My New Stages of Grief

For most people, a new year begins on Jan 1st and ends on Dec 31st. For me, A new year begins on April 20th and ends on April 19th. I’m not sure if it will be like that for the rest of my life, but for now, that is the date that etched it’s way into my being as the most significant of my life. 

I cuddled up next to him, crying on his shoulder, counting the beats of his heart and the seconds between breaths. When there was nothing more to count, my life was permanently changed. The glory of heaven took his breath away and the grace of grief took mine. I thought I knew about grieving, I watched my 65 year old mom take her last breath just a few short years earlier. But this was different. When Mike took his last breath, I was no longer whole, but a part of a person who would now walk with a limp, the kind of limp that people can’t necessarily see on the outside, but that’s what happens when you feel like your body has been severed in two with no hope of the missing parts returning to you. Sure, I have hope of heaven and that ONE DAY I will be reunited. But frankly, that’s not what has gotten me through this year. If you ever tell someone, “At least he’s with Jesus.” I’ll come and punch you in the face! (oops – there’s that anger I never knew existed) Okay, I won’t really do that. But it’s a stupid thing to tell someone. There is no, “AT LEAST” when a spouse dies. Hey, I’m the biggest, “at least” person there is. I love finding the positive in every situation. But when someone is grieving, you need to let them find their positive. It may take a very long time. 

Time. It changes when you lose a loved one. It is no longer that we have a 24 hour day. Seconds. The last breath count was 30 seconds. Then … no more. A half of a minute. From one breath, to another breath, to heaven. Then time stood still. Time no longer makes sense to me. I’m driving in my car and can look over and almost feel him holding my hand, as if it was just a moment ago. But it’s been a year. I can think the grief is subsiding, because you know, it’s been 361 days. I can almost grasp the idea of a day is like a thousand years to the Lord. Was it His grief for a fallen world that makes time seem so messed up? I feel that, a minute is like a day. A year is like … 30 seconds. I’m sitting in the same room where he died. I can look over at my bed and see him … missing from him. There are times it feels like he could walk out of the bathroom and just begin talking to me. And other times, I can’t reach out and grasp anything. 

Falling. My feet are sometimes unsteady. I’ve fallen to the ground a couple of times, simply too weak of spirit to take another step. And sometimes everything in my being is what keeps me from falling. One day I went up for prayer in church. I remember speaking the words, “My husband died a few months ago.” Then nothing else. Not one more word would come out of my mouth. I’ve always been so strong. People will tell you, “Terri is so strong!” It’s like I’m a superhero! And I stand there, shaking, willing my body to stand and speak. And I say nothing. And my legs give out. So I sit on the floor in the front of church, tears running down my cheeks with such a rapid pace, I feel baptized. There is absolutely nothing I can do at that moment to move. I feel sorry for the person who has to pray for me. She doesn’t know what to say. Or maybe she does.

Silence. A hand on my shoulder in silence brings comfort. Silence is deafening sometimes. And at other times, it is peace. I don’t remember longing for silence until this year. I don’t know what it is about the silence. But it’s healing. And it hurts. Sometimes I just long for a moment of silence…two…three. I used to hate silence. I don’t have a theory about this. Or maybe I do. Perhaps in the silence … I can hear the breath of God. And I want that! The breath of God reminds me that I’m alive and still have a purpose. Sometimes I think my sole purpose for this year … was me.

Self. I simply had nothing to give anyone this year. It really was all about me. And I got to a place where I was okay with that. I started doing things that ministered to me, not just things that were fun, but that truly ministered to me. And sometimes I did things that distracted me from being. The biggest thing I learned about my self this year was that tending to my self was not selfish. It was vital. There’s a joke about people trying to find themselves. Someone will invariably say, “Why? Is she lost?”

Lost. I always choose a positive theme for the year. But all the positive themes for this year will be overshadowed by feeling lost. I described it one day as feeling like someone has put me in a maze, turned off all the lights, and barricaded all the exits. For the life of me, I could not find my way. I slogged through one day, into the next. One 30 second time into the next 30 seconds of time. I wanted to know my future. I wanted to know that the steps I was taking were positive forward motion steps. I wanted to know where I was headed. But I couldn’t know, because I had grief. And grief does not walk the same kind of steps I’ve always walked in my life. About six months into my “new” year, I changed my word to Forward! It didn’t help. I was lost in a fog.

