OCTOBER 15, 2017

Oh Mom, Maine was so wonderful. We were gone for the perfect amount of time, just enough to make me miss home and shake me out of my same old routines.

It was so nice to not make the bed, not sweep, not do laundry, not cook dinners….I guess that’s what vacationing as a mother feels like.

We stayed about an hour and twenty minutes from Acadia National Park, so early in the mornings, we’d get up, eat, shower and leave our hotel by 7 a.m. to make the drive in our rental car. Each day we picked somewhere different to explore: Sand Beach, Hunter’s Beach and Ship Harbor were our three highlighted areas.

Every place was more beautiful than the next, with mountains and changing colored trees and sand and rocks and trails of moss and pebbles. The air is so clean and beautiful up there. While in the woods with pine trees lining our paths, it smelled like a cinnamon Christmas.

Everett was in his glory on the sand, and I marveled watching him throw and toss sticks with the Atlantic coast behind him. Seeing a vision like that manifested into reality was pretty incredible, and I felt satisfied knowing I got my son to that spot, just as I’d imagined.

He seemed the perfect age for the trip, too; just old enough to truly have fun. It was like he knew he was the center of me and Chris’ attention, smiling at each of us while out at dinner, virtually saying, you guys…this is just great! 

And this trip solidified us a family. It was our first vacation together (besides camping, but that doesn’t completely count) and I loved how the three of us effortlessly floated along together. Chris and I felt like a team, and I didn’t have to ask him to put on Everett’s shoes or make the twentieth peanut butter and jelly sandwich before we walked out the door. How beautiful it is to share a partnership like that.

And when Everett would cry in the car, refusing to sleep but exhausted from exploring, Chris and I would carry on our conversation, not letting Everett’s tantrum ruin our “fun.” For the first time, we felt like tried and true parents.

Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you. While packing for the trip, I had written and tucked away in my suitcase a post-it note that said: sign in Maine. Otherwise, I’d have forgotten to think about the request I asked for in my last journal entry.

And on our second vacation day, we pulled into the shops at Bar Harbor, first walking to the bathrooms. We passed a shop window that had a little wooden whittled blue jay hanging on a corner display. It’s a bird that always makes me think of you for reasons that seem too silly to even try to explain right now.

I felt like I needed to buy it, like it was “the sign,” so I did, and then shortly after while in the car I started to think, was that it? No, that was stupid. It couldn’t have been the sign. It was just a coincidence. You’re dumb Hayley.

And then Ace of Base’s song came on the radio:

I saw the sign,

and it opened up my eyes,

I saw the sign.

I smirked on the inside, thinking, okay Mom…you win. I mean, come on now.

 

Now that we are home, life feels settled and renewed. Fall is in season, but the temperature has still been warm. I imagine in the next few days, the cool weather Chris and I both wait for all year, will be permanently here.

Everett seems to want me just the right amount, liking to play on his own but he’ll come running if his finger gets pinched in a cupboard and needs comfort. The porch is still his favorite place to play, and I swear, come winter time, I’ll have to put him in a snow suit and boots to keep his outdoor outings a daily thing.

The other night, he was in his high chair and randomly said, “Uh oh!” real loud, with expression. Chris and I laughed, and so of course, Everett kept doing it. And he says “shoes,” now, in a real long high pitch tone like, sssshoeeeees!

When I ask, “Do you want to go nunnies (bed) he says, “YEA,” in a short quick stump of a word. He’ll nod his head in agreement and it’s just so cute watching him communicate. Just like that, my baby has said his first words. He is blooming before our eyes, a new petal opening every single day.

I have been feeling good lately. My period came while up in Maine, so now I’m in the best mental space I’ll be in all month. I’ve gotten better at controlling my well-being after ovulating, a problem that got so intense before, I turned to anti-depressants last fall.

I keep track of my cycle on my calendar, so now I’m never surprised when I start feeling a little low emotionally. I don’t know why I never kept track of it in high school or college. During the two-ish weeks of the month when my energy dips, I have been getting better at taking care of myself:

  • more yoga/meditation at home
  • taking time alone, even if it’s just sitting up in our room while Chris watches T.V. downstairs
  • journaling my gratitude lists
  • trying to breathe better and slower and mindfully, especially when I’m falling asleep
  • being in one task at a time: no rushing
  • and never sleeping with my phone on my nightstand

I’m not writing that list to say, ooo look at me Mom, doing it all perfect. Because I’m not doing it perfect and truth be told, the first day we were Maine, I was a compete ass crab. And I took some “medication” for two of the days because I couldn’t shake that anxious rushing feeling I get for no reason. (I write medication in quotes because I don’t feel like these particular pills are medicine; they just cover up my symptoms).

But for the first time, possibly like ever, I knew I was moody, let myself feel moody, and then tried to separate myself from the emotions. Instead of going down the rabbit hole and thinking of everything that felt sucky, I pumped myself with as much positive perspective as I could, thinking you’re in Maine, you have a nice room, the weather is nice, Everett is sleeping, etc. 

Making those mental positive affirmation lists (or writing them in my journal) is my surest way to feel better. I just have to care enough to want to change my attitude and for some reason, a lot of times, I don’t. It’s almost as if I’m comfortable being moody (especially before my period) because I’m so used to the feeling. Not consciously changing my thought patterns is the “easy way out.”

 

The Universe loves gratitude, 

so for this month make a commitment to give thanks each day. 

Every day look for things to be grateful for. 

Make “thank you” your catchphrase. 

As you walk from one place to another, say “thank you” with every step. 

Begin each day with the words “thank you,” and make your last thought at night one of giving thanks for the day.

Be grateful under all circumstances, no matter what is happening around you. 

Just 30 days of saturating yourself with gratitude will change your life beyond your comprehension. 

When you radiate and live gratitude you press the ON switch to the Universe and it will deliver all good to you, matching the intensity of your gratitude.

That quote has been on my fridge for months now, and even while believing in it and having felt the positive effects that appreciating has, it is still challenging to remember to be grateful. But I am getting better at it; it’s practice, just like it’s a “yoga practice” or “meditation practice.”

I hope to teach my kids about gratitude. I want to teach them how to breathe, how to be in one moment at a time when they get frustrated or overwhelmed. Because at some point in childhood, we all lose that ability. We start to worry who is better at coloring or running or kissing, start to compare and judge ourselves through the eyes of others.

When will Everett lose the ability to play with sand or kiss his “mum mum” and be only in that moment as it is? When will he judge himself? When does that voice start to turn on in our heads? You know, the one that never shuts up and always finds a problem in everything.

I’m aware I won’t be able to raise present little buddhas; that’s not my goal. But why aren’t we taught about meditation and the power of our minds and the connection we have to the infinite Universe? I feel like it’s my job to teach my children those things.

Science knows that everything is energy but we ignore the fact that our hearts beat and our blood flows and the wind blows and that our most precious resource somehow falls from the sky above.

It’s all energy.

Do I sound weird? I know I do. And I’m sure my kids will be little weirdos, too. At least we’ve got Chris to keep us grounded. He holds the strings to my 99 red floating balloons, letting me travel up to the clouds but always keeping me attached and in reality.

When we’d walk through the City Forest trails in Bangor (the town we stayed in), he looked at the map each and every time one appeared at a fork on the path. I’d say something like, let’s just wander and see where we end up, we’ll be fine…and he’d smirk, knowing there was no chance in hell he would be comfortable doing that. This is the man who turns on his GPS as soon as we get in the car. Chris always has to know exactly where he is going and is always cleverly thinking ahead.

He is perhaps the most clever person, ever; one of the reasons I fell in love with him.

But anyways, at one point, I think he let me think we were wandering and we ended up meeting a man on a mountain bike named Corky and his Aussie dog, Abby. Corky was a professor at Penn State University for thirty years, so we found some common ground and started talking. We exchanged e-mails, and later he sent us all of Acadia’s best spots, along with a dinner invitation.

That night, we ended up at his late 1800’s little Maine farmhouse for what felt like a family meal with a grandfather we hadn’t seen for awhile. It was wonderful. We ate fresh shrimp and rice and salad. Everett fell in love with green grapes (a color he’s never had before) and I drank a glass of wine, for the first time since being on this restrictive “inner gut reset” diet.

When Corky asked, would you like anything to drink? I thought, fuck it, and responded, “Sure, a glass of red if you have it, please.” (Sorry for that word. I use it in real life and am tired of always hiding it from you).

Sometimes wandering brings on the best adventures, something I never would’ve believed in before I started understanding how everything is energy and all of energy is connected. And if I’m always connected to you, no matter where I am, you are always with me…something that makes me safe and never able to be truly lost.

But for some reason, I always try to find reason to doubt that truth.

Doubt is my biggest “problem.” I doubt whether you’re still real sometimes, I doubt if I can write a book, I doubt if Chris and I will really ever have our property.

Two days before we left for Maine, I took that alone time up in my room, away from Chris who was watching T.V. downstairs, and sat on my bed. I stared at my wall, not knowing why I was feeling so blah. And then I just started crying. And kept crying, starting to whisper to myself out loud.

Is all this sign stuff bullshit? Am I pretending to know where Mom is? Is she really just gone, simply with no explanation? Is this energy stuff just a hoax to make people like me feel better? Does the law of attraction work or is it just hippy stuff? Where is Mom?

And the feeling of you being gone, away and forever cut off and separated from me hurt so incredibly bad, that I refused to wonder and cry any longer. I have done that before for too many years, searching and wondering and questioning and trying to find the map that would tell me where you went.

The difference is now, when I feel sad, I can choose to stay connected and open to you. It is always my choice. So I let my emotion out, got off the bed and moved on. Crying felt like this beautiful release instead of a terrible storm.

All this energy “stuff” has finally given me something to believe in. It always made sense to me, but I never tried hard enough to understand it or practice it. But I had to when Everett was born because being a mother completely without you was just too painful.

If I doubt the blue jays or songs on the radio–the signs that make me feel powerful, they won’t come. I know if I doubt the property, we will never get it. I know if I doubt my ability to become an author, I’ll never live up to that potential.

The law of attraction is all about like energy attracting like, as if we were magnets with the ability to anchor in what we wanted.

So in itself, if I believe in the law’s power to create, it works. If I think it’s bogus, then I’ll never receive any evidence that it’s real.

Doubt is just resistance to getting what I want, like trying to run full speed one way, but then backtracking to make sure you took the right turn.

It reminds me of one of my favorite books I read to Everett, called The Carrot Seed. 

It goes like this:

A little boy planted a carrot seed.

His mother said, “I’m afraid it won’t come up.”

His father said, “I’m afraid it won’t come up.”

His big brother said, “It won’t come up.”

Every day the little boy pulled up the weeds around the seed and sprinkled the ground with water.

But nothing came up.

And nothing came up.

Everyone kept saying it wouldn’t come up.

But he still pulled up the weeds around it every day and sprinkled the ground with water.

And then, one day…

A carrot came up, just as the little boy had known it would.

If I planted a virtual seed and said, I know this journal can be a successful book, but then days later was told my writing was terrible and lost my enthusiasm and belief and stopped watering and weeding and tending to my desire, it would not grow. I’d have to not listen to people who doubt, and not listen to the voice inside my head that doubts: the one I’m learning is not me. 

So on my fridge, a place I look at often, I put a goal date to start writing a cover letter and proposal, all the beginning works of getting my work out there and into the reality of a book. I have no idea what I’m doing, no clue as to how to do any of this. All I’ve ever been told is “getting published is impossible,” and I used to let that stop me.

But I know if I believe like that little boy did, I can do it.

All in its own perfect timing, my carrot will come up, simply if I believe it will and never stop.

That’s where I keep getting stuck–I keep stopping. But I’m learning how to keep going; this journal is evidence of my continual forward journey of believing in the Universe and myself and you.

 

OCTOBER 1, 2017 (almost) EIGHTEEN months old

I went to the mall a few days ago with Everett. He just chilled in his stroller, snacking on food while I shopped at Forever 21, my for whatever reason, favorite store. I bought a new scarf, a few sweaters and a bag. (I’ve gotten better at buying things for me and now it’s super simple to do, with no guilt attached). 

I never take him to the grocery store or Target or any trip, really, without food to keep him occupied. His favorite on-the-go lunch is a spinach, cheese and pesto quesadilla. I make a big batch in bulk and freeze them in baggies, ready to grab for an adventurous day that involves leaving home.

On our way to leave the doors of the mall, I let him out of the stroller to run around and he must’ve thought he instantly became king. He trotted along a few feet away from me, looking over his shoulder to keep a watchful eye on his “mum mum.”

