Saturday, November 22, 2014

Maybe Something is Getting in?

I always tell people who don't have kids that one of the hardest parts of parenting for me is not having any sort of gauge to tell if I'm doing it right. I did well in school and I thrived on getting a grade for each completed task. However, with parenting some, or even most, of the work I'm putting into my kids is an investment that won't show dividends for years or decades. I never get graded on my tasks as a mom. It is so hard to put so much work in, and not see the results of that work.

Every once in awhile I catch a tiny glimpse that maybe some of what I say is getting into my kids' heads.

Today I am sitting on the couch while my daughter and her cousin play with play dough. They are playing some sort of  what I would have called "house" when I was a kid. There is a play dough mother, father, and children. My Natalie is playing the part of the mother. This set up is very telling as everything Natalie says sounds like words that have come out of my mouth.

Some of it makes me cringe, "I said to clean up all of this mess!" she says in an angry tone.  Yup, that's me.  "You didn't listen to me!  Get to your room, you're grounded!"  Guilty.

But she also says some pretty great things. Play Dough Mom says, "You need to be kind to your brother. In this family, we treat each other with respect."  Hey, that's me too. And I kid you not, at one point she said, "People are all different, we should celebrate those differences instead of trying to make everybody be the same. That would be so boring!"

There are certain sentiments that I repeat, and repeat, and repeat but never know if they are making an impression on the kids. Today I am thankful for this little moment when I can hear my daughter repeating some of the important lessons I've tried to instill in her. Sure, it's just a game with play dough, but I choose to believe that her ability to spout them off so easily means they are in her head, ready to come out and be applied in another year, or five, or forty.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Have I Mentioned that I'm Raising My Dad?

I don't know who reads this blog, or if anyone reads this blog, but I'm going to assume you never had the pleasure of meeting my Dad.  My Dad was a loving dad and a super Grandpa. He was a good cook, really smart (in fact, he'd be the first to tell you that), and (he believed) never, ever wrong. I also never met a person in my life who liked to argue as much as he did. My Dad would argue with me just to see me get annoyed and wouldn't stop until he had proven his point.  Often his point was not even something he remotely believed in or even cared about, He just felt like arguing that point of view that day. On another day you would find him fighting vehemently to convince me of the opposing view.

Dad holding himself?
If I mentioned, for instance, that I liked rutabagas, or yellow balloons, or downhill skiing, he would spend the next hour proving to me WITHOUT A DOUBT that rutabagas (or yellow balloons, or downhill skiing) were the MAIN PROBLEM with this society. My preference for rutabagas were HURTING THE ECONOMY and LEAVING PEOPLE HOMELESS. He would cite examples of why this was true, he would quote statistics, and he WOULD.NOT.STOP. until I finally said something like, "Okay, Dad, I see your point. I won't touch a rutabaga/yellow balloon/downhill ski, ever, ever in my life."

Then, satisfied, he'd hand me a can of Diet Rite and we'd watch The People's Court.

That's Dad in a nutshell.

My Dad passed away when Ben was one year old. They didn't really get a chance to know each other, but as the years go on I am beginning to suspect that Ben IS my Dad.

Since Dad so loved to prove things, allow me to attempt to prove my "Ben is Dad" theory.

Exhibit A: One day when Ben was in the bathtub, at about 3 years old, I saw a bunny outside the window.  I pulled Ben out of the bath so he could see.  "Look at that bunny!" I said.  Ben replied, "I don't like that bunny. If I had a gun I'd shoot that bunny, dead." then looked at my face to see what kind of expression he had just caused me to have. I was, of course, shocked. Ben loved bunnies! But what does Ben love more than bunnies?  Being controversial and contrary.  I'm completely convinced that if he had the verbal skills at that time, he would have given me a lecture on the evils of bunnies in our society.

Never believes you when you tell him what time it is.
Exhibit B: This is way more than just one incident, this is an entire category I'm going to call, "Ben knows and you don't".  This includes the time I was trying to teach him how to count to 5 when he was two years old and he spent the whole day arguing that I was wrong, the number 4 didn't exist. "You count to 5 like dis! One, two, free, FIVE!" All day he argued this.  This also includes hundreds of inquiries about the time.  "What time is it?"  "8:00"  "NO!  It's 6:30!" And (my favorite, but not really) the "You don't know how to get where we're going" series.  In which Ben tells me randomly "You missed your turn!" (when I didn't) "You were supposed to turn LEFT!" (when I wasn't) and "This is the wrong road. You should be on a different road." (No).  Also: You're driving too fast, school is the other way, you should have stopped at that light, and many, many more.

Exhibit C: This is the last one I have time for today, but rest assured, there are many, many more. This happened yesterday. Ben came home with a behavior report from the bus driver. It says he is standing up on the bus and refusing to sit down. When I asked him about it the conversation went like this:  Me: Why aren't you listening on the bus? Him: I AM listening on the bus!  Me: The bus driver says you aren't. Him: The bus driver is lying. Me: No. The bus driver isn't lying. Him: Actually the bus driver has me confused with another kid because another kid was standing up on the bus. The bus driver is confused.  Me: The bus driver is not confused.  Now go to your room and think about this for awhile.

Looks sweet and innocent. Will relentlessly critique
 your driving skills
After an hour or so, just long enough that I seriously started to doubt whether this kid had a conscience, he came downstairs.  He told me he did stand up on the bus, and he just didn't want to sit down so he didn't. With tears glistening in his eyes, he said he was sorry for not listening. Also? I'm the best mommy in the whole, whole world and he loves me so, so, so much. Have I mentioned that my dad was also very charming?

Oh well, I was satisfied enough that if I had had one, I would have grabbed a Diet Rite for both of us and sat down with him to watch The People's Court.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Peaceful Solitude

A tiny sneak peek of one shot from our Christmas
card pic photo session.  Isn't he sweet?
The sun is streaming through the fingerprint-laden windows of our living room. I have set my timer for 15 minutes to relax. My legs are draped across the couch, and I am surrounded by paper to-do lists. My day has been full of tasks accomplished in 15 minute time chunks. So far I have done two loads of laundry, cleaned out the laundry room closet, cleaned out the hall closet, done mounds of dishes, taken out trash, cleaned the downstairs bathroom, sorted through what feels like hundreds of hats, mittens, scarves, and snow pants, and made some granola 'energy bites' for the kids' after school snack.

