Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Crazy things you find in housewares

Saturday's are usually for hanging out together. But I have found that if I sit around too long my anxiety gets the best of me, and I have to find something to do. I mean, there are thousands of things I should be doing. Like laundry, or mow the grass. The backyard looks like I'm growing a jungle instead of just normal grass.  But Again its a million percent humidity and 97 degrees outside.  I think I will stick to procrastinating inside a little longer.  With my restlessness getting the best of me, I decided that if I was not going to mow the grass, and I really didn't want to do laundry, then that left cleaning the kitchen. Ugh!  This is another task on my "I hate to do list" pretty much all house work falls into this category. Probably because I know that the instant it is clean, someone will come along and mess it all up again. 
*Sigh* the joys of motherhood.  

I decided that the best way to attack this dreaded task was with music. Usually when I finally bite the bullet and do housework I blast music from my speaker, only to have a child come downstairs and ruin it by turning on the TV. I figured that if I was going to tune out the world with my earbuds in, the least I could do, was to let people know. That way there would be less attitude from my teens when they tried and get my attention. Ya know, like what we parents try to do when we need our kids attention?  But, we can't get their attention, because they have both earbuds in.  Which really annoys me to no end, because now, I have to stop what I was doing, take my irritated sass up the stairs, and into their rooms to find out why for the love of God, they cannot respond to me??  Yeah. I would know NOTHING about this frustration. 
So, back to the task at hand. Dishes. Grabbing the large towel that is by the sink I set it on the floor under the cabinet. No the towel is not to stand on. Its because every time I do the dishes water gets all over the floor. Why? because there is no lip on the counter and water goes trickling down the cabinet and onto the floor.  I usually step in said water and (I am so graceful) proceed to slip and slide on the tile. Just another reason why I LOVE to do the dishes. (Note the sarcasm)   
 Now that everything is set, I turn on the hot water, open the dishwasher and start dish tetris.   Picking up the bowl on top I proceed to scrub vigorously at the stain on the side of the bowl. As, I was scrubbing I thought to myself, why did I still have this bowl? That stain had been there the last time I tried to scrub it out. With a sigh I set it off to the side and picked up the steel colander instead. While rinsing it out my mind wandered to a conversation with my middle child about said item. My friend had gotten a new set of nesting colanders and asked me if I wanted the set she no longer needed. I said that yes, I would love them. Peter, (middle child) stood next to me during this conversation and asked me if I planned to get rid of the other set we had. At first I thought, of course I would. Then I thought, well... maybe.. 

When I first moved in with Pete, I didn't really have much in regards to kitchen ware.  I had a set of dishes but that was really about it.  He had a full kitchen, so we just used his. When we got married we got new everyday dishes, and china. Most people don't even use register for china anymore. Honestly I think we used  the china twice. It was more for display. Not that we displayed it well. Most people put in a glass cabinet with tiny spotlights.  We had a total of 5 place settings, but only displayed one, in a dark mahogany china cabinet. Granted the doors were glass, but with the wood being so dark, you couldn't really see it all that well.
 Pete was way more domestic than me. In fact I was more domestically challenged.  Pete was an engineer. Everything organized and in its place. Unlike me, I had a squirrel kitchen.  A little of this, a little of that, and nothing went together.  In his kitchen all of his mixing bowls came from Pampered Chef and they nested together for the most efficient use of space.  He had everything. All the silverware, mixing utensils, glasses, knife block, ceramic dishes with matching glass lid for cooking and potlucks. And of course those ceramic baking dishes all nested as well. He even had a tiny hot chocolate Wisk.  Not only did he have all of the kitchenware one could possibly need, but he also loved to cook.  In fact he once made this fabulous queso that he put in one of those ceramic dishes and took it to work for a company pitch in. He even put his name on the bottom of it, in permanent marker. That way wouldn't get lost.  If it was me, I would have forgotten about the dish. Therefore leaving it in the breakroom fridge until things inside turned blue. But, luckily Pete wasn't a squirrel when it came to cooking.  Sadly his name is no longer on the bottom of the baking dish.  Apparently permanent marker isn't permanent.   On a side note,  those ceramic baking dishes are practically indestructible. *Sigh* They just don't make things like they used to. (insert wistful grandma voice here) 