Refusing to stop his fun, we stayed, and I took him on the clear glass elevator to get to the first floor. He had a face of astonishment as he watched the world around him go down down down, looking at me and pointing and saying ooooooo! 

The elevator opens right up and onto the food court, and the smell of Chinese chicken wafted my nose when we walked out, immediately making me think of you and all our times sitting there and eating after our shopping trips.

I looked right at “our” spot, where the turquoise-topped chairs remained the same, simultaneously searching for the sampling kung pao chicken lady. Remember the one who would always be holding that black serving platter with toothpicks sticking out of the bite size pieces of meat?

The trays we’d eat off of were red and I can still see the white rice and orange glazed fried chicken clumps. I can still taste the extra packs of soy sauce we’d douse our meals with, remembering how you’d tear the corner of the plastic packet off with your teeth and still manage to look pretty while doing it.

Not wanting to feel those memories anymore, I quickly walked away from the area and into another store, thinking nap time can wait today…what’s the rush to get home? And I ended up finding a super cool jacket Grandma is going to get me for Christmas.

The last time I was at that food court, I was being interviewed for a clothing company called Buckle. It was the “cool” store during my senior year of high school, the place I bought all my Lucky Brand clothes in attempts of being a cool hippy.

My possible future manager, Holly, asked me all these questions and I was confident the whole time that I would get the retail job; I felt I looked the part. I just wanted to speak out and say, are we done yet? I’ve got to get home. My mother is dying and I have no time to waste. Am I hired or not?

You were sick at home, and it was only a matter of time at that point, like we were all just waiting for it to happen.

I never think about those last few weeks. I never really think of you being sick. It all happened so fast, between your diagnosis and death, it’s like this small time frame in my mind that can easily be swept into the abyss of my brain.

Because I felt so mentally stuttered when getting off that elevator and smelling that frickin’ fried chicken, I know something inside me needs released. So I went and found the journal I was keeping around the time of that interview–around the time you died, and really kind of re-lived your last weeks of life as I read through it.

July 18, 2008

I talked with Nana a lot today, mostly about Mom and how absolutely crazy she’s been acting lately. She has gone psycho. She tells Allison and I all the time that we don’t care about her and she knows we want her dead. And the other day, I ran downstairs after hearing her yell at Dad, and when I looked at her, I couldn’t even get my words out to yell. I was so upset with her. I thought after the diagnosis in January and how good she’s done, it was a lesson for us all to love and treat each other differently. It’s like she forgot that we almost lost her. I feel disgusted with my own mother; why is she acting like this? 

August 1, 2008

Well, cheer camp is all over with, thank god. But this year was actually the best out of all six. 

I drove home with Stephanie and her parents, and while in the car, Nana called me to say the cancer had spread to Mom’s spinal cord. That’s why she’s been acting mean and confused and upset. 

I hung up the phone, looked out the backseat driver window and water welled in my eyes. Steph’s mom reassured me that this would just be another treatment and that Mom would do great, just as she has been doing. I wanted to believe Janice. I wanted to believe Mom’s best friend. 

When I got home, Grandma was waiting for me. After I showered and ate some lunch, she took me to the hospital to see Mom and Dad. I will never forget getting out of the elevator, turning the corner, and walking into the communal waiting room where Dad and Allison were waiting. Mom’s room was twenty or so feet behind them and her door was open. All I could see were her legs, tucked tightly under the light pink hospital blanket.

Just by looking at Daddy’s face, I knew something awful was happening. For a split second, before he said anything, I thought she had already died. I was so confused, I couldn’t think straight or crooked or in any way shape or form.

I was so scared and felt like I couldn’t breathe. Dad talked me through it, and then sat Allison and I down, explaining to us that the cancer spread to Mom’s brain. He told us the treatment options, something involving a box on her head and more needles and radiation and tests. And he said he had the option not to treat her any further.

Somewhere in all that, I heard she’d only have months to live, regardless of treatment or no treatment. 

Even writing about all of this, days later in my journal, I still can’t comprehend it. 

The next hours at the hospital were long and I just wanted to get out of there. Mom was so much more lost and confused than from before I left for cheer camp. I remember calling Dad (because Mom was being so mean and I didn’t want to speak with her) while I was up there to tell him I made captain. He was telling Mom, “Did you hear that Jenifer? Hayley is senior caption!” And she barely made a response. I thought it was her still being ignorant, but really, cancer was all throughout her brain.

Dad’s voice was too cheery, like it wasn’t his usual tone. Now looking back, I know he was trying his best to be nice and hide the fact that mom was dying. He wanted to keep me innocent of what was happening back at home, keep me in the world of cheerleaders and positivity, even if it was only for a day longer.

Dad took Allison and I home from the hospital towards after dinner-time, and I’ll never forget the drive home on the Pittsburgh parkway. We were in the BMW, the car Mom always said she wanted when she’d turn forty years old. Dad bought it for her thirty-ninth birthday back in April, probably knowing waiting another year was of no point. 

The roof top was down, and the summer day air was fading away as it hit my face and blew my hair wildly in all directions. It was warm to breathe in but cool feeling on my skin because of the wind.

I sat up front. Allison was in the back. I should’ve been with her. But I think we all just wanted to be as alone as we could in the space of a convertible.

The sun was going down and the city looked so beautiful. It felt so wrong to be driving home without her, like we were leaving her behind for good. None of us talked, but you could feel how hurt the three of us felt. How confused, mad, sad, angry and awful we felt. We knew the truth now. We knew what was coming. 

Back at home, we stood in the kitchen near the sink and Dad held me and we both cried. Then Allison came downstairs and we continued doing the same thing. It felt like we were uniting, on the same front, knowing what we’d be facing in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

I called Mrs. Treml and told her everything. She said I could spend the night, and I told her I’d think about it. I called Tyler, too, then Janice. She came over with Stephanie. We all talked for a long time, and eventually I left, with Dad’s permission. He told me to go wherever I would feel best, and I wanted to be with my other family, so off the the Treml’s I went.

Dad went back to the hospital and Allison went to her best friend Lauren’s house. We were all where we needed to be. 

The next morning, Tyler made me pancakes with cinnamon in the batter, and in between flips, I made him hold me for a long time, burying my face in that stupid hippy drug rug he wears. I cried. And told him I loved him and then left. I don’t even think we are “together” right now, but I know I have the support of him and his family and that’s all I care about. I didn’t eat the breakfast. 

I showered when I got back home, and Grandma and aunt Sara took Allison and I back to the hospital. Mom was even worse than the day before. There were times when she couldn’t walk or talk. I can’t describe what it’s like seeing your mother like that. She kept trying to unlock her closed bathroom door with a hair brush and said something about firewood. She’d get mad at Grandma when Grandma tried helping her. She looked at Grandma like, who are you lady, and why are you getting in my way?

Currently as I’m writing this, Mom is home. Everyone has been visiting and Aunt Jessica and Uncle Todd came up from Virginia, bringing Cole and Tatum back from their visit down there. It feels good to have them back and they seem to be handling everything okay so far. I don’t know what Dad has told them.

I’m just in disbelief that my life has changed so fast. Prior to cheer camp, I thought the cancer was gone. I thought she was better, just meaner. Now she has limited months/weeks/days to live. 

August 3, 2008

I heard noise down below from my attic bedroom and went to see what the commotion was about. Dad was giving Mom a bath at 11:30 at night. She has her days and nights mixed up. When he put her back in bed, she kept trying to get up, like a stubborn little child. Dad hasn’t slept for days and I feel so helpless. He looks like he could fall asleep standing up. I told him to rest and that I’d stay with Mom for a little. She fought me the entire time, relentlessly trying to sit up and out of bed. 

It’s scary to think of what will happen in the near future. I could never have imagined any of this happening; not even the cancer, but just how it’s all ending–her not being able to talk to us, Dad having to feed and wash her. She can’t really even walk anymore and I’m not sure she knows who everyone is.

Her and I sat together at the kitchen island today while I ate an apricot cookie. She’d always buy them from Giant Eagle and she stared at me while I ate it, telling me “I was silly,” in broken up syllables. I gave her one, and we each ate them together with glasses of milk.

Dad took her to Dairy Queen in her convertible and when they pulled into the garage, she had thrown up ice cream everywhere. I helped give her a bath afterwards. It’s like she’s crumbling apart, and we have to watch it because we love her and there’s nothing else we can do. 

When I think of other people’s Dads, I know they’d never take care of their wives the way he’s feeding and bathing and carrying and continually loving Mom. And he’s somehow managing to pull us kids through all of it, too. I could only hope that I have that kind of marriage someday, and now I finally understand how much my Mom and Dad loved each other. 

On a happier note, I interviewed for Buckle today and got the job. I have tried to just keep doing normal things, seeing my friends etc. 

August 14, 2008

Mom is doing really bad, not talking or eating or moving. Family has been visiting again, and it feels sickening to know they’re all here to say their last goodbyes as she sits in the same upright position in bed. Cole and Tatum are in Harrisburg with Aunt Katie and Uncle Ryan; Dad didn’t want them here for what we think is the final few days.

 

And that’s it. That night, on the 14th, you left our world.

The morning after you died, pictures were being taken up at the high school for the senior cheerleaders and football players. I got ready, straightened my hair, did my makeup and put my blue and gold uniform on. As I went to leave the house, the door halfway open in my hand, Dad simply said, “Hayley.” And just looked at me, his face expressing something I can still see now in my mind. He was silently telling me, you go show them. You’ve got this. You are okay. Life will continue on and you show up there strong because you’re Mom’s daughter. 

I’m crying now just remembering it. It was in that small moment of three seconds that I was reassured I could face anything and I could do anything and you were now with me always.

I walked out of that house feeling solid as stones, both in my mind and body.

I parked at the school, grabbing my best friend Jessie and Kayla K, asking if they would just wait there for a second with me before walking towards the whole football and cheerleading team. Everyone knew.

I took a pause in the parking lot, took a breath and continued “onward and upward,” as Dad always says.

And it’s funny. When I look at the group picture that was taken that morning, Chris, in his numbered 2 football uniform, is positioned (almost) right behind me.

When I sat down to write to you this morning, I had no intention of bringing all that heavy “stuff” up. I really only wanted to tell you about the mall with Everett.

But now that I’m thinking of it, the other night right before I had fallen asleep, I had the impulse to turn on my nightstand light and make a post-it that said: write about the last weeks of mom’s life…tell the story of what happened. But I never made a note; I was too lazy and too tired and then completely forgot about the idea until the food court and thinking of that interview.

It seems like this entry to you was just supposed to happen and it unfolded with ease.

But let’s talk Everett now, because my oh my is my child cute and fun and vibrant and as always, loving his life.

He gets easier every month, but also more confident as his own person, making tantrums more common in our house. For his morning diaper change (the one when there’s a big load of poop) he always fights me, squiggling his legs and lifting his butt up way high and twisting his hips from side to side. And I’m like, dude! I’m doing you a solid here…cooperate, please.

Yesterday, without fail, he did his restraining attempts again, this time getting crap on my hands and the carpet. My natural frustrated reaction happened so fast: I spanked his right bare bum cheek with the power of my fingers, just enough to make him cry. He looked at me like, what the hell, Mom? But he held still for the rest of the diaper change.

I told Allison because it was my first time ever “hitting” him, and her response was, ahhh poooooor Everett…don’t you feel bad? 

And I straight up said, “No. It worked and he got the message.”

I’m pretty sure I survived the wooden spoon a few times and still grew up with more love and security than I could handle. Everett will be fine. If a mother wants to nurse her three year old when they get a toddler boo boo, or if another mother occasionally spanks her child, I respect it all and don’t judge.

Everett will look at me and say “mum mum,” in the sweetest voice with literal love in his eyes. It’s like they sparkle, I swear to god. And when we go for walks now, I let him out of the stroller for some of the time and he loves running free around the vacant school that’s by our house. The other day he took off too fast and fell, busting his upper lip open. He looked like a parrot or that Marge Simpson character, the one with the tall blue hair and big top lip.

I got him a leash so he can’t run too fast ahead of me and into a pot hole again. So now I can literally walk the dog and Everett in each of my hands.

He can now eat snacks out of a bowl without trying to play with it, so I set cut up grapes or cheerios or chunks of maple chicken sausage (his favorite) out on the porch while he plays. Things like that make life so much more simple…who would’ve thought.

