Gone Too Soon

Loss

Sadie came into my life when she was eight and I was twelve. Her older sister and I had become close friends with the start of junior high and we quickly became fixtures at each other’s houses, which were blocks away. As the years passed and her sister and I became best of friends, Sadie’s family became my second family and she became the little sister I never had.

From sleepovers, pizza nights and everything in between, Sadie was always there. Being four years younger, there were times she drove us crazy as any typical little sister would. But, more often than not, she was a goofy, adorable little girl who would do anything to make you smile.

Time passed. I went off to college and moved out-of-state, Sadie graduated high school and remained in our hometown. Her sister and I remained best of friends, so while I didn’t see her much, I always kept up to date on her latest adventures.

Over the past few years Sadie’s life had changed dramatically. She had met the love of her life, got engaged, bought a home and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Her dreams were coming true and the future looked promising.

All of that came to a crashing halt last week when I got word that Sadie had suffered a massive stroke after surgery and wasn’t going to make it. A surgery that she was expected to make a full recovery from; a surgery that was supposed to be the answer to ten years of unexplainable symptoms and headaches; a surgery that was supposed to “cure” her. Instead, the next morning I got a phone call saying she was gone. Not gone for a few weeks; not gone for a few days; but gone. Gone forever.

I cried. I cried like I hadn’t cried since my mom died seven years ago. How could this be? This couldn’t be true. “Why?!” I screamed to God. “How could YOU take away this beautiful, young, vibrant woman. How could YOU leave her baby boy without a mother?” There was no answer. There never is.

I wanted to escape the pain and sadness I was feeling. I just wanted it all to go away. I wanted to wake up from this horrible nightmare. In another life, I would’ve found escape in a bottle of wine. I would’ve drank until the numbness took over and I couldn’t feel anymore. But, not now. No, now, I had to feel it all. Somehow, I felt like I owed it to Sadie to feel everything. The sadness, hurt, anger, resentment. Her life was worthy of all these feelings and I needed to feel them.

I’m still in a state of shock. My mind tells me one thing, while my heart tells me another. I know she’s gone from this world, but I’m not ready to fully accept it yet. I hurt terribly for my best friend, her sister. I hurt for her mom and dad. I hurt for her fiancé and baby boy. I hurt for everyone who loved her and had the privilege of being touched by her life.

Sadie grew into a beautiful woman who radiated joy and happiness. But, it’s not Sadie the woman I see when I picture her in my mind. Instead, I see the eight-year-old little girl with the bowl haircut riding in the backseat of her mom’s Oldsmobile, jumping out of the car and waving goodbye as we dropped her off at elementary school. Goodbye sweet girl. Until we meet again.

I will carry Sadie’s memory in my heart forever. Her smile, her laugh, her love of life – I will cherish it always. Her love of children was undeniable. Like my mom, she was one of those rare people who children were drawn to. I often wonder if God needs more people like that in Heaven. If we can’t have them here with us, I like to think that Sadie and my mom are watching over all the little ones who have gone before us.

I will honor Sadie’s memory by living life as she would have – full of joy, gratefulness and happiness. Never taking herself too seriously, I will play more, laugh more and hug my children more often. I will tell her son how much she loved him and how much she was loved by everyone who knew her.

She gave love and received love. And, I will forever be grateful for the love she gave me over the years.

Alive in the World

Alive

Today, I had the opportunity to drive on some local back roads that I don’t normally drive on. The scenery is beautiful, especially this time of year. It’s farm country so there’s lovely old farm houses, fields as far as you can see and that quintessential small town charm that has always appealed to me.

It’s also wine country. Need I say more?

As I drove, I couldn’t help but notice that every other sign was pointing in the direction of another winery. I found myself feeling melancholy – grieving all the wineries I would never have a chance to visit. Some I recognized, some I didn’t. At times, I would see one I recognized and think, “Oh, I always wanted to go there – but now I can’t.” After a while, I felt like the directional signs were taunting me, as if saying “Come over here. Look how beautiful I am. Look how nice my tasting room is.” And, I wanted to yell back, “No! Stop it! Don’t you know what I am? Don’t you know how hard I’ve worked to get here?!”

Finally, the kids and I arrived at our destination and I was safe. Oh, did I forget to mention the kids were with me? That’s because my crazy alcoholic mind was consumed with the damn winery signs! Sometimes I could slap myself. Seriously.