My counselor has advised me that one area I need to work on is taking more breaks. I move too fast, barrel ahead without taking time to consider what I've accomplished, and end up exhausted and frustrated instead of satisfied.

With her advice in mind, I use this relaxation break to do some free-writing for my blog. When I take this break, as with all my breaks today, I work on deep-breathing and drinking lots of sips of cold water. The relaxing is harder for me now. The quiet times fill my mind with memories that don't usually appear during my preferred go-go-go pace.

But learning to live and be okay in the quiet is something I'm working on. At times I realize I am even enjoying the solitude of my new life. I don't talk on the phone very much these days. Since Sue died I have dropped down the amount of "minutes" on my cellphone plan because I spend such little time talking.

It's okay, though. I am just busy learning to relax.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hidden Grief Landmines and Smoothies

strawberry-banana-smoothieIn the world of living through grief, there are hidden emotional triggers or "landmines" that can seemingly come out of nowhere. These landmines used to freak me out, because I would be going along, having a normal day when suddenly I was blindsided by something that would remind me of Sue and I'd be a crying basket case, sometimes even in public.  It is scary to walk around not knowing when the next bout of grief-triggered crying might hit.

The good news is that I have gotten used to them.  The bad news is that I still sometimes find myself crying in public.

Today I went to the gym and decided afterward to get a smoothie. Near my gym there is a smoothie place that Sue loved. She pretty much lived on those smoothies for most of the last year of her life. Anybody who regularly visited her knew what her order was at the smoothie place and would bring her one. It did not occur to me as I drove up to the smoothie place that I hadn't been there since Sue was alive and I was buying a smoothie for her.

I pulled up to the drive-thru and started to ponder my choices when I saw IT on the menu. The smoothie she would always order. Just as I noticed it, a tremendous wave of sadness for all I have lost washed over me. I can't order her smoothie and bring it to her, sit down and talk all about life. Her smoothie is there for other people to order, but she won't get one ever again. This realization felt devastating.

I started crying. It was uncontrollable. Just then the Smoothie Place Lady asked for my order. I choked out an order (not Sue's smoothie, I think that would have sent me further over the edge) and drove to the window.

That poor Smoothie Place Lady handed me my order and looked like she was really wrestling with what to do about the crying woman at the window. She ended up deciding not to say anything. I think it was the right choice.

I pulled into the parking lot and let myself cry. I used to feel scared and weird when I would have these grief episodes, but I am learning that it is just a normal byproduct of loving my sister so much. These days I am more able to have a grief incident and go on about my day. I can even have a pretty good day, like I did today. I am gaining peace about the grief process.

It doesn't make my heart stop wishing to be able to bring my sister her smoothie, though.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Honoring Sue at My Birthday Party: My Speech

This is the speech and song dedication I did at my birthday party. I think Sue would have loved it!

I want to thank Frank and Kate, for putting the party together, and Uncle Pete, for being our DJ. I love you guys and this is the coolest party!

I also want to thank you all so much for being here. As you all know, this has been a really hard year for me, and for my family. Life without my sister Sue has been so much harder than I ever imagined, and I've struggled with how to celebrate my birthday with it being the one year anniversary of losing her. I didn't know if I even should celebrate. But I know my sister, and know that she would be pissed if I didn't find a way to have fun on my 40th birthday. So we are going to party!

But first I want to tell you a Sue story. When I was 14 and Sue was 22 we decided, just for fun and to be “cool”, to make up a synchronized dance to a super hot song at the time, Paradise City, by Guns and Roses. As I recall, we spent probably a few weeks perfecting our routine in her bedroom at my dad's house.

A few months later we found ourselves at our mother's wedding. We were out on the dance floor, having a good time, when the first few notes of Paradise City rang out. We made eye contact with each other. We each gave a knowing nod. And that's all it took for us both to know what to do. Without any real forethought or effort, we were performing our routine just as we had so many nights in her bedroom.

As it often happens in these situations, there began to open up a circle of onlookers. We hadn't really prepared for this, as we had never actually imagined performing our dance in public.

We had no time to really feel self-conscious, though, because we were concentrating so much on our “moves”.

As soon as the song was over, we triumphantly strutted our awesome selves off the dance floor. Someone stopped us and said, “That was the cutest thing I've ever seen! I'm so glad we got it all on video! Hilarious!”

It suddenly dawned on us that everybody had been watching us. Somebody had videotaped us. The dance had not been meant for the public. What had we done!?!?!?!

We quickly made it our mission to never let anyone ever see that video, ever.

I spent the next five years hiding the video and then re-hiding it every time my mom would say, “what's my wedding video doing under this pile of old towels in the back of the closet?” I have no idea what became of the video. It may still be out there somewhere.

If I could remember the moves to the dance, I would surely teach you them tonight. But, sadly, I can only remember that we would go, 'take me down” (squat down) to paradise city, where the grass is green (hands out) and the girls are pretty, (point to self). I'm pretty sure there was also a lot of head-banging and air guitar involved.

So tonight, in loving memory of Sue, my super cool sister, my weird dance partner, and the one who would come up with these 'great ideas' that I would always later regret,, I would like to play Paradise City. I would love it if you would join me, and dance like you're a dorky 14 year old, or a dorky 22 year old who really should know better! I promise nobody will videotape you!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

We Are Surviving and Finding Our Way

I made it through my birthday. I made it through the one year anniversary of losing Sue.

Sam had an assignment to take nature photos and he took this! I love it.
Yesterday was a day I had been dreading for an entire year. I focused on it so much. I feared it, but also felt like if I could just make it there and through it, then I would be okay. There was so much sadness and anger leading up to the day. I had a very, very rough time the day before.

It turned out that the day I had assigned so much power to, was just a day. I got up, I did stuff, I had feelings, both good and bad, and then the day was over.

I am both relieved and sad that it is over. I know that sounds strange that I would be sad to put a day I had been dreading behind me. But the day also marked a milestone of having lived an entire year without my precious sister. I now know that I can make it through an entire year without her. But I never wanted to know or experience a year without her.

So, what do I do now? Now I'm 40, and now I live without my sister. Now I face another year of milestones without her. Now I observe her kids growing another year older without their mother.

We will see what this year brings. I was amazed in the past year, how in the midst of such pain, we also experienced so much joy, fun, and love.

