A Letter To My Daughter as She Turns 13

Dear Pumpkin,

As of just a few minutes shy of 6 a.m., you are officially a teenager.

Holy moley.

I don’t even know how that happened or where time went (I know, I say that every year). We are just a few weeks shy of the beginning of eight grade and you are so excited for school to start. Admittedly, it hasn’t been an exciting summer. I’ve been busier than usual and we’ve been unable to find time to get away just yet. But in addition to the boredom, you miss your friends.

This is the year you’ve found your tribe. I’m so excited for you – it’s such an awesome thing to find your people and to develop those friendships. You’ve found a delightful group of creatives and big thinkers and I’m so glad for you to have found that. So you’re ready to get back to school and begin the new year, this last year of middle school (YIKES).

I have two teenage daughters. Whoa. And it’s been an adventure – I won’t pretend that there aren’t some moments that make me want to roll my eyes or pull my hair out. I’m sure you girls have those kind of moments about me, too. But I like seeing who you are becoming.

You are a straight A student. A creative writer. You are terrified you might accidentally plagiarize someone even though you pride yourself on your originality. You are worrisome. You are bold in thought. You are comfortable disagreeing with people. You are passionate about doing what’s right. You wish people were nicer to honey bees. You love English and don’t love math. You want to be on stage some day and have taken voice lessons this summer. You seem to keep forgetting how to do laundry. You are on that line where you struggle with wanting to grow up and wanting to be a kid. You are loving. You want your space. You are an empath. You love Broadway showtunes. You want to travel someday (and now).

I’m really excited for you, about you. You are going to do big things.

This year was a year we’ll probably never forget. In March, you were walking across the parking lot at school and you were hit by a car. (I know you know this, but by the time you read these letters you may have forgotten when it happened). Anyway, in March you were hit by a teen driver who somehow didn’t see you crossing. (I don’t know how, I really don’t). I will probably never forget the call as long as I live, your sister calling to tell me you were fine but that you’d been hit by a car. She was sobbing, so of course I couldn’t really believe you were fine. My coworker drove me to the hospital and I beat the ambulance there – and the wait was torturous. I just needed to see you.

And of course, since I’m writing you this, obviously you WERE indeed fine. They were able to rule out an ankle fracture though it was quite deformed (and badly sprained) and you spent the next several weeks on crutches physically recovering, while I remained an emotional wreck. I mean, I’m still a wreck, if you must know. The whole time, you had such a good attitude. You never seemed upset or mad. You had a performance for your Odyssey of the Mind team two days after wards. Anyone would have understood if you didn’t show up – but you were there, wheeling on a knee scooter, showing up and being there for your team despite the pain you were in. And a week later, you were on stage in your school play – ON crutches that were three inches too tall for you! – because you still wanted to be a part of it all. I don’t know if I can even explain how proud I was of your ability to push through it all – and stunned, too. You could have taken the easy route, but it never even crossed your mind.

I really admire that about you.

You are strong and you stand your ground and for that reason, you can be difficult sometimes but I know how well that will serve you in life (even if it’s a challenge now!).

I’m very excited for you, for this year, and for what is ahead.

You are an amazing dreamer, and daring creative, and a beautiful soul. I love you so very much.

 

Happy birthday, sweet girl. I’m so lucky to be your mama,

Love,

Mom

To My Daughter on her 16th Birthday

Dear Princess,

Today you are sixteen years old – this is a huge milestone. In fact, I debated for awhile: Is this the birthday where I give her all of these years worth of birthday letters? I started thinking, you see… I realized that all along I have been thinking I’d give each of you girls your letters on your 18th birthday. Recently it hit me that your 18th birthday will also be just a few days after you graduate from high school. Seems an awful lot of emotion all at once… but, I think that’s the way it’ll be.

Every year seems to go by faster. As I type this, you are days from the last day of your sophomore year of high school. You’re a good student and you nearly have a 4.0 (Honors Chem is the only thing standing between you and that 4.0 you want so badly – you have busted your tail in this class this year… and you hate it). You’ve loved Honors Choir and you’ve had a few opportunities to shine on the stage this year, in choir and in the musical. I always love to see you perform.

