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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How AM I? You really want to know??

I’m coming clean.  I’m fessing up.  I’m not sugar-coating it and I’m not providing a polite, “I’m fine,” or “OK,” or “Alright” to the question of my well-being.  I’m not (at least not to people that I know.  Strangers, the checker at the grocery store? Fine, I’ll lie to them, but everyone else is getting the real deal). 

The last two days have sucked.  They’ve just been sucky in nearly every possible way.  It’s been nine weeks since dad died.  I know I’m still allowed to be sad.  I know I’m still grieving, but everything about it just sucks.
Last night, I sat and played Candy Crush.  And sobbed.  It wasn’t even an especially difficult level, I just sat and played and had endless tears streaming down my face.  Whatever.  That’s grief – boom.  Deal.
I wish time could stop.  I wish I could pause the rest of the world and people and everything and just live in this pain and wallow and work through it.  But I can’t.  Everyone keeps going.  Stuff keeps happening.  And I have to too.  Honestly, I wish I could go back to that day.  I wish I could relive the phone call and sitting in the hospital.  It sounds weird and maybe morbid, but it’s true.  I want to relive the day because emotionally – at times (and definitely a lot of times during the last couple of days) – that’s where I am emotionally.  Besides, it replays in my mind so often, I might as well just go back there for for reals!

I feel like, because it has been two full months, that I SHOULD put on my happy face and give people the socially acceptable answer.  But, for whatever reason, I’ve lost the ability these past couple of days.

I know it doesn’t help that I’ve been sick.  I came down with another bad cold last Thursday and felt lame all weekend.  Then, Monday and Tuesday, I felt nauseous.  I hate feeling nauseous.  I’m tired.  I’m worn down.  I have a bunch of stuff for mom that I need to help figure out (administrative/legal stuff for my disabled brother, upcoming tax season, bills, etc.).  I’m stressed.  I’m just done and I want a break from my reality.  (But I know she needs me and I, obviously WANT to help her and WILL help her.  It’s just a lot.  A lot).

This morning actually got off to a great start.  We all slept well and Kayli woke up super happy.  She kept putting down her cereal spoon this morning and jumping out of her seat to “shake her booty.”  (Normally, I’d want her to stay sitting while having a meal, but the booty shakeage was cute and funny and a great way to start the day).  My cold’s not too bad.  My stomach wasn’t upset.  Things were on the up and up.  Then, I backed the car out of the garage and somehow totally drove the driver side-mirror into the side of the garage  -- the red car plastic-whatever-it-is around the mirror crunch-smushed and broke.  In the process I managed to take some paint and a small chunk out of the side of the garage as well.


When getting my lunch ready, I pulled greek yogurt out of the fridge.  It fell – splattering yogurt on my pants, in the fridge and on the floor.  As I walked to the paper towels an additional huge plop of yogurt fell off of me and landed on the floor.


That’s how I feel.  I’m that yogurt plop on the floor.

Normally, a broken car mirror and spilled yogurt are lame; they’re not fun and they kinda frustrate you.  But now’s not normal, and I don’t need a broken car mirror and spilled yogurt.

I’m whiney.  I’m spent.  I’m. Just. Done.
Poor Mike – and everyone who has to come into contact with me right now.  I think he, in particular, is afraid to even ask the “So, how are you doing?” question.  If I were him (or anyone else) I wouldn’t ask me either…’cuz you’re going to get an answer and it ain’t pretty.

The boys' musings

The other night, Zachary was reading out loud to me from the book he’s really enjoying.  The character in the book was talking about college.  Zach looked up from the page and said, “Uh, mom, speaking of college, we better start saving up for that, huh?”

I explained that – while it’s not a lot – we do have college savings plans and we put a little money in every month.

“Like $5?” he asked, chuckling.

“Well, a little more than that,” I said defensively.  “But you’re welcome to start saving up as well.  Besides, you’ll get a job and help pay for college like dad and I did.”  That shut him up real quick.

Meanwhile, as Zachary contemplated his future, Matthew was in his room delving deeper.  He showed me this poem that he’d written, "life goes on....things go will never will get will die and live forever." 

 He’d actually had "you will die and live together" but crossed out together and went with forever. 

I’ll admit my first thought was this sounded like something that I probably wrote as a 12 year old girl, but the fact that my 10 year old son had written was pretty surprising and impressive.

