October 3, 2011

Many Milestones

Dear Mom,

Lease my apartment: check.
Quit my job: check.
Move back to my hometown: check.
Get a boyfriend: check, baby!

Guess which life change I am most excited to tell you about? Four guesses.

Okay, yes, I have a boyfriend! Can you tell I'm your daughter? All of a sudden I had the biggest realization that it's not what I'm doing, but who I'm doing it with that truly makes me the happiest. And to be honest, my new boyfriend is exactly what prompted me to make all these recent life changes and decisions.

I know you're dying for details, so let me back it up a little bit.

Long story short (when are they ever?), the day after I wrote the post about meeting my fair share of losers, Dad invited me to a 4th of July BBQ back home at his friend's house. He's asked me to go to this annual party for the past three years, but I've always declined for whatever reason. This year I finally caved and made an appearance. About an hour into the party, I stopped dead in my tracks at the first sight of him and said out loud, "I need to meet him." Within 10 minutes, that's exactly what I did, and we haven't missed a beat in three months. It was the weirdest thing, but I was immediately overcome with this crazy feeling that I was looking at the person I've always visualized myself being with, even though I had never seen this guy before. And not to jump the gun or anything, but the instant connection we had that continues to grow each day is telling me that my gut instinct may have been correct.

Dad has known him for quite a while and definitely approves (such a plus by the way; we got to avoid the awkward father/daughter discussion about me being in a relationship with some guy he doesn't know-- you were always my go-to gal for that!). He is the nephew of Dad's friend, and by chance was in town visiting his family after being deployed to Iraq for the third time. He's in the army and stationed elsewhere, so our relationship consists of monthly visits and hours on the phone every day having some of the greatest conversations I've ever had... siiiighhhh... I'm such a girl. I'm completely smitten. It's kind of sickening and completely fabulous at the same time. I am so happy and I am finally allowing myself to be vulnerable and fully let someone into my life. It's scary because nothing is ever for certain, but at least I know now the kind of genuine, funny, caring, appreciative man I am deserving of does exist and can feel the same way towards me.

And the best part is: he asks about you. When he visits, he invites Dad to come do stuff with us; he brings me to his parents' so I can get to know them too. He's shown me just how important it is to surround yourself with the people who make you happy, and that's why I moved home. I didn't feel good about where I was, but now I finally feel great about where I'm going. Where exactly? Well, that's TBD... but for now, it's in the house that you spent 19 years with me in teaching me what's truly important in life: family, friends, and love.

I love you,

August 18, 2011

Friday Mourning

Dear Mom,

Whenever I'm feeling upset, I remind myself repeatedly that, no matter what I'm crying over, I went through worse when I lost you. Typically that is enough to help me snap out of my funk, but of course there are those times where the only remedy seems to be a box of tissues and my comfiest PJs.

And that was exactly the kind of day I had last Friday.

I've been so focused on getting my new, single, fabulous little life figured out during these past few months, and in an instant I realized that I have absolutely no clue why I am where I am, doing what I'm doing, and feeling how I'm feeling. The only thing I wanted to do was curl up on the couch next to you while you played with my hair like you did when I was little, and knowing that the one thing I wanted was also the one thing that definitely wasn't going to happen only added to my heavy heart that day.

I've been sick for about a week (how is it that my body fights viruses like a champ during Maine winters, but can't handle a few months of 90+ degree weather?), so that didn't help my mood. I was at work for less than 30 minutes when I decided there was no way I could make it through the day in one piece and needed to get out of there immediately. One look at my manager-- who is just as caring and approachable as you... AND shares your name, ironically-- and I was one hot mess. I told her how much I just miss your advice and how much I wish I could hear it now. She suggested that I write you a letter, read it out loud, and wait for the answers to eventually show themselves to me. Little did she know that writing letters used to be our thing, and, through my blog, still is. It was just what I needed to hear.

I got in my car and drove 2.5 hours to the cemetery. I know that technically you aren't there, but for some reason I found comfort in sitting beside where your body is resting. While I was there, I finally allowed myself to let it all go. I am so confused. Why am I living in the area that I am right now? I came here for college, that is over. I stayed for a relationship, and that is over too. My closest friends have all moved away and have started their lives; why haven't I done the same? What am I waiting for? My job here isn't my dream job, and frankly the only reason I look forward to going in is because my co-workers are so great, but is that enough to keep me here? Not in the least.

I had a long talk with Dad that night and have decided that I'm moving home. I'm giving myself the next month to figure out the logistics of this next step. I'll have to look for a new job, find someone to lease my apartment, etc. I feel relief knowing that I am finally closing this chapter in my life and moving forward, but at the same time, I'm wondering how I will adjust to life in that area after being on my own for five years. How will it feel to live, for the first time, in the house you died in? How will it feel to wake up every morning in the home we spent 19 wonderful years in together and walk downstairs and not see your smile? I'm nervous for it, but ready somehow. It is time. And at the end of the day, I know I'll be alright because I went through worse when I lost you.


July 28, 2011

Revisiting a Rocky Road

Dear Mom,

In honor of a dear friend of mine who has recently decided to seek out the help of a therapist, I'm re-posting a guest post I wrote for Nancy's Point reflecting on my own experience with a counselor. To know that I even gave my friend the tiniest bit of encouragement to finally reach out for guidance during her time of need is the best feeling. But even so, it's not about me, it's about her. And I am so proud of her for taking this step. 

I'm a little emotional today as I reread it. I'm in a good place now, but remembering where I've been is just plain bittersweet. My heart used to be so heavy, and it's tough to revisit the broken girl I used to be and reflect on what brought me there... since learning to live without you is what brought me there. I never thought I could smile again and move forward without that intense feeling of guilt suffocating me. But, here I am. I'm doing it. We aren't meant to go through this life alone, and regardless of where you are today, I still feel you right beside me, moving forward together.

I love you,


Shrinking My Grief

Dear Mom,

When the day came that I consciously made the decision to not get out of bed, to skip my two college classes that morning, to just lay there staring up at the ceiling that I felt was closing in on me, that’s when I realized I couldn’t do this alone. It usually takes weeks to get in to see our university’s therapist, but after hearing of my circumstances from the Assistant Dean of our campus, she agreed to see me that same week.

To me, there were few things more embarrassing than parking my well-known, dark green Toyota Echo plastered with a giant sorority sticker on the back windshield outside of the counseling building, so naturally, I parked further away and trudged through the snow, ice, and subzero temperatures to be sure not to tarnish my seemingly ‘put together’ reputation. I probably looked like I was about to rob a bank or something since I looked over my shoulder repeatedly on my way in with my hands shoved deep in my pockets and only my eyes peaking out over the collar of my winter trench coat. No one would know I was here; not if I could help it.

Of course, there were other students in the waiting room. I kept my head down and pretended to read a magazine, meanwhile internally thanking you for all the carrots you made me eat as I put my excellent peripheral vision to the test to scope out the girl next to me. Her wrists showed no signs of any cut marks; she wasn’t talking to herself; she didn’t scream at me for accidentally sitting on her imaginary best friend. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this girl was kind of  normal. She was kind of like… me. Well, at least the me that I had been before I made this appointment. Now I was a basket-case, shuddering with nerves every few seconds and fidgeting with a wad of tissues that were damp from my tears on the car ride over. If anything, I looked like the crazy one sitting in that room. Awesome.