I will stay open to seeing the joy in my life. I will continue to take care of myself (I ran 3 miles again this morning! First time running in my 40s!) I will keep trying my best to be the person I am meant to be.

Sam took this one too! He's pretty good, I'd say.
Thank you to everybody who called, texted, emailed, came to my birthday party, sent me cards or gave me gifts. I know it is hard for all of you, too. Nobody quite knows what to do with the birthday that is also a death-anniversary. You all did wonderfully. I could feel your love in every gesture. 

Thank you so much to the people who gave money to The Red Cross in Sue's name for my birthday. I absolutely LOVED that. And thank you to my friend, Donna, who sent me a picture of herself after running 3 miles for the first time in her life that was captioned, "I pushed myself to make it happen in honor of your birthday"

But most of all, I was so proud of Sue's four kids, who called me last night to wish me a happy birthday. They chattered on about their days, sang to me, laughed, and I was simply amazed by them. Their strength, joyfulness, and love shined through. I felt Sue's love and strength coming through to me by way of her incredible children.

We are all surviving.  We are going to be okay. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

My Birthday/One Year Anniversary of Sue's Death: What it's like right now

I am right in the middle of the tough part.

Saturday night my husband and my sister threw me a wonderful party. It was seriously everything I could have wanted in a 40th birthday party. We had so much fun. I read a story about Sue aloud and dedicated a song to her and everybody danced (I'll share that story in a later post). I really felt great. Somewhere deep inside I think I believed that if I had the most fun party ever, I wouldn't end up feeling down about Sue.

I should know by now that it doesn't work that way.

Today is the day before my actual birthday. Today, one year ago, I spent the day with Sue. I remember that I left her house that night at 7:00, and told her I'd see her the next day. I had planned to show up at noon. Instead I was there at 8:30 am, because she had already passed away. It was the worst day of my life.

I wanted to try to document how this feels, the emotions of the anniversary of her death and also my birthday rolled into one. The best way I can describe it is to say it is like a gigantic roller coaster. Saturday night I was at the very top, SO happy and SO grateful. Then on Sunday I started on a downward ride that has left me where I am now, which is at the bottom.

It took just about everything I had to get out of bed this morning. I am in the depths of intense grief, to the point that I've wondered if all of the work and growth I've experienced this past year has just vanished. I've wondered if this anniversary is putting me right back at square one.  It is intense.

Tomorrow I will be 40. Tomorrow my sister will have been gone for one year. She never got to know me in my 40s. I never wanted to be a person writing a blog about grief. I never wanted my birthday to also be the anniversary of the worst day of my life. I never got to choose. I also would never wish this particular birthday/death anniversary of a treasured loved one combination on anyone. It is hard to explain how difficult and painful it is. I wish this had never happened and that I was back to being the person I used to be, the person who had two wonderful older sisters instead of one.

I knew this would be hard, but I didn't know that it would be knock-me-down-sucker-punch-in-the-gut hard.

But here's what I need to do (and it's simple really): keep going.  I just need to keep getting up, keep taking my next breath, keep taking care of my kids.  And I will, because it's what I do. I keep trying and keep working at making it through.

But it is so, so hard.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Working to Choose Gratefulness

It has been a week of annoyances. I have been stressed about running our household by myself because Frank was out of town from Monday morning until last night. I had too many extra commitments and not enough down-time for my liking. I pulled something in my shoulder, and have had on and off stomach problems all week, which have impacted my running workouts. And there is still the ever-present stress of the flooded house, which is still going on and, I believe, will be going on until the end of time. Toss this all together and cover it with grief-sauce and you get an idea of how my week has been.

I've been stressed, bummed out, sad, disheartened, crabby, and just plain sick of it all.

I'm really, really grateful for these people!
This morning my internal dialogue was set to "extreme crabbiness".  I did a not-so-great workout and then sat down to find a recipe for Shepherd's Pie.  I went looking on a website called Southern Plate that Sue had sent to me a few years ago in an attempt to get me to make her some pumpkin cupcakes (it worked, I made them for her, they were good too!)

I found a recipe for Shepherd's Pie, but when I started poking around her site, I found that her blog post for today was about gratefulness.  That stopped me in my tracks because I have been stuck in a mode all week that hasn't left room for any gratefulness.  In other words, I've been poor-meing it for days.

Her post begins like this:

We often lose sight of the incredible blessings we have because the small hitches and drawbacks of life tend to overshadow them in the daily requirement to deal with them. (When we have a problem we must address over and over, we can’t help but keep it at the forefront of our thoughts.)

That is why it is important to actively call out our blessings each day. To pull them from the back of our minds, from that area we don’t think about because it hums steadily along without much need for attention.

(you can read the rest of her post here)

I felt like she had posted this for me today, like she was very nicely pointing out that I've been acting like a baby and I need to get over myself and cut it out.

Message received!  Right now I'm officially starting this day over. I am pulling forward all the blessings that I take for granted and spending my time being grateful. 

Here's a very small list of the first few things I thought of when I decided to be grateful:

1. My wonderful family, both immediate and extended, those who are still with us and those who aren't.  I wish I could post a full paragraph about each of my kids, my husband and in-laws, my sisters, my nieces and nephews, my parents, my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, and cousins (and I have a LOT of cousins!) to tell you why each of them is special and unique, and has had a positive impact on my life.

2.  My awesome friends.  In short, I have the best friends available, anywhere. Each one is a treasure I have been lucky enough to find.

3.  Everyday opportunities. We live in a safe, comfortable house, our kids go to great schools, Frank has a very good job, we feel safe where we live, we have enough food to eat, we have clean clothes to wear, we drive cars that are comfortable and that work, we have access to excellent medical care, we have clean water to drink and we can take hot baths/showers whenever we want.
Today I will go out into the world with gratefulness rather then crabbiness in my heart.  Have a great day.  I think I will now, too.

You know what else? I am grateful for you!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Three Miles!

The week started off pretty rough, remember? But things got better. I keep learning that same lesson over and over: when things are hard, I need to just wait a bit because it gets better.

Now, look what happened on Wednesday:

please don't look at my sweaty wrinkly forehead, thank you.
I stood in my driveway, covered in sweat, unshowered, and held up three fingers!