It’s been a difficult year for you, I know. You started last summer recovering from an injury that left you more behind than you wanted to be approaching the gymnastics season. And after recovering from that, you injured your back. Though you started the competition season as planned, pain made it difficult to practice and the few meets didn’t go as well as you hoped. It was a tough decision but I think it was wise when you decided to take the rest of the season off, focus on physical therapy and on healing. I hate that I didn’t realize sooner that it wasn’t getting better – but a trip to the sports med doctor this spring gave us a clear plan. A bone scan identified stress reactions along your spine. Apparently these are common in hyperextension injuries… hyperextension is pretty much gymnastics, so… You’re in a back brace for another week or two, mooooooooore physical therapy, and then – we’ll see? It’s made for a complicated perspective on gym – for now, you’ve been sitting out because you are benched from activity. I like having you home and selfishly I love not driving all over the place all of the time. Gymnastics has been good for you, but it’s been pretty great having you around the house, too.

Tomorrow, we’ll go get your driver’s license. You took the test on Friday and passed. In fact, the woman testing you said that she doesn’t see scores like yours very often. I felt so proud of you! You are a great driver. I know you were nervous about the test, but you rocked it. I can’t believe you’ll be able to drive – by yourself! I’m a little nervous, because that’s what I do.

You are insanely funny – witty, sarcastic, and you have an edge to your humor. You make me laugh daily.

You are also empathetic, kind, and encouraging.

This year, you participated in your first walkout. You raised your voice for change in a protest against gun violence. You were and are a fierce and outspoken advocate for change. Even when it’s not easy.

This year, your outspoken nature brought about a valuable life lesson: There will be those who are uncomfortable when you speak out; speak out anyway. It is not your job to make people comfortable. It’s your job to live your truth, and be the best person you can be. Your friends – your true friends – will want that for you.

So – two years of high school left. I’m already super emotional about it. But each year, I get more excited for you and the things you are going to do in this world. I have confidence that no matter what direction you choose to fly, you will soar.

Sixteen years ago tonight, I held you in my arms. And today, we celebrate you and the joy you bring to our lives daily.

I love you so very much and I’m very lucky to be your momma.

Happy birthday. <3

Love,

Mom

Thursday Ten: This Must Be a Ragnover edition

  1. I have a ragnover. I didn’t know this word until earlier in this week, but this is what I have and I don’t know when it will subside because it’s pretty fierce. A week ago, I was filled with nerves on the eve of the start of my first ever Ragnar Relay, and here I am, less than a week after crossing the finish line so ready to do it all over again.
  2. We went to Arizona to run Ragnar del Sol. Arizona in February was a brilliant idea. Flew away from winter towards sunshine and cacti. Bliss.
  3. I was completely overcome with nerves before we hit the starting line. My training hadn’t gone as I had planned, and though I knew that my legs of the relay maxed out at about six miles per, I had been hoping to have more mileage in the bank before the weekend. Unfortunately, shin splints + real life consumed several months of autumn for me and I just started late. I had prepped as well as I could, but I was still convinced that I should have more miles, that I would be hurting.
  4. I was runner six in van one – which meant that even once we got started, I had to watch five teammates get out there and kick some serious butt before it was my turn. I was so eager to get started! When it was my turn, I took off way too fast for the heat, and while I ended up getting a PR for those first two miles (according to Garmin), I was not looking great three miles in. I was hot. I was tired. And I didn’t want to run anymore. I was so mad at myself for how I felt – and I was feeling deflated. I let myself down.
  5. That pace ended up being about 12 seconds per mile faster than my predicted time – so it wasn’t a fail. And when I crossed the finish line sweaty and goosebumpy, my team steered me towards the shade and brought me a cold can of coconut water to drink. It helps. (I would not have enjoyed this experience if I hadn’t had such an awesome team – if you’re going to spend 30+ hours in a van, make sure you like the people.)
  6. Waiting for our next legs seemed to fly. Our van two was a team we didn’t know, and so when they were running, we ate dinner, changed clothes, and all that good stuff. In retrospect, maybe we could have made a better use of our time (Sleeping might have been a good idea), but it’s hard to when you’re all keyed up and ready to just GO GO GO.
  7. I ran my second leg, accompanied by members of my team (I told you they were great) at midnight. I’ve never run at midnight before. All I could think about for some reason was a milkshake…
  8. According to my Fitbit, I didn’t sleep at all during the Relay. I believe it.
  9. Not sure how I find the energy for the third leg – which was hilly and crazy. When I approached the finish, I was so excited to see the team waiting and ready to run to the finish and turn things over to van two to get things done. It wasn’t my fastest pace ever – but I felt SO GOOD about that stretch. I felt STRONG.
  10. I didn’t expect to love the Ragnar experience as much as I did, but oh my gosh, it was amazing. Already planning out the next one? You better believe it.

