Thursday, May 27, 2010

Just Do the Next Thing

The best advice I was ever given, at one time. When you don't know what to do, just do the next thing. If that means cleaning up yellow, stinky spots around the toilet--so be it! Maybe it's laundry, loading the dishwasher--one more time, or going to bed early. Whatever it is, just do it and try not to think too hard about what is beyond that.

Reason why? When your emotions are running high, it requires enormous amounts of energy to process through the "stuff". Sometimes all you can do is just whatever simple task is next, on the list. Times like these can feel like you're walking around in a fog. You can't see straight and don't really know where you're going. Staying on course is vital and there is comfort in a routine, however mundane it may be.

Yesterday, I went to the MN Zoo with a good friend. She is a generation ahead of me, in life, and I've found her to be a source of peace while dealing with the loss of my mom. I enjoyed spending the afternoon with her and her grandson, and my kids in tow. It was a beautiful day and being outside was just what all of us needed. A nice break from the routine--which made it easier to come home and pick up the list of what was next.

Last night, I finally decided to read the letter. My mom had written a special note to the kids. I received it, after she died, along with my own letter. It was addressed to both my son and daughter, so at the time I just couldn't open it. Finding myself in another layer of grief, I've been sad because I figure where my mom is, she probably isn't concerned much with earthly affairs. I would imagine her completely, blissfully happy--having little knowledge of how much we miss her. I remembered her telling me, in my letter, that she hoped that God will "fill her in" on how we were doing. I didn't think much of it, at the time.

Well, it turns out that she has also told my kids the same thing--that she would ask God(when she got up there) if He would allow her to know how they were doing, as well. It finally hit home to me. All the years that she was absent from my life, she really didn't want to be. I can only imagine how much that contributed to her depression, and how I would feel the same way in her shoes. And while she was eager to be free from her diseased body, she didn't really want to leave us.

That's why she wrote what she did. She wants to know how we are, what we're up to, and what is new. Some people believe that their deceased loved ones are "looking down on them" from Heaven. I don't know if this is true. I can't recall reading a scripture, anywhere, that confirms that one way or another. But the point is that was her heart's desire. Apart from not being able to remain with us, in physical form, she wanted to be a part of our lives.

So many unknowns pervade our lives. We are born into this world with nothing and knowing very little. As we grow, we are hungry to learn about everything around us and above us. As children, we see stuff from our level, like little hobbits, scampering around. My son loves bugs and caterpillars at the moment. He searches for them when we're outside and remarks that they are "so cute, mom!" He looks up and asks questions about what is beyond his comprehension. And yes, someday, like all of us--he will be a confident young adult, walking around, thinking he has "arrived".

As I've been told, the older you get the less you know. I'm learning that, as the years go by. There are sometimes no good answers. Saying, "I don't know" is ok. What I do know is that God loves me, no matter what happens. I can rest in that. And while I'm waiting to uncover the mysteries surrounding my life, I'll do what I can do: the next thing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

She'll be Coming Around the Mountain...

Well, I feel like I'm finally coming up out of the slump I've been in. The sunny weather has melted away some of the sadness. The way I was feeling was insurmountable. Like I would never be able to conquer this mountain in front of me. I can't change the fact that my mom is gone and that at this time, 2 years ago, she was getting sicker by the day.

I remember that she didn't tell me of the knowledge of her time being short. The cancer had returned and there was now nothing that could be done to stop it. I was counting down the days to my daughter's birth. I would call my mom a lot and noticed, during our conversations, that she didn't seem quite herself. She would forget things I would tell her and just seemed kind of off. Finally, she told me how sick she had now become. I was devastated. I guess that she didn't want to burden me with the news, since I would soon be ushering in to this world, a new little life.

While I'm glad that mom was able to meet my daughter and hold her a few times before she died, I can't shake the longing of wanting her here, instead. Going through my son's birthday, Mother's Day, and now my daughter's birthday, without her, has been difficult. I'm so thankful for the family and friends that God has surrounded me with. They are gifts to me and I know that I should be focusing on them instead of what I no longer have. But it is hard when you feel otherwise.