With my hands covered in dish soap I reached for the bowl with the stain and tried to scrub it again.  After too much scrubbing I realized that stain wasn't going to come out, I rinsed it off and put it in the dishwasher.  I looked at that bowl that was nested next to the one colander that I couldn't part with, and wondered why was it so hard to get rid of those things? They were scratched up, and some of the holes on the colander were cracked.  I thought maybe it was because I could remember him cooking with them.  I mulled it over some more as I continued to scrub another bowl with cheese stuck to it.  Then it dawned on me (and no, not dawn soap) It was proof. I kept them because it was proof that he was here. That at one point in my life, he and I had a life together.  But Why would my mind need proof? 
I stopped what I was doing and raced upstairs to write down my epiphany.  As I waited for my computer to turn on, I thought back to when I was deep in grief.  So much of being a widow is grieving the loss.  The loss of life. The loss of what could have been, the loss of man he was, the process of how he died. The struggle to get out of bed, the struggle to keep going. Everything is about trying to just move forward. Focus on going forward. Focus on how to make the best of it. There is nothing about the life and the living. Because in all actuality those memories are too hard to feel in those moments. Especially when I was drowning in so much sorrow that it choked me.    But in this moment, 20 years later, those crazy, stained, cracked, scratched, broken in places, bowls, and baking dishes, are proof that he lived.  Proof that he was more than just his death.
Pete taught me to cook. He taught me to wrap presents, he showed me the joy of family, of life. It wasn't the stuff. It was him. It was the life we created.
 We had joy, we had love, we had kids, we had laughter, we had fights over the dumbest stuff. We had sleepless nights, and worries about money, and bickering about those dang spots on the silverware. We had road trips, endless conversations, we had tears and misunderstandings. So often I have wondered if it really happened?  For many, many, years I have wanted so badly for those happier memories back.  The memories that trauma took due to self preservation. And in these moments some of them came forward. I remembered a piece of our life, and not just from a picture and a foggy memory, or half a story that someone once told me.   A piece that I didn't know I needed until that moment. Those housewares were a part of him and he was a part of me.  Most of my life up until that time with him, had been spent feeling like I didn't belong anywhere. But with him, I belonged. Just like those bowls that nested together. 
Technically I could give away those old bowls and get new ones, since I now have the memories. But for me, it wouldn't be the same. It wouldn't taste the same. I had to work through a lot of bad recipes to find the good ones. The recipes that were long forgotten.  Ingredients went into those bowls but joy and love came out of them.  This reminds me of one of Pete's favorite songs that I had forgotten about until just this moment.  Its a song by Harry Connick Jr. called Recipe for love. I remember the first time I heard that song. We were cooking dinner in his tiny kitchen of his apartment.  He sang along with the words and danced around like a goofball. He was always doing stuff like that..  Maybe that's why I like to sing when I cook. 

I went into this task hating it. But, I came out of it with a new perspective. Which is just like grieving. I hated it. But I became stronger because of it. I didn't know that part of my recipe for life would include such tragedy. However that made the recipe so much sweeter when I learned what it meant to find joy again.   I may not ever be a domestic goddess but I do know that sometimes it takes the right ingredients for the recipe to come together.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Crazy Living


I woke up this morning after hitting my alarm a handful of times I was having a dream that I had to explain a math equation about mean, median, and mode. Which is super odd since math and I are not friends. But maybe it was my way of trying to figure out things that didn't add up.  Like the fact that I had to get my calculator out to figure out how many years Pete and I would have been married today. 19 years?! Wait? That can't be right? I decided that maybe I should go off my age instead. I was 25 when we got married and now I am 43. 18 years.... huh. I guess that makes sense then. But, 19 years! How can that be?  I thought to myself as I was making coffee, 19 years, is like what ones parents talk about being married. Not me? Really? I'm old enough to have been married 19 years?   Which brings us back to math. Even with a calculator, some things just don't compute. 

After getting the kids to school, I pondered what I should do with my day. I realized a nap was what I needed first and then more coffee. After my nap, I went in search of my wedding album. Why I do this to myself? I don't know. But for whatever reason, it felt important. So, I took a picture of some pictures with my phone, put the wedding album back where it was, and proceeded to make coffee. While sitting in my chair I scrolled through those pictures from my phone. I stopped on one in particular and looked at how young I was. How young Pete was. And, I thought to myself. What would I tell her? What would I tell 25 year old me? Unfortunately, I didn't have a response. 