Once we were back in the car for our drive home, I found myself focused on the winery signs yet again – despite going a different route. But, then, instead of thinking about how much I was missing by not being able to partake in the winery experience, I remembered all the times before when I had. I remembered never understanding the point of spitting your wine out while tasting. Really?! Who DOES that? I remembered wanting to care about how the wine tasted, but not caring because all I wanted to do was drink – more! I remembered worrying about who was going to drive me around from winery to winery because I sure wasn’t going to drive – are you kidding me?! I remembered the horrible headaches the next morning, feeling like a truck had run over me.

And, right around that time I heard these lyrics from a Jackson Browne song come across my Pandora station:

To open my eyes

And wake up alive in the world

To open my eyes

And finally arrive in the world

I looked in my rear view mirror at my son and daughter and knew God was there, listening to my thoughts and feelings and giving me a little reminder. Sometimes, that’s all I need. A little reminder, today in the way of song, to help me remember what it’s all about. I wake up. I open my eyes. I’m alive in this beautiful, painful world. And, that’s all I can ask for because some aren’t so fortunate.

R.I.P. Cory Monteith

 

 

My Heart Hurts

Have Faith

Wow. What a couple of weeks. Last week, we were on our annual family vacation to the beach and on Monday, the day after we returned, I celebrated my “belly button” birthday as we refer to it in recovery – as opposed to our sobriety birthday.

And, in the middle of all this, I got a phone call that caused me to stop, think and seriously evaluate my relationship with someone very close to me. For their privacy, I will write in general terms, yet I feel I must write about it because it’s heavy on my heart and I aim to speak the truth here.

For most of my life, I’ve been a people pleaser. I’ve always wanted people to like me. Often, this meant sacrificing my own thoughts and beliefs in order to appear more likeable to others. I guess I didn’t truly realize this until I got sober and took a hard look at my behavior and motives behind certain decisions. I wanted praise, accolades, pats on the back and “I’m so proud of yous” – especially from this particular person. I needed these things to feel worthy – to feel like I had achieved something.

So, when I got this phone call, I realized I was going to have to make some really hard decisions – decisions that could cause anger and jeopardize my relationship with this person. The person I speak of is an alcoholic and their drinking has become unmanageable.

I prayed, I thought about it, I talked it over with my husband, and in the end, I knew I had to take the steps to establish some boundaries. I could no longer stand by and subject myself or my family to their unpredictable alcoholic behavior. I knew without a doubt, I had to respect myself enough to speak up. Alcoholism is a disease and, while I can’t control or cure someone else’s disease, I can take the steps to protect myself from its consequences.

My love for this person is immeasurable. But, I also know that with love often comes pain and heartache. With love comes hard decisions that are scary, intimidating and gut wrenching.

The future of our relationship is unknown. I hope and pray for recovery. For a connection and faith in a Higher Power. But, I also know that I control very little of the outcome. I can take small steps to establish boundaries, but, in the end, my God is in control.

I can’t control the future, but I have an immense amount of faith in God’s future. A future that will know peace and serenity for those I love.

 

Sometimes We Just Gotta Cry

Grief

Yesterday morning was tough. After my husband left to take the kids to the gym, I found myself on the couch sobbing because of how much I missed my mom. Some days are just like that.

I don’t write about my mom a lot. I don’t know why. Maybe because I hold her memory and my grief over losing her so close. She died of pancreatic cancer over seven years ago when I was pregnant with my first child. It was devastating and heartbreaking. Words can’t express the grief I felt then and continue to feel today. Time has helped in some ways, but in others it feels like just yesterday.

Like alcoholism, I’ve found that grief has triggers. My birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks and it’s a hard time for me. My mom loved birthdays and she especially loved celebrating mine, as I was her only child. From the time I can remember, she made it the most special day out of the entire year. It was magical. Since her death, it’s not the same. It will never be the same.

Yesterday, was also my daughter’s first slumber party and I yearned to share her excitement and mine with my mom. We used to talk daily, sometimes only for brief moments, but even those were important. She was my very best friend and we were just starting to get to know each other as adults, not just mother and child.

As I sat, crying on the couch, I thought of how much I missed her smile and laughter; the weekend visits; the shopping excursions; the times, as a grown woman, I would still lay my head on her lap while she ran her fingers through my hair. The simple truth is, I just miss having my mom. I miss the joy she would’ve brought to my children’s lives; I miss sharing exciting moments with her; I miss venting to her about life; I miss being able to ask her questions about my childhood, like how old I was when I had my first slumber party. Was I nervous? Scared?

And, sometimes I do get angry with God. I want to stomp my feet and beat my fists and yell, “Why God? Why?! It’s not fair!” And, now, instead of drowning that anger and sadness with alcohol, I let myself feel it – really feel it. I cry, sometimes weeping until my eyes are red and puffy.