This is another layer of the grief that I need to go through. I have to experience the feelings, the anger, the sadness--all of it--in order to move on. So long as it does not dominate my daily routine, I think it's healthy to allow time for this process. There is no hurry, no rush in recovering. Just that I'm doing so is enough, for now.

Reminds me of the song, 'She'll be coming around the mountian'. When you go through loss, you can try to go around it and think that you're fine--that life is now finally normal. But then it comes back around, again. This mountain that seems to be too high to climb and conquer, is indeed in front of me. It hasn't gone away. It's been here all along.

I'm choosing to climb to the top, however long it may take. I'm not going to try go 'round, missing the journey upwards. I won't be able to see in the valley what is possible at the top. When I get up there, the view will be a panoramic, all encompassing picture of what is beneath. Maybe then, I will have a small taste of what the Creator sees. I can take comfort in the fact that He loves me beyond description and even in the painful times, He is there.

One thing that has been hard for me is receiving love. I have a tendency to push it away, because it doesn't come packaged the way I want it to be. I have wonderful parents in my life that have reached out, continually, to me. They have given to me and my family, said or written encouraging words, and have served us in various ways. I have genuine friends that have been there and enriched my life. And yet, among all of this, I feel somewhat lonely on the inside.

I guess I've had issues with feeling abandoned by my mom, as a young child. I've been angry at the past because she was just out of my reach. It was not how she wanted it nor how anyone else in my family would have chosen it to be. It just was. While we had the opportunity to set wrongs right, before she died, I've discovered that I'm still hurting as a result of all those years. I had missed her all my life, and then, she died. With her death, passed away the dream of making up for lost time.

I'll keep telling myself this, out loud, until it produces fruit in my life: there is nothing more that I can do to deserve to be loved. I can't do enough to be worthy, nor do I have to. Why is that so hard to comprehend? It's because we are broken and the past tries to take away what we've been given, at present. I have to fight it. It is a battleground. The good news is that I know I've already won because of who I am, in Christ. It's just a training exercise, this life on earth and all the junk, right?

Thank you for all your prayers and support. I know that I would not be where I am, today, without my friends and family. Thanks for walking through this, with me, even if by reading and praying for me, in secret. It does not go unaccounted for. God is good, every single day.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bugs, Sunshine, and Lemonade

It feels like summer, finally. After about a week of cloudy weather, I'm so glad to see the sun! I'm pretty sure that I have "undiagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder". I get pretty down with ongoing cloudy weather and have found that high doses of vitamin D3 are helpful in the winter months. I feel better and I don't get sick with much more than a sniffle, here and there. When spring came along, I lowered my dosage to half, thinking that the long awaited sun, turning on its axis, would make up the difference. It did in April; and then May showed up, with clouds and rain. Oops. Guess I'll wait a little longer, next time around.

So with warmer weather comes all the bugs we like to avoid. I live in the country, so checking for wood ticks, before coming inside, is a must. Haven't seen too many around my house, but I found one in the most unlikely of places today. It's a Sunday morning, and today you would find us in a house of worship, singing with a crowd of people. My daughter is in my right arm, sucking her thumb, when I see something flash between her fingers.

There it was, that nasty little creature, latched in between her third and fourth fingers! I managed to pull it off, and then dropped it on the carpet. I suddenly thought, "Should've killed it so it doesn't crawl on the next person." About a minute later, my son starts chanting, "Mommy, a spider, a spider, LOOK!" There it was again, this time on the back of the row of green chairs in front of us. I transferred it onto some paper, grabbed a sippy cup, and blasted it, several times. Those little buggers have tough skin! My next weapon: a veggie tales movie, soon to be returned to the church library. That did it. All of this happened during the course of one song. What a strange place to find a wood tick! And you didn't think anything interesting could happen, in church?( Just kidding...well, sort of.) God does have a sense of humor!

In a general sense, I love nature and all that has been created...but I do not like any insect or bug that feels the need to burrow into the skin and hang out for an eternity. And while I hold to that opinion, you would find me sprawled out on the lawn this afternoon, trying to get some color on the old pasty legs. It was awesome. I should do that, every sunny day, for at least half an hour. It sure makes a person feel better. This idea that all sunlight is bad for the skin is distorted. We need it just as much as every plant or tree with leaves needs it. Moderate exposure, on a daily basis, is good for most people...unless you burn very easily. I don't start applying the sunscreen until the afternoon, and only if I'm outside for several hours.

