Saturday, April 11, 2015


"Grief never ends...but it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay.  Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith...It is the price of love"  Author Unknown

If you are familiar with Facebook then you know that poignant phrases catch on like wild fire and will be recycled for days on end.  I've seen this quote floating around the book of face a lot this week and each time it just doesn't sit well with me.  I couldn't place it at first.  I would read it, re-read it, and even speak it out loud trying to figure out which part I took exception to.  The part that I think I struggle with the most is "It's a passage, not a place to stay"  I don't know, honestly, if that is it or not.  I woke up this morning with my own theory on grief.  Timely, since my dad died 26 years ago yesterday.  Maybe *that* was my issue....who know's but here goes.  It won't be a perfect meme since my love for words far outweighs my love of quips.

Grief is like a hoodie.  There ya go.  Grabbed you right by the feels, right?  Let me explain.  Grief is a hoodie and initial loss is like winter.  Barren.  Stark.  You have this hoodie but it doesn't feel like enough.  Your grief isn't heavy enough, it feels like it's lacking.  I speak specifically of the loss of my mom in 2012.  I took point on her funeral/arrangements but my siblings all stepped in/up and we shouldered the weight together.  I am the oldest though, so I naturally felt like my portion of the process was heavier so I could shield my (grown) siblings from some of the hurt.  I clung to the hoodie in the winter of my moms loss but it felt like I should have had something more, something heavier, something that would stand up against the brutal nature of winter.  Even though I was wrapped in grief it felt insufficient for the situation.  I should hurt more, but it was still fresh so I only mourned what was an abstract thought. I could still smell her, feel her touch, hear her voice.  I felt like other people were wearing parkas with their appropriate looking mourning. 

Then time passed and we shifted into our new normal and it was a new season.  It was like Spring and my grief hoodie felt almost right. It was cozy and comfortable. I felt the sunshine but the lack of my mom was that sharp wind spring brings.  Standing in the sunshine of others who knew my mom and knew my loss I was fine, my hoodie sufficed.  But, in shadows, the new situations, the sharing of my story of loss, the hoodie felt like the winter grief I remembered.  I clung to my grief like life support.  Hoping if I held it tight enough it would warm me and sustain me until I stood in the sunshine again.  Hoping that by wrapping myself fully in the hoodie it would provide more warmth....that it would become more than it was capable of being, really.  This season lasted the better part of a year I'm sure.
Suddenly it was summer and I didn't really need the hoodie.  As the season was changing I didn't trust that I wouldn't need my grief so I kept the hoodie on.  I unzipped it and enjoyed the warmth of happiness again.  As the summer progressed I found myself slipping my hoodie off, intentionally at first, to see how life felt without that security blanket.  I took to wearing my grief around my waist instead of around my shoulders.  Just in case.  As time moved forward I realized I was leaving my grief in the closet.  Sometimes, just like in summer, I would need the hoodie for a lone evening.  A storm would blow through and I would need the comfort of the hoodie to make it through.  I missed the hoodie.  I missed that I needed it, it had become a part of me over the years. 
Then came fall and I thought I'd mastered grief.  I'd made it through 3 seasons right?  Fall was a shock to me.  I had made it through the firsts.  The year of the first day without my mom.  The first holidays.  The first birthdays. The first anniversary of her death.  I had even made it through some of the seconds.  I think summer happened in the midst of the seconds.  Fall came and I panicked.  I had taken my grief and put it away because I thought I wouldn't need it anymore.  Then I realized that I couldn't put my hands on it, it wasn't on my shoulders or at my waist.  It was another step removed.  The fall brought the beauty of change.  But it also brought sharp wind and cold shadows.  I think you live in fall.  Or at least I do.  Life is beautiful and changing and then once in a while it's too much.  I slip the hoodie back on to insulate? To protect? To feel closer? I am not sure really. 

