Breathing New Life into My Blog

Emerging flower

Remember that time more than 10 years ago when I sat down and wrote my first blog post? Well, you probably don’t, but I do. I was a new mom — my daughter Ava was just 8 months old — and I was on fire with a cause. The cause doesn’t matter much now, but my passion at the time did. I was a mom on a mission to make the world a better place and I had to start somewhere, anywhere. And so I did. I signed up with Blogger and “penned” my first post. And then my next post and next post and before long, I was hooked.

Over the years, I’ve shared so many stories with you — many of them very personal. I shared joys and laughter, so many firsts in my children’s lives. I shared my passions — my goals and dreams not just for myself and my family, but for our country and our world. And then I also shared the crippling sorrow of losing my sister in a car accident and the helplessness of trying to figure out my anxiety disorder and how to treat it.

And then…I kind of…faded away. After blogging for years, my children were getting older and life kept happening, and I found less of a need for my blogging outlet. And yet, it’s something that’s always been in the back of my mind. Calling to me softly.

And so I’m here now and if you are too then that’s all we need. Just you, me, some comfy chairs and a couple green smoothies (or a cup of tea if that suits you better). We’ve got some catching up to do, my friend.

Rather than write a lengthy post that sums up all that’s been going on in my life for the past few years, I will simply start blogging again — perhaps flashing back here and there, but also just recounting life as it currently is and writing, as always, about the things that matter to me. So that is where we begin. Stay tuned.

photo credit: Ava Gates

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I am a runner, but I wasn’t always…

If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.Priscilla Welch

Loathing Running from an Early Age

Over a year ago, when I was considering adding some form of exercise into my life, my well-intentioned friend Rebecca — a runner — suggested that I start running. I told her I’d only run “if someone was chasing me with a knife.” And I kind of meant it.

I’d hated running since high school freshman gym class when — at the end of the semester — we had to run “the mile.” The distance of a mile seemed impossibly long and I dreaded it for months. After grudgingly completing it, I remember getting terrible shin splints, probably due to running in my Keds. They were very painful and took a long time to heal. So yeah, it was easy for me to decide running was NOT my thing. I’d rather do just about anything than run.

Catalyst for Change

Fast forward 20+ years (OMG) to July 2013. My local unschooling group planned a moms’ night out that included a hike of Mount Sanitas in Boulder. Hiking is something I usually enjoy so I was up for it, even though I was a little nervous since it was a 3.1 mile moderate to strenuous hike with +1,323′ net elevation gain. While I eventually made it to the summit that evening, that hike showed me that I was in terrible shape. I had to stop to rest several times along the trail and even felt light-headed and needed to sit down and eat an energy bar along the way. It was kind of discouraging to find out I was so out of shape, but it was also the kick in the pants I needed to start doing something about it.

I decided that come what may, I was going to give running a try. If other friends could do it and enjoy it, maybe I could too. I wasn’t sure how due to my history, but I was open to it. Instead of doing a couch to 5K program (which I had tried and failed at in the past), I decided I would just put one foot in front of the other and follow my body’s cues. If I felt like I could run, I would run. If I needed to walk, I would walk.

My daughter Ava helped me pick out a new pair of tennis shoes — black with bright pink laces. My previous pair was white (blah) and who knows how old since I never actually used them to run — they could’ve lasted forever!

My First Run

Exactly one year ago, on July 24, 2013, I went for my very first run. And guess what, I didn’t hate it! I ran, I walked, I ran, I walked. It was hard, but it felt good. And, most importantly and surprisingly, I wanted to do it again.

I started going for runs a few times a week. I’d get dinner ready for my husband Jody and the kids, then when he’d get home from work, I’d pop out for an evening of running. It helped that I found a few really pretty places to run near my house. Granted I needed to drive a few miles to get to the pretty spots to run, but I figure if I’m more likely to run if I drive somewhere first, then it’s worth it to do so. The distance I could run without walking became longer and longer and what initially seemed impossible — running a WHOLE mile without walking — became a reality. I was on my way!

Races!