And he says hi now, waving his arm and matching the high pitched tone of voice that we all do when greeting someone. If I’m inside, I’ll hear him out on the porch saying, “HIIII!” when our little neighbor girls walk past. He even does it to passing cars.

Last week I saw a homeopathic doctor in the hopes that she’d be able to help me with my lips. I know you’re probably sick of hearing about it, but just bare with me for a second.

She did certain kinds of tests to detect weaknesses within my body, and gave me a set of herbs and supplements to take. I have disfunction in my small intestine and gut so I’m on an anti-fungal diet and intestinal repair mission. And I wasn’t surprised to hear that news, after being on six antibiotics, which virtually destroyed any and all good gut bacteria I had.

Today marks over a week of not only taking my supplements, but no wheat, soy, dairy, vinegar (yea, no wine) and sugar. It sounds completely extreme, but I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford the extra meals I’ve had to make and have the time to be at home and cook. I’ve been in the kitchen a lot. And so far, I feel good. I literally have nothing to lose (besides getting buzzed off my beloved Blue Moon with Aiellos’s pizza), so why not believe in this and give it a try? I feel less tired too, and I know it’s because I’m eating better.

I use your juicer daily, too, not knowing how that machine is still running and grinding up whole fruits and vegetables into what tastes and feels like liquid gold. I think of you every time I use it. It has to be at least ten or eleven years old.

Every other doctor or dermatologist or specialist has failed me so completely, I have honestly questioned how the whole modern medical field works. It makes me think of the bastards that missed your cancer the first time you came to your doctor, telling them you felt a lump.

By the time they actually found it, it was stage four and everyone knows what that kind of diagnosis means.

I’m not saying purely herbs and juice would’ve cure you, but maybe it could’ve complimented your treatment tremendously.

I have arrived at the point of whatever in terms of this lip peeling. It has been seven months since I’ve honestly kissed Chris while having sex and it sucks. It’s like eating pizza without the crust; it just ain’t good. But we still love each other and are still playful and fulfilled. I even dare to say we’re happier than most other married couples who can still make out with one other.

I feel like this “illness” is a literal physical blockage to where I want to go, a test to see just how serious I am about this law of attraction stuff and making changes in my life. Because if this “ask and it is given” mentality is real, I have the power to heal myself. Right?

Last month I didn’t get pregnant, of which now, I’m thankful for. I need this time to get better: to straighten out whatever imbalances are going on inside my body, in the hopes of fixing what’s going on on the outside. And while I’m sad to be putting another baby on hold for the time being, I know everything is always working out how it should.

If this lip shit didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have started to re-read my favorite books about attraction and healing and happiness and believing. And who knows, maybe this new diet will be something that will lead me to feel so fantastic by the end of the month, I won’t want to change it.

I trust this whole process. I really and truly do, for the first time since it all started back in March. I just know I’m where I should be, and even if my skin doesn’t heal, I’ll still be where I need to be, learning what I need to learn.

And one last thing….we are leaving for Maine in three sleeps!

I don’t know if I ever told you when our plans were set into motion early spring, but it’s really happening. It was a trip that seemed “too hard” for so long because of money and Everett and blah blah blah but I wanted to go, I imagined us there and wah-lah, we’re leaving this Wednesday.

Richard booked us a hotel using his literal millions of Marriott points, so we have a two bedroom, living room, full kitchen suite, where I can cook.

Papap is flying us up on his plane. I feel like such a spoiled brat saying that, but I’m going to rather say I’m proud. How awesome of an experience that’s going to be. Papap the pilot, flying us to Maine.

And Lauren, my sister-in-law, is staying at our house to watch the dog while we’re gone.

We are set. And I cannot wait to see Everett on Acadia beach, his toes in the sand, just as I have imagined since the beginning of this year.

I’ll talk with you when we get back. Send me a sign up there that you’re with us; I’ll be waiting to find it.

 

SEPTEMBER 20, 2017

Every morning, once Everett goes down for his nap, I get anxious, wanting to open my computer and write to you. I’ve come to really look forward to the time spent in this journal.

This past weekend was busy and fun, being entirely spent with family. I still feel like I’m on some kind of high from all our togetherness.

Last Friday, I took Everett on his first zoo trip. Allison and Nana tagged along and the four of us had a good time. Everett just wanted to run around, his interest more concerned in the amount of free roaming space he had, rather than the animals. He did laugh at the sea lions, though, and we got to see an elephant get her bath; it was pretty cool.

But right before we left the house for our adventure, I had set aside ten or so minutes to buy concert tickets for the Sylvan Esso show that Allison and Tatum and I had been planning to attend. It was our birthday present to Tatum.

A few weeks ago, they were $25 a piece online, and not thinking the price would change, or there would be any kind of ticket shortage, I waited to purchase them. Silly me.

Turns out, tickets had doubled in price. I immediately texted both sisters and they each flipped out on me, responding with messages like, why did you wait omg I am so mad I can’t believe this Hayley. And I knew if I didn’t cough up the extra cash to cover the costs, I would be verbally slaughtered by the two of them, teaming up on me, two against one.

When I added the tickets to my shopping cart, they disappeared. I tried over and over, entering my credit card information and address, my fingers literally shaking at the keyboard because I was so nervous and in a rush. You only have a small window of time to check out when wanted tickets are in your cart. And we had to leave for the zoo; Nana was already on her way there and I was still at the computer in only my underwear and hot rollers.

Every ticket was sold out on Ticketmaster.

Too scared to quit, I found some sketchy website that had “4%” of tickets remaining, and after securing tickets only to lose them to somebody else, I tried one more time and somehow snatched and succeeded the three I needed.

My total came to $228. Each ticket was three times its original cost. I wasn’t even going to tell Chris what I paid–I was so embarrassed to have made such an oversight mistake in procrastination.

My plan was to deposit my stashed away cash from yoga paychecks, secretly covering the charge to my debit account. But I texted him, saying the total and my jaw dropped when he responded, “No problem babes. Put it on the American Express.” I just about died. And secretly felt super turned on and proud that my husband would say such a thing.

I’m happy to report the concert was worth both the money and anxiety. Oh did we have fun! I mean fun, involving a hotel room, two uber rides, Jimmy Johns and enough laughs and petty sisterly arguments to remind me how incredibly lucky I am to have those two girls forever in my life.

We are so different but of the same stuff, literally, fitting together like peas of the same pod would, perfectly right.

And as we danced, orbiting in a triplet of twirling circles singing our hearts out, I thought how of much I absolutely love them and us and you and where we’ve been, who we’ve become and the places we’ll be going with your guidance.

It was obvious you were with us. And it’s in a way that I can’t explain on paper without sounding stupid because unless somebody has lost someone, they can’t possibly relate what it feels like to feel you from “beyond.”

When we walked into Jimmy Johns, the song Lean OnIwas playing over the speakers and Allison said, “I love this song! It is literally my favorite.” Then in the uber on the way to the concert, it was playing on our driver Sherri’s radio and Allison looked at me, dumbfounded, like how in the world am I hearing this again? 

In the morning, we went to Brugger’s Bagels before yoga to get breakfast sandwiches and coffee. While waiting in line, the same song played and with her awed mouth wide open, still painted in the night before’s red lipstick, she said, “Okay now. This is weird.” Her eyes expected me to have an answer, giving me the epitome of her “Allison look.”

It was weird. Hearing it three times made me feel like you were aware of us together. It made me stop and remember and feel grateful for my sisters and just be happy, right then and now.

I treat signs like these as reminders that I’m in the flow, I’m in my groove and I’m connected to Source Energy, where everything originated from and where you are now. love when they happen, my evidence that there is a great power always at work, the one you’re a part of.

Sorry if it’s been annoying to hear about all this energy and force and spirit stuff over and over, it’s just that I finally have a reason to keep practicing ways to raise my energy and feel better: you.

The more time I spend consciously present, the closer I feel to you.

At this point, I have totally accepted the fact that I’m always going to be one of those weird people. Dad mocks me, saying ooo the negative energy in here….and my sisters do the same thing, always making fun of the advice I try to give. And yet I’m the first person they call when shit hits the fan and some simple positive perspective is needed.

It takes a brave mind to believe differently and dare to destroy the illusions they’ve always simply been taught and told.

I have slowly become so used to feeling this way about you, knowing you’re everywhere and that there is no real reason to ever miss you (besides when I want to physically hug and kiss you, which is often), that I forget the heartache I felt all those years after you died. Nine years has given me a lot of time to heal and learn and think and come to certain understandings/beliefs.

December 7, 2011

Chris was over at Pius street the other night and we snuggled up in my little room. We hadn’t seen each other for a few consecutive days and all I honestly really remember was telling him, “I can’t believe how much I missed you.” We were having sex, something I sometimes still weirdly feel ashamed for doing and I’m twenty years old. It’s like you can always see me, even between the sheets.

“I missed you too,” was all he said back, and it felt good to know that someone sincerely missed me. The tone of his voice and the movements of his body legitimized his words. Chris is the type to show how he feels rather than say it provingly, and I’m slowly learning that there’s more meaning in actions and behaviors rather than words.

Tears formed in my eyes before we simultaneously finished, seconds after exchanging our “I miss yous” and intermingled breaths of loving sounds.

I now have a person that when I miss, they miss me back. But missing him is easy. It’s missing you that’s difficult. And I’m so fucking sick of it. 

While we laid in bed together afterwards, I stared up at the ceiling and ached, absolutely ached, to see you. I kept the stinging tears in my eyes, hidden in the dark, not wanting to admit I was crying over my mother after such an intimate moment.

I walked into your closet the other day at home, just standing there and staring, wondering how your belongings could be hanging in front of me but you’re nowhere to be found. I don’t understand, Mom. I feel like all my life I’ll somehow be searching for you, waiting to find you again. Do I really have to wait until I die to see you again? 

Three years is enough time for enough moments to miss you. I’m done. I just want to surrender and come home to you.

I think of you constantly. I wonder when I take a hot shower, if you will ever feel that sensation again. When I eat tiramisu, your favorite desert, I wonder if you’ll ever taste it again. I wonder what you think of me, every single day. I wonder what you’d think of Chris and whether you think I’ll marry him. I think of you when I’m alone, when I’m stirring cream in my coffee, and yes, even sometimes while having sex.

All my choices involve you. I always think, what would Mom do? Would Mom be proud of this? Would Mom approve? Can Mom see what I’m doing? But at the same time, no choice will ever really involve you because it simply can’t. You’re gone.

A part of my life ended when yours did, a piece I’ll never get back; of this I am certain. Everything that happens, everything that I do, has no definitive purpose or approval. I don’t have you anymore to tell me what you think of me or my choices or my schooling or my job or my relationship. 

Right now, I want that more than anything. “Just tell me what you think of me,” I silently plead.

It’s like I’m swirling in circles, waiting for the bigger part of me (you) to tell me where to go, like I’ve taken a huge breath in, way too large for me to hold in my lungs any longer. And I’m just floating at the top of this uncomfortable inhale, waiting for you to tell me to let it go. 

I want you to say, let it go sweetheart. Let it go, I am here and you will always be okay.

Some of these old journals to you are so sad to read. I hate remembering that place of not having you. The distance between you and I was a constant pang, a never-ending thought that literally shadowed everything I felt. And now, all I want is for my sisters and brother to realize you’re not gone, and that they never have to feel far away from you.

I absolutely refuse to ever again believe that you were taken away from me and our family. I refuse to feel like I can’t reach you, or that you are separated from me.

Imagining there’s no heaven, no hell below us, and above us only sky, is the most freeing thought when you’ve lost someone. I played that song at the end of my yoga class this morning and keep thinking of that frame of lyrics. (Funny how I tried all of high school and college to be “hippy,” never authentically succeeding, and now here I am trying to live by the words of John Lennon without much effort).

For so long you felt like a big brick in my pocket. I was always conscious of it, always aware of its weight and bulkiness. With time, the grief got easier to hold and molded into what I remembered you to be. I came to covet it, refusing to ever let go of that “missing you” feeling because it seemed to be all I had left of my mother.

But I don’t need to carry the grief or sadness to feel you. It’s not you. It’s not where you are. Sadness feels terrible and I won’t allow myself to wait until the day we “meet” again to put the damn brick down.

I really do think there’s only sky above us, and you and I are both a part of the power that shines its stars; it doesn’t matter that you’re dead and I’m alive.

I love you. I so absolutely love you and the knowing-feeling that you’re here with me, like while uncontrollably laughing in public with my sisters until one of us pees through her jeans.

