Grief and joy

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Anna turned 9 years old yesterday.  The day was simple and joyful.  And thankfully, it was free from the painful sentimental feelings I normally feel on my children’s birthdays.

This year, Anna could choose between having a birthday party or having a weekend at a hotel with her family.  She chose the hotel, and last weekend we spent two nights at a hotel in Wisconsin.  Anna spent most of the time swimming. We also spent some time seeing old sites from when Alan and I lived there.  We visited my parents on the way home, and they gave Anna her first sewing machine.

On her actual birthday, Anna chose what we ate for breakfast and dinner (pancakes and eggs; spaghetti without meat).  And, she invited grandma and grandpa over for “dessert”, also known as veggies and dip, popcorn, and Zevia root beer.  Somehow, the sweet tooth the rest of us are plagued with doesn’t seem to reside in her–and therefore she is our little health nut who keeps us eating our vegetables.

Family life is sweet and lovely.  It has been especially so in recent months.  Things feel grounded and connected in our little family, and I am glad for that.

In the background, there is grief.  My dad has stage 4 cancer.  He doesn’t want to share the news with anyone outside of our family, at least, not yet.  At first I felt shock and intense love for him and compassion for his suffering.  In addition to this, there is now grief and sadness.  The feelings swing between periods of peace and acceptance and then the intense feelings of grief.

I am letting myself cry when I need to.  Work has been a welcome distraction, although I am not as cheerful or engaged with my clients as I usually am. I’m feeling bewildered and disorganized and uncomfortable, not always knowing what to do when I’m not busy.  I know that allowing the feelings to come is what will heal me and keep me together.  But it is hard.  I often want to run from it and go back to the way things were before.  I am thinking a lot about the memories I have of my dad throughout my life.  Dad riding the John Deere in the summertime, dad taking us ice skating on the frozen marsh, dad cutting down trees and splitting logs, dad building snow forts for us and making awesome sledding trails.  I feel the comfort and the consistency he has provided all of my life.  Always there.  Reliable and strong.  What would it be like without him?

Things that help me cope with this grief are talking about it, walking in nature, cuddling my pets, and reaching out to others. I am visiting my parents as much as I can.

Life is hard.  And, it is beautiful, too.

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What’s been going on for the past 23 months

Since I decided to stop writing in this blog in October 2015, my life has been largely undocumented.  I’ve taken photos of my children and taken some family photos, saved some mementos, and become increasingly lost in the pleasures of daily life.

But, I realize that in 30 years we might want to remember what was going on in 2015-2017. So here goes, in a nutshell:

  1. In July 2015, we lost our cat Luna and adopted our dog, Penny.  This is the same month I decided I needed to leave the church I was a part of.
  2. In September 2015, Mia and Anna were in 6th and 1st grades at their old school, respectively.  We prepared to sell and sold our old house, bought a new one, and prepared to move.  I took a full-time job, was interning and working on my graduate degree. We were stretched thinly. It was a very trying time for all of us.
  3. In November 2015, I finally mustered the courage to announce to Alan’s family and church friends that I was leaving the church.
  4. In December 2015, I finished all of my academic and internship requirements for my MA.  I had still to write my thesis, which ended up taking 1 1/2 years to complete.
  5. In April 2016, we left our home of 13 years and moved into our new home.  Alan gutted the kitchen and flooring throughout the house, and we lived without a kitchen for a while.
  6. In September 2016, Mia and Anna began 7th and 2nd grades at their new schools.  They were devastated and cried for days.  I continued to work at my full time job and going to school and felt increasingly drained and unhappy with our lifestyle.  Alan was still working his job as usual.  Our kitchen was complete.
  7. In December 2016, I quit my job, started a new one, and quit it after 12 days.  I was unemployed until June 2017 and it was a very memorable time.  There was a lot of healing, discovering and self-care that happened during that time.
  8. In October 2016, we lost our beloved cat, Jezzie, at the age of 19.
  9. In March 2017, the stars aligned and we found our new cat, Phoebe, who fills the void that Jezzie left in our hearts.
  10. I completed my Master’s thesis in April 2017 and received my MA the same month.  I walked in my graduation ceremony in June 2017–the same month I accepted the job that I have now.  I love the job.
  11. September 2017: Mia and Anna are in 8th and 3rd grades.  They both love school.  There were no tears this year.  We sold our old car and bought a new one. I am studying for the national exam for marriage and family therapy.  Alan is content in his job.  We appreciate his summers off more than ever.  We had the best summer this year that perhaps we’ve ever had–maybe because we finally appreciate what it means to have time off and time together.
  12. Anna loves ballet and swimming.  She would do both all day if it were possible. Mia loves being creative and has a wonderful sense of humor.  Mia writes songs, sings, and plays guitar.  Anna plays eukelele and sings.  We have family karaoke days where we all sing for hours.  Mia and Anna are exceptional children: both are extremely kind, generous, and wonderful people.  It is an absolute honor to be their mother.
  13. Alan and I have been married over 17 years now.  Wow.  I feel increasingly aware and grateful of the incredible gift of finding him, marrying him, and sharing my life with him.
  14. I took lots of photos and video of the above events and many more events, and I hope someday to get all of these organized.

