Finding Memories

StephandMichelleThis is how I remember my childhood.  Or atleast a good portion of it.  My memory really stinks but sometimes I’ll catch a glimpse of my past every once in awhile.  I was trying to find a picture of my mom, since I needed to blog about her.  I found this instead, and it’s just as good.  My mom’s guitar case, I used to play in it…or sometimes I would use it as a hard surface to build houses with playing cards…that’s something I forgot until I saw this photo.

My feelings about my mom are like a rollercoaster, one that was built by some demented guy that wanted to play a mean joke on me.  Seriously, it’s really hard to have to continue on in life and not be able to have your mom there.  When I am mad at her, I can’t yell at her (and she can’t defend herself).  She’s not here to do something loving and motherly that makes me forget all the times she screwed up (as we all do).  I find that I end up revisiting old issues that I had with her that I can no longer reconcile with her.  It seems unfair at times.  I had a couple of things happen though in the past week that I found very healing.  I hope this feeling sticks around, but I’m pretty sure the rollercoaster engineer allows for me to continue to have to process this stuff, but for now I will enjoy the reprieve and positivity.

It all started when I read a devotion….yes, I read a devotion.  My relationship with religion will have to be saved for another post….as my therapist says we get inspiration from all places, and I will agree with that.  I read all kinds of stuff from all kinds of places, including the bible.  So, this devotion is called Life is Short and the bible verse is from Psalm 90:12 “Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise.” It goes on to quote a pastor, “Think of a straight line stretching into infinity on either end. Anywhere on the line, place a dot, smaller than a pinprick. That is your life, your ‘threescore and ten’ years Moses spoke of.” There was some other stuff thrown in as well, but I get out of it what I want to get out of it, so I will just pull one last quote from the devotion that said, “No wonder Moses’ prayer was for wisdom to live a fulfilling and purposeful life in the brief time allotted to mankind.”

In that moment I started to see my life a little different, or at least a story I had been telling myself was now rewritten.  I have absolutely been trying to find more value in my life, to take ownership and appreciate all of it, the good and the bad, the mundane and the exciting.  I know that I am able to focus like this now because of my past.  I wondered what I would be like today if my mom hadn’t died.  I was wild and carefree, I matured about 20 years in the matter of 6 months….okay 10 years in 6 months, it took me a couple years to make up the other 10 years.  But I grew up fast, I wasn’t carefree anymore. At the time I figured it was a good thing that I “grew up”, looking back I think I may have gone too far on the other side of that extreme and could probably use some more fun and to loosen up a little.  Anyhow, my point is, that I don’t know that I would appreciate how truly short life is if my mom hadn’t died.  I know I would be a completely different person today, and I can speculate whether or not that would be better or worse, but for sake of loving who I am right now, I’m going to pretend that whoever I would have been would have been worse and therefore my mother’s death was a gift from her to me so that I could live this life with a little more wisdom and sense of purpose.

I said there was a couple of things that happened in the last week, the second thing was a dream I had.  Now, I have an interesting past when it comes to dreams, especially about my mom.  My dreams that came to me during the weeks following her death were like nothing I ever experienced before.  I had dreams that were entirely audible, a phone ringing, but everything is black and she’s on the other end.  I dreamt of her a lot, a lot of times I was confused in my dreams because I was still adjusting to her being gone.  That is the feeling I am used to.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had any significant dreams about her, but this week I finally did…and it was a wonderful, healing dream.

It was simple, I don’t even remember the visuals of the dream, I don’t remember what I was doing, who I was with….I just remember that I heard her singing, it took me a moment to realize it was her.  She was singing Follow Me, by John Denver, one of the songs I remember most when I was a kid.  For as much as she sang it though, I still couldn’t tell you all of the lyrics, which is why it took me a minute to recognize the song (mind you all the lyrics that I still can’t remember were there in my dream, and I didn’t have to wait until the chorus to recognize it or my mom’s voice).  What I loved about this dream was that I realized it was my mom singing to me, and there was no confusion, no panic to try to find her or where it was coming from, just absolute healing peace, knowing that she was with me.  It really is one of the best things that has happened for me on the inside since she died.  I haven’t even told my sisters about it because I hate crying and that would be required if I ever had to verbally tell the story.  I just want to make sure that it’s documented so I don’t ever forget, a little reminder when my rollercoaster takes a dive again.  Love you mom.


***This blog post can also be found at:

Body Image

***This post is from Michelle, the oldest***

Today I want to talk about body image.  I have made huge leaps of progress in loving my body, today, just the way it is.  But I want to say that it isn’t that insecurities don’t pop up, it is just that I don’t let them stop me from enjoying the experiences before me.

