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.


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.



everybody needs their mr. keating…

so with the internet exploding with depression awareness posts and blogs and news, i wasn’t sure i wanted to throw my hat in the ring. i’ve already covered my own battles with the darkness, and my experience is not unique. there are so many people who have said it much better than i could, so i will let it be.

however, every time i think of robin williams, i think of dead poet’s society. and i think of my dad. i remember seeing dead poet’s society on vhs when we lived in chicago – i think i would have been 11 or 12. we all remember (those who have seen the movie) the iconic stand on the desk moment. but what resonates with me, even all these years later was the introduction to the power and beauty of the english language. my dad, who is one of the most brilliant people i know, has an intellect that is completely different than mine. he is methodical, logical, process and detail oriented, whereas i am flighty, big picture, easily distracted, and very very creative. but in spite of the very real differences in our interests, my dad found ways to introduce me to the passions i would carry into adulthood.

i watched dead poet’s society with him, and within the next 3 years or so, he bought me my first book of t.s. eliot poems. those two events may seem insignificant, but they laid the foundation for my eventual degree in english, my love of the written word, and my hope to pursue a master’s degree in modern poetry one day in the future. t.s. eliot became, and remains my favorite poet. i return to his four quartets several times a year, and without my father’s introduction to mr. eliot, my interest in modernist poetry may have taken much longer to develop.

he encouraged me to play viola, came to every concert he was able to, bought me books of poetry on out of town trips. took me and 2 friends back to chicago for my 16th birthday, just so i could see the museums and feel like such a grownup (when truthfully, i was so young.) he covers the private school tuition for zoë, since the school she would be attending is ranked 1 out of 10 on greatschools.org, and similarly ranked using other national school ranking sites. he’s lighting the way for her through his commitment to seeing her well educated, pursuing her own passions and dreams.

dad was my mr. keating. and still is, truth be told. is our relationship perfect? not by any stretch. but like any relationship of value, i’m working on it. I’m closing with one of my favorite passages from my favorite poem from my favorite poet. hahah. But there are lifetimes burning in my moments, in zoë’s  moments because of him. through the dark cold and empty desolation, there is still that light.


T.S. Eliot – excerpted fr0m East Coker, The Four Quartets

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

the other side of the coin

so i’ve received some lovely emails and phone calls, making sure i was doing alright. it was immensely heartening, because it’s easy to pretend it’s all fine. i’m on prozac, everything is great now! except there are times when it’s not, and i’m always a little scared of sharing when it’s not. i’ve hidden the fear for too long, so baring my heart in a public forum like this blog is simultaneously liberating and terrifying. but i’m on the other side of the valley i was passing through, with the understanding that there will be others – there will be days when the shadow of the mountains falls over the path i’m walking, and days when the light shines through the peaks.

i’ve been watching the hobbit a lot lately, so give a girl a break. but in the same vein of mountains and valleys, i’ve been listening to a band called “the oh hello’s,” serendipitously  linked from a facebook friend’s status. their latest album, “through the deep dark valley” sums up so many of my thoughts and hopes and fear. plus, they sound like the lumineers met mumford and sons, with a hint of the last bison. basically, i’m a happy girl – they’re excellent.

i’m linking to my favorite song on the album, the very last one. it’s a reprise of the opening track, which is a question directed outwards – will you lead me? i am feeling ebullient, joyous, loved, and the song makes me think of all those things. i am lead, i am loved, i am never forgotten. i know that faith and medicine and depression and fear get mixed up sometimes, in ugly ways sometimes too. but i was reminded of the hope i have, and cling to. it is not in my circumstances or the outcome of situations – my hope and faith are placed in a God who loves me. screwed up, broken, sinful me. and He leads me anyway – sometimes through dark and narrow places, but i am not abandoned. even if i am convinced of it. i guess that’s called faith – having to believe something i do not feel at times. or at all when the valley is dark.

at any rate, this was an unexpected post, because i didn’t anticipate having a down couple of days, or the opposite side of the coin – the reassurance and hope that comes from knowing that i am not alone. or choosing to believe it when it is scary.

also, i posted post #350 with the mocha mascarpone cake. which is gone already. it was so good! i want to work on tweaking it a little, seeing if i can’t get more substantial layers out of it. even if it was a cake post, i was excited to see that this little blog, begun over 6 years ago is still pushing onwards. hard to believe at times – i’ve got a lot of pavement under my feet since the first day i posted. and, i hope, a little more maturity, and a lot more hope.

