Wish You Were Here

A week ago you turned 6.

For your birthday we went on a family getaway to Niagara Falls. We went on the boat to the falls, the Skywheel, go karting (little sister and I came in last, Daddy and big sister won), even mini golf in the rain! We had ice cream, pizza, cake, pancakes.

Melissa’s Butterfly birthday cake


It was an incredible little trip!
On your birthday we chose joy and celebration. You deserve to be celebrated just like your sisters. They love celebrating you and planning your special day. Their love for you and desire to include you warms my heart. It makes it a little easier to choose joy on a day that feels anything but.
As much fun as we had, we missed you every step of the way.
How we wish you were here.

If you were here we wouldn’t have to choose joy. It would just be a joyous day.
If you were here the weeks before and after your birthday wouldn’t be so heavy.
How I wish you were here.

The weeks leading to your birthday are heavy emotionally and physically. I’m sensitive, vulnerable and just so tired. Most days it takes all I have to get through the day doing as little as I can.
The weeks after your birthday are heavy still. Only now the sadness starts to wane and the anger settles in.
Anger that you died.
Anger at the people who don’t show up.
Anger at the world for moving on the next day.
Anger at myself for not speaking up.

Anger.

It’s hard to remember what it’s been like the other years. Am I always this angry after your birthday? Is it getting worse? Am I over-reacting? Am I the only one who feels this?
How long will it take to process this emotion?
I’ve been avoiding processing it. Instead choosing to numb myself of feeling in the hopes I’ll wake one day and it will be gone.
How I wish you were here.

If you had one wish, what would it be?
Your big sister asked me this recently. I responded with something diplomatic and generic about ending war and hate-motivated crime.
Your sister’s response floored me.
“I wish Melissa never died and was still with us.”
Wow. Didn’t see that coming. They think about you even when I least expect it.
Today I wish for my anger to go away so I can go back to living life and these incredible moments with your sisters.

But my forever wish will always be that you were here on earth with us.
How I wish you were here.


*When I’m looking back
On the time that we shared
Hope you know you were loved
And that I always cared
I always cared…
I know in my heart
That we’ll meet again
I know deep inside
This isn’t the end

*I Wish You Were Here by Dropkick Murphys
Check it out on YouTube !

Superman

I don’t know how you do it.

I’ve heard this a lot over the last year. My response is usually something along the lines of ‘neither do I’.
But I do know how I do it. I don’t have a choice so I just do it.
And I’m a fighter and stubborn as hell. I would rather struggle than admit I need help.

In the early days of the pandemic I was stressed and that showed up in the form of rage. I yelled a lot. I swore a lot. I didn’t like myself much. But it felt like it would be short-lived and it didn’t feel like help was an option. I can do this for a little longer I would tell myself. And besides, we weren’t supposed to see anyone, so how was I supposed to ask for help? My husband was still in the office and working from home wasn’t an option, which is still the case. My parents still work so asking for help during the day didn’t feel like an option.
The days were intense but by the time I settled into bed it didn’t seem so bad. I made it through another day. I would tell myself it wasn’t as hard as I thought and that I would do a better job tomorrow.
Tomorrow would come and it was not better.
And still it didn’t seem like help was an option.
As time went on we settled into a groove. The kids got to spend a little time at daycare and camp – help that I didn’t have to ask for, yes!

School came and it felt like a huge burden lifted. I had survived working from home with both kids for months! The light was bright! It wasn’t long before the light started dimming. Kids were in and out of school due to covid symptoms, potential exposure, actual exposure, Christmas break and then schools shut down again. We got a glimmer of hope and the kids were able to go back for several weeks before schools shut down again.
So now on top of having the kids home while I work, I was a teaching assistant helping them with tech issues, school questions and keeping on top of their schedule to ensure they were in their meetings when they were supposed to be. And all the while helping get snacks, drinks, supplies and giving into their demands to see what they were working on.
Somewhere in between all these interruptions is where I get my work done.
Along the way my boss would check in and ask what I needed and how they could help. Can the company hire a tutor or nanny to stay with the kids? That would help.
I tried to remain positive schools wouldn’t stay closed long-term, even though I knew otherwise in my gut.
I told myself I just needed to hold on a little longer. I made it this far. Maybe next week they will go back and it won’t be so hard. I started opening up about how hard it was. Sometimes that’s my passive way of asking for help. People would tell me I did it before and I can do it again. All I could think was yeah it was fucking hard as hell last time and the kids didn’t have to do school and I wasn’t burnt out and why can’t you just let me complain without having to minimize how much this sucks.
But I’m me, so of course I don’t say those things out loud. I just keep plugging away.
Mom. Meal Planner. Grocery Shopper. Cook. Cleaner. Laundry master. Teacher’s assistant. Wife. Employee. Daughter. Friend.
Keep all the balls in the air and no one will know that you don’t have it all together. No one will know you’re only pretending to be Superman. SuperMom. SuperMary.

