Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 2014

I realize the only time that I ever feel compelled to write (in these current days) is when I am not doing so well.  I don't want this blog to be a "woe is me, negative Nelly" outpouring…geesh, what a drag!  But, I have to remind myself over and over that this blog is not for anyone but for me and for Vienne.  And, during this stage of my grief journey, if I only feel compelled to write when I am down and struggling….well, then so be it.  Right?  No one has to read it anyway.  I just need an outlet.  Mostly because I don't open up and pour out to anyone these days.

So….all that to say….this September has been rough.  Man, I was just not expecting it at all either.  I mean, I know that the anniversary time is supposed to be hard but I figured that with my ability to find distraction and be numb that I would just breeze through this period.  In reality, I've had hang ups left and right.  Or so it seems.  You know…when like 2 things go wrong, it really feels like everything is going wrong?  Yeah, that's probably more close to the truth.  But, I really have felt like there's been a struggle each week of this month.

Here's my pity list:

1.  After all that awesome kickboxing that I boasted about in my last post…it all came to a stop with a neck injury from so much impact.  Obviously, kickboxing and martial arts are about impact…even though we don't really "hit" each other, we do hit the bags and strike pads.  The impact of my punches reverberated right down my arm to my neck and caused some pretty extreme pain.  I tried seeing my chiropractor and getting a massage while still continuing in class…but it was only to my detriment.  Things continued to get worse and worse until finally my doctor said that I need to take at least a month off to let my neck heal.  Boo.  The injury and the frustration were a literal pain in the neck!  Pun intended!

2.  Ivy had a cough for a month straight.  We eventually thought it was allergy related asthma because it only occurred while she slept.  We got her tested for all allergies only to receive clear results - no allergies.  Good news….but frustrating as we never figured out what that was all about.  The coughing has finally ceased…but it was a stressful and sleepless 4 weeks!

3.  The week after the 2 year anniversary of Vienne's passing, I received some hugely terrible terrible tragic news.  My sister in law, Kinsey (the one who takes all of our gorgeous photos) has a best girl friend named Davy.  Davy has 2 beautiful little girls and has been drawn to me ever since I lost Vienne.  She has been a dedicated follower of this blog and has written compassionate and heartfelt messages to me, from time to time.  Having 2 girls whom she is so desperately in love with, she has struggled in imagining what I have gone through.  Her heart has been severely broken for me.  I have grown to love her as an internet friend.  Well, all that to lead up to share this….Davy and her husband, Jake, received the most awful news regarding their younger daughter, Magnolia who is 3.  Magnolia (Maggie) was diagnosed with inoperable terminal brain cancer and given 9-12 months to live.  Oh I cannot even type it, still, without crying.  Horrible awful unimaginable.  My heart shattered for her.  Over these past 2 years she has watched me go through her worst nightmare imaginable….and now she is starting to have to face it herself.  I have been a wreck ever since I found out.  You can follow their page to pray for Maggie on FB - "Pray for Magnolia".  They are currently doing daily radiation sessions.

4.  Then 2 weeks ago, I was scheduled to go on my church's women's retreat.  My first solo time away in 3 whole years!  Mark has been nudging and encouraging me to take some time away ever since I weaned Ivy.  This was it.  I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend of quiet time and sweet fellowship with ladies that I love.  And a day before the retreat I started to get a fever…chills and sweats and aches…the whole thing.  It would come and go and seem to be eased by ibuprofen so when Friday rolled around for the retreat, I thought I was in the clear to go.  I went and stayed one miserable night, plowed through the day, and finally in a teeth-chattering full body shaking mess, gave in to logic and packed up and went home.  The fever turned into something awful….that lasted 9 whole days!  I came down with the strangest worst virus I have ever faced….but the doctors could not exactly name what it was.  By Monday, my fever spiked to 104.6 and Mark had to take me to the ER - for a 9 hour stint.  Blood tests and chest x-ray revealed nothing.  But I had swollen lymph nodes, swollen salivary glands (on my cheeks, by my ears!  WEIRD!), tight chest pain and difficulty breathing, a cough, no appetite, and of course the nasty fever that lasted 9 days.  I was in bed for 6 days straight.  Then after the fever broke and I started to recover, I developed a strange condition called ITP as a result of my viral infection.  The ITP has to do with low platelet count (which I had) - causing bruising that covered my entire lower legs as well as pain and tenderness in my feet bones.  It was the strangest thing I've ever experienced.  It took me a full week to recover and gain strength back.  Thankfully, this week I am much much better and feeling like myself again.  Phew!!

(this picture doesn't do the bruising justice…it was gross looking and each and every spot HURT.  I had at first thought it was a rash until I realized how tender each one was and that they were browning, like a bruise.  So bizarre!)

5.  Relationships and friendships are hard and currently challenging.  I'll leave it at that.

6.  I decided to join a Grief Share group in lieu of counseling.  My first session was last night.  Man, it is going to be hard!  It definitely drudges up emotions that I daily strive to keep buried.  I spent the entire time just trying to keep my emotional shit together and not lose it.  Of course, I am the only one who has lost a child.  I've called around and could not even find a group with someone whose lost a child.  That's how freaking rare it is!!  The group is full of older people who have lost parents…or a spouse.  So hard to relate to that.  I didn't speak up much at all last night.  But I did notice that the few times I did, there was certainly a hushed heaviness about the room.  I think they all acknowledged the gravity of my loss.  I mean, because come on….we're all going to lose our parents.  It's inevitable.  Of course it will be hard.  I canNOT imagine losing my Mom.  I will be devastated.  But nothing will ever compare to losing a child.  Ever.  But I will keep going.  At least these people know about loss…many of the counselors I've seen do not.  We shall see how it goes.  (And, we decided to just let me go alone because I think I might open up more with a group of strangers than if Mark is there and he doesn't feel quite ready to join.)