2017: What This Year Has Taught Me

In just two days, six hours and some minutes, 2017 will finally be over. That is how much remains of this year at the time I begin writing this post, on a Friday evening in Michigan while my dog paces the living room, while snow falls gently outside, while I keep refreshing “Find My Friends” to see how far away from home my daughters are as their dad is currently driving them home.

In two days and six hours and some change, the ball will drop, friends will toast, and a new year will roll over… and we’ll have that fresh start that everyone seems to think is coming our way.

I don’t know if I believe in the kind of fresh starts that come with a new year. Not anymore.

Midnight will roll around and the only thing that will have changed is the calendar. For those of you who are still writing checks, you’ll have to deal with trying to get the year right. But ultimately we’re the same people living the same lives and likely making the same decisions over and over (except for the first few weeks when we all vow that this year is the year we’re going to stop eating garbage and for three quarters of January we are going to EAT SO MANY VEGETABLES, and then we’ll go back to licking the sugar out of the bottom of a bag of Frosted Flakes again, because that’s the way it goes).

I could hope that things would be better or different in the new year, but I know better. The past few years have taught me that, if nothing else. Each year, I have rejoiced while saying goodbye to the year we have just endured, and then the next year brings more of the same, if not worse. It’s as though the collective universe looks onward in January thinking, “Hold my beer…”

This is not your uplifting end of the year post. I’m sorry about that.

But for all the cynicism I feel about the new year ahead, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I have truly learned a lot this year. This year was one full of so much emotional turbulence and loss. It was filled with challenges and some triumph, and it had moments of struggle and grief.

Love is one of the most amazing things in the world, and yet by opening your heart and loving, you are vulnerable to some of the most crushing pain in the world. I’ve felt a lot of that pain this year. It’s been tough, I’m not going to lie. We are all scabby open wounds, in our family, and the pain of someone poking at these wounds is devastating. Especially when it’s your family.

Sometimes the people who are supposed to love us the most end up disappointing us. And the pain that comes from it, from harsh words or broken promises, is a spectacular hurt. When it feels like it’s so easy for those you love to lash out at you, well, sometimes you can spend a lot of time wondering what the hell is wrong with you. You’re the common denominator, right?

So. Yeah. I’ve spent a lot of time this year wondering what’s the matter with me.

In 2017, my brother died and I found out that mine was not a family that rallied around each other when times were tough. Some of us did, some of us didn’t. I found that the friends I thought would be there, weren’t really. I had no idea when I was raising my middle finger to 2016 last December just what the year ahead had in store.

I mean, I guess we never know. It’s why I hesitate to get too optimistic about 2018. I mean, I’m still me, you’re all still you, and all we have is our brief intention to do better, at least for a little while.

What I can say is this: the lesson I have found to be most prevalent in my life this year is a simple one. In short: Your words matter. What you say matters, what you don’t say matters. How you say it, why you say it, why you don’t say it, when you say it. All of that matters in large ways and more than any of us can truly comprehend.

We choke down negative feelings and don’t air our complaints until they burst out of us sideways, taking along innocent bystanders in the process. We fail to reach out when someone is grieving because we don’t have the words to say. We recoil when someone is hurt because hurt is messy and their sadness feels like blame.