I am confident Moms are part unicorn
Photo Credit: The Boss (aka the big kid)

Spoiler alert: I am not Superman.
Laundry piles up.
Dishes pile up.
Dog hair piles up. (Maybe it’s a good thing we haven’t been allowed to have friends over)
Work gets missed, pushed back, piled up.
Husband gets pushed aside.
I still yell.
I’m fucking exhausted.

One day I finally admitted out loud that I’m burnt out.
I admitted that I was in need of my own time and space. The weekdays feel like chaos, but that doesn’t mean I have to let the evenings and weekends feel that way too. I can accept help during those times so I can do what I need to do to reset myself.
I don’t have to be everything to everyone all the time.

The days are still chaos, but I’ve implemented a few things that help me along the way:
I pay my kids to attend their school meetings and I don’t feel bad about it.
I give myself grace for how my house looks. There are three humans and two dogs living and working in this space all day every day, it should look like it’s lived in. (The fourth human joins us for evenings and weekends)
I let my husband help as much as possible – this one should be easier than it is. I’m not saying he doesn’t want to help, he does. When I say I don’t want to ask for help, it goes for asking him, too.
I made the kids each a snack bin that gets filled at the beginning of the week. I don’t care what they eat from there and when. They are welcome to help themselves with the understanding that when the snacks are gone, they’re gone.
I take time for myself. Thursdays are my night off from all responsibility. This goes on the calendar so it’s booked in like an appointment.
I reflect and journal at the end of the day to take note of the things that went well.

I love my chaos. I know years from now I will look back on this time and remember how incredible it was to get to spend this extra time with my kids. I hope I will also remember how hard it was to try and hold it all together like I was Superman (or SuperMom).

But for now, when people say ‘I don’t know how you do it’, I’ll have a better answer than ‘neither do I’.  

*So here I am, doing everything I can
Holding on to what I am
Pretending I’m a superman


*Superman by Goldfinger
Check it out on YouTube ! (Sharing the quarantine video they made because I love it!)

You Do Not Have Permission

I woke up feeling a heaviness in my chest.  
Dates are major triggers for me. Often I feel it physically first. I don’t even need to look at the calendar to know a significant date is approaching. 
I forced myself out of bed and got started on my day pushing the heaviness aside as much as I could. 

Later that day I read the devastating news that Chrissy Teigen and John Legend’s baby died. My heavy heart shattered for them. How unfair that another family is experiencing this. How I wish I could protect all the babies in wombs so no other family would have to know the excruciating pain that runs deep when your baby dies. I took a moment for them. Silently offering support from across the continent. 

Later in the day I started seeing stories that made my blood boil. There were people out there who had the audacity to tell this couple that they shouldn’t be sharing such personal news. They shouldn’t be sharing because it’s disturbing, it’s too sad, people don’t want to know about dead babies, people don’t want to see or hear that these things happen, people don’t want to see people crying because their baby died, that they should keep their grief to themselves. 
Are you fucking kidding me, was the first thing I thought. How dare people tell a family how they should grieve or share news of their baby’s death.
I did some digging because I just couldn’t believe that people could be so selfish and ignorant. Sure enough it was true. Then it dawned on me that I shouldn’t be so surprised – this happened to me too.  I’ve been told I shouldn’t share my journey. I’ve been told to get over my grief. I’ve been told I’m selfish when I put my grief ahead of other things. I’ve been told to bury my feelings and move on. I’ve been told not to talk about it, to keep it quiet because people don’t want to hear about such depressing things. I’ve always kept it to myself because it only affected me, but hearing it happen to someone else set off a defensive instinct in me. I can’t protect Chrissy and John and all the other families in our loss community from these comments. I can stand up today and plead with you to understand the added layer of pain these comments cause. 
Please, please do not ever tell someone to get over it or not to share just because you don’t like it. If you see something on social media you don’t like just keep scrolling. It’s actually that simple. 
If you feel like one of these comments wants to come out, shut your mouth, stop typing. 
You do not have permission to tell someone how to grieve. 

Once again because this is important. 
You. Do. Not. Have. Permission. To. Tell. Someone. How. To. Grieve. 