I've experienced death.  I can compartmentalize and function and move through the steps that need to be done.  Gift? Curse?  I don't know, it's just what is.  What has always been constant in my life is loss.  My dad died when I was 14.  I have been in the fall of mourning for him for many. many, many years.  Yesterday was the anniversary of his death and I found myself zipping my hoodie up and resting in it's comfort.  This morning I have it safely at arms reach because I don't quite trust the weather but I'm sure in the next several days it will go back into the closet. 

Friday, March 13, 2015


I have never been a team player.....well wait, I am a team player but I've never played on a team.  You see I'm a little bit, well, how can I put this delicately....I'm uncoordinated.  I'm a hot mess when it comes to accuracy but boy do I have exuberance.  I make up for my lack of skill with epic amounts of enthusiasm and hilarity.  It usually all balances out pretty well.  

Several months ago I caught an episode of a show called "My Big Family Renovation" on tv.  I knew that the couple were the Hatmakers and that she was an author/speaker and he was a pastor but that was the extent of my knowledge.  A few people from church commented about how much they enjoyed the show and how we should all get together to watch them together.  Confession time....I liked them way more than I liked Jen and was trying to grow some roots and hang out with people beyond the courtesy 10 minutes pre/post service.  I took my Kaity girl with me and within the first 15 minutes she'd spilled an entire bowl of soup in her lap.  I was pretty sure we were going to leave before anything even started but she's a trooper and spun her skirt around backwards and pretended it never happened. Have  I mentioned how much I dig that kids tenacity?  Watching the show was so much fun and over the course of the series I realized how much I identified with Jen Hatmaker.  Her brand of funny is the same as mine.  Her brand of crazy is parallel to mine. 

I decided I wanted to read her books but life got in the way and that never happened.  I followed her on fb instead.  That was like reading right? I mean at least a few times a week I would read her posts laugh heartily or emphatically like her post and go about my day.   Several of the ladies in our church that attended the series-athon decided to go to Women of Faith and I was totally down! Another opportunity to foster relationships and Jen was speaking! Win to the win yo!  I plunked down my money and plans were made. For my birthday this year Momma is going to Chicago and getting her Jesus on! 

Imagine my surprise when I was scrolling through facebook and Jen posted about her book "For the Love"  and how she was searching for 500 people to be a part of the launch team.  I'd never been a part of anything like that but it sounded so cool.  Be among the first to read her book, get to contribute a comment that had the potential to be included in the reviews.  Wow!  They were only looking for 500 and I figured it was worth a shot.   I submitted my application and didn't think anything else about it.  I kept scrolling and reading as the days passed.  I saw her mention that FIVE THOUSAND people applied to be on the launch team, I was so giddy for her! THAT many people were looking forward to her book, how awesome!? 

You cannot even imagine my surprise when I checked my email and I was one of those 500!!  I was invited to be a part of the For The Love launch team. 

I got an advanced digital copy and have been devouring it.  Oh the words. The beautiful, funny, spicy words!  You want to read this book! I want to reread this book! I want to highlight my laptop as I read it.  And I'm on a team guys! A team of 500!  A team tasked with reading these words and sharing them with their people.  All of the sudden I'm a hashtagging fool sharing her words and counting the days until this book is released wide and you can hold it in your hands and join this team! For the love....oh and #ForTheLove  so thankful!!

