Giving Me Grief

It was the squash soup that did it.

I thought I remembered how to make it – we’ve had it as an appetizer for the past five Thanksgivings – but I wanted to be sure. The recipe, however, was nowhere to be found.

I lost my shit.

Not just a little sniffle, but a full-on, body-heaving, gasping-for-air sob fest. ‘Cause this wasn’t just any recipe; it was one that Bill had given me years ago, his favorite. After it became a favorite of mine, I shared it with my grandma and it became a favorite of hers, too — so much so that, when we put together a video for Bill’s 68th birthday, my grandma’s well-wishes included thanking him for “that wonderful squash soup recipe.”

On Thanksgiving eve, everything came crashing down. The build-up of weeks of fear and sadness, the longing and the heartache. When Nick was, understandably, a bit taken aback to find me in hysterics over a missing recipe (“You can just email Mary! I’m sure she has a copy!”), I found myself explaining that although I knew I could, I didn’t want to… because I wanted none of this to be happening. I wanted Bill to still be here to call him for the recipe. I wanted my grandma to still be here to call her for the recipe. And, by God, I wanted her to still be here for Thanksgiving. The very thought of celebrating without her, of allowing these holidays to pass without sharing them, was more than I felt I could take.

I miss my grandma so damned much.

~~~

About a month ago, I had one of those Ah-Ha moments. Nick, the girls, and I were hanging out and Annie was telling a story… and I suddenly realized that, although I’d been standing there, smiling and nodding and probably even laughing, I hadn’t really heard a word that she’d said. It was as though I’d been floating above her, above all of them, detached — there, but not there.

In that moment, when I snapped back into focus, I realized what this drifting detachment must be:
Depression.

The same faceless but ruthless enemy I’d battled in 2009, the one who’d been trying to claw its way back into my life ever since but who I’d successfully held at bay… was back. Upon further reflection, I became aware that I’d been feeling this way for months – since the beginning of the summer, really. (I suppose that losing so many people – Angel, my grandma, and Sara – in such a short period of time can do that to a person.)

It explained why summer had been “just right” instead of too fast or too slow or too anything: in reality, I’d distanced myself from summer entirely, so it was… fine. It explained why, despite the countless amazing things in my life that should have had me walking around with an “I’m All That And A Bag Of Chips (Preferably Doritos)” sign — traveling, family weddings, healthy children, my 40th birthday (holla!), the gloriously decluttered house — I still didn’t feel joyful.

Happy at times? Sure. Grateful? Hell yes. But genuine elation, something better than merely happy? Nope. If my emotions had been charted in one of those line graphs, the line would have remained remarkably flat.

As soon as the lightbulb turned on, I was relieved; I’ve battled this a-hole before. Let’s do this. And then I was pissed. For years now I’ve been preaching about how important it is to be open about depression — and I didn’t recognize that I, myself, was depressed?? WTF? Plus also, I was mad as hell that all of these great things were happening and I wasn’t able to fully enjoy them. DEPRESSION, YOU SUCK.

I’d been going with that assumption for a few weeks – that I was facing another bout of depression – when my Facebook timeline linked me to a blog post I’d written after Bill’s death. At the time, I’d felt kind of insane — soaring highs and crashing lows — until my therapist informed me that it wasn’t insanity; it was grief. All of the highs and lows, the near-obsessive drive to do and keep busy, were actually part of what fancy-pants psychology folks call Manic Defense.

I was protecting myself from my own grief by trying to be wildly active, then falling down when the sadness caught up with me.

Upon reading the post, it occurred to me that maybe I’m not depressed because I’m mourning those who are no longer here. Maybe I’m simply mourning and just having a helluva time with it.

I asked my therapist about it the next time we met, saying that I wanted to write about The Return Of My Depression — that I feel it’s really important to do so, that I think it’s critical that we reach out and let others know they’re not alone — but that I also thought it was pertinent that I be honest and identify things correctly. Is this depression or is it grief??

After listening, my therapist gently assured me that I’m grieving, not Depressed. She then mused that I should write the post anyway – because depression and grief can feel remarkably similar and we, as a people, are terrible at dealing with both.
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Last Christmas, my grandma insisted that we make some pinecone wreath she’d seen in a catalog. It nearly did me in, but we succeeded. The wreath is now hanging in our front hall. 

~~~

So that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m putting this out there because we are awful at handling all of this messy feelings crap, especially if it makes us sad. When someone dies, we’re expected – we often expect ourselves – to “get over it,” to reach this magical place, cross some invisible line where, finally, we will feel better. All of the steps have successfully been taken! The grieving was done! It is now in a box over there and we are moving forward! Hurrah!

Staying with someone in extended grief is absurdly uncomfortable. It’s been, what? Three months already? Six? A year? And you’re still sad? Ugh. No one wants to live in that world, so we avoid it. We don’t ask questions. We don’t talk. We don’t share, because no one wants to hear it.

(I’m hardly immune. Two weeks ago, I was at the Y and noticed, from behind, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I remembered that she’d just lost her mother and the very first thought that ran through my head was: I need to go the other way to avoid her so we don’t have to talk about that. BECAUSE TALKING ABOUT GRIEF IS SHITTY. Thankfully, I got ahold of myself and deliberately sought her out to give her a hug… BUT SERIOUSLY. I SUCK AT THIS.)

Likewise with depression. Some people don’t get it at all (“What do you mean you feel depressed? But you seem so happy”). Still others do get it, at least to some degree, but they want it to fit into a tidy parcel that’s easily defined and overcome. Have you tried medication? Talk therapy? Exercise? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you making time with friends? Are you eating well? Are you getting outside? GREAT! You have officially treated your depression! All better now!!

Don’t get me wrong – all of those are important and can be keys to fighting depression – but becoming un-depressed isn’t that simple. Those gross, sad, blah, detached, scary feelings can persist for months or years, even with consistent treatment. But does anyone want to hear that you’re still feeling low three months down the line? Nope. Not so much.

Depression and grief are terrible. Among their worst faults is that they cause us to feel isolated. People tell you to reach out, to not keep it inside – but ironically, we often are isolated – because no one likes talking about depression and grief. No one likes hearing about it. We like to fix things; when someone isn’t “better,” when they’re still sad, it’s a total turn-off. No, thanks.

