My Purpose

I have grown into believing that in every situation there is a lesson…and all that happens to us has a purpose.  Actually, if I think back…maybe I am just wired like that. I do distinctively recall a lot of eye rolling from my best friend through high school on when I would sputter “everything happens for a reason” whenever something adverse happened to her.  It drove her crazy!  Maybe it’s that those of us believing in this theory are just eternal optimists that are spinning each situation into having a silver lining to make ourselves feel better…but either way, it works for me that bad things don’t just happen for no reason at all.  I get to learn and evolve as I go.

Well, when someone you love dies it makes you question this theory.  Especially when it is someone who hasn’t lived a full life yet.  Someone who has children…and small ones at that.  Someone who was loved by all and fought as hard as he could and that made no difference.  He went through a hell of a year fighting and being sick for no difference in outcome than if he didn’t fight at all and just gave up.  He is gone.  It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  He had plans, WE had plans.

This isn’t an “Everything happens for a reason” situation here.  If that was said to me a month ago…you’d get far more than an eye roll!!  However, I am beginning to look at things a bit differently as time marches on and I get further into the healing process.

I am beginning to believe that we all weren’t meant to be on this earth for 90 or 100 years.  I believe we all have a purpose…some have many purposes. Babies right through to those living 100+ years. When we are taken…our purpose(s) were served.  I’m sure Matt, over his 38 years and especially in his last year, inspired, motivated, healed, loved and impacted many.  I can’t say that there was a reason for him dying, but I can certainly say there was a reason for him living.

So many said to me over the year I was with Matt that I was an angel sent to him and then even more so just after he passed.  It made me uncomfortable because I wasn’t with him to be a saint, out of pity or for whatever reason some people thought (it was nastily said to me by a certain someone after he passed that I liked the “show” of being with Matt!!  I say prayers for that person!!).  I actually fell in love with him and he helped me more than I could have ever imagined in my own grieving process at the time.  Odd that I am left in albeit another time of grief by the one who helped me heal!

I, now that I am moving through my stages of grief and through starting a new relationship, am actually embracing being told that I was his angel.  That was MY purpose for him.  It wasn’t a cruel twist of the universe…as I first felt when he died…to give me love, healing and hope and then snatch it away like a greedy crook.  I look back and know how many times alone we spent cracking each other up.  Rides to the hospital flew by and I swear people thought we were nuts at the laughing and goofing off in the waiting rooms when everyone there was in the midst of a dire situation.  I brought him smiles, laughter and love.  And he brought me the same.  He was my angel, too.  My tears of grief that would arrive in those alone times (especially in the car!) lessened and finally disappeared because of him. The pain in my chest that I held for so long that I didn’t even realize was there…was replaced by feelings of love from and for him.  The grief never goes away, but Matt helped me live happily with it there.  A purpose he had was to help heal me and show me I was able to love again.

It’s nearing five months since he’s been gone.  I am lucky enough, and unlucky enough, to have met someone new to care for so soon.  Grief and a new partner has it’s own set of challenges for both parties.  But I see when starting a relationship without a sickness…which is all I have really known in the past decade…I was missing out on so much…even though I didn’t realize it then.   I didn’t feel like it was lacking anything…it was perfect for what it was at the time.  We were fulfilling a purpose for each other.  Just as this new man in my life is in a role of helping me heal, he is serving a purpose.  I am not sure if this is his only purpose with me and we will part ways tomorrow or next month or next year…or never…or how I am helping him, but he is making me smile and drying my tears (like literally drying them…hence the “unlucky enough” said previously).

purpose.PNG

I am now taking comfort in all the roles people past and present have played in my life.  I am embracing all the lessons, love and healing and trying to let that take precedence over what’s been lost and gone wrong.  Eye roll all you want.

My Wish

Last night at work I was propositioned by a patron.  Not in the way that it sounds, but she had a request of me.  I am not sure what initiated the question, why she wants to know or why she chose me to ask.

This customer is one of my many favorites that comes into the restaurant.  She is a very particular woman. She likes what she likes, how she likes it.  I know the glass she prefers, when to refill her and that she likes me to pack her leftovers for her.  She makes sure she tells me just how much she appreciates my service and me as a person.  She compliments me endlessly while I work.  As I go about my duties I like to observe her and her relationship with her life partner, another woman I really like.  The respect they show for each other is heartwarming.  Our conversations are always insightful.  About the restaurant business and occasionally personal life.

“What is your wish for your children?” was her question.