While we're on the subject of being healthy, I did end up going to the doctor about my lungs. I walked into that appointment, already feeling much better, but decided to go ahead with it anyway. All tests came back normal, as far as the lungs are concerned. Heart is beating like its supposed to, despite my occasional "flutters" in times of stress. So all of these odd symptoms I was having are due to anxiety and stress. This is the time of year that my mom was nearing death. I've been told that I may experience this, annually, until some time has gone by. I was given a referral to see a therapist. Wow. I actually admitted that to whomever is listening.

Haven't yet decided who will accompany me in my 'grief recovery', as it has been called. My insurance covers therapy, but only after the deductible is met. I have a few people that I could meet with. Most of them would not charge me. I'd rather have coffee, cup in hand, and let my sorrows out to a trusted friend...or two. I did this, last Tuesday, and found immediate release of the weight that was pulling me down. It's good to get it out and be with those who are gifted in listening. I'm so thankful for compassionate people. God put just who I needed, in my life, when I needed them. It's a beautiful thing, how He orchestrates the events in our lives to bring about ultimate good. I'm not referring to the 'lemons', but to the 'lemonade' that comes after every ounce of sourness is squeezed out...and then a little sweetness is that of a good friend in a time of need. What once was bitter can now be refreshing.

We finished the day with a softball game. This time we all came along to cheer Troy on. So long as the game meets at a field with a playground, we all can go. The guys did better this time, even though the other team won. It was fun to watch and hang out with friends. Days like today don't get much better than this. Simple pleasures and good humor. That's what I love about life. Even during times of grief, I need to keep going. Reminds me of another happy childhood memory.

When I was about 7 years old, Annie hit the scene. The movie, the red dress, the little dog: I wanted to be Annie. I loved watching that movie. Probably because deep down, there was a part of me that related to some of the hardship this little orphan was going through. I believed that one day, I would be living like a princess with my own 'Daddy Warbucks'(and Miss Farrell) and have every thing my heart desired. Like Annie, I felt that I had to 'earn my keep' and prove my worthiness in order to be loved. What I've learned, through the years, is that I am loved unconditionally by a Father who can meet my every need and knows my heart's desires, inside and out. I may not get every thing I want, but I am blessed and 'better than I deserve'. Like Annie, I know that 'the sun'l come out, tomorrow'.

The sun will come out, tomorrow.
Bet your bottom dollar that, tomorrow
there will be sun.

Just thinking about, tomorrow.
Scares away the cobwebs and the sorrows.
'Til there's none.

When I'm stuck with a day,
that gray, and lonely.
I just stick out my chin, and grin, and say...oh...

The sun'l come out, tomorrow.
So you gotta hang on 'til, tomorrow...
Come what may...

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow.
You're only, a day away.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Learning to Breathe Again

"My dead heart now is beating,
My deepest stains now clean.
Your breath fills up my lungs,
Now I'm free, now I'm free..."

(From the song, 'Marvelous Light')

It's amazing how much better I feel, after letting it all out. There is still some struggle going on inside, but I believe I'm now winning the battle. I am so blessed by the incredible women God has surrounded me with. They have been like a healing balm for wounds that I thought were long gone. Thank you, thank you, thank know who you are!

As I mentioned before, I'm in the middle of a new layer of grief. Maybe I've been in denial for the last 2 years--I don't know--maybe now I'm experiencing the 'anger' that people talk about. I really thought my mom was going to make it through the cancer. She was doing so well, 18 months into the treatment. And then, the brain tumors came...and the rest, as they say, is history.

One of my dreams was that she and I would be close, like a mother and daughter should be. I envisioned that the cancer served the purpose of bringing us to the reconciliation table--that we had eaten our words, drank from the cup of forgiveness, and were about to move on to dessert--you know, the good stuff! I am thankful for those 3 years. But the feelings of abandonment have remained with me, into adulthood. Just when I thought we were going to get past that, she died. My last words to her were these: "Mom, I just don't want you to go--I want you to stay." She responded, weakly, with these words: "God works in mysterious ways." I didn't really want to hear that, as you can imagine.