When my heart was hurting most, I know who was there for me and who wasn’t. I remember who reached out to me, and who was absent. I had no idea until this year how truly impactful it was to tell a grieving friend, “I am so sorry” or even “I really wish I knew the right words to say, but I don’t have the words and this is really just so awful.” Too many people waited for the right words to come, and said nothing. Their absence was palpable. I didn’t need solutions. There was no way anything could be fixed. All I needed was for the words that beneath their surface said to me: I hear you, I see you, and I know I can’t make this right but I’m sorry.

The day before my brother’s funeral, a family member told me they’d been upset with me. His plan had been to resolve it before the year was over. At that point, he’d been hanging on to that festering feeling for months. What you say, when you say it, and why you say it matter. How many more months would have gone by? Years? Who knows.

This year has been a heaping pile of suck in so many ways, but I am grateful to have learned the lesson that showing up matters. I wish I hadn’t had to learn it the hard way, and I wish that it hadn’t come with the revelation that I hadn’t been a great friend in the past when they had experienced grief, loss, or strife. I know there were times I said nothing thinking my silence would not be noticed. There were times I didn’t do anything because I didn’t know what I could possibly do that could make an impact. I know now: I can’t fix it, I can’t erase hurt, but I can be a person who shows up, who offers kindness and an embrace, who hears you and sees you and acknowledges your pain.

Empathy. As we say in my house, it’s not a flower that blooms in everyone’s garden. That we truly discovered this year. And at least my daughters and I are a tiny bit wiser in having learned that lesson. I guess we have 2017 to thank for that.

This year has been hard. And if I’m being honest, I’m sure 2018 will have its challenges as well. I am far too cynical to get optimistic about it, and I hate that about myself right now. I’d like to have a clean slate and a happy heart and march forward into January with optimism. But y’all know me, that’s NOT how this mom is wired, after all.

I feel like it’s a shameful thing I’ve just done, written over 1200 grim words without mentioning any of the joy of the year, or that I am loved, or detailed the high moments. I hope that you will forgive me that. I am not unaware of the things that are good. Please trust that I know it, I see it, and I feel it.

We are now two days, five hours and some minutes away from a new year. What does 2018 hold? We’ll find out soon enough, I guess.

 

Thursday Ten: The Holidays are a Kick in the Teeth Edition

  1. Beyond grateful that a friend encouraged me to go try her kickboxing class last night because I was ragey and snappy with energy to burn and it’s far too cold to run outside right now. Jab, cross, hook, uppercut. It was like all my years of Tae Bo just came back to me. Getting to punch the instructor was kind of lovely too. I can be a fountain of negative energy at times, and yesterday was one of those days. My arms were jelly, my quads were on fire, and I felt pleased with myself when I was done. It was nice to have a legit means of punching someone. I’m pretty sure I’ll go back.
  2. How cold is it? It was minus nine degrees when I was driving to work yesterday. MINUS. NINE. DEGREES. That’s too cold.
  3. And that means it’s too cold to run outside. I’ll run outside in the cold and in freezing temps but not in negative temperatures. That’s really insane. And because it snowed so much on Christmas and then got super cold, there’s ice everywhere. I’m trying to stick with a training program for a Ragnar in 2018, and it’s tough when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
  4. People can be pretty disappointing, huh?
  5. The first Christmas without my brother was hard. I still can’t believe he’s not here – like there are times when I think to myself that it can’t be really, that maybe I imagined it, and then it’s all very real and he’s not there.
  6. It’s hit me hard how much loss my family has experienced in the past several years. It hardly seems fair. I used to have this huge family… and I don’t anymore. And that’s weird and it sucks and yesterday was the kind of day that in thinking about it made me want to just take off, go somewhere else, be somewhere else. Like, why am I even in Michigan? (Contrary to item number one, my instincts tend to lean more towards flight than fight).
  7. Not going to be sad to see 2017 go, gotta be honest. But I have decided I’m going to stop assuming that a new year will bring better things. Seems that hoping the new year will bring radically changes is the most surefire way to ensure that the universe is all “hold my beer” and throws another challenge at me. I AM SO OVER BEING CHALLENGED.
  8. I would really like to just spend a day wandering a bookstore with a cup of coffee and no where else I need to be.
  9. I would just like to sit down and finish a book again someday soon.
  10. I’ve been watching Party of Five on Netflix. I loved this show back in the day… not sure it’s aged well.