Sweetness and belated Halloween pictures

I love my little family. I love waking up to the sweet voices of my girls.  I love that they sleep in bunk beds and giggle together after the lights go out.  I love that Alan is strong and stable and reliable.  I love that he is building a shed out of old pallets.  I love that Anna is in preschool and Mia is in school, and that they are so happy there.  I love that right now, I am sitting in a cafe by myself with a cup of decaf miele and my laptop.

Here are some pictures from Halloween.  They wore matching costumes for the second year.  That’s so cute.  I love them.

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Camping!

We spent two nights at campsite 3 in the primitive campground at Lake Elmo Reserve.  It was glorious.  While it was still close to the city and we didn’t quite get away in the fashion that I prefer, it was relatively quiet and also convenient, as well as surprisingly beautiful and lovely overall.

 

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thirty-five.

Today is my 35th birthday.

I love my birthdays.  Each one is a milestone, and I love to reflect on my journey and what I’ve learned each time I reach a new age.  I want to keep moving and experiencing life, gaining more knowledge and wisdom with each passing year. Sometimes I get freaked out when I realize there is no option to put life on hold or to go back in time, and that if I live long enough, someday I really will be an old woman.  I worry about feeling trapped in my body and not being able to do physical things, but when that time comes, perhaps I will be ready to sit back and enjoy the view.

Turning 35 means that I am really a grown-up.  I feel like a grown-up now, something I don’t think I could have said when I was 25.  I am aware of the impact of my decisions and actions, and aware more of how I come across to others. I am aware that my life is my responsibility and also my fault! I finally admit that I have a dark side, and my challenge from here on out is to love and forgive that part of myself.

I am aware of how quickly time passes; I am more in touch with the present and with how fragile life is.  There are no guarantees.  Although life can be stressful and challenging, I can choose to focus on the beauty of every day instead of the difficulties.  I can overlook the bad stuff and be grateful for the countless gifts that life has to offer, and my Project Happy blog has given me a deliberate place to do this.  I know now that I can consciously choose to fill myself with positive energy and that this will attract positive experiences in my life.

I’ve reached a point where I am able to understand other people’s perspectives, even where they differ vastly from my own.  I can work out conflicts with others without getting wrapped up in my own emotional experience, and I can come to a reasonable conclusion. In my previous years, I was more idealistic and viewed life in black or white, only through my own lens.  There are many truths, and each person finds his or her own truth to live by.  Each person has her own story to tell, and my ears are open to that now.

From here on out, I hope to focus on finding calmness and coping during times of stress.  I hope to focus on my studies and complete my Master’s program while balancing the rest of my responsibilities with ease.  I hope to be responsible with our finances and planning for our future, paying off debts, and making sensible spending decisions. I hope to be a good role model for my children and that I am able to teach them responsibility while making them feel loved and important.  I hope to be a wife who is loving and mindful of Alan’s needs, even when his needs differ from my own. I also hope to take good care of my physical, emotional and spiritual health so that I can be my best self and can stay well.

I am grateful for the challenges that are behind me and looking forward to conquering those that lie ahead, even if they seem a bit daunting at times.

“I am on an endless journey through eternity, and there is plenty of time.”
-Louise Hay

Happy birthday to me, and thank you to those who have put up with me on my journey.

 

Mother’s Day

Today was the best Mother’s Day I’ve ever had, probably because I asked for what I wanted (and gave lots of time for them to prepare).  Specifically, this is what I requested:

1. An outdoor picnic with my little family

2. Tiramisu, made by Alan

3. Homemade cards from my children

I got all of this, and then some–even a long love letter written by Alan (I am a sucker for those)!

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I am so very blessed.  This is as good as it gets.

xoxo

Happy 35th birthday, Alan!

Alan turned 35 yesterday.  I wanted to make the day special and memorable, even though he spent most of it at work.  He is an amazing father, husband and person.

Here is what we did:

we ate the yummiest meal I have ever made:

Asian Orange Chicken with Ginger Veggie Stir Fry with steamed jasmine rice

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with Mixed Berry Pavlova for dessert.  We ate the whole thing.

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Mia gave Alan a Caribou gift card that she bought with her own money, and Anna gave him a special package filled with crumpled drawings.

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Mia and Alan sang and played guitar and worked on a song they are writing together.

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I gave Alan a day off this weekend and money that he has to spend on himself.

Happy birthday, Alan!