And, then, eventually, I feel His calmness come over me. My tears are spent, but I feel a sense of peace because I have released everything. I have released the anger, sadness and fear and, instead, look to fill that space with joy.

Yesterday, I went to our back closet and got our wedding album down. The year before she was diagnosed with cancer, my mom had helped me plan my wedding and was overjoyed when the day finally arrived. It was beautiful and her smile was infectious.

I miss her. That will never change. But, I’m so grateful for the joy and beauty I find in her memory.

Cheers, Mom! I might not be drinking the real thing anymore, but I still celebrate you every day.

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Tired, But Grateful

Grateful

What a week it has been! At times, I felt like a fish out of water, gasping for air. I kept telling myself, “Just make it ’till Friday and then you can relax!” Well, Friday is here and I’m tired, but feeling extremely grateful. And, since it’s the last day of the month (and I have at least 31 things to be grateful for today), here’s my gratitude list for the day in no particular order:

1. My sobriety. I celebrated 9 months on Tuesday. No words can describe how grateful I am for this blessed sober life.

2. My son who “graduated” from preschool. He is kind, sweet, affectionate and his smile always melts my heart.

3. My daughter who graduated from kindergarten. She is strong, caring, independent and described as “hard-working” by her teacher. She inspires me to be a better person.

4. Teachers. God bless them. My children have been extremely blessed to have amazing teachers who teach them, guide them and inspire them to be their very best. It is a God-given gift to teach preschool and kindergarten because after spending two hours in a class of 20, I’m ready to pull my hair out!

5. Friends and family. Those who encourage, support and help guide me on this journey.

6. My husband’s work. That he is able to have a career that keeps him busy, that he enjoys and that allows for me to stay home and be available to our children. For this, I’m extremely grateful.

7. Dishwasher. You don’t realize how much you depend on this time-saving appliance until it breaks. And, to those repair people who can come to your home, take it apart and get it working again. Greg (appliance man), yesterday you were my hero!

8. Sun. After MANY days of rain, I’m ready for some vitamin d!

9. Summer vacation. No “real” schedules and convincing my kids that I “get” to sleep in until 6:30 instead of 6:00. Hey, I’ll take what I can get!

10. Blogging community. You guys rock! It still amazes me that I am part of a community of people who I have never met, yet who I consider to be true friends and confidants. Very special.

11. AA. My people who are always there, no matter what. Who know me and accept me just as I am. Where I learned how to live again.

12. My sponsor. She just celebrated 10 years of sobriety and I adore her. She is kind, gentle, yet still continues to challenge me by her suggestions and thoughts on life and recovery.

13. Hope and faith in God’s plan. It’s what keeps me going when I feel completely and utterly lost.

14. Daily devotionals. I read them every morning and when I don’t I feel like I’m “missing” something. They keep me grounded and give me perspective and remind me that I’m part of a bigger plan – God’s plan.

15. Music. The kind that speaks to you, that you can turn up in the car and sing at the top of your lungs (which is a good thing for me and everyone else because God did not bless me with a singing voice!). I’ve been obsessed with Pink, Rihanna and Bruno Mars lately, which is strange because I’m usually a country girl but whatever. Like I said, it’s about the music.

16. New life. My best friend gave birth to a healthy baby boy last week. He is beautiful and reminds me to slow down, and cherish all the little moments.

17. Coffee. Need I say more?!

18. My house. I’m a homebody at heart and I love just “being” at home.

19. My flowers and garden. I love watching them grow and find great joy and peace in taking care of them, especially in the evenings when it’s quiet and all I hear are the birds “talking” back and forth to each other.

20. Hummingbirds. My mom and grandma loved hummingbirds and am always reminded of their presence when I see one.

21. Jesus. His words remind and encourage me to be kind, patient and forgiving.

22. Netflix. My husband and I have been watching the Ken Burns’ documentary “The West,” which reminds me just how good we have it today and the extreme endurance and bravery of those who came before us.

23. My lived experiences. Despite the ups and downs, I have the ability to reach out to others who still suffer and to reach back when they reach out to me.

24. The men and women who serve our country. I’m constantly amazed and extremely grateful to those who would leave their families and miss milestones like birthdays and kindergarten graduations to protect my freedoms.

25. Facebook. Love it or hate it, I’m grateful it gives me the opportunity to share my life and story with family and friends who I would otherwise not see.

26. The rain. While I may complain at times, I’m grateful for the nourishment it brings to the trees, plants and flowers.