When the secretary called my name, I looked up and locked eyes with the woman who was about to change my life. Her name was April, and she was going to help and heal me for the next four months until I was on my own for summer vacation. Once we made it into her office, I hardly had time to spit out my name before the dampened, crumpled up tissues in my hand were catching more tears. She handed me a box of tissues, and even used some herself, as we spent the next hour talking about your life and eventual death.

Over the next couple of months I worked through my most painful memories with April. She didn’t say any magic words that made them go away; she just listened. I told her everything that haunted me at night when I tried to sleep: the night you told me you were dying; the sound of your breathing while you slept that reminded me your body was shutting down; the way your cold, stiff forehead felt against my lips when I kissed you goodbye for the final time in your casket; how, after they closed the lid to lock you in that box forever, I threw my body across it and sobbed in front of everyone at the cemetery. I told her everything. And even without any resolution– just knowing I could say it and not carry it alone– it felt good. I felt good.

Eventually, the only time I cried most weeks was during the hour I set aside on Wednesdays to sit with April. I figured that she either sliced onions and rubbed them all over the chair I sat in and the tissues she gave me, or she actually created a safe haven for me where I was comfortable enough to let my guard down and allow myself to be the heartbroken, fragile, emotional girl that I so desperately wanted to hide from the world.

And as quickly as our sessions began, they were over. Walking in that afternoon, I didn’t know it was going to be my last visit with April, but as I sat there silence, fishing for something to talk about, we both realized it was time to part ways. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel sad leaving her office for the last time, even though I knew I would never see her again. I was happy that she showed me that I had the tools to heal myself, and that at that time next week, someone else was going to be filling my time slot and taking the first step in mending his or her own life too.

Initially, I was ashamed to admit that I could benefit from professional help, but now, three years later, I am proud to say that I had the courage to seek it. Therapy gave me my life back. April explained to me, in the most subtle of ways, that grieving takes time, and a whole lot of it, so there was no need to be so hard on myself. And that pushing the painful memories out of my head, opposed to dealing with them, only hinders my ability to move forward in a healthy way. With her help, I realized I had the strength and ability inside myself to get through this without the pain, the hauntings images, and the missing you taking over my everyday life. After only about a dozen visits with April, I have never felt the need to go back.

Eventually, I opened up about my experience to a friend whom I thought could benefit from hearing it. She responded, “Yeahhh… I’m all set with paying someone to listen to my issues.” I felt my face flush with embarrassment as I instantly regretted ever letting her into that part of my life. I was brought back to my first day in the waiting room when I was embarrassed to even be associated with that place as my friend tactlessly reminded me that there is that stigma attached to the mental state of someone who sees a therapist… even if that person is your friend, apparently. I am not– nor was I ever– crazy, but I did need someone to remind me that I was somehow going to get through that very dark time. I think most people could use that reminder at least once in their lives. So, I’ve chosen to not let her words, or anyone else’s, make me feel ashamed anymore, because, you know what? Sometimes, the best things in life aren’t free: like a roof over your head, food on the table, an oncologist working to save your mom’s life, and a damn good shrink.


July 19, 2011

My Mother's Garden

My Mother's Garden

My Mother kept a garden,
a garden of the heart,
She planted all the good things
that gave my life it's start.

She turned me to the sunshine
and encouraged me to dream,
Fostering and nurturing
the seeds of self-esteem.

And when the winds and rain came,
she protected me enough--
But not too much because she knew
I'd need to stand up strong and tough.

Her constant good example
always taught me right from wrong--
Markers for my pathway
that will last a lifetime long.

I am my Mother's garden.
I am her legacy,
And I hope today she feels the love
reflected back from me.
-Author Unknown

Happy 49th birthday Mama Bear. I'll love you always.


July 1, 2011

You Know You're Better Off Single When...

Dear Mom,

Despite popular belief I'm sure, I do still think about my blog daily and posts continue to formulate in my head variously throughout the week, but instead of writing about my life, I'm just plain living (and loving) it. Since my new discovery of the single life and its highs and lows, I have learned a tremendous amount about myself... and the losers that are currently on the market.

Just kidding.

Kind of.

But seriously.


But it's fine that I have yet to stumble across a real winner because, as you may recall, I am on a path to self discovery during this single period in my life (yaaawn... is it over yet?!). My old boyfriends used to score big brownie points based simply off how they interacted with you. You were a smooth talking, fiesty little son of a gun, and if a guy could hang with you and keep you laughing, he certainly had my approval. Now that that option is no longer, I am making my own judgement calls (and by 'my own', I mean plus Dad, Tom, Gisele, and many friends' approvals... totally my own though...). Let me tell you Mother Dearest, these boys are making it quite easy for me to head for the hills and preferably another planet all together. I'm either getting really good at picking out the good ones from the bad, or you're playing a really cruel trick on me to make me think that's the case. Either way, for your weekend entertainment, please enjoy a good laugh at my expense:

You Know You're Better Off Single When....

1. He doesn't want to meet your friends, and his reasoning is because he's afraid they will want to hook up with him and you'll start a cat-fight with them in public.

2. He takes the bun off his cheeseburger to avoid the extra calories while you're already wolfing down burger #2, bread and all, with extra cheese.

3. He randomly develops a British accent in mid conversation... yet he's American.

4. He thinks you didn't see his phone light up from a text message before he nonchalantly sneaks it into his pocket and "goes pee" in the bathroom repeatedly throughout your visit.

5. He sees a bug crawling around your apartment, immediately runs to get a paper towel... and then hands it to you.

6. He tells you he's been too busy to talk, you reply 'but honestly, if a person wanted to talk to someone they would find the time', and he responds, 'yeah, I guess that's true actually!'. Awkward.

7. He tells you his dad is an alcoholic... while he's drunk.

8. How 'difficult' his life has been and how hard he's had to work for all he has comes up at least a half dozen times a day (maybe I should send him my blog link or any of my friends with cancer's blogs-- hello, perspective! Move over Debbie Downer, there's a new kid in town).

Okay Mom, seriously, joke's over.

On to the next! Pick me out a keeper, please. This is getting a little ridiculous!


June 5, 2011

First Things First

Dear Mom,

Changes and new experiences typically make me anxious and overwhelmed, so I'm surprised to find myself suddenly living a life of firsts. I'm living on my own for the first time with no roommates to wash my dishes for me when I'm running late; no one to call while I'm at work to double check that I turned off my hair straightener; no one to plop down on the couch with to vent after a long day.

It's my first time killing insects on my own when they sneak in uninvited to my apartment. That may not sound like a big deal to most, but if you remember, one time in high school you and Dad were out for the night, and I demanded that my then boyfriend drive to our house at 10PM on a school night to squish the giant, half-human spider glaring up at me from the bathroom floor (in my defense, he was even intimidated by it). Just this morning I woke up to a hornet buzzing around my head, which, since I hadn't opened the door in a good 10 hours, means it creepily watched me sleep all night and that really ticked me off. I grabbed the can of Raid and went on a 10-second rampage. Dad would be so proud!

This is also my first time being single for as long as I can remember. Truly, 100%, fend for myself, cooking for one, officially a bug killer, single. Yes, there was that 8 or so months not long after you died where I was boyfriendless, but instead I attached myself to a best friend who I spent literally all my free time with. I was grieving, and I needed it. I needed someone, or something, to focus on to keep myself preoccupied from the hurt. I was just trying to survive then, but now, I am trying to live. So, I am single. I have no boyfriend and no definite best friend. Instead, I have a lot of close friends and acquaintances that I am spending equal amounts of time with, and it feels great. It's the first time that I feel like I don't need to tell a certain person what I'm doing all the time; if someone wants to grab lunch or go for a walk, I just can, and I don't need to report to a boyfriend or a super protective best friend. I'm a floater, and I like it. I feel like I can breathe.

