the super duper last thing

When I’m putting Squirmy to bed, she makes sure to call to me a few times to stall and I’ll go right back in to see what she’s thought of to tell me. After the third or fourth time, I start to get a little peeved. She says, “This is the super duper last thing, Mama!”

When I started kissingglue, I needed an outlet. It felt like I had so much to say and if I didn’t get it out, I was going to burst. I was not only willing to share my experience but needed to share it as a way to help me move forward. So I ended up living quite publicly.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t even put into words how much this blog has helped me get through the hardest year of my life. I’m not done grieving, I’m not done healing, but I’m at a place where I’m done doing so here.

DSCN0701Thank you so much for reading this, for giving me feedback and support, for taking a step back and looking at your own lives and putting things into perspective. I have appreciated it all.

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This song came out when Greg and I first started dating. We listened to it a lot when we had time to just be us and in love. It’s a little haunting now but still so beautiful. I hope you’ll take the time to just stop and realize how much you have and let all your sweeties know how much you love and appreciate them.

This is the super duper last thing…

Thank you. I love you.

xxx,

Mariah

6

HOPE and FUN and B.A.D.

A couple weeks ago, Squirmy and I attended Camp HOPE for a weekend of healing with other children and families with similar stories.

Squirmy was in a group of five little girls. When we got there, she went right with her group saying to me, “Bye Mama – see you tomorrow!” I looked at her with a shocked, hurt expression. She giggled and said, “Or maybe sooner!!!” She had a great time and loved her first real “camp” experience.

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I met a lot of other women who had lost their husbands. It was interesting to hear all of their stories. Some were effected by suicide, some women didn’t have great relationships with their husbands and had their own guilt about not missing them or of already moving on, some women had relationships like mine and Greg. Their experiences were all so different than mine but we were all going through the same thing.

One woman pulled me aside and said, “I just love your story.” I love it too and it really felt like Greg was with me at camp. I felt him around more than I have in a long time – maybe because it was the longest amount of time that I’ve had to focus on reflecting without everyday life getting in the way. In most everything we did over the weekend, I felt his presence. We had a drumming session and I could feel Greg banging on those drums with me. I remember thinking, “Greg is loving this.”

We had a yoga session and did a couple partner positions. The instructor asked for someone to help her demonstrate a move and I volunteered. It reminded me of Greg and I in our birthing class when we demonstrated every time because no other couple was willing to. I remember feeling Greg with me.

I climbed to the top of a climbing wall with relative ease, the entire time feeling Greg climbing with me – POSSIBLY giving me a little smack on my behind for a boost! :) I remember thinking, “Greg is loving this.” I could even hear him say, “Good job, Baby!” and felt him kiss my forehead when I got to the bottom after I gracefully (Okay…NOT so gracefully) bounced down.

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I made a collage while I was there and had to laugh that there happened to be a picture of Larry David (the creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm – both some of Greg’s favorite shows) in one of the magazines. Of course I cut it out so in the middle of this collage with all these beautiful pictures and quotes, there is a cutout of Larry David! I can see Greg with a big smile, delighted by the fact that I included him in my collage.

At one of our group sessions I told everyone how I used to get so mad at Greg for leaving his dirty socks around the house. And how I would give anything to pick up those socks now. The girls peel off their socks and leave them on the floor and every time I pick them up, I think of Greg. I could just see Greg laughing about his socks on the floor, saying, “See! Leaving my socks on the floor has become a very important part of the past! You should have been thanking me all those years!”

I’ve been reminded lately how much fun I had with Greg. And sometimes when I’m not having fun, I imagine he’s with me to cheer me up. I know I’ve said it before but he made things fun just by being present. Not because he was the life of the party but because he was the life of MY party. :) He wasn’t phased by things not going just as planned and he was able to calm me down and make me smile when I WAS. Let’s just say that maybe happened a lot. :) He loved to make me laugh and relax when I was at my most uptight. One of the reasons I loved him so much was because he could do this for me. And I’m sure one of the reasons he loved me so much is because he could do this for me.

