Her car rolled past my house pushing three miles per hour, partly because she’s nearly 90 and partly because she was coming to a stop two doors down. I was making breakfast in the kitchen that was once hers, standing where my grandmother stood years ago, buttering bread and scrambling eggs. My heart caught when I saw her go by, hands at 10 and two, chin nearly touching the steering wheel. It was summer at 9 am, my kids were still wearing yesterday’s popsicles stains but my grandmother was dressed to match her purse that matches her shoes. She woke up knowing just what to do and stepped from the curb towards her best friend’s front door with arms already outstretched.
My neighbor’s husband, the husband of my grandmother’s best friend, passed away the day before. The news spread through our neighborhood quickly as bad news does and I expected a street lined with cars as the next few days rolled towards the funeral. But I didn’t expect to see my grandmother, first one to her home, offering comfort during a time she understood all too well as a widow herself. Something about seeing this deep act of friendship, this “showing up” of the most essential kind, made me reflect on my own friendships and whether I’ve put enough into them to deserve the same return some day.
My children are all getting older now. The days of chasing them through the park and coercing their limbs into strollers are long over and, on paper, there should be more time for coffee with friends and uninterrupted phone calls but I haven’t made them a priority. When bad things happen I send texts and flowers and offers to help but there is a long list of obligations in front of my friendships. I often take the easiest route to show my support rather, the one that makes my introverted self most comfortable.
My grandmother told me a story about when she and her friend were young moms, juggling kids two doors down from each other, no internet, no Facebook, no DVD player in the car (CAN YOU IMAGINE??). She smirked and leaned forward in that way she does when she’s going to tell you a secret that isn’t much of a secret and she confessed to their evening trips to the corner store. “On those really long days we used to walk there once our husbands got home. We didn’t have money to buy things in those days so we would just read the greeting cards. We would laugh and laugh until we were crying in the aisle and then we would walk home and hope the kids were asleep. That’s how we got away in those days when we couldn’t have the fun you girls do now.”
I thought about that story as my grandmother and her sweet friend hugged in the driveway. And about friendship and how much easier it used to be, how much more difficult technology has made it for us. We’re given the excuses of email and social media when what we really need is a good long visit on the front porch or a day at the kitchen table in view of a street safe enough for the kids to play on until the street lights shine. I watched these two dear old ladies embracing, shrunken to heights that compete with my growing kids. Both now without husbands and offering each other the purest of what they have left.
Nearly every time I take my three youngest out in public a sentimental senior citizen reminds me to enjoy them while they’re young or mentions how quickly they will grow up, how precious these days are. Sometimes they offer their advice when the kids are holding hands and happy and no one has fought over anything in 32.5 seconds. But sometimes it’s while I’m carrying a kid under my arm with an unexpected side of grief and bags under my eyes.
There is a long answer I want to give them but I never offer it. I smile and say “I do” or “I know.”
But I want to tell them that I really do know, that losing a baby whose life I never dreamed would be so short taught me just how fragile small hands are. How lucky we are when our children breath in the next breath after breathing out the last.
I want to tell them I enjoy them on the good days and when they’re goopy and needy and miserable I let myself wallow in this job a little but I always have a second where I’m grateful to be here for them. Where I step back and know how easily it could be gone, how small a heartbeat I was away from empty arms.
Grief and loss changed me in a million small and giant ways but they aren’t all for the worse. I’m sure my kids will remember me sad and distant sometimes, but I hope they will also remember me grateful and present.
Their sister taught me things about motherhood I thought I already knew.
I thought I knew the comfort of rocking a baby until I understood that some rocking chairs get returned.
I thought I felt the surprise of first steps until I watched one take her first steps without a sister following behind.
I thought I appreciated the sweet gesture of sticky cards and backward handwriting until I saw a stick figure drawn with a halo.
I thought I realized the pride of watching the first two wheel bike ride until I met a family who wouldn’t need to buy a bike with blue and green stripes anymore.