With that being said, this is also the first time I feel like I am shaping myself rather than allowing others to influence me. I don't ask anyone's opinion on what I wear anymore because there's no one here to ask; no one is advising me on what to say to the cute boy that texted me, or what color curtain would look nice in the kitchen. It's all me now, and it's just so liberating.

In the same sense, it's also been a little scary from time to time. A few situations have arose where I realize just how damaged I am in some ways. Like I said, in the past I have always jumped from relationship to relationship. Having grown up watching my parents be completely in love, how could I not go from one three-year relationship to the next? I got so caught up in finding love and a person to complete me that I never stopped to ask myself why I feel incomplete in the first place.

Two of my past relationships have lacked some essential elements, and they've truly scarred me in a big way that I've never fully admitted to myself prior to, well, about two days ago. Someone that I care about made a negative comment about my hair-- yes, my hair-- and it literally sent me soaring head first off the deep end of the looney bin pool. That person had never said anything but positive things about my oh so astonishing, silky-smooth hair, so my feelings were really hurt. He looked at me as if the word "PSYCHOPATH" was instantaneously etched across my forehead. Thankfully, I had a sudden epiphany.

In my past relationships, it always seemed like things were going well, when out of the blue I'd hear, "Well, I love you, but I'm not in love with you," or, after my old roommate told me how adorable I looked before a date, I'd then hear, "What's with your eye shadow, and when did you get that weird shirt?" from my boyfriend. Seriously?! Seriously. My poor little ego. Rather than saying "screw you, a-hole" and going on my merry way like the confident woman I pretended to be would have done, I secretly tried to change. I wanted to be the girl he thought was marriage material, and I wanted to change my style and appearance to please the next one. I wanted to be different because I thought no one could love me if I was just... me. I never felt like I was enough just as I was.

For the first time, I know that I should feel worthy of being loved for exactly the person I am, and I know I should love myself enough to walk away from someone who needs me to change in order to be a part of my life. Between my last post and this one, I've realized that I know I should feel those things, but the catch is that I don't necessarily feel them about myself. I am currently damaged goods-- I'm broken in a lot of ways, and I see that now. I mean, I was two steps away from sending myself to the local mental health clinic because someone made a comment about my hair. Get a grip, woman! I need my opinion to matter above all others. I need to heal. I need time to rebuild my confidence. I need to figure out how to feel good about myself with no influence from others. I need to continue restoring the relationship I have with myself because then, and only then, will I truly be ready and able to have a healthy relationship with someone else.

That'll be my next first.

I love you,

May 18, 2011

The Only Constant is Change

Dear Mom,

I've said before that I feel like I'm settling somehow lately, and I couldn't figure out if it was the people I surround myself with, or just me. Turns out it was a little bit of both.

Over the past month I have ripped down, rebuilt, and replaced a series of relationships in my life, including the one I have with myself. It's been a pretty drastic change, and one that I haven't been ready to talk about until tonight.

For a little while now, I have felt like I've lost myself. I just wasn't willing to admit it. It's like I suddenly got sucked into a life of a boring, lonely old lady and completely stopped even attempting to be the spunky little 23-year-old that I am on the inside. I grew comfortable in a life of going to bed at 9pm on a Saturday night, passing on a night out with my girlfriends for no good reason, and sitting in front of the TV whenever I got some downtime. When did I let myself become that person? I love being spontaneous, meeting new people, laughing, and living an exciting, active lifestyle. I used to dream of moving out of the state; I used to dream of being a famous journalist; I used to dream of making my mark on the world in even the smallest way-- I used to dream, period. When did I stop dreaming? And more importantly, why?

After you died, I focused so much on how short your life was that I panicked and started living so fast. I wanted to do everything immediately and got so wrapped up in it that I didn't even recognize myself. Then, I made a change and started spending time with people who lived a slower paced life, which ultimately brought mine to a screeching halt. I allowed that to carry on for years to the point where I simply got comfortable. I was comfortable working at a mediocre job, living in a town that hardly anyone has heard of, spending all my time with people who weren't necessarily a right fit for me. It was easy and achievable.

One little quote changed my outlook. I can't remember where I read it or who said or when, but I do know that I haven't been able to get it out of my head ever since.

"You say life is short, but it is the longest thing you'll ever do."

I never thought of it that way before. Talk about a wake-up call. Life is actually pretty freaking long-- and I'm going to spend it like this? Absolutely not.

In a matter of weeks my life has turned upside-down in some of the best ways. I rekindled relationships with old friends who should have never left my life. I reevaluated what I'm looking for in a partner and am single for the first time in years. I realized that I want more for myself than I've actually allowed myself to feel deserving of in the past. I feel confident, happy, and excited about my life and my future for the first time in so long.

I let my grief and fear of death completely overtake me. Watching you die when I was 19 years old truly shook me to my core in more ways than I had ever realized. I started to look at life as a countdown; a ticking time bomb. Something in the past few months just clicked for me out of nowhere, and I can see now that life has been patiently waiting for me to go out and live it.

Now that's exactly what I intend to do!


May 17, 2011

Welcome Home

Dear Mom,

I got out of the shower this morning to find a missed call from Dad on my cell phone. He said your mom ('Nanny' to all of us grandkids) was given just hours to live, and I should drive home immediately. I threw a bag together in record time and was out the door. Halfway into my two hour drive to the hospital, my phone rang again...

I was too late.

It turns out she died before I had even left my house... ironically, at that very minute I had been bracing myself against the kitchen counter before I got in the car, trying to keep it together and praying to God to be with her.

He was... and so were you. When I got to the hospital, I was told that just before she died she lifted her hand-- palm-up-- into the air and smiled. I have no doubts that it was you by His side as He took her hand and welcomed her home.

I had a hard time being sad at first. A mother and daughter were reunited today for all of eternity; that is something that I only dream of, and you two got to experience that. I felt a weird calm about it all-- that is, until all of our family left the hospital but me (and your friend Lois, who is an absolute angel and stayed by my side), and I decided to see Nanny's body.

That's when things got real for me. I took one step into the doorway, saw her dead body slumped over in that hospital bed, and literally gasped. I had to look away; I was frozen; tears streaming down my face. I didn't even recognize her. I was instantly brought back to a place-- a feeling-- that I had so desperately tried to forget three years ago.

Grandpa looked at Dad as he was leaving earlier and said, "I don't know how you do this." The truth is, we don't either. We just... do. We have no other choice but to keep going. It's that simple... and that complicated.

I love you,

May 8, 2011

The Mother's Day Blues

Dear Mom,

Today is Mother's Day. Despite my good intentions, of course I started crying completely unexpectedly right when I woke up this morning. It's just so bittersweet. I feel lucky to have known you, and I always will, but there's that part of me that will just remain sad. I'm sad that I will never buy you another sappy Mother's Day card or cheesy gift; I'm sad that I will slowly forget exactly how your voice sounded; I'm sad that you never got the chance to be one of those cool moms on Facebook, or own an iPhone, or watch the season finale of Survivor (and the new season too-- you would love it!).

I try to replace all of the "didn't's" and "couldn't's" and "will never's" with thoughts of all the things we did get to do together, and it gets easier to do so, but sometimes I still need to just let myself feel whatever the heck I want to-- and today I feel sad. And tearful. And cheated. And I just... well, I feel bad for myself.

