Sunday, December 15, 2013



Today feels like a day of 'almosts'.

It is almost a year since Candace passed away. I think about her almost every day. Almost every day I want to call her or talk to her. Not a day goes by that I don’t think the world is a little less bright without her in it. I almost made it through the day without crying.


It is almost four months since M came to live with me. While we are certainly over the ‘honeymoon’ phase, and rapidly moving into the ‘how do I navigate this new life’ phase, I am almost certain that this is normal. I am almost certain I am strong enough to do the work I need to do to be a good parent. There are times, however, I question my strength and my patience. I am almost sure this, too, is normal. Not a day goes by that I am not aware of how much I love her and that I am glad she is here. I am almost sure that in time, we will be stronger for having gone through this together.


It is almost 2014. I am almost overwhelmed by how much my life has changed in almost 365 days. I’m not sure how my life will change in 2014, but I am almost certain it will change and then change again. I am almost sure I will do my best to handle it with love and grace. Almost every moment I am aware how fortunate I am to have an amazing partner, wonderful family and incredible friends, people who gently remind me I am loved and valued. I am certain that without them, I wouldn’t be who I am or how I am in the world. As I sit here singing along with Andy Williams, I am almost ready to take on 2014.


But through every ‘almost’ today, I allowed myself to just experience it with as much grace as I could muster. I cried. I got frustrated. I got angry. I smiled. I laughed. I got the most amazing gift of love from my boyfriend - maybe the kindest gift anyone has ever given me. I still get teary when I think about his kindness. And I keep telling myself that this is just a hard time of year. And as I sit here watching a recorded “Andy Williams Christmas” special, I am reminded of how I loved these Christmas specials as a child. When, as a family, we all sat around the one television in the house and watched and sang along all those years ago.  I find myself smiling and singing along, now. And I realize my dad, my sister, my brothers, myself, we all made it through difficult times and we turned out pretty okay.

And that is what I hold on to. That as hard as this time of year can be, as difficult as transition is, as chaotic and messy as life gets? I’m here. I’m healthy and I’m sure that love is enough to get through the hard times.

Well… almost.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

CH Ch Changes...

I remember when I was in my early 30s and Candace decided she was going to have a baby. We had always planned on doing that together. She and I would get pregnant and we'd share the ups and downs of bloating, craving, 'kicking' and birthing.

I remember not being able to get pregnant. I tried. Sort of. At the time I was in a long term relationship, but there was no talk of marriage on the horizon. I refused to get pregnant and not be married, or marry because I was pregnant, so it just never happened. I have no judgment about people who get married because a baby is on the way (hey, my parents did!) it just wasn't something for me. Plus, with PCOS, getting pregnant was going to clearly involve more than not using birth control and protection. In the end, that time of my life came and went and I didn't have many regrets. 

I remember watching Candace go through her pregnancies. She'd had scarlet fever when she was very little and one of her kidneys didn't function, plus she was overweight - both things contributed to making her pregnancies a bit difficult. One thing I remember though was that she absolutely glowed. Together, we celebrated the birth of her first baby. My partner and I, at the time, agreed to be godparents to her daughter. Then, several years later I got to be in the birthing room when her son was born. And while I haven't been a 'real' mom myself, I did get to feel like the 'cool' godmom on the west coast. I liked that role and have enjoyed my experience with it.

The easy going flow changed the day Candace called me to tell me her husband had cancer  - Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia. I was living in Seattle, working from home, traveling to schools around the country, and still in the long term relationship. I was on a conference call and not paying any attention to the call. She called me on my cell phone and I put my conference call on mute. She was crying. I was shocked, saddened and worried. She had a baby! Over time her husband went into remission and they had a second baby. Not long after her little boy came, her husband found himself fighting cancer again. For him, it has been an on and off battle for over ten years.

