letters to my sister, on the eve of what should have been her 29th birthday.

i had a moment yesterday, walking around goodwill, where i suddenly realized i was grieving. why it’s hard to concentrate at work. why i am not as fast to return emails, why i haven’t been wanting to cook. or bake. or talk to people.

i don’t know why it surprised me – this week has been hard. actually, this spring has been hard. i see you everywhere – in the cherry blossoms, in the blue skies, in the change in weather. i made ham at easter, and have had a very hard time eating it, because all i can think of is your digestive system shutting down, slowly, for years, and you eating ham everyday. because it didn’t cause muscle spasms and injure your already injured body. and so it’s in these little things that i miss the fact that losing you is a trauma. and i shouldn’t be surprised that i’m having a hard time.

i guess i expected to be crying all the time. i mean, i do cry, but mostly when i’m at my therapist’s office. or when someone posts something on facebook i wish i could share with you. our cousin posted something on your wall, and he said he’d talk with you about it the next time he saw you. that phrasing struck me, as it’s something i’ve caught myself thinking over and over and over again.

i think that’s the part that hurts. or one of many parts. that there won’t be a next time, at least not here, not in this life. i took tomorrow off, because i don’t know what to expect from your birthday. i’m making you a cake, but i don’t even know what kind to make you. i’m thinking lemon, but i don’t know. i don’t know anymore. it had been so long since you were able to eat cake or sweets (and good for you, for being a compliant patient.) that i don’t even remember what kind you liked. i’m not sure if i can ask mom.

it’s been hard for all of us. grief counseling only prepares you for so much, and the enormity of losing you shows up in everything. dad and i were on the phone, and we had to cut our conversation short very quickly, or it was going to be messy for both of us. i’m not angry you’re gone, but i struggle with being afraid i lost you without you knowing how much you meant to me. that’s harder than being angry. the fear that it wasn’t enough.

my therapist and i are addressing that fear, because it shows up in everything in my life these days. but i’m trying. my beloved favorite artist said it best – “I am seeking, I am striving, I am in with all my heart – always seeking without absolutely finding.”

i’ve been working on being good to this body that i have. seeking to prolong my life, to be healthy, to live longer than i was on track to. it’s hard. but you did everything necessary to make your lungs work one more year, your body to keep going, to miraculously recover over and over and over, and so much of it was due to perseverance in doing what your doctors told you to. so if you could, i can.

i had so many things to tell you, but the lump in my throat is getting too big to breathe, and i still have a work day to make it through. tomorrow, i’m going to bake a cake, and plant some flowers, and walk around the botanical gardens. and miss you.

happy should have been birthday, Marlene. i miss you.

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letters to my sister, one of many

i miss you. i knew i would, but it’s acute, knowing you aren’t near enough for a phone call. a google chat.

i was looking all sorts of things up, trying to make sure writing letters to lost loved ones isn’t a sign of cracking up. according to the internet, i’m not losing it. though if i go on WebMD and check, i’ll probably have cancer, according to their diagnosis.

a mutual friend posted a video on facebook that i wanted to share with you, and in that moment, i was overwhelmed. you’re gone. and it’s starting to sink in. veterans day was missing your usual gratitude and kindness – your acknowledgement of all our families have laid down for their nation. a wealth of history contained in a few sentences. i miss that.

christmas is feeling more and more precious, knowing that it was the beginning of our hope of glory. i know i’ll see you again, but there are long years until then. years filled with life and joy and hope and sorrow and all the things i know await. but i wanted to be old ladies together, not longing for you through years of distance. the guilt comes and goes – it arrives when i find a get well card i never sent. i constantly reassure myself that you knew how much i wanted you to be well. how much i cared. because that’s a fear. that it wasn’t enough.

it’s what keeps me awake at night, restless and not wanting to sleep. before, when i was up late for whatever reason, i knew where you were. you were attached to me by a long thread that led onto distant highways, and if i was awake, you might have been too. it was comforting, and i didn’t know how much it was until now. the surety that i could call and hear your voice. call and say i love you.

so here’s my i love you. i wish you could read this. wish you could see my attempts to find a suitable crematory urn, something that you would like – pink and sparkley. it’s not going well, but i’m trying to find it… i miss you sister. you would know exactly where to look, exactly what to say.

i’ve been listening to a song, over and over. it’s one you lived by. and i’m trying to as well. i miss you.