My childhood, in relation to my birth mom, can be described as trying to get close to someone who was always just out of my reach--both in the physical and emotional sense. She was there, sometimes, and yet she was not. I know that she loved me and made the best decisions she could, at the time, with what she thought would be best for me. But I so miss her.

Last night, I had a dream that I can actually remember. I was standing on stage, at church, trying to read aloud my thoughts and feelings about my mom. I looked up and there were people mingling about the room, not paying attention to what I was saying. I looked out into the empty seats and saw my mom, sitting next to a friend from church. They were talking to each other, smiling, and both women were wearing green. It was more of a sage green as opposed to 'regular green'(if there is such a thing). Mom looked happy, healthy--how I remembered her before she got sick. It was almost as if they were waiting for some event to begin.

I don't know exactly what this vision is supposed to mean. I have some ideas. Maybe it's a message that now is the time to move on from my sadness. I will always miss her, but she is happy now and no longer in pain. The friend that she was talking to is alive and has been battling a slow-growing cancer, for several years. She is currently doing well. Maybe the significance of the two of them, talking, is that they both have won the battle...just in different ways.

The part, in the dream, where no one in the room noticed my sadness, is somewhat puzzling. Maybe that confirms that God is truly the only One who can understand the deep recesses of the heart. So when everyone else is on the outskirts, watching me go through this, trying to walk with me and comfort me...God is the one who is on the inside, doing some work.

As for what event they were waiting for...that I don't know. Maybe the event represents the next chapter in my healing process. The part where I start to move on and am no longer weighed down by what was, what could of been, and what is now. Right now, I still have those days where I feel so alone. One of the women that has been surrounding me, in all of this, said some amazing words: "He loves you. He is proud of you. He is so proud of you, Liz. You're a good mom and good things are coming." I know it's true, but the pain has a way of creating a barrier to receiving love and affirmation. It's part of letting go of the brokenness. Just another layer.

There is never going to be enough good that I can do to deserve the unmerited love of the Father. There will never be enough 'if onlys' to change the past. All I can do is trust the sovereignty of the One whose thoughts are higher than my thoughts...whose ways are not my ways. If I could have my way, my mom would be here, enjoying my kids with me. Living life with me and everyone else that was left behind. It has been hard to let go of that dream.

I'm looking forward to remembering the good times. One memory that comes to mind, right now, is Sesame Street. We always watched that show when we were kids. I think she actually enjoyed sitting there, watching it with us. I believed that it was a real place. I would say, "Mom, I want to go there--I want to go to Sesame Street(as the song goes)" She would reply," But it's not real." I would respond, "Yes it is--it has a street sign!" That was my logic as a 5yr. old. Pretty cool, huh? Those were the good ole' days. I'm enjoying some of my own 'happy days', now that I have a preschooler and a toddler. Kids are so fun. They say the cutest things and the way they process information is intriguing. I love watching them grow!

That's all for now. I don't have any quipped or amusing end comments today. Although I enjoy writing in such a way to tie it all together. That is fun for me. I hope my style doesn't annoy the readers, but that is one of my quirks--love it or not! Enjoy every moment with your loved ones. Each day is precious and is a gift.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Mother's Day

Days like these are bittersweet moments for me. I woke up this morning, wishing I could stay under the security of the blankets, a little longer. What would today bring...would my family remember me or forget? As I struggled to get myself together, I was pained by the fact that I couldn't recall any good memories of my mom. Just the gaping reality that she is no longer here.

Standing in front of the mirror, I saw only sadness. Changing my outfit, several times, could not hide what I saw, reflecting back at me. My kids toddled in, with a hand-made card for me. I was touched and teary-eyed. I got a lovely breakfast of eggs and almost burnt toast--even that is endearing. Yes, they did remember me--thank you, Troy for that. They love me and I love them back. I am 'better than I deserve', as a popular radio talk-show host, has reminded me. But the feelings remain.

