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How did you grow up so fast…

To my son
Tomorrow you will be starting a new journey in your life, your Senior year of high school.  It’s a very exciting day and, yet a bit of a sad day for me.  I know it sounds crazy but my emotions are as high as the day you started kindergarten as I can’t believe you have grown up so fast. I’m so proud of the man that you are and are still becoming.
You have been the most precious and wonderful gift I ever received.  As your mom, I will always love you unconditionally.  You make me catch my breath sometimes because of the amazing son that you are. (And yes, even in the not so amazing moments, too) I am so proud of the choices you have made, the advice that you have asked for, and the ability to talk about your feelings.  These traits, I hope, will be very valuable for you beyond high school. 
I’m thankful that you have encountered all kinds of experiences and people in high school.  Some of those people will remain lifelong friends and some just acquaintances that you will reminisce with at future class reunions.  I have one wish for you, enjoy them all.  Don’t judge the book by the cover.  Don’t let the pressures of your peers make your decisions on who a person is or isn’t.  Get to know them and make that decision for yourself.  People just may surprise you.
Don’t be afraid.  Explore the opportunities that will enable your light to continue to shine.  Continue to try to make good choices.  If you however make a poor choice, I will still love you just as much. I will always be here.  I will always listen and help you when you want my help. There will be moments that will define you.  Define your character. Define the man you will continue to grow into. Choose wisely. 
At the end of the day, you will always be my baby.  No matter how grown up you get, how you have started shaving, or how you have surpassed me in height and shoe size.
I will always watch you sleeping and see your beautiful, innocent face.
I will always get a tear in my eye when you struggle with a problem.
And I will always, no matter what, be here for you.
I am so ridiculously proud of you and love watching you continue on your journey.
Go take on the world, my baby, and have an amazing Senior year! 

the funeral is over. so now what?

I’ve been saying to myself over and over again that life goes on.  Yes, it’s true, life does go on after you have lost a loved one but how it goes on is never truly the same.

Death brings people together that maybe haven’t seen each other in years.  We all come together to honor, celebrate, mourn, and remember our loved one.  We share our stories, we laugh, we cry, we hug, we comfort.   But what happens when the funeral is over?  We all go back to life.   We all go back to work.  We all go back to school or being a mom or a dad.    People go back to their usual “life before the loss” and so must you.  But if you have experienced anything like I have seen in the last month of my life, is your life really the usual?

Yes, life does go on for you too, but hand in hand, so does your grief.  Your sense of loss doesn’t go away because you have to get the kids ready for school or you have to finish the perfect report for the 8am meeting.

The ceremony may be over.  The public honoring of one’s life might be through.  But are you over your grief and act like you always did? Has life really gone on?  When you lose a loved one, you feel the need to move on but you also don’t want to let go.  It’s as if letting go and moving on with life is forgetting what just happened.  Are you callous?  Do you not care?  How can you go back to work?  In fact for that matter, how can you even get out of bed?

Then there are those people around you, sometimes even close friends, who act like you should be back to normal.  Like the event never even happened.  You sometimes just want to shake them and say, I am not normal yet!  My grief hasn’t stopped.  In fact, I’m not sure if I can ever make it stop.  Just because I am forcing a smile on my face doesn’t mean I’m okay.  I’m not sure I will ever be okay again.

While I agree that on many levels getting back to a routine can be good for you, at the same time, I have come to the conclusion that you may never again act like you did before.  And certainly not right away.   You can put on a happy face and deal with life but how could anyone ever know that hidden under that mask of “back to reality” are the tears and sorrow that are so hard to shake.  And the overwhelming feeling of loss hits you when you least expect it.  Your “normal” life is anything but normal. It’s different. It’s unknown.  And it can change at any given moment…on any single day.  I have found a fragility that I have never known before.  It’s the old “look at me cross-eyed and I might break into tears” type of fragility. It is anything but normal.

So you are now faced with a seemingly monumental task of figuring out…what is the new normal in your life.