She didn’t need me to answer it right then…she asked me to write it down and I am to share it with her at a later date.  She asked me not to think of the general “world peace” and “end hunger” type of wish…but what I wanted for each of the children individually.  She guessed that it would vary from child to child based on their personalities…and she was right.

I shared with her that I thought it was ironic that “My Wish” was the song I chose for the Mother/Son dance at my eldest’s wedding 2 years ago.  I told her to listen to those words…and that would say it all. But after I got to thinking, I realized that I had more specific wishes for each of them…all very different.

Here they are my special hat wearing, whiskey drinking, fancy glass wielding, song singing, thought provoking conversationalist.

For James, now 23. My wish for him is that he continue to be the God fearing man that he has grown into.  That he continues to be the husband every girl deserves. That he continues to be the adoring and smitten Daddy with just the right amount of faith, love, worry and keeping-it-real to raise an amazing daughter.  See, my wishes seem to have come true with this man.  I couldn’t have hand picked a better wife for him or to be the mother of his child.  I couldn’t be more proud of how he takes care of his family (Insert a shout out to my Dad for being a wonderful role model in that department!). My future wish is for him is continued love between him and his wife and that they grow together through the years and not apart.  To always have that friend by his side loving him, supporting him and encouraging him to be a just little bit better than he was the day before.

DJ mountain

For DJ, now 16.  In this day and age it is very scary to have a teenager.  The demons that are out there and are readily available to our children is frightening.  My wish for DJ is that he sees and recognizes a bad path when it’s in front of him and turns and chooses one that is best for him.  I wish that on that path he gains self confidence in himself and recognizes what his talents and strengths are and uses them to make his living in adulthood.  That he understands the importance of putting in hard work and the benefits you reap because of it.  Mainly pride and self worth. That he deletes “can’t” and “won’t” from his vocabulary and that he believes in himself enough to know that he is as capable of just about anything. My wish is for him not to let fear deter him from pursuing anything, but for him to feel the accomplishment of pushing through it…whether it be asking a girl out or going for a promotion or moving to a faraway land. My wish is for him to always respect the female he will be with.  To know her boundaries and to make sure she respects his.  For him to fall madly and deeply and dizzily in love.

Mackenzie hike

For Mackenzie, now 13. This is a tough age for a girl. Tween and teen girls, well, can be pure evil.  This is a time that self esteem dictates a lot of decision making.  My wish for her now is that she does not underestimate her self worth. That she not only surrounds herself with people that build her up, but she do the same for those she’s near.  A few small words can make or break someone, my hope is that she understands this.  My wish is that she respect her body and her mind and to not let anyone touch either one in a way she does not want or like. That she listen to her inner voice and let that guide her through her teen years and not be swayed by peers or others that she may encounter that will try and violate any part of her being. My wish is that she learn to enjoy where she is and what she has while still maintaining that healthy thirst for better or more.  That she continues to use the tools she is learning through her competitive cheer of hard work and determination and how it pays off and let it carry on into all areas of her life.  That when she’s grown she finds a man to treat her like she truly deserves, that he loves her and dotes on her and respects her and she does the same for him, both while never taking it for granted.

Bray mountain

For Brayden, now 4. Only having four years to get to know Bray…his personality traits aren’t as well defined as the others, so my wishes for him aren’t as exact.  My wish is that the energy he has gets channeled into positive outlets as he grows.  That he puts it on the field or court or gym or wherever he feels he is comfortable.  My wish is that nothing touches his kind nature to harden him.  My wish is that his bright little mind continues to flourish and that he keeps his quest for knowing everything about anything going.  My wish is that he continues to get loved on by his older siblings and they remain a constant in his life as he trails them into adulthood.  That he not feel a void of having his Daddy gone, but to be reminded by those that knew and loved him of all his positive qualities and funny stories.  That alcohol and drugs do not play any role in his life.  My wish is that he is guided by positive male role models along the way, that he is shown how to respect himself and others.  Not just how I show him, but how a man is to do it.  How to provide and be present for his family.  That he finds and holds onto love.

four

For all of my children.  Show compassion and respect, even when it’s not deserved. Own your mistakes. Never show up to a gathering empty handed. Hygiene is mandatory. Keep laughter in your life. And don’t ever forget your Mom loves you with everything that she is, you are her world…she is there for you no matter what.  She has been adoring you since the first second she saw you.  And she always will.

My realization in writing this blog today and answering my friend’s question is that it took a bit of soul searching to write.  What did I wish that I had for myself at those ages…what would’ve bettered me…kept me safer…protected me from harm.   What was it that did impact me in a positive way.  It was a nice way to reflect and to maybe help me choose some actions or words to share with my kids along the way to help the wishes I have for them come true.