Okay, there was actually a little more to it than that...I stood in my driveway covered in sweat, unshowered, and held up three fingers because I had just RUN THREE MILES!

With 20 days left before my birthday, I met my goal. I need to take a little time to think about that because I tend to do something I should be proud of, but then just quickly move on to the next thing without giving it much thought. This time I intend to spend a bit of time feeling proud of myself.

Today I ran three miles again.

And I am going to take this thing a step further: I'm going to feel proud of myself all weekend! I think you should join me. Think of that thing you've done recently but didn't really allow yourself to feel proud. Spend the weekend feeling proud of yourself every time you think of it. It will feel good and we deserve to feel good.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 6, 2014


My day isn't great, but it is very pretty outside
My last few posts have been pretty chipper and happy. This is good because when I wrote them I was feeling that way. I don't always feel that way and I need to make sure that this blog doesn't just become a place I come to document when I am having a good day or moment. I do want to document good moments, but if that was all I did then I would be leaving out a huge part of my life. I want this blog to be a real representation of how life is right now, and skipping over the hard parts would be not the whole truth.

All of this to say, I'm not having a great day.

I woke up already exhausted. I think I was having stressful dreams. I don't remember them, but I know I woke up missing Sue more than usual. Missing somebody who you know you will never see again in this lifetime is exhausting because it is never-ending.

I needed to drop Natalie off to leave for three days for 6th grade camp. I am generally not an overly mushy sort of parent, so imagine my surprise when I dropped her off, walked back to my car, and bawled my eyes out. Goodbyes are hard because sometimes people don't come back. This thought, which is always with me, is exhausting.

Next up was my counseling appointment. I think going to counseling is very important for me. It is helping me climb up out of grief. It helps me figure out the areas in my head that still need work. I am so thankful that I have the time to devote to my well-being and the resources to access such great care. However, doing this emotional work is exhausting.

Back home to send emails and make phone calls about the flood at our rental house. This is something I am working on constantly. The flood happened August 11 and it is still taking up so much of my time. We are getting there, but so slowly. This process is (you guessed it) exhausting.

Finally I forced myself outside for my run because it is Monday and I ALWAYS run on Mondays. Why was I so shocked that I ran one mile, walked one mile, and walked home?  I knew when I started that I was "off" today. I am trying with all my might to not consider today's run a failure. I'm trying to tell myself that sometimes it's a bad day. That sometimes I'm allowed to just sit on the couch and feel sad.

Now I have an hour left before kids start coming home and the more busy part of my day begins. I have succeeded in exhausting myself in many different ways. I will work at trying to do all the rest of the stuff I need to get done today, but I actually just want to go back to bed and get to tomorrow.

The real truth is that some days are just heavy with grief and I cannot get my crap together.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Story About A Run

Today I woke up not wanting to run. I really, really didn't want to run. It was very windy. I put on my running clothes anyway. I got my little boys ready for school and took them to the bus stop. I still didn't want to run. I got the dog ready. She didn't want to run either.

We started running. Now I should tell you that the word, "run" when used by me means "the slowest jog that is possible". And I should also point out that I am the dorkiest runner ever. I do a lot of singing along to my music, and when I sing along I like to get everyone else involved in the song by pointing and singing right to them at important song points.  But since I'm running by myself, "everyone else" becomes the dog, a nervous squirrel, a dead frog, and an occasional bird.  Until I get to our neighborhood construction sites filled with construction guys, when I get to those I run serious and stone-faced, like I'm in the Olympics.

So the run started out like usual, with me wondering why the hell I would do this to myself. But then I started to get into a rhythm. I started jamming to my music. I sang and pointed to the dead frog, "I knew you were trouble when you walked in!" I scared the nervous squirrel with a "I'm coming at you like a dark horse!" And I musically informed a nearby robin that "I'm all about that bass, about that bass--no treble!"

Then it started to rain. The dog was shooting me really dirty looks. She hates rain, as do I. But by this time I was halfway done and I didn't want to have to get exercise some other way when I was already here, already doing it. So, back to my music, only now I was looking crazier by the minute.  A crabby, soaked dog by my side, rainwater running down my back, and still I'm singing/yelling out random song lyrics.

Then I noticed my shoe was untied. Then I bent down to tie it and my headphones flew out of my ears, then my crabby/freaked out dog ran a circle around my legs, tying me up with her leash.  Then one of the construction guys came by.  He waved and chuckled.

I looked exactly like this:

except not as cute, and instead of one of my ears being adorably askew, both of my ears were dripping with a combination of rainwater and sweat, And I was wrapped up in a leash. And my headphones were dangling. And my shoe was still untied. But I looked that same amount of pathetic.

Just in case you were looking for a feel-good, warm-fuzzy story of strength and redemption, I should tell you that this is not one. I just untangled the leash from around my legs, tied my shoe, shoved my headphones back in my ears, and finished my drippy, crabby run with a bad attitude.

The end.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thing's I've Learned as the Mom of a Teenager

I have been in complete denial about this for quite some time, but I woke up this morning and just like that there's a teenager living in my house.

I don't know what I was expecting, exactly, but I do know that from the first moment a new mom looks at her precious new baby, there is always someone (usually it's that crabby nurse) saying, "Sure, he's cute now, but wait until he becomes a TEENAGER!"

Let's stop and have a quick talk about those people, shall we? Here's the deal, the brand new mother does not need to hear about all the difficulties of raising teenagers any more than the pregnant woman needs to hear about your cousin's best friend's aunt's co-worker having the MOST HORRIFIC THING happen during childbirth.  The new mother is already freaked out enough that these hospital people are planning to make her leave with this brand new human. She can barely even hold the thing correctly, let alone grasp the idea that society dictates she take it home and care for it for the rest of her ever-loving LIFE!  So let's all make a deal to not freak out any more new mothers, mmmkay? 

Now that we have that settled, let's talk about TEENAGERS  Since I have now been the mother of a teenager for approximately 10 hours, I am obviously an expert. Teenagers are so easy! They just wake up, take a shower, and go to school.  Now I haven't had experience with a teen in the afternoon yet, so you might want to check in with me this evening to find out what that's like. But raising a teenager is a complete joy so far.

In closing, I would like to state that having a teenager is about a gazillion times easier than having a newborn.  (case in point: I had a full night of sleep last night).  Also, we need to start a movement to keep people from freaking out mothers who have new babies.  And finally, if all of the teenager-raising I have ahead of me could be as easy as the time I have made it through so far, I'd sure be grateful.