Sending love and peace to Chrissy and John and anyone else missing their baby. 

And

I’ve never been great at controlling or managing my reactions to the actions of those around me. One minor action from someone can ruin an entire day. A larger infraction can set off a downward spiral that may take weeks to recover from. I’ve never really understood why I let this happen, even when I’ve come to recognize it happening. It has taken a long time to understand that how I feel has a lot to do with the environment around me. I let things that are out of my control take control of my emotions. Learning this about myself has set me on a path of learning how to retrain my brain. I need to learn how I can stop the bad from taking over my life.
One thing I’ve come across recently is the idea of ‘and’ statements or ‘yes, and’.
These types of statements give me the ability to acknowledge and accept the negative of a situation while also reminding myself of the positive.
It seems so simple, but when your brain is wired to focus on the bad it’s not easy to put into practice. I’ve been working hard at it the last week or so and it’s making a difference. Melissa’s birthday is always an incredibly difficult time, both leading up to and the weeks after. Last year I spiraled so far out of control I ended up in the darkest season I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t come out of it until 7 or 8 months later. This year I was determined to not let that happen. This year I decided to let the good overcome the bad.

On Melissa’s birthday I can double over from the pain of grief AND I can celebrate her the way she deserves.

I can be sad she’s not here to celebrate with us AND I can be happy watching her sisters pick out a stuffy for her.

I can be disappointed by the inaction of those I wish I could count on AND be grateful and thankful for the incredible people who do reach out to recognize Melissa’s birthday.

I can feel angry AND I can feel love.
I can be full of grief AND full of love.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. After all, grief is love and it’s important to acknowledge both.
Every negative emotion I can overcome is a step in the right direction. One step at a time.

I can’t control what others do AND I don’t have to let that control me.

Melissas 5th Birthday

SOS

Rattlesnake Point
Photo Credit: Me!

I’ll never let you in.
I’ll give you glimpses, but you’ll never really know more than what’s on the surface.
I’m good at hiding and I’m good at lying.
I lie to myself all the time so it’s easy to lie to you, too. It’s so much easier than telling the truth.
It’s not that I don’t want to let you in.
It’s that letting you in means being honest with myself and sometimes that’s too painful or scary to deal with.
It’s not that I want to lie.
It’s that when I’ve told the truth in the past it was met with silence or judgement.
It’s a terrible feeling to finally muster up the courage to ask for help and be let down.
It’s hard asking for help. It’s harder asking for help when you don’t know what you need.

And so it’s easier to hide.

It’s easier to pretend I am all the help I need. After all, I should be in charge of taking care of myself and giving myself what I need, right? Well, sort of. I’ve come to realize that yes, I should be in charge of taking care of myself, but that doesn’t mean doing it all alone.
Being in charge of myself means…
Recognizing the signs and symptoms that I’m not ok.
Learning and understanding the coping strategies that work for me.
Finding ways to ask for help that don’t feel like I’m actually asking for help.
Asking for help in a way that works for me. For me, asking for help can look like scheduling alone time, ordering take out for dinner, a physically distanced walk with a friend, a break from work, a country road drive with the music turned up loud.

Being in charge of myself means being more proactive in caring for myself in the hopes that one day I won’t need to lie to myself anymore.
Any maybe one day I won’t need to lie to you anymore either.

Noise

The noise.
I can’t take the noise.
Everything is SO damn loud.
The rage inside me builds. I can feel it rising to the top. It takes all of my energy to keep it from exploding. I am not strong enough to keep it in and it explodes from the very bottom of my lungs anyway. It doesn’t make the noise go away. Everything is still too damn loud. Nothing makes the noise go away because so much of the noise is in my head.

On that day it became too much.
It was a beautiful summer day and I was working from home.
I couldn’t concentrate. I tried to distract myself, but nothing was working. Nothing had been working for weeks. I went outside to take a break. It didn’t help.
Suddenly I was overwhelmed with a feeling of desperation I’d never felt before. I desperately needed to escape the noise. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I was looking for an answer to a question I didn’t know how to ask.
I was losing myself.
The noise was winning.
Everything went quiet and dark. I stood frozen in time believing the answer before me. It was quiet – the quiet I had so desperately been searching for.
In that moment all I wanted was to escape into quiet.

I was interrupted by something wet touching my hand. I looked down and there was my dog, Odin, nudging my hand with his nose. He gave it a lick when I looked at him. He looked up at me and nodded to the house as if he was telling me to go inside. We spent the rest of the day cuddled up on the couch.