Thursday Ten: Another Half edition

  1. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. After a ten mile race in September, my shin splints went on overdrive and it huuuurt. I started physical therapy and basically put the kibosh on any significant miles in a concerted effort to let my leg rest and heal to prep for the Grand Rapids Half Marathon. It wasn’t pretty, but this Sunday, the day before my 41st birthday, I did it. I finished my second half marathon.
  2. It rained the whole time – and so it was pretty rough. My leg did start hurting again, and from the rain and mud puddles, I felt blisters (and I may well lose a toenail – sigh). I felt like a drowned rat. I pushed on.
  3. The last message I got from my brother before he died was a Facebook comment of how he was proud of me, proud of everything I do… and it was important for me to finish this race – for him. As the rain splashed down and the wind blew so hard, I looked up at the sky and thought to myself that it would figure that he would make it challenging for me. I didn’t quit. I didn’t give up. I kept going. And I so much hope he was proud of me still, somehow.
  4. It doesn’t get any easier to type or say those words – that he’s died. That he’s not here.
  5. My birthday was Monday and it was terrible. I know that was such a bummer to the people who care about me, that I was so bummed about my birthday but I had no spirit for it this year. At work they asked me if I had any big plans, and I said, “Welp, gonna go pick up my kid from gymnastics eventually.”
  6. When you run in the rain for a half marathon…eventually you’ll catch a cold. Apparently.
  7. I’m so tired. I’m so tired. I want to close my eyes and wake up and have all the things that need doing be done.
  8. Next race on the calendar? Ragnar in 2018. My bucket list race. Gotta get these shin splints gone first, though.
  9. Sometimes I feel guilty talking about other things. That people will think I’ve forgotten.
  10. I cannot believe that it’ll be winter soon. Then Christmas. A new year. Where the hell did 2017 go?

Life Lessons Learned in Grief, Part 2

I have been to two memorial services in three days and I have spent far more time in churches this week than I have all year… probably. And yes, two memorial services for my brother – so if you can imagine the feeling of repeatedly scraping off the scab of a new wound with a cheese grater, that’s pretty much what it’s been like.

And it’s worse because of the previously mentioned terrible things people have done in the name of “honoring” my brother.

I can’t pretend to understand – because while I am conflict avoidant to the core, I am also a believer in doing what’s right. I fail sometimes, I know that… but at my core, I genuinely don’t want to be a screw up. I don’t want to hurt people. I don’t want to be vindictive and awful. I feel like I saw so much of that dark side of people. And what’s worse, I think some absolutely didn’t know or realize the level to which they were sinking. The older I get, the less of a screw up I become. Can’t say that’s true for everyone. Apparently.

So, here are some more life lessons for you – the general you – based on the clusterflugel of the past two weeks:

Sometimes there’s no substitute for an actual CONVERSATION

Yeah, I get it – I rarely use my iPhone as an actual phone and will avoid it if at all possible… but there are some discussions too big for text. Text doesn’t always convey tone, intent, or meaning — and there’s a lot of room for misunderstanding if you’re not careful. Sometimes it’s essential to pick up the phone and DISCUSS things instead of blurbing at one another.

You go off making unilateral decisions that impact people and YES they’re gonna be pissed

Again. Discussions. Discussions. Discussions. Some of the biggest moments of anger came from one person making decisions that impacted all of us. There was no need for that. Had people come together, had conversations, the likelihood of that happening would have been smaller. There were moments of near rage because of things like this. I had thought families would come together when times were tough – and I found that nope, that’s not always true.

Speeches scrawled on a legal pad at midnight are just as meaningful

I wanted to write my speech for the service far earlier than I did. I had a draft in my documents for days. Literally, I just MEANT to do it… and then it was midnight last night. I literally scrawled my speech while drinking bad wine and eating Cool Ranch Doritos. I could barely read my writing today – my hands were sweaty and my nose was running. I didn’t make it through without crying – but every word came right from my heart… even if it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever written. I wrote love.