One day, when I was visiting with her in Ohio, Candace informed me that if anything happened to her and her husband she wanted me to have custody of her children. She was sitting on the couch in her living room, the sun shining through her long, curly hair. Her golden-hazel eyes shined. All matter of fact she said, "We've talked about it, and we can't imagine anyone more spiritually perfect or more loving than you. We also asked their uncle as well, but I know, MK, that if anything happened, you'd love my kids and take care of them." I told her nothing was going to happen, but of course I would do that. I had a remote idea it might happen one day but I wasn't worried. I loved her. I loved her kids. And Candace wasn't ever going anywhere. After all, we had plans. We had golf carts in our future

Everything changed the day Candace told me she had cancer. I was driving to work, I remember our school was having an inservice day. I listened as she sobbed on the phone. I could barely drive. I sobbed all the way to work, then the whole day. Then the next day. She fought against the cancer for five years. It was extremely aggressive. I remember one day we talked while she was having chemo pumped into the port in her neck. With quiet tears tracking down her face she told me how in the future I was going to have to be the mom, I was the one who was going to be there to watch her children graduate. I was going to be there to watch them get married. I was the one who would be their support and love them. I cried with her. I told her of course I would be there, but so would she. She was going to make it. She'd smile at me in her knowing way and we gently hugged each other through the tubes and wires.

When she passed away this December, I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Initially, her husband wanted to take care of the kids and try not to disrupt their lives too much. It made sense and life just moved along. I helped when I could and my goddaughter has come to visit me twice since December.

Four days ago, that all changed. For many reasons that aren't mine to share, my goddaughter's father and I decided that it would be a good idea for my goddaughter to come and live with me. It has all happened tremendously fast. In three days I have run around getting legal paperwork done, getting things notarized, trying to get her enrolled in school in Seattle and getting things organized. I am full of love and excitement!

I am also terrified. Perhaps every mother feels this way? I have had thirteen years watching my goddaughter grow up far away from me. I got to be the cool 'godmom' in Seattle. You know, like that kooky Aunt every kid is lucky to have - the one that wears long tyedye dresses, likes trees, traveling and the ocean. The one that has an awesome boyfriend with a cool house. But that role is changing now. Now, I become the 'mom' figure. I have to learn to navigate boundaries. I get to love and be loved - so I do get the good stuff, but I get the heartache and the struggle of watching a child I love make choices that make me hold my breath. Although this is tentatively only a 'year', in that year I get to help her learn to define who she is, and at the same time, I suspect I am going to redefine who I am.

I know I am supported and loved and that helps tremendously. But lately, I struggle sleeping because I have so much in my head. I sense all these implications and I'm trying so hard to plot and plan and prepare. I see how my life, my relationship with the man I love, and even my friendships are going to change. I see how I am going to change. 

I am taking a lot of deep breaths lately. I am remembering to take things one moment at a time. None of that is easy. I want to feel safe and I want to know I am going to be fine. But more than any of that, I want to know SHE is going to be fine. And I can't know that. Not really. I can only do what I can do and hope for the best. I just realize that the world that seemed so fine and relatively safe four days ago, doesn't feel that way so much now that I will have a 13 year old in my life. It feels so. much. bigger.

In other words, I am no different than any other parent who wants so much to control and protect, but realizes that really, I can only love. I can help her lay down a solid foundation knowing she is loved. I can give her boundaries and rules that in time she will rebel against. I can watch her soar and I can watch her stumble. And I can offer her a hand to help her up if she wants it. But I can't fix, or change, or soften any of her life. It is her life and she does not belong to anyone other than herself.

And while I am scared, I am also excited. And awed. And amazed that Candace and her husband trusted me with their child. And I can only do the best I know how. 

I am so grateful to have been loved and trusted so much, not just by them but by so many in my life that I now can love and trust so much. 

New road, new path, new adventure. Considering how my trips sometimes go? I expect this will be full of laughter, angst, joy and anxiety and thank god I have such wonderful people around me, well around 'us' now, that will hang out on the sidelines, cheer us on and love us.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Letting In and Letting Go

Letting in the Light and Letting Go of Facebook Stalking

My boyfriend is having one of 'those' birthdays. I won't mention which number, but it is one that has him pondering life and where he is in the world. I admire how he continually works on being a better man and sees both his strengths and his faults - he's an amazing guy and a rare human being. It isn't often I meet someone as dedicated to understanding himself and working on becoming closer to the man he would like to be, as I am to the same goals. 