 

spotify:track:2rgIBgCtsCIjlkt0KAtHZB

fear and hoarding in athvegas

alternate title: how i cleaned out my closet.

yeah, i’m still circling around the way i have fear based mechanisms in place all over my life. they keep appearing, new cogs and gears, moving me in directions i thought i was programmed to. it turns out, maybe i’m not supposed to be this way.

i watch a lot of netflix in the evenings after zoe goes to bed, and much to the chagrin of spencer and pretty much all my friends, i love the show hoarders. and anything dealing with hoarding. in the past, i used to watch it, think to myself, well thank God i’m not that bad.

does that sound like a verse? luke 18:11 says “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” so yeah, maybe there was some judgement, but there was a whole lot more convincing myself that my small piles of clutter were fine – sure, i totally need 18 cardigans, or 8 pairs of jeans i don’t wear. or chairs i can’t use in my house yet. or extra wool blankets. or books. and books and books and books.

and in my attempt at justifying my own hoards, i completely missed the point. well, two points. one, that there’s a deeper reason for my holding onto things. and two, i was super close to falling down that hole myself. anyone who knew me 10 years ago, and saw the insane amounts of stuff i kept filling our house with probably knows how close i actually was. and still am sometimes.

so what about my closet? i had dresses i hadn’t worn in years, jeans 2 sizes too small, and cardigans in every color of the rainbow, even though i only wear 4 or 5 of them. for me, with the homelessness, the joblessness, the despair of our previous years still written on the back of my eyelids, every time i looked in the closet, i saw money. the fact that i had so many clothes meant that no matter how broke we got, i’d still have clothes. sure, i hated half of them, but at one time i loved them, and if i really had to, i could wear them.

the phrase “poverty mindset” is thrown around the american church, and i think it is grossly misused and the solutions presented are often trite and meaningless. the thing is, poverty thinking is focused on the now. you’ve got 20 bucks? okay, put gas in your tank, buy 10 bucks in groceries, and pray nothing breaks. spending 5 dollars on thrifted shoes instead of saving for new, more expensive ones makes more sense. you know why? because as soon as you save some money, something bad will happen, and you won’t get your shoes. you’ll need your money elsewhere. your paycheck is completely allotted to food and gas and groceries, and bills and rent, and there’s no room for new clothes. better hang onto everything, because there’s no telling when you’ll get to buy something for yourself or your husband – any money for clothes goes to the growing child.

how do you escape that? i don’t know. i’m only now having to confront it, because we’re actually slowly digging out from that hole. are we rolling in it? not hardly. but the recent lowering of gas prices has given us breathing room in the budget in a way we’ve not had in years. it’s weird to be such an economic statistic, but we are. lower gas prices has freed up discretionary income, and forced me to look at my hoarding habits.

so i still watch hoarders, and i will likely keep doing so. but now, i can look and see people who are sick with fear, and somewhere along the line, something convinced them that they can’t get rid of anything. whether that something is mental illness, trauma, or other adverse events doesn’t matter. i watch it, and i want to get rid of half the things in our house. in a way, it’s cathartic for me, because i have to confront my stuff. i cleared out half my closet last night. and i’m not even kidding. i’ve only got clothes that fit me, and not only that, clothes that i like.

i kept a couple of tee shirts that don’t fit, 2 dresses and one pair of jeans. everything else is stuff i like, not just stuff i have. and that’s freeing. the act of taking the clothes off the hangers was a step towards walking away from the fear of not having enough. i still need to confront my emotional eating, and my poverty food habits, but i’m taking baby steps. i will be able to get the things i need, and i don’t need to hold onto everything just in case. the things i carry with me should be tools and not chains, assistants not weights.

i know this is a very long blog post to just talk about cleaning out my closet. but i had deeper issues to confront, and i want to keep doing it. i’m cleaning out my mental closet, trying to put away mindsets and attitudes that do nothing but destroy me. i want to walk away from fear.

voices and voiceless and all the in betweens

i had a friend tell me recently that she missed my authorial voice. which surprised me, because i didn’t think i had one. a distinctive voice, that is. maybe in real life, where i can sing tenor fairly comfortably, but certainly not a written one.

but it got me thinking, thinking about why the blog lay silent so long, thinking about what i place value on when typing into this blank slate of ones and zeroes. i realized a couple of things.

one, that i still struggle with wanting to put on my best face, and present the most perfect me to the world. i’m still wrestling through the requirements of honesty in a world of masks, and there’s some concern there. we’re not perfect. the laundry doesn’t get done with any regularity, and spencer and i probably have tense discussions at inappropriate times. we’ve only recently started making sure the dishes are done every night, and zoë might get to eat cereal twice a day on the weekends. by her choice, of course, but even still, if it weren’t, and that’s all we could afford to feed her, who cares? she is loved, adored, and cared for, and we are doing the best we can.