Fog. Have you ever been driving on a clear day and suddenly you drive into heavy fog? You don’t really know it’s coming and then one minute, you’re in it, slamming on your breaks because you don’t know what is ahead of you. You can’t see anything! There you go. Welcome to my life! But here’s the other part of that fog. I lived in an area of CA for awhile that I would wake up and the whole area would have fog. We could see in this fog. We could go about our business. There was an oppressive feeling about it. But we could still do stuff, carry on. After a few days, it almost would feel like life was normal, even though the earth was covered with this fog. And then one day, the fog would lift and the sun would be shining brightly. This too, is how it happened with my grief. I was carrying on, doing business, walking again. And then, the fog lifted. And my heart sang. And my legs danced. And I twirled. And then a few weeks would pass, and the fog would return. I hate the fog. I like to sing. I like to dance. And I love to twirl!

Dance. It’s hard to dance with a limp. But it’s not impossible. One night on a perfectly clear evening. It was midnight at my favorite place. I went there to try to transcend time. I often will find Mike Memories waiting by the fountain for me. And I’ll sit by the fountain, listening to the silence in my heart. Tears will flow freely there. A Mike Memory flooded me. It’s almost like he whispered to me, “The thing I loved the most about you Terri, was your free spirit. Remember our first date here? You leaped around the edge of the fountain. You ran to the pond, with shoes in hand. You skipped with me in the street.” And so I did again…limping all along the way.

I’m finding my way through this crap called grief. I’ve said bad words that I’ve rarely said before. Sometimes this very non-grumpy person gets very grumpy. I’ve been surprised by anger. Very surprised and very angry. I seem to have little tolerance sometimes. And I’ve learned … about Grace.

 

The Kitchen Debacle

Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

I think kitchens are for experimenting and restaurants are for food. My friend, Whitney Pannell had posted this lovely appetizer of fresh cherry tomatoes rolled in goat cheese and pistachios. Looked so amazing!

I bought the ingredients. I had never used goat cheese and didn’t even know where to find it in the store. I know – so sad. And the cherry tomatoes were not fresh and kind of grape sized. I didn’t know how I was going to roll the tomatoes in the goat cheese. I had this brilliant idea – okay, John had the brilliant idea, to put the goat cheese into the magic bullet to make it more smooth. I had the not-so-brilliant idea of adding the pistachios to create a blend of ingredients. Turn on the bullet and … a little ball forms. That’s all.

Ten minutes later I’m scraping the sides trying to get every little bit out. Do you know how expensive goat cheese is? I didn’t want to waste any. I still hadn’t figured out how I was going to manage to coat the tomatoes, which I had already cut in half.

I decided to stick the goat cheese and pistachio mix into a bowl and toss the tomatoes into the mix. I tested one. It was okay. Just okay. Then I decided that maybe I would broil it for a little bit. I took a small cookie sheet, lined with foil (because I HATE to do dishes) and put a smidge of olive oil on the foil. I then put the tomato mixture onto the pan and spread it out so it was only one tomato in thickness.

We had some chicken bits from a chicken carcass that was sitting on the counter. While I was at the store, I was checking out, when this delightful aroma wafted into my nasal passage. I succombed and purchased the gargantuan garlic and olive oil roasted chicken, still hot. Oh my goodness! It was devoured by the boys (and me) fairly quickly, but the carcass still had some pieces on it and was being saved (I’m not sure who is saving it) Hmm…maybe I’ll put it in a stock pot with some water and make a soup? (Could I really do that?)

There was a reason I brought up the chicken. I sprinkled a few of the bits on top of the tomato, goat cheese, pistachio mixture before putting it in the oven to broil for a few minutes. Since I was there and had to wait anyway, I washed a few dishes. I know – so weird.

After a few minutes I removed the pan. Put the mixture into a bowl, added a little seasoning and some himalayan salt. I took a bite. Hmm? Was it good? I took another bite. And another. I hadn’t even been hungry. I was just experimenting in the kitchen. But before I knew it, I had eaten almost the entire thing. I actually think it was probably even good for me. And so easy! I’ll definitely make this again. Oh wait, if I make it again, then it would be called cooking not experimenting. I’ll guess I’ll just have to enjoy the memory.

Sorry there aren’t any pictures from my real kitchen. My kids think it’s weird that when I happen to venture into the kitchen I always take pictures. So…no pictures…. this time.

Comfort Stuff

It's been a rough couple of days


It’s been a rough couple of days

 

We’ve all heard and experienced the joy of comfort foods. My favorite comfort food is a coke from McDonald’s. I know – pitiful! And highly caloric. Comfort foods are rarely low cal and good for you. I have yet to reach for a broccoli spear when in need of serious comfort. Another comfort drink is a latte from Starbucks. I don’t know what it is about it, but when I hold it in my hand, something happens to me. I get all warm and cozy inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE Magazine

Today was a pretty rough day, so I decided to read one of my favorite magazines. I don’t generally sit down and read magazines much anymore. Actually, I wonder if I ever did that, but I do have a little stack of them in a magazine holder in my bathroom. There are only two magazines that I read, Success and MORE. I stumbled on the article Where I Find Comfort in a Scary World by Mira Bartok because I felt like the magazine was smaller than it used to be so I went to the back page to see how many pages were in the magazine. Only 102. 144 pages in a previous MORE. Hmm? Well, since I was on page 102, I may as well read it, I thought to myself. So I read it. It was about the small things that bring us comfort. I found it interesting since I have a list of “my favorite things” which are simply things that I have that give me joy, bring me comfort, or simply things that make me smile.

