Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rediscovering My Garden

I used to love gardening. Then I started my masters program and an adoption from China, and I gave up my time in the garden. That didn't really mean that my yard went to pot, however. I've always had a gardening service and enough perennials to keep things looking okay. I just hadn't done much out there in the past eight years. Eight years!

The last gardening project I was involved with was when Michael and I planted three or four heirloom tomato plants in containers a few weeks before his diagnosis. I really don't remember the outcome of that effort as things got a little crazy after that.

The past three summers I just couldn't figure out how to do anything with such a little one. I was just happy to have the lawn mowed, and the weeds under control - all done by my gardener. However, last summer I realized that two of my trees had matured to the point where they were competing for space, and one of them needed to go. That finally happened a few weeks ago. With that I had to think about with what to replace the tree (a hydrangea), and that decision motivated me to consider what to do with some other bare spaces in the planters.

One of the prettiest summers I can recall in my garden way back when was when I sprinkled a lot of wildflower seeds in the planters. The results were just amazing. So that's what I've done again in hopes of having lots of color, and flowers that Michaela can pick. She helped me distribute the seeds, and she helps me water the ground every other day.

But our biggest effort was inspired by a friend who gave us a bare-root thornless raspberry bush. In going to the home improvement center to purchase a container and some soil for that, we also came home with a strawberry pot and strawberry plants. After planting them, I ordered an heirloom tomato plant, pole beans, and carrots. Today we prepared three more containers for planting, and put our new veggies in the soil. I'm thinking about purchasing two blueberry bushes next weekend, too. Michaela loves berries, and when she visits my sister's house she really loves to eat them right out of the garden.

It has been quite a while since I've been in a position to take the time to care for anything other than myself and Michaela. But I think that we are now ready to do this type of gardening together, and that we'll enjoy all its benefits in the warm months ahead.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Four Years a Widow

Early grief was terrible. I remember feeling dazed. And I remember how my grief affected me physically, and how that took me by surprise. For two or three months after Michael was gone, I took anti-anxiety medication to deal with the strange sensation of anxiety that would overtake my limbs, and make my heart race.

I took a sleeping pill each night because I didn't want to have a hard time going to sleep. I didn't want to lay there and feel miserable. I'd just spent the day feeling miserable. I needed a break.

Silence. Life became so silent after Michael was gone. Gone were the days of listening to Michael laugh and talk on the phone with his friends, and the melodic sounds of him playing the guitar in the back bedroom. Gone also were the days and nights of the sound of the oxygen machine's compressor, and Michael's cough. The silence was so big. So overwhelming.

I read a lot. Read my Bible. Read everything I could about grief and Heaven. I went to church practically every time the doors were open. It was a refuge.

Each day was different. Some better. Some worse.

Then I got pregnant. After so much tragedy, something someone incredible and beautiful was growing inside of me. Something Someone that belonged to Michael.

Through the pregnancy, and through Michaela's babyhood my grief has continued to diminish in its intensity. Nevertheless, being a young widow with a child is very hard, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. There are so many precious moments that are mine alone when they should be ours.

I've been struggling with loneliness. I've been lonely every day for four years, but it doesn't really get easier. I am not comfortable with my loneliness. Yes, there's the loneliness of a wife missing her husband, but it's even more than that.

I don't know if it's just me, or that I'm a widow (couples are notorious for avoiding widows), but I have absolutely no social life. None. As much as I love being with my daughter, I really miss adult conversation and companionship. Yesterday, a dear friend called and we got into a deep conversation about faith (we always do). Michaela was not impressed, and her behavior deteriorated the longer I stayed on the phone. I knew I needed to get off the phone, but I was so enjoying the intellectual stimulation that I was reluctant to do so. Until she pulled my hair. More than once. That did it.

Look, I know a lot of mothers of young children struggle with that sort of thing. But, more than likely, their husbands come home and they have some time to talk to him. That never happens here. I spend my weekdays with 31 children, and then I come home to my child. I haunt Facebook just so I can have some sort of adult interaction. Pitiful!