I complimented him and asked what he’d written this about.  He responded, “Like God and stuff.”

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rocking at Grief

I’m sick.  Again.  2nd time in 2014.  I’m over 2014.  2014 is lame.  The end of 2013 was lame.  Mleh.

Grieving is a weird, wild ride.  I’m at the point now where occasionally I can have a few minutes of thinking, talking or interaction without feeling the constant pit in my stomach, the never-ending undercurrent of sadness…but then it comes back.  The dark shadow of grief doesn’t stay away for long. 

I’m mildly embarrassed to admit that I recently said “I want to rock at grief.”  Yep, I said it.  I want people to think, “Wow, Jenny has handled grief with grace and courage.  Such an impressive griever, that one.”  In my head, this idea has manifested into guilt.  (I AM awesome at guilt).  I’ve actually started feeling guilty about feeling sad.  Yes, my dad died.  But he died in a great way.  He didn’t have to suffer.  He didn’t have to worry about us being burdened with his care or making difficult quality of life decisions for him.  He didn’t die in a car accident or in some other tragic way.  He didn’t die exceptionally young.  Mike lost his mom to breast cancer when he was only 12.  I had many, many more years with my dad than he got to have with his mom.  This is how it’s ‘supposed’ to happen, right?   You’re supposed to lose your parents.  I can’t imagine losing a child.  That heart-break seems too much to bear and I don’t know how people cope.  Wouldn’t I rather have it go this way?  Isn’t this how dad would’ve wanted it?  He had a beautiful death.  How dare I still feel sad when other people suffer so much more than we have.  Shouldn’t I be doing better?!

It’s obvious.  I’m sad ‘cuz he’s gone.  I’m sad because my kids won’t get to grow up with their grandfather.  I’m sad because we were really close, and I can’t call him on the phone now and tell him about practicing baseball with Matthew or taking Kayli for runs or watching Zach’s first basketball game this year.   I’m sad that I can’t ask him about home improvement projects.  I’m sad that now Mom’s a widow…and having to figure so much stuff out – managing three properties, taking care of the administrative needs for my disabled brother.  I’m sad that we won’t get to celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary in four years.  I’m sad because we were going to go camping together again this summer (and the kids and I only went with him once).  I’m sad at the injustice of it all.  He did everything right.  He was active and healthy, and I’m sad that it didn’t really matter.  I’m so selfishly sad that I don’t get to 100% enjoy things right now.  We’re taking the kids to Disneyland and Legoland next month, and I just can’t be excited about it.  I’m sad for so many reasons.  We saw each other at least once a week and often talked more than that.  Not all adults can say that about their relationship with their parents.  So, yeah, I’m sad and yet I feel guilty about it.

Friends of ours – who lost their son a few years ago – gave both mom and I a book, Healing After Loss – Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman.  It’s funny how some days the reading is so written for me it’s a little weird.  That was the case yesterday.  I couldn’t help but laugh as I read:

 “Sometimes we berate ourselves: Why are we not doing better? Particularly if we are people with any pretense to faith, why can we not muster the resources of faith and be a model of calm acceptance and inner serenity?

Because we are human beings and we are hurting…

I will not further burden myself by trying to fit some image of a “model griever.” The strength I have is the strength to be myself.”