Thanks K.

Living in Our (Grief) Trigger-Happy World…

Triggers…the unexpected and probably one of the hardest parts of losing someone you love.   When you are all aboard on this grief train…it’s enough to derail you.  Being that this isn’t the first time I am getting my ticket punched and setting out on this journey…it doesn’t derail me quite as easily, as I know what to expect…however, it seems almost constant at this point.

What’s a grief trigger? A grief trigger is anything that brings up memories related to a loss. What are grief triggers for me?  It would appear that it’d probably be easier to explain what aren’t…but here we go.

Let’s start with the obvious and in-your-face ones.  A birthday.  Matt’s birthday is at the end of this month.  He never made it to 39.  That’ll be a tough day, well, a tougher day…although, learning from my own history, the days before will be the worst when anticipating that monumental day…and the actual day will be okay and filled mostly with good memories and smiles.  Milestones counting out from the death is another obvious one.  First it’s days…then it’s weeks (yesterday it was six weeks since Matt passed)…then it’s months…then you get to the “angelversay” as we call it in our household.  We just passed Mike’s 3rd Angelversary just days after Matt passed away.  September can officially “suck it”. I’m always anticipating those triggers.  You can brace yourself for them and you can plan for your derailment…which, unfortunately, makes it no easier, but at least you have a head’s up.

Then there’s the unexpected triggers you face throughout your days. And weeks. And months.  And years.  I am letting out a big sigh as I just typed that.  My life, since embarking on own my path with Matt, was completely intertwined with him.  We never got to live together (which was our plan as soon as he was “healthy”), but if he wasn’t physically with me…he was on my mind.  Or I was traveling to visit him.  Or I was cooking for him.  Or I was texting him.  Or researching for him.  That makes for going through the days and weeks after he’s gone with a lot of reminders that he is not here.  A lot of free time on my hands that was typically was monopolized by him.  So, even the empty space in my days is a grief trigger.  Having empty space is starting to become my norm, so my new routine is starting to get a little easier.

And then there’s the grab bag of other reminders…the person that walks in the restaurant that looks like him, the song on the radio, the posts and pictures of the Grassdrags Matt was really hoping to introduce me to, looking down at your little boy who’s looking up at you…and drastically resembling Daddy, washing the sweatshirt you stole from him, the random post in your news feed about them…and there’s so many other little and unexpected things, smells, sounds that occur…and regardless of how small or insignificant they seem…they can drop you to your knees, or make you feel like you want to, because the pain is so intense.  Then you pick yourself up and move on until the next one comes along.

Working with the public combined with being so open on social media and through my blog, I come into contact with people daily who knew of Matt’s illness and were up to speed on the final days.  I am friends with a large portion of my customers…some closer than others.  We all catch up with each others’ lives when they visit.  Right up until yesterday I am seeing people for the first time since Matt died who are giving their condolences…hard, but welcomed.  And even harder (for them, not me) are the ones who are out of the loop and ask how Matt’s treatments are going.  That always makes for an awkward conversation…I still haven’t found the right words for that one. More grief triggers.

This becomes the norm.  Life, a series of reminders…triggers.  Sometimes all day…sometimes not for a while.  But forever. I can tell you, years later, I can’t hear an ambulance without being zapped right back to the day Mike was rushed to the hospital only to be gone from us a few days later.  I now know, because of this, that I will never hear a helicopter without thinking of Matt being airlifted to Boston. Throughout your days, I assure you that there are a lot more ambulances and helicopters than you realize!!!

I’m in no hurry to go through this process.  I know from experience that there’s no time limit on when you travel through all the stages of the journey. I will be glad when I am out of what seems like the zombie stage(my own non-technical term). I’ve never seen even a few minutes of the Walking Dead, but I can picture a zombie creature walking down the street, labored, and being hit with bullet after bullet…and they still keep going.  The trigger bullets keep coming, and I keep going.  I am the zombie taking the hits and going through the grocery store by the “Mitchell’s Fresh” sign without outwardly flinching. I am waiting on the customer that uncannily looks like Matt without batting an eye.  I will continue to pour drinks with a smile while a family member sits at my bar and fondly tells stories about Matt.  I will be cleaning the house with the kids when that song comes on…and I will just continue on.  But then I will get in the car alone and let it go.  I will feel it and by the time I’ve reached my destination I will be thanking my waterproof mascara and leftover napkins from Dunkin Donuts on the seat beside me…and move forward.  I will go to bed fine, then hit with a trigger, curl into a ball, get though my grief attack…and then pick up my phone and play my kids and other various opponents in my new favorite smartphone app.