She turns fourteen today. Make sure to give your birthday wishes, in that special secret language way you always seem to somehow manifest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER 12, 2017 SEVENTEEN months old

Summer has passed so quickly; usually the hot summer season seems to drag on and on as I anxiously await October’s arrival. 

I took an early morning walk the other day with Everett and Clifford. The air was so cool that the baby was bundled up in his blanket and I wore a sweatshirt and baseball cap, covering my wet but drying hair. I felt so cozy and relaxed. And for some reason as we strolled along, I kept singing:

Wasted away again in Margaritaville,

Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame, 

But I know, it’s my own damn fault.

*(I promise that song will be relevant later in this entry).

Everett has been a fire pistol lately. He’s still a good little boy but my oh my is he stubborn, “just like his mother,” as Chris likes to comment.

He waives hi and bye now, and will look at me saying, “ma ma,” in a soft, sweet voice. It’s so adorable. I just want to bottle him up and carry him around this size forever.

In the mornings when I do my little “get ready routine,” he’s been standing at his bedroom gate and whining for my attention. So now I just shut my bathroom door so he can’t see me from down the hall and soon after, he’ll stop his crying protest. Later I’ll find him sitting content on his bum reading The Hungry Caterpillar, having completely forgotten about the tantrum he threw minutes before.

I used to feel guilty closing the bathroom door for fifteen minutes, like who am I to hide from my child? But what mother doesn’t sometimes hide from her children? I remember you doing it all the time, in your bathroom, too. When Tatum was little, she’d hang onto the door handle and scream and you’d keep talking on the phone and doing whatever it was you did in there, ignoring her charades for attention. 

As a witnessing teenager, I’d think, Mom is so mean. Now as an experiencing mother, I think, Mom was so smart.  

And the reality is, Everett is of course fine in his bedroom. I can see him. I’m not shutting him out and saying, “See ya later dude.” He is fine and taken care of and I’m certainly not the mean mother I was always so convinced you were.

I just need moments away. I’m a priority, even as a mom.

For some reason, this has continually been a hard concept to grasp. I love my child so much that it’s easy to put him before me, all the time and without exception. Whether it’s making his lunch before I’ve had mine or not taking a shower because he’ll cry in his room, Everett always comes first.

I wipe every booger. I change every diaper. I provide every snack and meal and sippy cup and bottle. I clean all the crumbs. I guide him down the steps. I take him in and out of the car seat, in and out of the high chair, in and out of the crib, in and out of the stroller. I do it all for him, all day.

And I would never, ever want to change that. I love taking care of him and getting to play and watch him grow during our lazy afternoons together at home. I’d never want someone else always wiping his bum or making his grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s just easy to get swept away into the little world of Everett and forget about mine.

I know a lot of mothers who work office jobs would give anything to be with their children all day. So a part of me feels super spoiled and entitled to complain about such a thing, but learning that I can come first without falling under the “abandoning mother category” has not always been easy.

Sitting alone and breathing has been my go-to “me” activity. Meditating is one of those things that’s so easy, it’s hard to make a habit of, but doing it brings clarity and calm and the chance to filter through my thoughts.

The same day after our chilly morning walk, I sat on my bed by myself while Everett napped and closed my eyes. I got comfortable and slowed down my breath, counting up to five then down from five. Once I found a steady breathing rhythm, my mind wandered and eventually without thinking I said in my head, today I’ll find a sign that mom is here with me.

And I’ve learned through many trials ending in error, that I can’t wait for a sign and believe deep down it won’t come. So this time, I expected one, not caring when or how it would appear.

We were going out to Nana’s that afternoon, but on the drive there, got stuck in terrible traffic. My cell phone was being replaced, so unable to play my music, I had the radio on. The talk show host repeated to stay off the parkway at all costs, but I was already right smack in the middle of standstill chaos, cars crowded together because of an accident ahead. 

I tried my best not to get mad or frustrated. Instead I thought of how glad I was that I decided to pee before leaving the house. Or that Everett and I had our cups of water. Or that it was a nice breezy day outside, one where having the windows wound open was totally appropriate.

When I would think, how long is this going to take…I can’t even call Nana to say I’ll be late without my phone…I’d pull myself back into the moment and simply try to be where I was. Worrying or being mad wouldn’t create wings to fly me out of the traffic, so what was the point of feeling miserable?

Then the song Margaritaville came on the radio and I instantly got chills, knowing it was the sign I had asked for. I don’t know why I had been singing it during our walk that morning because I can’t remember the last time I even heard it. But there it was, playing on my never turned on radio.

The sign reminded me that mom is still here, she can still hear you, you are in the right place right now, even stuck in this traffic. I know it sounds weird, like how could that song be a sign? But I know it was because of the way it made me feel. It was like this instant sparking moment of connection.

The whole situation got me thinking about this great law of attraction example, written by the stellar author, Jen Sincero:

“You need to raise the frequency to match the vibration of the one you want to tune into. It’s like trying to listen to a certain radio station but tuning it to the wrong frequency. If you have a hot and sexy date and want to listen to 105.9FM Slow Jamz, but set the dial to 89.9FM National Public Radio, you’re not only going to be Slow Jamless, but you’re more likely to attract a discussion about immigration laws instead of attracting a relaxed and candlelit body that’s in the mood for love.”

The same is true for my emotions. If I want to feel happy, if I want to do something really big, I can’t be thinking about an impossibility or how sad my life feels because of x y and and then receive good results. I can’t say or think, I’ll never publish a book. I don’t know the process and I’m not a good enough writer, and then expect myself to accomplish my goal.

I have to get myself in the feeling place of being an author and thinking of titles and book covers and a seven city book tour with my best friend (listening to sexy Slow Jamz), not mope about where I’ll find the means to publish this journal or tell myself I can’t do such a thing (National Public Radio).  

In simple words, it’s impossible to be happy or accomplish what you really want if you’re stuck in a sucky vibrational standpoint. Both ends of the receiver must match.

I have been reading about this sort of magic, as I like to call it, since the spring before you died. The first book I read was called A New Earth and it completely changed my perspective about everything.  

Here is my absolute favorite part, still underlined and circled in pink pen: 

“Life is the dancer and you are the dance.”  

I wrote that in your eulogy, and those words truly pivoted how I viewed my world, especially when you were sick. I understood, and still understand them to mean that I can’t control what happens in my life, but I can control how I respond to situations and trust that life lives me. 

“You don’t paddle against the current, you paddle with it. And if you get good at it, you throw away the oars.”

All I have to do is go with the natural flow of life and be satisfied with the now conditions. And when I take that time to sit and breathe in my room alone, I’m allowing myself to be in the now moment, when everything and anything is always fine.

Even if the whole world around me was crumbling to pieces, I could find peace in each inhale and exhale because they are the now moment. The past and future only exist when I think about them in the now, so they’re not even really real. Does that make sense?

Why drag about the past or worry about the future when all that productively does is take away the peace to be found in the present? I know that sentence is super wordy, but think about it for a second.

It’s a lot to understand and I’m still trying to grasp it all. But I’m finally trying to bring the things these books have taught me into real life. Like journaling my appreciation lists. Or sitting for five minutes with my eyes closed while Everett naps. Or allowing myself to be in one moment at a time, not worrying about when I’ll arrive at Nana’s because traffic changed my timely plans.  

Yoga has been my guide in showing me just how powerful the now moment is and I am grateful to have found something so beneficial for my mind and body.

When you were diagnosed, without effort, I read those books and joined my girlfriends for a first yoga class, instantly becoming hooked to my local studio. It was like I was literally placed on the path to understanding what was happening in my flipped around world, all with perfect timing.

Allison and I recently went to a class together and I felt incredible during the entirety of it (that doesn’t always happen by the way). And every time I’d fold forward and tuck my little torso up and under to touch my legs, I would enjoy the sensation, hoping soon for a baby belly to be in the way.  

In final relaxation, I spaced out, catching myself getting lazy in my breath and worrying about the yoga workshop I’m teaching at the end of September. I wondered how many people would come, what kind of essential oils I’d use…all worries that didn’t exist until I brought them into the now, ruining the present chance for peace. 

When I realized I had drifted off, I started my deep breath again and within seconds, was back in that clear, non-physical and now place. I was so relaxed, I wasn’t even aware of my body.  

Without thinking, I started saying in my head, “I am strong. I am beautiful. I love my body. I love my (still peeling) lips. I love my hair.” Saying these positive affirmations lit something up inside of me and I felt like I was in a pool of liquid love. I literally don’t know how else to explain it. I can’t make this stuff up.

I started to cry because it was so beautifully overwhelming. I felt like you were hugging me, like you were all through me and all I was thinking was, oh my god mom is here this is mom she is holding me. And the moment I started thinking, this is stupid this isn’t real you’re imagining all this, it would stop. 

Because the second you stop believing, you pop the bubble and stop attracting the magic in your life. True words right there, from another favorite book I’m currently re-reading.

I think I was able to hit such an incredible state of euphoria in class because of the last entry I wrote to you. Honestly. When I first told you about the way I used to treat my body, I kept it hidden away in my computer files, telling myself the entry would only be for my book. I refused to post the entry online for friends and family to read.

And then I thought, why hide this? I’m not ashamed anymore. I have forgiven myself. What anyone thinks of my past hardships with food is their business, not mine.  

Once I put my admission into the open, it wasn’t my dirty little secret anymore. It wasn’t mine to keep and I finally released every bit of hidden shame that was buried deep down within me.

Acknowledging my past allowed me to let go of the guilt and resentment and embarrassment. When I laid on my back in that yoga class and mentally spurted out those affirmations in my head, they came out easily, without thinking and made me feel capable. It was like I finally freed myself.

Because remember, my past cannot define me now because it is no longer real. I am not that old eating disorder. I am not that once failed relationship. I am not that lost girl without her mother. Those are all my past stories, what only once defined me, and I have the power to change my story over and over again.

Hearing Margaritaville under such “coincidental” circumstances reminded me that no certain music can change the way I want to dance. If life really is the dancer, when a song comes on that doesn’t jive, all I have to do is change the music to match how I want to feel. That way I can truly allow my life to dance as big and beautiful and proudly as she wants, wildly twirling and spinning around to the natural flows we all call life.

The now moment continually gives me the permission and freedom to be the brave person I dream to be…

Mom, I think I am becoming fearless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUGUST 25, 2017

I’ve been lazily in love with myself the past few months.

Since I don’t have a reason to get ready for the day, majority of the time I stay in my pajamas with undone hair. Everett is basically the only one who sees me and today, he’s truthfully wearing a toucan print muscle tank with rocket ship pants…we don’t care what we look like around here.

But I’m starting to fall short in the confidence I was once so abundantly full of because I rarely bother with a “beauty routine” anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic being in the comfort of home with no bra, sometimes no pants and a bare clean face. But I’m creating a yucky habit out of the mom life.

So I am getting intentional, wanting to give myself the opportunity to feel beautiful in my skin because curled hair and makeup make me feel good. Just because I’m not leaving the house for a job, doesn’t mean I don’t have one worthy looking nice for.

Each morning this week, I got ready in chunks of time, separating my shower, blow drying, hot rollers, makeup and getting dressed. It’s a lot better than a straight hour in the bathroom, something no working woman or mother has the time or energy for. And honestly, I already feel better because of this “routine.”

My world has been becoming more clear because I’m paying attention to how I think, understanding that what matters most is that I FEEL GOOD. Always, without exception. If “getting pretty” helps, then I’m gonna keep making the time for it.

You set a really good example for me. I had a mother who really and truly loved herself. It was something obvious for anyone who knew you. You always got ready, and I know it was for no one other than yourself.

I used to do my hair and makeup without any clothes on, in front of the mirror. I guess I thought it was normal because you always did. But it forced me to look at my naked body and love what I saw, especially while pregnant and going through so many physical changes.

Now when I’m undressed in front of the mirror, the first thing I look at are my boobs. They’ve become deflated, like little dispirited pockets of skin, begging for the filling fat that my body simply doesn’t have. Then I look at my teeth and the ever-growing gap between the front two.

Why is it so easy to think negative things about my body but not positive? It feels weird to look in the mirror and say, “I love my hair. I love my stomach. I love my legs.” But without even thinking, I can look and say bad things.

And that’s just it–I’m not thinking. 

I’d go through my day without paying attention to what I was talking about. Words would automatically come out of my mouth, interpreting whatever it was I was experiencing. If in traffic, I’d complain. If I got bad news, I’d tell whoever listened. If someone made me mad, I’d allow them to take up my energy by talking about just how mad they made me.