 

 

 

Bryan's Bear

 

My “go to” comfort thing is a bear that I’ve dubbed, “Bryan’s Bear.” A friend gave it to me when I was in the hospital after nearly losing my life and the life of my son. I adore this bear. It’s soft and just so dang adorable. It has a prominent place on a bookshelf in my bedroom. Whenever I am feeling anything other than comforted, this bear reminds me that God is a God of miracles. He did a miracle in my life and the life of Bryan too. How can whatever I’m going through compare to that? This little bear speaks volumes to me about the Love of God when I look at it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Mom

Also on that same shelf is a figurine that an online friend gave me about thirteen years ago. We knew each other from Crosswalk chat. She met up with me at one of my speaking engagements in Illinois and presented me with this gift. There are times in my life when I feel like a complete and utter failure. But when I look at this figurine, it reminds me that those are just feelings, and are far from the reality of my life. This figurine boosts my spirits whenever I’m feeling like I’m just totally messing up my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flameless Candle

For Christmas, my friends Tamara and John (mostly Tamara) gave me a set of four flameless candles. I never thought I would love a set of battery operated anything. But I love these! They have a slight vanilla scent and a flickering light that goes on every night at 7:00 and off at midnight. Mike was the one who discovered the timer that when set would make them go on all by themselves every night. I love walking into my dark room to see the flicker of the candles. It makes me feel like Mike is still with me, going before me, to bless my life. Next to one of the candles is a little old-fashioned looking suitcase and an eiffel tower that Tamara also gave me recently. Thanks to Tamara, Eiffel towers have started having a place in my room. My granddaughter Jordyn likes to pick up the Eiffel tower and go on a tower hunt to find all of them she can find. And the suitcase reminds me that life is a journey. If I’m not happy where I am at the moment, all I have to do is keep moving down the road.

 

 

 

cozy throw

 

Another gift from Tamara is high on my comfort list. This throw is the softest most delicious feeling blanket I’ve ever had. Sometimes I’ll just hold onto it while I watch a movie. I can’t even tell you how many times that blanket has dried tears from my eyes. I can cover myself with it. I can wrap it around myself. I can hold it in my arms. This is a seriously multifaceted comfort item.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fearless

 

My fearless necklace is one of the few comfort items that I bought for myself – $20 bucks or so. Fearless was the word I chose as my word for this year. Little did I know that I would be dealing with all of the fears of losing my husband, being alone, running a business, providing for my family, etc. Perhaps that prayer to God to show me a word that will bless me through the year was answered in one giant word – FEARLESS. It’s not me. I’m not fearless. But when I turn those fears over, God seems to come to my rescue over and over again. I wonder if He ever gets tired?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer Blankets

 

There was a woman who made a prayer blanket for Mike when he was ill. She didn’t know who she was making it for, but she made it anyway, praying while she knitted. She lived in Texas. There was another woman making another prayer blanket for someone she didn’t know, also praying while she knitted. She lived in Minnesota. These prayer blankets now sit in Mike’s chair. When I feel like I’m particularly missing him, all I have to do is glance over at his chair, and I’m reminded of two women who lifted him in prayer for hours. He cares so deeply about us that when we need prayer, He will often lay us on the heart of others. The morning of July 19th, three months after Mike passed away, one of my Facebook friends posted on my timeline, “You were prayed for this morning!” How did she know? Perhaps a Big God told her.

 

 

Cozy Socks

 

My final item of comfort is a pair of cozy socks. There is absolutely nothing spiritual about the socks. But when I feel the need for comfort, I always reach in my sock drawer and pull out a pair of super soft, super cozy socks. As I slide my socks onto my feet, I feel pampered…and loved….by me.

Life is Made Up of Tiny Spur of the Moments

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It was a long busy day of running errands, cleaning the house, and working on transactions for my real estate business etc. It was 9:15 and I still had one contract I needed to send out before I finished working for the day; a fifteen page lease had to be written and sent for electronic signatures. Outside a neighbor dog was barking incessantly. All I wanted was peace and quiet so I could get the document finished.

Three of the kids returned from their shopping trip. They wanted to come in and chat. I wanted the dog to stop barking. So I barked at the kids. How does that even work? They fled the room and I felt bad.