After my brother passed away the end of June this year, I struggled with my new normal.  My life went on.  My work was my safe haven and my son was my new hero.   They both saved me from what I’m sure could have turned into a serious depression.  For the most part, it was normal at work, back to business.  My mind could focus on what I needed to do. It occupied my thoughts so I could actually feel a bit normal.  I had coworkers who needed me and this is what helped me get out of bed the mornings following.  And then there was my son.  Well, let’s face it; I still had to be a mom.  I still had to do laundry, grocery shop, and get ready for a new school year.  He needed me to still be his mom and this kept me sane during the times I was with him.  We shared stories, we looked at pictures, but we also looked to the future, together.  We talked about vacations, getting a new driver’s license, our birthdays coming up.  We made plans.  One day, I gotta remember to tell him, you saved my spirit.  One day, I’ll tell him.

But then… there were those moments when I was alone. And that normal was definitely new.

No, I didn’t see my brother every day but we were the type of siblings in which we didn’t need to see each other to keep our bond tight. 061 We did however have the every two weeks phone calls.  Both of us had always been a wake up at the crack of dawn kind of person so it was a perfect time in the quiet of the early morning hours to catch up.  Pouring a cup of coffee, sitting on my patio, and just talking to him.  Hearing about his work and travels.  Catching him up on my work.  Sharing the latest stories about our children and families.  Asking me about my love life.  Sharing my adventures of a single girl.  He wasn’t just my big brother during those calls; he was one of my best friends.

They were the best phone calls.  Saying anything yet sometimes saying nothing at all.  Crying, laughing or venting if we needed to.  But plain and simple, it was about just listening.  Listening to each other.  Asking about each other and truly hearing and caring.  The best memory of those calls I will always cherish is the way he said goodbye.  At the end of every phone call he would say “hahaha…bye…hahaha”.  He was always chuckling or laughing in some silly way when he said it.  His laugh was contagious and it would make me smile and shake my head every time we hung up.  It wasn’t a goodbye… it was a happy “bye” and I’ll catch you later.

So I am learning to find a new way of normal during the time that those phone calls would happen.  I am figuring out how I can still have those talks.  And rightfully so, like every other moment in my life when I needed to let out my emotions, I turn to a pen and paper or now a keyboard.  I fill the pages with all the things I would want to tell him.  How my son is doing in school, the latest single girl escapades, and how much I miss hearing his voice.  I laugh.  I cry.  I smile.  I believe he is listening.

If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one, you too may be struggling with your new normal.  Talk to someone, express how you feel, find your creative outlet, get out a pen and paper, splash some color on a canvas, do whatever it is to get you though this hump.  And you too will get through it.  It takes some time and it takes some work.  While lying in bed and hiding from the world may feel good sometimes, and believe me I have been there in these past few weeks, tell yourself to get out of bed and make every effort you can to find your new normal.

So while I have learned that part of my new normal is missing those calls and those byes, I now pour my coffee, sit on my patio, talk out loud to the redbird on my fence, and write.  And I know he is listening.  I know he is smiling.  And I know he is still with me.  And when I’m done, I can close my eyes and just for a moment, in that quiet little moment of the early morning hours, I can almost hear that good- bye.

recognize the signs

The redbird sat in the yard and just listened. He looked into my eyes and listened. I believed with every fiber of my being that it was him. There was no other explanation.

Just a few hours before, he had gone to the heavens. I thought I would never see my brother again. And yet, as I sat in his backyard and talked to him, he came back to me. Right in front of me in fact. He swooped down into the grass and listened as I spilled my soul.

Some things can be circumstance. And then there are other moments in which you cannot find rhyme or reason as to why they happen. Again chalk it up to circumstance however I believe that if you are open to looking at the signs, noticing the world around you, even in the worst of moments, beautiful signs come to you.

My brother was the first love of my life. Twelve years older, he always had time for his little sister, as a child and as an adult. We were siblings but we were more than that, we were friends. Yes, I can admit in a way I idolized him. In my eyes, he was bigger than life. He was a child at heart. We just clicked. We got each other. We could say anything to each other. Eat shit, fuck off, you’re a nut, and love you were not uncommon in our conversations. I could be exactly who I was with him. No masks. Just us. Maybe it was because we were so much alike in our stubborn nature, our childlike behavior, and numerous other reasons… but the bottom line is, we just got each other.

When I received a call that he was taken to the hospital, i jumped in the car and proceeded to talk to whoever may be listening out there in the universe while driving. You can’t have him. I need him. I yelled at him to fight. Don’t leave me. But arriving at the hospital and being met by his daughters in the parking lot, it only took one look at them and I knew, they had lost him, and so did I.