27. Prozac. For me, it’s like insulin to a diabetic. I need it to help me function and without it I would be crazier than I already am! For those in recovery who don’t think you should take anything, even antidepressants, well, lets agree to disagree.

28. The gym. I’ve been taking my kids to the daycare at the gym since they were two months old and I’m still extremely grateful for the opportunity to have “me” time.

29. Good books. The kind that suck you in and encourage you to stay up way too late. I’m planning to read more of these over the summer!

30. Goodwill. The take anything, they sell everything and they support a wonderful community of people. I could spend hours there.

31. Diet Coke. Because sometimes, despite how horrible it is for you, you just need one.

One Of Those Days

Hope

Today was one of those days when I wish there was a “reset” button.

After weeks of declining health, we decided to put our last cat down this morning. In many ways, it was the end of era. When my husband and I moved in together, he had a dog and cat and I had two cats. We ended up getting rid of one of the cats early on, but created a nice family unit with the remaining dog and two cats. Eventually, kids entered the mix, our dog died, “my” cat died and we were left with one remaining cat, our sweet, little orange tabby.

I grew up with cats and dogs, and for the most part, have always had one or the other in my adult life. I think it’s safe to say there are those who like animals and those who don’t. I’m not sure if I totally trust a person who doesn’t like animals. They teach us so much about ourselves – patience, trust, gentleness, selflessness. I’m confidant my cat, Alex, taught me many lessons about motherhood before I ever had children.

For many of us, loosing a pet is similar to loosing a member of the family. I went through most of today in a daze, grieving the loss of a true friend who I jokingly referred to as my “little shadow” for the way she followed me around the house, up and down the stairs and room to room.

Part of me feels silly writing about this, but if you’re an animal person you’ll “get” it and, if not, well, this post isn’t for you.

You see, I’m feeling sad. I’m sad that I lost a friend today; I’m sad that I was on edge all day with my kids; I’m sad that nothing seemed to go “right” today.

I used to drink when I was sad; now, I write. And, I pray and talk to God and tomorrow I will meet and talk with my sponsor. And, tomorrow will be a new day and won’t seem as bad as today.

The Bunny Is Real…And Other Easter Memories

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You know the saying, you don’t just marry the person, you marry their family? Well, that was definitely true for me. Despite both my husband and I being only children, unlike me he is from a very large, close-knit Catholic family who all, despite a few, live within close proximity to each other. I would be lying to say that I wasn’t completely and utterly overwhelmed when I attended my first Easter celebration with his family.

Growing up, we celebrated Easter, but nothing compared to my husband’s family. The week leading up to Easter is filled with excitement and anticipation, especially now that we have two kids who are obsessed with the Easter Bunny and all things Easter. There are Easter crafts, Easter stories, Easter baking, Easter cartoons, and, of course, lots of talk about Aunt Tess’ and the Easter Bunny! And, yes, the “Easter Bunny” makes an appearance each year at the annual Easter gathering at “the farm.” Okay, so Aunt Tess used to work at Hallmark and got the bunny costume at a great deal – but I digress.

The day begins with early Mass and then everyone makes the short trip to “the farm.” It’s not technically a farm, but there are a few horses, a cow or two, dogs and lots of room for the kids to run around – it’s beautiful. It’s the first time most of us have seen each other since Christmas, so there’s a lot of catching up and eating – lots and lots of eating. At some point, someone is chosen (or told!) to be the “bunny.” Usually, it’s one of the older cousins who have yet to participate in this coming of age-like experience.

As the anticipation builds, everyone gathers on the lawn awaiting the Bunny’s arrival. It’s always a surprise as to how Mr. Bunny will make his entrance. Last year, I believe he rode in on a four-wheeler and the year before that being pulled by a tractor – like I said, you never know! Of course, once the Bunny is spotted the kids go wild, some laughing, some crying and some standing in awe. It’s a sight to see!

Over the years, I’ve come to realize how truly special this celebration is. Before the Easter dinner (as with all family celebrations), we stand in a circle holding hands and say the traditional Catholic meal prayer, giving thanks to God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. As you look around, you will see Nornie, the matriarch of the family, along with most of her six children and their spouses, her grandchildren and their spouses and a multitude of great-grandchildren. What a sight to behold!

As the day comes to an end, you will find groups gathered by the fire or playing a board game and a few napping on the sofas, exhausted from the day’s activities. Those of us who have children, will gather them up, load them in the car and drive home, tired yet grateful for another year of Easter at “the farm.”

And, this year, I will be especially grateful for my second Easter spent sober and present, enjoying the excitement and joy of my children and glorifying the Lord who makes it all possible.