Sunday, February 22, 2015


A few months ago our family met family from out of state in Chicago for the day.  We had a great visit and took a whirlwind tour of Shedd Aquarium.  I didn't realize how much fun the boychild would have  there.  No sooner than we left he started talking about wanting to go back.  It was so much fun that I kept my eyes peeled for a good deal so we could take the whole circus back on the road.  Thankfully Groupon had a great deal and I snagged passes for our family at a great discount before Christmas and we just had to wait for a time when all our schedules aligned.  That day was yesterday! We trekked to the city after his basketball game and had an adventure.  The drive down was pretty easy until we hit city traffic and then trying to park became a haphazard game of Tetris.  Thankfully this time we didn't have to stand outside in the bitter cold waiting in line to purchase tickets which saved us an easy hour of waiting!!  JoshyP REALLY wanted to pet the sturgeon because he enjoyed it last time...he talked about it non stop. After checking out several new displays we didn't see last time it was sturgeon time.  He had been so patient and we'd even walked passed the display TWICE without stopping.  We went and got in line and he was chattering a mile a minute.  Finally it was his turn.  Well, the fish didn't cooperate.  JoshyP had done his part. He washed his hands like they told him and prepared himself by getting his two finger touch ready. The fish just wouldn't swim by. They swam to his left and right and deeper than he could reach. He was frustrated and started to melt but his daddy encouraged him to stick with it.  After about 5 minutes of trying (which in museum time seems like about 30 minutes easy) he finally got to brush a fish as it passed him by. The attendant had been repeating NONSTOP "Once you've touched a fish please leave to give others a chance" so he felt like he needed to leave even though he didn't get a 'good' touch. 
 He came out of the line hot. I could see it on his face and knew he was going to flip. In that moment his aunt asked "What is he so upset about?"   and I cringed.  He gets upset, then embarrassed and then it escalates. I was searching for words and heard myself say "Nothing, he's reconciling. He expected it to happen one way and happened another.  So, he's just reconciling what happened with what he wanted to happen.  He just needs a few minutes"
I gasped at what I had said.  It was totally the first time I heard it too! It brought tears to my eyes. He was just reconciling.  His reality from his expectation.
and it's clunky
and it's not easy 
and it's not fun
and an audience doesn't help
and it will get better as he gets better at it
BUT rushing him through the process doesn't give him the skills to do it.  Actually, it denies him learning the  process and makes him not able to do it for himself.
We left him alone and just went about our visit, not coddling  simply carrying on and within a few minutes he was back to enjoying our adventure.  By the time we left he was kidding about how the fish were like "Woah, get out of my space" today and it was good.  

I am so thankful that God gave me that word.  Reconcile.  It's a huge word that is so important. We all need to reconcile our feelings, our expectations, and if you're grown even your check book needs to be reconciled from time to time.  The difference between my reconciling and his is I have a slightly better poker face while doing it.  slightly. 


Sunday, February 1, 2015


Last night our Kaitygirl went to her first school dance.  I typically ask our kids "what do we expect" before we go places so that behavior expectations are clear.  I know, fun righ?  We were talking about her dance and she was all giggly and excited.  It was a 20 minute drive and we were about half way in and I just asked "So kiddo, what do we expect?" Without missing a beat she rattled off the following:

You expect me to stand and sit like a lady.
You expect me to dance appropriately.
And what does that mean baby?
Keep my booty in check and not to make others uncomfortable with my dancing.
You expect me to respect authority.
You expect me to be kind and think of others feelings.
You expect me to say please and thank you.
You expect me to not be mean to others.
You expect me to have fun.

In a nutshell my 13 yr old summed up how to behave in life.  I didn't cry although my eyes filled with tears.  I didn't say anything really....I just nodded and she continued to sing along to the radio.   If you've seen my sweet girl dance then you'll understand our "keep your booty in check" comments.  She's got rhythm and funk and feels the music deep, yo!  I am so thankful for my sweet baby.  I love that having fun was the last shouldn't trump thinking of others.

There are days that I stumble all over our parenting plan.  I fall short and come up empty.  Tonight reassured me that there are far more good days than empty ones.  That even though I feel inept at times our lessons are being heard and learned. 

Such a beautiful conversation in the midst of the madness that spoke so deeply to me.   

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Growing Roots...