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Beach House

Thirteen(ish) years ago, my parents bought a weekend/vacation condo in a quaint little port, resort town near Hood Canal.  I’d say that the average age of residents is, mmm, 67.  I’ve referred to it as “Summer Camp for Old People;” it’s retirement heaven.  Actually, in order to reach the condo, you drive through a slightly run-down, crustified area called “Paradise.”  I assume that the actual Paradise – where dad now resides – is a massive upgrade from this other one.
My dad loves a project.  Condo life was a bit of a bore for him, really.  We joked – not all that long before he passed away – after my mom had visited a friend in a gorgeous, swanky retirement place, that dad would be so bored in a place like that, he would’ve wandered around digging holes in the beautiful grounds just to have something to do.  Well, two and a half years ago, dad went for a walk from the port condo.  He stumbled upon the project of his dreams.  The foreclosed (or short sale, I’m not sure which) beach front home situated on an acre had Bob written all over it.  Dad called a local realtor and brought mom and I over to check the place out.
 The property was pretty run down – stained carpets, peeling paint, dry rot in the deck and so overgrown you could just barely make out the expansive water view above the 10 feet of overgrown shrubs.  Dad was in heaven and loved it.  I was in heaven thinking about the kids running around in the woods and down on the beach (and not having to be constantly stressed about the amount of noise we provide to the condo neighbors when visiting).  Mom, on the other hand, was not so pumped.  She reminded him that they’d been enjoying condo life WITHOUT yard work for ten years.  Why, would they tackle such a huge project in this stage of their lives?  But dad knew what he wanted.  Mom announced that she’d never let him “off leash” for a walk again.  Look at what he does when he’s left to his own devices!
Within three days of seeing the house, dad had bought it and put the condo up for sale.
They spent the last two and a half years, slowly turning this overgrown place into an absolute dream.  Using their good friends’ truck, they took twenty plus trips to the dump.  Dad ripped out the nasty carpet, tiled the bathrooms, painted every wall, rebuilt a support beam by the front door, sanded down all THREE decks (including the wrap around one in the back), stained all three decks, rebuilt the planter box that stretched the entire length of the back deck and installed closet organization in two of the three bedrooms.  He’d started spending a few days a week over there on his own working (we are VERY thankful he wasn’t there alone when he had his heart attack).  Mom and Chris would walk on to the ferry Friday night and dad would pick them up on the other side for a weekend of work and play.  Slowly it was becoming more play and less work.
The house is located directly across the bay from the beach club.  On Saturday evenings, after spending every possible daylight moment working, mom and dad would sit in the hot tub and look across the water at his dream project.  Slowly, the gleaming white deck was emerging and you could see the house clearly – their hard work evident with each passing week.
The condo never sold.  For two and a half years now, it’s been on the market.  Things just aren’t moving over there. That’s been a major stress for them.  Mom used to tell dad (joking, but serious – ahh, the irony), “You better not leave me with THREE properties to take care of!”  Well, here we are…
We’ve taken the condo off the market and are heeding the advice of many: “Don’t make any major decisions for a while…take your time.”  It makes sense that mom wouldn’t want to keep the house.  It’s so much work.  She’d have to hire people to maintain the grounds.  It’s a project.  And let’s face it; she didn’t want it in the first place. 
But man, I love that house. 
Mom, Chris and I made our first trip, post dad’s earthly departure, this past weekend.  I was sort of dreading it.  Dad loved it so much there and, with all the work that he did, signs of him – his sweat, toil, hard work and love – are everywhere.  But it was good.  I’m glad we went.  Mom wanted to stay at the condo, but we spent most of Saturday day and Sunday afternoon at the house. 
As she was preparing lunch, mom showed me the beautiful new chef’s knife dad had gotten her as an anniversary present four months ago.  “Do you know what they say about giving a knife for an anniversary gift?” she asked.
“Uh, no.”
“It’s considered to be a bad omen.”
“Um, WHAT?!”
“Yep.  When dad gave it to me, I said, ‘thank you! But you know, it’s considered bad luck to give a knife as a gift.’  Not that we’re superstitious or anything…but weird, huh?”
So, there’s that.  Not that we tend to be superstitious people, but…yeah.
The other thing that she told me, left me with the somewhat-common-now combo feeling of happy and yet sad at the same time.
See, dad was always practical.  He did things out of love but not for sentimental, emotional reasons, but because it would be the best thing for the family in terms of security.  He and I had talked about his purchase of the house last year and how, like so much of what he did, it was an investment.  Here, I was so excited to have a beach house for our family to get to go to, but he said that most likely, once the market started really moving again and he was done with all the major updating, in a couple of years, he’d sell it.  It would help secure mom and Chris’ futures.
Well, mom told me this weekend, that, despite dad’s usual habit of house-flipping, he actually had planned to stick around with this one for a while. (Ha!  He didn’t, now did he?!).  In going through all of his desk drawers and filing cabinets, she’s found a couple of different plans for stand-alone shed-cabin type buildings.  Dad wanted to build a combo two room building with garage/garden storage space on one side and a boys’ club/bunk house on the other.  He actually envisioned being there a while and making the place an even more magical beach destination for us.
Happy yet sad.
Kayli's first visit to the beach house; July 2011

Just another day looking out from the deck
 Dad's visitors while painting the deck
And visitors in the front 
 King of his castle (or his pile in the truck, anyway)

 The boys' first visit -- look at the difference in how overgrown it was (below). And how much they'd cut down to open up the view (above).