The dog continued barking. I was tempted to open my window and scream for it to shut up! But I didn’t. I kept plugging away at the document. You know that moment when you have just really had enough stimulation for the day, I had reached it and beyond. I was almost ready to send the document when a kid knocked on my bedroom door. “Grrrr!” I said under my breath.

He peeked his head in and said, “Did you say, ‘come in?'”

“Okay.” Was all I said. Excitedly he told me he thought I should take a bunch of us out for dinner tonight. I rolled my eyes. I don’t want to go out for dinner, plus it’s almost 9:30. But I didn’t eat anything tonight, so I will need to eat. But I really don’t want to get in the car and go have pizza. “Let me finish this document.” I said. “Then we’ll talk.”

I sent the document and the dog was still barking. John seemed to so excited to go eat and I really didn’t want to let him down. Besides, I had a closing on Friday and we’ve been so busy ever since moving Tina back into the house and the subsequent figuring out how we’re going to fit a two bedroom apartment worth of stuff into our house. I didn’t even get a celebratory dinner out for the closing. So John and I sneaked out of the house together. When I say sneaked, I mean we didn’t make it known that we were leaving. We just left. It’s not that I didn’t want to take everyone, but sometimes you just want a little spur of the moment time with one of the kids – alone.

We headed to Joe’s Crab Shack and decided to share an appetizer and a meal. I also got a Pina Colada. Yum! We had great conversation while cracking our crabs and dipping it into succulent butter. It was so pleasant, and really just what I needed to give me a little respite, even if I had to go to a loud restaurant to get it.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to make an effort to do something, but almost always when I make the effort, I’m just so glad I did it. Tonight was no exception. Sometimes it’s really in those tiny spur of the moment things that I really find joy.

Dare to Dream or Live in Reality

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What if I had finished college and become a lawyer instead of heading off to Los Angeles to become a movie star? Neither of these two things are my present reality. I’m not a lawyer, although I do sometimes calculate how old I would be if I went back to college today and actually did that. I’m also not a movie star. I walked around Hollywood, hoping to be discovered. When I wasn’t discovered after living in Hollywood for about six months, I decided that reality must take over my life. I moved back to Iowa, pretty much homeless, and jobless. That’s when I joined the Air Force and got stationed back in California. While living reality, I met my prince, and started having children.

But I still had some nagging dreams that I couldn’t let go. Since I lived only a couple of hours from L.A. I started to pursue the dream again. I had some head-shots taken. (see photo above – notice the collar of my shirt is funky. Why didn’t anyone tell me?) I gave it a go. Sent my photo and got hired for a gig, an extra in a beer commercial with a few thousand other sheep. I made a hundred bucks! I was also cast in a soap opera that was going to be on HBO. It turned out to be a scam thing. One night at two in the morning I walked into my house and decided being gone for hours and hours wasn’t worth it to me. I hung up my star and decided to focus on being a mom.

I always loved writing. I would write long letters to friends. In high school I wrote my first novel, which frankly was kind of sucky. I found it the other day in the box where this head-shot was also hiding. I read a few pages and felt like gagging. Fiction writing wasn’t my thing. Oh, but when I started writing non-fiction, that’s where I came alive! I loved writing stories about my kids and the lessons God was teaching me. That’s it! “I shall become a non-fiction writer!” I decided. I started writing. Every chance I could I would write. And lo and behold, I got published with a three book contract. I was going to be a rich and famous non-fiction author! Woo hoo! Again reality takes over. Life changes and I suddenly need to figure out a way to make a living, not just write books. I have to actually make money. I hung up my laptop and got a job. A real job, making ten dollars an hour.

I wrestled with God. Really? Is this it? I need to push my dreams aside? But I could never push them too far away. I have too many! I would wonder if I’m too old to dream. I want my own business! I want to be my own boss. I want to share with people! But I slog away at my job. For eighteen whole months I work. Then an opportunity arose to be a Real Estate Agent. I could be my own boss! I could have my own business!

Then, the economy tanked. But I continued to plug away. I would often wonder if I’m not cut out for living in reality. I so love to dream! I planned to make a gigantic online community where moms could come together and be encouraged. Hours and hours of planning. And I realized, it wasn’t going to happen. Dreamers can beat themselves up a lot when they realize a dream isn’t going to happen.

Just tonight I was having dinner with a dear friend. We so want to go into business together. I want to speak all over the country sharing what I’ve learned. When we talk about the business we get very excited. But then, reality hits me. But wait, is it reality? Or is it fear?

No matter how many times reality hits me. I’ll never stop dreaming. I’ll never stop reaching. One day, I just might hit the target. I can see myself at ninety years old in a nursing home telling one of my great grandkids about this brilliant idea I have … and I’ll get excited. In the dreaming – I feel like I’m truly alive.