Thursday, September 14, 2017

Looking Ahead

One of the things I had to do for "homework" for counseling over the last two weeks was to look at a calendar and try to figure out what dates might be hard over the course of the next year. The idea being that there will be dates I know are going to be hard and there will be other dates that will take me by surprise, so let's prepare for the ones I know about it.

Two important dates, KK's birthday and our "gotcha day", have already passed. Though I feel like I honored her well on those days, I just plowed through and felt completely exhausted and emotionally drained afterwards. Prior to this homework assignment, there were a couple "take me by surprise" moments like the one month anniversary of KK's death. A text from a friend on that day (as well as on the second month anniversary) saying she remembered and she was praying meant the world to me. It helped to know that I was not the only one remembering my girl.

I began looking at the calendar with obvious dates in mind: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, diagnosis, adoption day, Mother's Day, my birthday, and the day KK died. However, I couldn't think of anything besides the obvious.

Then last week happened.

Earlier in the summer, I bought tickets to a Patriots game for all the staff. I was so excited on so many levels: the tickets were for the kickoff of a new football season, it was going to be (Super Bowl) banner drop night, and the Patriots would be playing Pastor Derek's team, the Kansas City Chiefs (whom KK said she never considered to be real competitors). The week of the game, everyone kept asking me if I was excited. I was surprisingly not excited and I couldn't figure out why...until I was at the game. It was then that I realized the last game I was at was with KK on banner drop night. As "Crazy Train" began playing and the Patriots ran onto the field, I teared up as I remembered KK's Celebration of Life. A friend who was watching the game at home texted me saying she teared up as she heard "Crazy Train". Again, it meant the world to me to know that I was not the only one remembering my girl.


Despite the sadness and the fact that the Pats forgot to play for a full 4 quarters, we had a lot of fun.

This got me thinking of other dates, or rather events, that are going to be hard. Super Bowl Sunday, the next Star Wars movie, vacation, and speaking at chapel at HCA are just a few of the ones I know are going to be hard.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Fitting Tribute

9 years ago today, my baby girl left her last foster home.
Tonight, I had the opportunity to help kids in foster care
by packing over 100 backpacks with my church family.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Keep Moving Forward

"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. 
We keep moving forward..." 
~ Walter Elias Disney 

When I sent my rent check in July, I wrote a letter asking my landlord to address a few things that have been ongoing since I moved in 4 years ago (including the cat urine smell that intensifies in the humidity). When I didn't hear anything right away (actually, I didn't hear anything until August 3 right before they went on vacation), I began looking at my finances and decided that it might be time to buy my own place.

I started looking for homes with an in-law apartment and found a cute little place in Shrewsbury. I went to the open house with Bethany one Sunday after church and loved the "tiny house" feel of the main floor. Though the seller considered it to be in "move in" condition, a walk-through with a contractor friend from church proved otherwise. Unfortunately, the seller was unwilling to negotiate on the price so I knew it wasn't for me.

As I continued browsing homes online, I found a nice little condo with an in-law suite last Thursday. A realtor friend from church arranged for us to see the property on Friday. After a little negotiating, I put down a deposit on Monday and had the home inspection yesterday. If all goes well, I will have the deed on October 10.

When I told Dr. Chuck my plans on Thursday and the reasoning behind the "in-law suite", he told me I am weird. I always knew I was weird, now it's official (though I'm pretty sure that "weird" is not a clinical diagnosis). He said that he usually counsels people not to make major life decisions in the first year of grief. In my case, he doesn't see any reason to offer that advice since I have thoroughly thought about and prayed this through. He did give me two homework assignments this week (that's what I get for "celebrating" last week when he didn't give me any homework). The homework: start packing and ask for help.

As for the first...I have less than 2 months to pack. I wonder how many boxes I will need to pack each day between now and the closing date.

And for the second assignment...I'm putting it out there: I need help. Granted, most of the help isn't needed until October, but I am putting the "to do" list (including things noted during the home inspection) together now...
  • The seller has a cat and I had trouble breathing by the time I left both times. Once I can get into the condo, the walls will need to be steamed and cleaned (dander is a sticky substance that sticks to every surface).
  • HVAC cleaning (see reasoning above).
  • Walls and ceilings will most likely need to be painted. 
  • There are a couple small areas where grout needs to be fixed.
  • Recaulking is needed in a few areas.
  • I will need a plumber and electrician to install a washer and dryer in the utility room in the in-law suite.
  • Though this is not a priority and may need to wait for a while (especially since it could be costly), I will need an electrician/HVAC to separate the heat/AC system into two units.
  • I will need lots of help moving. I have a lot of stuff. I am going to work on purging between now and then, but the hoarder in me is already throwing a tantrum.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

...ay, there's the rub.