But this blog entry isn't really about him, although it sort of starts and ends with him. Driving from my house to his house Monday, I thought about his upcoming birthday. Actually, I found myself thinking about the gift I got him this year. Honestly, I do not think I could be any more excited about his gift. When it came in the mail three weeks ago, I could barely make it to my house before I opened it. Oh who am I kidding, I opened the package in my driveway! It was even better than I had hoped! Seriously. It has taken EVERY SINGLE bit of restraint not to tell him what I got him. My gift isn't anything super fantastic or expensive, but it comes from my heart and I know he will like it.

So as I drove along, smiling about this gift, I started thinking about other birthdays with other people I've been in a relationship with in my life. Especially people who are no longer an important part of my life.

I should state that I am, in general, a terrible gift giver. For most of my life I've been pretty absorbed in my own growth and my own experience - that makes it hard to truly know someone else. I will say I have tried to be a good gift giver. But in my past relationships, I have even had others give me 'lists' to 'help' me with my gift giving. I would try. No, I mean I would really *try*. I would obsess and worry and try to figure out what to give... I would have ideas, but in the end, I still gave pretty forgettable gifts off some 'pre-selected' list. 

Until now. Until I met someone that I connected with and someone that I learned enough about to be able to get something I know he will enjoy. Something he would never get for himself. And as I was driving, I found myself thinking, "I hope (insert several names here) has someone in their life now that buys them heartfelt gifts. That knows them well enough to give a gift from the heart - full of meaning and devotion."

I realized I had seldom given gifts in my past full of meaning and devotion. Ironically, it wasn't the gift giving moment that caught my breath.

I sat in the car and literally felt my heart being lifted from my chest. My breath caught in my throat for a second then I felt this full body exhale.

I realized I had, without thought or intent, genuinely wished those from my past, love. I realized for perhaps the first time, no matter how bad the ending or how bad my heartbreak, I had made peace with those events in my life. My boyfriend says that when trying to heal, you go from Unconscious Incompetence, to Conscious Incompetence, to Conscious Competence to Unconscious Competence - where you don't even think about the behavior you are trying to change, you simply have become the change you have been working on in your life. It was still fragile, but I realized I had forgiven myself on that deep level. I realized the only person that could change the perception of my past, was me. 

For quite some time I have been able to see my part in why my past relationships didn't work, but I was angry that the others involved couldn't see their part. Wouldn't see their part. I was angry and frustrated and I wanted vindication and for them to own their share of what made our relationships end. I had finally come to that space where realizing I could want that to the moon and back, but wanting it wasn't going to make it so. I had to own my share of why the relationship didn't work and allow myself forgiveness. That was when I knew it was time to move on and let go. 

It was time to let go of pointing the finger and saying how I had been wronged. In the past, I would look at their facebook pages and feel angry all over again. And yes, I looked. And yes, I felt angry. And I used that anger to continue to eat my tail in my self-consuming anger and rage at the 'injustice' of it all.

This week, I feel healthier - not only have I started working out during the week before work, but I feel like I have turned a corner in being able to wish those from my past - happiness.  I even passed two past milestones this month without even remembering them until much later. That said a lot to me as well. I have written in the past about taking the 'high road', but this was different. This wasn't forcing myself to take the high road, it was looking down and realizing I was just 'on the road' and it felt really good. 

I'm actually finding the end to the bitternes,  quite sweet. Almost as sweet as the double chocolate cake with fudge icing requested as a birthday cake. 



Tuesday, January 08, 2013

It's more than losing someone you love...

Letting go of 'golf carts'...

In my English 11 class today, I was sharing with my students why I missed the last week of school before our two week Winter Break. I told them about the death of my best friend and going to Ohio to tend to the details and the pieces I could tend to.

While I was talking I had a realization. Maybe it is a realization that everyone knows about and I am late to the party - wouldn't be the first time :).