Nothing should be talked about unless it makes me feel better doing so. Worrying about something is literally like praying for what I don’t want to happen and when I verbally put it in my vibration, I’m asking the Universe for more worry, more problems to talk about.

Thinking before I speak and consciously choosing what I talk about, takes practice. I still worry. I still say bad things or make comments about other people. I’m not a peaceful all love hippy with no negativity.

But I’m learning that positivity isn’t only relative to things and experiences in my life, but to myself.

Making little changes, like tidying and gratitude lists and learning to love my body yet again, have all come into existence because I’ve been aware of my thoughts. After all, it’s me inside my own head. I have power over that voice.

I know I’m not the only woman who judges what looks back at her in reflection. I’m just refusing to do it anymore. I want everyone to be able to see their good and not feel ashamed or egotistical when saying what they love about themselves.

If we aren’t in love with ourselves, how can we attract more love? How would we feel worthy enough for all the beauty the Universe can bring us?

I had times in my life when I hated my body. I had times in my life when I over exercised, tirelessly trying to fight the demons in my head that said I wasn’t thin enough. Or trying to fight the emptiness that was left after you died, treating my body like it was nothing because I quite literally felt like nothing.

I had times in my life where I didn’t keep my food down because I felt so disgusted being full. 

When I’d throw up over the toilet, I’d think, what would Mom do if she could see you right now? But that still wasn’t enough for me to stop. 

Oh god. I can’t believe I’m admitting that to you. I know you’ve known, but even for me to write it seems like I’m making up a story about myself: I cannot believe I used to treat my body in such a way. 

I can still remember how I’d hunch over the toilet and tighten my stomach, feeling the consumed food pour out of me. I can still remember how disgusting I felt…how ashamed and dirty I felt, when throw up would splash on my face. 

I knew it was wrong, I knew I needed to stop, but I never did it constantly, maybe once or twice a month. I thought it was “under control,” kept it secret, and did it sparingly when I didn’t know how else to cope with what felt like the loss of everything: my mother, my family, my boyfriend, my father, my friends. 

The worst was my freshman year in college. I was the loneliest I’d ever been. My childhood friends were no longer with me every day like they were in high school. You had been gone for just over a year, and the first shock of your loss was over. It all finally felt real. Everyone moved on with their lives, but our family couldn’t. I couldn’t. 

When I would come home from school to visit, which was almost every weekend, you weren’t there. Somehow I still expected you to be. Dad would go out and I had no idea where he was going. Terri started to be present in his life and I couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t ready. 

To deal with the emptiness within our house and family, I’d watch a movie in the basement of our vacant house and binge eat. Home was really the only place I ever did this. 

I’d eat goldfish and pretzels, mixed together in the same bowl. Then some cereal and milk. Then a bagel with ham, egg and cheese and I’d finish off with ice cream because it made for an easy exit out of my stomach. I would go up to my bedroom on the top floor and empty it all out, leaving me to feel evenly empty on the inside. I wanted that feeling. I had control over it. Because nothing else in my life was going my way. 

I just wanted you back. I wanted my family back. I was so desperate for our love and communal chaos again.

When I started consistently going to yoga, it taught me how to respect my body. I learned that my body was a temple and filling it with food and throwing up was not treating it as such. 

Yoga forced me to sit still with myself and feel your loss. It made me feel my strained relationship with Dad and the changes he was experiencing. It made me feel the loss of who I thought was my first love, the one who left me only a few months after you died. 

Yoga showed me that the past didn’t really exist anymore, and no matter how hard I fought to get back to it, I’d never get there. It showed me that dwelling on a failed relationship wouldn’t fix it. It showed me that controlling my body through eating and exercising would never control the circumstances that took you from this world. 

It taught me that I was worthy of love again and capable of giving it away.

I can proudly tell you now that I have not abused food since one night five years ago, when Chris and I got shamrock shakes at the McDonald’s drive-thru. We drank them in his car and I threw mine up in private when we got back to his parent’s house.

Afterwards, it was like everything finally clicked together, and I somehow had the strength to draw the line and stop forever. I promised never again never again as I walked back into his bedroom. And I’ve kept my promise. I would never lie to you.

Having gone through all of that, I understand how beautiful my body is. I understand that it’s flawed, but only when I choose to see those flaws. 

If I feel good about myself and choose to say, “I love you,” when I look in the mirror, more evidence will come my way saying, “Yes! You are beautiful. See?”

I just wish it was easier to understand the power we have over our own lives. Why aren’t we ever taught this? I have to read and search and journal and post positive affirmations on my refrigerator to try and constantly remind myself to think before I think. It’s like I’m trying to rewire my brain.

All this good, loving and positive energy that I’m trying to get absorbed in, begins with loving myself. It’s an essential part I’ve skipped over.

Because if you don’t love yourself, why would you care to stop abusing your body? Why would you care to get out of an unhealthy relationship? Why would you care to listen to that beautiful inner voice that knows best? Why would you care to believe you’re magic and capable of bringing whatever it is you want into your own life’s experience?

I have you to thank for the self love I’ve found–for the way you danced, the way you played, the way you dressed and the way you carried yourself.

I have my yoga practice to thank, too. It is what keeps me accountable for how I feel about myself, still to this day. It forces me to pay attention to my emotions–my important indicators that guide each response to the outside world.

But most importantly, I have me to thank for the self love I’ve found, and I’m giving myself all the credit in the world because frankly, I deserve it. I’ve secretly overcome a lot. Very few people know about what I just told you.

One of the most important things I want to teach my kids is how to love themselves. I want them to love themselves so much, that they feel powerful enough to be brave and go for whatever it is they want in this world.

I hope I have a little girl, the one who will have her mermaid room, and get the chance to teach her how to love her body. To show her, through example, what it means to be confident. It’s something you did for me, something that I cannot possibly thank you enough for.

You gave me the zest I’ve always had within me, the vibrancy that I’m now claiming back into my life.

I am a part of you and a piece of you lives on within me. How could I not love every ounce of me there is?…the me that just started trying to get pregnant!

 

 

 

 

AUGUST 14, 2017 SIXTEEN months

I had to count on my fingers from April through August to figure out exactly how many months old Everett is. At times sixteen months feels like nothing, and I’m surprised he’s only been with us for five changing seasons. I feel as if he’s existed my entire life and that Chris and I have always been married, living in our adored house together. Who was I before my family? It’s hard to imagine my world before.

For every monthly check-in entry, I know I always write to you, “Everett is so fun!” but he really is. Chris and I are constantly laughing at him–his sounds, his faces, his mannerisms. It’s incredible how much joy a child can bring to a family.

But his attitude is definitely starting to show, and little tantrums here and there are becoming more common. Today he flipped out when I laid him down for a diaper change, sniping the poop filled diaper and throwing it across the floor. We were both in trouble.

He loves to wear shoes now, a little dorky pair of water-like velcro slip-ons I bought him at Target last month. He prances around in them like an awkward little creature, looking more and more like a big boy every time they’re on his feet.

We walk out to the car together when we’re going somewhere, a process that takes a very long time, but he is so proud to open the door and walk down the front porch steps with me and those beloved shoes. Our hands are always anchored together, and we move at a pace made for snails, but I prefer it over bustling out on a mission like you used to do. You’d say, “Come on kids, lets go,” in that I mean business way of yours, rounding up your troop for the grocery store or wherever it was we were all going.

I like giving him the chance to do things on his own, especially since it makes him feel so special. Maybe someday with more kids I’ll lose that patience, but for now, I’m enjoying it.

Everett’s favorite book is The Hungry Caterpillar, the Eric Carle book I can still remember learning about in kindergarten. When we read it together, I ask him where the caterpillar is and he points to it. I love watching him understand things. He still doesn’t have much interest in talking, besides the normal babbles and sounds, but it’s nice to be able to communicate with him in our own way. It’s as if all the mornings, days and nights we’ve spent together have created a bond that doesn’t require a mutual language.

I like to think about when you and I got to spend our days like my baby and I do now. Somewhere I know I can remember it all, on a level I can’t consciously understand.

But I got the most time with you, something that sometimes makes me feel like your death should’ve been “easiest” on me. I don’t often think about this, but my recent conversation with Tatum made it a front and center thought, too obvious to ignore.

Last Monday night I decided to go to yoga. I couldn’t wait to leave the house and get into the studio. When I parked, I got the front row spot I was hoping for, making me feel like yes, I made the right choice deciding to practice tonight…I’m supposed to be here. 

But the entry door was locked and class had already started. I got the schedule mixed up, passing my chance to practice for the entire week. I was bummed.

I walked back to my car and tried my best to trust that the night would fall into place unplanned, and what do you know, it did.

Before leaving the parking lot, I glanced at my phone and there was a message from Tatum.

TATUM: i’m going through a weird phase where the fact that I won’t have mom is becoming more apparent to me and I just feel sad and idk why it’s happening now.

ME: want me to come over? i can be there in thirty minutes.

TATUM: can you just come to lay with me?

And I quickly knew class was missed because I had somewhere else to be.

I drove to Dad and Terri’s, passing the old house on my way. When I opened Tatum’s bedroom door, she was cuddled in her covers and I joined her without hesitation or pause. I could see her eyes were glossed over and red. She had been crying, hard.

Even with sad eyes, she is so beautiful and I’m not just telling you that because she’s your daughter and my sister. Her eyes and nose and skin and hair are a stunning combination, with a built body to match her beauty. Allison and I always tease that we’re pretty but Tatum is the exception–she got all the good genes there were to get.

At first she said she didn’t know what to say, but eventually the real grit of her emotions came to the surface: she explained it makes her upset how she can’t remember you–that she cries about you but doesn’t really know who’s she crying about. She knows, though, that you were her mother and she wants you.

This is an entire different way that you are grieved, one that is foreign to me. And she used that word, grief, saying it started when she was ten years old. Before then she was “too little to notice you were gone.”

While she spoke, she was laying close to me. Her hands were tucked under her face in an accidental prayer position and our heads faced each other on matching pillows. She was so mature, so matter of fact, and it became obvious to me that she’d started questioning your absence in ways she never did before.

I felt selfish, across from her with the ability to remember you. I can remember your laugh and the songs you’d sing and the annoying way you stuffed tissues up your nose when you had a head cold.

The beautiful blooming young woman who is still my baby sister, has none of that. I’d give anything to imprint some of my moments with you onto her.

But I can’t.

I can talk about you and tell stories and I can comfort her in the times she’s feeling overwhelmingly sad–the times that have for once, finally passed in my life. I’m not saying I won’t ever unravel and cry in outbursts because you’re not here, but the heavy feeling in my foundation that something is missing, has disappeared and I know it’s because of Everett and the family I’ve created with Chris.

Seeing her upset made me think about how terrible things used to be after you got sick. It made me travel back to sixteen years old, the age when my life shattered but kept continually propelling forward. I was left stuck in a world that felt standstill and forever ruined.

And while I can’t go back and tell my younger self, It’s okay, life will feel full and happy again, I can do so for Tatum. 

My siblings will always be your greatest gift to me. This past weekend, Allison was home from Ohio and she and Tatum watched Everett for a few hours while Chris and I went out to Ikea. Leaving my baby with his two aunts, knowing he’s in fun and safe hands, is one of the best feelings. He will grow up knowing their love, all intermixed and tangled up in yours.

And speaking of brothers and sisters, I am awaiting test results that will tell whether or not I am clear of infection, aka whether or not I can get pregnant. I had reoccurring staph on my lips, a possible reason why they’ve been peeling. I know, it sounds super gross.

My dermatologist was treating me wrong, and so were the several primary care doctors I saw. After seeing an Infectious Disease specialist (how scary does that sound) and a sixth round of antibiotics later, I feel like I’m finally healing. But until I absolutely know that this is something that cannot interfere with pregnancy, we can’t try for another baby.

It’s been frustrating to feel ready to try but not able. When I wrote to you back in the beginning of this year, I told you I pictured our trip up to Maine still being just Everett, Chris and I. And I’m still okay with that. If I just take a step back away from this it has to be now mentality and trust it will all work out, I know our baby, whoever he or she will be, knows the perfect timing for our family.

***

This morning started out slow and I felt low on energy. Not just tired, but I didn’t feel like being positive or grateful, the two things that help literally lift me up. I proofread the above portion of this entry, going in circles and not getting much accomplished. The writing had been done for days but I couldn’t seem to put a final cap on it. So I closed my computer, got Everett up from the nap he never took, and headed for the grocery store.