A lot of my sadness used to come from feeling sad for you and the fact that you had to leave us all by yourself, but honestly, my guess is that Heaven kicks some serious butt and you aren't thinking twice about this place. Lucky. Angels probably don't have to shave their legs, purchase tampons, or struggle through hangovers (clearly listing the most important things in life here...). Angels live the best life-- a blessed life-- and experience the eternal life that the rest of us just dream about and hope for. I just know that, today, you are happy.

Hmm... you are happy. I haven't said or thought that in a while.

I think I just performed therapy on myself by accident. That was weird. There went the rest of my rant for the day.

You are happy.

And now so am I.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you so much.


April 25, 2011

Life's Private Parts (the PG-13 kind)

Dear Mom,

I have a blogging buddy who practically lives a double life. She drives herself to chemo treatments, writes under an alias, and even her own roommates don't know she has cancer. I never understood this-- how could she not want the support? How could she keep such a huge part of her life to herself?

Well, now I know.

Like I told you last week, I started a new job a few weeks ago. I've lost track of how many times your death could have easily slipped into a conversation with various new co-workers, but each time, I've stopped myself. But why? I miss you; I miss calling you on my drive home to tell you about my day; I miss making new memories together; I miss feeling complete. But what I don't miss, is the way someone looks at me when I tell them my mom is dead; the instant frown; the pity behind their eyes; the sympathy in their voice. I will never miss that because I shouldn't even know what that looks like in the first place.

So, I get it. I completely understand why my friend doesn't walk around airing her personal life to anyone who will listen. It's refreshing to just blend in for a change and to not be the girl that makes people realize their lives aren't that bad in comparison. Especially since my last place of employment sucked the energy and happiness right out of me on a daily basis, it's nice that I'm now somewhere where I can just keep it light. I'll save the serious stuff for those who help get me through it... after all, you aren't supposed to share your private parts with just anyone, right?


April 18, 2011

I'm Alive!

(Originally written 4/9/11)

Dear Mom,

Today is Dad's birthday! I visited him last weekend, and we had lots of great conversations. I can honestly say he is better, and happier, and that makes me breathe a sigh of relief. It's been a long road, and it's still going to wind and twist along the way, but for now, he is having a smoother ride.

I've been a little MIA in the past week and a half because I have been transitioning from my old job to somewhere brand new and wonderful! I used to have a lot of downtime during my schedule previously, so I was able to write more, but that's not the case here (we can't even use our cell phones!) The position itself isn't where I see myself down the road, but if I move up through the company I could get into the communications section of it and fit in perfectly. It's something to work towards and has brought me a million steps ahead of where I was just 11 days ago, so I can't complain about that!

Last night I was so exhausted from my first week of work and training that I passed right out when my head hit my pillow. I was woken up around 1AM when, yet again, a roommate drunkenly staggered into the house and not-so-gracefully found her way to her room down the hall (I love my friends, I do, but it's just another reminder of how different from them I've become. They even call me 'mom'!). I laid there and listened to her to make sure she wasn't sick or in need of any help (here I go again with the TMMs...), but she seemed alright. I tried to fall back asleep, when out of nowhere I started sobbing. I was having one of those 'holy crap, how did I get here?!' kind of moments. It was the first time in weeks that time had slowed long enough for me to just think about me... and you.

As happy as I am that dad is honestly doing well, it also made me feel more isolated from everyone. I felt like I was crossing another name off the list of fellow grievers, and to tell you the truth, I'm not even sure who's on it anymore besides me. It's not a constant feeling of sadness anymore like it used to be; the waves of grief are spaced out, but during their off time they are only building up their strength to come crashing down when I least expect it. Like at 1AM on a Friday when I had already been sleeping for three hours.

I think what is upsetting me more now is the fact that all this time is passing. It's been almost 3.5 years already. How have I lived without you for 3.5 years? And time will only continue to increase. Even as I write this, I am minutes further from the last time I saw your face. It just makes me sad to know that eventually, the time I have spent without you is going to surpass the 19 years I knew you. I have always said that I was lucky to have you in my life for 19 years, and I still believe that, but seriously? What the (insert inappropriate word that I would use if I were a normal 23-year-old here)! Nineteen years is hardly no time at all. It's not fair. I know, I know, life's not fair, but why? Why does it have to be unfair?


So I guess this is where I'm at now (and by now, I mean April 18th, nine days after I started writing this post. I really am slacking!). I'm at a weird transition where I feel like fewer people understand me (especially being at a new job where no one knows anything about you--which may actually be a good thing since clearly it only made me a target before); where I feel like I have nothing else to say at this point rather than 'grief is stupid'; where I am honestly at a crossroads with a lot of my relationships because I suddenly just feel like an outsider. Even the people who used to add the most to my life, suddenly aren't. Do I ask too much of people? Do I think I deserve more than I actually do? All I know is that you gave me the world, I was spoiled, and now no one else really measures up. When I step back and look at some of the people around me, I just feel like I'm settling. Is it them... or me?

Hoping to get out of this rut and find my way back to my old self, happiness, and writing.


March 29, 2011

Silence of the Spams

Dear Mom,

I promised you long ago that when the time came that you were too weak to fight, I would continue fighting for you. I thought that fire inside me went out the day I lost you, but yesterday I felt it ignite for the first time in over three years.

You can read Nancy's Point or Uneasy Pink for the full story, but here is the jist of what happened and my two cents (it may end up being twenty-two cents with all I have to say, but who's counting?).

"Feel Your Boobies" is a non-profit organization that campaigns towards young women to tell them to, for lack of a better term, feel their boobies. Despite the lewd comments on their Facebook page from teenage boys and even grown men revealing their desire to grab women's breasts, it's actually a campaign about early breast cancer detection and self breast exams. Who would've thought!

So, whatever, they use innappropriate slogans to appeal to the younger generation (can I exclude myself from this age group yet? I'm pretty sure I stopped fitting in when I was like 12); I can get over that. What has caused an absolute ruckus this past week was when Uneasy Pink, a breast cancer survivor, spoke up on FYB's Facebook wall to explain that comments like, "I can help with feeling the boobies if ya'll need any help!" were inappropriate, disrespectful, demeaning, and hurtful to the people who have been affected by the disease.

Uneasy Pink received an immense amount of backlash from FYB 'fans' calling her 'uptight' and accusing her of not being able to take a joke. I'm pretty sure the only jokes I read on that site are the hundreds of crude comments underminding the importance of self breast exams and making a mockery of breast cancer. Oh, and then more jokes came when all of her comments were deleted by the founder of the organization (or one of her corrupted minions), but she chose to leave all the rude comments that were written in response(Uneasy Pink took screen shots of this as it unfolded, and I highly recommend taking a peak!).

As a journalist, the thought of censorship alone makes my blood boil. Don't even get me started on how I feel about that organization taking away our Freedom of Speech, and yes, our, because I got involved too. Uneasy Pink and anyone who supported her had their comments deleted and were reported by the company as 'spam' so they could no longer comment on public pages. After reading Nancy's Point, which unveiled that FYB doesn't even put a single cent towards actual breast cancer research (research, you know, the ONLY thing that will save the people we love from this disease), I decided it was time to use my voice before it was silenced like the other 'spammers'.

Without hesitation, I posted on the FYB wall.

"Waaait a second... so your entire campaign and profits simply go toward just telling young people to 'feel your boobies'? Maybe I am misunderstanding, but... what's the point of finding a lump if there's no money going toward research to actually get rid of it and save lives? Yes, there are other organizations who raise money for research, but there is still no cure, which means other people need to step up and step in. Any chance you'll consider being the organization to do so?"

My comment was deleted within minutes.