i can’t pretend that i have somehow become super mom, or even a more rigorously scheduled, put-together woman with a career and a perfect house, because it’s not true. instead of coming to a realization that prozac didn’t change my most essential self, it’s been easier to just stay quiet. because of shame, and wanting to be perfect, and not being able to. and that’s what even led me down the road of needing to take antidepressants in the first place – the myth of perfectionism.

so i’m going to try to be a bit more honest – i don’t mop the floor but once every month or so. sure, we sweep, and vacuum, but mopping is not high on my radar. i make the bed about once a week. mostly on the weekends, because it is gratifying to take a nap on a made bed. we throw together last minute dinners most nights, because both spencer and i work. and he works somewhere between 50-60 hours a week, i work 40 and we’re just busy. i’m not a stay at home mom, and i’m not likely to be anytime in the future, and there was so much of a sense of failure over that fact, i went quiet. i currently have about 7 loads of dirty laundry to wash, and about 4 to hang and put away. again, necessary, but not high on my radar. i could have done it yesterday, but zoë and i went swimming after spencer went to kung fu training. the sorts of things that i am learning to embrace in the interest of self care. in the interest of not destroying myself with my own self imposed regulations that, while valuable, are not the most important.

the other thing i realized, is that my blog isn’t just about zoë. it’s about me. and spencer. and our dog, and the books i read, and the cakes i don’t make, and the chickens we keep, and the jobs we have, or don’t have and all the things that make us who we are. so if i feel like blogging about a book i read that i can’t get over (ie: annihilation – wow!) or something i am particularly concerned over (ie: world news in general), then it’s fine.

this isn’t just a method for disseminating information about zoë or pictures of the first day of school – this is a way or me to pour out on invisible paper the things that i used to journal. the flaws, failings, realness and rawness of being a person. having a voice, and allowing myself to speak. even if it’s trivial, even if it’s not big words in the face of genocide or persecution or depression or epidemics sweeping the world, they still have value. so there.

this was a missive to myself. to my feelings of doubt and failure. i needed to hear these things too. so there. authorial voice. and maybe you’ll hear from me again soon.

learning curve

i had about 1/2 of a post typed up. 9 days ago. since then, i have continued to get busier and busier, with today being my first moment to even remember the drafted post.

which i promptly scrapped, because wow. working and blogging is tough – everynight when i get home, i just want to cook dinner, watch river monsters on animal planet, and be in my pj’s. not on my laptop. so there’s that. couple that with the fact that zoë is visiting grammie’s house, and spencer is still in dahlonega and you’ll notice there’s not a lot to talk about.

i file reports, pay fed-ex, email people all day and drink copious amounts of coffee. i have lovely co-workers, an office (with a window!!) to myself and a sense of working autonomy that i did not anticipate. i think it is unusual these days, at least for those of us with humanities degrees AND no sweet programming/networking/IT skills to find positions where there are not micromanagers. perhaps i’m wrong… my experience has been one of less autonomy and more scrutiny in the work place. so to come into an office where everyone is treated as an adult, their opinions and ideas are valued and there is a less rigorous adherence to the letter of the law and more in terms of the spirit. don’t get me wrong, we work within very specific rules and regulations. but there are no rules on how to paper clip your files. or whether or not you can decorate your office. (more on that in the future, once all my prints arrive). and i’m even allowed to wear flip flops. WHAT?

so in terms of job satisfaction, i’m super happy. i accrue 3 weeks of vacation time a year. i have benefits, and i am getting paid a very decent administrative support salary. why am i going on and on about this? because it is so unexpectedly awesome. we had given up hope on moving back to athens – it just didn’t seem possible. it is incredibly difficult to get into staff positions at UGA, and i certainly did not expect to be here.

while i am busy, and certainly enjoying my downtime, i am looking forward to our family being reunited, and moving into a family home together. it will be a little time before that happens, and i will likely not be posting much as i re-enter the working world. there’s a lot of juggling that i have to do, that i have not done for a long time. i think it is really good for me though – i feel stretched and energized, taking on all these new things. and the best part about the job is that the learning curve doesn’t stop. i will master check requests, and travel and fed-ex and all of that, but there will likely always be something new to learn.

i’m going to get back to my lunch now – i’m enjoying a leisurely one hour lunch break these days, but cold food is no good.

luck be a lady…

so i’ve never really believed in luck. i mean, sure, i had my silly rituals as a kid – don’t step on the cracks, heads up pennies, fingers crossed – but i never really believed in it. so now, whenever i say things like – fingers crossed and wish me luck – in the back of my head, there’s a little voice that reminds me that i’m being foolish. there’s no such thing as luck.

