July 11, 2013

Beautiful Heart

In the days following Mom's death, grief was a physical presence. It stuck in my bones, made my head foggy and clouded my eyes. Then planted itself firmly in the center of my chest. A sorrow so immense flooded my heart that I wasn't sure I would survive it. I still remember the searing pain and the ache of a stretch I thought I could not bear.

Over time the waves of grief have subsided and sadness trickles out bit by bit. My heart is now soft; broken-in and aged by this process. This once new and tidy heart is replaced with a bigger, doughier version. The stretching that was so very painful has given me a heart with more room. More room for sadness, yes. Also more room for joy. As anguish recedes, beauty can now seep in. And the chambers of my broken-in heart can hold more of everything than they could before. There is room for the painful memories. And there is room for so much more love than I ever imagined.

I love more, because I have lost.
I laugh more, because I have cried.
I notice more, because of my pain.
I feel a profound joy, as intense as my grief.

I think this is what it means to have a broken heart. A broken-in heart. One more capable of love than it was before. One that is big enough to receive all the joy and pain there is in life. One that has learned how to mourn and thus learned how to live.

When Christ said that we must have a broken heart and a contrite spirit, perhaps He was telling us of the process we would all undergo to have our hearts broken-in. Only then could they be big enough to receive all that life has to fill them with.

After so many tears, so much pain, so much stretching - I feel myself ready to receive. May my broken-in heart hold an abundance of beautiful things and may it always be a soft place for others to land. Amen.

June 25, 2013

On Your Half Birthday

Oh Wren-bug, what a force of nature you are! I can't believe how quickly you are growing and so I tried to get some photos of you to commemorate this milestone. But, aside from a single photo included in this post, you refused to be distracted from you work. Couldn't bother to look up at me at all. It is so typical of you to be completely engrossed in your work and absolutely determined.

Sometimes I feel like I have two different daughters who both answer to the name Wren. I like to think of you as Stinker Wren and Sweetheart Wren. So here is a little update of both of those girls.

Stinker Wren:
- gives everyone a crazy glare from under furrowed brows
- continues to eat a vast array of non-edible items
- beats up on Ellie all the time. Seriously, that girl is kind of scared of you.
- refuses to eat vegetables except for very special ocassions
- watercolors inside her mouth
- has a determination that will not be swayed. (eventually this will be a great asset, but since you are a toddler, it's going on the stinker list)
- sits by the door and cries hysterically after Dad leaves the house (see above trait)
- has pooped on me more than I ever imagined a child would
- insists on doing everything herself and throws a massive fit every time I change a diaper or buckle a seat or fasten a shoe. EVERY TIME.
- walks around like she owns the place with a big gut in the front and arms swinging side to side
- spends a lot of time in time-out. It's becoming quite the game of cause and effect.

Sweetheart Wren:
- gives the most amazing kisses. Multiple kisses, without being asked - it's a heart melter.
- talks up a storm with adorable phrases like, "Oh, my" and "I want stah-bellie!" (strawberry)
- pretends to be a dog by crawling on the ground, barking and panting
- still wraps her tiny arms around our necks and legs to give big hugs
- is smart as a whip and tries her best to keep up with Ellie
- waves goodbye when we say goodnight and smacks her lips for one more kiss
- sings softly to herself in the backseat
- pushes her face right against mine and giggles from the gut
- loves to tickle people and brush hair
- squeals for Dada when he gets home - makes him feel like a total rockstar
- signs "again" every time she likes something. How could I not accommodate?

Remember how you stood alone on that beach forever while we all called your name?
Absolutely refusing to come until you were good and ready - that's the stinker I love.

Dearest Wren, on your half birthday I hope you know that I love you with my whole heart. You fill our lives with joy and adventure and more laughter and head shaking than we ever anticipated. Stay the course my little firecracker - it is a thrill to watch you grow. Big smooches forever!

June 20, 2013

Where I've Been

The short answer: psychotherapy.

The slightly wordier answer: I've just been trying to live my life. To really be present. After I wrote that post on the anniversary of Mom's passing, I just wasn't really sure what to do with this blog anymore. Do I want it to be about my adorable daughters and all the wonderful ways we spend our time? Do I want this to be a place where I can write down my thoughts and process emotions? What about sharing recipes or bragging about my DIY accomplishments? Yikes - do I consider sharing thoughts about spirituality and the route my inner life is taking?

