When Nothing Makes Sense

Give Me Faith

I’m sorry if this post seems disorganized and rambling, but I’m feeling a need to purge my thoughts and sometimes they’re not such a tidy, pretty little package (as much as I’d like them to be). It’s like diarrhea of the mind, with thoughts firing back and forth until my head feels like it’s going to explode (sorry for the visual).

My hope is that I can empty it all out and make room for more peaceful, loving and kind thoughts. Thoughts filled with faith and hope, especially during this first Lenten season that I am participating.

What’s on my mind? Grief. The loss of people I love, people who are no longer here; my husband’s upcoming back surgery that puts a desperation and fear into my thoughts that I’ve never experienced before; my own mortality and what that looks like; the recent tragic death of a woman from our church who served on the Pastoral Council with my husband who was shot and killed by her 17-year-old son; the fear when I think about the world that my children are growing up in and the desperation I feel to change it, to do SOMETHING to make it just a little bit better.

My husband called me yesterday afternoon while I was shopping in Portland with my five-year-old son to tell me about, Michelle, the woman who had been killed by her teenage son. Not only did he kill his mother, but he attempted to kill his father who remains in critical condition. As I drove the hour home with my son sitting behind me playing his Leapster, I wondered how such an innocent child could grow up to do something so horrible and inconceivable. Yes, these things happen all the time, but WHY? What happened to that young boy to make him do such a thing? As with so many families and children, everything seemed fine on the outside. Yet, obviously, there was something horribly wrong on the inside.

It’s times like these, I look up and want to scream to God, “Why?!” My husband who just turned 40, who has been the epitome of health his entire life, is having major back surgery in two weeks. I have watched him suffer silently over the past five months, in chronic pain from the shooting pain and numbness that has taken over the right side of his body. A man who has always been afraid to take more than two Advil at a time who is now taking heavy pain meds throughout the day, barely masking the intense pain. My husband who has been a pillar of strength for me throughout our entire marriage who is now the one in need of my strength. His humbleness is beyond anything I could ever hope for myself.

Yes I am worried; yes I am fearful; yes I want to know why. But, I know in my heart of hearts that there’s no answer.

You know, my entire life up until I got sober I was a glass half-empty type person. Ask anyone. I always feared the worse. I always expected the worse. I always admired those glass half-full people. How could they be THAT positive? I know now. I know they had a faith that I never had. A faith that, despite the pain and suffering, it would be okay. It might not turn out how they expected or how they imagined it would, but it would be okay in the end.

I know that family who has just experienced the most horrific tragedy imaginable will continue to suffer greatly. But, I know because of their immense faith in a loving and just God that they will be okay. They will go on and inspire others with their strength and determination.

I know the next two months will be challenging for our family as my husband goes through surgery and recovery. There will be days of immense exhaustion and frustration, but it will be okay. It will be okay because, together, our faith will be stronger than any feelings of desperation and fear that attempt to bring us down.

As I go forward in this Lenten season, I pray that God opens my heart to greater faith, hope, love and kindness.

Let’s all just strive to be kind to each other. I am reminded daily that we never know what someone else is going through. Your words or the way you look at someone could make or break them.

I constantly remind myself of what my sponsor always tells me, “We are all God’s children.”

Peace.

When the One You Love Is Gone

Grief Process

Yesterday afternoon, in between rain showers, I took a walk around our neighborhood. I walked quickly, knowing that I only had a short time before leaving to pick my son up from school. The fresh air felt good, and I let my thoughts drift as I walked and listened to my music.

I thought about some of the things that had been weighing heavy on my heart and how more than anything I wished I could see and talk to my mom. I wanted to hear her soothing voice, telling me everything was going to be okay. I just wanted her.

As I began to walk the steep part of the road close to our home, I found myself gasping for air. Tears started streaming down my face and as I tried to catch my breath, I began crying harder. A couple of cars drove towards me and I did my best to hold it together, walking as fast as I could to get home. Once home, I collapsed onto our entryway bench and sobbed. I wanted my mom more than anything, but she wasn’t there.