While driving, I knew I was being a crab and knew I was capable of getting myself out of the funk. A simple shift in thinking would’ve worked: I’m glad I have money to buy as many groceries as I want…Everett is in the back seat, happy as can be…my hair looks good today…my grocery list is neat and organized. I was just too stubborn to make even that bit of effort.

Spreading good through my veins is really that simple, but this morning it was like I wanted to take a rain check on happiness. No thanks Universe, I don’t feel like acknowledging any good right now. I like feeling shitty right now, just let me be.

It’s incredible to be aware when I’m gloomy, knowing I can crawl myself out, one thought at a time. All the years of my life before this understanding, I’d think my life was falling apart during these “moods” and that my misery was forever and permanent.

And then I got a text from Mrs. Hapach, and as soon as I saw her name on my phone, I knew what today was. She messages me faithfully, two days a year: your birthday and on the 14th, the day you died.

Feeling like I connected the dots, I had linked together the day and my sad energy. I mentally changed my plans and went to Chipotle before grocery shopping. Screw it, I thought. I wanted to rebel, going out of my intended errand’s order. How thrilling.

We walked in, our hands linked together, finding our place in line. I soon realized the man in front of me was your old hair stylist, someone your friend Norma had recommended to you years and years ago. He was top notch, costing a fortune for a cut and style, but that’s probably exactly why you went.

For your first appointment, you took me along with you and we both got our hair colored. I couldn’t have been older than twelve. It was raining when we left the salon and we ran to the car, trying to keep our new manes dry. You sat down in the driver’s seat and with the car still in park, checked out your hair in the mirror, oooing on and on about it.

It’s one of those simple memories that I’ll always remember. There’s nothing special about it, but we were us: the little me, learning to be like her beautiful mom. It’s a normalcy Tatum will never experience… it’s exactly what made her so upset the other night. 

I asked him, “Are you the owner of MCN salon?”

“Yes, have you ever been?” he turned around quickly to meet my gaze, happy to have a conversation in the long burrito line.

“My bridesmaids and I got our hair done there for my wedding.” He looked pleased. And I added, “My mother used to go to you years back at your old location.”

It was like I was desperate to bring you into my words and into the real world, even if just for a moment. Out of all the days in a year, today was when I needed affirmation that you once really existed. I wanted to say, You did my mom’s hair! Do you remember her? Her name was Jenifer Norris and she was so pretty and one time we got caught in the rain leaving your salon together. It was like a child’s run-on sentence, a spew of letters that carried too much excitement to make complete sense.

We kept a casual conversation up and once we got to the register, he paid for me and Everett’s lunch. I was so surprised, saying thank you several times and telling him he made my day. He friendly patted me on the back, saying it made his too.

That whole incident turned everything around. I immediately thought, that was mom, like it was an obvious acknowledgment or message to me from you saying, I’m still here. 

I don’t pretend to feel you to make myself feel better. When things like this happen, it sparks something, almost like an ah ha moment, proving to me over and over that this energy stuff is real. That on the day you left this world nine years ago, you’re no further from me now than you were before.

Thank you for the signs, thank you for the reminders. Thank you for the small coincidences that brighten my days, reminding me that there is a rhythm and synchronicity tied into all things, whether they’re of earth or of spirit.

JULY 26, 2017

Everett is my best friend. I don’t know if that’s cute or pathetic, but it’s the simple truth. He drives me frustrated out of my mind sometimes, but mostly our days are mixed together in this perfect little orbit, where we literally dance and sing and play and have lunch dates every single afternoon. Today we ate grilled cheese and my “special spiced” baked fries, double dipped in ketchup.

He can’t talk to me yet, but he’s starting to understand me more and more. When I say, “Do you want to go na nas?” he runs for the steps and heads up to his room for sleep. Or he’ll walk to the couch when he hears, “Want to watch Little Bear?” It’s his favorite show and he gets to watch a bit of it every morning while we sit together and eat muffins for breakfast. It’s evolved to be one of my favorite times of the day.

I used to hate mornings because I would wake up and start cleaning, maybe even finishing up a few dishes from the night before. I have changed the way I clean now, and this will sound like an exaggeration, but not doing chores when I first wake up has kind of changed my life.

I have finally found a healthy routine that threads the care and needs of me, Everett, Chris and even the dog and bunny, all together in a working unison.

I used to have one big cleaning day every Monday morning because this is what you always did. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember, even though I always hated it, believing one cleaning day best because “it’s what mom did.”

But I have found what it means to tidy. Ah, just that little four letter word makes me feel light: cleaning sounds like a daunting task…tidying sounds simple and fun.

Instead of taking one day, I have broken down cleaning into segments, choosing certain days for laundry, a certain day for scrubbing the bathroom, a day for grocery shopping and food prep, etc.

Chris will take Everett upstairs for his bath after we all eat dinner together, and I start my little tidy routine. I clean the dishes, pack up left overs and wipe the counters. I’ll sweep downstairs and put everything back in it’s place. I light a candle on the kitchen counter which makes me feel like, okay this space is done and ready to relax in. 

I tidy the upstairs and rinse the tub, taking a total of twenty five minutes for the entire house. It makes both my night and next morning completely better, allowing me to wake up and feel settled instead of, okay let’s go. The bigger things, like laundry, I do throughout the day so by the time Everett’s in bed, it’s all done.

When his diffuser is put on (another thing, like the candle, that makes me feel like I’m checking off an imaginary list) and he’s in his crib with his bottle (don’t you dare judge me on that), Chris and I can get our snacks and watch TV together. It’s always been our favorite thing to do–so absolutely normal and boring but it’s ours. We like Shark Tank and Dateline and shows on Amazon or HBO. Just like morning muffins with Everett, this is my time with Chris and it’s been essential in our marriage.

I finally feel like I’m not cleaning in circles, something you did constantly. Breaking things down into days has helped immensely, but the idea of getting rid of stuff  has been incredibly effective in reducing the amount of time I spend picking up.

I’ve cleared out a lot of junk over the past few weeks, taking time here and there to organize a closet or drawer and throw away seventy five perfect of what’s in it. That’s key–throwing away. I’ve been organizing junk all this time, and then two weeks later, the drawer is messy again because I never got rid of anything. I know this has to sound familiar for other mothers or just people in general.

But by having less crap–less toys, less clothes, less towels, less lotions, less everything–the less I feel disorganized and anxious. I don’t ever want to feel like my home and kids are drowning me; the epitome of a housewife’s nightmare.

I’ve read a few blogs on minimalism and then one specifically about minimalism and motherhood: The Purposeful Housewife. And when I first came across it, I thought, eh what difference does it make…I don’t care if I my house comes undone at times. But it was like an itch in the back of my mind that kept coming up, and then in one of my Law of Attraction books, the author had an entire section on getting rid of clutter and how the process can directly clear your energy. It made sense. And once I started clearing under the bathroom sink, I wanted to keep going. It felt cleansing to throw away what we didn’t use on a regular basis.

I want everything in my home to have a purpose or make me feel good when I see it, like my candles at night. Starting this cleansing process has not only made me feel more energetically clear, but it’s given me loads of free time for Everett and Chris and myself because I’m not wasting minutes picking up meaningless crap. And better yet, I don’t have to try and ignore a mess and pretend like it doesn’t bother me.

I don’t want to portray that I’m spick and span and effortlessly cleaning every day like a pixie fairy–there’s still a long way to go. My next project is our basement, the abyss of forgotten “things,” and that is going to be difficult to tackle because Chris thinks everything will eventually have a purpose.

I’m glad I’m starting to learn about this “minimalism and motherhood” duo before more children come along and before we build our home in the years to come. When we move, we will take what we need and what we use and have one dedicated storage space for the “just in case” stuff. Our kids won’t have mountains of toys that they don’t play with. That’s an important one.

I think the less they have, the more they’ll play. Like pretend. Allison and I always said that…let’s pretend we’re lost and have to find our way home or whatever fun things we could dream up together. And when birthdays and Christmas come around, I want my kids to be thankful and appreciative for their gifts, rather than simply receiving something else to add to a stack of stuff in a play room. Maybe I’ll come to bite these words later on, but maybe not.

I’ve held onto a lot of shit, all in the fear of losing you. All this time, without even consciously realizing it, I’ve been scared to clean different than you for goodness sakes. It sounds so absolutely silly and childish now, but Mom–I would’ve done anything in the world if it meant I could feel just one more inch closer to you. And cleaning on Mondays allowed me to believe that was somehow possible.

So has ignoring any possible relationship with Terri. For so long I’ve held onto that tinge of resentment towards her because I felt like I was still able to choose you and not her.

In one argument Dad and I had, I remember him telling me that when you were sick, you said you didn’t want him to re-marry. Apparently your words were: Hayley will make sure of itI almost threw up when Dad repeated that. And I’ve never been able to forget it.

Looking back, Dad may have just said that to make a point. I don’t know. But I can still feel that younger version of myself who felt special when her Mother needed her, even if it was in some sick, twisted and possibly even false request from your grave. 

Since Dad and Terri have moved into their new house, it’s been so nice to go over there. I feel like I’m at one of the beach houses we all used to go down to in North Carolina. It’s beautiful and spacious and clean and there’s a pool–Everett’s favorite.

No longer do I feel like I’m torn between your space and hers. No longer do I feel like if I’m kind to her, I’m going against you.

Nothing that I do or don’t do here on this physical planet is going to put more space between you and I because there is no separation to begin with.

As I’ve recently really been trying to follow me and become more emotionally aware, it’s coming to my attention that for nine years, I’ve held back on discovering parts of myself because I was scared to lose you.

These old habits, like being mean to Terri or trying to mother just like you, have kept me in a state of resisting who I really am and my natural well-being. I can literally feel it. I don’t know how else to explain it.

My story, for so long, was that you died tragically at an untimely time in my life, and I carried on whatever memory of you I could. Keeping a shitty attitude with Terri allowed me to remain in a feeling place of honoring you, in whatever grief-stricken way I could. Trying to mother just like you allowed me to stay in a feeling place of both remembering and being like you.

felt like you when I got frustrated cleaning the kitchen in the morning and getting my day off to a terrible start, already feeling overwhelmed by the mundane tasks ahead. I saw way too many times, you absolutely stressed because there was always so much to do.

Do you remember that time when you were driving me to my SAT tutor and you pulled the car over, screaming and crying aloud, “I can’t feel like this! I’m not supposed to feel like this! The doctor says this stress is the worst thing for me to have right now!” And you cringed as you said it, your hands gripped on the steering wheel with your chest leaning forward and over it, like you were trying to squeeze the frustration out of your little body.

I didn’t know what to say. I just felt bad. And I still feel bad because I wish there was something we all could have done to just calm you down a bit when it came to your job as a mother.

What I can do now though, is refuse to ever let myself get to that point. I strive for a much simpler life than you ever wanted: Not as big of a house. Not as many clothes. Not as many cars. Not as many kids’ sports. Not as many marked calendar days. Not as many hair appointments. Not as many any of it, besides the amount of love our family had.

And again, this is something that’s been scary to fall away from because it’s being different than my oh so perfect mother. Maybe every woman at some point in their life feels afraid to alter from their mom, I don’t know. Or maybe I just feel like this because you’re not here.

But I don’t have to try and be like you to keep you close, and there is no choosing between anything or anyone. That feels so absolutely freeing to finally understand.

For the first time in my life, I want to be different than you were, finally not afraid of admitting such a thing because no more fear remains; I know I cannot lose you, not ever or in any way.

 

 

 

JULY 6, 2017 FIFTEEN months old

One important thing I’ve learned in my life so far is that happiness should never depend on a certain condition. I should never put my well-being on hold until a better time comes, never waiting until “this” happens or “that” ends. If I constantly worry about how to get from square a to square b, I’ll miss out on my current chance for happiness.

Writing that immediately makes me think of a quote I once saved in college:

I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Mark Twain

I’ve read books before that have talked about happiness as a now kind of thing, but I never really understood that truth until recently trying to practice it.

I have mistakenly been saying, when my lips heal and I can kiss Chris, I’ll be happy again. Or when my lips heal I won’t feel miserable anymore because I won’t have any problem. When I heal, I’ll be ready for another baby. And by basically putting my life on hold, I’ve been ignoring all the good in my life–like I’ve been half awake living, just going day to day waiting for better to arrive at my doorstep.

When I feel overwhelmed or I don’t have the answers or I want to skip out and onto the next phase of my life, if I simply think of what I currently have, I’m immediately fulfilled. I’ll visually go through my day and say a small prayer of thanks for all the little things that made me feel particularly alive, like on Sunday, when I was in one room laughing with my three siblings dancing to Men in Hat’s Safety Dance.