See, I keep things pretty compartmentalized in my mind and I was starting to go crazy trying to figure out what needed to go where all the time. So I just took a break from blogging. I took a break from Facebook (which is ongoing and I love it, except that I never know about babies or birthdays, but that's really all I miss), and I tried to just live for a while. What would it be like to live life without sharing it online?

I started writing longhand everyday and found it difficult and refreshing.

I worked through The Artist's Way program and it is seriously life changing.

I gave myself more time to fiddle around with stuff. Watercolor here, birdwatching there, walks in the woods just for fun.

It's been great. And I didn't let myself feel any guilt about this blog. I know, I know, it takes a special kind of person to feel guilt and pressure over a blog which they have created and which has no monetary value or deadline or anything. I am that special person - able to feel guilty about just about anything. Like I was saying, I didn't let myself feel any guilt about blogging. I waited until I really wanted to share things again. And now it's happened. I think I have things to share. I think I'm learning better how to give myself a break and really love this life I'm living. And I miss writing here, so I'm back.

Here's to less compartmentalizing. If I want to write about suicide and depression and other mental health issues, I will. If I want to just share photos of my adorable daughters and say nothing about heavy topics, I will. If I want to show you guys how amazing I am getting at embroidery and tell you about my latest bird sightings or just dump things out of my head so my thoughts will be quiet, I'll do that too.

This blog is a record of my life. And life can be messy and unorganized. I'm trying to be OK with that. Here's to the freedom to write (or not to write) and the joy that can be found when we just slow down enough to be.

I love these photos of the girls getting in touch with nature during our family reunion in Oklahoma.
They are such good role models for me.

June 18, 2013

Still here....feeling it out.

I've been meaning to post here for weeks now. An explanation for my drop off from this blog, a couple essays I've written that I think aren't half bad, a shout out just to say, "Hey, we're in Seattle this summer!" But after a full day of being a totally rad parent - I am just spent. Every. Night.

Seriously, have you ever tried to be a great parent all day long? It really takes it out of you. Personally, I don't have energy for anything other than watching Netflix and staring blankly around the room.

For family night we read articles from The Friend magazine while driving to Green Lake Park. I took some photos and decided to just dump them here because they make me happy. Hope you enjoy. I'm off to collapse into bed. Gotta keep my strength up for the kick-ass job I plan on doing tomorrow.
My girls and their pageant waves.
These two have been especially adorable lately.
I love my family. The end.

April 3, 2013

Her Suitcase (written yesterday)

Me and my siblings sorting through Mom's things before the funeral

None of this makes sense...trying to rescue her from among the filth. Her helmet, her make up, her sobriety chip, her grocery list. None of the clothes smell like her. Everything worth saving fits in one carry-on suitcase. Is this all that's left of her life?

 - from my journal after collecting her belongings-

And so it happened that everything in that suitcase became a representation of her. A symbol of my loss. A reminder of her suicide. For the last year I let a simple piece of luggage become a tomb of sorts. Stuffed full of anything I had thought to grab from her hotel room that night, it was a chaotic jumble of painful memories that haunted my closet.

Like my thoughts and feelings, her suitcase is more organized than it was last year. I can go through it without falling into the darkest of pits - though many things do still bring me to tears.

Today, on the anniversary of her passing, I looked through those few belongings again and had a number of different reactions:

I felt grateful to her for writing my birth story.

I felt angry as I witnessed her last writings disentigrate into meaningless babble. So angry that mental illness took her from me.

I felt incredibly sad to read the list of things she wanted for her life - an ambitious list written just weeks before her death.

I felt loved and absolutely torn apart to read the wishes my 16 year old mother wrote for my own life. She wished for me a life of love and abundance. She said that she enjoyed carrying me for nine months and that she would enjoy loving me for the rest of my life.

Those words stuck in my gut today.

Today I decided to move my baby book from her suitcase into my own hope chest. Decided to work some of the clothing items she had purchased for the girls into their rotation. Decided to throw away some of her well meaning gifts that I knew we would never use. I snuggled her girlhood bunny and listened to her voice in a book she recorded for Eleanor.

Today I hugged a suitcase and wailed against the heavens that there wasn't more of her left for me.

Today I stood up to that shrine and began to take it apart.