I went into the house, knowing I needed to find something. I needed to see her, hear her – something. In my bedroom, I keep a box filled with letters and cards I have received over the years. I hastily opened it, as if I were looking for some lost treasure. I sorted through the cards and letters, opening them up, looking for her distinctive handwriting. And, finally, I found them. Towards the bottom, I found the card she had sent to me when I was in high school and she was away taking care of my grandpa; the card she had given me when I graduated with my master’s degree; all the cards and letters she had written me over the years. And, they all expressed the same thing – how much she loved me, how proud she was of me and the happiness she wished for me.

And, I felt myself breathe. I felt my body relax because this is what I had been looking for. This is what I had needed from her. She wasn’t physically there to give it to me, but she was there in spirit and memory. Her words spoke what she couldn’t physically say to me. And, I knew everything was going to be okay. I knew I was truly loved. And, I knew that she had loved me more in those short 27 years of my life before she died, than most people experience in a lifetime.

I am so grateful for those years.

I don’t share this because I want you to feel sorry for me. Far from it. I share this because this is what grief looks like. No matter how much time has gone by, it sneaks up on you and punches you in the gut when you’re least expecting it. I share this because this is the type of thing I used to drink over. I didn’t want to feel the pain and sadness and loneliness. I didn’t want to feel anything.

But, now, I don’t have to drink. I don’t have to keep shoving my feelings down, deeper and deeper. Because, the truth is, they never go away. Those feelings are always there. Now, I let myself feel. I cry because I’m sad and pissed off that my mom’s not here.

And, then I find ways to feel close to her. Because, she’s always with me; I just have to open myself up and look for her. And, there she is – just waiting to tell me she loves me.

 

 

 

Searching for You

Faithful God

As I sat in the church pew on Christmas morning, I noticed a young woman sitting alone in front of me to my left. I didn’t recognize her and she seemed a bit uncomfortable, maybe even nervous. She followed along with the mass, perhaps at one point in her life being familiar with it. She quietly sang along to the music, yet there was a sadness about her – a loneliness. To her right, sat a young woman and man in their early to mid-30s. I recognized the older woman they were sitting with as I knew she was a regular parishioner. I assumed it was her son and daughter or son and girlfriend. I couldn’t tell. They seemed disconnected, even bored. They went through the motions, but it was obvious they were there out of obligation. Probably in town for the holidays and fulfilling their obligatory “duty” to their mom.

As I observed both the young woman and the “couple” in front of me, I remembered having both those feelings of loneliness and disconnect. Only two years before I had sat in that same church feeling alone, empty and desperate. At the time, I had everything to live for – husband, children, family, friends – yet, inside I was like an empty vessel. I was searching and grasping for everything around me that I thought could fill the emptiness and silence the desperation I felt. I wanted so badly to feel on the inside the way people perceived me from the outside, but in reality I was sinking quietly into the loneliness and emptiness.

It wasn’t until two months later I would realize that what I had been searching for all along was right in front of me. My husband who would stand by me and hold me up when I couldn’t hold myself up, my children who would love me unconditionally and my church that would allow me to explore and question the God I had always been so scared of.

Now, almost two years later, as I sat in that church pew next to my daughter holding her new “Frozen” dolls and my husband holding our sleeping son, I felt the serenity, peace and joy that we often refer to as “The Promises” in recovery. I no longer felt alone, empty or disconnected from my life. I was filled with love, gratitude and gratefulness for a God who could make a broken person like myself whole again.

On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I will celebrate nine years of marriage – a marriage which could have easily ended two years ago.  In all my years of searching for happiness and contentment elsewhere, I was fortunate enough to find a man who would lay down his life for me, forgive me, love me when I was unlovable and walk with me through the pain, grief, anger and healing that it took to get to where we are now. I know he is a true gift from God. But, like all valuable gifts, I must treasure, protect and respect him and his love for me.

And that’s when I was searching, I’m not searching anymore
And that’s when I was learning about the things worth living for
Before I was open, before I knew I couldn’t live a day
Without you
Without you

Without you in the morning, to love me another day
Without you in the evening, when the colors start to fade
Without you on the plane ride to hold my hand and pray
Without you standing here when you could’ve walked away

Now I’m not searching, I’m not searching anymore
But I’m, I’m still learning ’bout the things worth living for
I am here, I am open, and now I know I couldn’t live a day
Without you
Without you

– From Holly Williams’ song “Without You”

Reflections on a Year Sober

Endurance

For some reason I’ve been putting off writing this post. While I’m happy about celebrating one year sober, I’m emotionally drained. Last week I attended two memorial services for young women who were taken too soon – both mothers. And, in the middle of that I celebrated one year sober. It was bittersweet in so many ways.