I am learning that my grief is a process that will not be over, in one season. Another layer is peeling back, as I'm trying to sort out what I'm feeling and what to do with it. I'm thankful for a friend who talked with me this morning. Her perspective and similar experience helped me realize that I'm right where I need to be. Since I am young and have a young family, there is much demand for my time and energy, leaving little leftover to work on the issues of grief. I get precious few moments to unravel the emotions that are tied up inside of me. It's funny how one day, you realize that there is more work to do. My life is pretty good, all things considered. I'm very thankful for who I have around me and for all that has been provided to meet our needs. So it's coming as a bit of a surprise that I'm now feeling dissatisfied...again.

We went to the cemetery to plant some flowers. I found a lot of comfort in making mom's resting place beautiful. It's the one thing I can do well for her. Even though I know that is not where she is currently residing, it is a marker for me--a place where I can come and honor the life that she lived. I'm waiting for the good memories that I know are in there, somewhere, to resurface and take the place of what I don't want to recall. I may need to get some help...and I think that for the first time, I'm realizing that I need to do this in order to move forward.

It's hard to be with family members that have not gone through the same losses you have, while you are trying to process through it. They don't understand, nor can you expect them to. Even those who do know what it's like, to lose a parent, may not be able to grasp your emotions at the moment. For they are at a different place, in their own grief. Maybe it's been longer for them and they are in a good place in their life, right now. Rather than take it personally, I choose to accept the fact that no one human being can fill me up with what I need. God will likely surround me with many people who will be able to help me heal. As long as I trust in the source for all healing, I know that in the end I'll make it through.

My day turned out better than I woke up thinking it would be. I took a picture of those flowers we planted and sent it to my brother( via text message) who lives out of state. I hope that it blessed his day since he could not be here. I talked to both step-parents as well, and had good conversations with them. Couldn't ask for better, in that department. God has been very good to us.

I received some gifts that were fun: a group picture of the grand kids, and one of just mine...a petunia flower for my own garden, too. We had an awesome meal with my husband's family and some yummy desserts to top it all off. Got a chance to chat some with those in our family who do know what it's like to lose a parent. It's good to take the risk of going a little deeper, to allow some transparency into what is typically more small talk.

Just when I was ready to pull out of the drive, my mother-in-law gave me a hug and thanked me for being a good mom to my own kids. That was nice of her. So yes, I am better than I deserve. That doesn't mean I feel differently, but it means that God is God, and I am not...He has given me everything I need, right now. Even this period of sadness so that I can come out ahead, moving forward.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Now its Time to Laugh!

Where or Where Did He Go?

So my son has been enjoying the great outdoors lately. He loves tractors, farming, and playing in the dirt. Today we were outside for a little while, watching puddles form on the driveway where there are no gutters. We saw two worms, struggling to get across the sidewalk and into the grass. Four-year olds are so enjoyable--they have such excitement for all that is new in their world.

One fairly new thing for my little guy is potty-training. Yep, we've finally made that milestone, just 2 months shy of his birthday. Hip, hip, hooray for that! Sometimes you think it will never come. But once it does, then you have those moments when you wish you could control the process a little better. What I'm referring to is not when they have to pee...but where they make their mark!

We went to my former workplace, a few days ago. I was in the lobby, paying for some plant material. I was almost ready to go, with receipts in hand and my daughter in my arms when I heard those words, "Mommy, I have to go potty!" I said, "ok, just a minute." One second later, he was no where to be seen. I walked down the hallway to check the bathrooms. Nope, not in there. Then I came back up to the lobby and looked out the front window. There was my son, watering the mulch, in front of a line of parked cars and trucks...some of which had onlookers!

Even though this place of business is out in the country, I've tried explaining to him, several times, that he should only "water the grass" home. Well, I guess our presence added a little color to every one's day...not mention a lot of color to my face! Gotta love it.

The Sweetest Things in Life are Brown

My little girl brings a lot of joy to our household. Her smile can light up the room and I love the way she rolls that tongue when she cute. The older she gets, the more I see myself in her.

The other day, she caught me snatching a brownie. I was hoping she wouldn't notice, but instantly began the chanting, "I want chocolate, mommy." Thought I better change her before I sat her down to eat. She didn't like that idea of waiting: "I want chocolate, mommy! I want chocolate! I NEED chocolate!" Too funny. She is so much my daughter! Is this starting already? Another day, she told that she "needed coffee". Wow, that is scary. She's kind of a parrot, on some things. The second child picks up the words quickly--at least that's how it's happened in our house.