I joined a website recently that is a bit in the alternative lifestyle scene.  I have read some great writings from the members on body acceptance.  The one I read last night was about two women, standing next to each other naked.  One woman had an amazing body, the other was a thicker girl with rolls and stretch marks, you know, like most of us.  And that bigger girl stood confidently next to the more “perfect” girl.  The writer noted how she, “wanted to be her.” to a friend and the friend assumed she wanted to be the perfect girl.  No she wanted to be the imperfect girl that stood confidently next to the perfect girl.  We should all strive to do just that, be imperfect and love ourselves just the way we are.

Now I know most of us aren’t in the position to have to stand naked, in a group, next to the perfect girl.  But I have.  Actually quite recently.  Well, I wasn’t completely naked, but the perfect girl was.  I was in my underwear and bra.  It was a challenge for me.  But I did it.  I had a great time.  I knew I wanted to push myself to be just as I am, in a room of mostly fairly nude women.  (Most of the men stayed fully clothed)  And honestly, most every woman in that room had her flaws.  But there was that one young woman that hadn’t seen the trials of weight gain and carrying babies and all that fun stuff.  And we were all ok.  She has her youth.  I have my experience.

I am a preacher of, “Ladies, if a man/woman is into you, they aren’t thinking about your stretch marks, your pooch, any of it.  They just want you!”  Surprising to some, a sexual experience for me, naked, with the lights on, it’s easy.  But put me in a non sexual situation and I feel more vulnerable.  I know, it might not make sense.  But there isn’t that distraction of sexual energy.  Last night I received access to look at the pics from last month’s boudoir shoot I did with my friend Amanda at Hope’s Creations.  I immediately cringed.  It took a few minutes for me to get used to seeing myself like that.  But I did adjust.  I found numerous pictures I was really proud of.  (I will surely be sharing them when I can, no worries.)

So push yourself.  Be ok with yourself.  Love yourself.

The Silver Lining

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, Today is My Pity Party, I wanted to reflect on all of the good that came from my mom dying of Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  Click the link to look it up. This is my public service announcement; you don’t have to have a lump!

Onto the 5 great things that came out of a tough experience:

1. I grew up…a lot! And my kids got to benefit from the fact that I had grown up a lot before I had them. I ran a household, I managed a schedule, I took on my mom’s finances…sure I still had a lot left to learn, but I got a head start.  If you only knew how much growing up I had to do… I was quite a wild child with little care in the world, this was a huge leap for me.

2. I got married. I touched on this a bit in last night’s post.  Of course at some point, I probably would have gotten married.  I would hope that my husband’s and my relationship would have been the same regardless, and I would have seen him for the wonderful person and support system he is.  But this one is so important to me because sometimes I lose sight of what made me want to marry him in the first place.  I have even accused him of not being emotionally supportive when he might not be the best at saying the right things at the right time.  But beyond the fights over who puts the kids to bed, who’s spending too much money, who isn’t helping enough around the house….there is still the same two kids who know how to brave through the worst of life’s shit.  Whenever things get rough, we get really close, and I like to think that matters, that because the tough shit doesn’t tear us apart, it’s some kind of sign that we’re supposed to be together for the long haul….something I appreciate more and more every day.

3. It changed my relationships for the better. Without my mom to be the middleman of the family, her passing forced me and my sisters to communicate directly.  I know that I wouldn’t have the same relationship with my sisters today if my mom were still around.  The same might hold true for my relationship with my dad as well, but for different reasons. The time I got to spend after my mom passed with my grandma was wonderful, I had moments with her that I might not otherwise had if my mom would have been there.  I also became friends with her friends, got to know people that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to know. Life really is about people, and this one thing changed my future, it changed my family, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

4. It changed my perspective on life. This is related to growing up…something I’m probably still working on.  I try really hard to be grateful and keep life in perspective.  Some days are better than others, and I lose sight sometimes.  Eventually though, I can always pull from this experience and reflect on how important life is and how short it can be sometimes.  I will admit though, this also has some anxiety attached to it that sometimes can be hard to keep contained.  My mom died of the rarest and most aggressive form of breast cancer; it makes up 1-5% of all breast cancer diagnoses.  I’m not sure what the statistic is for the chances of getting and dying of IBC, but as you can imagine, it’s pretty slim.  The anxiety kicks in sometimes and I get an attitude of “statistics don’t mean shit, if you think it can’t happen to you, it can”…like when I got my gallbladder removed, I was afraid of surgery. The surgeon sat down with me and went over the statistics and he could have sat there and said “blah blah, blah blah blah blah…blah blah” and it wouldn’t have made a difference to me either way.  So even though I can find gratitude in just about anything, I am also scared…a lot.