I’m really sick of it. I’m sick of not wanting to mention that I’m afraid of Christmas – afraid to put up the decorations that I inherited after my grandma died, afraid to trim the tree without her, afraid of looking over on Christmas morning and not seeing her sound asleep on the couch amid all the hubbub – because I don’t want to weird people out. I’m tired of us not talking about depression because it makes people feel uncomfortable. I’m tired of avoidance being the first thing that comes to mind when I run into a friend who’s grieving.

Please don’t misconstrue what I’m saying; if anyone is an Eeyore all the damn time, it’s a real drain. Even your bestest friends don’t want to hear the unhappy, negative stuff every minute of the day. But depression and grief don’t always fit into neat packages. They can’t necessarily be “fixed” no matter how much time has passed or what steps a person has taken – and that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the person who’s still upset.

Grief and depression are normal parts of life – normal parts of living. Certainly, I work to compartmentalize my sadness – mostly because it can be annoying to be sad when I’m doing something happy – but it’s still there, commingled with the rest of things. It is fully possible to be missing someone so much, it physically hurts while also – at the very same time – absolutely reveling in the wonder of the present. Mourning and celebration. Depression and joy. Crappiness and awesome. They coexist together.

Negating or ignoring – or, worse, shaming – the bad parts doesn’t make them go away. It just makes them seem lonelier, which is really stupid because we’re all in this together.

So I’m going to try to be less worried about how other people feel when they hear I’m missing still my grandma. ‘Cause I miss her like crazy, and that’s okay. I’m also going to try to not be so uncomfortable around people who are depressed or grieving – or, at the very least, to still be there for and with someone even in my discomfort. I want my girls to know that my missing their Phoofsy doesn’t take away from my being ridiculously excited to decorate the tree with them; I want to show them that sadness isn’t something to be afraid of.