I've spent the past 2 years of living in our 'new' hometown growing roots.  Well at least I thought I was growing roots.  In actuality I was watching the world happen around me while expecting the roots to just latch in and grow grow grow!
  God has been placing the word "faithful" in my heart over and again.  I am great at new and shiny, aren't we all? I am fantastic at starting with gusto and great intent it's the follow through that gets muddled.  The day after day that gets boring and monotonous and life clouded and schedule cluttered that is hard.  So I am working on being faithful to the long term.
  While I was praying about my roots growing, an analogy I've used repeatedly through our times of transition, God was telling me to be faithful to the process. So here I sit waiting to see growing roots.
But wait!
Before you have roots you have to have a seed. 
And it has to be planted. 
And tended to. 
A lot.
  Roots don't just happen spontaneously, they are a process.  I had been a military spouse for so long that I was used to the chia pet version of roots.  You moved to a new duty station (or somebody else joined you at the station) and almost immediately you were developing roots.  You had so much in common it was easy. Your spouses worked for the same company, you endured much of the same stresses, you had been to places they'd been stationed or vice versa, you had friends in common through the family that was the military.  It was easy and your roots felt so strong that you didn't realize that while they were strong they were not deep.  They sustained you through the time you shared the same space.  Some people were deeper and the connection lasted beyond the place you met/shared but not most. 
Fast forward to being out and trying to find these insta-roots.  I am sure they exist in all places but it wasn't easy for me. Everything was new for us, new job, new town, new neighborhood, new church.  Nothing with the fluidity of the military.   Friendly sure, but friends? Not so much.  It's been years and I keep waiting for it to happen. And then it was a moment of clarity and a fact thunked into my heart with such a weight that it felt like God had just whispered it into my being.


What? Plant a seed? But I am here Lord, isn't that planting a seed? I show up.  I smile, I nod, I laugh.  Isn't that planting?  No?  Planting requires getting dirty, making an effort.  I don't know any farmer that gets to harvest a crop that they didn't first plant and tend to.  But HOW do I plant in a forest full of trees with roots already deep.  How? What if there isn't room? What if I don't fit? "What if" is the death of roots for me.  My what if's had me standing waiting for spontaneous root growth complete with history and depth and belonging.  For years.  Then I decided to step out.  I went to a meeting (recently ya'll so this is a during post not an after) and then the next morning I went to another meeting.  Oh wait, there are not 12 step meetings for growing roots but these are 2 different places that I am involved in and am making an effort to plant seeds.  We've made friends here, don't get me wrong, great friends that we are starting to build a history with but I am still banking on chia roots. Not anymore, I am putting my what if's away and getting my hands dirty instead.  I will work on planting seeds and wait as roots develop.  I will be faithful to the process. 

Dude, growing stuff is hard yo!

Balloon Sky

Balloons signify birthdays in our house.  When you are 10 and younger you will find that number of balloons tied near the mantle during the week of your birthday.  As you grow older we use either side of the mantle to mark your birthday is balloons.  You're turning 12, that would be 1 balloon on the left and 2 balloons on the right.  We buy our balloons at the dollar tree and all but Jeremy and I turned 40 this year and ain't nobody got $$ for that!  Joshua used to love to go with me to pick out the balloons.  He would stand at the counter and agonize over the perfect choices.  Weighing the birthday persons likes vs the balloons available.  As we walked out of the store he would panic and worry that I would lose my grip on the balloons and they would be gone forever.  I assured him every time that I was holding on tightly but he still worried.  I would remind him that if one did manage to escape it could be replaced but that didn't quell his nervous chatter.  Eventually he started to walk away and get into the van as I wrangled the balloon herd into the back, it was easier for all involved. 

Yesterday was my momma's birthday.  I have such a struggle with what to do to celebrate/remember her.  I don't want it to be too much as to make it into some sort of shrine filled day but I also don't want to ignore it completely.  It's a fine line to navigate and in all fairness this is only the 3rd time I've had to figure it out.  The first year we had dinner on the deck (she had already put in her order for her birthday dinner that year, completely with the fact she wanted to eat it on the deck and what she wanted for dessert...she was crazy bossy yo!) and launched balloons that everybody had written on.  It felt good, it was a visual for the babies to be able to send birthday wishes to heaven.  Allowing them to purge and say goodbye.  We stood and watched them until we couldn't see them anymore.  The second year I honestly don't remember what we did.  We were in the new house and I'm sure that we had something that she liked to eat but we didn't launch balloons or anything as far as I can recall.  This year I wasn't even going to mention it to the schilldren.  I was simply going to let it pass quietly until both the kids came to me individually missing their Gramma the days leading up to her birthday.  In their little hearts they knew and I didn't want to ignore that.  I bought balloons and put them in my closet on Monday night after they were in bed.  I didn't really mention it to them but remembered one of them mentioning it to me.  I didn't want to let them down if they wanted to make it a tradition.  We made it through Tuesday with smiles and happy memories.  We didn't eat cake or sing happy birthday.  We had brats on the grill because it's something she would have enjoyed and left it at that. Until bedtime....