So, what I have learned from mourning Mike and being with Matt, is that the triggers never go away.  Those triggers will be shot at you like bullets, like it or not.  The difference is that over time they don’t need to always be so painful.  They can bring a smile.  A good memory.  Sometimes sadness. Sometimes pain.  But not like it feels in the beginning.

For now, I will be thankful that even through the sadness and pain…and bullets… that I am able to find joy in my children’s smiles and laughter, that I am able to belly laugh whole-heartedly with friends and co-workers…and that I can just merely get out of bed…while it’s still in the a.m… I know that it won’t always feel the way it does today.

Zombie-like or not…I’m moving forward.

A Grief Observed…

I wrote my little blog, well one of them, on grief in October, 2013.  I had never read this book by C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, or any excerpts from it…but I stumbled upon it today.  I was surfing the web exploring all my phases and symptoms of grief this time around.  We are dealing with a whole different monster this time and making myself aware and educated is one way that I cope.

I read a few pages from A Grief Observed and lo and behold, I came across the following entry.  I clearly am not a skilled writer as C.S. is…and his writing is far more poignant than my thoughts merely typed out into the blank page of a blog.  However, broken down, I was pleased to read that we shared the same analogy on grief and losing a loved one…it’s kinda like losing a limb. C.S. will never be a biped again.  I am not a fan of being a double amputee, but I feel I will figure it out…eventually.

“Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.”
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

“Give Sorrow Words”

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” ~ Shakespeare

This insightful quote…and the encouragement of my kids…leaves me opening up a blank page and continue writing.  Keeping grief locked up keeps the pain locked up.  I’ll give my sorrow words…

Three years ago, I came to learn about real grief for the first time in my life.  I had lost numerous people…but when it is someone so close…someone you let into your heart…it’s far different.  This first experience was with my son’s father.  I guess it’s probably the same feeling as when you lose a best friend, parent, sibling, or even worse…God forbid a child.  I guess I was lucky making it 41 years escaping that pain.

So, this time around, losing Matt a week ago, it doesn’t hurt any less.  However, this time around I have some hope that I won’t always be stuck where I am.  That feeling where I just want it to be bed time so I can sleep (well, lie there and try and sleep), having that walking around in a fog type of feeling, just plain being non-functional.  Like not remembering how to even tie your shoes type of non-functional.

This time, I am able to see the milestones and know that I am headed in the right direction.  Today, for instance, I made my cup of coffee this morning and came to the computer rather than back to bed.  Baby steps.  I clicked on the website for the grocery store circular armed with paper and pen.   The goal was  to make a list and plan dinners judging on the sales and get myself out to the store…eventually. I clicked on the site.  I haven’t looked at it and the paper and pen sit in front of me untouched.  But it’s still baby steps.

Right now, I am going to put on my Pandora music stations and attempt to get some cleaning done.  Then get back to my grocery list.  I don’t know how far I will get, but getting the music on and out of this chair (and avoiding my bed) will be steps in the right direction.  Moving forward…

Moving Forward…

This is my first post in momdotcalm in forever, it seems.  My cancerdotcalm blog came to a devastating end…not how we thought and hoped it would….with Mathew passing away a few short days ago. My last post in the blog was a bit controversial…and if I said I didn’t have second thoughts or some regrets about posting it, I’d be lying.

My love, Matthew Garth Mitchell, passed away after being in the ring with Leukemia for a bit over a year. He handled it amazing and kept on swinging right up until the end.  I am so proud of him and that I got to become so connected and fall madly in love with him over this past year. I thought he was my happily ever after…in turn, I guess I was his.   I was looking back though text messages and facebook messages and I am reminded of how we came to be and how in love we were.

“Never had these feelings like this before. I’m excited. I love seeing you. Love talking with you. Laughing with you. This is awesome.”