I just have to work on believing it myself.

~~~

As for the soup? After some sleuthing, I found an old email – hidden in the depths of my computer – that contained a copy. It was delicious.
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Click on it to see it in its glory. You’re welcome.

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To Say Hello

My grandma (Phoofsy to Ella and Annie and many others) – always said that life was worth living so long as you were having fun. A little less than two weeks ago, unexpectedly and suddenly and to our stunned shock and heartbreak, Phoofsy stopped having fun.

You guys. I just… It’s simply not okay.

Living so near her these past eight years was one of the reasons that moving to Rochester was such a fantastic decision. My grandma was our guidepost, our touchstone, our sounding board and cheerleader, our adventure buddy, and our constant partner for dinner, games, and talking. We have never lived here without her and, honestly, I feel as though we’ve been cut adrift; Nick and I hadn’t realized how much she grounded us and made us whole.

I miss her so much, I cannot begin to put it into words.
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We have spent every Easter with Phoofsy since we moved here.
This year was no different.

Losing Phoofsy has been difficult for Ella and Annie as well. Sadly, they are quite familiar with loss (most importantly, their Grandpa Bill, and to a much lesser extent – although fresh on their minds – our Madison), but never before have they had to say goodbye to someone who was an integral part of our daily lives, someone whose presence would be noticeably absent at soccer games, swim meets, birthdays, evenings beside the fireplace, Sunday brunch, Wednesday nights, and every day in between.

This is an active, different kind of grieving, for all of us.
Not better. Not worse. Not harder or easier. Just different.

My mom and stepdad drove up to the lake the day after my grandma passed away and immediately got to the business of sorting through Phoofsy’s affairs (and providing lots of hugs and memories and laughs); we loved getting the chance to see them, even under these circumstances. As our little family foursome was driving back from the lake last weekend – the first-ever we’d spent there without my grandma – the conversation naturally turned toward Phoofsy.
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Playing The Lake Game on Memorial Day, my grandma was absolutely tickled that she managed to successfully flip her cup. We were absolutely tickled, too.

Things began simply enough, sharing stories and memories, but soon moved onto more metaphysical, abstract thinking. It started with Nick telling them that he was comforted by the idea that, one minute, Phoofsy was here and healthy, the next there was some brief confusion, and the very next, she was seeing Great‘s face as he said to her, “What took you so long?”

Annie and Ella were intrigued by this and wanted to hash things out, so we kept talking. “Where do you think Phoofsy is right now?” “If there’s heaven, do you stay the same age as you are when you die?” “Can people who have already died leave ‘messages’ for those of us who are still here?” 

As they discussed their conceptions of heaven, Nick and I grew more and more entranced. The girls’ ideas were absolutely fascinating and far more interesting and nuanced than anything I’ve imagined in my nearly-forty years. In fact, their thoughts were so lovely, so simultaneously comforting and thought-provoking, I asked if I could share them with you.
They graciously agreed.
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Chuckling that her poker hand was better than Ella’s.
Even when you’re 84 years older than your great-granddaughter, victory is sweet. 

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“In heaven, you can be any age you want, and you can change that age whenever you like. So, if you had a really great time when you were twelve, you get to be twelve. Then, if you want to feel what it was like to be fifty again, you can be fifty for a while. Oh! And the person you’re with – like, if Phoofsy is with Great – can be another age, too. ‘Cause you know how Great was 86 when he died but Phoofsy was almost 95? That might not be fair, for her to be older, just ’cause she got to live longer. They might want to be the same age again – so they can be, together.”

(I don’t know what age I want to be yet, but that sounds pretty much like the best idea ever.)

“I think, in heaven, you can live out a dream while you’re awake. Like, you know how when you wake up after you’ve had an awesome dream and you suddenly realize it was just a dream and you’re so sad? Well, in heaven, you actually get to do the dream while you’re awake – you never have to miss anything! So Phoofsy and Great and Grandpa Bill can live out all of their dreams, for real – not just dreaming – every single day.”

(OMG THAT IS AWESOME.)

“But it’s okay to sometimes miss things. I think people in heaven might sometimes be sad. I mean, they’re mostly happy – it’s heaven after all, and they can see their friends and they can travel all around the world and have those dreams – but I think there’s a little sadness… Because life has sadness. We have to have some sadness to appreciate the happiness. Without a little, tiny bit of sadness, heaven wouldn’t be real.”

(Appreciation and perspective, even in heaven. Very cool.)

“When you’re in heaven, if you get to travel all around the world and be any age you want, I want to be a baby for a little while.” 

(Interject our incredulity. A baby?? But wouldn’t that be… boring?)

“Well, that’s the thing. We think it would be boring right now because we can’t see inside a baby’s mind and we don’t remember what it was like to be a baby. But if I could be a baby, but have my regular mind, I could see what life was like when I was a baby and actually remember it.”

(Scratch what I said before. THAT may be the best idea ever.)

“And I know that, once people are dead, they’re gone and all that. But I think they’re still with us, too — not just in our hearts, though, like people say. I think – and I know this is kind of weird – but I think that people can come and visit for a while. You can’t see them, you can’t feel them, you don’t even know they’re there… But they are. Maybe they walk with you to school. Maybe they sit next to you at dinner. Maybe they ride beside you in the car. Then, suddenly, you have a good memory of that person and it makes you feel better… and it’s because they were right there with you for just a little bit, visiting. Not all creepy like a ghost! Just a good feeling, because they came to say hello.”

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Mother’s Day 2015

Ella and Annie don’t talk too much about being sad, but I know that Phoofsy is on their minds. Every day since she died, both girls, of their own accord, have made absolutely certain to keep something of hers with them; Ella now carries her books in one of Phoofsy’s old purses; Annie wears her hats around the house. Hardly a day has gone by when they haven’t worn one of her necklaces to school even though, normally, necklaces aren’t their thing.

Every time I see them toting her bags, donning her jewelry, adorned in her hats… a fleeting, glowing smile crosses my heart.

And I have no doubt Phoofsy has come to say hello.
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Throwback Thursday: The Gift

Photos have always been really important to me. It didn’t matter if I took them or someone else did, if they were technically “good” or quick, blurry snapshots – I’ve loved them. While I’m not terribly hoard-ish (yes, that’s a word; because I said so) in most areas of my life, I do hoard photos. I’ve got boxes of old pictures, some containing frame-worthy gems, others with envelope after envelope (from the stores that used to offer 1-Hr Photo Development! – remember those?!) of out-of-focus images, often in duplicate or even triplicate, of people and places whose names I can no longer recall.

Doesn’t matter. They’re photos and, like books or chocolate or Sauvignon Blanc, I simply cannot bear to part with them. This may seem odd or at least not terribly practical, given the amount of space that the physical photos take up in my basement and the digital photos take up on my hard drive(s)… but the pictures make me happy. All it takes is a few moments sifting through image after image to completely lift my spirits, make me gasp (in both good and bad ways), and make me smile. Which is also like books or chocolate or Sauvignon Blanc. I may be onto something.