As I went about my day, I kept coming back to this question. I even asked my networking group "What would they tell their 25 year old self, if they could?" Someone said they would tell themselves to relax. Another person said they would tell themselves that it would be ok. That when a crisis happens it would be ok in the end. Mostly people just laughed about how that was such a long time ago and we all sighed at the memory. But, I was still no closer to figuring out what I would tell her.

After multiple errands, traffic, endless red lights, and picking up the kids from school, I decided I would sit down again to ask myself again. I kept putting myself in that day and wanting to look at it with new eyes. If I could do the day again what would I say? I decided that I should have had the reception recorded. I had the wedding recorded but decided against the reception, thinking that it wasn't really worth it. While now, I wish we did. It's more footage of his life. More moments that he lived and how much fun we had. I think I also would have eaten more cake. Because lets be honest, who doesn't love good wedding cake?! I was thinking that if I had pulled aside 25 year old me and told her to hold on a little tighter, would I have listened to myself? Maybe?

Would I tell myself that people aren't who they seem? Would I tell myself to speak my truth sooner? Would I tell myself to make him go to the dr sooner? Would I tell myself to be afraid of the future? No, I don't think I would. I think in the end all I would really tell myself is that "You did the best that you could and that was enough."  Even though I lost friendships, family, people who I thought cared for me, but mostly I lost my biggest companion, and eventually I lost a part of myself too. She is buried right beside him. But, I wouldn't tell her that part. 

However, I think anyone who goes through loss, tragedy, trauma, crisis, loses themselves in order to find themselves. Because really, why wouldn't I? Everything changed. Nothing stayed the same. Overnight I became an only parent. I was both mom and dad. I was no longer a unit. I worked and slept parenthood. I lost my identity, I lost my song, I lost my smile, I survived for my three shooting stars, since last piece of Pete lived in the three of them. I don't think that is something that 25 year old me could have even comprehended. She needed those years with Pete to pave the way for what was to come. She needed Pete's love to show her what a good marriage and what a good husband was. 25 year old me needed carefree living. Go to work, go to school. Learn to cook, learn to take care of a house. Become a mother, play with babies, lack of sleep, love her husband, plan family vacations, balance date night, I needed to live. And While a lot of that living is lost in trauma brain, I know it happened. Just like Pete. He happened. He lived. Its because of that blissful day 19 years ago today that he and I became a we. 

I guess if I could tell 25 year old me anything it would be that we lived. I might tell her to laugh a little more and not take herself so seriously. And also don't be afraid of her magical gifts. I would tell her that she is strong and courageous. That big things happen in her life but she does just fine. Her children are amazing and she definitely wont be bored. I would tell her that Pete changed her life for the better, that he would always have her back, he would hold her hand when it was hard, he would give quiet encouragement, and he will without a doubt always love her. Plus, I would tell her that by the time she reaches the ripe age of 43, her magical adventure is just beginning. 

Here's to you Roo Roo. Your earthly time will always feel too short but I am grateful you spent your time with me. We had a blast! Cheers!

                            April 26, 2003          April 26, 2022

Sunday, February 20, 2022

A Crazy Purple Bus...

 Grief is forever changing. Just when I think I have it figured out, Bam! Its back. I don't know if its a *healing* thing? or if its just the nature of grief. 

I was feeling overwhelmed as I was planning what the heck I was going to do with my day. I have a million things I should be doing. I should be organizing, and I should be laundering. And yet, I just wanted to sleep. Actually what I really wanted to do was go on a trip in my mind. I wanted to visit my old life. 

I pondered this question for a few moments. Being an intuitive, I figured ya know? I could probably really do this. So I closed my eyes and I pictured the living room of my old house. With the rug on the floor and the big couch with the fluffy cushions. This should have been an easy to do. Considering I lived in that house for almost 20 years. But... it wasn't.  I couldn't see the living room like it was when Pete was alive. I took a deep breath, and tried again. It was like being a part of one of those flip books with the pictures in the corners. I could see it for a second and then it flipped back to how it was after he died. I could hold onto the carpet and the toys all over the living room, then blink.. And I was back to the dark hardwood floor with the brown rug. What the hell? Thanks trauma brain. 