Friday, September 19, 2014

The Weight of it all

The weight of you not here nearly broke my back -- Kid Rock, When it Rains

Here's how it all went down:  I lost my sister.  I couldn't breathe.  Every waking moment, I was in pain. Except that the pain felt a tiny bit less raw when I ate a doughnut.  Or drank a coffee drink with extra sugar and cream. I didn't care what I looked like, I didn't care that I was gaining weight, all I cared about was making it through each day, and I wasn't completely sure that I could.

When I made it through a day, or an hour, or a minute, it was sometimes so hard that I felt like I should be rewarded.  I rewarded myself with food, or with the indulgence of not giving a damn about my health.  I didn't exercise.  In fact, many days it took all I had just to get out of bed and take care of the kids.  I had no emotional reserves.  I was constantly exhausted.

Without really noticing or caring, I gained 20 pounds in 8 months.  I was overweight before this, too.

Violet is way more enthusiastic about running than I am, she LOVES it.
This summer I started to come out of the fog.  I stopped constantly rewarding myself with food.  I stopped gaining weight.  But, I didn't lose any weight either, and I still wasn't exercising.

In August I spent an evening with a good friend. As is usual when she comes to town, we had deep conversations about life and what we love about it, and what we want out of it.  I had been keeping an idea to myself that came out during that talk.

"I want to be able to run 3 miles by the time I turn 40." I told her.

"You can do that." she told me.  I was skeptical (This friend happens to run marathons, I'm so proud of her, she is a rock star. I obviously don't run marathons, and I wasn't sure if she remembered what it was like to be someone who was out of shape.)

"I need to be held accountable or I won't do it."  I told her.

"Then text me at the end of each workout. I will be waiting for your texts."

We left it at that. When I got home I downloaded an "album" onto my ipod called "Personal Running Trainer's 8 weeks to 5K".

That first Monday, I got up and did the first workout.  I texted my friend.  She was so encouraging.

Well I can do this week, I thought, but I probably won't be able to do all the workouts next week. But I did.  Another friend decided to start doing it too. I also text her at the end of each run, and she texts me when she runs.  I didn't think I could sustain it but I did, and I am.  I keep doing the next week, and the next, and the next, and the next.

This morning I completed week 7.

You guys, I can't believe I'm actually doing this.

I still don't care so much about my weight.  It takes me a long time to lose weight.  It is going down, but very slowly.  But now I do care about taking care of myself.  I care about feeling good, physically and mentally. I'm finding that it is helping me so much with stress, anxiety, and even grief.

I don't have everything figured out, not by a long-shot. I still have days when I turn to food for comfort. I'm working on that. But I do know that this running program is getting me just a tiny bit closer to becoming the person I want to be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Still Working On It

I started back into grief counseling yesterday after having taken the summer off. I almost didn't go because I've been doing pretty well and why would I want to talk about my grief when I can just not think about it?  Within the first five minutes I realized that I absolutely needed to be there.  As much as I want to be completely fine, I'm not. I am still struggling. I might still be struggling for a long time.

The act of starting over with a new counselor caused the need for me to tell my story from the beginning.  It feels like it's a movie I've seen, or that I'm describing something I witnessed happening to somebody else. I was surprised at how much I cried.

But as I walked the now familiar path back to my car after the appointment, I realized that I am no longer rushing so nobody sees me break down.  Instead I walked slowly, looked at the sky, counted the stairs as I walked down, found myself humming my newest favorite song.

I'm getting there. I can see actual progress in myself. I will never again be the person I was before Sue died.  I'm working on becoming somebody even better.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Milestones and Bravery

We have made it through a lot of milestones in the past week. It's been so much at once that my mind is kind of swimming.  It has been a week of letting go, trying new things, and being BRAVE!

Let's go through it point by point:

1.  Benny turned 5:


2.  He got a lot of the items on his wish-list:

You can't tell, but he's also chewing gum in this photo

3.  Then school started:

Kindergarten (climbing up into that big bus for the first time = brave) and 3rd Grade (starting with a new teacher and best friend is in the class next door = brave)

8th Grade and 6th Grade, both starting at new schools = brave

4.  And, finally, I had my salad:

Confronting something that was so important to me, but without Sue to share it with = brave
Notice that I am eating the salad with two forks.  This is because the day after Sue's funeral, her youngest said, "So my mom never got her salad?  Well when you go get the salad, will you eat it with two forks, one for you and one for my mom, and take a picture of it for me?"

Of course I will, Sweetie.  And I did.

It is difficult for me to put into words how hard and emotional it was to eat the salad. The situation wasn't how it was supposed to be, and I am definitely mourning that. But I also felt like I had really reached an important milestone, and like it took a lot for me to face the salad day head-on. I feel like I've accomplished something big just by making it through.

I'm proud of myself and I will keep being brave. If my kids can get up each day and face their school fears, then I can certainly face my life-without-Sue fears.

Next up this month: becoming the mom to a teenager in just 16 more days (I'll need to face this one bravely as well!  Eeek!)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Most Important Salad, Ever.

***The following is an excerpt from the eulogy I delivered at Sue's funeral, in October of 2013***

Sue and I, between the two of us, had 8 kids in 12 years. We were in the mothering trenches together and would talk on the phone pretty much daily, as we tried to figure out how to stay sane with all these kids. We would have long talks about how it was going to get easier, this baby or that baby would eventually stop crying so much, that toddler would get potty trained. Someday we would be able to use the bathroom in peace! We would make it!

One day she called me and said that her mother-in-law had told her a story about when her kids were little. She told me, “Every year on the first day of school she would go to Hudson’s and get herself a Maurice Salad to celebrate.”

The Maurice Salad became a symbol for us of the glorious day when our kids were older, were independent, and would go off to school for the whole day. We started making plans for our “Maurice Salad” days. One day she called me, all excited, because she found out that a local restaurant sold Maurice Salads. We cemented our plans. I would go out to lunch with her on the day her youngest started Kindergarten and she would go with me on the day Ben started. 

When the kids were in school we would then be what we called “living the dream”. We would have a quiet house for a few hours and would be so much more patient and happy to be with our kids at the end of the day when they all came home.