Yep, so the sweetest things at our house are brown: chocolate, coffee--the two combined...and my little girl's big brown eyes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Getting Old?

It has been amusing for me to hear people, in my generation, say things like, "Oh, I'm getting so old!" I would border between annoyance and disgust at the sound of that, ringing in my ears. "Old, really? Let's see, you're like 25, right?" At the time, I would wrongly assume that the person saying so didn't have much life purpose or had maybe wasted their youth, when really they were just making fun of themselves. I guess I'm used to hearing a person of interest, in my life, who is close to 90yrs. 'young', having little to complain about in that regard.

No matter how old you are, there is always purpose in life, despite how we might feel at the moment. But now, I understand a little more about getting older, physically speaking. I'm in my 30's and have discovered some unpleasant aches and pains in the last few years. I find myself, trying to tip-toe down the stairs at night, ever so softly, after opening up my kid's doors: and all the while, every joint in my body is popping and clicking about, as though I were no longer a well-oiled machine! What is up with that? It's kind of funny, but not really.

My son wants to spin 'round and 'round the room in circles to our favorite music. He says, "I'm gettin' dizzy!" And don't I know it, as I fall face-first into the bean bag, feeling like gravity is glueing me to the floor. I'm literally 'fallen and I can't get up!' This is the kid--me--who used to love the thrill rides at the amusement parks. I wonder how I would do if I tried some of those rides now? I've heard that if you don't exercise that part in your brain, for adrenaline or whatever it is, that you lose the ability to do crazy stuff without feeling sick. Time for me to keep on exercising--not only my 'spinning' but in general, too!

And then there is all the lifting of children, up and down, into the carseats and out. The van doors sometimes open automatically, and much of the time, they do not. They are awkward and not easy to pull, manually. But I can manage, right? My daughter comes down in the morning, too early for me, and wants to snuggle. I grab her with my strong, right arm and pull her next to me. No sweat, I can do this. The kids keep getting bigger and heavier, but my arms have become strong in the last 4 years from all of this wonderful 'exercise'. Well, guess what? It does catch up to you.

In the few years, since having my daughter, I've had ribs come out of place more times than I can count. My chiropractor does a great job readjusting them, every 3 or 4 months when it happens. But this winter, I've been feeling more out of breath than normal. And this is noticeable when I'm at rest: sitting here typing or maybe I'm driving somewhere. My chest feels tight and kind of like I can't get enough air in my lungs. I don't feel sick or really tired, just sort of compressed, if you will.

My last visit for an adjustment left me feeling quite sore. I had more ribs out than usual, this time closer to my collarbone and sternum area. As of now, the muscles across the pectoral area are on fire--especially on the right-hand side. If it doesn't subside in a week, I'll be going in to see the medical doctor. What is happening to me? Am I really 'getting old' as they say? I will not accept it. I cannot. But, however you want to look at it, our bodies are fragile and will continue to age as time goes on. There is little we can do about that. I know I can exercise better, reduce my stress, take care of myself. But I can't stop the age-old process that's been set in motion: someday, I will be old... and someday I'll leave this earth.

I think that God has put in some kind of activation system in our bodies. You know, like when something gets too close to the danger zone--a fail safe mechanism. For me, I read it as a *warning light* telling me to slow down a bit. I'm one of those go,go,go type personalities. My mind is always thinking ahead, to the next thing. I have a difficult time relaxing or taking time for myself. Must be the mom/multi-tasker in me at work. I heard a message this morning about taking time to listen. And not only to physically 'sit down' and be quiet; but to be still on the inside, as well. That takes more discipline than the outward appearance of stillness.

So when my body hurts or I feel run down, maybe I need to change something. Or, it may be just 'old age' as so many of my peers have pointed out. But I still can't accept it: I don't want to be old! What I do want to be is young at heart, always. I love it when an 89yrs. 'young' relative tells me that they don't feel much different, on the inside, than they did when they were in their 20's. That's inspiring to me! If I could still have that twinkle in my eye, that sense of purpose in my golden years--despite my physical condition--than I think it would be worth it to live out a full life.