If you have the privilege of reading this as the parent of living children do you know there’s a parent out there who envies your Sunday night battle over that long-put-off science fair project?
Do you know there’s a momma who would love to have to find the other shoe just one more time?
There’s a daddy somewhere wishing he could grumble under his breath while he puts together that 8,000 piece Barbie Dream House staring at you from the corner.
And somewhere there are two parents regretting every night they fought over who was going to take the late night feeding, not knowing that one was the last.
I’m not sharing any of this to make you feel guilty, we all press more than enough guilt on ourselves. I’m sharing this to say that on the other side of grief is deep gratitude. We just have to find it.
There is grace waiting for us if we’re ready to gather it up– whether our hands are full or not.
Today I picked up a prescription alone. I sat in the car for four, possibly five, glorious minutes and checked Facebook on my phone while I ate a pack of miniature Cadbury Eggs I didn’t have to share.
And then my bucket was full. Well it wasn’t full but it was full as could be at this point in my week.
If you are reading this while carrying an empty bucket don’t worry, you can read on. I promise I will not tell you to take time for yourself or spend a weekend away with the girls because I know how isolating those suggestions can feel when they are not an option even on the best of your best days.
I was the carrier of a bone-dry bucket for many years. Only in the last year or two have I been able to come up for air, the special needs of both of my girls teetering on stable for more days than not. There are still times when the well-meaning advice of taking a break is laughable but I’m far from where life used to hold me.
I remember one of my lowest points. My daughter had recently died, I was parenting two preemies with complicated medical needs and managing a hormonal preteen with autism. I laughed at the thought of a girl’s night out or even that appointment with a therapist I so desperately needed. Filling my own bucket was not an option. My therapist offered phone appointments so I could get a drop of water here and there but other than that I was flying (or dragging along) solo.
On those worst days, I talked to myself. Some might say this sealed my insanity. But I told myself, over the sound of screaming babies and angsty teens things like “this is only temporary” and “the only way out is through.” Either I believed it or talking to the voice in my head was enough to keep me company because I survived.
I know that many of you are carrying buckets that are empty more than they are full. You are a special needs parent or a single mom or have never had the luxury of a babysitter nearby. I know that putting yourself first– filling your own bucket before you shovel everyone else’s full– might not be an option at this time in your life. So I’m not going to tell you to do it. I’m going to tell you I understand. I wish you could have a two hour break or a sunny vacation somewhere but I know that is not realistic and, if you’re like me, I know you’ve come to accept this on some level.
One of these days we’ll look back and clink our glasses that we’ve filled from our overflowing buckets, but not today. For now we’ll connect and share stories in the only way we can, as our cars idle in the parking lot of the pharmacy before someone calls to find out how long it will be before we’re back home again.
I was compensated to share my thoughts and feelings about Henry Ford Health System but all thoughts expressed are my own.
My grandmother turned 90 in July. For her 90th birthday present all of the grandkids put together a video of our favorite memories with Grandma. The memories ranged from special trips for ice cream to discovering salad tongs under her pillow that she kept there in case she needed to fend off potential burglars.
I shared a moment that stuck with me from my childhood, something that embodied my grandmother to me. When I was nine or ten my grandma came on vacation with us as she often did and she asked if I wanted to join her on her daily walk. Full of nine year-old energy, I agreed and put on my tennis shoes that were probably pink high tops that no one with feet nearly as long as their legs should have been wearing.
My grandma took off at a speed that could rival most champion speed walkers. Are there speed-walking championships? If there are my grandma should have totally entered thirty years ago. What I thought was going to be a stroll through the woods with my grandma was a walk-run that ended with me trailing a sixty-something-year-old woman and declining all of her walk invitations for the rest of our vacation. I might have been willing to swim until my skin shriveled up and race around on my banana seat bike but I guess being shown up by Grandma in the forest wasn’t my kind of exercise.