So, let me get this straight. They'll make more money in a year than most Americans will see in their lifetime, yet they'll spend it all on cheeky t-shirts and bumper stickers rather than on cancer research? They'll delete concerns and inquiries from women who are actually (and unfortunately) a part of the cancer community, yet they'll keep comments on a picture of a girl sitting on a pink bicycle from men saying how badly they wish they were a bike seat? That's just downright embarassing. I'm embarassed for them and the freakshow they're running over there at "Feel Your Boobies".

The fact that my comment was deleted speaks more to me than any response ever could, so I have a little message for them in return:

"Although humor is important and helps us get by sometimes, the bottom line is that cancer is not a joke, and it's certainly not a pretty little picture wrapped in a silky pink bow like your organization markets it as. So go ahead and remove our comments, delete the images of what cancer really looks like, block us from your website, and report us to the myserious Facebook police. You've already done all that, and guess what? We're still here; We're still talking; And you will never silence us, so listen up FYB because I have a new slogan for you. It's called:

Feel My Finger.

...And guess which one I'm giving you?"

Love you,

March 18, 2011

The Taboo Topic

(A continuation of All Dogs Go To Heaven...)

Dear Mom,

There are certain things that most find to be inappropriate to talk about in a public setting: topics like politics (booooring!), work (I hope they don't read that past post), personal problems (...I hope they don't read my whole blog whatsoever), and religion, which I'm about to discuss right now. Woopsies, I'm such a rebel.

You dragged me to church with you a few dozen times when I was younger until I made it so completely unbearable for you that you started leaving me at home. It never bothered me that I didn't learn about God or understand what He was all about in the least bit. My friends didn't ever go to church, and quite honestly I can't remember a time they ever even mentioned religion at all. It just simply wasn't a part of my life, and I never felt a void or noticed anything was missing... until my first, beloved childhood pet was put to sleep.

I never told you, but I prayed to Dixie and God the night she died and continued to every night for the next six years (that was probably when I realized how uncool and weird it was to pray to a dead dog, so she was eliminated from my little nightly spiel, and I just asked God to continue to take care of her up there instead). Sometimes my prayers were simple and quick, while other nights they would literally last about half an hour. Like I said, I hadn't been to church since I was really young, so I absolutely had no idea what I was doing; I just rambled (clearly that's one of the things I excel in) and asked that He watch over my loved ones.

When you were diagnosed with cancer for the first time, and even through your recurrence, I still allowed myself to believe He was listening to my prayers and watching over you. I never stopped praying and hoping for a cure for the disease that was going to eventually take you from me. I remained faithful because, in my mind, losing faith in God meant losing faith in you and your odds of survival.

The night you told me you were dying was the night I stopped believing. I decided to stop praying for the first time in almost 10 years, and it was honestly a fairly easy decision; I was just so empty.

I was reading song lyrics one day (while you were still alive) about how the silence I felt from God was speaking volumes to me. I felt like He had let me down, therefore causing me to doubt His existance. As I walked away from my computer to go see you downstairs, the TV turned on across the room. It was on a scambled, static channel, and it was blaring. I ran over to turn it off, smiling. Was this His way of showing me He was listening? The doctors are wrong, I thought, my mom's going to live! I was positive that this was a message from God saying just that.

But, a month later, you died. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe He let this happen. He didn't care about you, our family, or even me, so why should I care about Him? I was so angry and found that rebelling against Him was the only way to feel anything anymore, so that's exactly what I did.

For the next year or so, I hung out with the "cool" college crowd, went out a little too much, and wore clothes that would give Dad a heart attack. It's something that now, looking back on, I'm not proud of, but at the time, I thought filled the void (I was in grief therapy during all this, but never addressed my weekend rituals with my couselor). Don't get me wrong, I still went to class, and I even started making the Dean's List; my actions were nothing more than what most correlate with that of a "typical college girl", but it was out of character for me.

The following January, I snapped back to reality. I remembered that I expected and wanted more for myself-- and you would've too. I needed a change. And one day, something just clicked, but I can't quite tell you what it was. I remember going to church with a friend, seeing the people singing with their hands outstretched towards the sky, and thinking, wow, I want to feel what they feel.

Suddenly, I started to.

I'll be honest, I don't know much about Him, but I'm open to learning for the first time in a long time. Out of the blue, I began to realize that He didn't kill you like I accused Him of... He saved you. I think I feel a lot of guilt for ever questioning His actions, but I was uninformed, scared, and utterly broken. Is that excusable? Will I ever be forgiven for those actions and my thoughts? Those questions hang over my head like the blade of a guillotine. I just need to know that I'm forgiven.

I listen to some Christian radio stations in the car now that I once found too over the top. On many occasions some of these songs even bring me to tears. One of those moments happened this morning on my drive to work while my past mistakes and guilt were weighing heavily on my mind. Right at that very moment, I heard this:

Well, the past is playing with my head
And failure knocks me down again
I'm reminded of the wrong
That I have said and done
And that devil just won't let me forget

In this life I know where I've been,
But in your arms I know what I am

I'm forgiven
And I don't have to carry
The weight of who I've been
Cause I'm forgiven

Fighting back tears, all I could think was, Thank God.

I love you,

March 16, 2011

Two Peas in a Defective Pod

Dear Mom,

Flashback to sorority life, circa 2009. Sisters get recruited, they pledge, participate, get initiated, participate some more, and then graduate. Meanwhile, this cycle continuously repeats itself each semester to keep the sisterhood consistant in number and quality. While we're recruiting new people, it's not uncommon to meet many fabulous, charming young women. It is uncommon, however, for them to be 100% real when they come to our events (I mean, who honestly wears a sundress, pearls, 5-inch heels, and make-up to perfection day in and day out?). For the most part, it's a week filled with awkward giggles, forced smiles, and hours of small talk, and yet we love every minute of it because eventually, someone comes along who makes it all worthwhile.

'J' is that girl for me (don't worry-- still totally straight-- this isn't a 'coming out of the closet' post or anything!). She is always her kind, down-to-Earth self and never goes out of her way to impress anyone because being who she is does that all on its own. She is respectful, smart, and worldly (literally, she's traveled abroad more times than I've been to Wal-Mart practically, which is a lot). She is just stunning in appearance, yet her inner beauty radiates even brighter somehow. Despite the laundry list of desirable traits she posesses, it's what came before the passport, fluent Spanish-speaking skills, and preparations for her first triathalon this summer that truly caught my attention. It was something that makes most people uncomfortable, yet made me reach out.

It was when she said, "My dad died of cancer too."

Immediately after accepting her bid to the sorority, she asked me how to join the Relay for Life committee on campus and what she could do to help us out. It was the night of the event that we had our first real talk about our losses. She told me that her family installed a huge aquarium in the cancer wing of the hospital when he died because he said the hallways were too boring, and that each fish represents a member of her family. I told her that I stood in front of that same fish tank more times than I can count while making phone calls, clearing my head, or silently crying and feeling so alone. How many times did I run my fingers over that plaque engraved with his name? I never would have thought that I would meet his daughter, welcome her into my sorority, become her friend, and eventually, ask her to be my roommate.

This similarity between us hasn't fused a supersonic friendship that defies all odds and keeps us inseperable; she's still taking classes, I work all day; she travels for hours on the weekends to see her boyfriend, I stay in right town; she has a close group of friends in the area, mine have graduated and moved away (like she plans to in a few months). We are still very different, and surprisingly, there have been few nights where we've stayed up late talking about you and her dad, but when we do, I am reminded of just how special our friendship is to one another.