In October 2013, I did my first 5K (3.1 miles) race, along with my husband Jody and friend Heather. I pushed too hard in the beginning up a hill and ended up having to walk part of the course, but I finished.

In November, while in Kansas visiting family for Thanksgiving, I did another 5K race — this time on my own. It felt good and I was able to run for the whole race. I didn’t run as much over the winter, but tried to get at least one run in a week.

Somewhere in there I also went to a running store to get fitted for shoes. The ones I had weren’t good for my running form (I’ve been experiencing some pain during my runs) and after they checked me running on a treadmill, they were able to get me in shoes that worked for me. I got a shiny new pair of Brooks and they’ve been awesome.

In April 2014, I did another 5K race with my mom, followed by my first 10K (6.2 miles) race — The Bolder Boulder — with my friend Sarah in May. Aside from stopping at the aide stations to drink, I was able to run (albeit slowly) the entire race. I was pretty proud of myself.

The last race I’ve done to date was on July 4 in Crested Butte, Colo. The family and I were planning to go there for Independence Day week, and I saw there was a 1/3 marathon (8.56 miles) race (the Gothic to Crested Butte 1/3 Marathon) happening, so I signed up for it. I’m not sure I would do that race again, but I’m happy to have completed it. There was a lot of elevation gain on the first half (not to mention the altitude was 4,000 ft. higher than where I live) and I definitely did a fair amount of walking on that one, but that was OK with me. My only goal was to finish it and I did!

Looking Ahead

I’m setting my sights on a half-marathon (13.1 miles) trail race next, maybe in November so I won’t have to train through the heat of the summer. After doing the 1/3 marathon, I feel confident that I can do a half, but I also know I have a lot of training ahead of me to get to that point.

The crazy thing for me has been how much I enjoy running. I’m not setting any speed records and I have no desire to, but I am running for me and doing it on my terms and I think that makes all the difference.

I love this quote my friend Heather shared with me when I was first getting started and someone asked me if I was a runner now. I said I didn’t feel like one yet, but I hoped to be one someday.

“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.” — John Bingham

I never in my wildest dreams would have expected to be a runner. And yet, I am. I am a runner. And I like it.

I hope to write about running again soon so I can share more about what has worked for me on this journey. Stay tuned.

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The Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree

The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing,
we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger,
but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.
–Robert Cushing

It’s no secret that anxiety has played a big role in my life. It’s something I’ve blogged about time and time again over the past two-plus years as I diligently tried to find a solution that worked best for me and to let others who might be dealing with this know they aren’t alone.

Around the time when I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), I recall asking my (then) therapist, “Why is this just showing up now out of the blue?” And she replied that it was probably something I’d been dealing with for a long time, but it took time for the symptoms to compound in number and severity until I reached the point where I sought out help and was eventually diagnosed. At the time I wasn’t sure I believed it, because the whole thing still felt like it came out of nowhere to me. However as time has passed and I’ve reflected on various events in my life, I’ve come to the conclusion that anxiety is something I’ve dealt with since childhood — I just didn’t know it then.

This is where this blog post gets a little tricky for anonymity reasons. How much can I share without sharing too much? Ya see, I have my reasons to suspect that one of my children also is dealing with anxiety. I had hoped that this wouldn’t happen to either of them and certainly never expected it when they were still so young, but now here it potentially is — staring me right in the face (literally). And why should I be surprised, right? The apple never falls far from the tree and all that, but yet I sure hoped those apples would.

While there has been no official diagnosis, after talking to a friend, reading the book “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Anxiety,” reading the blog Child Anxiety Mom, and searching my soul, my suspicions have certainly not lessened. When I compare some of the things I did and experienced in my adolescent years with some of the things my child is experiencing/doing now (but at a seemingly accelerated rate than I did), it seems obvious to me that anxiety could be playing a factor. I won’t go into detail as I don’t think that would be fair to my little person, but if you have questions email me directly and we can discuss it further there.