So.  Yeah.  That's been my shitty month.  I think all of this has contributed to me being especially sensitive and weepy this whole month.  If I am alone at night, I have been crying without fail, each time.  Crying without stopping until I finally go to sleep….waking with puffy crusted eyes.  That is so unlike me.

On a sweeter note to end this pathetic post, I want to share a beautiful gift that we received on the anniversary day.  We have a close friend who is a professional artist - Donald Masterson (look him up - his work is fabulous).  A year and a half ago, we had asked him if he would paint a picture of Vienne for us….using her ashes in the paint.  It turned out to be the hardest piece of work he's ever done and that is why it took him so long.  But I love knowing that this piece was painted through his tender tears…He was Uncle Donny to our Vienne.  She loved him so.

Here is what he created.  Isn't is wonderful?

(It is a re-creation of a piece that someone had found for us a year and a half ago.  The original is the same Jesus holding a little girl who looked very similar to Vienne.  We thought it would be special to have Vienne actually painted in her place.  Donny obviously used Vienne's favorite colors.  The whole piece is textured with her ashes.  It measures about 24x30.  It is signed "Uncle Donny" at the bottom.

We are not people who normally like religious artwork…at all…so it took me a day to grow used to it.  But now I love it.  We had decided to do this because we thought it would be good to have a visible reminder of where Vienne is and how safe she is…and I am very glad we did.  I look at it and kiss her face each day.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Apple Bomb" ~ A Post From Mark

Mark sent this story to me a little over a week ago.  It is a story of a sweet little game that he and Vienne came up with, during that last summer we had with her.  He felt it would be fun to share.  I agree.  ;)

At Vienne's Park, the one up a hill behind the Albertsons on Barrows up, Vienne and I invented a game called Apple Bomb on her last Sunday.  Of the many fond memories created at this park, this is one of my favorite.  I ran by here the other day and realized that rather than write pages about how I'm doing after 2 years of loss, I'd rather just share Apple Bomb.
First, find an apple tree that is dropping apples for which you won't get chased for picking up.  It will be beneficial if this apple tree is located in a park that is not overly attended and has a relatively large grassy area.  It will be even better if this grassy area is somewhat firm ground, soft and squishy grass will present challenges.
Now grab a fallen apple, one that allows a firm grip but will not squish in your hand.  
Line up with your co-game player. 
On the count of three (the youngest person has to count to three and shout Gooooo!) you throw the apple as high as you can, adding some little distance to the arc.
At this stage you have a decision on which way to play.  Vienne preferred to wait for the apple to land before chasing it down.  More adventurous players can run as soon as the apple is thrown however this introduces the caveat that all players understand the rules of 'red light, green light' as they may be required to stop suddenly depending on where the apple seems to be landing.  The oldest person is responsible for shouting 'red light!' if runners and falling apples appear to be on imminent collision.  An apple, even a soft one, really hurts when falling a any distance and landing on ones head.
Now, presumably, the apple has landed and (hopefully) exploded.  
It is time to engage in the science and learning portion of this game.
The first player to the apple has to find something interesting to observe and point out. 
The second player must find something as well but it can't be anything mentioned during any previous throws of the games session.
Be creative, your observation can be as varied as noticing the odd shape of one particular apple chunk, like finding shapes in clouds. In most of the games Vienne and I played outside, I tried to teach her how to observe the world around her.  By watching, by wondering, by engaging; a kid will never be bored.  
If there are still big chunks of the apple that have exploding potential, feel free to continue throwing until said potential has evaporated.
Then go get another apple and continue the cycle until the throwers arm is about to fall off.

Vienne and I played this for at least an hour that Sunday morning when we should have been at church but it was just too nice a morning.  I can still hear her voice shouting, "Gooooooo", my signal to throw.  She would be standing in a runners start pose and as soon as the apple landed her little legs would churn the grass.  
I remember feeling a little bad about the mess we made but I taught Vienne about how birds would come eat and spread apple seeds all over our neighborhood for new apple trees to grow . . . . so all good stuff.  
I think we even brought Jenny & Ivy back that afternoon for a few more throws.  I naturally overdid it and could barely move my shoulder the next day.

By the way, this is the park we celebrated Vienne's 5th birthday.  We planted a hydrangea at the back of the park between two pines for her and since have thought that city park folk had torn it up since it 'didn't belong'.  Anyway, it's back.  Just a few little branches and leaves a couple inches over the bark but it's there.  It's so tempting to read into stuff like that, to over spiritualize or deliver some sort of homily about perseverance,  Truth is I'm just glad it's there.  Just being there is enough.  I wish Vienne was just here.

What I will say about this 2 year anniversary of sadness is that grief is the second most life changing emotion I think is out there, preceded only by love.  In the movie The Avengers, the characters wonder and doubt how the Hulk has learned to control his anger….they want to know his secret to hiding it.  Towards the end of the movie you learn he controls it by always being angry.  Here's the clip just because:

And that's what grief is like to me; learning to live with the dichotomy of having sorrow while still being a loving husband, an engaged father, a reliable friend and pleasant co-worker.  That's our secret…we're just always sad.