Nellie Rose In: Tangled

One of Nellie’s favorite movies is Tangled. She is in love with it. She got a Tangled Barbie doll for her birthday (which is cute and sweet and all, but have you ever had to deal with a foot of gnarly, matted Barbie doll hair? No? Well you haven’t lived, my friend.), has a few little action figures and asks to watch it about every other day.

We recently noticed that she was singing a song from Tangled, and I have tried multiple times to get it on camera to no avail. The other night, however, Nellie was in performance mode and decided to let me film her singing her little princess heart out.

To translate somewhat, Rapunzel sings “I could go running, and racing, and dancing, and chasing. And leaping, and bounding, hair flying, heart pounding. And splashing and reeling, and finally feeling that’s when my life be-giiiiiiiiiins!” and when she sings “begins”, she spins in a circle with her arms outstretched.

Nellie will run up and down our halls singing, “ah-runnin, ah-racin, a-chasin!” and it’s the cutest thing ever.

Watch out Broadway, here comes Nellie!

 

In Her Time of Dying: One Month.

Today marks one month that my mother has been dead. Writing those words feels so strange and surreal. On one hand, the events of December 21st-28th feel fresh; like they just happened and on the other hand, it feels like it happened an eternity ago. The experience changed me so completely, it feels strange that it has only been one month since I transitioned from a person with a mother (albeit not a great one) who had never seen death, to a person who just watched the woman who gave birth to her die. How is it possible that it’s only been a month? It’s hard to fathom.

I’ve been doing pretty well. I’m functioning better at work, though I have my moments where I don’t really want to talk or do much of anything. I’ve accepted those moments as they come and allowing myself to feel them, forgiving my lapse in work ethic knowing that it will come back sooner than later. I’ve been reading a brilliant book called The Undertaking: Life Stories From the Dismal Trade. My brother bought it for me just after mom died. It is a wonderfully written collection of stories and experiences from the author, Thomas Lynch, who is a poet that moonlights as an undertaker. It is precisely the book that I needed to read at precisely the right moment in my life.

I’m still seeing my grief counselor, T, once a week which has been helpful. This week I talked to her about the day and hours just before my mother died. This is something I’ve had a hard time talking about, because it was traumatic for me and I haven’t really been ready to vocalize it. I haven’t written about the night she died yet, but I feel like I will be writing about it soon. It was nice to talk about the things I saw with someone who is around that kind of thing constantly. She shared her first death experience with me. I mentioned to T that I’m not sure what my goals for counseling are, like I don’t have a set plan for what I’d like to see happen. One thing I’ve come to realize in talking with her is that I like things laid out before me. I like to see the what, when, why of things that are happening. I am going to counseling because _____. I have attachment issues because ______. She suggested that due to my unstable and traumatic past, I thrive on structure and knowing exactly what it is I’m dealing with on a daily basis. I had never even thought of that until she brought it up, but she is absolutely right.

Just talking helps. I feel better, lighter after a counseling session. Even if I do nothing but babble about things unrelated to mom’s death, I feel better.

One month down, an eternity to go. I wonder when I will stop marking weeks and days. Maybe after 6 months? Maybe after a year? Maybe never? I don’t know.

One month. A minute amount of time in the grand scheme of things. An eternity. All at the same time. Weird.

Nellie’s 2nd Birthday

Stop the presses and hand me the award for Mother of the Year, please. My child turned 2 on January 20th, and I’m just now writing about it. In my defense, it was a very busy weekend and I do work full-time outside the home. I’m just a little busy.

Nellie’s birthday weekend was awesome. My dad and step-mom came down from Chicago to spend a long weekend with us. We all went to the local aquarium for Nellie’s first visit. She loved it so much, dad bought us a year-long family pass! I cannot wait to take her back. She loved the stingrays and the penguins the most.


We saw a lot of really neat stuff. Jellyfish, butterflies, and fish of all kinds.

I didn’t take any pictures of her actual party. But I did take some of the amazing cake I made her.

Clearly, I should quit my day job and become a cake decorator.

 

It was a really wonderful weekend. We were very sad to see dad and Sue go. We spent some really great time with them, and it was nice to connect with family under better circumstances than the last time I saw my dad (he came down when mom was in the hospital). We have a family pass to the aquarium now, and we cannot wait to take Nellie back. It’s hard to believe that our little Nellie is two years old, that it’s been that long since she came into our lives. I told Josh the other day how it’s hard to remember what it felt like before she was around.

Happy Birthday, my sweet, smart, funny, ridiculous, imaginative, beautiful little girl. We love you beyond what words can say, more than the moon & stars, forever and always. I can’t wait to see what Two holds in store.