I need to just show up

I have done friendship all wrong. I really have. I can name a zillion times when a friend was likely grieving and I wasn’t there for them in a way that would have been useful to them. And I’m so sorry for that, because I just had no idea what a difference it truly makes when people just show up and do the thing. What thing? Whatever thing you have to give. It doesn’t have to be big, it really doesn’t. My sister’s sister-in-law helped us a ton putting together photo boards – even running to get more prints made when we couldn’t get to a store. That was huge, it was helpful, and it made life easier. She didn’t ask what we needed – she was just there.

Ban the words “Let me know if there’s anything I can do” from your vocabulary

I’ve said it before because I haven’t known what to say but odds are, no one will ask you for anything because they don’t really know what the heck they need. My brain has been swiss cheese for a week. I couldn’t tell you what could be done to help – I truly had no idea. Still don’t.

Grief Pizza is a thing

Because you can’t just drink away your sorrows, sometimes you can drown them in pizza.

Get together and celebrate when something good happens

We’ve had three deaths in my family within the last six months. I’m not even kidding – it’s been rough. I’ve seen my family A LOT. At funerals. I want to see them when there’s something joyful going on. We all talked today at the luncheon after the service: we have GOT to plan something and soon. Otherwise, too much time will go by, and we’ll be there again… coming together under less than joyous circumstances. And that stinks.

I don’t like sandwiches on hamburger buns

Who thought that was a good idea?

It was a beautiful celebration today, even though it was sad too. But the past two weeks have been so hard. I’m so tired. I’m… still just perplexed by some of the things people said, did… I don’t know that I’ll ever understand, really. Maybe I should stop trying to.

Life Lessons Learned in Grief – Part 1, Probably

It’s been just over a week since I learned that my brother died. My mom called me at work last Tuesday morning and when I didn’t answer, she texted a panicked message and so I ducked out of my office into the hallway to call her back.

“Come home,” she sobbed into the phone. And so I went, grabbing my computer, piles of work, and stopping by my coworker’s desk to quickly prep him for a conference call he would have to do without me shortly after that.

My mind was racing as I drove. And when my sister responded to a text, I knew that she was fine. In my heart, I knew then that it was my brother.

He died in his sleep, they say.

I am not new to loss. My grandfather died several years ago and it was a tremendous gut punch. I was in the hospital room with my family when my grandmother died just over a year ago. My mom lost both of her brothers earlier this year. Death has been a familiar road for my family in recent years, but this has been so different.

He was two years older than me, so he’s been around all my life. When you sort through the pictures from those first few years, we were inseparable.

I am not sure how old we were when I realized he was different. He was in the hospital quite a lot when we were kids. I remember one year I was in a school spelling bee – and none of my family came. My mom had been at the hospital with my brother, and then later when she took my sister to the pharmacy to run an errand, my sister had a seizure in the store and then she went to a different hospital. I think our next door neighbor was called to pick me up and take me home.

I got second place in that spelling bee, by the way. (I would later bomb miserably by misspelling “skittish” at the Contra Costa County Spelling Bee.)

But for my whole life, I have been his sister. And now he is gone. In recent years, his health issues have been so severe that there were times we were afraid of what might come – and then he healed. He was back to his normal self. He was fine.

That didn’t happen this time. Out of nowhere, it seems. He’s just gone. We didn’t get to say goodbye.

So here’s what I have learned so far:

Grief makes people stupid.

A lot of people can’t handle grief. It turns them into insufferable humans. Oddly, I didn’t know that until this week. So many people have said to me, “Grief brings out the worst in people” and enough people have said it that it must truly be a universal thing… so I’ve gotta say: If you’re one of those people who handles your feelings by lashing out at other people and making life miserable, well then perhaps you may need to learn a thing or two about how to appropriately handle your emotions.

It’s funny, because I’m a total mess – but I’m never not just totally feeling what I’m feeling. If I’m sad, I’m sad. I get the impression that people get so scared of sadness that in order to avoid it, they kick things into jerkface mode. I’m seeing enough of it right now, and I’m bearing the brunt of it in a lot of ways… and it’s exhausting.