After driving back from attending Sadie’s service in California, while tired, I went to my home group meeting that evening to get my one year coin. My sponsor was planning to be there and it was important for me to be with the people who had been with me from the beginning – those who loved me when I couldn’t love myself.

Ironically, the topic of the meeting that night was “love.” If there was one word to describe Sadie’s service and Malia’s service it would be “love.” The love that shown through their bright smiles and the love displayed by those who came to celebrate and honor their lives was immense. While I was saddened by their loss, my heart was full.

In reflecting on the past year, I realized that the love I have received and the love I am able to now give is what matters most. I am not cut off from the world anymore, instead I am able to receive all that it has to offer and to finally give back after so many years of taking.

Sadie and Malia both loved deeply. They loved their children, their faith, their families and friends. I am more grateful than ever to have the ability to love like they did. To live my life not for me alone, but to live as God intended me to live – honest, joyous, peaceful and loving to those around me.

So, now what? It seems like a year sober is a pivotal time for me. I will never be a fully “recovered” alcoholic. I will always be “recovering.” I might not feel the anxiety that I felt in early sobriety, but I continue to be challenged with new situations that I must learn to “walk through” sober. It’s not easy, but no one ever said it was.

I will continue to write about my sobriety and my journey living sober, however, I might delve into other topics along the way. Next week, I start the process to become Catholic. This has been a long time coming and I’m excited. My husband will be my “sponsor” (yes, they have them there too!) and I’m grateful for that. He has been an example of faith when I didn’t even know what faith was. It will be a new journey for me, but it will also be a journey for us together.

Sobriety has taught me a lot of things, but most of all it has taught me the willingness to change, to follow my heart, to be okay with the unknown and to be at peace with my life – just the way it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

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!

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.

Simple Valentine’s Pillow

Love Pillow

I know, didn’t we just celebrate Christmas?! Yes, we did, but like all holidays there’s always another one around the corner! Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a loving person and I enjoy romantic gestures, but it’s always seemed way too commercialized for just one day. I kinda feel like it’s just another way for big box stores to make money off of us. Okay, so enough of the negativity! This year I’ve decided to embrace the positive side of Valentine’s Day and show the love! If nothing else, I’m doing it for my kids because they LOVE any and all holidays!

I’ve been wanting to make a small pillow with some burlap I had leftover from another project and thought this would be the perfect opportunity. Add some red felt I also had leftover and “wahla!” (or however you spell that) a Valentine’s Day pillow! This is a super simple project, especially for the novice sewer and crafter.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 yard of burlap

1 12×12 square of red felt, or a similar size

Poly-Fil pillow stuffing

1 package of Heat n Bond

Iron

Ironing board

Letter stencils, if desired

Directions:

1. Cut two 14×14 squares of burlap. I used a tape measure and fabric pen to mark measurements.

Measure

2. Follow directions on Heat n Bond and apply to felt with iron.

Heat Bond

3. To achieve symmetrical letters, trace letters on paper portion of Heat n Bond with stencil or by hand and cut out. For a more whimsical look (like mine), cut out letters by free hand.

Iron Letters

4. Once your letters are cut out, follow directions on Heat n Bond to apply them to one square of your burlap. You will need to remove paper backing from letters, pin them in place, turn burlap and letters facing down on ironing board and iron as directed. Once letters are ironed on, place both squares of burlap together, with letters facing inward and sew 1 1/2 inches in along the top and both sides of pillow.

Sew

5. Trim excess burlap off around seams, leaving about a 1/2 inch. This reduces the bulk once the pillow is turned inside out. Turn pillow inside out, making sure corners are pushed all the way out. Stuff pillow with Poly-Fil until desired fullness is achieved. Fold seams inward on bottom of pillow and pin to hold in place. Once you have pinned along the entire bottom, you will need to hand stitch closed.

Pin Seam

I’m using my pillow as a cute little accent pillow in our living room. You could also give as a gift to show someone your love on Valentine’s Day and all through the year!

Enjoy!