I’m not sure what the next step will be, but this is a subject that certainly weighs heavily on my mind. Everything I’ve read says the sooner anxiety is dealt with, the better. And I believe the more I read, the more likely I will figure out what direction we should take. I’d been considering therapy, but perhaps other things — such as The Anxiety-Free Child Program or simply reading more of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Anxiety (I admit I just started it) or perhaps another visit to the pediatrician (now that I feel I have more pieces of the puzzle) — would be useful as well.

“Courage is saying, ‘Maybe what I’m doing isn’t working;
maybe I should try something else.’”
— Anna Lappe

Then again it’s entirely possible that anxiety isn’t what’s going on with my child or perhaps it is just one part of the whole picture. After all, I’m not a psychologist or doctor, yet I am a mom who knows her child better than anyone else. I also know what it’s like to live with anxiety and if my child is experiencing this, I want to figure out what’s going on sooner than later. I don’t want to just assume X, Y, or Z behavior is “just a phase” and it will pass or that he/she is simply acting out or trying to manipulate me. I’ll continue to do my research and try to get to the bottom of this. Nobody should have to live their life in fear.

Photo credit: apdk via Flickr

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HAS CRUNCHY DOMESTIC GODDESS RETURNED FOR GOOD?
If you are wondering if I’m back to blogging again on a regular basis, I have to say your guess is as good as mine. 😉 I will continue to write when I feel moved to write. Now that I’ve gotten my first “return from hiatus” post written, perhaps that will be more often. 🙂 Like I do with many things in my life, I will take blogging one day at a time. Thank you if you’ve stuck around in my absence. It truly does mean a lot to me. xo.

Emerging from the fog of depression

“It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s been six weeks since I last blogged. Six. Weeks.

I’d like to say I spent the last six weeks doing something terribly exciting or productive – like taking a European vacation or building a chicken coop or perhaps an entire barn – but the reality is I didn’t do much at all.

I was tired.
I slept. A lot.
I couldn’t focus.
I existed.
I stayed afloat.
But most importantly, I began to wonder if something might be wrong with me.

I’ve been living with generalized anxiety disorder for a couple years now (at least since I was diagnosed), but I’ve never been diagnosed with any other mental illness. I may have had some situational depression in the past, but I muddled through and it always passed.

Although I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly for a while now — especially since my sister died — it wasn’t until I started talking with some friends that I realized I might be depressed. At my worst, I slept in four hours past when my kids got up because I just. couldn’t. get. out. of. bed. I took a nap one day while they played in the backyard. Yes, we have a fence and they were safe, but if something would have happened I would’ve been clueless. Despite thinking about this as I laid in bed about to fall sleep, I didn’t care. It was that feeling of being so tired I honestly didn’t care about my kids’ well-being that triggered something in my brain to think perhaps something was amiss. I’m not generally the type of parent who just “doesn’t care.” Sure I have my “bad” days like anyone else, but this was more than a bad day. I honestly was neglecting my kids on a regular basis and I didn’t feel I had the ability to do anything to change it. I felt lazy and like a failure.

I began to think perhaps I had anemia again since I felt so tired. As I did some online research, I began to look at possible reasons for excessive sleep. Depression popped up. Although I had several factors in my life that could contribute to me being depressed — my sister dying, my dog’s failing health for two weeks which culminated in having to euthanize her, and several other things that I’m not able to blog about — I figured since I wasn’t crying all the time, I wasn’t depressed. After taking a quiz from WebMD and receiving the results, “Your answers are similar to what individuals suffering from major depression usually provide,” I decided to talk to some friends about it.

“Take the first step, no more, no less, and the next will be revealed.”
— Ken Roberts

My friends — who’ve had experience with depression themselves — encouraged me to call my therapist and tell her what was going on — the sooner the better. I decided to email her and told her the same things I told my friends and that my friends thought I should contact her. She spoke with my doctor and they agreed that I was having classic signs of depression and suggested I increase my anxiety medication (Zoloft) by 50 milligrams. I was hesitant to increase it that much and told her I prefer to take an additional 25 mgs first for a few days and then do 50. She said she talked to the doctor and he didn’t think I would have any side effects since I already had the drug in my system and it would only help me start to feel better.