Don't worry, this post is all about literal sleep (or a lack thereof) and not the figurative sleep Hamlet implied.

During the first month of grieving, there were several nights that I had trouble falling asleep because my mind wouldn't shut off. Normally, it is a rare night that I have trouble falling asleep and I find that I'm able to fall asleep as soon as I write down whatever I'm thinking about...not so during those first few weeks. For example, I remember replaying everything I said over and over wondering if I shared everything I needed to the night of KK's Celebration of Life. Thoughts such as these weren't things I could just write down and be done with them.

The other thing that interrupted my sleep during the first month was a couple horrible dreams. I can count on one hand the amount of dreams I remember throughout my life...these dreams I can't forget. The first dream was short, but memorable. In the dream, I was yelling at KK and woke up with an intense feeling of anger. When I realized it was a dream, I felt awful and was unable to fall back to sleep. The second dream was much more detailed, but the details were all wrong. In the dream, KK was reading in the dark (no night light or other ambient light) in the futon bed (which she hadn't slept in since January) way past her bedtime. I was mad and started quickly slapping her face (her hair was short and fuzzy like when it started growing in) until she put the book down. I told her to go to the bathroom since she was already awake. As she walked to the bathroom, I noticed she was dragging her left leg (she had right-sided weakness, not left) and asked if she was having a seizure. She turned to look at me and nodded her head yes. I woke up at that point and just cried. Needless to say, I couldn't go back to sleep. As I tried to process the why behind these dreams, I reasoned that it was the "anger" part of grief coming out subconsciously.

So now you can understand why I wrote this back in June:
Finally, don't text or call early in the morning or late at night even if you know the person is a morning person or night owl. I'll say it again, grieving is exhausting. Sleep is a precious thing and sometimes it doesn't come easily.
Thankfully, I haven't had any more dreams like those. I haven't had nights where my mind is racing either. However, I have not slept through the night in weeks. I am waking up multiple times each night and having trouble falling back to sleep at least one of those times. I have never had trouble sleeping like this for such an extended period of time. I am so tired. I have tried taking naps in the evening. I have tried not taking naps in the evening. I have tried going to bed earlier. I have tried going to bed later. I have taken supplements. I have begun diffusing essential oils. Please pray for restful and restorative sleep.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

#playforKK Patriots and Princess Style

When KK was admitted to the hospital this spring, her friend Josiah Needham started a hashtag #playforKK (a little twist on #prayforKK). He decided to add K K to the back of his cleats and play his baseball games for KK. A few other kids from Chapel followed his lead to #playforKK as well. Then, when the middle schoolers went to HUME for summer camp, they chose to #playforKK in their competitions (and won!!!).

When I was talking with Cori at Dana Farber on Monday, she asked what I was going to do on Friday for KK's birthday. I told her that I had no idea. She encouraged me to do something fun, even check something off my bucket list.

Monday night, my friend Bethany (who happens to be Josiah's mom) texted me to find out if I had a plan for Friday. As I still had no plan, she suggested that we could #playforKK by catching a cheap flight to Disney on Friday morning then come home Saturday before anyone missed us. I thought that would be totally fun if it was any time other than summer...I do not do the heat and humidity that is summer in Florida. She then suggested going to New York for a show. I pointed out that would also be a great #playforKK day in an entirely different sense of the word. I told Bethany I would think more about it and talk to her at the office on Tuesday.

As I thought more about it, I started looking at what shows were playing on Broadway and found Disney's Aladdin. My mind immediately started thinking "Patriots and Princess" and I remembered that Patriots training camp was open to the public this week. I started to get excited since this would also be a way to #playforKK. I told Bethany my ideas on Tuesday morning and we immediately finalized plans to go to Patriots training camp on Friday morning then drive into NYC to see Aladdin Friday night.


Unfortunately, Bethany was diagnosed with pneumonia on Wednesday and was heart-broken when she told me that she had to cancel. I cried as this "perfect plan" to #playforKK with a Patriots and Princess theme seemed to be falling apart. After a few minutes of tears, I decided that I would just go alone since I had already bought the tickets and paid for the hotel. A little while later, I decided to text my friend Cheryl to see if she had any plans for Friday and Saturday. She responded, "We going to Disney?" (Hmmm, am I that predictable? Nevermind, don't answer that!) I explained to her the plans and she was game, despite being a Steelers fan.