One night in particular, between hours of mindless DVR'd television, in our pajamas, all wrapped up in blankets while we sprawled out in the living room, she told me about her dad's final days alive. She said she had only ever told one other friend that. I can't even begin to tell you how that made me feel-- and not even in the "wow, I rock!" kind of way, but in the "that must have been so freeing for her" kind of way.

J has helped me to incorporate you into my every day life. Living with her has allowed me to naturally bring up your name in a casual conversation or mention a memory that you're a part of without feeling awkward. Every time she says, "Oh! My dad _______" it reminds me of how important our pasts are and how much they have shaped our futures.

Last night, J and I went to the movies. We made a pit stop at a gas station to buy some snacks in order to avoid the overpriced bags of popcorn at the theater. She picked out a bag of Cheez Doodles, and I nonchalantly mentioned the story about how much you loved them. I told her how I would sneak you some when you were really sick and on a liquid diet. During that time, you had a tube connected to your stomach leading to a bag propped up on the floor, so within minutes I'd see orange clumps forming. We'd laugh, and I'd help squeeze them down into the bag before Dad came back into the room.

J laughed too at my memory of us, and then thought a little more about what I said. "Wait. How did she get nutrients?"

I looked over at her, and like I was truly realizing it for the first time (because that's almost what it felt like in that moment to say it outloud), I responded, "...She didn't."


I thought, way to be a buzzkill Sami. You even made the girl with the deceased dad clam up.

"Well," she quickly interrupted my internal dialoge, "my dad started having us sneak him spicy chicken sandwiches from Wendy's!"

And just like that, we laughed all the way to the register.

It's so refreshing to have a friend like her.

I love you (more than you love Cheez Doodles),

March 10, 2011

Hip, Hip...

Dear Mom,

...HOORAY! I just wanted to give you a quick, random rundown of all the good news I've received recently! It doesn't make up for all that happened last week because nothing ever really could, but it's reminding me that things will always turn around eventually if we are patient enough (if only your friend knew that... sigh...). Anyway, focusing on the positive!

1. I had my internal ultrasound on Monday, and Dr. S's nurse called last night to tell me that they came back normal! YAY! A funny sidenote: My iPhone has a digital-ish voicemail, so if I have no reception I can't check it-- such a pain! Well, I missed this call and the nurse left me a voicemail. She said, "Hi Samantha, I'm calling to let you know that your ultrasound results came back ----" Oh yes, I lost reception and my voicemail cut out just as she was about to say "normal" or "abnormal". I was immediately in a fit of rage, screaming at my phone and scaring the crap right out of my friend at the dinner table, when it connected again, and the messaged finished playing. Then I danced around the kitchen, furthermore scaring the poor guy, before I hugged him so hard his head almost popped off. I sat back down, and he said, "So... you're normal, but you're not... normal." HA, so true. My head thinks in overdrive and pretends something is seriously wrong with my body when it's fine, I'm an emotional rollercoaster, and I dance around like a freak when I get good news. So sue me! I at least have a healthy pelvis. YES!

2. I got a call today that I am going to be in our local newspaper again, but in a special issue covering the top stories of the year, which one was me winning that traveling grant to film an international documentary!

3. I have some really, really, REALLY great news that I can't share until approximately five days from now, so here's an I.O.U. on that one, but be excited anyway!

4. I opened up another gym membership today, and just got back from my first workout in months. I can hardly move my legs already, but I feel GREAT!

5. Dad is on vacation, and he just texted me that he's about to be in The Price is Right audience. Hilarious! I hope he gets called to "come on down!" That would be the greatest.

That quick rundown ended up being a little long-- typical, I know-- but that's okay because, as my blogging BFF says, Life is Good, and I wanted to share every bit of it with you.



March 7, 2011

Because All Dogs Go To Heaven

Dear Mom,

I experienced two significant deaths in my life between the ages of three and five. The first was Dad's mom; I have no memories of Granny, but I really wish I did (I'll have to ask Dad to tell me some stories!). The second was my baby cousin who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) while you were babysitting her at our house. I was much too young to understand what occurred at the time, but I do have a faint memory of a police officer questioning and consoling me in the driveway.

Despite the impact those deaths had on those around me, I managed to escape without any severe damage (although I recently realized that my cousin's death may explain my nervousness around babies and the hesitation I have felt my whole life regarding having children of my own at all). Unfortunately, I wasn't that lucky for long because about five years later, I was handed my first real, heaping plateful of grief.

Dixie was the first dog I ever had. I'll never forget the day Dad brought her home unexpectedly, and she came bounding through the door. I still laugh when I watch the home video of me screaming in fear and climbing up on the back of the couch desperately seeking refuge. Eventually, I realized that she wasn't a rabid, child-eating creature, but instead a cute, cuddly black lab who would become my greatest childhood companion. I'm sure we still have pieces of the old, wooden bunkbed that I not-so-secretly carved "SAM + DIXIE = BF4L" into with a pair of sharp scissors I snuck out of your office (that is kid code for "Sam and Dixie are best friends for life", just in case I stumped you with that acronym).

To me, our friendship was the real deal. I spent all my free time playing with her and loving her (but not brushing her, feeding her, or giving her water since I was so sweet and had to leave something for Dad to do!). I loved everything about her, from the way she laid there while I read her stories to how she always sensed my moments of sadness and quietly rested her head on my lap til I felt better. The silky smooth fur on the top of her head was like crack for kids, and I was addicted to petting it! She slept on my bedroom floor most nights, and sometimes I'd cave in and let her curl up next to me in bed (which was a short-lived treat since she took up 2/3 of my twin-sized mattress). I even started teaching her how to stop and hit my brother's soccerball back to me with her nose when I kicked it to her. She was absolutely fabulous, and I simply adored her.

When Dixie's stomach started getting bigger all of a sudden, I told Dad, "YES! She's going to have puppies!!!". This didn't seem far-fetched to me since, in 1996, most 9-year-olds had no idea that she needed to come into contact with a male dog in order for this to occur, or that being "fixed" means this option was eliminated completely. We brought her to the vet and had to leave her there while they ran some tests.

A day later, I remember having a family meeting and asking Dad when she was coming home. "Well... she's not," he said. I screamed a long, drawn out, "NO!" at the top of my lungs and can still remember clawing my fingernails into the arm of the couch, straightening my arm, and burrowing myself as deeply into the couch cushion as a little girl could possibly go. I wanted to disappear. I felt so overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated that I thought I was going to crawl right out of my skin. I had never felt that way before, and I later learned with your passing that this is what true devastation feels like.

Dixie ended up coming back home for a little while. The vet drained her stomach, wired her shut, and had her sport a vivacious, purple doggy-diaper to catch any liquid that seeped out of her incision (which we later learned was liquid from a strain of Hepatitus, which thankfully, after lots of blood tests and shots, we were told none of us had caught).

You even covered a comfy chair with a pink blanket and finally let her up on the furniture. She was really confused at first because: A. you were never a "dog person", and B. according to you, dogs were supposed to eat, sit, sleep, and live on the floor and nowhere else. You letting her sit somewhere besides her dogbed was huge. She probably thought, "Oh frig, she's patting the chair cushion and motioning for me to hop up. Yep, I'm a goner."

I remember her last night alive quite vividly. You and Dad were in the newly spruced up basement watching TV, and I was upstairs in the living room doing the same. I kept hearing Dixie coughing in the kitchen (I still panic now when a dog coughs actually), and I finally went out to check on her. There were small piles of vomit all around her, and I ran downstairs to tell you two. Dad, who wasn't nearly as alarmed about dog vomit as I was, went up a few minutes later during a commercial to see what the problem was. He immediately yelled down to you, "Barb, there's blood everywhere. I'm taking her to the vet. It's time."

