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

“Whatever I’m doing, I’m in that moment and I’m doing it. The rest of the world’s lost. If I’m cooking some food or making soup, I want it to be lovely. If not, what’s the point of doing it?” ~Sade Adu

French Onion Soup

soup

Coupled with a Caesar Salad…then of course wine!

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

6-7 onions, sliced (I used 4 HUGE yellow sweet slicing onions)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

2 fresh thyme sprigs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup red wine, I used chianti

3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 quarts beef broth (College Inn)

2 tsps Better Than Bouillion + 2 cups water

Croutons (Homemade or store bought, any kind you like)

Sliced Swiss and sliced provolone
Directions

Melt the stick of butter with the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn’t burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bouillion and water and bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

When you’re ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into oven proof bowls or crocks and float several of the croutons on top. Cover with slices of Swiss and provolone.  Put in oven on middle rack and watch closely as it will brown very fast and may burn if you aren’t right on top of it.

This will serve 6-8 depending on your size crock/bowl.  I always make extra to share or freeze. It takes about 1 1/2 hrs from start to table.  This was adapted from the Tyler Florence recipe on the Food Network.  Add a salad and enjoy!

Thanksgiving 2014: Please Let’s Not Make This a Tradition!

(Taken from my facebook post on Thanksgiving Day, 2014…slightly revised)

I am often told that my life and family should be documented as a sitcom. Today it was proven. Thanksgiving memory of 2014 that I assure you not ONE person on the face of the earth can share???

My Tween daughter comes in from shoveling the end of our driveway…holding a blue contraption in her hand…odd look on her face.

“I found this in the snow when I was shoveling”

I look at her…and the blue thing…at her….at the blue thing. She’s doing the same to me…and to it…and to me. …More than a minute went by, I am sure.

I struggled for the right words. She is twelve. We are very open and matter of fact about things. ALL things.

The rolodex of descriptive words was spinning through my head. What do we call this? Vibrator…Dildo…Massager…and so on.

“I think it’s a sex toy” I finally said.

“Me, too”.

My first thought was how the heck does she know this…It really wasn’t phallic looking and it took me a second to process what it was…but anyway.

Let’s add more of a twist to this very awkward scenario? It is marked with writing…”property of…” somebody we know. Who does not live in our neighborhood. A peer’s parent. One of her best friend’s Mom. Really???

This leaves many thoughts and questions running around an inquisitive mind. Why? The insignia…A vendetta and “planting” of it?…being pushed around, driveway to driveway…where might it land…? Or maybe from a communal area it mysteriously escaped from?…WHERE WOULD YOU NEED TO PERSONALIZE IT??!!

It made for some interesting conversations I wasn’t expecting on having that day…and for many days that followed.

Happy Holidays.

And Grief trickles in…

Grief trickles in. Yes, it does.

Unexpectedly, I have a night alone with Brayden. Jamie (my oldest) invited DJ (my next oldest) to his home for the night…and Mackenzie (my only daughter)was invited over a friend’s house for the evening. There go my sitters for my tentative plans…and here goes a night home, just me and my littlest.

Cool. We will do dinner and a movie. Done. Bedtime lasted about two hours longer than the norm…but he’s sound asleep…finally.

My goal, after Bray’s bedtime, was to put in a movie and pour a glass of wine. The chick flick I planned on was more of a “get your tissues ready and have a good cry” kinda flick.

Grief trickled in. I have been so worried and consumed with what is going on with Matt and his battle with cancer, I’ve allowed no time for worrying about anything else. It felt good to let it go. I actually forgot the grief was there. It’s there, it always is, bubbling at the surface and it unexpectedly started boiling over without warning.

When you lose someone you truly love, the grief is always there…I am learning it just comes out differently and at different times. I am happy I am with someone who is willing to stand by me with that bit of instability as a part of who I now am. Who shows no fear or jealousy of that past love.

Thanks, Matt, for getting me through when it “trickles” in. Now, off to find a happier chick flick…

It’s that time again…

It’s September 9th, 2014.  Two years ago on September 9th it was the last time I had a conversation with Mike. It was a Sunday morning and I had just pulled into the driveway after going to church.  The kids all got out of the car, except Brayden…he stayed in his car seat until I let him escape after my phone call.  The conversation went pretty much the same as they all did at that point.

Him: “Wendy, I want to come home”, “Why are you doing this to us”, “The kids want me there”, “I love you”.