For as long as I can remember my grandma has kept busy and eaten healthy. Her daily walks continued until she needed to move on to chair aerobics and she’s still know to forgo salad dressing if she can’t find anything low-cal enough. For the record, when I’m 90 I’m switching to full calorie ranch.
When I picture myself as a grandmother I see myself snuggling grandkids and baking them all the things but I also hope to affectionately leave them in the dust too. I hope they watch me do things in my senior years and wonder what was in my morning juice just as we’ve all done with my grandmother. She has ridden four-wheelers and hung onto a speeding tube tied to the back of a boat and never said no to an opportunity to keep moving, no matter her age.
The last year or two my own age is starting to sink in. I’ve always been on the thin side so had never felt pressure to exercise but my energy level was slowly decreasing and my moods weren’t that fabulous either. I started thinking about my fabulous grandma and her speed-walking, up-for-anything ways. I hadn’t even hit forty yet and the couch already sounded better than any form of physical activity.
I’ve never been very athletic so there were way more workouts out there that didn’t appeal to me than did. I spent some time searching for a physical fitness routine I actually liked, knowing that was the only way I’d stick to it. I ultimately settled on yoga and once I was feeling good about my fitness level had the confidence I needed to try new workouts like pilates, barre and running… I even started running!
My grandma and her never-ending spirit and energy will always be my inspiration to keep moving. She’s 90 now and as expected with her age, not in the perfect health she once was. She recently had a pacemaker put in and is under the amazing care of The Henry Ford Health System Heart and Vascular Institute. We couldn’t be happier with their individualized care and dedication to helping her maintain her lifestyle. Through their treatment of my grandma, we understand why people come from all over the world for the expertise found at The Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute. They believe the best medicine begins with the individual and that heart and vascular care should be one of a kind, not one size fits all.
Her cardiologist, Dr. Celeste Williams values her need to feel like she’s 90 going on 25 and has worked diligently with her on finding medication with minimal side effects so she can keep moving. Grandma receives personalized care from Dr. Williams and is loved and cared for the minute she walks through those medical office doors.
Seeing my grandma live life to the fullest is all the motivation I need to work on keeping my heart healthy as I age. I want to be her when I grow up. She passed me by with flying colors when I was a child and taught me the valuable lesson of how to speed walk through life without missing a thing.
Preventive care is so important to maintain optimal health. Henry Ford offers an easy, interactive, online tool to assess your heart health called the Heart Health Risk Assessment. It takes less than five minutes to complete and is a great way to learn which areas of your own health you should target. A great next step would be to set your yearly exam and look into the $99 heart screening offered by Henry Ford.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Henry Ford Health System
We’ve already been homeschooling for seven years. How did my kids even get old enough to be in school for that long? We started homeschooling by trying it out for a few months with just McKenna and now here I am schooling three kids at home, hoping they all want to continue for years and years to come. I’m not sure about Parker and McKenna but Sawyer is already asking about “homeschool college” so I think I’ll have at least one home with me for the long haul.
I truly have enjoyed homeschooling even more than I thought I would so figured I’d see if I could come up with 101 reasons to homeschool… (I should add that some of these reasons were supplied by my children so if something doesn’t seem like a “mom reason” that’s why.)
No more packing school lunches.
Plenty of pajama days
The opportunity to teach your children how to read
Snuggling up on the couch with your kids and a good book at any time of the day.
Experience those moments when something “clicks” and they get something for the first time.
Kids who wear what they like not what other kids like.
Staying up late
Hot lunch every day (almost)
Better sibling relationships
No looking for matching shoes before 8 am
No looking for matching gloves before 8 am
More time to instill family values
No peer pressure
Lots of free time when homeschooling is complete
More time to explore new interests
Shorter school days
Low chance of lice!