 Now, dad!





Friday, January 10, 2014

Winter Games

I’ve decided to think of Kayliana a little bit as our dog (in the most loving, motherly way, of course).  I’ve wanted a dog for a while but am well aware that we’re just not quite ready to add another dependant creature to our family.  So, Kayli will do.  In many ways, she is like one – she still drools (occasionally and out of anger which is weird but then again a lot of what toddlers do doesn’t make a ton of sense), she has the occasional piddle accident, but most of all she needs to be taken out for daily exercise or we all pay for it. 
Obviously, I understand that kids need exercise.  It’s not like I’ve let Matthew and Zachary live completely sedentary lives, but to be honest, I put my need for physical activity before theirs because, as kids, they tend to get their exercise just in how they are – ripping around, jumping, wrestling, just being active kids.  For the boys, they also get the daily walk to and from the bus stop (a ¼ mile and up-hill on the way home).  They get a few recesses at school.  They have P.E. at school.  They’re both signed up for sports – Zachary just started basketball and Matthew has baseball try-outs at the end of January with practices starting in March. And we’ve done long stretches of twice-a-week swim lessons.  This has worked well for them. 
Kayli is different.  She seems to be our little Energizer Bunny; our little athlete; our little non-stop moving machine.  So, I’ve made it a goal of 2014 to make sure she has plenty of chances to use that energy…outside the house (and then maybe she won’t run and crash into things and require stitches…at least not as often anyway, but never would be ideal).
On Christmas Eve, I took Kayli for a mile run to wear her out.  She ran nearly nonstop.  Every once in a while, she would stop, walk a few feet and then say, “More energy!” And start running again.  We basically live on the top of a mountain (it is, actually a foothill to Cougar Mountain), but it’s dang hilly, and the girl just ran, and ran, and ran.  My goal was to exhaust her endless energy before Christmas Eve Mass.  It sorta didn’t totally work.
As of this week, Kayli’s schedule is: Monday – short run with me after taking the boys to the bus (just our trip to the bus stop and back is ½ mile – if we walk both ways, then that’s a mile per day right there for her little 3 year old legs). Tuesday – playing at the gym kids’ club while I do my Spin class (where she runs, climbs on the play equiptment, etc.).  Tuesday afternoon – swim lesson.  Wednesday – playing at the indoor gym at the community center for one hour, followed by sports class for one hour. Thursday – swim lesson.  Friday – short run with me after the bus.  Kayli also joins me occasionally while I do a work-out video.  This week, she joined in on Wednesday, AFTER she’d spent two hours running around in the gym and doing sports class.  She got down on the floor and did ‘plank’ and push-ups alongside me, then was up for jump-squats and lunges.   
For sports class, Kayli insisted on wearing the tutu my mom gave her for her birthday.  Kayli insisted that it made her “run faster” (she made sure the instructors knew this).
Kayli LOVED her first swim lesson.  It’s just her and one other little boy with a phenomenal teacher.  As you can tell by the last picture…mission accomplished!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Never the same again

Six weeks ago today.  Six weeks since my life took such an unforeseen crazy turn.  Six weeks of looking at life – everything – differently.  Obviously, it makes sense that things will ‘never be the same,’ but here’s a list of a few things in particular that are forever changed for me.