The next morning, which was March 21, I took my new dose. I also had acupuncture that morning (another thing I’ve been doing regularly to try to combat my migraines). I began to feel an almost immediate improvement in my mood. I was no longer tired all the time. I wanted to plan things to do with my kids. Over the course of the next week, I got out in the yard and did a bunch of clean-up work. I signed the kids up for swimming lessons. I began caring about my blog again. I got my hair cut (it had been more than four months since my last cut). I have the motivation to start exercising again, to cook dinner more regularly, to plan a family vacation, to think and care about the future.

I’m not sure when the depression started — it was definitely a gradual buildup starting after my sister died — but I feel so very fortunate I was able to recognize some of the signs and connect the dots with the help of my friends and my therapist. It had really gotten to the point where it was no longer manageable. Now that I’m on the right dose of medication for me for right now, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t feel hopeless or simply disconnected from my life. I can live it again.

I’ve worried in the past about “needing” to take medication to treat my anxiety. It was absolutely not my first choice, but after trying many other things I realized it was the right choice for right now. I don’t know that I will ever go off medication for anxiety/depression, but that’s not something I have to worry about right now. Right now I know that it’s helping me be a functional person and an attentive parent and that’s good enough for me.

In the past week I’ve noticed a significant improvement in how I feel and am able to function. My days aren’t perfect now, but I’m not shooting for perfection. I am hopeful. I am finding more joy in my life. I am excited to do things with my kids again. I am excited for spring and gardening and baby chickens! I still miss my sister like crazy. I don’t think that will ever change. But I’m able to live. To quote Robert Frost, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.”

I’ve added the symptoms of depression below. If you think you may have depression, I strongly encourage you to talk to your doctor.

And now for a bit of bloggy housekeeping:
Moving forward on my blog, I will have some guest posts from various wonderful bloggers while I continue to blog as I can. Just wanted to give you a heads up that it won’t be all Amy all the time, or as has been the case for the past six weeks, NO Amy all the time. 😉 I am grateful these bloggers have chosen to share their posts with me. If you have a post you think would work well on my blog, feel free to email me: crunchydomesticgoddess AT gmail DOT com. Thank you.

Detecting Depression from WebMD

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) — or the deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).

Photo credit: Flickr: jronaldlee and aidanmorgan

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Thank you for the past six years


Today marks the sixth anniversary (blogiversary) of my blog! Six years of writing about a myriad of topics — some controversial, some very personal, some heartbreaking, some educational, and some just plain fun.

Looking for an outlet to share my passions and ups and downs of parenthood, I started blogging when my daughter Ava was eight months old and have been writing — albeit sometimes more regularly than others — ever since.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you who’ve been a part of my blog over the years — whether you are a reader, a commenter, an advertiser, a sharer, a collaborator, or perhaps a little of each — I have been blessed to make connections with so many of you. Staying at home with my then babies and now kids can be a somewhat isolating experience, but thanks to blogging and other forms of social media, I have a community — a tribe — of which I feel fortunate to belong. We laugh together. We cry together. We share stories, empathize, debate, raise awareness and educate together. You know who you are and I love you all.

For old time’s sake, I thought I’d highlight just a few of the posts that have either meant a lot to me or have received a lot of feedback over the past six years. Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. Breastfeeding until age 3, 4 or 5: More common than you think? – originally posted Jan. 2, 2009
  2. My Road to Recovery from Generalized Anxiety Disorder – originally posted June 11, 2009
  3. The Circumcision Post – originally posted Nov. 6, 2006
  4. The Updated Nestle Product Boycott List – originally posted Oct. 7, 2009
  5. Nursing a Toddler while Pregnant – originally posted Oct. 30, 2006
  6. Why Bother? (about living a green lifestyle) – originally posted April 28, 2008
  7. Toys, Tots and Toxic Paint Don’t Mix – originally posted Aug. 15, 2007
  8. Grieving the loss of my sister Carrie – originally posted Nov. 8, 2010
  9. One Year Later: Julian’s Footling Breech Home Birth Story – originally posted Nov. 28, 2007
  10. Best Granola Recipe Ever – originally posted Sept. 7, 2008