And I feel stuck at home. Michael and I used to go out of town frequently. That is much harder as a single mother with a small child for many reasons. I just want to get away. I know we'd be doing more if Michael were here. I know because we used to, and I know because that's what families do. We are not a family. We are family, but we are not a family. Get it? I have a daughter. I do not have a family. You cannot tell me otherwise.

I suppose other people who aren't widowed struggle with loneliness, and feeling like they aren't in the position to do the things they want to do. But for me, I associate these feelings and limitations to the changes I've experienced since becoming a widow. Since Michael hasn't been here.

The longer I've been a widow the more it seems like some others have forgotten this terrible loss in my life and the changes it has imposed upon me. I can think of several times in the recent past where I felt that an extra measure of thoughtfulness should have been extended to me, but wasn't. In those moments I feel that I am invisible, and that I have no voice. When I say something, I don't feel that I'm understood. So, I'm not saying anything anymore. I'll just avoid things when possible.

Four years (and two days) a widow.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Like the Deserts Miss the Rain

Friday will be the fourth anniversary of Michael's passing. He's in my heart and my thoughts all the time. I have so many memories of our time together, and I see so much of him in Michaela. It is really hard to believe that it's been four years. Life goes on. I didn't think it really could without him, but it has.

We didn't have the same taste in music, so I hope Michael wouldn't be offended that I oftentimes think of this 90s song in regards to missing him:

Although we lived in this house for almost three years together, occasionally I will drive by the house he lived in for many years before we were married. It's not far from here - just a couple of miles. I don't know why I do that. There's absolutely nothing there for me anymore, and there hasn't been in years. It's just if we're over that way, I have to take a little detour for a quick drive-by. I tell Michaela, "That's where your daddy lived before we got married." 

Michael didn't disappear, but I was with him when he left for Home. I can only imagine what it's like where he is now, and I long for the day the Lord returns to take us there, too. Michaela and I read a lot about Heaven. I have found some wonderful children's books on the subject, and they are part of our bedtime routine most nights. I tell her frequently that Daddy lives in Heaven with Jesus, and she has begun telling me that, too. I try to live with an eternal perspective on this life, and I am doing my best to impart that to Michaela. Some people think that's morbid, but in Colossians 3:1-4 the Bible tell us:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Not too long ago, I put this sticker on the back window of my minivan:

I had to look up 1 John 2:16-17 when I got the sticker because I did not remember those verses offhand. If you start reading at verse 15, the passage is really powerful:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

It's hard not to love the world. It's all we know. I supposes I'm as guilty as anyone is of wanting to feather my nest, experience lasting happiness, and enjoy the good things life has to offer. But, the truth is that none of this will last. And the best this world has to offer, is nothing compared to what the Lord is preparing for those that love Him. Since losing Michael, I have found it easier to not love the world and the things of the world. It has been easier to look ahead, through a glass darkly, to an incredible future that awaits me. This is my hope.

Life without Michael isn't terrible, but it isn't great either. I am so lonely without him, and our daughter doesn't know her father's love, the sound of his voice saying her name, or the warmth and strength of his strong arms around her. However, I know that there will come a day when my faith is made sight, and we will have the sweetest reunion together. As of Friday, we are four years closer to that.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014






We've been so close to this for so long, but two weekends ago I showed Michaela some tough love and insisted that she wear her Big Girl Panties. Did we have accidents? Yes. Within the first hour of this experiment, she had wet herself and my fabric sofa.


I was undeterred. After cleaning up, I covered the sofa cushions with old towels, and we continued with much better results. She was catching on. She'd already mastered #2 weeks ago. This was all about #1.

However, last week Grammy wasn't ready for Big Girl Panties because she was afraid of a repeat of our sofa accident. Truthfully, I was very frustrated about that. I knew that like everything in raising children, consistency is the key to success.

I found this, and was INSPIRED!