In that moment I finally understood that I couldn’t get through any of this trying to be strong and taking all this on by myself.
It was still weeks before I told anyone about this and weeks more before I could bring myself to book an appointment with my therapist. I wasn’t even planning on telling her what happened. I was scared of what it would mean. I was scared of asking for help, from my therapist.
We did talk about it and surprise, surprise, it helped. Talking about it out loud helped, a lot. As much as it helped, at first it didn’t make my journey easier.
It was really frustrating.
Depression hit really hard.
Going to work took everything out of me.
In the months that followed I didn’t leave my house for much else.
In that time I did what I needed to take care of myself. I leaned on the supports I trusted the most. I didn’t always get the help I needed, but verbally saying “I need help” is still so hard. It took a while but day by day I eventually started feeling a little better. I started recognizing the early signs that I need a break before everything becomes too much and I shut down. It’s a work in progress. What works today may not work tomorrow. What “taking a break” means looks different depending on my symptoms. I’ve started to be a little more open and honest about my mental health. It helps knowing I have people on my side.
It helps knowing I have a dog on my side. A dog who is, perhaps a little more intuitive than I ever gave him credit for.

I hope to never again feel the way I did on that day and that is what motivates me to take better care of my mental health.

I will forever be grateful to the boy who gave me his paw and reminded me that help is there, even when I don’t feel like it is.

Odin-Picture

Hand in My Pocket

Hand in my Pocket

Standing in the wading pool at the water park with The Peanut is when it hit me. I’ve struggled with the idea for a long time. Playing in the water with her and watching other parents with babies strapped to them was the moment I realized I’ve moved past it. I like the way things are. I like that my kids are becoming more and more independent. I like that they’re getting big enough to do more things with them. Suddenly the thought of adding a baby into the mix just didn’t sit right with me. It was the first time I actually felt like I’m “done”.

I had always wondered what it would be like to experience that thought. I didn’t think I ever would. For a long time I’ve been stuck in this place where I know it doesn’t make sense to have another baby, but I think about it often and feel that yearning for one more. It’s a battle of brain and heart. Heart is slowly getting on board with brain.

So what did that moment feel like?

Relieving… The Peanut wasn’t an easy baby. I’m quick to forget the struggle to get her to gain weight, the unpleasantness of a baby that threw up all day and all night, that she didn’t sleep much until she was 9 months.

Sad… Despite the challenges I loved being home with my babies. I loved watching them grow and change so quickly and come into their own personalities. I also loved the snuggles! Not much beats a baby snuggle.

Excited… Continuing to watch my little people become bigger people is just amazing. They’ve both hit some big milestones this year and I love how much more we can do with them. They are less reliant on me, which is kind of nice. As they become more independent I’m excited to get some of my independence back.

Guilty… Because I’m a mom and having independence comes at a price. I’m working on giving myself permission to not feel guilty, it’s a long journey.

So, it was confusing. I had imagined it to be more of a moment of clarity, like I would just wake up one day and say “yeah, I’m done” and know that I truly felt it and truly meant it.

With a piece of my heart missing I will always feel like someone is missing and I’m learning to be ok with that. It’s ok to make peace with the decision to not have more babies and at the same time it’s ok to give myself permission to wonder from time to time what it would be like to have just one more…

*I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one is giving a peace sign.

 

*Hand in My Pocket by Alanis Morissette
Check it out on YouTube !

Four

ian-parker-UnoXP7nxwiI-unsplash
Photo by Ian Parker on Unsplash

Four should be so much more.

Four shouldn’t be another year of wondering and what ifs.

Four shouldn’t be a reminder of the moments we are missing out on.

There will be no last day of daycare picture.

No first day of kindergarten picture.

No backpack full of supplies waiting at the door.

There won’t be a graduating class shirt hanging in your closet waiting for your handprint.

I won’t have to decide what package of first school pictures to buy.

No first report card to pour over.

I won’t be complaining about the lunches I’d have to make every day.

No sports or activities to plan our lives around.

There will be no celebrating you learning to write your name.

No celebrating the first book you could read on your own.

No hurrah for passing JK.

No summer camps to book.

No school friend birthday party to plan.

Four is cruel.

Step by Step

I did it! I hit a milestone!
It felt so good to hear. It felt so good to be around a group of supportive people who cheered me on. I felt proud of myself, momentarily. It didn’t take long before I had to fend off the negative comments. I should be my biggest cheerleader, but I’m much better at tearing myself down than building myself up.

