't have to go crazy with spending money (though if I were made of money, I can promise you that my "random acts" would be so much grander than they are going to be!).  Something as simple as holding a door, returning a shopping cart or picking up trash can be inspiring to another person.  And my huge hope is that people who receive kindness are inspired to pass it on!

This was a great weekend.  I ran my 2nd 5K on Sunday morning with my good friend, Joanna.  We tried to start a team and have another people sign up with us.  We even had an awesome team name - Is This Yoga?

Alas, it was a busy weekend for many and we were the only two to sign up.  And it was only 28 degrees.  But we're Midwestern girls and wouldn't let a little frost scare us off of a good ol' run through the Milwaukee County Zoo!

After our run, Hubby and I hosted a "Friendsgiving" dinner at our house for some of our friends.  It was so fun to eat a (HUGE) meal with our friends, many of whom now have kids.  Watching the kids playing together may have been the most fun part of the afternoon.

Plus today little Llama Face figured out how to roll back to front. And now the circle is complete.  He rolled all the way across the living room twice today.  Time to clean up the Barbie shoes! Oy.  I'm not quite ready for him to be mobile!

I can't wait to share our day of kindness with you after Wednesday.  Even more than that, I can't wait to share your random acts of kindness!  So don't forget to check in with me (if you're comfortable sharing the details) and let me know what you did to make someone's day!

P.S. To the friend who bought me a shot of tequila as her random act of kindness, cheers!  I'll save it for a night that we can enjoy it together.  :)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Are You Ready?

The other day, as I flopped exhausted on the kitchen floor, staring at the 200 dead bugs lodged in the kitchen light fixture, with baby toys being flung at my outstretched legs and stompy feet playing "hop over mommy's head," I was thinking how much I really have to be thankful for in my life.  There's a lot.  I'm not going to get late-night, low-on-sleep sappy on you here, but, truly, I am blessed.

I want to spread those blessings! So I want to remind you, that this coming WEDNESDAY is the day.  In this post a few weeks ago, I asked you all to join me on my birthday crusade to shower the world with random acts of kindness.  We've been talking a LOT about this in my house for the last month (so much so that if I hold a door open for someone, Anna asks if it's my birthday already).  We've already done a couple of things toward the day, and are preparing for Wednesday.

Please help me celebrate my birthday on Wednesday by bringing a smile to someone around you.  Stranger, friend, neighbor, family member - anyone could use a day-brightener!

**If you are interested, I have another opportunity related to this, but I am not currently allowed to discuss it publicly.  Please contact me ASAP privately to let me know you'd like to commit a random act of kindness in a slightly bigger way.  (The reason for the secrecy is not as exciting as it sounds - I will be able to explain later next week.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I Need Your Help

My birthday is coming up next month. It's not a milestone birthday, but I'm still excited.  I'm excited because growing up is an adventure.  I'm excited because I get to celebrate with my family.  And I'm excited because I have a great idea to make this my greatest birthday ever.  But I need your help!

I was inspired by this post I found on Pinterest (horribly addicted) a few months ago.  Essentially, this woman chose to spend her birthday committing random acts of kindness.  What an awesome idea!  I've long wanted to start the "pay for the person behind me" chain in a Starbucks drive-thru.  So this year, I'm using my birthday as an excuse to do it and to find other ways to go out of my way to be nice to people.  And I am going to ask all of you to give me a gift as well.

I want everyone who reads this post to do something nice for someone - a friend, a neighbor, a complete stranger, ANYONE!  And I want to hear about it in the comments of this post.  I'll come back after my day of random acts of kindness and share with you what the kids and I decided to do to brighten people's days.  I can't wait to see what you all come up with.

The best birthday gift I can imagine is to have hundreds of stranger smiling because people read this post.  So please spread the word and come back soon (before the 2nd week in November) and let me know what you did (or if you don't want to share the specifics, just let me know that you did something).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Warning: Post is about pet death.

This is really long.  I've been feeling so sad since Macie died on Saturday night that I felt like I needed to get my feelings down in writing.

When hubby and I got married our senior year of college, I (naively) thought I wanted a baby right away.  Hubby offered a compromise and suggested we adopt a kitten instead.  We wound up adopting two kittens from the same litter, a male and a female - Mac and Macie. 

They were little fluffy balls of energy.  Our favorite memories of those early days were of Mac and Macie chasing each other all around the apartment and falling asleep mid-stride on the carpet.  Mac once fell off the back of the couch and before he hit the seat cushions, he was sound asleep.  They played together.  They snuggled together.  When they stayed overnight at the vet to be declawed and spayed/neutered, the vet techs had to put them into the same cage to sleep together because they wouldn't stop crying apart. The kittens were so tiny that they both fit into the front pocket of hubby's hoodie sweatshirt, where they loved to snuggle and nap.

The cats were our first "children."  We loved them.  My mom sent them Christmas gifts.  They became part of the family, as pets usually do.  After Anna was born, both cats were very interested in the loud, smelly bundle we'd brought home.  Mac was jumpy, but Macie just seemed to know that Anna would be her buddy.  As Anna learned to walk, she'd follow Macie around, chanting, "Kuh! Kuh!" (how she pronounced cat) and Macie would let Anna pet her for a few minutes before she'd seek refuge on the top of the couch where Anna was unable to reach her.