Kids are sick so much less often
No standing in line to use the restroom
Plenty of one-on-one time
No dress code
Lots of time to be creative
No rushing between school and activities
No standardized tests (depending on where you live)
There’s no PTA in homeschooling
No school fundraisers
You don’t have to buy school clothes
School can be done with a pet on your lap
No raising your hand to use the bathroom
More time for friends
Snack time is anytime
Endless field trip opportunities
No pulling kids out of school for doctor appointments
This post contains affiliate links for deals on books which means if you click on them I get a tiny little kickback from Amazon on your purchase. Thanks so much for supporting my work!
I’m always coming across great deals on books. Sometimes I post them on Facebook and then five minutes later see a deal on another book that is on my Goodreads list. Rather than post every deal I find on my Facebook page, which some of you might like but the other half of you would hide me for all eternity over, I decided I’d keep this post updated with the best deals on books I’m either dying to read or have already read and highly recommend.
Here’s the current list of deals on books I’ve found. If you read any of them I’d love for you to leave me a comment on what you thought. And if you find any great deals email them to me at email@example.com and I’ll add them here.
Note: A few of these books are showing the full price in the display pics from Amazon below but when I click over to them I promise they’re on sale.
There’s a Joshilyn Jackson book on sale! I was just about to suck it up and buy it at full price after wanting to read it for months. Her books never go on sale. She writes like a dream and I haven’t missed a single story she’s penned.
I’m a sucker for a good YA book and Robin Schneider is excellent at crafting a great story. Absolutely loved this unpredictable book.
Everything Amanda Eyre Ward writes is excellent and this was no exception. This is the first book I’ve read that explores the border crossing issue in such detail with a very personal story entwined.
The Language of Flowers is such a beautiful read. It’s a must if you haven’t read it yet.
I loved this one. Such a colorful list of characters in this small town that I wouldn’t mind living in.
I’ve been dying to read this one with McKenna. It’s the story of a service dog who tried to bond with his new owner, an autistic boy. It’s the perfect story for our dog-loving, autism-living family. We’ve just started it and love it already.
Other things you need…
I found this sweatshirt on a lightening deal last week and it’s stayed on sale. It is unbelievably comfortable and since it’s still on sale I’m ordering it in another color or ten.
And of course there’s always my book for that amazing preemie in your life, young or old…
If you’ve suffered a life-changing tragedy you have a date, maybe two or three where the world was supposed to stop but it didn’t. Where you were looking out your car window or down the 8th floor waiting room hallway and wondering how these people were functioning as if this were any other day. How were they pushing the gas pedal or filing their paperwork or tapping the vending machine without a bucket of tears and an unavoidable urge to curl up somewhere and disappear?
Every year when we celebrate Hadley’s life on the anniversary of her death I travel through the day pretty sure our family has some kind of advertisement on the outside of our vehicle telling the world we aren’t just walking through any other day– like the Scooby Doo Mystery Van but with a more depressing color scheme.
This day, this terrible, awful day will never be a casual day for us. It will always be the day we wake up quieter, move slower, hug more, cry a little, pick out balloons and flowers, miss the turn for the cemetery and bubble over with inappropriate laughter over something that’s not funny. We will not say much while simultaneously considering the purchase of a megaphone to shout out why the world should be frozen in reverence or watching the clock for the anniversary of our final moments with our child in our arms.
The world doesn’t stop for the grieving or the traumatized or the heartbroken. It goes on at it’s normal pace, waiting for you to leap back in and return to usual speed. I hated this at first. How dare the world keep turning when mine has stopped?
Over time I forgave the world for spinning and found a way to jump back in when I could. My daughter would want me to move forward– not past or away from her but toward the rest of my life. There are 364 other days in the year to live fully with her memory tucked quietly at my side. But there will always be one, that 365th day, that stops for me and for anyone else who has lost a child– we need it to.