 

 

And Then I Hit a Lexus.

The other day was MLK, Jr. day (duh) and so Nellie’s daycare was closed. No biggie. I had my in-laws lined up to watch her, but not until 8:30. Josh goes to work at 7, so I excitedly took my little one to a local breakfast place for a breakfast date… Just me and her. She enjoyed her crunchy bacon and milk out of her big girl cup  (Nellie would ask, “I hod him?” wanting to hold it herself.) and was a perfect little lady the whole time.

I had to park on a hill, with the front of my car facing upward. When we were leaving, there was a car parked both in front of me and behind me. I was nervous; I’m not so good at pulling off of hills so I was anxious about sliding into the car behind me. So I devised a plan in my head. I packed Nellie back into the car, climbed into the driver’s seat and I was ready.

I put the car in reverse and scooted back just a little bit to get some distance between myself and the car in front of me. I turned the wheel all the way over, ready to accelerate and zip out safely from behind the car in front of me, doing it quickly enough to not slide backward. I poised my foot, and pressed it down hard against the gas.

In a fraction of a second – which wasn’t enough time to do anything but think OH SHIT OH SHIT – I realized that my dumb ass hadn’t taken the car out of reverse. I went flying backward and slammed into the car parked behind me – a used Lexus.

Eyes wide, I stared in my rearview mirror. I glanced over at the restaurant, expecting to see a crowd of people pouring out to see what had just happened. I watched the doors for a few minutes.. Nothing. I started to freak out. I came thisclose to driving off. “They’ll never know,” I thought. “No one will EVER know who did this.”

I pulled to the other side of the road and saw the damage I had inflicted on the back of the other car. Trunk was caved in, rear lights smashed. I scrambled out of my car and assessed my bumper. Nothing. Nada. A few cosmetic smudges and scratches. EFF YEAH, FORD ESCAPE.

Still panicking slightly, I called the restaurant and told the woman who answered what had happened. I explained that I didn’t want to get out of the car because I had my daughter. When the woman hung up, I rolled my window down and started sobbing. I felt embarrassed, scared, and I was shaking. Nellie started chirping from the backseat, “Mama? Mama cwyin? Mama cwy? Mamaaaaaa.” I snorted and sobbed, “No honey, Mama’s fine. Mama is ok. Mama is just shaken up.”
“Mama say-ken up.” Nellie confirmed and then went about playing with her laptop.

The owner of the car came out and I burst into tears again. I apologized profusely and told them how dumb I felt. How awful. How embarrassed. The girl looked college-age and was ridiculously nice. She assured me that it was fine, she hit stuff all the time and had been in more wrecks than she could count. There happened to be an off-duty policeman there who patted me on the back and told me that’s what insurance was there for. I felt humiliated; I am twenty-eight years old, not some stupid seventeen year old kid who just got her license.

About a half hour later the police showed up, took his report, and that was it. I apologized again to the girl and she told me again that it was fine. Everyone was okay, it happens all the time, and I drove away sheepishly feeling like the biggest dummy on the planet.

It was a hell of a way to start the day. I am grateful that no one was in the car, and we weren’t going fast enough to really hurt anyone. You can bet your ass that I’ll never buy a Lexus though; that damn trunk crumpled like a paper cup when I backed into it. My hardy Ford Escape barely has a scratch on it.

How was YOUR Monday?

In Her Time of Dying: Ashes to Ashes

Hello to any new readers I’ve obtained lately. I apologize if you’ve come in hopes of finding a new mom blog to read and are all “WTF IS THIS”. It’s not always doom and gloom and talks about cremation and shit like that. I do say shit a lot though, so that’s not gonna change. I hope to return somewhat to normal soon, but I make no promises. In the meantime, settle in and know that what you’re reading is real life. And real life isn’t always pretty.

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I e-mailed the funeral home/crematorium to make sure everything went OK with the cremation. I hadn’t heard back from them yet, and mom died two weeks ago. I have phone anxiety so I e-mailed them, because I’m a dork. I also got confirmation that my urns were delivered by FedEx and left at our door, because a signature hadn’t been requested. Hope no one tries to steal it thinking it’s an awesome late Christmas present because guess what, buddy… You’re gonna be reaaaaaal disappointed.

So anyway I went about my day when an incoming e-mail popped into my inbox. It was from the funeral home. I read the words:

“We have the cremains and will be pleased to do what you asked (split the ashes three ways into our urns). Warm regards, W.C.”