GranMary came to visit a couple of weekends ago, and we had a really delightful time with her. As I’ve mentioned, little gives me more joy than seeing our family and friends just soak up my children, and GranMary’s visit provided plenty of opportunities for that. I loved the way that Annie and she giggled together on Friday night before Ella got home from swimming – a little time, just the two of them. I loved how I was awakened on Saturday morning by the girls’ raucous laughter from GranMary’s bed, after the girls had crawled in with glee. I loved how she and Ella cuddled in to watch one of the Harry Potter movies while Annie was at a Girl Scouts outing – a little time, just the two of them.

I loved watching Mary and my grandmother chatting away over lunch. I loved a chilly Saturday afternoon spent inside, with the girls scarcely leaving GranMary’s side as they did projects (she always brings some; it’s a highlight of her visits) and watched more Harry. I loved the opportunity to sit and talk with her after the girls had gone to bed, while Nick was at a party for his hockey team – a little time, just the two of us. I loved how GranMary gamely participated in our scavenger/egg hunt, seemingly unfazed by the dozens of children shrieking about our backyard in search of chocolate and money. (Then again, who could blame them?) I hated it when we said goodbye for another few months and Nick drove her back to the airport – a little time, just the two of them.

I hate that Bill is no longer here to come out and see us, but I love that Mary still does. I love that we’ve made our own relationship with her, in part because she is GranMary, but in part simply because she is herself, and we want her in our lives.

And Bill is not entirely absent from her visits; we talk about him all the time, wistfully, longingly, but almost always with laughter. This visit, GranMary surprised Ella and Annie with little photo books for each of them – pictures of them with Grandpa Bill. Many of the photos, I’d already seen, but some were new to me and they took my breath away. See, I thought I’d already sifted through my Memories Of Bill, had pored over everything I could recall, turning them over in my mind and reveling in their comfort… but here were moments that I’d never seen before. Memories that I never even knew existed.

It was amazing.

The girls loved their books, too. After going through each page, asking about every picture, smiling and laughing, I wasn’t sure what they’d do with them… But then I discovered that Annie had taken her book to school to share it with her friends, and that Ella keeps hers beside her bed. It seems that they’ve inherited my photo-loving gene (and the book-loving gene and most definitely the chocolate-loving gene; it remains to be seen what they think of Sauvignon Blanc).

Mary also brought a small collection of individual prints with her, which she gave to Nick and me – all pictures of Bill, most of them with us in one way or another. I’d seen nearly all of them, and cheerfully thumbed through the pile without really paying them too much mind… until I found this one and was stopped cold.

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Bill and me, May 2013, laughing like nobody’s business

Looking at it, you might be thinking: that’s cute enough. You’re both laughing, ice cream seems to have been involved, and you look like you’re having fun. A nice picture… if you don’t count the faded smudge at the top of the photo (an errant finger? late afternoon sun?) or Bill’s compression socks or the way the cuff of my capris is practically cutting off the circulation in my calves.

I see those things, too, but I don’t care even one bit… because this is the only photo I have ever seen that contains just Bill and me. We have photos from our wedding (Nick’s and my wedding, not Bill’s and my wedding… Although I do have photos from Bill and Mary’s wedding…), from before our wedding, up North, downstate, with Ella and Annie, with Nick, with Mary – and many of them are delightful photos – yet none of them contains just Bill and me.

Believe me, I know. I looked. Hard.

Why this matters, I’m not sure. It’s not like there’s anything unspecial about photos containing other people, too. But somehow, it gives me incredible joy to have this photo of the two of us, obviously enjoying one another’s company, laughing and generally getting a kick out of life.

I hadn’t even known this photo existed, hadn’t known that Mary had surreptitiously snapped it a year ago during Bill’s last-ever visit. I’m so very glad that she did, though, and that she printed it out and gave it to us. It is, without question, one of the most wonderful – and unexpected – gifts I’ve ever received.

I can’t wait to stumble upon it again when I go through our photos (and eat chocolate and drink wine) and relive the memories of that day.

Nah, scratch that. This one’s going on the wall.
Joy that big should be shared, don’t you think?

Thin Ice

So many people have kindly been asking how I’m doing.

And I always answer the same way: I’m okay. Some days are better than others. Thanks for asking.
But that’s only part of the (long) story.

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Previously, on Homeland (except I don’t mean Homeland, I mean in our lives, but in my head I hear Mandy Patinkin’s voice saying it. Anyhoo. Carry on)…

About a year ago, Ella broke her left foot, quite badly. She wasn’t doing anything crazy – just happened to fall off of her scooter exactly wrong – but every single one of the myriad doctors, nurses, and technicians who looked at her x-rays would literally gasp at the severity of the break, usually expressing how shocked they were that she wasn’t screaming bloody murder (always a comforting statement). She had a temporary cast put on, but we were told we’d need to revisit soon thereafter so another pediatric orthopedic surgeon could examine her foot and give his opinion.

When he took a look – again with the x-rays, and also just, you know, looking at her foot – he told us we had a decision to make: he could cast it again now and, because the foot itself didn’t look crooked (always a good sign), keep our fingers crossed that the bones would fuse together and heal properly – as children’s bones usually do – and that would be the end of it. But… if they didn’t fuse together and heal properly… if, because of the severity of the break, they healed poorly and all wonky… she’d need surgery in about a year — big, invasive, painful surgery with a nice, long recovery time. So, that was option one: cast it and hope for the best (the most likely outcome) – but recognizing that if things didn’t go well, we’d be headed down a rough road in a year or so.

Option two was to simply do surgery right then, which would probably guarantee that her foot would mend correctly. The surgery would be less intense than the one she could possibly need in a year, but would still be, you know, surgery — which would mean putting her under, plus a much longer recovery period than just putting her foot in a cast and allowing it to heal on its own. Since that was the most likely outcome anyway, this pre-emptive surgery was just an exceedingly overcautious measure… but it would be easier on her than the potential fix-it-up surgery.

Both options sucked. What on earth should we do? Make Ella go through surgery just in case? Or take things more slowly, assuming her foot would heal as it should – requiring only a few weeks in a cast – but potentially screwing her over even more in the future? THANKS SO MUCH, PARENTHOOD. THIS IS FUN.

Nick and I were unprepared to have the doctor lay it out like that, to put the decision to us. We choked. We sputtered. We were totally lost. And so, while the doctor went to gather his technicians to remove Ella’s temporary cast, I left the room, too… and called Bill. He wasn’t a doctor, but he’d had a lifetime’s worth of experience in the medical field. Surely he could help us through. (He did.)

10.23 in school

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It’s been been nearly seven years since I was in my own classroom, and man, have I missed it. I love, love, love being home with my daughters (when they’re not maiming one another or painting the bathroom walls with nail polish or wearing my lingerie as dress-up clothes during a playdate; TRUE STORY), but I miss teaching. I miss the students. I miss having my own classrooms and the cheesy teacher posters (“Shoot for the moon! If you miss, at least you’ll land among the stars!” “CAN’T is a four letter word!” “YOU DON’T SCARE ME – I TEACH!”) and even telling the kids that if they use the xylophone mallets one more time before I say go, they’re to hand them over for the rest of the class.