i don’t know where fate falls into things, i’m not a strict calvinist, so i’ve had a hard time believing in my life being chosen for me. but i still have moments of nervousness – i don’t want to tempt fate. or really, God. because i have a hard time not attributing a capricious nature to the God i claim to follow. i know it’s not scriptural, and sometimes i truly believe in His goodness or faithfulness. but a lot of times, i have a Jonathan Edwards type view of God – i’m a sinner, and He’s angry. and though i know that sermon is really about the grace of God, my head tells me that grace is for someone else.

so what does this have to do with luck? the other day, i mentioned a possibility that i was excited about. i was hesitant to mention the details, because there was this fear that if i told everything too soon, then it wouldn’t work out. foolish, right? but somewhere in my heart, i was afraid. afraid that a capricious god would hear my hope and decide i was unworthy. afraid that a trickster god would fool me, afraid i was somehow unworthy of blessing. notice how the g is not capitalized? that’s because it was a god of my own making. fear of being unworthy. of not being enough.

and in answer to my fears, i was blessed beyond expectation. i applied for a job at my alma mater on monday of last week, after hearing about the job opening on sunday. by thursday i had an interview, and this week – monday, to be precise – i signed my name to the offer letter and sent it in. i have applied to many, many jobs at UGA over the past few months, and never even got an email response. let alone an interview. let alone a job offer. let alone a start date.

so now, we’re on precipice of moving back to a town that has felt like home for 4 years. this year away has been hard, illuminating, and absolutely necessary. i was seriously broken in so many ways, and spencer and i were in bad shape. depression wrecks a family, ruins their ability to be whole – cohesive – not shattered, and i certainly wasn’t present for zoë. so when this year started, i was not in a place to recognize the loss of job, house, and familiarity as a blessing. as grace. instead, there was a hint that perhaps God was angry at me for being so broken. that my depression was my fault and everything that happened afterwards was because i was a failure.

do you see where the fear of tempting fate comes from? the belief that every painful thing, every failing, every disappointment was my fault, because i was a failure. so if something good was going to happen, i better not screw it up. better keep my mouth shut. and not tell anyone, and certainly not tempt God.

and yet, i was offered a position anyway. we have an apartment tentatively lined up, anyway. zoë will be returning to her beloved school, anyway. that regardless of my ability, or my lack thereof, or the luck i don’t profess to believe in, i am taken care of. we’ll have health insurance again. spencer will finally get his debilitating back injury repaired (he’s looking at surgery, or at least intensive physical therapy, not even including the week he will be out with his dental surgeries – which is why i was interested in the position at all).

and more importantly, i think i might have learned something. that luck isn’t a lady, and fate is no longer a trickster, or three women spinning yarn and forever cutting it, or that grace is not reserved only for the damned. that once again, the god i feared showed me He is a God who loves me. even when i don’t believe that about Him. even when i fear Him.

oh the things she says…

so there’s a post circulating facebook about the silly things that kids say. so of course, i needed to ask zoë to finish some common proverbs, and then i needed to ask her some more questions that i found online. here are her responses – some of them are amazing. others are not so surprising (especially the one word description question). they made me giggle, and realize i needed to share this. just because she is ridiculous and wonderful.

a penny saved is… one cent
don’t put off til tomorrow… a day that is a playdate
the pen is mightier than… me
a bird in the hand… is a friend!
it’s always darkest before… light time
strike while the… bumblebee is stinging someone
children should be seen and not… thiefed by a bad guy
don’t change horses… stay on your own
never underestimate the power of… the Lord
you can lead a horse to water but… don’t gallop or he’ll get too tired.
don’t bite the hand that… is a goat’s. or he will bite you back.
no news is… no television
a miss is as good as… cold boiling water  (i think she thought i said “mist”)
if you lie down with dogs you’ll… fall asleep
happy the bride who… marries a knight

What is your happiest memory? when i rode the shamu roller coaster.

Why do you like being a kid? because i can go to the playground. and sit in the back seat.

One word to describe you would be _______. playing.

What advice would you give your parents? get me an ancient roman ring.

If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why? a cat. because i could eat anything except for cheese.

What do you like to do for fun? basketball.

Tell about a funny time in your life. when i was watching my little ponies and they had a pillow fight.

What is your favorite thing to do? Why? play basketball. because i like to shoot goals.

What is your favorite thing to do with your friends? to play teenagers at a cafe, and we dress in fancy clothes.

What was the nicest thing you did for someone? gave jewelry to allie and bennett.

What do you think you will be doing 10 years from now? babysitting.

What is your favorite thing to do in the summer? jump and dive in the pool!

What do you think makes a person good-looking? getting fancied up with jewelry and with fancy clothes on.

Name two things we should do as a family on the weekend. go to target, and see my friends at dinner time.

What is the grossest thing you can think of? mud! and slime.