Not long after hitting this milestone I was out hiking with my family. The Boss took some photos along the way. She took the one included in this post. She loves taking pictures of the beautiful flowers. I love watching her take in the beauty in the world that surrounds her.

As we were getting ready to hike back we were chatting about the steps it would take to get back to the truck. She made a song out of it and sang it most of the way back.

“Every single step you take gets you closer to what you want
So if you want something just take a step and you’re on your way”

Emily's Song
Photo and words by: The Boss

Wow. I had to stop for a second and listen to what she was singing. She had no idea how much I needed to hear those words. Maybe she did, she seems to have a knack for this sort of thing. Something about those words resonated deep within my soul.
I sat with that little song for a while and it got me thinking about the way I beat myself down instead of celebrating myself.
Despite hitting that milestone I was upset with myself that it took so long. I told myself I wasn’t trying hard enough. I made myself believe I didn’t deserve to be celebrated. What the fuck kind of reaction is that? Certainly not the kind I would have to anyone else.

“Take a step and you’re on your way”
She’s right. Every single step forward I take is progress and that should be celebrated. Every step I take that helps me deserves to be recognized. And if I can’t recognize and acknowledge that why should anyone else?

I hit another milestone last week. I took my own advice and gave myself permission to celebrate the win. The people at my group were so happy for me and cheered once again. These are strangers I see once a week and they were genuinely happy for me. This time I was too. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. That voice tried taking over again, I have a long road to self-love.
But the difference this time is that when that voice tried piping up I politely told it to take a hike.

This is 35

IMG_7373.JPG
My Birthday Cake!

Something about turning 35 didn’t sit right. In the weeks leading up to my birthday I wrestled with feelings of getting older, feeling older, and realizing that I would soon be closer to 40 than 30. For the record, I don’t think 40 is old and that is not what this is about.

For the first time in my life I had a weird feeling about hitting the next number. I hadn’t felt that before. I’ve always felt like your age is just a part of you, in no way does it define you, and so it’s never bothered me – I’ve certainly never had negative feelings about the number on my cake.

I was excited to turn 30! EXCITED!

Why wasn’t I excited to turn 35?

Maybe it’s because there I sensed it wasn’t going to be much fun being 35.

The day of my birthday I forgot my tea on the counter (my fault for drinking tea 😉 ) and left my keys in the lock in the front door. I almost drove away with them IN THE DOOR! Too bad I didn’t realize my tea was on the counter until I was almost on the highway and it was too late. Since then I have forgot my coffee more often than remembered it. Oops. At least I haven’t left the keys in the door again.

I spent most of the last month sick or taking care of a sick kid. We were doing SO good this winter and then the house turned into a germ-factory and it’s been one sickness after another since. I know I’ve been sick the most, thanks 35 year old immune system!

Between sick days and snow days it feels like I haven’t even been at work. I have, just mostly at home. Having the flexibility to work from home is a bonus when these crazy times hit, but it doesn’t make it easier to get work done. Most of the days were harder than they were easier. It was a busy month running between offices and that didn’t help. I didn’t feel grounded. I didn’t feel in control. I have breathed and talked myself out of more than one potential panic attack. I was losing control of work and home. Why wouldn’t those damn germs just die? If they would die and I was healthy again I would regain control!

Instead I could feel that I needed a break because I was breaking. I finally took a break and crashed. Thanks to a migraine I slept for an entire day! Nothing makes you take a break like a migraine. Then I got sick again and then my car went haywire on the highway. Being stranded on the side of the road was a perfectly awful way to end the month and a perfect metaphor for the month. The car had been making a noise and I said I needed to take it to the mechanic and had planned to call that day, but I pushed away the warning signs and boy did that bite me on the ass!

I had a bit of a chuckle on the side of the road when I realized the similarities between me and my car. The chuckle may have sounded more like sobs to someone else, but there was a chuckle in the somewhere…

 

So I think my negative feelings towards turning 35 was more of a sense of what was coming. It was a shitty month. A lot went wrong. I was a wreck emotionally and physically. It seemed like nothing could go right and I was stuck in such a negative place it felt impossible to see the light. It would be so easy to only focus on those things but now that I’ve come out of it rather unscathed, albeit with a lighter wallet, I feel ok about it all. Not great, but ok. Every moment I felt like I couldn’t go on, I somehow did. I didn’t always find the light, but sometimes it found me. And now that I reflect back on the month there are so many more positive things that come to memory. And that is how I keep going.

It turns out maybe I’m not the pessimist I always thought I was.
Or maybe the mindfulness training is paying off!