I’d so hoped to be back in the classroom full-time this year, what with Annie in first grade all day, but it just didn’t happen. (Although, with all that’s been going on this fall, can you even fathom if I’d been teaching all day, every day?? Oh, Universe/Karma/Fate, you foxy vixen. I’ll say it: uncle! You knew. Well played.) And then came the chance to sub, and it has been SO GOOD! Back in school again! With kids again! Arriving in the classroom to discover that the teacher didn’t realize that a qualified music sub would be in, and has left a movie, instead; oh hellz no! We will be doing recorders and yes, I CAN teach them to sing that canon in a round, thank you very much! SO VERY GOOD. Once or twice a week, I’m in that classroom, and a little bit of magic happens. LOOK AT ME, I AM SO HAPPY!!

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As school started this fall, Ella needed new shoes and we bought sneakers without incident, but when it came time to buy flats, she could find none – none! – that fit. I took her to (I am not kidding, and yes I actually counted) ELEVEN stores, from WalMart to Nordstrom, and she tried on every single damn pair of flats available, and NONE OF THEM WORKED. At first, I assumed she was just being exceedingly fussy and picky (I believe I may have actually muttered to her something along the lines of, “Sometimes, shoes don’t FEEL GOOD, but you just WEAR THEM ANYWAY!” because that’s always an awesome strategy), but finally, many tears later (both hers and mine; she’s eight, so she has an excuse; I’m just a crier), it dawned on me: her once-broken left foot was wider and shorter than her right. So, in fact, she wasn’t being fussy or picky; truly NOTHING fit.

Patted myself on the back for quite a nice long time after that one, I did. AWESOME JOB, MAMA.

Long story short, I finally tracked down some wide, impossible-to-find shoes that cost as much as the ones I wore for my wedding, and they fit and she was thrilled and the angels sang and chocolate poured forth from the heavens. But the shoe fiasco reminded me that it was nearly a year since Ella had broken her foot, so I’d better schedule her follow-up appointment with the surgeon, especially because they fill up so far in advance, I knew I’d have to book something immediately if I wanted to get her in anywhere near the twelve month mark.

Naturally, they’re not open on weekends, and afternoons are dicey because of piano lessons and Annie, so I chose a weekday appointment, smack dab in the middle of the day so that Ella would miss lunch and recess but as little actual instructional time as possible. Because of TESTING and COMMON CORE and ELA and MATH PROBLEMS THAT I CANNOT DECIPHER BECAUSE THEY SAY THINGS LIKE, “USING AN ARRAY, EXPLAIN WHY EQUAL GROUPS HELPED MIGUEL FIND OUT HOW MANY APPLES TO BRING TO THE MORTUARY.” Third grade is not what it used to be.

Anyway, I made the appointment and, knowing that this office tends to run at least an hour, if not two hours — TWO HOURS — behind, I was in constant communication with the surgeon’s receptionist, the school’s secretary, and Ella’s teacher, keeping the appointment time in flux so that she’d be there to learn how to help darling Miguel with the apples. PRIORITIES, PEOPLE.

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OH! Subbing is SUCH A JOY! Sorry for the excessive caps lock, but it is. I LOVE IT!! Have I mentioned that? No, really. I do.

But, sheesh, the scheduling. If I teach first thing in the morning, Nick needs to get the girls off to school. If I teach at a school that ends after my own kids’ classes end, I need to find someone to watch them until I can get home. All doable, but still… scheduling. If I teach on a day when I have piano lessons starting at 3:00, I need to either only teach a half-day or cancel my first piano lesson. Add to that mix Nick being out of town on a relatively frequent basis, and it’s been a hell of a thing keeping it all straight and figuring out when I am available. There have been days when I’ve received an email — not a first-thing-in-the morning, OH MY GOD WHO DIED? phone call, but just a friendly email — asking if I can sub… and I look at it, and everything in my brain gets a little wavy, like that time I was on Vicodin for knee surgery and Nick and I went to a hockey game and I asked him to get me “a drink” – you know, like a soda – and he assumed I mean an alcoholic drink and I didn’t have anything else to imbibe, so I drank that, and the booze mixed with the narcotics and suddenly I was watching the action on the ice, the teammates sliding prettily back and forth, saying to him, “Wow – the players down there look like a school of fish!”

So sometimes, my brain gets school-of-fish-y just looking at the subbing emails, and suddenly everything is so overwhelming, I can’t even beGIN to think what my schedule is next week, and I just burst into tears. Right there, in the kitchen, and the dogs are all, Was it something we did? We already apologized for eating the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (also: true story. Except they didn’t apologize). Crying. In the kitchen. Because I just can’t think straight, not even about something I adore.

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The office told me they were running about 30 minutes behind, so I called the school secretary to let her know, then tended to some things around the house and let the dogs out one last time. I called them in and Langston came running immediately, but Jambi did not. Wondering if perhaps she had found another apple from the tree and was ignoring me, I set out to bring her in, but no, she wasn’t by the apple tree. Nor by the playhouse. Nor the garden. Nor, well, anywhere. Both gates were locked, so I knew she hadn’t gotten out of the yard that way, and although Joey (our jackass other dog) can both go under and climb over the chain link fence, Jambi has never indicated that she can, so I was dumbfounded. Where could she be??

I called her, over and over. I walked the perimeter of the fence to look for holes where she might have escaped. NOTHING. She was nowhere to be found. And I had to leave in three minutes to take Ella to her appointment, the one that had taken two months to properly schedule, the one where they’d tell us if all had gone well or if she’d need major surgery. But I couldn’t leave, because I couldn’t find Jambi.

See, it’s not like your own pet just running off, where maybe you could be all, She knows where she’s fed, I’m sure it’s fine! and go about your business. Because Jambi isn’t ours. I mean, she is for the next ten months, but technically she belongs to CCI; she’s just living with us. There was no way in hell I could just allow our 10 month-old service dog-in-training, who had never so much as wandered (alone) ten feet beyond our property line, to just go on an adventure through the neighborhood and assume she’d come back safely. Have fun! Smell some hydrants for me! Catch ya later! No, I had to find her — I HAD TO FIND HER RIGHT THEN — and if I couldn’t, I had to keep looking until I did.

Nick, as is always the case when something unexpectedly calamitous happens, was out of town, and although he was empathetic when I called him in hysterics, trying to calm me down and helping me to see that Jambi had to the the priority here — Ella’s appointment could, technically, be rescheduled, but Jambi needed to be found — it wasn’t long before he had to say, “My flight’s about to board — good luck!” and I was on my own. No one else could take Ella to her appointment, and I couldn’t really ask neighbors to track down Jambi; I needed to find her myself, to make sure she was okay. Minutes ticking by, Ella’s appointment slipping ever further away, I got in the car and set off around the neighborhood, screaming Jambi’s name out of the windows.

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Pinterest is a dangerous place. I don’t just pin madly; if I see stuff that I have no interest in (scrapbooking and making anything that involves a sewing machine, I’m looking at you), rather than be intimidated or self-deprecatory or vindictive or spiteful, I just move on. To each their own.