That is my favorite message from him from last Fall.  I have a few that I saved to my computer for safe keeping.  I am holding them close right now, along with the gazillion photos, and they are bringing me comfort.

art

Now, about my last post on cancerdotcalm.  It was a tool…as my art is…to get me through whatever is going on in my life.  Despite the second thoughts and some regrets…I shouldn’t have apologized when posting.  I used a blog, my blog, not my social media page.  The text was not going to show up on anyone’s news feed, the link was.  Click or don’t.  Read or move on.  That being said…I did not expect the overwhelming views and responses that I got (Although I am thankful for the support).  I wasn’t publishing my post to become some sort of witch hunt or needing all the hundreds of responses and messages to validate how I feel.  I own my feelings, I know why I feel the way I did and I believe I am justified for being upset when feeling unimportant and left behind in my time of grief.  I did not write my blog to hurt any part of a grieving family, just as I don’t think the decisions made at the end were intentionally made to hurt me.  I wrote my blog because I was hurting, and this is what I do.  Matt fell in love with this girl who blogs…he took the time to read all of them.  He knows this is how I cope and this is how I celebrate.  He agreed to the blog about him and made me feel comfortable enough with my feelings and my writing that no matter what I felt, own it, write about it if I wanted…and move on.

We cannot change the past, only how we view it. “Moving forward” is a term I use more than anything these days. So, I am taking my own advice and moving forward.  Tomorrow is the funeral.  When I look around I am confident I will not see who did what, who made what decision, who is fighting for what.  I am certain I will see a Mom and Dad with their spouses grieving for their too-young-to-be-gone son.  I will see two little boys trying to comprehend where heaven is and feeling their Dad’s void terribly.  I will see a daughter who is trying to figure out how to go on without her rock.  I will see the Moms of his kids with their heart breaking from losing a solid friend along with feeling the pain of their own children’s grief.  I will see a brother and sister-in-law not only losing a brother, but a friend.  I will see their three boys losing their Uncle Matt.  I will look at my own children and know that they are not only losing a great buddy they acquired over this past year…they are also trying to clear the dust that this loss is kicking up with their own father figure passing away almost exactly three years ago.  And I am sure I will see countless friends and family trying to grasp how this cancer thing happened to such an amazing person. So many people love him.

And then we will walk away from that grave…and move forward.  Matt would not want us stuck there in the grief we will feel at his graveside.  He will want us to move forward.

And then I will get home and I will look in the mirror at myself.  I hopefully will see a girl who’s ready to pick up the pieces…and get moving forward and figure out this happily ever after thing on my own.

Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry

I love this recipe because it’s simple, it’s sweet enough that the kids love it (easy on the red pepper flakes if you are feeding someone sensitive to spice) and packed with veggies so it’s a good way to make a dent in our “5 a day”!  This is enough for four adults…with three kids eating I had plenty of leftovers. It took me about an hour from the time I walked in the door from work until it was on the table.  I, however, had to love on some kids, sign permission slips, help with the 12 x’s table and console a little one for losing at Chutes and Ladders.   Let’s not forget putting on the yoga pants, get hair up in a clip and pour a glass of wine, too!  So, after all the meat and veggies are cut (do ahead if you want to make it a VERY quick meal),  only about 15 minutes is needed for actual cooking time. This means plan accordingly if you are preparing rice or noodles with it so it is all done at the same time.  Enjoy!

stirfry

Ingredients

1 pound chicken breast (about 2 breasts), cubed
1/2-3/4 cup yellow onion sliced super thin
2 cloves garlic, minced (divided)
1 -inch piece peeled fresh ginger, minced (or 2 teaspoons ground ginger, divided)
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar (or smaller amount of sugar substitute…I prefer the real thing)
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1/2 tablespoon dark sesame oil, 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
About 1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 to 6 cups fresh cut vegetables (I used what I had in the veggie drawer: Fresh green beans in 1″ cuts, carrots sliced thin, broccoli florets and 1 can sliced water chestnuts)
3/4 to 1 teaspoon red chili flakes, optional…it adds a lot of heat
1 1/2 tablespoon hoisin sauce

Serving suggestion: Over brown rice

Directions

In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the sliced onion, one clove of minced garlic, half the ginger, the soy sauce, sugar, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the sherry, and the sesame and olive oil equaling 1 tablespoon (most recipes call for all sesame, but it’s too much for me). Using hands, really coat the chicken with the mixture. Marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes. Mix the remaining tablespoon cornstarch with 1/3 cup water in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and heat. Add the veggies and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the remaining minced garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons of water, and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Stir-fry until the veggies are bright but still crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Get the skillet good and hot again, and then heat 2 more tablespoons oil. Add the chicken and chili flakes if using. Stir-fry until the chicken loses its raw color and gets a little brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the hoisin sauce, return the veggies to the pan and toss to heat through. Stir in the reserved cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil to thicken. Add more water if need to thin the sauce, if necessary. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if you like.

Scallion greens and toasted sesame seeds can also be used to garnish.

Recipe based on Food Network Kitchens and modified to my liking