The memory I wanted was Pete and I sitting on the couch on a Sunday afternoon watching football. However, it wasn't just football he would watch. No, no. He would switch between football and auto racing. It used to drive me a little batty. (I know what you're thinking.. that I was already batty. Ha!)  I wanted to sit on that couch with him and lie my head in his lap as the white noise of the crowd from the game or race filled the background. I would usually fall asleep to that sound. But it was the best nap. No anxiety over what I should have been doing. No kids yet to drag me away, just the two of us, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon.  But, I couldn't get my brain or my memory to pull it forward long enough to have a conversation with him. It was only a glimpse.  I can see it, and I can hear it, but its off a little bit. I see the couch but with the hardwood floors not carpet. I see the Tv cabinet and the Tv is on. But the coffee table isn't the same, and the color of the walls are different. 

This is the part of healing that makes me want to run around yelling. I have done the work. I have been terrified, I have been scared out of my mind, but I have held it together. I have done the prolonged exposure (PE therapy) I have put my timeline back together. I mean I have one blank spot but other than that, most of it is back together. I have some missing memories when it comes to my youngest and those first few months of his life, well and even some years of the other two as well. But that's besides the point. The point was, I did the stuff that was supposed to help move the memories to the part of the brain that could digest the information. I created the roads in the construction areas where there was no road. All in hopes that healing my brain, my memories of my life with him, would come back. But, they haven't. At least, not like I thought they would. I can remember, but I can't. I can see it clearly but not clear enough. I don't want a snippet I want the whole thing. I don't know, maybe I don't need the whole thing. But I want the whole thing. 

Its in these peeks from the past that I think to myself. What the heck was the point? I did all that work. I cried, I raged, (ya know, I don't do anything half way.)  I begged and I spent a lot of time being mad that Pete left me here. In all actuality its not like he could have taken me with him or that he could have made his body work. He had to go, and I had to stay. But that didn't make it any easier to get through. It was me that had to tell the kids, it was me that had to face the fear, it was me that had to do the internal work to come out on the other side.  Like everything else along the way, I have learned to take a step back and see the whole picture. And really that's a big, cloudy, mud splattered, tear streaked window, to look through.  In reality the glimpse of clarity is better than the big fuzzy blobs roaming around my memories.    

Yet, I still find myself asking my brain, what about the memory, the whole memory of us on the couch?  To which I answer I guess its like getting on the bus that takes you from the carport parking lot to the airplane terminal. its only a snippet of life. Which reminds me of the story about the cab driver who picks up an elderly woman to take her to hospice. She asks the cab driver to take the most scenic route to her destination. Along the way she talks to the driver while she points out the house she was born in, the school she graduated from, the restaurant her husband took her to on their first date. The church they got married in, the hospital where she had her children, and the cemetery where her husband was buried.  Its no wonder that being a widow at the ripe age of 30 I often felt like I was an old woman. And like her, I had lived my life. ( or so I thought) It was a good life, but so short too.  At the time I didn't know anyone my age who had dealt with this type of grief, except for my grandmother, and she was 87. I used to tell people I was 107 and that I looked pretty good for being 107. However my grandmother was the beginning of my journey of healing.  I will forever be grateful to her for the things she taught me. 

At the end of the day, I could choose to let my loss, trauma, and heartbreak, make me bitter. I could choose to be mad at the world for the crazy shit they said to me, for the way they treated me, and for some of the ways they were sure I would fail.  I could choose to stay angry at Pete and at God. Hell, I could choose to be irate at my brain for processing things the way it has. Or I could choose to be grateful for the life I had with him. the joy of watching him be a dad and the way he delighted in being a family together.  I can choose to thank my brain for the work that its done to heal. I can choose to thank my heart for the way it has sewn itself back together. Even though there is a jagged scar down the middle. I choose to be grateful for life that has come from that healing. For me, I choose to be joyful in the glimpse of that memory even if it has taken 10 years to remember it.

 So instead of waiting until I am an actual old woman riding in that cab. I choose to get in my own purple colored bus with red sparkles. (Because everyone needs one, and its my bus) I will walk to the giant plush chair onboard, sit down, grab a cup of coffee that's waiting for me and look out my window. As the driver starts the bus I will watch out my magical window and marvel at the glimpses that come in. Brief moments in time. bubbles in the air as we drove in that yellow mustang, a bite of cake.  Sidewalk chalk drawings that Pete drew for the kids, a two tone truck in the driveway, a ruby on my necklace, earrings that he made me, a sketch imprinted in rock. I sigh and hold onto Hope, that someday I will have more than just a moment. I will have the whole Crazy memories, of life.