When Anna moved into a big girl bed, Macie seized the opportunity to snuggle up with her on almost a nightly basis.  Anna quickly learned that Macie didn't particularly like being hugged or forced into doll cribs.  Macie was incredibly patient, but did nip a few times to remind Anna to back off.  Anna always forgave her.

We took Macie to the vet shortly before Henry was born because she was visibly losing weight.  The doctor said it was stress.  I wish I had forced the issue.  I wish I had asked for blood work then.  Because a few weeks later, the baby was born and my life got turned upside down for a while.  And by the time I saw just how much weight Macie had continued to lose, it was too late.  Hubby says not to blame myself, but I can't help it.  I feel like I let her down.

We tried for almost a month to save her life after the vet diagnosed kidney "issues."  A round of antibiotics, two rounds of steroids, even daily IV fluids (thank you so much to my dear friend who came over every day for a week while hubby was traveling to help me with this!).  Things would improve for a day or two, but she continued to eat less and less.

We came home from picking hubby up at the airport after a week long business trip Saturday night.  I went up to the bedroom to put clean sheets on our bed and discovered that Macie had had an accident behind the chair.  But as I tried to get her to move away from the area so I could clean it up, it became clear that this was more than an accident.  She was so weak she could barely move.  She moaned and laid down and couldn't get back up.  She was bleeding.  We found evidence that she'd been searching around our bedroom for a place to die.  Poor Mac, in an effort to alert me earlier that day, had peed on my side of the bed (wake up, woman, my sister is not well!), but I figured he was ticked off that I had taken Macie's special food away from him.  So Macie had spent the day in pain and alone.

Hubby took her right away to the animal ER.  They said it was end stage kidney failure.  There was nothing more they could do.  She died in hubby's arms. 

I never thought I would be this sad about an animal dying. Anna has dealt with it in spurts.  Her initial reaction was to get out crayons and paper to make a project in honor of Macie, but she dissolved into tears at the table.  She told hubby later this past weekend that she thought she had gotten Macie sick.  And that about broke my heart. 

This afternoon, the vet's office that last treated Macie sent us a card with something special enclosed.  It was a pet sympathy car with the rainbow bridge story enclosed, plus 3 colored notecards with Macie's paw prints stamped on each of them.  Anna claimed the blue one right away.  I hung one up on the refrigerator.  And then cried for a good long time.

Something is missing in our house.  It just feels off.  I keep thinking I hear Macie's triumphant meow of discovering the perfect beanie baby to haul around in her mouth or her twittering noises she used to make at light reflections on the ceiling in the living room.  Mac is grieving in his own special way (peeing and pooping all over the house).  I just feel so bad for him that he's lost his sister.  Until Saturday, he'd never been away from her a day in his life. 

We're all adjusting.  I know I won't be sad forever.  I know she wasn't a person and I feel a little silly that I'm this sad over a cat.  But she was MY cat.  And I loved her.  An I miss her.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Anna's "How To" - Back to School Edition

Anna's "How To": How to Get Ready for School

1. Play dead when mom comes in to wake you up. 
2. Erupt into tears when she suggests you remove your PJs in favor of the outfit she picked out for you.
3. Choose your replacement outfit on your own while she's not looking.  Stripes and polka dots DO go together and pants are ALWAYS optional. Also, no matter what mom says, tights ARE actually pants and CAN be worn on their own.  That woman has no clue about fashion.
4. Feign ignorance when mom suggests that you need breakfast.  Breakfast?  Please.  Breakfast is for the weak.
5. Change your mind at least 4 times about what food is acceptable to your distinguished taste buds for today's breakfast.  Foods you loved yesterday are now disgusting to you.  Keep mom on her toes by deciding halfway through breakfast preparation that you no longer want what she is making.
6. No matter how many times mom says "Eat your breakfast," DO. NOT. GIVE. IN. This is a scare tactic employed by adults who are out to rule the morning routine.  The longer you hold out, the more you are stickin' it to the man (or the mom, as the case may be).
7. Brushes of any kind are not to be trusted.  It's best to hide at the mere mention of a tooth or hair brush
8. Growls and mean faces are the only forms of response required when mom demands that you "stop fooling around and just put your shoes on already!"
9. Get in your car seat, buckle your seat belt and DEMAND your favorite selection of music be played immediately.  Chant, yell or roar until mom complies.
10. Make sure you finish picking your nose before it's time to cross the street to school.  Don't worry about a tissue.  Moms don't care if you wipe it on their hands.
11. Act cool in front of the other kids about saying good bye to your mom and brother, but as soon as she walks out the door, run after her screaming, "WAIT!  I WANT TO HUG MY BROTHER!"  Moms don't need hugs like babies do.

*Anna is thoroughly enjoying school now. She's made some friends and loves recess.  She was very angry with me that this past weekend was four days long.  Hope she's ok with this coming weekend only being two days!