I had experienced grief before but nothing like this. Both our parents had passed away within the last eight years. No loss is the same and no grief is the same. I was prepared for each of my parents’ death. They had been ill and you prepare yourself for what you know in your gut is going to happen. I was not prepared for this. A piece of my heart was torn off and no one is ever ready for that.

I wanted one more talk. I wanted him to know that no one could ever take his place. I asked him what in the world am I going to do without him in my life.

And then he showed up. At 9:30 at night, in his backyard, he flew down and listened.

Some may think it’s crazy. And they may be right. I acknowledge the fact that yes there are birds everywhere. But I have grown to notice the signs. I have grown to accept the possibilities. I have grown to not only open my eyes to the signs but also my heart.

For out of the blue, this beautiful redbird sat in the grass, just feet from me, and listened. His ruffled feathers said it all. He had just gone through the fight of his life and he was here to tell me it’s going to be okay. I looked into his eyes and said,” really, you’re coming back to me as a redbird?” While my eyes were filled with tears, my heart was filling with hope. Hope that now that I had this sign, I could know that he was still going to be with me.

So while this may in fact be crazy, the facts are that for days following his passing, a redbird found its way into my world. In my backyard sitting on the fence. On the side of a busy city street downtown. Outside my office, hovering in front of my third floor window. My friends sending me cards and texts with redbirds and they never knew this story. And with each and every sighting, the pain in my heart is slowly fading a bit. The sadness slowly being replaced with a smile when he appears.

Circumstance? Could be. A sign? Absolutely. Open your heart and your eyes to the world around you. Don’t wait to recognize the signs because they are right there in front of you.

 

at peace with my light

At Peace.  It was the perfect paint color.   It was exactly how I felt inside.  My mask had been pulled down.  I could look myself in the mirror and for the first time in a long time, I saw me.  It was powerful and dammit it felt good. With each stroke of the brush, the color truly touched me and was covering the white walls of my soul.

at peace

There are people who only knew me as someone’s wife, a boy’s mom, a woman’s daughter.  But there were these special few who cut through those titles and knew I was not only those things but more.

singer, cook, dreamer, perfectionist, own worst critic, the secret writer

All things that had been swept under the rug for another day…

a day when I had time

a day when my responsibilities didn’t get in the way

a day when I wasn’t doing anything

slowly, over time, they had been locked so far inside that I wondered if I would ever have them again

i was losing myself

it wasn’t me

I had assumed a mask of who I thought I was supposed to be.  I had conformed to what society said I should be doing. I had a family.  The careless days of wonder were in the past.  I was to be a responsible adult.  Parent teacher conferences, basketball games on Saturday were the regimen.   I would pour all my creative juices into being those things.  There was only one problem with that…it wasn’t all of me.  The mask I was wearing fit me but there was so much more behind it.

But what happened to the other things I loved?  I was told once I didn’t have any hobbies.  Maybe that was because all the things I loved to do were neatly packed away in a box on my closet shelf, because the things I loved to do were not viewed as worthwhile.  Why would you ever want to paint, you aren’t good, you can’t draw.  What do you think you will ever get out of writing?  No one will ever read it so what’s the point?  Sadly, I had begun to believe this and focused on the things that “mattered” in life and forgot about the passionate things that were part of living.  It is hard to hide your true self.  Your authentic self has trouble being tucked away.  Eventually, there will come a day when it wants to be set free and live again.

One day, it took over me.  I decided that I was going to find myself…again.  So cliché.  But, little by little I was going to open up a small wrapped present of the world that I loved and give it to myself.  Each time the wrapping paper fell off to the floor, I felt a tiny bit of me unveiling.

A paintbrush

Words on paper

Color on the walls

With the mask coming down and revealing our true selves can be scary.  What if people don’t like this “me”?  What if people don’t remember that this is really who I am?  Is okay to reveal?  Will they understand there is more to me than what they have seen?  Can they possibly understand that you can be both?  Find one person who knows your authentic self.  A longtime friend, a coworker, a new acquaintance that makes you see yourself.  It’s not always easy and it doesn’t happen overnight.  But when you have people around you who believe in you, the real you, it is truly magical.  It took a woman almost half my age to make me realize it’s okay to be me.