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I’ve been trying to have more fun with the girls. Trying not to be so concerned about getting places and doing things we don’t really need to do. Trying to just let them play and take their time and be silly with them while they’re doing it. We’ve been listening to more of Greg’s music and the girls really like some Big Audio Dynamite (B.A.D.). Yesterday as we were driving and I started a B.A.D album, Squeaky yelled to me from the back seat, “Mama – Roll down all the windows and crank up the music!!!” So this is what we jammed out to…turn it up…

Rush by Big Audio Dynamite

If I have my time again
I would do it all the same
Ain’t change a single thing
Even when I was the blind
For the heartache and the pain
Got a cause throughout my ears
How I’d love to be your man
Through the laughter and the tears

Situation no win
Rush for the change of atmosphere
I can’t go on so I give in
Gotta get myself right outta here

Now I’m fully grown
And I know where it’s at
Somehow I stayed thin
While the other guys got fat
All the chances that are blown
And the times that I’ve been down
I didn’t get to high
Kept my feet on the ground

Situation no win
Rush for the change of atmosphere
I can’t go on so I give in
Gotta get myself right outta here

And of all my friends
You’ve been the best to me
Soon will be tha day
When I repay you hands and knees
Broken hearts are hard to mend
I know I’ve had my share
But life just carries on
Even when I’m not there

Situation no win
Rush for the change of atmosphere
I can’t go on so I give in
Gotta get myself right outta here

Situation no win
Rush for the change of atmosphere
I can’t go on so I give in
Gotta get myself right outta here

Gotta get myself right
Gotta get myself right
Gotta get myself right
Outta there

Gotta get myself right
Gotta get myself right
Gotta get myself right
Outta there

xxx,

Mariah

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consider the conversation

Remember last summer when I was interviewed for a documentary? Well, it’s finished.

Consider the Conversation 2: Stories about Cure, Relief and Comfort will air tonight (Tuesday) on Wisconsin Public Television (PBS) at 9 p.m.

I haven’t seen it so I really don’t know what to expect. I think there is a video of me and Greg one night at the in-patient hospice center when he was saying goodnight to the girls over the phone. I don’t think my interview made it into the 56-minute PBS version but it’s possibly in the full-length version, which won’t be available until August.

Here’s an article about it from the Wisconsin State Journal HERE.

So, tonight. 9 p.m. Wisconsin Public Television.

xxx,

Mariah

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remembering daddy through pictures

I don’t want my girls to forget. It was one thing that Greg was terrified of; that the girls would forget him, especially Squeaky since she was just 2 when he got sick and not even 2-1/2 when he died. I remember coming home from Hospice in early May last year and Greg insisted on stopping at Best Buy in a wheelchair and his pajama pants to get an additional external hard drive so we’d never lose photos of him.

I like having photo albums to look at. I know they are heavy and take up lots of space but there’s something so real in sitting down next to someone and looking at printed photos with a heavy album in your lap. I’ve been falling behind in printing out pictures of the last few years of our lives – some very, very important years.

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So, I’ve been printing out hundreds of photos at a time to get caught up. So far, I’m only to 2011 but it makes Squeaky happy that she can finally see photos of her as a baby.

We’ve been looking through them together and I’ve already found the girls sitting together with the albums, looking at and talking about the pictures to each other.

I’m now not as concerned about them forgetting. These pictures and my stories will help fill their sweet memories.

xxx,

Mariah

 

1

dark days/light days

Last Thursday, April 24th, was a really bad day. Everything seemed to go wrong. I knew it was an anniversary earlier in the week but I had forgotten until a couple days after it was over.

I never realized how much anniversaries can effect us. For years during the fall, Greg would have a few dark days and after looking at the calendar, he would realize that it was around the time that both of his parents had died (on different days and years in September).

Back in mid-March of last year, we first heard that Greg might have cancer. When we got home from the hospital and after Greg was asleep, I remember falling to the floor at the bottom of our stairs, crying so hard I almost threw up because I knew that he was dying. I just knew. I felt horrible for not being more positive about our chances but on that day, I was already starting to grieve the loss of my Greg. Before we even knew for sure, I was grieving.