I can’t count the number of times I would be having a really hard day, with crying kids, or feeling like I was failing as a mom, or I was just plain exhausted and she would say, Just think, only a few more years until we are going to get you that Maurice Salad and we will be living the dream! She encouraged me countless times at some of my hardest moments.

Well, the day her youngest started Kindergarten, Sue’s Maurice Salad day, our dad was very sick. We had no time for going out to lunch, I think she spent that day at the hospital with him, and she didn’t get to have her salad.

The day Ben starts Kindergarten will be in early September of 2014. When I go to have my Maurice Salad she will not be with me like we planned. We will not get to “live the dream” together like we always planned.

But, I am going to march into that restaurant that day in September, and I am going to get that Maurice Salad that we have been talking about for 12 years. (I might need some of you there for moral support) I am going to have that very important salad for both of us. Because I know she would be so proud of me for making it to Maurice Salad Day. And I will live the dream, but just in a different way. And I think she would be proud of that too. And I will look up to heaven that day and hope and pray that she is having her Maurice Salad too, and that she is living the dream too, just in a different way.

I will miss her always, I will love her always, and I will live my life in a way that would make her proud. I will torture her kids for her, and love them with all my heart, I will laugh as much as humanly possible, and know that there will never be another person like her in my life.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's Crazy Around Here, Man

I don't really have any time to write blog posts right now. It would be crazy enough around here with just school preparations (you have no idea how many forms I have sitting in front of me to fill out!) and me starting a new exercise routine, but add in the fact that the house we own and rent out flooded.  There was 5 feet of water in the basement. That was two weeks ago. There is still some water in the basement.

So, I fill out forms, work out, talk to insurance adjusters, fill out more forms, make more phone calls, oh yeah, and take care of four kids everyday (so much food preparation and clean up!). At the end of each day I am left feeling like I've been doing so.many.things. but there isn't really anything to show for it.

I'm stuck somewhere between desperately wanting school to start already, and trying to hold on to a little more summer fun.

Looking for fish

Hello world!
Ben and his cousin/best friend checking out the water

This is Violet. She's going to be so sad when school starts.

There really isn't a point to this post, except to let you know that school is coming. I'm losing my marbles, and our dog is cute. Also, I hate floods. And paperwork. And exercise.

Happy Wednesday to all!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

5 Birthday Wishes From Our (almost) 5 Year Old

My baby is going to be 5 in a week and a half. I'm having some trouble with this because, well, see the "my baby" part.

Now, let's wander down memory lane, shall we?

You see, he used to look like this

Then this!

Then this!

Then this!

Then this! (Don't you sometimes just wake up and say, "Today I'll be a Robot Ballerina!"?)

Then this!

Then this!

And now he looks like this.
It's just that he's so BIG now. And he starts Kindergarten the day after his birthday. And he's my baby.

Okay, now that we've covered the ins and out of why I'm turning into a ball of mush, here are 5 birthday wishes Ben has made repeatedly:

1.  A plain, brown, terrycloth bathrobe. (Yes, he is this specific, every time. Also, yes I too think he is an 80 year old man trapped in a child's body. And why, every time I picture him in this bathrobe, do I imagine him with a mustache?)

2.  A lot of gum. (At our house you can't chew gum until you are 5. We call it "The Gum Birthday")

4.  The song, Best Day of My Life by American Authors put on Mom's ipod so he can listen to it anytime in the car. (Because, "It's a good song and I think when I turn 5 it will be the best day of my life. At least I think.")

5.  A machine gun. A real one. But he promises he'll be very careful with it and "only point it at trees and leaves and stuff." (It's the "stuff" that makes me the most hesitant.)

He's a peculiar child, isn't he?  I'm pretty sure he'll get some of the things on the list. I might have as much difficulty finding a plain brown bathrobe as I would a real child-sized machine gun. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Weird Post In Which I Mention Potassium Permanganate and Overuse Asterisks

Ben represents me and how I feel about life's
annoyances, While Natalie is representing
 life (being annoying).  Or something.
There are a million little things that are stressing me out. For instance, we can't figure out, even after way too much time spent researching, how much potassium permanganate to put into our iron filter*. I promised myself that I wouldn't let the dumb little things get to me anymore, but it is a lot harder to put that into practice than I thought. Just because things aren't the most stressful I've ever felt in my life doesn't mean I can just shrug and say, "oh well."

But that is who I'd like to be. I'd like to be someone who has such a firm grasp on what's important and what's not that scraping the side of my van against a pole at the bank** would just cause me to say, "Well, that's annoying, but nobody's hurt so it will be fine." and go on with my day.

But the truth is, I am very much a work in progress. And the world doesn't stop with the minor annoyances to let me grieve in peace. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn't. I'd sure like it if some friend or employee of God could stand up there with a checklist and say, "She's had enough for awhile, let's make sure she doesn't have to deal with putting a new pump in her well this year***."

I am in need of a break from the minor junk. Earlier today I sent Frank this text message, "I need you to bring home some good news today, even if you have to make it up."

And this here is a picture of Ben, asleep for the night in his
room, under an overturned chair. I don't know why.
But here's some good news we don't need to make up:

I have had four people contact me about their decision to give blood in response to my request and that makes me so happy. One of them is someone who has never given blood before. The Red Cross website says each donation can help up to three people, so my lovely blog readers have helped/are about to help twelve people! That might not seem like a big deal, but I bet if we could talk to the families of those twelve people, they would think it is a very big deal.  Thanks for this.

So sometimes the good news is there if you go looking for it. I will keep working toward being that person I want to be. Just think, maybe someday when someone (I won't name names) spills a crap-load of red kool-aid all over the kitchen, I'll just say, "Okay, no big deal!" and clean it up.****

Thanks for reading this blog post. Because you hung in there and read all my gobbledy-gook, you will now be rewarded with a video of Ben in a hula skirt, trying to hula.  But instead of hula-ing he gets his skirt destroyed and nearly knocked over by our dog (while his family laughs at him).  Have a great Tuesday!

*If you know this, could you make my life easier and tell me?  Thanks.
**I did this, even though I told my newly driver's licensed nephew that I was going to make him take the heat for it. Just needed to get that out.
***This isn't a metaphor for anything. We had to get a new pump put in our well last week. It wasn't my favorite.
****I will never be this person. Red Kool-Aid is the bane of my existence.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Making Cookies

The clattering pans and spoons, the chatter, the occasional yell of "Ooops!" coming from the kitchen gives me a mix of emotions.  On one hand, I want to run in there and take over, making sure the kids know that this and not that is the right way to make the cookies. After all, I've been there, I've done this stuff before and know how.