Thank you again for welcoming Crunchy Domestic Goddess into your lives. *hugs*

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Thoughts on home schooling now that we’re doing it (well, sort of)

Oh, hello 2011. Yes, yes, I realize we are now more than half-way through the first month of this year and I haven’t written one blog post yet. I can’t say I have any good reasons other than perhaps because I’ve been obsessively watching the first season of Veronica Mars (via Netflix On Demand) vegging out just a bit and life happens. OK, I confess. I watched the first season finale of Veronica Mars two nights ago – WOW! Now that was a season finale! And now that I know who killed Lily Kane, I feel like I can take a breather for a few days and even write on my blog. Yay! 🙂 (The next time I disappear, it may be because I’m watching season two. Just sayin’.)

I could have sworn I wrote a blog post about deciding to start home schooling Ava this past fall, but wouldn’t you know it, I can’t find it. The way my brain works these days it’s hard to say if I wrote it and just can’t find it or if it’s one of those posts (among many) that I always had the best of intentions of writing and never did. I’m betting on the latter. (I did write “Is homeschooling right for us?” back in 2008, so that’s something, right? *wink*)

Anyway, yes, I am home schooling Ava this year for first grade. We started back in September. I’d seriously considered starting in kindergarten, but after I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and trying to get that under control, the timing didn’t seem to be right so off to public school she went. Little did I know I would be dealing with a tragedy this past fall proving the timing to be off once again, but I’m still happy with my decision to home school and we are forging ahead.

Although I don’t feel that we’d yet found our home schooling groove, we were starting to work in that direction when my sister Carrie died in October. After Oct. 25, 2010, very little formal home schooling took place in our home for the next two months. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. If I wasn’t busy planning a memorial service or two or traveling, I was grieving and trying to hold it together just enough to keep the kids clothed and fed. Admittedly there were plenty of days we stayed in our PJs all day. Hell, that still happens on occasion now! Ava continued to go to the part-time school she attends one day a week and continued with the Lego engineering class she was already signed up for, but that was about the extent of it. I don’t know if I would say that we were unschooling during that time or just taking a break. Yeah, I think it’s safer to say we were taking a break.

Fast forward to the past few weeks and now that the holidays are over we finally have been getting back into our groove again. I feel more equipped to take trips to the library, sit down with Ava and work on different subjects, go on “field trips,” sign up for different classes, attend home schooling functions, etc. We’re still far from finding exactly what our groove is, but we’re working on it. I’m working on it.

Quite honestly, I don’t think we fall into a specific “type” of home schooling family. Eclectic seems to be the best way to describe my “technique” so far. And that’s OK. I like that we/I have the freedom to explore what works best for us and to learn as we go. I like that we were able to take a break when we needed it, even if others might feel it was detrimental to Ava. I don’t think it was.

It’s true she’s not reading chapter books yet, but that’s OK too. We’ve been regularly reading to Ava her entire life. With Jody and I reading to her before bed, we’ve been through the seven novel series of The Chronicles of Narnia and the nine book series of the Little House books — twice — among many, many other books. Does it matter to me if she starts reading really well on her own at age 5, 6, 7 or 8? Nope. It just matters to me that she enjoys books and reading, and she does so far.

With the help of library books and the Internet, I think we have most subjects covered except for math. She knows her numbers and basic addition and subtraction, so I don’t feel she’s “behind” per se (and I try not to think of it like that anyway), but I’m still trying to find a good way to teach/learn math and welcome your suggestions. I don’t feel the need to sit down and drill her with addition and subtraction flashcards on a daily basis, but I do want her to have a good foundation in math — it’s just the figuring out how to best accomplish that where I could use a little help. It could be a curriculum you like, a web site with math games, or anything else really. I’m flexible.

That’s one thing I’ve learned is that it’s important to stay flexible when home schooling. I planned on using X, Y, and Z curricula and doing A, B, and C every day when we started out, only to decide those weren’t the best choices for us. Some days we use books. Some days we use the computer. Some days we do both. Some days we do neither. Some days we bake or explore nature or go to the library or do science experiments or dissect owl pellets or garden or do arts and crafts or play games or a number of other things or all of the above or none of the above. Some of the best learning experiences happen when we just go with the flow.