And I’ve been getting better and better at doing this grateful thoughts stuff, slowly making healthy everyday habits because it feels so good to do so. Sometimes I write an appreciation list in my journal, or think it up mentally while driving in the car.

I know that if I concentrate on the things I already have, more can come into my life. But if I focus on lack and wanting to change because I don’t like where I currently am, I’ll never have enough and I’ll never get to where I truly want to go.

This now seems like a basic principle of my life; it’s taken me the past almost nine years to understand what now feels like such a simple Universal law.

At this morning’s 6AM yoga class, a student was talking about the thirty seventh birthday he just had, and I immediately thought, my mom was thirty-eight. This man doesn’t look old because being in your thirties isn’t old, and just like that–for the first time–I couldn’t believe how absolutely young you were when you died.

I’ve always known you got sick too soon, but my perspective is changing more and more as the people I’m surrounded with are virtually becoming your time frozen age.

If I was to die at the age of thirty-nine in thirteen years, I would make sure to do one thing: have lots of children.

Honestly, I don’t feel there’s anything else more important for me to do: not travel, not go back to school and land a high ranking career, not even writing this book. If I have my children and get the opportunity to raise them in a loving environment, one that they’ll always remember as your kids do, I will be satisfied. If I can teach them to be authentically themselves in a world that is always trying to change them, I will have done my job. And if I maintain a healthy and loving relationship with their father while doing both of those things, in my eyes, I will have led the most lush and thriving and authentic version of my life.

I know the opinion will waver from person to person, but that doesn’t matter to me. I respect my friends who are career driven, or who want to see the world during their twenties. For so long I’ve wanted to throw marriage and children at them like, “What are you waiting for! This is the best ever!” but that’s just not the case for everyone. Instead, let me feel thankful that I’ve followed my path and ended up where I’ve wanted and all the while, give my friends the love and space to do the same.

And since I’m sure on having a big family, and since I’m sure that happiness should never be put aside for things to work themselves out, I am ready for another baby.

Did ya hear me, Mom? I’m finally ready, after all the doubting and questioning and weighing of pros and cons.

The change kind of happened overnight, but the decision feels honest and true and of my gut.

I’ve been solely focusing on what negative things will happen when I get pregnant, like not being able to drink a beer, or feeling tired, or getting a big belly, etc. I’ve been focusing on how hard the change will be and how utterly scary it feels and what my memory of taking care of a newborn remembers.

A few weeks ago at the house, Chris and I had a low key party with twenty or so of our friends. Everett was up for the first hour, loving all the attention and everyone equally loved playing with him. It was nice to hear people say, you’re such a good Mom or you guys have such a nice house, because lately, I’ve been caught up in the wrong side of things.

Being online and seeing these bloggers with beautiful clean homes and expensive hip outfits makes me feel less of a mom because there are people out there with “more” than me. Or in the real world, I am a handful younger than every mom I know, and they’re in different stages of their journey, with more things figured out than me. And again, that makes me feel less.

The worst part? Because I can’t give Everett you, all this time I’ve felt like a step down from other mothers who can provide a grandma for their child. Isn’t that silly thinking?

All of these things have literally made me question if I’m equipped enough to handle another baby.

When our house was packed with friends of our age, it suddenly dawned on me that I did everything I could to get out of that young stage of my life where I still had the freedom and ability to drink until I couldn’t feel my face. It dawned on me that I have something a lot of my girlfriends are wanting and waiting for: a family.

Understanding that makes me feel ahead of the game and exactly where I’m supposed to be. My now is more than enough. And I promise myself that from this moment on, I’ll never feel belittled from other mothers and what they have because there’s a reason the saying the grass is always greener on the other side is a line everyone knows.

Focusing on what I don’t have or the things I can’t buy or what will change when we have another baby, has been shifting my energy to places it cannot possibly be powerful because I’m worrying about problems that don’t exist yet. When I worry, I’m placing myself in a moment that hasn’t happened and probably never really will.

What about thinking of how far I’ve come in the last few years and what I’ve created with Chris? What about thinking of all the clothes I already have in my closet? What about thinking of bringing another life into this world and Everett being a big brother? What about thinking about the health and wealth my family has?

No more lack. No more what ifs. No more wishing I was somewhere else. Because where I am is beautiful and abundant. No more when I heal because I am healing in my own time and I trust that my body knows what to do more than my analyzing mind that keeps trying to find an answer.

I read this at the end of Sunday’s yoga class:

If all you did was just look for things to appreciate, you would live a joyous, spectacular life. If there was nothing else that you came to understand other than just looking for things to appreciate, it’s the only tool you would ever need to predominantly hook up with who you really are. Appreciation is the magic formula you’ve been seeking.

Life feels blooming when I think of what I have first and then dream of what I want. Grasping that concept in the everyday is truly changing my life and making me more happy. And if you were still living, I know without a doubt that I would’ve never dug for these answers to questions I would’ve never had to think of.

One more thing. Everett does have you, and I can give you to him, every time he sees pictures, watches videos, or when I explain where it is that you are. I can give Everett you when I teach him your constant presence and how there is no this place or that place, no death do us part. I’ll teach him how everything is connected, and that you and I and he are all together interlaced in a way that’s so beautifully detailed, there aren’t words to quite make sense of it.

There are times I believe Everett will know you in a more special and profound way than if you were still here to babysit or be in physical person when he blows out his birthday candles each year. And it will always be my responsibility to teach him just that.

I promise you,  I will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUNE 16, 2017

I’ve been wanting to talk to you but never completed the past three or so entires I started to write. And the longer I went without finishing one, the easier it got to forget about how important these conversations with you are and how much better they make me feel.

I feel like recently I’ve been writing as if for an audience, not just to you, because I imagine people will read these words some day. But I have to understand that that time is not yet–for now, the words I write are the intimate dialogues inside my head, the musings of a Mother to her Mother. So I needn’t worry what other people will think.

A few mornings ago I opened the fridge to get an egg for Everett’s breakfast and just stood there, staring at all the food inside. My eyes scanned from one item to another, taking little screen shots as I tried to fight what felt like a breakdown coming to the surface. I crouched down in a little squat on my toes and hid behind the hinged fridge door, covering my face in my hands and trying desperately to drown how overwhelmed I felt.

My lips have been continuously peeling for the past three months. It is unbelievably painful and uncomfortable, holding me back from kissing my boys, drinking from a cup, wearing lipstick, and eating normally. I haven’t wanted to tell you about it all because it sounds silly, but I’ve met my wits end, several times now, not knowing what to do after countless creams, two rounds of steroids, two rounds of antibiotics and a lot of false hope from doctors and dermatologists.

know I can get better, even if there is no cure. I know I can. Because my health depends on me believing that. If I continue to wallow and stare in the mirror and feel sorry that I am inhibited in doing so many things, I will never heal.

If I am sick it is temporary, for it is natural that I be well.”

My mantra. It’s been on my vision board since March, but I haven’t really bothered to read it more than once every two weeks or so. Or I’ll read it, start to believe I’ll get better, and then when I don’t see results immediately, I think, why aren’t they healing? what am I doing wrong? why can’t I figure this out? And by those questions, I’m putting my energy and faith only in the negative, a situation where the positive outcome cannot possibly come through to me.

I know I cannot die from this. I know I am still in good health. And yet, it consumes me, placing doubt and fear and frustration behind virtually every thought.

Having this “condition” has left me with one question: how did you handle a stage four breast cancer diagnosis? 

Honestly. How did you handle the fear? How did you trample through the unknown of doctors and opinions and needles and chemo? How did you go on each day, knowing you may not live much longer? How did you wonder what would happen to your four babies if your sickness took over and took you away? Because I feel like I’m losing it and I’m far from having cancer.

What was it like when you lost your long blonde hair? What was it like not being able to fix it anymore, or brush it, or put it up in a ponytail? What was it like when you looked in the mirror and could see your sickness and what it was doing to your body?

I don’t know how you did it. I would guess you didn’t even know how you did it, just that you did.

I wish I could ask you all of these things.

And I often wonder now if you and I would’ve been best friends…if you’d come over to my house and we’d go shopping or out to lunch and hang out like we used to in my teenager years, except this time I wouldn’t be a miserable bundle of misunderstood hormones, causing fights and arguments with you.

It’s painful to think of not only losing a Mother, but a best friend. Probably the best friend of my life.

I’m lucky to have Allison. I cried yesterday at the fact that she lives in Ohio, and probably will remain there for a long, long time. She’s the person I call for no reason, and I’m the person she calls when something is wrong. Having a sister for a best friend is a privilege, and Tatum is no exception. Although we are twelve years apart, she’s my best friend, too. She’s fun and sure of herself, sharing her happily contagious spirit every time I’m with her.

But it is difficult not having “Mom friends,”–people who can understand the overwhelment of being trapped in a small house with a whiny toddler and no one to talk to. I was robbed of the best person to relate with, the best person for advice and comfort and HELP. I can’t stand not having someone to call on a moment’s notice.

There are people who want to be that person for me, or who consistently offer to watch Everett, but it’s not the same. A Mother is the only one you’d call after having a breakdown before breakfast time, hiding behind the fridge door while wondering what the hell is wrong with you.

I texted Grandma the day of my little melt down, and went over to her house for an afternoon visit. Aunt Sara came, too. When her kids walked in and said, “Grandma!” running up to her with expected requited hugs, I felt sucker punched in the stomach. My heart ached, knowing Everett will never run to you like that.

Sara invited me to a little friend dinner that night, and I decided to go. I was the youngest of the group, but I usually am in social situations. All five of us were Mothers, and it was a relief to hear grumbles about their husbands and children. I felt normal. And I felt thankful when Sara would make a reference to when her and I were little, growing up together nine years apart, and telling the group stories about you and our family, saying, “Oh that was so Jen.”

She’s like a big sister and a best friend, someone who understands every question, scenario and complaint when it comes to marriage and children. I’m lucky to have that, and Sara is family, so she’s never going anywhere.

Everett completely skipped his afternoon nap today. He cried for awhile, off and on, and I had the impulse to look at his mouth. Sure enough, there was another little tooth beginning to pop up on his gum’s surface. When I rubbed it gently, he cried even harder, so I gave him some Tylenol and we laid together. When the medicine started working, I could hear him doing his bird chirps and the day seemed to be saved, just with no second nap.

To kill time, I talked on the phone with Jessie, who was making her seven hour drive down to Kentucky. She’s moving down there and starting a life with her boyfriend, something she has wanted for such a long time but school and work and locations have kept them in a long distance relationship. I’m sure she is so relieved the wait is over and I’m happy she’s headed in the direction she wants. Maybe she’ll be my first best friend to turn Mom friend.

I made dinner, we all ate, Everett took his bath, we played together in his room, and then I left the house and drove out to get Tatum. I really wanted to be with her.

We decided to go for ice cream, but beforehand, stopped at the old house to give a proper goodbye. I don’t know if I told you yet, but Dad and Terri have been moved into the new house for a few weeks now. The old house goes on the market soon.

Tatum and I entered through the garage, which was open and bare and empty. But it’s just a garage, so it didn’t necessarily look wrong, just different. The inside of the house, though–it looked so wrong, as if the whole thing might as well been flipped upside down.

As soon as I opened the back door, I made a right turn and walked straight into the dining room, seeing the naked floral carpet and your custom curtains and the chandelier you and I picked out together. I stood there, stared, and burst into tears, the kind of tears that make your mouth curl into a stiff position and force your whole face to go contorted.

I saw us all sitting in that room as a family, having one of our annual Valentine’s Day dinners. I saw us hunting for Easter eggs, tip toeing carefully because that was the fancy untouched room of the house. I saw the spot where you used to keep everything for special occasions, like painted plates, embroidered table cloths and taper candles, kept safely in a cabinet of furniture that was once great Grandma Jenny’s.

And from there I walked into the entryway, seeing the ten foot tall front door you loved, arched at the top and made of solid stained oak. I pictured all the times us kids stood in front of it, taking pictures on the first day of school and waiting for the bus. Or all the times the doorbell rang and Tanner would bark simultaneously at whosever visiting car was in the driveway. It was the entrance to our home, and never again will I walk through or out of it.

The family room was empty of the couches and entertainment set. All that remained was clean carpet with fresh vacuum marks and the brick fireplace. I remembered all the annual December mornings we had in that familiar space, the wood fire crackling as Johnny Cash sang, we’ve got that Christmasy feeling’ again. Wrapping paper would cover every inch of the now bare floor, and we were all full of love and health and the promise that everything would always remain as it was.