Blessings this Easter and always!

Finding New Ways to Celebrate

Mom

Today is my mom’s birthday. If she were still alive, she would be 64. She died almost seven years ago from pancreatic cancer and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and wonder how my life would be different if she was still here.

In the past, I used her birthday as an excuse to drink. Since she wasn’t around to celebrate, I figured I’d celebrate for both of us, which meant drinking more than I would normally drink. Now, I realize that I drank because I missed her and I wanted (or needed) to numb the sadness I felt in not having her with me. Instead of focusing on the beautiful life she led before leaving us, I focused on the grief of not having her with us.

Today, was the first time I have woken up on her birthday feeling peaceful and joyful. I still miss her horribly; more than I could ever convey through words. The pain runs deep and I know there will always be a piece of me missing. However, today I choose to focus on her beautiful life and celebrate it without drinking. I will be completely and totally present and focus on those things which she loved.

As I look out the window, I see the tulips beginning to show themselves and the daffodils beginning to bloom. Besides her family and animals, her greatest love was being in her garden. She loved this time of year; a new beginning as new life slowly appeared after a long, grey winter.

Earlier this morning, I sat down at my sewing machine and worked on my son’s new valances as I sipped my coffee and listened to one of her old records. She was an amazing seamstress; I only realize now just how good she was. My stitches are uneven and often messy. Her work was neat and precise, something that only comes with time and practice. I picture her smiling (and perhaps laughing) at my attempts, knowing in time I will figure it out.

This afternoon, I will take my son and daughter to frozen yogurt to celebrate Grammy Rickie’s birthday. It is important for me that they know that just because someone is gone, doesn’t mean we stop celebrating their life. In talking about her and celebrating her, I hope I can always honor her life and memory.

She wasn’t perfect. She had her demons as we all do. Her life was challenging at times; sometimes more than she thought she could handle. But, she did and she did it with grace, dignity and bravery.

Although, I lost her way too soon, I am so grateful I had her for the time I did. Would I change things if I could? Perhaps. But, I know that God needed her more than I did. Her strength and bravery continue to guide me on this journey through life.

And, when the time comes, and I see her again I will laugh with her about my messy and uneven seams.

Happy birthday, Mom!

I Relapsed On Facebook

Friends

It’s true…I relapsed on Facebook.

I had every good intention of stepping back, taking a break and simplifying my life. But, I only lasted a week.

The truth is, I missed my friends and family. Okay, so I don’t “see” them or “talk” to them on a regular basis, but I still feel connected to them and Facebook makes that possible.

I guess you could say I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. My husband always jokes that I was born in the wrong decade – or century. I have a special love for the traditional and romantic. I long for the days of Little Women or Anne of Green Gables. A simplistic way of life where friends and family gather for tea or coffee, write love letters to each other and frolic through green fields (okay, maybe not frolic, but you get the picture). I know, life was not simple during those times. They still had their issues and life was anything but perfect – but I can still dream, right?

In this day and age, I find myself feeling suffocated with the information overload. Smart phones, texts, messaging, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I participate to a certain extent, yet I still find myself baffled by the need to be in touch 24/7. Where is the mystery? The joy and anticipation of seeing someone you haven’t seen in years? The excitement in the unknown?

I guess it’s the romantic in me that longs for “the way things used to be.” Did I just say that? Oh no, a sure sign that I’m getting old!

So, here I am; blogging about Facebook. Ironic, yes. Despite my confliction, I don’t want to be one of “those” people who stands still while the world passes them by. No, never!

With that, I will embrace the here and now, and when I’m feeling the need for a more simplistic time and place I will download one of the classics onto my Kindle – ha!

Real Love

Love Story

My husband and I don’t do a lot these days for Valentine’s Day. We have two kids six and under and life is hectic. We honor the day with a card and a small token of our appreciation for each other. It’s not like the old days when he would whisk me away for surprise overnight trips to the beach or fancy dinners, but that’s okay. You see, waking up next to him every morning is good enough, in fact, it’s perfect.

In the early days, there was the anticipation and excitement, and more than that, there was the unknown. Perhaps, part of the excitement was the unknown. Today, when I look at my husband I see our history. I see the joy and happiness we have experienced and I see the dark times we have endured. At times, I have not been easy to love. In fact, I have been impossible. But, he never left and he never stopped looking for a reason to love me.

When I look at my husband today, I see love – our imperfect love. Our real love.

And, I thank God for putting him in my life because I cannot imagine loving anyone else the way I love him.

Happy Valentine’s Day. May you experience real love today and always.