Oh, and if you are wondering what I’m doing with my 4-year-old with regard to school, he’s currently in a Waldorf-inspired preschool (though not the one Ava attended). I really like preschool for my kids and think it benefits them in a lot of ways. He will likely, however, start home schooling once he’s in kindergarten (which is still nearly 2 years away because of his late birthday). And he participates in some of the things Ava works on now so he’s really already home schooling. (Aren’t kids pretty much home schooling from the day they are born?)

I like that the world is our classroom and I like being with and learning alongside my kids. I don’t subscribe to a particular schooling philosophy. Instead, we do a little bit of this and a little bit of that and that is what works for us for now.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
– William Butler Yeats

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Saying goodbye to 2010

This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is important, because
I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes,
this day will be gone forever,
leaving in its place something
that I have traded for it.
I want it to be gain, not loss;
good not evil; success not failure;
in order that I shall not regret
the price I paid for it.
–Author Unknown

I wasn’t going to write a “last post” of 2010. I haven’t felt inspired to write for a while and figured I’d just start off 2011 fresh — as fresh as I could anyway. However, as I reread past blog posts and thought about it some more, the more I felt like I should write something if only to have it to look back on later and for posterity. So here I am, writing something/anything with three burned fingertips.

I discovered this evening it’s NOT a good idea to grab a cookie sheet out of a 350 degree oven without an oven mitt. I’m 35 years old. You’d think I’d have learned that lesson by now, but that’s how my life has been lately. My brain is distracted — trying to process other things — and I’ve been making stupid mistakes like burning my fingers or thinking I’m taking a shortcut somewhere only to discover I’m going very much out of my way. It’s been weird and a little alarming.

But that’s my life — weird and a little alarming. Yet it’s also been pretty amazing too.

The past year was quite wonderful until the last quarter when all hell broke lose and life as I knew it was forever altered.

Some of the good things (though many nerve-racking in their own way) included:

  • Doing home improvements on our first home in order that we could…
  • Sell our first home.
  • Packing and moving to our new home.
  • Taking the kids hiking by myself.
  • Going to my second BlogHer conference…
  • which happened to be someplace I’d never been before — New York City!
  • Julian weaning completely on his own (a few months before he turned 4).
  • Starting home schooling with Ava.
  • Canning and preserving a lot of food.

And then tragedy hit when my little sister Carrie was killed in a car accident on Oct. 25. The day of Oct. 26 — from the time I received the news from the coroner (somewhere around 3:30 a.m.) until I went to bed many, many, many hours later that night — was the. worst. day. of. my. life.

The end of October and month of November are mostly a blur for me. I know somehow I helped orchestrate two memorial services — one here in Colorado and one in Michigan. I buried my sister. I somehow managed to get my kids and myself to appointments, classes, school, etc. I traveled to Michigan. I did a little catching up with some old friends, extended family members, and even my brother (whom I’d pretty much been estranged from for 15+ years). I’m not sure how everything came together, but with the help of amazing friends — both mine and Carrie’s — and supportive family members (and my higher power), it did.

My therapist is encouraging me to start moving more toward acceptance with regard to Carrie’s death, but it’s so very hard. I still want to deny that any of this happened. I still want to wake up from the nightmare. Yet I don’t. And I won’t.

And so I’ve started reading books about grief — about surviving the death of an adult sibling, about sudden loss. And I continue to see my therapist regularly and listen to her suggestions about how I can begin to accept this tremendous loss and soothe and support myself.

In the book I’ve been reading about a sudden loss, the author explains that anyone who receives news of the sudden loss of a loved one should treat themselves as if they are in intensive care for two weeks. While that sounds like a really good idea — I would’ve loved to have hid in bed for two weeks — with all of the details and arrangements that need to be made — as well as caring for one’s family — it’s not very realistic. That’s why my therapist wants me to do things that allow me to care for myself and really nurture myself — even though it’s been two months since Carrie died — during this time.