So, early Friday morning, we were off...



              

It was a perfect way to #playforKK on her birthday!

...and I got to enjoy a little bit of Disney along the way.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Happy Birthday Wishes, KK!





May the kids in homeless shelters celebrating birthdays this week have the happiest of days in honor of KK's birthday! It was a joy, even through the tears, making these cakes for you.

Thank you to all who have given to our Birthday Wishes campaign thus far so Birthday Wishes can continue throwing these special birthday parties. 



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

To Thine Own Self Be True

I need to preface this post with a little info for those that may not know me well:

  • I am pretty self-aware. For example, I am not usually surprised by the results of annual reviews (though I still have anxiety issues going into them). 
  • I am an introvert. I often joke that I don't like people. The truth is I don't do well in large groups of people. It is draining to be in large groups. (I am fully aware -- see above -- there is another reason I don't do well with people, but I'll leave it at that for this blog.)
  • I am a processor. It takes time for me to think through possibilities and figure things out. Sometimes I wish I could just answer "off the cuff", but I know that my answer to a question or solution to a problem will be better if I have time to process. (This also plays into why I don't do well in large groups of people.)



The grief has been overwhelming at times.

I recognize that no two people will grieve the same way, I just wonder if what I'm experiencing is normal. In that vein, I sought out a bereavement group for parents who have lost children to cancer. My hope was that talking with people who have been through similar experiences would assure me that I'm okay. 

I attended one meeting in June and a second meeting last Wednesday. Unfortunately, I walked away from both of those meetings feeling pretty discouraged. Honestly, I have no idea why I thought a group like that would be helpful. 

The group consists of a large number of people that all need time to process and to talk. Besides introducing myself, there was no time for me to share as the facilitator spent the majority of the time checking in with other members of the group who have been there for years. Not that it matters much, since I am pretty quiet in group settings anyway. In addition to all that, the subject matter is tough and I need more time than usual to process and talk.

As soon as I got home from the bereavement group last week, I emailed a long-time psychologist friend to see if he had any time available to meet with me. He responded, "So let's get you in." 

The next day, I shared with our associate pastor that I didn't think the bereavement group was a good fit for me and that I emailed Dr. Chuck to meet with him. Daryl simply said that made more sense for me. The phrase from Shakespeare's Hamlet immediately came to mind: "To thine own self be true." I guess the whole self-aware thing got lost somewhere in the grief. 

I took this picture on my way home from counseling. It reminded me that,
yes, there is beauty in the rearview mirror, but the sun is shining ahead.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Birthday Wishes

As you may or may not know, KK would have turned 15 on July 28. To honor her, I have set up a Birthday Wishes Campaign in her memory.

Birthday Wishes is an organization that KK and I have enjoyed supporting over the years. I will be making cakes for two shelters celebrating multiple birthdays at the end of July. Would you consider giving a gift to Birthday Wishes in KK's memory so they can continue to throw birthday parties for kids living in homeless shelters in our area?

Here is the link to KK's Birthday Wishes Campaign. Please pass this along to those you think may be interested in honoring KK in this way as I don't know how many people still read this blog.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Loaded Questions

Shortly after KK died, I told Daryl, our associate pastor, that there are two questions people should not be allowed to ask someone who is grieving: "How are you?" and "What do you need?"

How are you?
I've always hated this question for two reasons:

  • We (I mean me) ask it so flippantly. One Sunday when I was in my early twenties, I remember my pastor asked me if I really wanted to know how he was when I asked him how he was. It really made me think.
  • We feel compelled to ask "How are you?" in return. Over the years, I have caught myself replying "I'm well. How are you?" then walking off without waiting for the other person's answer. Obviously, I didn't want to know how they were...and that is so not okay.

Right now, I don't know how to answer people when they ask me how I am. When I'm asked in real life or on the phone, I almost always tear up and have a hard time speaking. When I'm asked via text, I tear up and put the phone down. Most times I don't have the energy to "go there". Sometimes I wonder if the person really wants to know or if he/she just wants me to say that I'm doing well. If you really want to know, be forewarned that the answer may be messy. I have my good days and my bad days...or, more accurately, I have my good moments and my bad moments within each day.

What do you need?
Oh, man...I really don't know how to answer this question. The only thing that I need is my girl back. Other than that, I often have no idea what I need or what you can do to help. And when I do know, I don't want to impose upon you. You have a life. You have a family. You don't need me to add to your plate.