She is real without a doubt.  She knows her “self” and is comfortable revealing it.  She’s quirky, strange, brilliant, funny and beautiful…and I love her for all of it.    It’s funny to think that 30 years ago when I looked into her eyes as a baby, that my niece would help me find myself.  She has opened my eyes to new adventures.  She has inspired me to be involved.  Whether she realizes it or not, she has inspired me to be me.  She has accepted me to be me.

I was once that kind of woman.  I was invincible too.  She takes on the world and sees how much it has to offer and wants to experience it all.  Her spirit engulfs the adventure no matter what the adventure may be. She has inspired me to be that woman again.  To show the world the mask I was born with and not hide my light.

So I challenge you.  Take a look in the mirror and see if what you are seeing is reflecting the right image.  Does your mask match your spirit?  Does your light shine? If you can’t answer that question, ask someone who loves you.  Someone who loves the real you.

That’s Not My Ann

#ThinkKit day 3:  Deck the LOL’s.  Let’s loosen up: share a side-splitting story from the last year. What made you laugh out loud until tears formed? What made you giggle every time it was referenced? Whether it’s a story, an image, a video – we want to hear about the banana peel on the floor, your best practical joke, or gems from the mind of a three-year-old. Whether it’s sassy, sarcastic, or just plain silly: make us laugh!

Let me start my LOL by stating that I am a 6’ blonde with enormous curly hair. And most importantly, I wear 4-5” heels pretty much all the time.   A very important piece of info to fully appreciate the hilarity of this story.

Background: I am blessed to have a wonderful friendship between a beautiful girlfriend and her husband, my T&V Show which I am merely a co-star. They have been rocks for me since becoming single again and I consider them family…a sister and a brother, both from other mothers.  The husband,  V is about 6’7’ and his lovely wife…much shorter than both of us on a typical Friday night.  We have somewhat of a ritual on the weekends that when my son is with his father, the three of us enjoy dinner and some cocktails together.  Some nights we are joined by other friends, other nights, it’s just the three of us.  We catch up. Share stories of our week and laugh A LOT.

The LOL: Earlier this past Summer, we enjoyed a great dinner with friends and of course, not wanting the evening to end, we went to a local establishment to have a “couple” cocktails.  We all danced, drank and were merry.  During the latter part of the evening, V and I began a very serious and somewhat emotional conversation about my relationship state which is single.  I sat on a stool at the bar and he stood next to me.  Sweetly, he was asking me about how life was treating me. Reassuring me that yes, dating was not easy but when I was ready to let someone in, it would happen.  He touched my heart with his kindness.  We talked and talked.  And he listened.  I began to get a bit teary-eyed.  He was so sweet to care that much.  It truly touched my heart.

Well, we were both well past a “couple” cocktails.  Funny how conversations seem to turn extra serious at the wee hours of the evening.  You know that time…the time when you probably should have said no, but find that you just agreed to a shot of fireball.

As I dried the tear from the corner of my eye, V suddenly  turned to his wife and said “Let’s go”.  He walked over to her and they both began to walk out.  I rose from my barstool and followed.  She was our DD and was my ride home as well.

As we were walking out of the establishment, V turned to his VERY SOBER wife and said, “Hey, who was that b*@^h ?   She’s following us.”

The lovely wife and friend says, “Honey, that is Ann”.

My friend and brother then says “No, I said who was that b*@^h that I was just talking to?”

Again, the lovely wife says, “HONEY, that was ANN!!!!”

“Noooooooo, that is not my Ann!  That b*@^h is short.  MY Ann is tall.  MY ANN is THIS TALL.  (making hand gesture showing my true height with my 5 “ heels on. )

“Honey, honey, listen to me, THAT IS ANN!!!”

My brother from another mother turns to see me following them in the parking lot to the car, a light bulb went on and he says…”HEEEEEEYYYYYYY, giiirrrrlllll…..there’s my girl.  Now this is my Ann.”

Ready for the LOL? Did you catch it?

While we were talking at the bar, I was sitting on a barstool.  Instead of being eye to eye as usual, my head was only chest high.  Thus, at that moment, I truly was not his Ann.  I was a short stranger…a b*@^h telling him all about my life. I was not 6’5” Ann.  I was a drunk, short bitch that he was done with.

I tell you, I cry every time I re-tell this story.  Not sure it truly conveys in words the hilarity of the entire event but as I sit here and write it down…i am snorting with laughter.