I was absolutely horrified. I froze. I refused to see the floor-- or her-- like that. I couldn't bring myself to go upstairs and say goodbye... so I didn't, and I never saw my best friend again.

I missed her terribly. I had never known sadness quite like what I felt that night when I rolled over and she wasn't curled up in a ball on the floor next to my bed. I was so overwhelmed that I felt compelled to do something I had never done before. I didn't know how to do it, but I heard somewhere that it would ease the pain.

So, I closed my eyes, clapsed my fingers together just below my chin, and, with tears streaming down my face... I began to pray.



March 5, 2011

The Aftermath

Dear Mom,

The title of this post is a bit ironic. It describes, well, the aftermath of my last post, and it also happens to be the name of the company who cleaned up your friend's house on Thursday. They ripped out the walls, the floors, the ceiling... everything was covered with... him. I'm so relieved that his wife will never have to see that scene again in person, even though I know it will always be embedded in her head. Thank goodness for a company like that and for the people who have the strength to handle that kind of job. I had no idea they existed, and every part of me still wishes I never had a reason to.

The dark clouds have lifted, but I'm still left with this foggy haze overhead. I didn't sleep well, my anxiety is way too elevated, and I can't get the thoughts and potential images of how your friend found her husband out of my head. I think it's even harder to cope with because I know that no matter the emotions I'm feeling, she's feeling them a million times over; the only thing that can heal her is time, and that's currently at a standstill for her.


I wrote that this morning after breakdown #4 in the shower and before breakdown #5 in my office. Not ideal, but I am doing better tonight. I spoke with Dad and he sounds better (this loss is hard on him, but really it in no way compares to losing you).


I wrote that yesterday before I got food poisoning at dinner with a girlfriend. Can't a girl finish a thought without something interrupting her?! What an awful week I'm having! Did I mention that I also have a head cold and got into a car accident too (just a fender-bender, although it didn't bend my fender, instead the girl rear-ended me, pushing my car up onto a snowbank practically ripping out my exhaust)? Sunny days just have to be coming my way soon right?!

Besides my stuffy nose, headache, queasy stomach, and random flashes of our family's friend here and there, I'm doing much better. I've already gone through one of the most painful things a daughter possibly can endure when I lost you, so everything else is ultimately meek in comparison. I can't even begin to tell you just how much I miss you or how badly I wish things could be different, but... in a way you were still teaching me a life lesson through your death. You taught me that even the worst kind of heartache and pain eventually subsides, and there's nothing I can't overcome. No matter how badly it hurts, it won't feel like that forever.

I'm so thankful for that.


March 3, 2011


Dear Mom,

About an hour I got a call from Dad telling me that the husband of one of your closest friends (who has grown to be one of Dad's best friends) committed suicide last night. They were all together beforehand, and when he got home he shot himself in the face. Your friend was in the next room. I am devastated beyond words. I am sad for her, Dad, and for the rest of your close group of friends who are all huddled in a room together right now at someone's house trying to make sense of it all. I am sad for him because he must have been so depressed and not able to move forward. Even in my lowest points when I felt no will to live, suicide was still never a thought. I knew it would get easier with time, and I waited for it. He felt so terrible that he couldn't wait for it. That absolutely crushes me.

Yet at the same time... How could he do this to his wife? I can't imagine the weight on her heart today that may never ever lift. I can't imagine all the thoughts going through her head about what she could have done differently. How will she move on from this? How can she erase the images in her mind of running in after hearing a gunshot and finding him that way? It makes me feel sick.

And how could he do this to me? I now have to watch my father mourn another great loss in his life. They were supposed to leave for vacation together on Sunday, and now Dad's going to be attending his funeral instead. It makes my heart ache in ways it hasn't for years.

And how could he do this to you? All you ever wanted to do was live, and he took his own life on purpose. How could he? I don't understand. I feel broken. I'm so confused.

Was he having these thoughts when he came to my graduation party 8 months ago? When he wrote to me on Facebook in January asking how I was doing, would things have been different if I remembered to respond and asked him how he was too?

I'm sobbing. Can't write anymore.


March 2, 2011

If They Really Knew Me

Dear Mom,

I wrote this post a few weeks back, but it has just been sitting there waiting for the right day. It kind of has a sad tone to it, and I haven't really been that sad, so I wasn't sure of when to post it. Instead of waiting for the 'right' time, I'm making the decision that today is right! But remember, I'm happy, so don't fret my pet.

If they really knew me, they would know this is more than just a simple picture of us.

They would know it is the last picture we ever took together. They would know that, although it was taken in our living room, you weren't sitting on our couch; you were in a hospital bed that had been delivered months before. They would know that just behind me is one of the machines you were hooked up to, and I was in the midst of trying not to step on the bag that was connected to a tube in your stomach.

If they really knew me, they would know that earlier that morning, this is where I washed your hair. They would know that you asked me to comb it for you so you could look nice for this photograph that you would never live to see. They would know that the angel hanging on the wall above your pillow was from Gisele's little nephew, who hardly knew you, but still thought enough of you that he wanted you to feel protected and safe.

They would know that this is one of the many pictures we took that day because you hated the way you looked in each one when we showed it to you in the viewer of the camera. They'd know that I'm draping my arm across you because you asked me to cover your neck since you hated the way all the weightloss from chemo and cancer made it look. They'd know that dad refuses to look at the pictures we took that day because he can't see past the hint of fear in your tightened smile that the average person would never notice.

If they really knew me, they would know that you chose to be buried without your favorite posession that you're wearing here-- your wedding ring-- because you wanted me to have it someday instead. They would know that when you saw the color of my nail polish that morning, you asked me to have the people at the funeral parlor paint yours the same color when the time came. They would know that this is where we ate Thanksgiving dinner and where you later gave me my birthday gifts two weeks before it took place because you knew you wouldn't be there for it. They would know that not long after this picture was taken, this is exactly where we said goodbye.

If they really knew me, they'd know that they'll never really know me... not like you did.


March 1, 2011

The Results Are In

Dear Mom,

As I hoped to say in my last post: I'm just fine. At least Dr. S thinks so; I am having a pelvic ultrasound a week from today to get a better picture just to be sure, but she's almost positive that it's some lingering bacteria from one of my wonderful past yeast infections that is causing my bladder to spasm (hence the pressure feeling off and on). I should get a call by Wednesday to verify that much at least. I feel better now-- physically and mentally-- so that's a huge relief.

Gisele couldn't make the appointment with me because her father-in-law passed away last week. Of course I was bummed and extra nervous going alone, but I know her husband needed her and that was where she needed to be. I, of all people, can understand that. In a way, it worked out really, because after the examanation Dr. S pulled up a seat and chatted with me; I mean really chatted with me.

She's not one of those cold, intimidating doctors, which is why you knew I'd love her. She's in her 40s now (and just had another baby too after trying for seven years!). She's still blonde, super thin, and absolutely beautiful. She looks intimidating, but once she opens her mouth and the sweetest tone comes out, I'm always instantly at ease. We talked about Belize, my grieving improvements, and my excellent support system. I even told her about my blog (and Carly, Nancy, Tina, Teresa, Dee, Chez, Stacey, etc.!). She's really proud of me and made sure to tell me so. I was shocked. Her? A doctor? Proud of me? I felt pretty special.