Me: “No”, “YOU did this”, “Course they want you here, they love you”, “I love you, too”….”Get sober and you can come home…like a year sober”.

Sometimes it ended there.  That Sunday it got a little heated, not yelling and screaming heated, but I was angry.  He wasn’t visiting.  He wasn’t paying any support.

My last words?  “If I wasn’t around, Brayden would just die in his crib, you are doing nothing to care for or support your son”. (Yes, pretty extreme, I know.)

His response? “I love you, Wendy”.

He hung up.

That was it.

I went about my day.  Went to the grocery store just before dinner time.  Upon leaving the grocery store…at the lights in front of what is now Domino’s…my phone rang.  It was Alyssa.  I answered and had to tell her to slow down because I couldn’t understand her.  “Daddy’s at the hospital, he wasn’t breathing when they got there” she was finally able to get out enough for me to comprehend.  She was referring to the ambulance and paramedics. That’s all I really recall of the conversation.  I am sure I comforted her and said I’d be right there.

That sentence “Daddy’s at the hospital, he wasn’t breathing when they got there” was a chant that I heard over and over and over.  All the way home.  While I was home getting care for the kids.  All the way to the hospital.

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The rest of September 9th, 2012 was spent at the ICU…as well as the 10th…and we said goodbye on the 11th.

This is the second time I am recognizing this anniversary of the 9th, our last conversation.  A hard pill to swallow when they are words like that.

It’s not easy, but it’s definitely easier.  I am so thankful that I am in a much better place in my healing.  I thank the person responsible for that on a regular basis.

We miss him and it hurts to know he can’t experience everything I get to about the kids growing and see all that they are doing.  It’s hard know they won’t experience his goofiness or sense of humor anymore.  We will just keep doing what we are doing and that’s continue to re-tell his funny stories and antics, keeping his spirit alive. That always brings smiles and laughter.  Peace, Mike.

 

Clearing the Blog Fog…

us

I sit here with all sorts of thoughts running through my head (which if you know me…is pretty typical) and not sure what direction to go in for a blog. I just knew it was time to write.

I re-read my “about me” section this morning and over the past few weeks have visited some of my older posts. It’s fun (and a little scary) to look back and see where my head was at on those days and at those times. I’m glad I get to see my journey and growth through grief and dating dilemmas sprinkled with who I am at the core, a Mommy…with a passion for cooking.

I am happy to say (ok, more like ecstatic) that my dating is now not a dilemma…and my grief and pain is being lessened and eased. This man who was right under my nose has unexpectedly put his arms around me and made me feel, for the first time in my adult life, that I have someone to lean on. Lean on and not fall flat on my face. Safe. Effortlessly he is healing wounds that I thought were just a part of who I was and learned to just carry on with. There is no possible way I can fully describe how that feels.

Our relationship is still new. Filled with butterflies in the tummy and goodnight kisses that last hours.  Filled with laughter.  Lots of laughter.  Filled with learning what each other likes and dislikes, wants and needs. Funny, we spent the early weeks after our first tequila tainted kiss getting to know each other by texting question after question. We wanted to know everything about each other. How do you like your eggs? Steak? Coffee? Movie type? Beach or lake? Mayo or mustard? Hours and hours of this. I think we know more about each other than many people dating years.

Our relationship is also mature. We have been catapulted into squeezing as much as we can into the times that we have. Between chemo treatments and obvious side effects and looking at a date in September that is going to drastically change things for a time. We are left with a seriousness and a fast track in our bonding. Again, effortlessly. It’s allowing me to see how this sweetest and sincerest man I know can handle such adversity…and it’s pretty impressive. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the softness and strength that exists at the same time within the same person.

This September date coming up will be a Stem Cell Transplant. The Cure. Buh-bye Leukemia. I knew nothing about this procedure before…and it’s still something I am gathering information about as I go. I also realize that there are not a whole lot of blogs about it and what’s out there is a lot of medical mumbo-jumbo that an inexperienced person like me doesn’t fully understand (Wheels spinning… cancerdotcalm.com?). I am happy I will be joining him to the next big visits so I can understand a little better…both what he will go through and what to expect.

So, I guess where my blog was going is that I found a love I didn’t know existed in a man that already existed in my life. He is doing incredible things for me and has incredible things to go through. Our love story isn’t perfect, but it’s perfectly okay (I’ll say this a million times).  He’s got this. We’ve got this.