5. I learned that I can do anything…and I will, for someone I love. I don’t think I realized it about myself until I was put in the situation.  As life unfolded, it was obvious that I am a natural caregiver.  I didn’t know I had it in me, I just knew it was the right thing to do.  Sometimes at the end of the day it’s nice to have something that you know about yourself, which you never doubt.  I am proud that I have a heart of a caregiver.

What happens to a person is less significant than what happens within him. — Louis L. Mann

Today is My Pity Party

***Note: this post is not eloquent, I would consider it raw.  I’ve debating on sharing something like this and have always chosen not to.  Some day maybe I can write a post doing my mom’s life justice, this is not it, but I felt like I needed to share anyhow.*****

Today is not the only day I give myself a pity party, but it’s the only day that I can count on every year.  Some days I like to go “poor me”.  Sure, I try to find the silver lining in some things, and I have found ways to make some aspects of my mom’s death positive, but overall I get one day to sulk, to tell my story to myself and think “poor me”.  I think I have avoided writing about it because my mom’s death was painful to all three of us, but we all experienced it differently.  My sisters might think that my experience was better than theirs; I can only wonder if maybe it was worse, I wasn’t in their life to know how to compare it.  And that’s okay, I don’t need to compare it, I can only know what I know…my story.

My mom was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer in 2000, I was 19 years old. Her treatment was pretty standard and I wasn’t involved for a while.  I didn’t go to doctors appointments, but I did pick my mom up from chemo and drive her home sometimes.  It wasn’t until we found her cancer had spread that I became more involved.  Her breast cancer had spread to her lungs, spine, and brain, and probably other places too that I don’t recall.  Eventually it spread to her bones and started to cause her a bit of pain.  I moved back home to be with her, I drove her to chemo and doctors appointments.  I took her wherever she wanted to go; we tried to do as much as we could while she was still up for it.  It was a healing experience for me and one that I was grateful for since my mom and I didn’t have the best relationship.  I got to spend time with some of her friends that helped encourage me, it was a very hard time, the hardest thing I’ve ever been through.

It was emotional, at times it was a financial struggle, it was depressing, and it was complicated.  My mom and I fought at times because of the role reversal, the day before she died we got in a fight because I caught her in the bathroom with the shower running pretending to take a shower, when she was just sitting on the toilet. She refused to shower, I don’t know why.  I was told that it was because of our role reversal and her trying to gain control.  It made me feel like shit because I didn’t think I was capable of taking care of her.  I still have moments when I go “if I knew then what I knew now” I would have fed her better; I didn’t know anything about health food and diets.  My job was to give her anything she wanted and make sure she enjoyed the 6 months she had left, even if what she wanted was to sit in her pajamas all day and order pizza.

I tried to go on anti-depressants during that time, but didn’t stay on them.  I didn’t find any change, and I told myself that a pill can’t change a shitty situation.  I still believe that.  It was 12 years ago, so I don’t remember a lot of details.  I remember a lot of raw emotion, raw pain, guilt, confusion, fear.  I remember feeling bad because I questioned my mom’s religious beliefs and found that she had no idea what her beliefs were.  I don’t know why that made me feel bad, other than I felt like I had made her think about something that maybe she didn’t want to think about. She still tried to be mom and tried to act tough, but when the visiting nurse would come she would break down in fear and anxiety.  I’m glad that she saved that for the visiting nurse, I don’t think I was mature enough to even know what to do with that.  I did my best too, I acted tough. I saved my tears for bedtime with my future husband.  I would cry myself to sleep as quietly as possible.

I don’t remember really having anybody to talk to. I talked to my mom’s friends and they were wonderful, but I don’t remember talking to them about everything I was feeling.  If we ever got a break to go to friends I didn’t really talk much.  I had nothing good to say, so I just sat quietly, which wasn’t really like me.  I think that part of me still sticks around; I don’t remember ever being like that before my mom’s illness.    It was definitely my future husband that was there for me through those months. Today, on the anniversary that is what I remember most, because he’s been my constant for 15 years.  His support through that time was what made me feel without a doubt that I wanted to marry him.  I also thought it would make my mom feel better, knowing that he would be with me, so in September 2002 we were married.  I have sometimes questioned that decision, because I did feel like we were doing it for mom instead of just for us.  Someday I figure we’ll do it again for ourselves and just ourselves for one of our big anniversaries.