A simple, polite, to-the-point e-mail that made me react in a very surprising way. I suddenly felt terrified, anxious, like I was about to have a panic attack. My food tasted like cardboard and I felt like I was going to hyperventilate. I have no idea why the e-mail elicited such a response from me. What did I expect him to say? “Sorry, I decided to keep the ashes for myself”? “Oops, we lost them?” “I’m sorry, who are you again?” I guess a part of me hoped that I could just go on avoiding the fact that my mother, who was once a living and breathing human being is now reduced to ash and ground-up bone particles and now I have to go pick her up and have them split her three fucking ways. I guess the reality of that was something I wasn’t really prepared for. I had tucked the thought neatly away in the back of my brain to deal with later. I seem to be an expert at Dealing With Things Later.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. I guess it’s one of those moments that just jumps up and bites you right in the ass when you think you’re doing really well dealing with all of this. Chomp, here’s your dead mother’s “cremains”. Ugh. What a horrible word. Cremains. So how does this make me feel? Sad, scared, anxious, like I want to run away, I want to pretend it’s not real, puts my stomach in knots, like I don’t want to do it. That’s how thinking about picking up my mother’s cremains makes me feel. Ugh.

 

In Her Time of Dying: Places

I’ve felt pretty good lately. I’m still kind of easily distracted, and my brain isn’t wanting to absorb a lot of information. I get easily frustrated when I’m trying to concentrate on answering an e-mail, or problem-solve my way through something because it’s like the tasks at hand are covered in something slippery, and I can’t get a good grasp on them. I’ll start thinking over the answer and feel so overwhelmed that I just have to stop and return to it later.

The other day I was driving and a thought popped into my head: “your mother is dead.”
I’ve forced myself to think this repeatedly and even say it out loud, but sometimes the thought still shocks me. This particular time the thought pushed its way into my brain and my stomach knotted up. It took my breath away for a second and then the moment passed.

I take the same route to work each morning. After dropping Nellie off at daycare I hop on the interstate because it’s the fastest route. The interstate also happens to pass the hospital where my mother died. It’s not directly visible but sometimes you can catch it out of the corner of your eye as you’re going along. It’s dark when I’m on the road to work, and this particular hospital is a Catholic hospital and has a cross that glows at night on the side of one of the buildings. I was driving along this morning, listening to music and thinking that I was finally starting to feel normal again, starting to feel like me. Right about the time this thought entered my head, I caught a glimpse of the glowing cross from the hospital and it felt like someone had punched me directly in the stomach. My heart started beating faster and I had to quickly avert my eyes as if looking at the place where she died would burn them right out of my head. It was a very strange feeling, having such a strong reaction to catching a glimpse of a place.

The unfortunate part of this is that Nellie’s pediatrician’s office is at that same hospital. Awesome.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt a strong aversion to a place because of the memories it brought forth of the awful experience of my mother’s death. The night she died, my brother Drew and I stepped out for dinner. We went to Mellow Mushroom, a place that has some of my favorite pizza. They had just built a second location out near the mall so we went there. We were there eating our shared Greek salad and waiting on our Philosopher’s Pie when we got the phone call that she had died; not thirty minutes after we left the hospital. We ended up eating the pizza on the drive back to the hospital. A few nights ago a friend invited me to have some pizza and I asked where she was going. She replied Mellow Mushroom and I felt panicky at the thought of going back there. I find myself wondering if I will ever be able to enjoy eating there again. The thought of eating a Philosopher’s Pie turns my stomach.

It’s interesting how we mark events with places. Happy events, traumatic events, major milestone events, etc. There are certain places that I think of fondly even now; the building by my best friend’s house where we got Nellie’s 3-d ultrasound done. The buffet down the road where we ate afterward. Big River Grille, where Josh and I had our first date. There are unfortunately several places that carry heavy, sad memories for me now.  City Cafe, where Ellen, Drew, and I ate Christmas Day because it was one of the few places open. That was the day we put mom in Hospice. We carried our Hospice paperwork and educational literature with us to the restaurant as we wandered around; lost and wounded. The Thai restaurant Drew and I had lunch at the day mom died. The hospital itself; a lurking behemoth of sorrow and pain.

It’s interesting how the memories we attach to these places can bring up such strong feelings. These places are just buildings; they can’t hurt us. But the power they hold over us is very real. Sometimes I wonder what it’d be like if I went into the hospital, took the elevator and walked to the Hospice ward. I wonder what it would feel like to go to her room. To see the place she died again. I wonder what sort of feelings the sights and sounds and smells would evoke. Sometimes the urge to actually do this overwhelms me though I know to do it so soon after her death would probably be a mistake.