While billions of people around the world are celebrating the end of 2010 and welcoming in the new year and new decade tonight, it’s not something I feel compelled to do this year. Yet Jody, the kids and I still had a little celebration of sorts tonight. (I find that I have to carry on with some things like Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s — even though hiding under a rock sounds more appealing — just because I have kids. And honestly, that’s probably a good thing.) With wine in Jody’s and my glass and blackberry Izze in Ava’s and Julian’s, I gave a toast — to making happy memories in the new year — and we all clinked glasses. And then I proceeded to spill my wine, not once, but twice, and that was only after a few sips. (It’s that brain distracted thing again, I’m telling ya.) I’m happily drinking water now.

After cleaning up the spills and thinking about it a little more, I feel like the memories we create with one another are really the most precious gifts we have. It is through shared memories of my sister that she will not be forgotten. Even though my kids are only 4 and 6, they will hear so many stories over the years of the silly, courageous, funny, absent-minded, amazing, and inspiring things my sister did — not only from me and Jody and family members, but I hope also from her friends, that they will not forget her. Carrie’s spirit and memory will live on. Honestly, I don’t know how it couldn’t. When someone lives as full, amazing, determined and inspiring life as Carrie did, their spirit lives on in everyone who’s life they touched. And knowing Carrie, that’s a whole lot of people.

To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.

–Thomas Campbell, Hallowed Ground

While I don’t look forward to starting a new year without my sister physically present in my life, I know she is still around. I also know she would want me to continue to follow my passions and dreams. She was very supportive of my blog and my many causes. There were often times I turned to her for help with wording in a particular post and I’ll miss her fresh perspective (and so, so many other things). But I know she would want me to continue my blog, even though there are days I wonder why I still have it.

As I say goodbye to 2010, I wish you all a new year of happy memories — of cherished moments with those you love. Take the time to mend broken fences (or broken hearts). Take the time to enjoy the little things. Take the time to say I love you. Better yet, make the time.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo via: David Paul Ohmer

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Preparing (or not) for the holiday season

I’m having a hard time believing that tomorrow is December 1st. After my sister’s passing at the end of October, November was literally a blur for me and it’s amazing my husband and I were able to get it together enough to get Julian something for his fourth birthday which we celebrated in Michigan last week. Now we have to focus on Christmas — getting a tree (or not), making our own ornaments (or not), decorating the front of the house (or not), buying presents (or not).

After much discussion online last year (was it on my blog or on Facebook?) about the merits of a real Christmas tree versus an artificial tree (lots of good information on the subject here), we’ve decided to ditch the pre-lit artificial tree we acquired on Craigslist a few years ago, and buy our first real tree. I’ve toyed with the idea of buying a tree with a rootball so we can plant it afterwards, but I’m not there yet — maybe if we lived on a few acres.

I have no idea what I’m going to do for presents for the kids this year. I want to keep it simple.

I didn’t partake in Black Friday or Cyber Monday and just don’t feel motivated to do any shopping until I know what I am looking for. Otherwise I feel like I’ll just wander aimlessly around the stores, which really might not be such a bad thing after all.

Tell me what you are buying for your kids this year. Did you score any good deals online or in the stores? I want Christmas this year to be simple, yet I also want it to be magical (I don’t ask for much, do I? *wink*). Do you have any ideas for simple, magical gifts for a 4 and 6 year old? What about a 30-something year old man? 😉

Speaking of gifts, I’m still hoping you all will do me a favor and give the Earth a gift by checking out One Million Acts of Green. We are nowhere reaching the goal of a million acts of green completed in the United States yet. You can Give The Gift of Green by checking out the One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application, which allows you to pledge to complete an act of green like Turning Off Your Computer When Not In Use or Run Your Dishwasher Only When It’s Full or Turn Off Your Lights When Not In Use and posts a cute, humorous e-card to your Facebook friend’s wall.

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean Mom, Green Your Décor and Condo Blues.