But when I find stuff that DOES grab me, hoo boy. It is ON. Hermey (our Elf on the Shelf) is going to have some mighty fine adventures this year, let me tell you, and the entire family agrees that that recipe for crockpot cilantro chicken kicked some serious boo-tay.

Such was the case when I found the pumpkins. After all these years of just carving, WHO KNEW?? There was an entire WORLD of pumpkin decorating out there, just waiting for me to bring it into my dining room. Yes, the girls oohed and ahhed over what they saw on my Pinterest page, but who are we kidding? I was the one with pumpkin-decorating fever. It took no prodding at all for me to “convince” them to go to Michael’s at 5 p.m. on a Sunday, nor did I have any trouble filling the cart with the necessary accoutrements. I CAN USE BOTH MOD PODGE AND A GLUE GUN FOR THIS DESIGN? There is a God.

The dining room was filled to the brim with pumpkins for a solid ten days, and they were GOOD days! Happy days! Each time I saw them, they made me smile, big, shit-eating, jack-o-lantern smiles. WE ARE SO HALLOWEEN-Y AND CRAFTY AND LIFE IS JUST HUMMING ALONG RIGHT NOW!!! Once soccer ended, we wound up with a free Tuesday  afternoon (a free day! OMG!), and the girls and I spent THREE STRAIGHT HOURS decorating pumpkins. I could physically feel myself relaxing with the application of each sequin. Ooooh, pumpkins. I love you so!

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I drove around looking frantically for Jambi for forty-five straight minutes, until my voice was hoarse from the screaming and my eyes stung from the crying. She was nowhere. Before I could stop them, the litany of possible horror stories invaded my thinking… She’d gotten hit by a car. Someone had come by and taken her. Her collar had fallen off and no one would know who she was and we’d never get her back. We’d never get her back. What would I tell CCI? How could I ever explain? We’d never have another CCI pup again. This was it. Our darling puppy was missing.

Ella’s appointment time had long come and gone, and after leaving a watery message for the surgeon’s receptionist saying we hoped maybe we’d still get a chance to be seen, I’d told the school secretary to just send Ella off to lunch, realizing that I sounded every bit as frazzled and maniacal as I felt. 

I finally came back home, hoping that perhaps Jambi had returned and wormed her way back into the yard. I stopped briefly in the kitchen, screaming out her name (no, I mean it, SCREAMING) in a way that would put Marlon Brando to shame.

jambi gif
I absolutely deserved an Oscar. Either that, or a padded room.

After a particularly hysterics-filled shout-out, I took a deep breath and said out loud to myself, “Holy shit. Maybe I’m actually going insane.” Wandering aimlessly into the backyard one last time, once again painstakingly walking the fence perimeter, looking behind the shed, looking in the shed (even though it was closed and locked), calling and calling and calling… I couldn’t see her anywhere.

And then, just as I’d turned to go back into the house, I heard something. It wasn’t a yelp, certainly not a bark, but maybe a little bit of whining. I whirled around, trying to see where it was coming from, and happened to notice a tiny bit of rustling behind the wisteria tree that is pressed against our house. Wedged between the tree and the house – the exact same tawny color as the tree trunk, and smaller than it by quite a bit (which would explain why she was essentially invisible) – was my girl, shaking uncontrollably, whimpering, and clearly as glad to see me as I was to see her.

She’d been there all along.

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The pumpkins were SO FREAKIN’ FUN. I genuinely loved each and every one of them, especially just relaxing (much needed) and being with the girls while we got our creativity on, and am so excited that we now have a whole bunch to add to our collection for future Halloweens, as well as a few other (fake) ones I bought on sale for next year, because heavens knows there are a whole bunch of ideas we never got around to. LONG LIVE PUMPKIN PINTEREST!!

But, oh dear god, the mess. The glue sticks that globbed onto the floor. The hot glue that burned my fingers. The paint all over the dining room table, despite careful preparations to protect it. The googly eyes and the stick-on gems and the superfine glitter — oh, sweet baby Jesus, the superfine glitter — that has seeped into EVERY SINGLE CORNER of our home. There was SO MUCH MESS, and only so many hours in which to clean it, which meant that surely I’d be going to bed MUCH TOO LATE yet again.

(For all of the tea in China [wait, is that even an appropriate metaphor anymore?], I canNOT get myself into bed at a reasonable hour. It’s not that I sleep poorly… it’s that I don’t go to bed in the first place. Just put your butt under the covers earlier, you say. And I’d agree. Except if it were that easy, I’d be under the damn covers.)

The girls helped with the clean-up, of course. They’d definitely made a good portion of the mess, so they were really good cleaners, but still a lot was left to me. The best time to do the cleaning was after they’d gone to bed, but it was just so hard. There were so many other things I needed to do — make lunches, fold laundry, answer essential emails — and then other things I wanted to do, like finally looking at YouTube links that friends and family had sent me weeks ago, or editing photos (I haven’t edited my own family’s photos SINCE MARCH, Y’ALL), and by the time I looked up, it was freakin’ 1 a.m., and the dining room was still a disaster, and it was just too much — all of it too much — and there was nothing left to do. Except cry.

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I ran over to where Jambi was, and immediately saw why I’d failed to notice her during any of my prior searches of the yard: she had curled herself into a tight ball on the ground between the wisteria tree and the house, and – being the exact same color as the tree trunk – become invisible. Hiding in plain sight for nearly an hour.

Although she whined some as I called her name, she never barked at me, nor did she leave her perch and bound up to me, which would have been typical. As I got closer, I called her again, reaching out to her, but still she didn’t budge. By now, I was beginning to think that something was seriously wrong – maybe she’d broken a leg or something? – and I leaned down to examine her hind quarters for any injuries, but could find none.

What I did, find, however, were wisteria vines — oodles of them, wrapped all around our sweet Beast and binding her in place as though she’d been tied there by a stagecoach bandit. The harder she struggled to free herself, the more the vines constricted, leaving her  absolutely stuck. It took only a moment for me to reach my hand under one of the offending ropes and snap it in two, which in turn loosened the remaining coils, and Jambi sprang loose like a magic snake shooting out of a fake peanut can. 

OMG I LOVE YOU!! I’VE BEEN HERE THE WHOLE TIME! YOU WERE CALLING AND CALLING AND I COULDN’T GET TO YOU! IT’S BEEN SO GODDAMN SCARY! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! YOU ARE THE BEST HUMAN EVER! DO YOU HAVE ANY TREATS FOR ME??

After all that – the driving around, the shouting until I became hoarse, the sheer panic and horror, the hysterical sobbing, the wondering if she was gone forever or dead or if we’d ever again have another CCI dog – she was right there all along, not making a sound.

(‘Course, if she’d made any noise while I was looking for her… let out even the tiniest of barks… I could have found her so much sooner… But, ah well, it’s only my sanity we’re talking about here. No worries.)

I so wanted to just play with her, to let her know that I hadn’t meant to strand her all wrapped up in wisteria vines, and I tried to hug her wriggly-fish body… but then had to usher her immediately inside and into her kennel because there was still the slightest chance that Ella could be seen that afternoon. Tears dried, purse grabbed, car started, GO.

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To put it mildly, it has been a crazy fall, with typical back-to-school nuttiness combined with new sports schedules, additional homework (Miguel isn’t going to get the apples to the mortuary alone, y’all), Nick’s MBA program, my subbing… It’s a whirlwind. And so that’s a huge part of why I’ve made very sure to make time for me as often as possible. Sometimes, it’s just a Caramel Macchiato while I answer emails (Starbucks, holla!), or extra time flipping through People while I’m on the can. Other times, it’s making sure that Nick and I watch Homeland together, or going to a concert (even if I come home smelling like a patchouli factory).