So, what's a person to say or do?
Rather than asking these questions, I would suggest the following:

  • Let the person grieving know that you are praying for them and thinking about them. 
  • Make it known that you don't expect a reply or a call or a thank you.
  • Don't put the responsibility on the grieving person to contact you. 
  • Try to think of what the other person wants, not what you would want (i.e. you may want a hug, but hugs may be overwhelming to others me).
  • Offer to do something specific (go out to eat, make a meal, etc.), but be okay with a "No, thank you" or a last-minute cancellation (the person may be doing well when making plans on Monday, but who knows what Tuesday will bring...grieving is exhausting).  
  • If you really want to know how the person is doing, ask specific questions and be prepared to listen. Even then, consider the setting before you ask. The answer could be messy and the grieving person may not want to fall apart in front of a room full of people.
  • Finally, don't text or call early in the morning or late at night even if you know the person is a morning person or night owl. I'll say it again, grieving is exhausting. Sleep is a precious thing and sometimes it doesn't come easily.
I feel the need to mention a couple more things:

  • It is okay to talk about your life. My loss and grief do not minimize what you are going through. I need to get out of my own head and think about others.
  • It is okay to talk about KK...just remember to consider the setting and be okay with a "not right now" kind of response. I love her and miss her terribly. I want to know that she had an impact on your life, that you think about her, and that you miss her too.

Monday, June 26, 2017

When My Heart Is Overwhelmed

I first listened to this two weeks ago and needed to hear it again today...

I Need to Write

I've had a desire to blog over the last month -- to share the events of KK's last four weeks, to recap her celebration of life for those that weren't able to make it, to share about HCA's eighth grade graduation and other events that have happened -- but I haven't been able to find the words.

Today, I find myself needing to write. I need to write about none of the above. I need to write to get out of my head. I need to write because I am overwhelmed. I need to write, so here I go...

The week after KK died (oh, how it hurts to write that) and before the celebration of her life, I stopped by the office and talked to Boss. He laid out his plan for me in terms of work with the caveat that I could override his plans. His thought was that I would take the month of June off, come back part-time in July and August, then full-time in the fall. I immediately knew that I would not be able to take the month of June off. First of all, I love my job. But I also knew that I didn't want to sit home alone for a month...alone being the keyword. I told him that I was planning to work the following week, but I wasn't sure what that would look like. He was very understanding and willing to give me the flexibility that I needed.

I wasn't very productive the first week, but it felt good to be in the office. The next two weeks, I really threw myself into work. I spent time working on details that I have had to let slide over the last couple years, because I simply didn't have the time with all of KK's treatments. I loved the feeling of accomplishment! However, I was completely exhausted by the end of last week. I was really looking forward to relaxing on Saturday...the introvert in me needed the downtime. What I wasn't expecting was how overwhelming the loneliness would be by Saturday evening.

I don't know how to do this.

Please note that I am not writing this to garner invitations to do things (remember I am an introvert and that can be overwhelming as well) or to make anyone feel bad...I just needed to write.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Directions (Otherwise Entitled Don't Trust Your GPS)

There has been new construction around route 9 that has caused many people angst who follow their GPS to get to Chapel.

Here are the directions I can confidently give without driving down to the church and figuring out the new directions in person because even MapQuest hasn't been updated:

If you are coming from either direction on 495, take route 9 WEST, take the Computer Dr./Research Dr. ramp, turn left at the lights onto Computer Drive which becomes Connector Road which becomes Flanders Road, drive for about 2 miles and Chapel will be on the left (don't turn too soon though or you will be on Washington Street).

Monday, May 29, 2017

Obituary

Here is the link to KK's obituary (turn on the volume). It will be published in the Worcester Telegram on Wednesday.

Writing an obituary is stinking hard and no parent should ever have to do it.

They are working on removing the "send sympathy flowers" link since flowers are something that will die on me as well. If you try to send flowers through the link, the funeral home will cancel the order and refund your money for me. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Holden Christian Academy's Scholarship Fund to honor KK's life. Donations may be sent to Holden Christian Academy, 279 Reservoir Street, Holden, MA  01520 (please note Scholarship Fund in the memo line).

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Patriots and Princess Celebration of Life

All who knew and loved KK are invited to celebrate her life on Friday, June 2 from 6-8pm at Chapel of the Cross, 160 Flanders Road, Westborough.

We will celebrate with a Patriots and Princess Party. She loved the Patriots (she always said I taught her well) and all things Disney (how could she not with me as a mom), especially Cinderella. No black clothing allowed with the exception of a few rogue football fans (who obviously weren't taught well). There will be plenty of KK's favorite foods that she gave up so willingly to fight cancer to munch on.