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Then came April 24th. It was the day Greg’s oncologist told us that his treatment hadn’t helped and there was nothing more that we could do. It was the day that we gave up on fighting to heal his body. We succumbed to the cancer. There was a small discussion of traveling to the ends of the earth to try and fight this thing to the death. But we had no more fight in us. It had been such an exhausting two months and we were both on the brink of just breaking by the weight of it all. When Toby said those words, all we could do was exhale. Greg was the first to speak. I don’t remember exactly what he said but it was something like, “Okay. I guess we knew this was coming. I should probably start planning now.” It was a relief. I can’t believe I felt that. I didn’t want to feel like we were giving up but any more of life in this out-of-control, free-fall and I felt like our family would be crushed. Just totally break, lose it and never recover – just like Greg’s poor, defeated body. It was different than death. In death there is peace. There was no peace in this battle.

It’s hard for me to talk about cancer and quite honestly, easier to talk about death. I know that there are a lot of people that have had or are facing cancer and fighting it successfully. But to us and our experience, success isn’t the case. To me and my family, cancer equals death. And even the treatments we tried seemed to do more harm than good. And that’s another reason that we were relieved to stop the suffering we seemed to be inflicting on Greg.

The month of May has always been a sunny, happy time for me.  It’s May Day, Mother’s Day, it’s Angie and Brynn’s birthdays :), it’s the end of the school year, it’s lilacs and green grass and parks and bikes and sun. But it’s also now death. I don’t want this time of year to become our ‘dark days’.

Last year, after April 24th, that grieving continued – for all of us. But I think that’s also when the healing started. We had Greg’s party, which was full of love, so much that I can’t even put it into words. We continued to have family, friends and neighbors stop by and help us out.

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But now, we had nowhere we needed to be. No appointments. No hospitals. No waiting rooms. Just home. Just together. Just enjoying what there was left of him, focusing on loving him and the life he had left in him. And I think that’s something to celebrate; the opposite of dark days. Because even though we were all grieving and mourning his eminent death, there was something so beautiful in the way we lived the month of May. Even Greg was able to experience some peace and healing for himself….not a definition of dark, but of light.

xxx,

Mariah

 

3

more love

When Greg and I were married, I never gave another man a second glance. I remember a friend once making a comment about a guy who was good-looking and I surprised myself by realizing…”Holy shit – I haven’t thought of another man as good-looking since December of ’04!” 

But can you guess what I did a week or so after Greg died? I started looking at other men – constantly! And not just good-looking men (or men that I was attracted to), but ALL men of ALL ages! I wondered if they were single. I imagined what kind of husband or boyfriend they were. I even imagined…well, you know. And I think it was all Greg’s fault! :) I was getting constant attention from someone who adored me and all of the sudden that was gone. It was like I was going through withdrawal. I tried looking up this up as an official “stage of grief” but I couldn’t find the “obsessing about other men” stage! :) I feel like I can write about it now because I’m past it, in fact it really only lasted a couple weeks.

I remember one of the things I loved about getting married was the thought that I would never have to date again!!!! (Insert huge smile turning into a drooping, sad face…)

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And now? Now, I’m starting to feel like it’s okay to move on. It’s an awkward time for this because we’re coming up on the anniversary of Greg’s death. I have possibly even chosen a bad time to begin this process. In some ways, I still feel like our family is this tight little unit and Greg’s spot is still saved, just an empty seat, all of us waiting for him to come back. But the thought of dating isn’t as annoying or daunting anymore. I’m actually looking forward to it, in this new life that I’m now living.

A couple weeks ago, I did something that I am pretty proud of. One day I thought of asking someone out and the next day I did…to their face! It felt really good. As I was debating it, I thought to myself, “I’ve been through my husband dying! Will a little embarrassment or rejection from a stranger feel anywhere near that bad?” The answer was no and so I did it.

When I was at the support group for widows last month, a woman was explaining how she had lost her boyfriend 7 years ago. She was telling us she was still single and said, “I don’t have room in my heart for anyone else.” Oh, that made me sad. It must be what she needs to do or thinks she needs to do but that wasn’t something that I could relate to.  When I was pregnant with my second child, I remember my friend Jill telling me, “It might seem like you can’t possibly love your second child as much as your first, but you don’t have to push aside any love for your first child. You just make more love in your heart.” She’s a wise friend, that Jilly.