I hope that in time I will be able to see the hospital without feeling that overwhelming sense of dread, of sadness, of fear. I hope that in time the power these places have over me will lessen and fade altogether. I hope that as I begin to heal and work through her death, they will once more become just buildings, no more harmless than any of the hundreds of others in the city. In time, maybe. Hopefully.

Grief and Eating Clean

Grief, tragedy, and stress do funny things to a person. To me, they make me eyeball a plate full of chocolate chip cookies knowing full well that I shouldn’t eat them – ESPECIALLY if I’m clean eating – and say “fuck it” and shove all the cookies into my mouth with the wild abandon of Cookie Monster. Stress – real stress, not “ZOMG I LOST MY DEBIT CARD” stress – makes me eat all the things forever.

My brother and I both have adopted similar eating styles without really knowing it. He’s been living according to the Paleo diet where I have been clean eating. There are a lot of similarities, some differences, but both are based on eating whole foods. When mom was admitted into the hospital and we were both there all day long neither of us had the time to devote to cooking. So we ate out a lot. My poor brother did pretty well at first, modifying the things he’d get.

Once mom got into hospice and the reality sunk in, we both just said fuck it. We ate whatever the fuck we wanted. I’d have two to three beers each time we’d go out. I honestly did not care; I didn’t have the emotional energy to invest in making good food choices.

I’m finding it hard to break the habits of the past three weeks. The holidays are a hard enough time for those of us eating a certain way, but pile putting your mother in hospice and watching her die on top of that and you get a big fat nomfest of emotional eating. Sugar cookies? In my mouth. Gingerbread lattes? Directly in my veins, please. I KNOW YOU DIDN’T JUST EAT THAT LAST PIECE OF RED VELVET CAKE.

I’m still not back to emotional normalcy. I’m better; each day I am less and less sad but I am still easily distracted and feel emotionally fragile most of the time. I’ve found myself more interested in cooking, which is good. I chose 2 clean recipes for this week’s menu plan. I cooked one on Saturday night and it was delicious (don’t worry, I will share the recipes/links to the recipes here) and will probably cook the next one tomorrow evening. It was nice to cook. It didn’t feel overwhelming. We’re in a better place financially for me to pick my clean eating habits back up, so now I just have to get back into the swing of menu planning and hunting down clean foods for me to eat.

Saturday’s recipe was The Gracious Pantry’s 4 Bean Chili.

4-bean-chili-1-

What I loved about this recipe was how simple it was. I look for recipes with inexpensive ingredients, easy-to-follow instructions; nothing too terribly complicated. I added a little bit more spice to this than the recipe calls for; I seasoned it with more chili powder and some onion salt and garlic powder to taste until I was happy with it. It was really, really good and made a LOT of leftovers.

The second clean recipe I have planned is also from The Gracious Pantry. It’s her Clean Eating Chicken Bok Choy. I can’t say for sure if this will be good, but I LOVE bok choy and the again, ingredients are very simple. I’m looking forward to making this.

I’m a huge fan of The Gracious Pantry in case you hadn’t noticed. I’ve tried maybe ten of her recipes so far, and have yet to meet one I didn’t like. Everything has been SO good, and I like knowing that what I’m eating is good for me. She is such a hardcore clean eater, I know that she is taking a lot of measures to ensure her recipes follow her eating philosophy, which I like. It takes guesswork out of it for me.

So anyway… Yesterday was my birthday and I literally ate junk all day. Thai food, cupcakes, chips and queso, more cupcakes. I decided that it was my birthday and I was gonna eat what I wanted, damnit. And that’s exactly what I did.

Baby steps back into clean eating. Each day gets a little easier to tackle the tasks and goals from my old life; the one I led before all of this shit happened. What once seemed an insurmountable amount of things to take on gets less and less intimidating each day. In the words of the Beatles: “It’s getting better all the time.”

Twenty-Eight.

Today I turn 28 years old. I woke up to several Facebook birthday wishes, which put a smile on my face. I began my day with a free birthday drink from Starbucks. Nothing like celebrating 28 years on this earth by caffeinating the hell out of yourself.

I got a surprise in my inbox from several bloggy friends of mine; a gift certificate to a local spa! I had tears in my eyes as I read their message to me and took in their generosity.

I’m not sure what the rest of the day holds, but I do know that on my birthday I want to acknowledge how beautiful and blessed my life is. I have a wonderful husband who loves me, a healthy and beautiful little girl who is about to turn two. I am surrounded by friends and family who love me. I’ve been through a lot lately and have been writing a lot of heavy and sad things. It’s nice to take a few moments to write about what’s good right now, and set my sights on my future. This experience with losing my mom has opened my eyes as to how I want to live my life from now on.