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Ups and downs and random thoughts

I was recently in Michigan for another memorial service for my sister Carrie. Michigan is where we were born and raised and I have a lot of family back there. I hadn’t been in MI for more than two years and November wouldn’t have been my first choice weather-wise when to fly back, but there really was no other option. So the skies were gloomy for most of our trip, but we caught some glimpses of sunshine here and there (kind of like life recently).

I’m trying hard to look at the positives that have occurred lately, but I struggle with that. I try to be grateful for the good things that have come from Carrie’s passing, but I just want things back the way they used to be. I want my sister to be here talking to me about politics, laughing with me about silly things, complaining about the injustices in the world, hugging my kids, hugging me.

As fate would have it, the hotel we roomed at for about half of our stay was located right next to one of Carrie’s favorite stores — Walmart. When I say favorite I really mean LEAST favorite. I’m not a big fan of Wallyworld either, but I have been known to stop in there once in a while. Since we stayed there for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, I had the opportunity(?) to observe some of the Black Friday Walmart madness. I am happy to report I didn’t witness any trampling, but I did see a steady stream of people heading to and fro to snatch up the deals.

I find it hard to take fault with anyone who’s trying to save some money, especially considering the current state of Michigan’s economy. I talked with a few friends and relatives while there about the pay cuts, the job loss, etc., and it sounds pretty bleak.

Where am I going with this post? I don’t know. I guess what I’m thinking is we (I) have no right to judge anyone because we have no idea what is truly going on in their life. I can’t judge the people bargain-shopping at Walmart any more than the person at the bank can judge me because my hair is a mess and I haven’t showered today. I don’t know what the Walmart shopper’s financial situation is like and the bank clerk doesn’t know that I just spent time out in the cold and wind at the cemetery talking to my dead sister.

I started writing a haiku about Carrie on the airplane back to Colorado. It’s not finished yet, but I will share it when it is. Writing, even haiku, is therapeutic. I also was inspired to write haiku because my mom had come across a haiku that Carrie wrote while on a plane to MI a few years ago. She wrote the whole thing 7-5-7 until at the end she realized it’s supposed to be 5-7-5 and she swore upon making this realization. That makes me smile.

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The grief roller coaster

I’ve been wanting to write a post about toys and consumerism — especially in light of the ads that keep appearing in our mailbox and the upcoming holidays –but I can’t organize my thoughts very well just yet. That post will come in time.

Today was a bit of a roller coaster for me. I had to stop by the funeral home — a place I’ve come to loathe just for the nature of what it represents — to pick up some things (including a laminated copy which included a picture of this beautiful tribute a friend of Carrie’s wrote in the local paper).

After that I stopped at the cemetery to visit Carrie. I think she and I are going to have a standing Monday morning date. It’s the only day both kids are in school and I like visiting her alone, talking to her, crying. It’s been very therapeutic. The past several days I haven’t done much crying at all, but when I go to the cemetery and and see her name on the temporary headstone, it feels real. Her death hits me right in the gut and that’s when the tears fall as I talk to her. It’s kind of weird how it feels natural to talk to her there, but I like that. I like that I still feel like I can talk to her and I feel like she is listening too.

Later today, as I was driving around, I was stopped at a light when two firetrucks and an ambulance with their lights and sirens blaring turned in front of me heading to an accident I could see in the distance down the street. And, again, I lost it. I just started bawling in my car thinking about how someone else could have lost their life, but even moreso about how someone else could have lost someone they loved. My mind wandered to the emergency crew who responded to Carrie’s accident. How they must have driven through the mountains with their lights and sirens on to reach her, but there was nothing they could do for her. She was gone the moment the accident happened.

It was a sobering day.

I’ve been reading a book about grief — the funeral home gave it to my parents and me. It’s weird to think people would need a book to handle something natural like death, but I’m finding it helpful. I’ve never been through this with someone close to me before and it helps to know if what I’m experiencing is normal or not. I’ve also really appreciated the emails I’ve received from others who have lost an adult sibling. It sucks that we have to go through this, but it helps a little bit to know I’m not alone.

One of Carrie’s favorite books was The Little Prince. She had actually given my daughter Ava the book (which she had written an inscription in) a year or two ago. I think that will be the next book that I read. 🙂

And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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