Still others, it’s making time to hang out with friends, be it chatting around the soccer field or going out for dinner with rebel Girl Scout moms. Those times have been my saving grace this season; sitting with a group of girlfriends – or just one fabulous pal – talking, sharing a bottle of wine, and laughing. Oh, the laughing! GIRL POWER, PEOPLE!! TIME SPENT WITH MY HOMIES! It is so awesome and healing and just generally fabulous.

It’s taking those moments just for me that make me remember that I still AM me. Thank God for being selfish every now and again.

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I barreled into the lobby of the school (except that you can’t “barrel” into any school these days because of heightened security measures, but anyway), doing my best to look all I’m Not Completely Insane So Sorry For Phoning You 83 Times This Morning Where Might My Daughter Eleanor Be? The secretary, ever-patient with me, directed me to the lunchroom, where Ella’s class had just gotten seated. I tried calling for her across the cafeteria, but that was as effective as trying to light a candle in a waterfall, so, whooshing past the other third-graders in a mad rush to reach her before she dug into her food, I whisper-shouted to her to Hurry up! We need to leave NOW!! Um, please.

She dutifully grabbed her tray and her jacket and we hustled out to the car. While we drove, as she balanced her lunch on her lap and chattered away about her morning, I explained why I’d been late.

“But Mom – Jambi could have gotten hit by a car!” I know, baby. 
“We might never have seen her again!” I’m well aware, kiddo.
“She was by herself and stuck all that time?? Poor puppy!” Breaks my heart, too, sweetie.
“CCI might never have let us get another dog again!” Preaching to the choir, ma’am.

Once Ella was satisfied that Jambi was safe and sound, she turned her attention to the appointment at hand. What would the doctor be doing? Why did he need to check her foot again? If it hadn’t healed properly, what would happen?

I answered the first few questions, but kind of lied about the last one. “I’m not sure, honey. But I bet it’s just fine! How’s that pizza?”

I, myself – still feeling the rush of adrenaline from searching for Jambi and not forgetting my “Stella!” moments in the kitchen – had no appetite, but I ate the leftovers I’d brought, anyway. It could be a long afternoon, and I didn’t want to have an empty stomach on top of it.

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One morning, after a wonderful evening out with a friend – just a couple of hours, but so very needed and good, with each of us drinking a single beverage, talking the rest of the time about how we were both handling some fairly emotionally harrowing times – I received an email from her, asking how I was doing. The night before, I’d told her I’d been doing okay — actually, pretty fine. I felt good. I was coming out of the fog. I was feeling put together! Yay me!

But, as I answered her email, this is what I said, instead:

Today was okay. Turns out I forgot that it was Crazy Hat Day and also didn’t give Ella her allergy meds this morning, meaning I had a call from the school nurse to see if it was okay for Ella to receive the meds at school because they were having the Bus Safety demonstration, plus recess, and Ella would have turned into one enormous hive. 😐 So there was the slap in the face that, damn it, I guess I’m not as on top of all this as I’d thought. Shit.

Even when I try to take time for myself, to breathe and do right by me, something falls apart. Apparently, I truly just can’t do it all, despite my best intentions.

And then I cried.

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We got the to appointment and I took Ella’s hand as we walked into the building. Walking in, her and me; I remembered what it had been like a year ago, taking the elevator or carrying her up the stairs as she attempted to make her way on crutches. So much had happened in just twelve short months.

Ella took a seat in the waiting room – which was unexpectedly empty – and I apologized to the receptionist for the wacky phone messages I’d sent earlier. She laughed obligingly (a good sign, no?) and said that, as luck would have it, because we were late, there was a gap between appointments, and we’d be seen immediately. Ella was actually annoyed with me when I pulled her away from Toy Story II to go to the exam room.

She was weighed and had her height charted (which, thankfully, produces none of the cold sweat in her that it does in me when I see my own doctor, thanks very much), and then the doctor came in. He remembered us – remembered the severity of the break – and asked how Ella was doing. I let her answer for herself, and she told him that she was great. Aside from not finding shoes that she liked (an unforgivable crime at the age of eight), her foot wasn’t bothering her at all.

The surgeon examined Ella’s foot, turning it over slowly and carefully, and told us that although it looked good, we wouldn’t know for sure until she’d had some x-rays. And so off Ella went (no parents allowed; radiation and all), while I waited for her future to be dictated by a single black-and-white picture. I’m not sure I took a single breath while she was in that room.

Even if I could, there would have been no one I felt I could talk to at that moment. Nick’s plane had yet to land, and the person I’d called a year ago when we’d had a crisis with Ella’s foot is only reachable through a medium. And I didn’t happen to bring one with me to the doctor’s office.

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Every session, my therapist greets me by asking how I’m doing. Except it’s not the perfunctory, small-talk “How are you?” nor the weird, psycho-babble “HOW ARE YOU?” but a genuine, honest, tell me what’s up. What’s REALLY up.

Well, I began. I thought I was doing well. I thought I was doing just fine. I recounted all of the Ways In Which I Am Doing Well: The girls are good – really good. They seem to enjoy school, even when they can’t figure out how to help Miguel get the apples to the mortuary, and they love, love their extra-curricular activities. It’s been a bit wild trying to work our schedules out, but truth be told, I think that having to fit the puzzle pieces together has actually been helpful for me.

I’m subbing and I LOVE it. LOVE IT!! Nick is doing really well with his MBA. We’ve seen concerts and gone to hockey games. We’ve been doing more together as a family, from bowling to watching movies to tossing the football on the weekends, and it hasn’t felt forced or strange but really, truly good. I’ve been laughing and hanging out with friends, and Halloween preparations have been SO MUCH FUN this year. I Am Doing Well.

But… I’m also crying. Like, a lot. And it’s been just so WEIRD, because one day I’ve had such a good day — I’ve felt happy rooted all the way to my core — and I feel like I can conquer the world. And on those days, or in those hours, I make plans! I am a Pinterest fiend! I play games with the kids! I cook something new and fabulous for dinner! I AM THE KING OF THE WORLD!

And then, just like that, BAM. I’m at the very bottom, and the wind has been completely knocked out of me, and I am so Not Doing Well, I can’t even catch my breath. AND IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY, this whiplash, this roller coaster, this back and forth. What the hell is WRONG with me??

It’s almost, I told her, as though I’m bipolar or manic-depressive, because I have friends who have battled those disorders, and their oh-so-highs, followed immediately by their oh-so-lows, seem an awful like what I’m going through. Except I’m not really bipolar… right?

I hoped the question was rhetorical.

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While we waited for the doctor to examine the x-rays, Ella and I read some of Harry Potter, which served as both a great way to pass the time and a way for me to avoid expressing my fears to her. I might have been terrified that she’d wind up in an operating room within the next few weeks, but she certainly didn’t need to know that.