So that’s what I’m going to do – make more love in my heart – because I know that Greg loved me enough to want me/us to be taken care of, in whatever way I/we need. And that will always be comforting.

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Making more love in our hearts for Squeaky!

Is it going to be hard? Possibly. Probably. Will having children effect the way I go about it? Yes. Is it going to be a process? Yes. Will it at some point feel too much or too soon? Possibly. Will I then back-off a bit? Absolutely.

Like anything I’ve faced since losing Greg, nothing seems as hard as I imagined it being in the past. He gave me a positive, solid relationship as a foundation for the rest of my life. It was a relationship that I learned a lot from – I now know what I want and I know how something great feels. Is that out there for me again? I hope so.

Wish me luck. And luck. And more luck. Because I guess this could take awhile.

xxx,

Mariah

1

bliss lane

I met Greg when we worked together in Minnesota about 10 years ago. He lived in a house on Bliss Lane in Bloomington that he absolutely loved. It was a California-style ranch, I think. It had no basement and the walls stopped short of the ceiling so it was all open on the top. Greg was so proud of the space and used to love showing people this house.

The girls and I just got back from a 5-day road trip to the Twin Cities and River Falls, WI to see some great, old friends and great, old places. As I was pointing places out, “That’s where Daddy and I met and played basketball together on the roof of that building…That is where Daddy’s office was…This is where I used to live when I started dating your Daddy”…, Squeaky asks me, “Mama – why are you showing us all this stuff?”

Bliss Lane was one of the stops we made.

We pulled up to the house mid-morning on Thursday, behind the owner who just happened to be coming home at that exact time. He let us take some photos and invited us inside to see what had been done to the place since Greg had owned it. I guess he likes showing other people the house too. :)

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I wish I could have had a moment to just take a deep breath and feel Greg in that house. But I was standing right next to this stranger (in HIS house!) and didn’t really want to break down right there so I scooted the girls out of there after a couple minutes. Greg would have loved to see this house again. I could just hear him say to me, “Good job, Red!”

So…my dear, little Squeaky…I know that these places don’t mean a lot to you now, that houses are just houses and buildings are just buildings. But this building, this restaurant, this basketball court and this house – especially this house – just might someday help you understand a little bit of who your wonderful Daddy was.

Until then, I’m showing you all this stuff…for me.

xxx,

Mariah

2

tofu cheese shells

Have you ever thought to put tofu, egg and cheese into a dish? I think it’s strange and for some reason it reminds me of the Paul Simon song, Mother and Child Reunion, except that was about a chicken and egg dish that Paul saw on a Chinese restaurant’s menu. Did you know that’s how the song got that title? It’s true. Greg taught me that! He was full of that kind of knowledge, probably after reading it in one of his Bathroom Readers!

Anyway, on to tofu…

My Aunt Cathy gave me a book of her favorite recipes and this one was in it. It’s yum. My girls like it too except I have to keep the sauce off of a few of the shells because they don’t like sauce. Oh and this recipe originally called for cannelloni but I swore too much while trying to fill those effing things! Shells are easier. :)

Tofu Cheese Shells
14 oz tofu, crumbled
3 oz. grated mozzarella
2 oz. grated cheddar
2 oz. grated parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. fresh parsley
basil leaves
salt and pepper
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
jumbo shells (you won’t use the entire box – my girls will eat the leftover plain shells for a snack over the next couple days)
1 jar spaghetti sauce or homemade

Preheat oven to 350. Add all ingredients except shells and sauce to tofu. Cook shells. Fill with mixture into greased 8×11 pan. Top with sauce. Bake until heated through, 35 minutes.

Sorry, no pretty pictures to show…but, try it!

xxx,

Mariah

0

a photo that never existed

Has anyone ever given you a photo of yourself that you completely forgot about or had no idea that it even existed?

This one was sent to me yesterday.