At the end of our conversation, she mentioned doing a CA-125 test on me each summer when I go in for my annual check-up. She thinks it would help me to physically see that I have a low, cancerless number (hopefully... I mean, you never know what's secretly brewing down there... sorry for the bad/gross choice of words, but you get what I mean). I've always thought about this, but never thought it would actually be a reality to have the test done. Although I was hesitant, now I'm kind of excited.

Best case scenerio: it stays low forever; Worst case scenerio: it goes up, and we catch it almost immediately. Sometimes the number can spike because of an infection or something and give false, inflated results, but I think that's the only downside really. And maybe the cost too. Does it cost a lot to get that done even if a doctor requests that you do it? I don't know. Will I start to live for that number like you eventually did? I hope not. If you had this done 5 years sooner could they have done something when your CA-125 was 140 instead of 1,400? Something tells me yes, and that this could be something that could someday save my life.

I miss you and your good advice; I could really use a large dose of both right about now. But regardless, today, I'm just fine, and that's surely something to celebrate!


February 24, 2011

Appointment Anticipation

Dear Mom,

Tomorrow is finally the day for my much-anticipated doctor's appointment. Me feeling anxious is an understatement, but Gisele is coming with me, and she always helps to lighten the mood. The pressure is still off and on in my pelvis, and I have absolutely no idea if it only hurts when I worry and think about it, or if I worry and think about it because it's hurting. Really frustrating, but I am ready to solve this pelvic mystery.

I'm going to spend the rest of the weekend at home with Dad, which I'm really looking forward to. Tom is going to make the six-hour trek to be there too, so I'll finally get to give him the few little things I bought him in Belize last month. I also plan to visit a couple relatives from your side of the family, have a movie date with some sorority sisters who have moved down that way, and take some time to catch up with a few of my close friends from high school. It'll be a nice change of pace and environment.

Last I knew, Dad no longer has wireless internet, so you may not hear from me until Monday. Don't worry though (I'm doing that enough for the both of us); I will write an update as soon as I can, and hopefully it's something along the lines of, "Dear Mom, I'm just fine."

Wish you were here to ease my mind.

Love you,

February 21, 2011

Nancy's Point

Dear Mom,

Today I am being featured on Nancy's Point with a guest post discussing my experience with grief counseling called, "Shrinking My Grief". I was flattered when Nancy asked me to be a guest writer on such a wonderful blog; her writing is so informative, passionate, and relatable, and I am honored that she wanted to include my thoughts in the same forum.

Seeing our picture on someone else's website this morning released a hundred butterflies in my stomach. It was the best feeling. All I've ever wanted to do is find a way to reach out and share our story, and I'm doing just that... with the help of some very amazing people.


February 18, 2011

Losing My Cool in the Heat of the Moment

Dear Mom,

Oh boy. If only you saw what this post originally said approximately 18 hours ago. I am all for writing in the heat of the moment and saying what's really on my mind, but this is the first time I am relieved that I didn't hit 'publish post' while I was in a fit of rage.

Writing publicly about your work life can get you into some trouble, and what I had to say last night probably would have had some negative results if anyone in my office knew this blog existed and actually read it. Regardless, I stopped myself, verbally vented to the appropriate sources, got a good night's sleep, and regained my footing this morning.

So what exactly made me so furiously lose my cool yesterday? Well, let me try to retell this story in the most harmless way possible.

It wasn't the fact that a co-worker randomly felt the need to tell me that I shouldn't be so confident that the small lump in my armpit isn't cancer (even though the doctor said it wasn't and the medication he gave me shrunk it and relieved the pain), and it wasn't even the 10 minutes she later spent researching the worst case scenerios of what 'could be wrong with me' after I had to tell her I won't be in next Friday sinceI have to drive two hours away for an appointment, and she prodded for the reason why. I can handle those things, but you know what I can't handle? I can't handle when someone inconsiderably mentions something about your death (anywhere, let alone at work). And that is what sent me off the deep end.

I was sitting in my office trying to finish up some paperwork before my workday ended in 30 minutes when I heard this person strike up a conversation with some other co-workers up front. Per usual, I tried to block it out and let the conversation fade into the background, but the last thing she said was clear as day.

"The only way you can legally smoke pot is if you're dying of cancer or something."

Ouch. That stung... but I could handle it. It probably wasn't directed towards me anyway, and chances are she instantly remembered what I have been through and felt terrible, right? Wrong. The only thing true about that statement? She instantly remembered what I have been through and felt terrible. She scampered down the hallway, appeared in my doorway, and said:

"Sam, did your mom get to do that?"

My chest tightened. Did she seriously just ask me that?

"Did she get to do what?", I asked, giving her an escape from the conversation in hopes she'd just say, oh nevermind!

"Did she get to smoke marijuana when she was... you know... sick... and dying...?"

I miraculously shrugged it off and told her I didn't know, when inside I was cursing her existence and saying things that would force me to change my blog preferences to "warn readers this blog contains adult content."

That's when she decided to take it upon herself to WebMD my pelvic 'symptoms' and shout throughout the office how I could have tumors growing on my uterus, an inflamed bladder, ovarian cysts, etc. Talk about icing on the cake; I was on a sugar high.

It took everything in me not to cry right there. I was so offended. It wasn't what she said necessarily; it was the way she said it: like bringing up your death out of nowhere nonchalantly was no big deal and wouldn't upset me; like you were just any ol' person; like the fact that you may have been offered a chance to legally smoke was a perk of dying.

I spent parts of the night crying and ranting about how I wasn't going back to work. Both Dad and Tom told me it was time to stick up for myself in order to end the constant bullying and rude comments hurled my way almost daily. I was honest with them and admitted that I didn't think I could do it. In my every day life I am certainly not a pushover-- I speak my mind and wear my heart on my sleeve-- yet when I walk into this building I feel defeated. It's not always this bad, but the difficult days are beginning to outweigh the good ones, and it's taking a toll on me. I was honest with them... I'm not strong enough for this.

I woke up this morning with my stomach in knots. I wanted to call out sick, but I couldn't because we don't get any sick days, and my college loan bills won't pay themselves. So, I pulled it together, prepared to bite my tongue, and made my way in.

When she poked her head in my office to say good morning, she commented that I looked tired. I opened my mouth to speak my usual reply for when she negatively comments on my looks: yeah, I guess I am feeling pretty tired today, but instead, how I really felt came pouring out of my mouth unexpectedly.

I told her that no, I wasn't tired, I had actually been crying since I left work yesterday because of the things she said to me. I went on to say that I don't want anyone in the office talking about you or your death in that way, nor do I want anyone trying to diagnose me through random sites on the internet because it's not healthy to work myself up when I have an appointment in a week to find out what's going on for sure.

When my word vomit finally ceased, she hugged me and said she felt awful because her intention was never to upset me or be disrespectful. I figured that was the case, and I knew she would feel horrible (which in turn made me feel bad for calling her out on it, but I refused to let that show). I made sure we had an understanding, thanked her for the apology, and moved on to another topic.

I didn't do anything crazy like throw a chair down the hallway or push her against the wall in a chokehold until she cried like they do in the movies, but I still got my point across, and it felt great. I can't believe I found the courage to speak my mind to someone who has intimdated me for months (reacting in the heat of the moment sometimes has its benefits!).

I texted Dad to thank him for encouraging me to brave. He was really proud of me. He wrote back, "Good thing you stood up to her because I was about to drive up there and do it myself! You're still my baby." It's true, I am his little girl and always will be-- but at least now around the office, I feel like I am one heck of a powerful woman. Go me!