The boychild had been off all day, grumbly and short tempered.  A little more sass than usually and a little more harrumph in his attitude.  I thought he was missing his sister as she had homework after school and didn't have time to play with him.  I thought he was tired from a fun weekend and needed to get some sleep.  I thought he was contemplating contrary as a sport and was using a random Tuesday as his trial run.  Then it was bedtime and he finally settled into his room.  Since birth he's been my boomerang.  Put him down and he comes back, we toyed with calling him boomer but his nickname that was his own doing stuck instead.  He got up a few times and then I went into his room to tuck him in...again.  He looked at me with his big blue eyes shining with tears that threatened to spill over and barely got out "I miss Gramma" before his voice broke and the threat became reality.  Tears streamed down his cheeks and suddenly my big 9 year old became my little 9 year old. I realized the littleness of him and the bigness of his hurt.  We talked about happy memories, we talked about Heaven and Jesus and her faith.  We talked about how he had an entire lifetime of really great Gramma memories.  His sad breaks my heart.  He kept telling me he didn't want to cry because it made him feel bad.  His list was long:
If I cry for Gramma O'Day I feel like I'm being mean to my other Gramma because I love her too.
If I cry in front of TTSW I don't want to make her sad, it was her mom!
If I cry in front of you it will make you cry too and I don't want to make you cry Momma.
If I cry I don't know if I will be able to stop. 
If I cry it will be loud and I will wake people up, Kaity has school.

The list went on and on and I each objection he had to crying I corrected and told him why it was okay to let out the tears.  He still couldn't just let it go...he obviously didn't get as much from Frozen as the rest of us. 

I suddenly remembered my closet full of balloons.   I took his hand and led him into my bedroom, his face lit up when he saw them.  He felt like we were celebrating her birthday not just being sad that she was gone. We walked outside together holding the balloons between us, his chubby boy hand over mine to make sure I didn't lose them.  We didn't talk. At the end of the driveway he took a deep breath and I handed him 1 balloon.  We had 5.  He let it go and watched it disappear into the night sky.  The gold star balloon finding it's place among it's friends.  As soon as he couldn't follow it's path anymore he reached for another.  He released it and watched it duck and weave in the breeze.  He was mostly quiet and soft as he watched.  "Can we let the rest of them go together?"  I handed over the bundle and he reached as high as he could his arm fully extended and let go.  "I love you Gramma" and that was all it took his shoulders started to shake and the dam broke.  Gulping sobs and a broken wail that shouldn't be made by a child that young.  He cried himself to sleep.  I laid and listened and prayed. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

A year of Faithfulness

I turned 40 yesterday.  That sounds a lot more grown than I feel.  It sounds like maturity and adulthood tinged with a bit of sage advice giving ability.  It feels a whole lot like 39, which felt like 29.  I sat in church yesterday and feel like God gave me the word "Faithfulness" because I have turned from being faithful. Not in my faith but it my actions.  I am lax at reading & studying my bible, have laid my health to the side, neglected cultivating relationships beyond those easily navigated through social media.  Then I listened to a message that was about getting distracted by the nothing that fills our lives.  So much information that we get distracted by the white noise.  I thought about creating a new blog to chart my progress and then realized it was because I wanted the anonymity of a new place, which would sort of defeat the purpose of being accountable.  I don't think Faithfulness will be as easy and beautiful as it sounds.  I know it will be a struggle.  It's going to be a long year.  A year of navigating the emotions that come from being faithful.  That my friends is where the rub is.  Committing to denying the numb and welcoming the emotions that I've also not been faithful to acknowledge.  Ohhhh my stars what was I thinking?! Oh wait, I mean here we go bumpy road I'm coming for you and looking forward to seeing where I am in a year!