The realization worked its way up from the murky depths of my unconscious when I wrote the extra credit assignment on the board today - write an essay about, 'one event that changed your life.' I explained that they were young, and it didn't have to be a huge event. It didn't have to be as difficult as the death of a friend. It could be the death of a favorite pet, or a divorce, or a huge argument with a friend that ended a friendship. It could be a positive event, a trip they took, a race they won, a competition they participated in, a summer camp. Regardless of the event, when they look back on it, they had to realize they had changed - something inside them saw the world a little differently. Assignments like this can be tricky. Some students really don't like writing about their lives and I don't force them to do so, thus the 'extra credit' part of the assignment. And, as always, if a student is genuinely uncomfortable or can't think of an event, that student can come to me and we figure out a different assignment, together.

But I started thinking about why I put that assignment on the board. And the realization that was bubbling below the surface of my awareness, came to light.

I was telling my students about my 'big future plans' with Candace. We used to sit up at night and laugh about our future. We would talk about how we were going to get little cottages near each other by the water. We were going to get golf carts. Every morning, rain, sleet, or sun, like postmen, one of us would throw on her slippers and bathrobe, jump in her golf cart, and head over to the other one's cottage where coffee and something homemade would be waiting. Coffee cake, bread with homemade apple butter, donuts, whatever our latest experiment was, we'd share it in the morning over coffee. We'd trade off days making breakfast for each other. We'd talk about politics, about Madalyn and Grant, about husbands. We'd get dressed and go make flower arrangements at the Senior Center. We'd take bus trips with the other seniors and laugh about that crazy bus trip we took together so long ago. I'd be writing novels, she'd be planning our next adventure. We had plans! We had stories we wanted to tell. We had adventures we wanted to share. We had a future we were creating.

And that was when I realized, when you truly love someone and they die,  you aren't just losing the immediacy of the present with them. You are losing the 'future' of them.

Last summer, Candace went on a trip with her husband. She was excited to spend some alone time with him; they hadn't really had the chance to do that since Madalyn was born. When her husband was diagnosed with cancer many years ago, doctors only gave him a few years to live. He's lived much longer than 'expectations' and is doing very well right now. One of the things we talked about when she returned from her trip, was how, while they were on the road, the two of them 'future planned'. She said, "You know MK, ever since he got sick, we haven't dared to future plan. We've been so caught up in the present and his getting chemo and staying alive, then my getting chemo and staying alive, that we lost that ability to dream about the future. I didn't know how much I missed that. On our trip together we talked about growing old, we talked about things we wanted to do with the house, we talked about the kids and college, we talked about moving to the lake someday. It was really great to reconnect like that. It reminded me how much I love him."

Until I lost Candace in December, I didn't really understand what she meant. I mean, I understood it on a head level. It made perfect sense that she hadn't had the opportunity with all the cancer around her to 'plan the future' with her husband - but I didn't really 'get it'. When I lost Candace, I realized on a heart level that I had also lost the future with her. Not just her laughter on the phone, her telling me how sexy my blond hair looked, her telling me how much weight I'd lost and how great I looked (even when I hadn't lost a pound), her telling me how happy she was that I was finally happy in my life and had met someone so loving and 'worthy' of me, her excitement about meeting my boyfriend for the first time (something she never got to do), the absolute joy she felt whenever she talked to me - the same joy I felt talking to her. Even when she was upset, angry, in pain, or scared, she shared those things with me in the context of "this too shall pass". I remember in August of this year, her doctors told her that her liver was doing better. When she told me on the phone, we both let out whoops of joy and said, "HELLO GOLF CARTS!" No one but us understood that reference, but I realized even then, even when in the back of my mind I thought, "I don't know that there will ever be golf carts", I was excited and I held on to the hope that our shared future included those golf carts.

Perhaps there will still be golf carts in my future. I don't know. Even if there are, it won't be the same. Of course I will carry Candace in my heart for the rest of my life, but there will be no shared breakfasts, golf carts or floral arrangements.

Losing Candace in my present, also means losing Candace in my future. I realized that is a large part of my grief. Having to let go of all those dreams and hopes for what we would be doing 'tomorrow'. I'm fortunate I have no regrets about what we did in our past together. And I am fortunate that in the time I knew her, we had almost enough adventures for a life time.