Just like this grief, her life, and her death - I'm learning to unpack it a bit at a time. I'm learning how to work pieces of it into my life instead of keeping it sealed in the closet forever.

Today I am grateful that I don't hate that suitcase as fiercely as I did one year ago.
I'm grateful to feel my heart healing, in the tiniest and most significant ways.
And that's what I thought about today.

April 1, 2013

Thinking Back

Tonight I am remembering where I was a year ago.
(And the thoughts are not easily expressed, but here they are anyway)

Ft. Tryon was awakening to spring with cheerful daffodils and the tiniest buds on the trees. Ellie collected eggs in my purse and greeted the Easter Bunny with gusto. I held our new daughter on my chest while our slightly older one hid under the table and opened her eggs in secret, eager for the candy inside. We were on an outing as a family of four - celebrating with friends and neighbors the newness of spring and the upcoming Easter holiday. Feeling good just to be together.

I look at the girl in these photos - a mother of two, yes, but still just a girl of 25. I see her and think, "She was so happy. And tired. And blissfully unaware of what was about to happen."  

Is that why it happened? Because I let my guard down? Because I was enjoying my life? Should I have known that innocence like that can never last?

Of course not. But those are the questions I have when I see these photos.

Worn out from my newborn baby, I hadn't yet known the exhaustion of grief.

Still changing and adjusting to our new life, about to be knocked to the ground with the hardest news.

I've looked at these pictures a lot in the last year. There I was, the day before my world came crashing down.
 Those beautiful cheeks, that cheesy grin - the moment I took this photograph I thought of my mom, knew how much she would love it when I sent it to her.
My heart was so full on this day. And the next day it was broken. These photos still leave me with a strange mix of emotions: A longing for the days before pain was visible in my eyes, sadness for the girl who doesn't know what is to come, anger for the babes that would witness their mother's consuming grief. There is also a sense of wisdom and peace. A feeling that I am so far removed from the girl in these photos. So changed. And that isn't such a bad thing. Growth means change.

Tomorrow marks a year since Mom died.

I've had a year to live this new version of my life. I've had one year to think about the effects that her life and death have had on me. At this point in the journey I think I will pause and try to write a bit about what it all has meant to me thus far. Not to memorialize her, per se, but to check in with where I am. To write a bit about the things I've been avoiding writing about for the last months. To try to organize some of my thoughts - while understanding that none of them are finished. The emotions are still shifting and probably always will.

One year is not the end of my journey, but it does seem a good time to look back and reflect. 

March 31, 2013

We are Family (the song that is stuck in my head)

Historically, February is my least favorite month. This year, though, February was brightened considerably by visits from two of my siblings. It was awesome! I can't believe how grown up my baby sister is. Ellie and Wren just love Aunt Samantha and we all had a great time. One of our stops, of course had to be the Science Center here in town.
Seriously, this place has saved my sanity. We love having it so close! The girls enjoy it so much that it can be hard to get them to pose for photos - as evidenced below.
We also took Aunt Sam to Purity Ice Cream. 
Let it be known, if you make a silly face at my camera, I will post it on the internet to embarrass you.

Other highlights of her trip included:
campus tour of Cornell (freezing)
Chili-fest on the commons (double freezing)
sister's night and dessert at Madeline's
Cooking Indian food together
Watching Pride and Prejudice with our good friends, Ben & Jerry
Lots of dress ups and ticking with Ellie and Wren

Since it had been so many years since Sam and I have spent much time together, I thought we should have some photos taken. My friend Sheena happily obliged and I just love the pictures she took of all of us girls! Yes, that is a frozen waterfall behind us, and yes, we are working it like professional models.
Wren and Sheena's little girl hung out in the frozen wasteland while we took some sister shots.
And then someone had had enough of this nonsense, so we headed home to thaw out.
But first Sheena snapped this rare shot of Wren and I together.
 I had such a great time being with my little sister again and we decided that this needs to become a yearly tradition. Sister's Visits rock!

Uncle Sean came to visit as well, but this is the only photo I have of him.
His was a much shorter visit,
and it involved 7 hours of driving,
and we mostly slept in and watched YouTube videos.
But at least we took him to the Science Center!
As cute as Wren is in her little winter hat, I'm dying for the days
when we can leave it at home.

That's the end of this long, long, photo-dumping post.