Your sadness doesn’t override the need to still be a semi-human-being. (And if you’re going to be a jerk, take it out on someone else, because I’m all stocked up here…)

Empathy is not a flower that blooms in everyone’s garden

I have been beyond grateful for every expression of kindness and sympathy that has been shared with me. Even when someone has no words, hearing them say, “I have no words,” means so much. Even an “I’m so sorry” goes a long way. I have appreciated every gesture, and have been surprised by the goodness of people. And yet… my daughter tried to talk to a friend about it, and got shut down every time. I was recently around someone who likely read about my brother’s passing – but she never said a word.

I firmly believe Emily McDowell’s “There’s No Good Card For This” should be required reading for all humans. Trust me. Go buy it.

The world has to keep turning

This is somehow the biggest insult of all – that the world doesn’t stop turning. I was listening to a podcast on the drive to work this morning that essentially said, someone dies and you still need to get toilet paper. I feel guiltiest about the real life moments, I do. Tonight, I worked on a presentation for work about content marketing and storytelling after vacuuming my living room and while my daughters gave the dog a bath. This week I made dinner. I folded clothes. (Okay, I meant to fold clothes, but mostly I just sat on the floor surrounded by clothes and thought about folding them) There is this part of me that is horrified by this, that his life was unfairly cut short, and I should still be surrounded by socks in the midst of a September heat wave.

Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion

Yeah. A Steel Magnolias quote. I was leaning against the counter the other night listening to Ingrid Michaelson’s “Old Days” (heaven help the ones who fly away…). And then had a memory of my brother breakdancing. Doing the centipede, and twirling on his back on a piece of cardboard. I started laughing, remembering how we’d watch all of those breakdancing movies (I still reference “Electric Boogaloo” – a lot). If I don’t laugh, I’ll cry… and sometimes the crying gets to be too much.

Kindness isn’t always easy but it feels better than anger

I have been angry this past week. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so consistently angry for so long. And I hate it. When I’m dwelling in anger, I’m not honoring the memory of my brother and that is so terrible to think of – that I’m upset with people for being terrible grief vampires, and that is taking away from remembering my brother and mourning him as he deserves.

People have been terrible. I’ve seen behavior so despicable that I’d swear that it was not real life but a badly scripted movie… but no, it’s real.

I’ve been trying so hard in those moments to focus on kindness. To focus on light. To embrace the memory and to make a difference.

No, sometimes it’s pretty damn hard. But each kindness shared with me gives me a few moments of peace – and that feels better than rage.

I have no idea what’s next, really. There are funerals this weekend and Monday. My mom has picked up his ashes. We’ve received the cause of death from the medical examiner.

This world feels different. Am I still his little sister even if he’s not here? How does that work? Does it get easier? Do people return to who they were before the grief turned them into hateful people, and if they do, will I be able to forgive the hurt I am in right now?

I don’t know.

I really just. don’t. know.

 

 

Thursday Ten: Oh, NBD Only Ages Since My Last Post edition

  1. Yeah, so it’s September. The kids are back in school – they’ve been back for about three weeks already and summer went by and like… what?
  2. We went to California. The girls and I were there for a week – and traveled from the Bay Area down to Los Angeles. We put our feet in the ocean. We painted a mural in Santa Monica. We missed home a lot. We toured Hearst Castle. I only mildly panicked on the airplane (the panic was mild because I had the foresight to order a cocktail before the turbulence started – so lesson learned: always order a drink because you never know if the weather over Colorado could get bumpy).
      