Mariah and Greg Usually when I see a photo that I didn’t know was taken, I remember the day and love to see that moment from a different perspective. But I don’t remember the day of this photo – it was a day that has skipped my memory. In a way it seems like a new experience, a new memory even. I can still feel my arms around him, the way his waist felt, the way that shirt felt, the way I could lean into his chest, my head tucked right into his warm neck so he could rest his chin on me. I can feel myself giving him a big squeeze just by looking at this.

Thank you for this photo.

xxx,

Mariah

1

asking for help

We were having a HORRIBLE time at bedtime. Every once in awhile it gets pretty bad, but once last week, I ended up running to my closet, falling to my knees, crying and yelling into my hands. I tried to close the closet door to muffle the sound so I didn’t scare the girls. Squirmy came in and said, “Mama, you can call Nana and ask her for help. She can help you.” After thinking how sweet that was for her to say, I then thought, “What is Nana going to do? Come over here and put you to bed a half hour from now while I’m crying in the closet?” I got up, gave both the girls big hugs and kisses, apologized for “freaking out” and we all went to sleep, exhausted from our drama.

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A few nights later (damn daylight savings time change!), it was almost the same thing though not quite that bad. After the kids went to sleep, I took Squirmy’s advice and called Nana, my mom. We brainstormed ways to help the girls get to sleep and decided that even though they share a room, they need different bedtimes and they both need a little bit of one-on-one time with me before they go to sleep. So, I’ve started working on this with the girls and a few nights later, Squeaky is quiet and cuddled in bed within minutes! I have been able to lay in my bed, cuddling and reading books with Squirmy uninterrupted AND listen to HER read to ME! This makes me so, so, so happy!

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Squirmy and Nana, helping me out.

Last Monday night was also my first group therapy session with other widowers. This was the one I missed last month. It was a big group. I walked in and saw only one box of tissues on the coffee table in the middle of the room. I thought of grabbing it and putting it on my lap immediately! But I sat down and waited until a few tears fell in my lap. Then, someone passed it over. We went around in a circle talking about our experiences with loss. I was by far the youngest one there. There were a lot of different feelings and thoughts shared. Not all applied to me but I took at least one thing that everyone said and could relate.

One thing that stuck in my mind was the feeling that after a month or so go by, people forget about what you’re going through. One of the women in the group said exactly, “At the funeral everyone says, ‘Let me know if you need anything. I’m here for you.’ But then a month later, they stop checking in or asking you how you are.”

I understood where she was coming from but the words that she used finally made it click for me. I completely understand that a widow (or anyone grieving) needs a lot of love and support and it can feel very lonely. But at some point, your friends and family do need you to let them know how they can help. Most people don’t know how they can help. To be quite honest, I wouldn’t necessarily know how to help a grieving friend, even though I’m going through it myself! And I’ve learned that, most of the time, it’s up to me (or my 5 year old!) to say it out loud. Because at this point, nobody really knows what we need but us.

I recently pulled a little quote from a magazine that asked the question, What’s the most important question you’ve ever asked yourself? One woman wrote, “I’ve always thought that asking for help was a sign of weakness, but when my mother died, I learned that it takes greater strength to lean on others than to stand alone. In order to heal, I asked myself, What help do I need in this moment?”

When Greg got sick last year and we heard the word cancer, my dad had JUST driven home from our house, seven hours away. After putting the girls to bed, Greg and I were struggling with the weight of it all coming down on us. In between tears, Greg said, “Can you ask your dad to come back? We need him.” I was thinking the same thing although I had been too scared/proud/??? to say it out loud. I called my dad immediately and he packed his bags and came right back. In the days and months that followed, when someone asked me what they could do to help, I told them. And in those three months, we were never alone. There was always someone living with us, running errands for us, fixing things in the house, helping with yard work, bringing us dinner, babysitting the girls or keeping Greg company. There was NO WAY that we could have done it alone.

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Papa with Squeaky

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My aunt and uncle lived with us and helped us out for over a month.

Our case is pretty extreme, I guess. We needed lots of help. We still need lots of help. I know that everyone is going through different struggles and your friends and family do want to help. But if nobody knows what you need, it’s really hard to get that help. People aren’t cold. People aren’t heartless. People need to know.

So, how can I help you?

xxx,

Mariah

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