  • I want to be healthy. Eat healthy, be fit, and take care of my body. Seeing my mother in such bad health and having so many ailments makes me want to not end up like that.
  • I want to work through my emotional issues. I want to continue going to counseling and get as mentally healthy as possible.
  • I want to work on cultivating deep, meaningful friendships and relationships with people.
  • I want to tell the people in my life that I love them and not be afraid to receive and accept their love in return.
  • I want to make each moment of my life, each breath that I take count.
  • I want a pony.

Sorry, I had to throw something random in there. It was getting a little too sappy and spinning-on-a-hillside happy bunny up in here for me.

But for real. I want to make 28 the best year of my life so far. I have a lot to be thankful for, a lot to embrace, and a lot to experience.

Bring it on, 28.

 

 

In Her Time of Dying: Dear Grief

Dear Grief,

They tell me that you are normal and necessary. They tell me that you won’t last as you are forever; that you will always be a part of me but will become softer and less surprising.

I’m here to tell you that I hate you. I hate what you’ve done to me. I hate the way you make me feel. I hate that it feels like you’ve stolen my brain. I’m a smart person. I’m a multi-tasker and a problem-solver. I am efficient, I am capable, and you have turned me into a complete mess; someone I don’t recognize. It’s become impossible for me to retain more than a few bits of information at a time. You’ve infiltrated my mind so thoroughly that when someone presents more than a few questions at once, or a task more complicated than a step or two, it makes me break down into tears because the sheer effort I have to put into it is overwhelming.

That’s not me, Grief. I’m not usually like that and it pisses me off that you’ve made me that way. I don’t like feeling out of control. I don’t like the way you hibernate inside of me, waiting for the right moment to stir from your slumber and wind your way around my heart and soul, squeezing just enough to make it hurt but not enough to kill me. You surprised me, Grief, because I didn’t think I’d feel you this strongly. I always assumed that the bad relationship I had with my mother would smother you somewhat; that your white-hot flame that scalded others who didn’t have such a bad relationship would just make me mildly uncomfortable. But I was wrong. Sometimes I think that my complicated relationship with her made you stronger and harder to quelch; that somehow the indifference, dislike, irritation, love, hurt, and pain that I felt for my mother combined into something that acted like oxygen to you, making you bigger and stronger. Hungrier.

I hate you. I don’t care if you are necessary and a part of it all. I don’t like feeling you and I want you to go away. I started talking to someone the other day,  a counselor that specializes in dealing with you. She’s going to help me weaken you and get you under control. With her help and the support and love of my husband, daughter, friends and family, your power over me will slowly fade. Your flames won’t burn and cause so much pain.

Your hold on me is temporary, Grief. I promise you that.

 

Urn Shopping 101

Did you know that Wal-Mart sells caskets & urns? I didn’t until today. A coworker mentioned it to me because she knows I’m urn shopping. I’m shopping for three urns, to be exact. We are splitting mom’s ashes three ways (how weird and morbid is that?). Did you also know that there are different sizes of urns that hold varying volumes of remains? Sorry for being kind of graphic; I know this isn’t a topic a lot of people like to think of but really, it needs to be something more openly discussed. I mean, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never shopped for ONE urn let alone three before. Not exactly like they offer an “Urn Shopping 101” class. Now enrolling: “Urn Shopping 101”, in between “Sewing for Dummies” and “Beginner’s Glass Blowing”.

We opted for the funeral home to divvy up the ashes, because the thought of that makes me want to barf. So oogy and weird. Let the professionals handle that.

That’s been my morning. How’s yours? This morbid post brought to you by Mommy Boots.

But seriously. Urns are fucking expensive. Ever see the Big Lebowski? Put me in a damn coffee can and scatter me somewhere when I die. I swear to god if my family spends $200 on a damned urn I will haunt them forever. YOU HEAR ME, FAMILY? COFFEE CAN. PREFERABLY FOLGERS. HAUNTING FOREVER. I don’t need an urn with my name engraved on it and doves flying or Jesus weeping or Jesus weeping over flying doves. I’ll be dead. It doesn’t matter. My wishes are to be scattered anyway, so why spend a ton of money on something decorative that my ashes will sit until they’re scattered?

Pet urns are cheaper than human urns. I might be looking at those as a viable option to put my mom’s remains in. She really did like cats, after all.

See? I still have a sense of humor. It’s been touched by a bit of the macabre, but it’s still there.