Flip the Script on Change

#ThinkKIt Day 2:  “What did you change your mind about this year? Was it a big deal – the way you feel about an issue? Or something small – maybe you learned to like Brussels sprouts? What was the moment or series of moments that changed how you felt? How did your friends or family react? Have you uttered the phrase, “I’ll never change my mind!” since then?”

Change is inevitable in life:  the seasons, your mood, your hair color, your flight status, your relationship status.  Seldom is there a day when “change” does not occur.  So why is it that we struggle with accepting change?

I’m a Libra.  I am at the center core of my being supposed to be…a hater of change.  I stand for compromise, finding the middle ground.  Peace and Love.  Don’t rock the boat if the boat is not taking on water.  But what if that really isn’t the center core of your being?  What if, let’s say, you sacrifice your true self for the sake of avoiding change?  Is it better to push against change than to actually examine the possibilities of what may come from it?

What is it about change that is so scary?

Let’s face it.  Change gets a bad rap.  There is more times than not, a negative connotation is associated to the word.  The mere phrase, “We are making a change” can start a panic.  Noooooo, not a change!  So, I come back to the question posed today, what did I change my mind about this year?  My opinion of change.  I have learned that change can be freeing.  Change can be intriguing.  Change can be fun.  And change can ultimately be a beautiful thing.

Change has brought me back to writing.  Change has provoked me to pick up a paintbrush and pretend I can paint like Jackson Pollock.  Change has allowed me to grow in my career and learn something new about myself.  Every. Single. Day. Change can bring in new friends.  Change has allowed me to be once again open to a new relationship.  Change has made me realize that it’s okay to take off my mask and let people see the real me.  Once you fully open yourself up to the idea of change, wrap your arms around it and embrace it, you find that change is not all that scary at all.

rose

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”  ~Anais Nin

 

An Unexpected Encounter of Unrestrained Happiness

#ThinkKit Day 1:  “Share your year in photos. Was there a moment of unrestrained happiness? An unexpected encounter? Dig into the deeper meaning of a moment frozen in time.”

To start the year off, this guy joined the family.

269

Seriously… How can you look at this face and not have a happy heart?  He was definitely unexpected.  He showed up on a friend’s Facebook page one day and my heart melted.  I knew he was meant to become a member of the family.  He had been a stray, out in the elements of last winter.  I knew he was something special that he survived through our horrendous weather in February.  He was all of twenty-eight pounds.  Had been starving for food and attention.

There is some wildly cosmic joy that one gets when you bond with a pet.  They are the epitome of unconditional love.  They talk to you, play with you, walk with you and listen to you (well most times).  Above all else, they love you.

We already had Coco Chanel, a beautiful German Shepherd/Lab mix rescue from the Indianapolis Humane Society.  She is everything her name implies..a sweet little diva who just happens to be ninety-two pounds.  She is our baby.  And spoiled rotten of course.

Was she going to be as excited to meet this little face as I was?  Was she ready to share her spot at the foot of the bed at night?  It isn’t exactly that she rules the roost, er, well, let’s just say that if the two four legged friends weren’t going to be friends, I had to stop obsessing on his pictures!  I arranged a meet & greet.  Yes, it was a “playdate” for dogs.  Before I let one more ounce of love brew in my heart for this little guy, I had to be sure that Coco would be up for it as well.

I had explained to my son on the ride to meet the little bear that we were NOT bringing this dog home today.  We would see if he got along with everyone and then make the decision to make him a permanent member of the fam. My son said okay.  Deep down, we were both lying to ourselves but neither would admit it.

My son and I arrived and actually asked Coco if she was ready to meet a new friend.  For those dog owners out there, you know what I’m talking about.  A conversation with your dog..saving this topic for another post later.

We walked up the front walk and were greeted by my friend and this amazing little spirit.  The dogs’ eyes met.  Intrigue in their eyes.  Who is this??  A friend?  I don’t know this dog!  As we closed the gap between the two, it was becoming ever so evident that they wanted to meet.  Nose to nose.  Eyes to eyes.  Then it happened…tails began wagging.  Sniffing faces. Licking snouts.  Coco’s eyes looked up at me.  I think at that moment, she too, fell in love.

Needless to say, after some playtime in the backyard, Bongo (the little bear) came home with us that day.   That same afternoon, they had their first nap together. 177

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love.  For me, they are the role model for being alive” ~ ~Gilda Radner