  3. I’m about six or seven weeks out from my second half marathon. I’ve got four races this season – two of them are fairly short distances, then I’ve got a ten miler and then the half. I’m sort of ready to be done with training. I’ve got nearly 24 miles in September already…and it’s only the 7th. For some, that’s chump mileage, but for me that’s quite a lot. I think my muscles are going to need a rest after this… until the next thing comes along.
  4. There’s so much sucky stuff going on in the world right now. I cannot believe where we are politically – how is this even real life?
  5. Spent countless hours last weekend shopping for a homecoming dress for The Princess and hating the fashion industry immensely. When your daughter is a 5’8″ athlete in a sea of dresses designed for 5’2″ waifs, it becomes a very discouraging experience. We did end up finding a beautiful dress – one that fits her beautifully and isn’t too short (OH EM GEE, why do teens need dresses so short? EVERYTHING is so short). It was a brutal two days of shopping – lesson learned for next time.
  6. I spent Labor Day ripping some of the weeds out of a small plot in my front yard and planting forty tulip bulbs. I’m kind of excited for spring already (yeah, I’ve got a long winter ahead of me) to see if I did this right… because if I did? It’s gonna be amazing.
  7. Just binged “The Good Place” on Netflix. Not sure how I missed this, or what channel it was on before – but what a delightful and quick binge. (I’m afraid to google it because WHAT IF THEY NEVER MADE A SECOND SEASON OF IT?)
  8. I don’t really watch television much. THAT is how I missed it.
  9. Just kicked off year ten of my 365 project. Cannot believe that I’ve never missed a day yet – in just over nine years. In all the ways my life has changed over the years – that is one thing that has remained constant.
  10. The weather is becoming fall. My favorite time of year. I wish it lasted longer than a few weeks. I’m not ready for winter. At all. Ever. Nope. Do not want. But fall. Give me fall. All the fall.

To My Daughter On Her 12th Birthday

Dear Pumpkin,

Twelve years ago this morning, I woke up in the early morning hours feeling less than great. Not long after that, a speedy car ride to the hospital ensued and then less than four hours after waking up, and less than two hours in the hospital even – you were in my arms. Oh how quickly it went, how soon you were there. HOW EARLY IN THE MORNING IT WAS.

Twelve years later, you’re finally sleeping in. That’s some progress, right? Partly, I think that’s the tween years setting in – and partly because we stay up too late. Often times during the school year, I’m waking you up at the crack of dawn and you’re wanting to sleep a little bit more – and whoa, after all of these years with you being such an early bird, I never thought that would happen.

You are an artist. You love to draw, paint, sketch. You have a good eye, but no patience. You can get frustrated when executing your vision is a challenge. You’ll sketch and erase and sketch again to get it right. I admire that and am amazed by your skill, even if you don’t appreciate just how good you are.

You are so smart. You think analytically and critically in ways that most people don’t – and I know that it means most people just aren’t on your level, which is probably not the way you want to feel when  you’re in middle school – but some day, have mercy, you are going to create some magic in this world with that brain.

You love animals. You love the planet. Your dad cut down a tree a few weeks ago and you were so angry at him. You put on your Mother Earth shirt and for awhile, according to your sister, you were very upset.

Your first year of middle school ended with straight As which was pretty awesome for a first year! You loved some of your classes. Others, not so much. But you adapted well to the idea of changing classes, multiple teachers, and figuring out how lockers work.

You love theater and musicals. You just wrapped up a week at musical theater camp and you love it. Not only do you love theater, but theater kids are YOUR PEOPLE. I wish we had a better bunch of theater kids around here, because that’s what you need. That’s your tribe. You tried out for the musical this winter and you didn’t get a part, and I thought that was so rotten, and I was so irritated. (I still am, when I think about it) You were crushed at the news, and I was crushed for you – it’s something you love so much and wanted so eagerly to be a part of. [The director sucks. I’m not supposed to say that, but I’m saying that because this is my letter to you and it’s probably not HER birthday. Also: I really think she sucks.]

You’re a brilliant writer. You make me laugh and I love the way your brain works. You just started a blog and I’m curious where you go with it. Maybe someday you’ll be writing letters for ME on MY birthday.

I am fascinated and amazed by you and still worry about your tender heart and how you wear it on your sleeve and I imagine that will always be a worry of mine for all of my days because you are so open with your feelings and I fear the pain that can come from being so tender. I wouldn’t change a thing about you for the world, but oh how I wish the world was kinder to the free spirits and dreamers and creatives, like you.

I am so excited to celebrate you. To celebrate the day I first held you in my arms. To celebrate another year of you. I hope twelve treats you well. This is the last year before you’re a (GASP) teenager. I cannot believe how fast the time flies. I’m so privileged to be your momma. If life is a merry-go-round, I’m so glad to be on it with you and your sister.

I love you with my whole heart and I am so lucky to be your momma.

Love you lots and lots of tater tots,

Momma