here’s the song, and please remember all the ramblings i posted today. even if you’re feeling lost and alone and abandoned, you’re not. you may not feel the hands that hold you, and the world might be dark around you, but you are not forgotten. your pain is not ignored.


in the interest of full disclosure…

i’m actually having a down day. it’s been a while. and while it’s no where near as bad as all the other horrifically down days i’ve suffered through, it’s still down. the restlessness and longing, feeling anxious, sadness that curls up in my chest like a sleeping cat – waiting for me to fall asleep so i can be smothered in a soft tail of despair. i guess that’s why i’m still awake – i can’t get it to uncurl.

is it the weather? it rained all day, and we didn’t play outside. but homeschooling went the best it’s gone in weeks – we were learning, playing games and having so much fun. we cleaned, watched a movie, i read, and did most of the things that make me feel better.

but the longing, the terrible longing won’t go away. it was triggered, i guess, by a disappointing bit of news – something we had hoped for. so now i’m left wondering what’s next, for us, for my family, and what will happen to us now. it’s not like things are terrible, and it’s life shattering. but it means that we’re back to the drawing board in so many ways, and left unmoored from the hopes that kept us from drifting out to sea.

actually, i feel a little better even writing all of this down, because i do need the reminder. it’s not a terminal illness, or a cancer diagnosis, or a death in the family – something i have watched way too many friends walk through. but it’s another thing on the list of things that keep us from moving forward. moving on.

f. scott fitzgerald summed it up in his perfect final line of “the great gatsby” – “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

here’s to hoping for a change in the current. and not drifting too far away. tomorrow, i’m planning on making sure i take care of my mental health – because too many days like this tend to pile, and then i haven’t brushed my teeth in two days and i can’t get out of bed before 1pm. which is close to becoming a reality. full disclosure, i’m pretty much already there. not a pretty sight, but i’m trying to fight this off. toothpaste not included.

is kindergarten skip day even a thing?

baby land general

so the week has been interesting so far… we did some science experiments, started learning about place value, read lots and lots, and generally (i use this loosely) had a good week. we even made cappuccino chip cookies (chocolate chip cookies with 3T instant espresso powder added to the dough). and then i started feeling isolated, cooped up, lonely and honestly, housebound. we had planned to go to baby land general today, but i knew that i needed a day of fun with my girl; driving through the mountains, visiting places with interesting ideas on where children come from, etc. so we went yesterday. and it was exactly what i needed. i think zoë felt the same way, because she was excellent all day, no complaining, no begging for candy EVERYWHERE we went, and listened fairly well most of the day.

i tried to incorporate the sorts of things she is currently learning about – we discussed roads vs. highways, counties and cities, money math (she helped me purchase things with the correct change), world geography (that is what i’m calling the globe we purchased at a thrift shop for her collection), farms and farmers, and even had p.e. at the burger king playground. on our way from one place to another, we found the tiny family owned dairy that produces the milk we buy at the grocery store. the sign said “fresh scooped ice cream” and who am i to turn that down? turns out the ice cream is only on saturdays, so we tried to bribe the cows with grass to come close enough to pet. we each got to touch the nose of one cow, which made zoë’s day complete. she got to pose with a 20 foot tall fiberglass cow, and say “moo” when i took her picture. it was definitely the kind of day we both needed. i hit up some thrift stores, we wandered around the mountains all day, and we got out of the house away from the math worksheets. which she is so over right now. still working on figuring that one out.

it’s a learning experience for me, to have to examine my thought processes, and make sure they’re not spiraling out of control again. wednesday night, after spencer went to work, i was feeling lonely, and isolated from my friends, and just plain bummed. the idea of staying here (in dahlonega) for a while is still a bitter pill. i’m trying to look at things the right way, but i’m so lonely up here. i see spencer, ostensibly my best friend, for about 4 hours a day. in the evenings, when we are eating dinner, putting zoë to bed, washing laundry and he catches up with his email. which means i see him for about 20 minutes. and then he’s off to work, and i’m off to bed. we’re trying to figure out how to make his schedule work, but 6-7 days a week on third shift is not easy to carve time out for each other. the upside to all of wednesday evening though, was realizing what was going on. i didn’t start staying up all night (though i did not sleep well at all), i didn’t stay in bed until 3pm, i didn’t shut down. but i did have to really examine why i was feeling so glum. it’s strange for me, because before prozac, any stress, any discomfort, any deviation from what i thought should be the norm would put me on the road to a depressive episode so quickly. life became so overwhelming, i quit feeling anything. i was just numb. now, being able to look at the way i’m feeling, and look for reasons and then start problem solving is so unlike what i’ve lived in for the last 14 odd years. it’s a good thing, it’s just different.