Three bakers, hard at work
On the other hand, I know how important it is to let them have this, to let them make the cookies all by themselves. I could see how excited they looked when I told them that they could make the cookies from scratch and I would just stay completely out of it. They need to have room to find their own ways to do it, even if it means making mistakes and messes.

They want my help too.  They yell into the living room, "Which of these is the half teaspoon?"  It takes a lot of motherly restraint for me to just yell back, "You guys can figure it out, I'm sure of it!" and they do.

They are growing up so much lately, and I think more and more about these people they are becoming. I think about the fact that one day, not too very long from now, they will each pack up their belongings and leave my house. Will I have given them everything they need?

Someday my role will be to always be in the living room as they attempt new things, make mistakes, and figure out their own paths over in the kitchen.  That sometimes they might call to me from their kitchen-lives, "Is this right?" and how I'll answer back, "You can figure that out, I'm sure of it!"

I just want to make sure they understand that I will always be there for them.  I'll be just over in the living room, ready to give them encouragement, and maybe advice, but not solve their problems for them.

I am confident they will find their own ways to make the cookies.

I consider it an honor to be able to watch it happen.
They were delicious!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Stepping into Uncertainty

When I was in 5th grade I was invited to a horseback riding party by a friend from school.  What I remember most about it was the drive there.  We drove down a road I had passed all my life, but never knew where it led. As we pulled into the parking lot of the horse sable, my brain quickly drew a new line and destination onto my mental map.  Before that day, it showed a dead end on that street, just blank space. There was actually something spectacular just beyond what I had been able to comprehend before.

This upcoming fall feels to me like that road I would pass all the time.  I just simply have no concept of what might be there for me to discover.

Once school starts, I'm not sure who I'm going to be.  I have been at home with an infant, baby, toddler, or preschooler for the last 13 years.  I am anticipating something completely foreign to me: an empty house for many hours each weekday.

I don't know what this will be like.  I'm not sure what I want to do.  I'm just not sure what the near future holds for me.

Three of my four kids will be starting new schools in the fall.  Joe will be going into junior high, Natalie will start at the middle school, and Ben will begin his elementary school years in kindergarten.  I won't be the only one stepping into something completely new.

I have always been a planner, and have spent a lot of time trying to imagine what will fill my days.  I am not really interested in getting a job right now (and am fortunate enough to have the choice), but that doesn't mean I never will.  I know I want to take this first year to try to figure out my role, both here at home, and in our community, church, and the kids' schools.  Maybe I will spend some time renewing my teaching certificate.  Maybe I will join the group of Deacons at church who host funeral luncheons and after-church coffee hours.  Maybe I will spend time painting room after room in our house.  Maybe I'll volunteer at my kids' schools.

Uncertainty makes me nervous. But I can also feel an excitement building that there will be so many possibilities.

I have to keep myself from trying to fill it up with something familiar before I even get there.  Often I think something like "I'll go back to school in the fall!  That's perfect!".  But when I step back and really consider it, I realize that I am just wanting to go to school because I already know what that is like. Having no real plan scares me.

I was supposed to be celebrating my empty house by visiting with Sue.  We had plans to meet for lunches, shop for kids' clothes together, do whatever we felt like doing.  When it became apparent that she was getting very sick, I had planned to help take care of her while my kids were all in school.  I could bring her lunch and we could still spend time together.  Now all of my plans involving her are gone. Navigating this change alone was not what I wanted.

I am working on surrendering to the unknown.

The fall is a blank slate for me, I'm nervous.  But I can also see that there just may be a hidden treasure at the end of this uncharted road.

I have linked this post to Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary (a blog I love!) who has a weekly segment on her blog called, "Just Write", in which she encourages other bloggers to sit down and write about what is on their mind right that minute, without over-thinking or editing.  I'm happy to join in!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

As My Kids Would Say, "Could You Do Me A Solid?" (Or Maybe Two?)

On June 17th, Sue's Birthday, I wrote this post, which I ended with the line, "Today I'm just not sure what to do."

Later that day an idea came to me, and I knew exactly what I should do.

For almost 8 years prior to her death, Sue was on immunoglobulin therapy, an intravenous treatment derived from the blood supply.  It's purpose was to boost her immune system by injecting her with little bits of the immune systems of thousands of people.

Sue and her little girl at a family reunion in 2007
Every Friday night, Sue would get herself comfortable in bed, and set up the IV system, which involved a pump and 5 needles that she would insert into her stomach.  Then she would watch a movie, knit, or talk on the phone while the medicine slowly entered her system.  It would take a few hours.

This was not something that cured her, or even kept her from continuing to get sick, but I do think it drastically slowed her illness.  Her bouts with pneumonia decreased dramatically.

Sister Kate and I had gotten in the habit of donating blood every six weeks.  I would tell Sue, "Don't worry, we are pouring our blood right back into the system for you!"  She would chuckle and say, "Thanks, on behalf of myself and all the other sickies!"

But life got very hectic. As Sue's illness progressed we needed to be by her side. As a result, our blood donation routine fell off the schedule.

On her birthday I didn't just want to sit around crying about her. (I did a fair amount of that anyway though, trust me.)  I wanted to find something to do that would honor her memory.  Blood donation was the perfect "something".

As I sat in the chair with that needle in my arm, all I could think was, "This could keep somebody else's sister alive."  I thought about how fortunate we all were that because of our community blood supply, Sue's quality of life was better.  We had her for longer than we would have without it.

As I left the blood donation center on Saturday, I made my next appointment.  I am committed to keeping up with my every 6 week schedule now.

What do ya say?  Will you do our Mom a solid?
So, here's the favor:  would you consider donating blood in memory of my sister?  It would mean a lot to me (and to the sisters of the people whose lives you save or prolong!).  There is a current shortfall in the blood supply, you can click here to find a place near you to donate.  Tell your friends!  Let's save somebody's best friend, mom, daughter, dad, favorite cousin, grandpa, boyfriend, fun neighbor, or SISTER!