This past weekend was a three-day weekend, and we picked up where we had left off the previous weekend. She had two minor accidents, but overall the weekend was a huge success. I am so dang proud of her!

Now Grammy's on board. Yea! (Thanks, Mom!) Michaela spent the whole day in BGPs and had zero accidents. I knew she could do it!

I have ditched the diaper bag for good. Now we have a fabric storage box with a portable potty, wipes, and a change of clothes. It will go back and forth between my van and Grammy's van. Potty breaks will be doable anytime, anywhere.

Speaking of "anytime, anywhere" we have used a lot of public restrooms since we started this routine. Is there not anything worse than taking your precious, curious toddler into a public restroom? No matter how many times I tell her not to touch anything, she does. Guh-ross… Not only will we be washing our hands, I am going to stock up on hand sanitizer. Lots of it.

Now I have to fulfill my promise to buy her a play kitchen. No problem. Since I'll be saving about $55 a month not buying diapers, I can swing it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Least Favorite Month

I am not a fan of January. Usually, it's kind of gloomy and cold - well, cold for southern California. This January is not like that at all. We haven't had any rain since mid-December, and the days have been hot and dry. This is called a "Santa Ana condition", and high winds are also part of this weather condition some days. Last week the governor announced that we're in a drought. Not good. It leads to things like horrible wildfires in our local hills. I do hope we get some cooler weather and some rain in the weeks to come. March can sometimes be very wet.

One of the things I do like about typical Januaries is that it's a good time to cook soups and other comfort foods. Being that this is a three-day weekend, I had hoped to do some of that before going back to work on Tuesday. However, with temps close to 80* I really don't think I will turn on the oven this weekend.

I'm keeping up with my Couch to 5k. I took two weeks on Week 1 of the program as I tried to figure it all out. Turns out, running with a stroller is really hard. Turns out we're having a heatwave, and running in a heatwave is a deterrent for wimps like me.  So, I've been using a pass to my dad's gym the last three running days instead, and that's worked out well. I'm thinking about joining a very affordable gym in the neighborhood with childcare so that I can continue to run despite the weather, and without Michaela and the stroller. However, I would like to work up to running with Michaela and the stroller in time. When the time comes to run a 5k, I'd really like to run it with her if I can.

We are making really good progress with potty training. For a while there I could get Michaela on the toilet when I caught her at just the right time, but she really wasn't letting me know when she needed to go. When I went back to work, another teacher said that she had little books about going potty that her daughters had read when they were training. I came home that day and ordered two of them. Once they arrived, we began reading them and they made a big impression on Michaela. In the last few days, she has been very good about saying when she needs to go. I'm so proud of her! She receives gummy bears each time she uses the potty successfully, and she knows she will get a play kitchen when she's in big girl panties all the time. We're both excited about that!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Out with the Old, In with the New!

Every day is a new beginning truly, but it does feel good to start a whole new year today. I was not a fan of 2013. I am not sorry to see it go. When I celebrated our birthdays with Teresa last week, I asked her what she considered to be her high and low for the year.

Although I asked the question of her, I was the first to answer as she pondered her responses. I said my low was the entire experience I had with a misogynist cultist certain individual from the East Coast. I am still processing what happened there. Just so weird. A musician friend of mine and Michael's came by recently to look at a couple of guitars I'm selling, and we ended up having a great talk. He and his wife were also nearly caught up in a cult through the deceptiveness of people they trusted.

I felt much better about my own situation after hearing their story, especially knowing that he and his wife are intelligent, successful people, and committed Christians. Another friend who is a psychologist had also told me not to blame myself as manipulative people can be very hard to discern. I guess the outcome is all that matters, and the outcome is that the Lord opened my eyes and protected me and Michaela from a miserable situation.

As for the high, I think our week in Kauai qualifies for that honor. That was a practically perfect vacation. Thanks again, Mom and Dad! Teresa pointed out that my high probably wouldn't have happened without my low. Mom turned some travel arrangements that were made earlier in the year for "other reasons" into a family vacation.