which is why yesterday was so good. we got out, i got to enjoy the sheer excitement on zoë’s face when she saw a cabbage patch kid being born, we played on a playground, and for a day, i got to feel a little less lonely, a little less cooped up. is a kindergarten skip day on the radar every week? no. i don’t think that’s the case. but when i am feeling isolated, we’re going to get out of the house, call some friends and family, and i’m going to give myself grace to do so in the process.

there’s a singer that i very much enjoy on overcast days like today, and he wrote in a song: “so may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten /sons are like birds, flying upward over the mountain.” though i am no son, i am that bird. sunrises are bringing hope, and we’re going upwards over the mountain.

enjoy the pics, and as always, there’s more in the flickr albums.

God bless us, every one.

christmas makeup

So here we are, the other side of another set of lovely holidays. while i’m still working on an update post (which at this point, probably needs to be a series) i figured everyone wanted to see pictures of the sweet little girl. so, if you click the pic above, it will take you to the december photostream. there’s over a hundred pictures in the december photoset, so browse to your heart’s content.

she had a wonderful christmas season, with parties, programs and productions, and a very fun 12 days of christmas that started the day after thanksgiving – ramping up the holiday fervor pretty quick. we had an amazing december, which i will go into more detail in the update series (i actually have blogging time these days, and i’ll make sure to use it.) zoë got some awesome christmas presents, ranging from snuggly robes that she nearly threw a hissy fit to stay in while going outside, a hello kitty hat that has left her head twice today, massive angry birds coloring sheets (she was so excited she grimaced in her pictures), a singing moose that has not yet stopped singing, and so many educational leapster games and clothes. this kid was overwhelmed with all the excitement today, getting to play scrabble into the wee hours of 9pm, eating scotch eggs and eggnog monkey bread, and being surrounded by family.

what is interesting to me, since we are in the process of moving from athens to dahlonega and are using spencer’s gracious parents as a waypoint between homes, is that while this christmas was not anything like the ones of my childhood, it was wonderful. and i’m finally seeing it. that everything doesn’t have to be perfect to be right, a lesson i am slowly learning. i am trying to give myself more grace, and in turn, give more grace to everyone around me. zoë won’t remember that we didn’t go crazy with the food, or buy her super super expensive presents (although she got some fantastic presents from the rest of her family), or that we weren’t living in a perfect mountain cottage with views of north carolina. what i think she’ll remember, or at least i hope she will, is that she was surrounded in love and laughter today. that she and her grandpa argued about the existence of santa claus for 4 days (she’s insistent he’s not real). that she got the makeup she was begging for, and that someone loved her enough to send her hello kitty press-on nails. that she got to stay up and watch christmas movies with us on december 24th. that mom and dad snuggled on the floor to watch those movies with her, and that we shot arrows at the wall outside for one of the cats to attack it as soon as it touched the ground. that i didn’t have to make 14 different appetizers and 5 desserts for the food to be great. that maybe we don’t have our own home right now, but she’s so loved and welcome in this one it doesn’t matter.

that is a very long way to say, i am learning to relax my grip on my life a little. the fear that seemed to be a running mate to the depression, the fear of not being perfect, of not getting it right, of failing, of falling is finally gone. i still have my moments, but it’s a minor 30 second firstborn perfectionist moment. nothing of the 10 years of being convinced i had let everyone around me down, that i could do nothing but fail so why even try? what a relief it is to see my life, and embrace it as such. it is mine, and right now, it is enough. i’ll save the self reflection for new years.

thank you, dear family and friends, for being with us this holiday. maybe we didn’t see your smiling faces, but we felt your arms across the miles – in bags of coffee, snuggly robes, archery sets, and the perseverance not to give up on this broken girl. God bless you, everyone.