I walked upstairs and went into your laundry room. I stood there with my head gently leaned against the door frame, and imagined you still there, in front of the open dryer, folding clothes into neatly assorted piles.

My room looked like a barren box, with no evidence of the sleepovers I shared in there or all the times I danced in front of my dresser mirror singing to my radio, joyous and free as could be. I opened my hinged closet doors, savoring the sound they made as the left and right sides swung open simultaneously, and remembered picking outfits for school from an abundant selection, quadruple the size of what I currently have now.

I saved your room for last. I stood at the doorway and uncontrollably slowly whined the words, “Tatum I can’t,” but she walked in ahead of me so I followed. I saw the spot where the bed once was, where you and I laid so many nights, watching t.v. and drinking tea together; the bed you’d be sleeping in every morning when I’d come in at 6:30 a.m. and kiss you good bye before school; the bed we were all beside when you took your last breath.

I cried in your bathroom and your closet, seeing you with a white towel wrapped around your head, getting ready in front of the vanity mirror. The linen closet door still faintly smelled like your Mary Kay suntan lotion and I literally stood there and sniffed the white wired shelves, trying desperately to bring you back again in some way. I even slammed the two doors together one last time, remembering the sound they made all those times I walked in on you naked, followed by your screaming.

Tatum went downstairs without saying anything, and I sat in the middle of your empty bedroom, knees bent with my arms wrapped around my shins. I cried continually and when I could, simply said, “I love you Mom.” I felt fine after that, like my peace had been made and my goodbye had been said. That space was yet another reminder of you I’ve had to part with, like your clothes and your car and the fading memory of your face, but relief flooded my veins once I got it over with and walked out of your room.

It felt like the last thing crossed of “the list of letting go.”

I met Tatum in the basement, where I caught her with bright red eyes and water welled up inside them. She was in the au pair room, reminded of the five girls who helped raise her after you were gone. That girl has had to say more goodbyes than any thirteen year old should know, but she’s so strong because of it.

Once she was ready to head upstairs, we locked the house and left, taking a walk down by the creek to see it one last time.

We got a picture together in front of the house, our eyes red and puffy but our hearts content after the chance of one last farewell in remembrance.

Dairy Queen was fun. We ate our ice cream while sitting in the car and it started to rain. We got back to the new house and I snuggled in her bed while she turned on her decorative twinkle lights and lit a candle. She loves her new room. We watched the movie Red Eye until I got so tired I had to drive home.

When her and I were up in the attic of the old house, I found a stack of folded papers I had hidden up there when it became my finished bedroom. Some of them were pages to a romance book I started to write in ninth grade, and the other is a set of poems, which I figured had to be from after you died. They were assignments from school, but I cannot remember writing them.

I can soak up your presence in the wind

As the trees sing in unison with the breeze,

I know you’re watching over me.

I can feel your comforting arms around holding me,

Reassuring problems that only seem to be.

I will overcome the void that has been left

In my heart, memories I know will be kept.

I know it’s cheesy, but when I read through the little bits and pieces such as the one above, I’m reminded at how hard I tried to make sense of your sickness. After you died, I wrote so much. I read so much. I journaled so much. I tried many physical activities. I studied certain subjects. I did “safe” drugs. I moved across the ocean for half a year, and it was all in search of you.

I did everything I possibly could to bring you closer to me, and I’m thankful I had the healthy journey to where I am now. All the books I read, all the journal entires I wrote, all the yoga I’ve done and the runs I once ran, all the places I’ve traveled, all the philosophy assignments, all the fun mind altering experiences, all the people I’ve loved: it has all been a part of you. You’ve been a piece of everything, in a way I cannot possibly explain with a keyboard.

You were the force behind all of my so called “soul searching,” and instead of going off the deep end when things got difficult, I turned to you, my own personal guiding God.

And that’s more than having you as a best friend to call when things get hard. It’s something that makes me more aware of my life, as if you can see what I see and relay to me the beauty I should be noticing and appreciating. You’re my stable reassurance that all is always okay, even if my lips are peeling off my frickin’ face, because you allow for perspective: It’s not cancer. I still have my hair. I still have my health.

I honestly don’t know if I would change it all, Mom. I’ve come to depend on you in the form you’re in now, just as much as I once depended on you when you were physically here. If you were to magically come back to life again, I’d have to go through an entirely new adjustment period, realizing that, yes I could call you, but my all-knowing angel would forever be gone.

I can let go of everything, including the house, but not the permanent protector and guide you’ve become in my life.

 

JUNE 1, 2017 (almost) FOURTEEN months old

Chris and I celebrated our two year wedding anniversary last week and my best friend Kati got married. I was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, and the night was so fun and an absolute success. It was nostalgic being with my childhood best friends and their families, all dancing to I wanna put on, my my my my my boggie shoes, in-between spilled sips of beer and wine on the hot and crowded dance floor.

I loved seeing parents from my past but still present friendships, and telling them about my husband and baby boy. And when Kati and her husband danced together on the dance floor during the last song of the night, all encircled by family and friends watching them with that new hope in their eyes, I silently wished my best friend all the joy and good change the two of them could ever hope for.

Mr. Summers was so calm, clear and deliberate in his words during the Father of the Bride speech. And it got me thinking about Dad’s speech at my wedding. And our father/daughter dance together, to John Mayer’s Daughters, and how the three minutes of our waltz seemed to sum up all our past problems and discomforts and grudges and erase them.

Somewhere in our sorrow, him and I fell away from each other for a long time, filling our distance with fights and misunderstandings of each other’s lives. I tried so desperately to hold onto you, while he tried just as desperately to let go.

I resented him for moving on so quickly. I was mad if he would’t talk about you. I hated him for not asking about my plans, where I was going, when I’d be home–the things you would’ve been on my case about. And I couldn’t stand that he was so angry all the time.

When he danced with me that night, I was reminded for the first time since we lost you, that I was his little girl and he loved me and always would.

Hayley,

I hope that you and Chirs had a lot of fun in Maine on your honeymoon. I wanted to write you a letter that you could open when you got back with some of my feelings and emotions.

I wanted to tell you again how proud I was when I turned the corner and saw my beautiful and amazing daughter standing on the front sidewalk waiting for me. While I was walking you down through the yard and the song you chose was playing, I had a rush of memories from when you were a little girl flashing in my head. Like I said in my text message, it was a magical experience. Everything I had done as a parent was all for that one moment.

The entire wedding was perfect from start to finish. If it were half the amount of people it would not have been the same. If it was at a venue, it would not have been the same. It was meant to be what it was and where it was. It was your vision manifested.

While I was emotional at times, I was not sad. I know this sounds strange but I felt like there was a dome of happiness and love over us. I know your Mom’s energy was there running through everyone. She wants us to be happy and to love and that is the best way to respect what she gave us all.

When Pinja and Cole were announced into the tent together with the bridal party, that was an emotional moment. I thought about after the the tragedy we all faced and how hard it was, and that now I was able to beam with pride because it all worked out and the au pair I chose for help became your close friend. I was emotional walking Terri to her seat, thinking how profound she has been in my life and how she and Nana are so close or the fact that I may have self-destructed years ago if I didn’t have her love and support. 

When “Dreams” played right after the ceremony was over, I thought of you as a little girl on my lap listening to the Cranberries. Also how when we danced together to John Mayer, you looked up at me and said, “I feel like I’m floating.” 

So many people were happy, laughing and dancing and having a great time. A number of them said it was the most fun they ever had at a wedding. All of the vendors were wonderful, and Veronica asked how she could marry into our family.

It was all worth it.

Have fun creating your life with Chris now. It’s not easy but everything worth anything never is.

I love you,

Dad.

The day Chris and I got back from our honeymoon, I got that letter in a mailed envelope from Dad. It was the first thing I ever saw written with my new married name.

Both the wedding and the letter changed a lot between Dad and I. It unified that we felt the same way; we both loved one another, and our past relationship could finally be put behind. And the wedding validated to him, me and everyone else who was there, that you were still with us all. Like he said, you could feel it. 

Chris and I have been together for six years now, two of them married. That seems like a long time loving only one man. What do the people who make it to their fiftieth anniversary feel like?

Earlier today I read through the journal I kept from the fall of 2011, when he and I were in full swing of our dating.

October 23, 2011

The time that Chris and I have had so far, in this little space of a few months, has been wonderful. I can’t complain about one thing. I used to say he didn’t show enough emotion, but he does–the perfect amount of it. I think he just had to get warmed up to me. And I still haven’t gotten over attracted I am to him. He’s embarrassed he has a hairy chest, but guess what? I always liked a hairy man–it’s manly.

He’s made a few jokes/slight hints about being married and when I really imagine it, I can see him being the kind of man I want as a husband. Especially when I think of his Dad and mine and the kind of men they are.

Him and I went on a date last night to Burgatory and in the morning, cuddled after I slept through my alarm to take a yoga class. Then we met in the afternoon to see Tatum at cheerleading, and we sat with Dad, Terri, Grandma and Papap. On the drive home, I cried right before the Squirel Hill tunnel, singing to the song Sweet Disposition. I was so incredibly happy and the turning trees overtook me with beauty and promising change. I wondered how everything in my life could be so wonderful, because it really and truly is.

Coincidentally, the song I was singing in my car was Sweet Disposition, the song Dad walked me through the yard, or “down the aisle,” to. I’ve always gotten good goosebumps when I hear it.

I read journal entries like the one above and am able to be taken back to when we were “kids.”  I know you probably think, you still are kids, but we aren’t.

We are adults, with a house, a dog and a baby and a thriving life.

I’ve come to just expect this thriving life because every woman in our family, including you, has stayed at home with children and been married to a good, kind and successful man. That wonderful family dynamic is all I’ve known (which is a priviledge in itself), so the fact that I have it, doesn’t seem so unusual or special until I take the time to appreciate it all.

Like staying at home. I know I’ve told you many times already, but I love being with Everett all day. I honor it. And what a privilege to get to do so because of a husband who works so hard. A husband who has learned to keep his work and his family life separate, and loves us all with the softest parts of his big manly heart.

I am so lucky. I am so thankful. I am where I am supposed to be.

Life has been good and the days seem to be blending together. I have to check my calendar when writing the date because I can’t keep track. And recently, I haven’t been thinking about you much, like I’m so concentrated in Everett, I don’t even have time to miss you. He is into everything. I must say “no” two hundred times a day, and I know anyone whose ever had children knows exactly what I mean.

Little Everett is loving his fourteenth month of life. He’s happy and free and funny and oh so loved.

I always go into his room at night, right before he falls asleep. He lays on his belly while I rub his back and talk to him, thanking him for being a good boy that day and telling him how much I love him. While he lays there and listens, he looks up at me from the side of his face like I’m the best person ever–like I’m his entire world. And when I look back at him, I get sucked into an oblivion of loving my child and feel proud that he’s mine.

When he laughs, it’s so full and pure, like the most untainted form of joy, for he still only knows love, not a thing of hate or pain or loss. His laughing is my best medicine; those deep little buddha belly chuckles are contagious.

Chris taught him how to “pound it”, a little fist pump in the air. When you ask Everett to do it, his eyes light up and when he successfully contacts your fist, you would think he conquered learning how to fly. He’s so proud to make us proud.

I keep bringing it up to you a lot, and I’m sorry if I seem to be overthinking it, but I cannot stop thinking about a second pregnancy and when. 

I constantly question: when’s the best time? Should we spread kids out or get them “done” with? How old do I want to be when I get pregnant again? How old do I want to be when we have our last child? What kind of age gap do I want between Everett and the next baby? How far apart are Allison and I? How did Mom know she was ready for a second?

I bring up a second baby often in conversations, subconsciously hoping to find my answer through someone else’s experience or opinion, as if they have the ability to persuade me into pregnancy. But I know ultimately it’s no one’s decision besides mine.

I was a $200 deposit away from buying a puppy this past weekend. For an entire month, I’ve been convincing myself that another dog would be the answer to my boredom. I think I wanted to prove that I could take on more work and responsibility, just not in the form of a baby. That is obviously very stupid thinking.

So instead of a puppy purchase, we ordered a king mattress. Chris slyly worked his ways, successfully convincing me another animal was a bad idea for many reasons, and that a new bed was the more logical option. I know he’s right, but I hate when he is.

Cheers to that man for always keeping me upright and sane. Happy two years to us.