He made small talk with us as he attempted to pull up the x-rays on his computer, with Ella gamely telling him about the swim team and me sending up a silent prayer to the patron saint of sports that she’d still be able to swim after this appointment. The doctor continued his chit-chat as he showed us the x-ray that had been taken the day she’d broken her foot, then a week later after it had been casted, and my anxiety quietly soared through the roof. 

Please, let it have healed well. Please, let it have healed well. Please.

And then he paused over the final x-ray — the one taken just minutes ago — and ran his finger along the computer screen, up the line of her metatarsals. “You see that?” he asked us. I nodded, unsure what he was getting at.

“You can’t see a thing, can you?” Um, no. I don’t speak x-ray.

“That’s because her bone is perfectly straight. In fact, they all are perfectly straight — all three of the bones she broke. You can’t even tell there was ever a problem.

She’s healed perfectly, and she’s good to go.”

Do we need to come back any time for a follow up? I asked, as Ella put her shoes back on. 

“Nope. And,” he grinned at Ella, “no offense, because you’re a delightful young lady, but I really hope I never see you again.” No offense, doc, but same here.

On the way back to school, Ella asked what would have happened if the bones hadn’t healed straight. And so, with those options now firmly off the table, I told her – about the surgery, about the choice her Daddy and I had made and why we’d made it, about the gamble we’d taken, hoping with all our might that it would pay off.

“Well…” She paused just a moment. “Looks like you’re pretty smart!”

I gave her a half-laugh that I hoped she wouldn’t hear the fear and disbelief behind it.

“The only thing I’m bummed about is now I don’t ever get to use crutches again. They were kind of fun!”

She returned to school less than an hour after I’d picked her up, with plenty of time to learn how to help Miguel with the apples, my healthy girl trotting down the hallway to her classroom.

It all worked out. She hardly missed any school. We had no wait at the doctor’s office. Her foot was great. Everything was good.

I should have felt relieved. Hell, I should have felt elated. But all I felt was numb.

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My therapist’s answer was as swift as it was firm: No. No, you’re not bipolar. (Good to know.) And all of this? This almost fanatical I Must Fill My Time With Something, and the trying new projects, and the feeling so wonderful, followed by the tears and the sadness and the feeling like you don’t know what on earth is going on… it’s not you. You’re not just being impulsive. It’s not your ADD. It’s not you taking on too much because you overestimate what you can handle. It’s not you letting things slip through the cracks. It’s not your anxiety. It’s not depression.

It’s grief.

And I was all, DECORATING PUMPKINS AND FORGETTING CRAZY HAT DAY IS GRIEF??

And she was all, MMM HMM.

(Except she wasn’t quite like that, but suffice it to say she’s excellent.)

Grief, it turns out, is like an unpredictable toddler: you never know if it’s going to make your day the best ever with an enormous hug and a lisped version of the ABCs or if it’s going to take a crap in the middle of your living room and throw animal crackers at you while you’re folding laundry. It looks different in absolutely everyone, and it is no better or worse, no harder or easier, for you than it is for the next person. The worst kind of grief is your own.

And also? The manic-like highs and the deep, dark lows? They actually have a name: Manic Defense. As in, you do all of this stuff (maniacally, wildly) because you want to defend and shield yourself against whatever yuckiness is going on. In many cases, it can actually be a good thing, because it’s self-protective.

YOU HEAR THAT, SUBSTITUTE TEACHING AND THEN STAYING UP UNTIL 2 A.M.?? I’m not doing it because I’m CRAZY. I’m doing it because I am apparently INCREDIBLE at PROTECTING MYSELF.

I am a grieving ROCKSTAR.

BOO YAH.

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Nick’s plane landed shortly after Ella’s appointment ended, and because he needed to change his clothes before going to the office, I met him at the house. I told him – most importantly – about Ella’s foot, about how it was completely healed, about how we never need to visit the surgeon again. Then, I told him where Jambi had been, how frenzied I’d become, how terrible I felt that she was there all along.

“Em,” he sought to reassure me, “you know this wasn’t your fault, right? You didn’t do anything wrong. The gates were locked, the yard was safe, you checked on her regularly. You searched the neighborhood. There was absolutely no way to know that she’d become tangled up in the vines, especially if she didn’t bark at you. You did everything you could. And look – it all turned out just fine!”

I know I should have felt good about that… pleased… reassured, if nothing else. Instead, I (wait for it…) began to cry.

I’M JUST SO SICK OF IT!

Sick of what?

Sick of all this. Sick of feeling on top of the world, decorating pumpkins with the girls yesterday and feeling like it was the best afternoon I’d had in forever, and then sobbing because the dining room is a mess. Sick of being so thrilled for the girls that GranMary sent them the coolest Halloween cards of all time and then bursting into tears when they open the cards and I know that Grandpa Bill’s name isn’t on them. Sick of Jambi disappearing, and instead of taking it in stride, falling apart and screaming like a lunatic in the kitchen. Sick of some stupid crisis occurring when you’re on a plane and wanting to call your dad so much but I FUCKING CAN’T BECAUSE HE’S NOT FUCKING HERE ANYMORE AND I STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW THAT CAN POSSIBLY BE TRUE.

I’m SICK of it. I’M JUST SICK OF IT.

There were hugs, of course. Lots of them. And then these words before he left for work, promising to return home early because he understood that I was completely depleted, that I’d just had it for the rest of the day, “I’m so sorry that you’re so sad about my dad. But I’m not sorry that you had such a great relationship with him. And I’m sick of it, too.”

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When I told my therapist about the Jambi/Ella incident, I asked for her, again, to please tell me that I wasn’t crazy, because I sure as hell felt crazy when I was going all “Stellllaaaa!” in my kitchen. She looked at me like I had three heads.

No, of course you’re not crazy. YOU’RE GRIEVING.

Yes, yes. I know. Grieving.

You need to cut yourself some slack!

I know, I know. Be gentler with myself. And I am! Or, at least, I’m trying to be… I KNOW that I can’t do it all. I KNOW that I’m likely to forget stuff like Crazy Hat Day – and there’s comfort in that, in knowing it’s not my fault. But I’m still forgetting, and it’s frustrating… And I seriously freaked out about Jambi.

But, Emily… You thought you’d lost her.

I know. It was awful.

It sounded terrible! But think about it for a moment… You thought you’d lost her. FOREVER. You thought she was GONE FOREVER… which is not exactly a foreign feeling to you right now.

Oh yeah. Right.

And you lived in that state – that complete and utter state of terror – for almost an hour, all alone, AND you were worried that your daughter might need surgery. 

When you put it like that…

No wonder you seriously freaked out. If you HADN’T seriously freaked out, I think that would be much more crazy.

Well, I AM a grieving rockstar, after all.

Think of it as walking on thin ice. You’re not going to fall through – don’t worry about that – but it might crack around you, and you’re never quite sure when. You can make it across… you WILL make it across… but you’re going to get your feet wet along the way.

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So… I guess that’s how I’m doing. Practicing my kick-ass Manic Defense skills, inching along, trying my damnedest not to get my feet wet but knowing that it’s inevitable.

Some days, I cover a lot of ground. Others, I slide backward. My feet are prune-y, but overall, there’s forward progress. And I manage to take time, every single day, to genuinely appreciate how beautiful the ice is, cracks and all.

I’d love to sit here and be philosophical with you some more, but there are Christmas catalogs to pore over with the girls – I LOVE ME SOME CHRISTMAS CATALOGS!! And we’re hosting friends for Thanksgiving, and I cannot WAIT to find new recipes to try! Plus, it’s almost time for Hermey the Elf to appear, which means that I have a date with Pinterest tonight.

I’m okay. Today is a good day.
Thanks for asking.