A little over a month after we were married on October 13, 2002 we spent the day at my nephew’s 5th birthday party (he turned 17 today).  It was a good day, a rare occasion we were all together.  On the way home mom was hungry and we stopped at McDonalds so she could get a Big ‘n Tasty.  We liked to call it the Big n’ Nasty. I like to blame that burger, but it’s really irrelevant.  When we got home I had to let our new puppy outside, I don’t remember what I ran back inside for, my husband was outside with the puppy and I don’t even remember why I went back into check on mom, if I heard something or what.  She was lying on the couch and she suddenly sat up and she was frantic, trying to talk to me but I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say, she couldn’t form words.  I called 911; Chris had to help me get her on the floor.  The first responders were fast, by the time we had her on the floor they were there.  I am so grateful for that.  I was so scared; I didn’t know what was happening.  I couldn’t think. I didn’t know what to do.  At her last appointment we were told that she had a clot in her lung, a side effect of her medication, if I remember correctly.  They never said “expect a stroke any day now”.

I called my family, they came.  My dear best friends that I have referred to as my adoptive family, I didn’t have to call them, somehow they just knew.  They called me to see if I was okay right in the middle of it all and they rushed right over.  I remember my grandparents coming, and my grandma sitting in the chair talking about the vomit on the carpet.  She was so heartbroken.  A part of her died that day too.

You will never feel as helpless then when you have to watch somebody die.  I don’t know what it feels like to be an EMT, but as a bystander, a family member watching….and not being able to do anything. Sometimes I think, if I had known that she was going to die, I wouldn’t have called 911, I would have held her and tried to comfort her, but there was no way I could know.  I didn’t even know she was having a stroke because I couldn’t think clearly; all I knew was that something was wrong.  These are my memories.  When my sisters say they wish they could have seen her once more, I think no, I wish I hadn’t had to see her dead, I wish I hadn’t had to watch her die because that is my last memory.  My last feeling was fear and helplessness, guilt and relief.  The conflicting joy because it was over.  It was over before she became immobile; she had already been struggling with the pain of the bone cancer.  The relief that I wasn’t going to have to deal with the brain cancer and the day that she wouldn’t know who I was.  It was done.

Those memories, those feelings, that is what haunts me today. That is my story.

It’s the Little Things in Life….Like Good Fitting Jeans and Perfect Pancakes

I derailed….it’s been a month and a half since I’ve written a blog entry! Well, life got really busy. I had an extra work project come up that taught me some lessons…don’t work for crazy people…ever. I photographed my best friends wedding, which got me researching and learning about photography. I feel like I have a hobby now, I’m just not sure if I can continue to make time for it…but I’m trying. I got to spend some much needed time with old friends and my “other” family. I realized that sometimes I feel like a foreigner in my actual family because I spent so much time in my best friend’s family growing up and I need them just as much as I need my blood. Then school started, which for some is like a vacation after summer vacation, but not the case with us homeschoolers. We are starting to get back into a routine which is much different with my husband working a full-time “job”. I think it’s really good though. I really enjoy the time I spend with other homeschool moms, I sometimes wonder how I managed for so many years to have very limited social experiences. It helps that my toddler is growing up and getting to enjoy more outings as well. Overall, we are a happier family now.

All of this brings me to the real reason for my post…when we’re busy, things go at a fast pace and there’s not a whole lot of time to dwell on the small stuff (or write about it either), but it doesn’t hurt to stop and enjoy the little things in life. This week for me it was my quest for the perfect jeans, that ultimately had me settling on the most comfortable jeans that I’ve ever had that don’t look as good as I wished. Anyhow, if you know me I am a function over fashion girl every time, if I don’t have to worry about chafing, I’m good! For anyone interested they happen to be Lane Bryant’s Genius Fit Fashion Boot Cut jeans that I chose. My sister, Michelle, on the other hand recently went with Lane Bryant’s T3 Straight jeans. Maybe we should start doing clothing reviews? Comment below if you want to know the difference and why I made my choice, it might save you the multiple orders and returns I just went through to purchase one pair of jeans.

Next is the perfect pancakes I made for dinner tonight. I was previously not a pancake person, I would eat them but I didn’t really enjoy them. A couple of years ago during a trip to Gatlinburg, TN we went to the Pancake Pantry for breakfast. You can’t visit a tourist area like that and visit a restaurant with that name without at least trying a pancake, they have 24 variations to choose from! It was like an awakening for me, suddenly, I LOVED pancakes! So I began the quest for the copy cat recipe of those pancakes. I don’t remember how many recipes I tried….a lot, many, at least 10. And then I found the one. Now it has been 2 years so I’m not quite sure how close this recipes is, but I know the qualities of both pancakes that I appreciate: doesn’t get a weird texture after soaking in syrup, light and fluffy, but not to the point of having the texture of a sponge like the ricotta pancakes I tried.

So, if you would like to try the BEST PANCAKES EVER! As the title of the pancakes is called….then check it out here. I usually quadruple this batch. Yes, that means I stand at the griddle for an hour, but we have lots of leftovers for breakfast for a few days. If you enjoy the recipe, let me know. I like to think I have a great taste when it comes to food (my waist line is proof) and have lots of favorite recipes that I can share.