You don’t have to stop with us. Just give us the space to stand still and know we will start moving again. Don’t urge us out of bed or off to work or try to talk us into someone else’s idea of a recovery plan. We do this every year, our hearts have become good at it unfortunately. Hold our space while we pause and wallow in what we’ve lost and cling tight to what we have to remember.
We might need to stay quiet or be surrounded by noise. We may hope to be ignored or for everyone’s attention on our sorrow. We could have elaborate dinner plans or a date with a glass of wine and a carton of ice cream. The most important thing for you to understand is that we need to figure this out for ourselves. Over the years we’ll find what feels right on the day that everything went wrong, just follow our lead.
We’ll be back tomorrow to continue living this life with the same lessons loss has taught us– but for today OUR world needs to stop turning. We need time and space and so much understanding as we remember the day time stood still and part of our heart was taken away.
P.S. If you are looking for what you can do to support someone who is grieving you can find lots of suggestions here. If you just finished reading this article and are like “I don’t feel like reading 500 more of your words no matter how enlightening you think they are” just get out a candle and light it when you want someone to know you’re thinking of them. Let them know your candle is burning that day for the loss of their baby/grandfather/mother/best friend that left them with a broken heart. Supporting someone through grief doesn’t need to be grand gestures or the perfect words, they just need to know you’re here and not afraid of their pain.
Years ago when I saw a therapist regularly she often reminded me that I needed to feel my way through all the feelings of losing a child. She said if I pushed away the grief or tried to stifle the urge to cry I would never get through those miserable days of searing pain. They would keep returning– the intense emotions resurfacing until I buckled to them, acknowledged just how much they sucked, then pulled a pillow over my head or cried a good shower cry.
She used to say “the only way out is through” and it became my mantra too. Those first few years after losing Hadley I told myself this often.
When I woke up with a physical ache, pressed in the shape of her head against my chest, I would put one foot in front of the other– the only way out is through.
When I felt hollowed out and overwhelmed by the thought of a lifetime without my child, I would write through my grief– the only way out is through.
When my living kids hit milestones their sister never would and the bittersweet feeling demanded my attention I would smile at them through my tears, hoping they would remember me happy– the only way out is through.
And when time went on and slow months turned to fast years and the “through” got easier in that gradual way time allows, I locked myself in the bathroom or hid away in my bedroom when the tears came, knowing they’d be back if I didn’t– the only way out is through.
But now, nine years after saying goodbye, I have to say that maybe my therapist was wrong about grief a bit. Maybe you can’t feel it all, all the time because it might just be too much.
If I thought, really thought, about the enormity of what I lost the day my daughter died I’m not sure I could have gotten through. If I thought about the opportunity to be Soccer Mom and Stage Mom and how the cuddly one still claims my lap– the stolen possibilities of all she should be and all I could be right back– it would be too much.
Maybe the only way through is knowing how searingly unfair it is to never watch your child grow up– to have to wonder how she would fill a dinner table chair and what bedtime story would be her favorite– to realize you’ve been cheated out of an entirely different kind of life, but to learn to turn your head from it in order to keep going. Because stopping for it and sinking into it is not a survival plan.
Maybe once you learn there is no out, through becomes tiptoeing carefully in life without going too deep unless you have time to sink. Because there is nothing good about it. There is no reason your child died, things didn’t turn out the way they should be and there are very few people who can say “I understand” and mean it because they know, even though you wish they didn’t.
You get to a better place by not staying in the awful one each day. You get there by telling yourself you’re okay enough times that you begin to believe it. And you get there by letting your tragedy be part of you, a huge, life-changing part, but not who you are.
You get through by realizing there is no “out” and the time you have from the day you said goodbye until the day you say hello again will be measured by breaths that are much more important that you could have ever understood before one was left silent.
You get through by deciding you’ve learned a heart wrenching lesson on the fragility of life and the crazy gift that is motherhood. Your time is as short as it is long and sometimes it needs to stop for tears but so much more than that, it needs to keep going for laughter.