  1. The parking lot outside of Ross and Marshalls: Yep.  You never forget where you were when you first heard about the planes hitting the twin towers.  My parents have talked about remembering exactly what they were doing when they learned of JFK’s assassination. My dad even described what he was doing when, as a young, young boy, he found out that World War II had ended.  [Because of rationing, his mom had told him they didn’t have enough eggs to make key lime pie as he’d requested.  Some time later – days or weeks –  a man drove by honking and yelling, “The war is over! The war is over!”  Little Bob, ran in and told his mom, “You can make key lime pie now!”] Well, I’ll always remember standing outside the van, in front of those stores and hearing Mike quietly say, “Your dad” in answer to my question of, “Did someone die?”
  2. Canceling haircuts: Weird one, I know.  But, considering I can write an entire blog about my hair, haircuts have maybe a little more importance to me than they should.  I’d had a haircut scheduled with my girl, Karly, for months.  You have to book weeks in advance, sometimes months (especially during the holidays) to get in with her (she’s that good – and she rocks at curly hair).  I’d had an appointment for the afternoon of Tuesday, November 26th.  I’d debated and debated (perhaps you remember rolling your eyes as you read my very self-indulgent hair-themed post on October 6th aptly titled “Hair” ).  I decided about a week before to just go ahead and cancel, give someone else the pre-holiday haircut and continue with my hairgrowth project before getting a trim (which is now scheduled for NEXT Tuesday).  Now, I’m not superstitious, I don’t think that if I ever cancel a haircut again, a loved one will die that day, but I do think it’s weird that if I hadn’t cancelled it that would’ve been something to take care of (or forget about.  Obviously, if I didn’t show because I forgot to call that’d be forgivable).  But anyway, it’s just another thing that will always be ‘different’ to me.
  3. My eyebrows: Yes, you read that correctly: my dad’s death has affected how I look at my eyebrows.  I’ve never liked them much.  They’re too big and bushy for ‘girl eyebrows.’  I remember at one point, telling myself (lying to myself): “Look at Brooke Shields, she’s got larger(ish) – for Hollywood, anyway – thick eyebrows and they’re like her thing.  She totally rocks them.”  Well, I definitely inherited my more prominent eyebrows from my dad.  Now, when I look in the mirror and see a wayward eyebrow hair, I think, “Thanks a lot, Dad.”  (With a little less frustration and a little more amusement).
  4. Sunsets: Dad was really into sunsets.  He never missed taking a photo of the really spectacular ones. When we were younger, especially on camping trips, he’d stand there camera-poised and ready and say, “Now?  Now?!”  (Especially to my oldest brother, Timothy). Then, when clicking through photo slides on the old projector, we’d humor him and mildly ooh and ahh at yet another sunset photo.  He’d say, “Now?” everytime.  Well, I kid you not, nearly everyday following his death for a couple of weeks, we had beautiful, cold clear December days followed by some of the most gorgeous, breath-taking sunsets.  We’d admire them from mom and dad’s deck overlooking Lake Washington.  On Thanksgiving night, Timothy and I both took pictures of it.  The night of his funeral was perhaps the most gorgeous of all.  “Now, dad, now.”
  5. O Holy Night: I’ve always loved this Christmas carol.  It, after Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” is my second favorite (if sung well, of course).  I’ve often thought and have occasionally said to Mike that I hope I die during Advent.  It’s my favorite time of year and then I could have O Holy Night sung at my funeral.  Dad’s funeral was December 11th, smack dab during Advent.  We had beautiful music, although it didn’t include O Holy Night.  The first time I heard that song come on the radio, post-November 26th, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around a certain line and how immediately it pulled at my heart.  The priest, describing what happened to dad said (basically), “Bob took a couple of steps down my driveway, fell to his knees in front of the statue of Mary and died.” 

Fall to your knees and hear the angel voices.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Cheers to new chairs!

I’m finally getting pictures up of my fall project.  Starting in October, I began visiting Goodwill once a week (occasionally more and sometimes visiting different ones).  I was on the prowl…on the prowl for the perfect chairs – perfectly matching in their miss-matchiness. 
We took the seats off.  I primed them;I painted them.  I actually spray painted them (and despite my ‘sorta’ thorough plastic drop-clothing – left a nice pinkish dust paint layer on most objects in the garage).  I told Mike we’ll just always look at the garage through rose-colored glasses.  He wasn’t so amused and neither was Matthew when he discovered his bike helmet was slightly pinked.  It wipes off, I swear!
My goal was to have the chairs done before December.  Mike was going to cover the cushions during Thanksgiving break.  Well, as we know our Thanksgiving week didn’t exactly go as planned.  So, the chairs sat in the garage, taking up a car’s space.  Then, Mike – knowing how much I was excited to get the chairs done – surprised me and spent Thursday, December 12th (the day after dad’s funeral) knocking out those chairs.  After holding a staple gun for several hours, his hand was achey and his knees were sore from kneeling down and stretching the fabric over the cushions.  But I, personally think, his pain (and my paint!) paid off.  I love how they turned out!