There were other good things in 2013, for sure. Michaela is a delight each and every day. I'm so blessed to be her mom!

Moving forward...

I am not big on resolutions, and yet I find myself sort of making them each new year. It's just a good time to take stock of things, and decide what to throw out, what to keep, and what to add.

It has been several years since I've been able to do much in the way of exercise. At 46, and the mother of a very young child, it's becoming more important to me to be fit so that I can keep up with Michaela. I can keep up with her now no problem. But what happens when she wants to do some of the things I did in my childhood like skiing, horseback riding, or other outdoor activities? (Please, don't ask to go camping, Michaela!)

So, fitness is going to be a focus for me. My fitness goal is to start running. This is a big challenge for me, but I'm going to use the Couch to 5k program and I hope that will be a good way for me to get into it. I will be pushing Michaela along with me in our jogging stroller. We start tomorrow. She is excited. I'm trying to psyche myself up. My short-term goal is to be ready to run a local 5k the first weekend of April. I really need to do this. I used to set big goals for myself (they just weren't fitness goals!), and I met those goals. But it's been a while since I had a personal goal.

Another focus is going to be serving others and sharing God's love with them. I've got some ideas for how to do this, but I'm praying that the Lord will bring opportunities into my life as the year progresses.

Then there's the usual: 
  • save more, spend less
  • read more, Facebook less
  • get more organized
  • eat healthier
  • cook more
  • drink more water
  • blah, blah, blah

What I know for sure is that 2014 will do its own thing, and I'm along for the ride. So I pray for the grace and wisdom to navigate through the lows and highs as they come.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I think it goes without saying that anyone who has experienced a loss has mixed feelings about the holidays. For me, I am happy to do things with Michaela because it's all so new and exciting for her. But there's a longing for a Christmastime that can never be without Michael. Nevertheless, we have been getting out and experiencing as much as we can.

Although we don't have a tree again this year, or lights on the house, we did decorate the living room with some of my favorite Christmas things. Michaela's favorite thing is her Little People nativity scene. She also has a Little People advent calendar, and it's fun for her to put up a new piece of the nativity scene each day. I downloaded the Jacquie Lawson advent calendar, and we've been enjoying all of its features each day when we get home. At bedtime, we're reading a sweet book called the Advent Storybook. I think the storyline is a little too complex for Michaela right now, but I can see that it might become a wonderful tradition next year and beyond.

Perhaps Michaela's favorite thing about Christmas right now is the Caillou Holiday Movie. I made the mistake of recording it recorded it on the DVR, and she insists on watching all 90 minutes of it over and over again. She bawls when it's over! I think she's in love with Caillou. I hope her taste in men improves in the future...

We celebrated Michael's birthday on the tenth by going over to Disneyland with Grandma, Grammy, and Sarah. My favorite thing about Christmas at Disneyland is the incredible fireworks show and when they make it snow. It's magical.

I've done a lot of shopping online, but Michaela has been great about going shopping with me. She knows we'll go out for lunch, and that if she's a big helper she'll get to take home a little something for herself. While I still think it would be easier to shop on my own, she has been really good every time we've gone out.

Last night, we went with Grammy, Papa, and Auntie to EV Free Church for their Christmas Boulevard event. This was our second year attending, and I had been looking forward to it. It's a huge event with sledding hills, toasting your own marshmallows over open fires, a concert, puppy petting pen (Michaela was not thrilled about the puppies, though), bounce houses, craft and ornament making stations, food trucks, and the best Santa! Our family friend, John Norling, is the photographer. He took a great photo of us last year, and we got several really nice shots again this year. I have decided not to send out Christmas cards this year, so this is our virtual Christmas greeting to all:

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I hope that this Christmas you will be surrounded by those you love, and that you will know the love of Jesus - because Christmas is all about Him.

All the Christmas presents in the world
are worth nothing without the presence of Christ.
David Jeremiah