There are some of you who can't donate for various reasons (hello pregnant cousin!) but you can still help! You could help by sharing, tweeting, whatever-ing this post to other people you know who CAN donate! (You could also just tell people.  Or, and here's a great idea, you could make an appointment for a friend, then tell them you are taking them to get a Slurpee, but take them to give blood instead!  Just kidding, don't do that, your friend will probably be mad.  But I'm sure you have other creative ideas in that head of yours.)

And then, (yes I'm asking for a favor on top of my favor) could you just leave me a comment or call me (I'm just assuming that everyone who reads this blog has my phone number.) and let me know that you did it?  It would seriously make my day, or my week, or my year!  If you live close by, I might even bring you some cookies for doing something so nice.  Now that's all the favors I'm going to ask.  For now.

I'd like to thank you all in advance, on behalf of the sickies!  (And sisters of sickies)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Just Write: Bed Time

I finished reading the last page of Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day, closed the book, and kissed the soft, spikey top of Ben's head goodnight.

Sometimes we just really miss Auntie Sue
"Mommy, I need to tell you something about your sister, the one who died.  My Auntie Sue. I remember her.  I remember we went to her house and we brought her lunch.  She smiled at me and we had strawberry smoothies that day, remember? We brought one for her too. It was a fun day."  He paused, and caught his breath.

"My cousins, their mom died.  And remember when you were sitting on the stairs and you were crying and I was so sad because I am sad when you cry and I don't like it."

I took a deep breath and pulled him into a hug, "Yes, I remember that day we brought her lunch. You are right, it was a fun day. And yes, your cousins have lost their mom. It is sad, and that's why I cry sometimes. I know you don't like when I cry, but I need to cry so I can get better. But it is not your job to worry about me. I am okay and I love you."

We finished our good nights, and he rolled over, stuffed bear in his arms.

I sat down and thought again about how I wish we all didn't have this hurt on our hearts.  But what a gift we have in our memories of happy lunches, smiles, and strawberry smoothies.

I have linked this post to Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary (a blog I love!) who has a weekly segment on her blog called, "Just Write", in which she encourages other bloggers to sit down and write about what is on their mind right that minute, without over-thinking or editing.  I'm happy to join in!

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Sue Memory: "Regular"

"You're saying that wrong, and it's driving me crazy." Sue told me.

"Saying what wrong?"

"The word 'regular'.  You say 'reg-lee-ur' but it should be 'reg-u-lar'"

They sounded the same to me.  I started repeating it over and over, "reg-lee-ur, reg-lee-ur..."

"That's IT!" she said, coming at me, "I am going to fix this."

See that sister on the left? She has just noticed that the sister on the right
talks like a baby, and she's going to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Don't
worry, middle sister, your Barbie Doll Cake is safe.
"How are you going to..." but she was already on top of me, my arms pinned on either side of my ears. I lifted my hips trying to throw her off, but she was STRONG. I was pinned in tickle-torture position. This would be bad.

Sue was skinny, but so strong it seemed superhuman.  She would pin me to the floor, tickle me until I couldn't breathe, then do it some more. And now, apparently, she was going to tickle me into a state of correct pronunciation.

"Here's how this is going to go. Say it right, or you're not getting up."

"REG-LEE-UR"  I struggled, kicking my legs.  Occasionally I could turn and give a good kick that would  land somewhere on her thigh or lower back. This didn't stop her, but sometimes distracted her enough for me to catch my breath.

"Repeat after me:  REG"


We went over and over it. I repeated each syllable correctly, then pronounced the word wrong. She told me I was never going to get up. The struggle continued.

Somehow, after the 50th or so incorrect pronunciation, the stars aligned, heaven opened up and a chorus of angels began to sing:  I said it.  I said, "REGULAR". Something clicked and I could finally hear the difference between what she was saying and what I had been saying.

Sue smiled.  She said, "Say it again."
"Regular." I responded.

Sue got up, and pulled me up with her.

"Now don't say it wrong again. It makes you sound like a baby. Come on, I'll make you some Kool-Aid.

I seriously never pronounced that word incorrectly ever again. Sue knew how to get results.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Landscaping, New Attitude

I need to tell you a story about my new landscaping.  I have hated the landscaping at this house ever since we moved here in November of 2010.  I also need to tell you that I am the worst plant person in the world.  I'm the very worst.  I don't know the names of plants, or the difference between annuals and perennials, or how to keep them from dying.  I can't tell what's a weed and what is supposed to be there.

Last year, 2013, we decided to finally do something about the landscaping. We hired our neighbor and friend Anthony, who lives on our street to help us out. The first step was the kill all the existing stuff in the flowerbeds. We did this. Then Frank lost his job. I had to call Anthony and tell him that we couldn't move on to the next phase.

Then we had an awful, horrible year and our flowerbeds were full of weeds and dead stuff.  It did not look good. Every time I looked at it, I felt stressed and annoyed. The nasty weeds were a symbol of how out of control life was. I couldn't control my circumstances or the flowerbeds.

Frank started his new job in April, and I immediately started thinking about getting the landscape project done. I had a few discussions with Anthony and he brought me a plan.  I loved it!

Over the last month, our flowerbeds have gone from every kind of weed, stick, and dead thing imaginable to this:

I have to throw in a quick Sue story here too.  She told me over and over when we moved in that we needed a Japanese Maple in this certain spot in the back. Then in the summer of 2011 she bought me a tiny one and we planted it there. Then it died (see my comments about how bad I am at plants). When Anthony and I talked about what to put there, I said that I wanted to eventually put a Japanese Maple there but that it was too pricey for right now.  He recommended that I do it anyway. He said that if I wanted it there, I should get one and put it there.

I'm so glad he said that. He was right. Today they put the Japanese Maple in while I was out. When I got home and saw it standing there so beautifully, I cried.

I never imagined that this not-a-plant person would ever cry at the sight of a tree. But I did. A lot.

I love everything they did in our yard. I am so happy and no longer feel stress when I walk outside of the house.

Anthony walked me through every step, giving me great advice. It helps that he lives in our neighborhood and knows the kind of soil and pests we have. He also kept in mind that my favorite color is purple.

This landscaping project has restored some peace in my mind and my heart.  Now when I walk outside I just smile and sigh. Believe me when I tell you, Sue would love this.

By the way, if you live near me and are stressed out by landscaping issues, call my friend Anthony at San Marino Outdoor Services.