Archive | November, 2013

making the most of it

*Please note that I write this post expressing how Greg and I were both feeling during his 3 month ordeal with cancer.  I do think I understood some of the things he was feeling, but certainly not all. I maybe should have written it as simply my own thoughts and feelings, but I like it how it is. There’s always the chance that I got some of this wrong so I apologize to him if that’s the case. Stick with me though. These are some hard thoughts to explain and I hope I’m going to make some sense…

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“It is what it is.”  I can’t count the number of times I have said or thought that in the last year. When we found out Greg had cancer, we accepted that this is what was happening to us. This was being forced on us so we were going to make the most of it, like we always did.

In my life with Greg, we didn’t do a lot of complaining because no matter what hardships we had, we had each other and that made things okay. And not only okay, it was almost as if good or bad, we loved each other so much that even the bad times still seem like good times. Greg was always appreciative and that really came out when he got sick.

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Even after finding out that his cancer was incurable, Greg allowed himself to be fascinated by the experience. It was this newness of what he was going through that was almost exciting. He had always loved science and astronomy and the mystery of things in this world, things that make us feel insignificant. He thought it was actually kind of cool that he could see the cancer in his eye, a flashing, white fuzzy spot. After seven treatments of radiation, he literally watched the cancer retreat, only to come back in retaliation with a stronger, larger fuzziness after radiation stopped and we switched to the chemotherapy to treat the rest of his body. His radiation mask was this strange and haunting thing that he wanted pictures of.

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I also think he felt a sense of responsibility to do this right (and maybe even a sense of honor), like he was going through this for the rest of us – so that we didn’t have to. He felt comfortable walking us through what was going on in his head. In his own words posted on Caring Bridge, “This has been a wonderful experience in it’s own warped way.”

He could literally feel the love from family, friends, even strangers from virtual and personal contact and that really kept him going. He now had this audience that he had never had before and felt that sense of responsibility to share what he could with us. If we were too busy and hadn’t posted anything in a couple days, he would say, “We should really do another post to check in with everyone.”

4-18-13 photos 003And once we were sitting in one of the patient rooms at the Cancer Center, there was a sense of comfort and belonging, even when we knew that it WASN’T going to be okay. Of course there was no comfort in the reason he was there, especially since virtually all of our appointments revealed devastating news. But there was something about that little room, something monumental, where we talked about such important things as life and death. We weren’t insignificant there.

Greg pretty much loved his oncologist too. Toby. First of all, Toby reminded Greg of Andy Partridge from his most favorite band, XTC! But Toby gave Greg the time to take it all in and I think he realized that Greg needed to talk. Are all his patients like that? I have no idea. But Greg was an expressive, deep thinking person who could articulate his thoughts well. And for the times we would get bad news and all sat silent, it was Greg who spoke. It wasn’t ever anger or complaint. He never once verbalized, “Why ME?”. It was always thoughtful and in respect to me, our girls, our family, all those around him, and the things he needed to do for us and the plans he needed to make. He was valiant. He accepted it and I think he knew, we all knew, that this was it.

We spent almost two hours with Toby in that first meeting. I almost wished I could have cracked open a Guinness for him and his new friends. Now that is something I know without doubt that Greg would have loved. :) It’s hard to describe what happened in those patient rooms but Greg usually had the entire room (at times there were up to 7 people – family, doctors, nurses, researchers, etc.) completely absorbed in what he was saying. We just wanted to take in as much of him as we could, while we still could.

We knew as soon as we walked back out into the waiting area, we were like everyone else there, a cancer family, fighting through the stages of this horrible disease. That made it hard to leave. And as we stepped outside and drove away from the hospital, we weren’t exposed anymore. It wasn’t written on our foreheads. We were physically closed up – our winter jackets zipped – being shuffled back into the world of traffic lights and Starbucks and strangers who didn’t know that Greg was dying.

I have such happy memories of my time with Greg. Even at our most mundane, I loved simply being with him. I liked driving in the car with him. I liked doing chores with him. I liked waiting with him. I liked telling him to ‘stop talking’ when he was telling a long, drawn-out story to someone while I was in labor. I liked being bored with him. I liked telling jokes with him. I liked being the only couple to volunteer so we had to demonstrate EVERYTHING at our birthing class. I liked arguing with him. I liked being embarrassed when he shouted out in the middle of the movie theater, “Enough with the commercials!!”. I liked struggling to make a decision about something with him. I liked laughing with him and crying with him. I liked being annoyed with him. I liked making our marriage stronger with him. I liked being there with him and for him during his 3 months of cancer. I liked kissing him. He liked that too. :)

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It is what it is. Good or bad. And I’m going to be thankful for what I have had and I what I do have. And I’m going to make the most of this life, just like Greg did.

Happy Thanksgiving.

xxx,

Mariah

4

the happy wanderers

One thing we didn’t do enough of when we lived in Sun Prairie was to go hiking. Where were the hiking paths? I don’t think I looked into it enough. We did, however, live on a very nice dead-end road and we loved to go walking around the loop, saying hi to our neighbors and the friendly screech owl who lived in that hollow tree. And I was always excited (jump up and down excited!) to see wood ducks perched high in the treetops.

I feel better when I’m outside. Things are clear and uncomplicated. And now just seeing that big sky and taking a moment to look up, helps me feel closer to Greg. And maybe closer to my roots too. Plus, is there anything better than being out in nature with your kiddos? I don’t really think so.

Last week, the girls and I went for a hike at a nearby county park/bike (horse?) path that runs along old railroad tracks. (This was BEFORE deer hunting season started. Run for your lives, deer!  Just kidding…kind of. :)

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Squirmy was so impressed that when we sang, the time passed more quickly and all of the sudden, we were much further than she thought! And we sang the first verse of The Happy Wanderer (because it was the only verse I knew of until now!) over and over and over. Except instead of singing, “My knapsack on my back”, we sang, “My Squeaky on my back” since she was a little tired that afternoon so she was riding in our Ergo backpack most of the time.

The Happy Wanderer

I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.

Chorus:
Val-deri,Val-dera,
Val-deri,
Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha
Val-deri,Val-dera.
My knapsack on my back.

I love to wander by the stream
That dances in the sun,
So joyously it calls to me,
“Come! Join my happy song!”

I wave my hat to all I meet,
And they wave back to me,
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet
From ev’ry green wood tree.

High overhead, the skylarks wing,
They never rest at home
But just like me, they love to sing,
As o’er the world we roam.

Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh, may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God’s clear blue sky!

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We also laughed so hard we were crying because Squeaky was wearing some pants that were too big for her in the waist so when she ran, they would slide down to her knees and she’d lift up her jacket to moon us! I think she almost fell over she was laughing so hard. :)

Even though I grew up around here and know of a few places, I would love to hear about your favorite places to hike (in the Central Wisconsin area) so we can check them out too.

xxx,

Mariah

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an artist like her daddy

Last Sunday was a rainy day and we spent part of it watching a movie at Nana’s house. By 4 o’clock, we were back home and needed something to do so I told the girls that we should draw a picture of our favorite character from the movie. I’m not sure if Squirmy just didn’t remember what her favorite character looked like or just decided not to do that, but I love what she drew better than any character in any movie!  And she didn’t want me to see it until it was finished. :)

Earlier in the day, I had put my hood up on my sweatshirt to be silly. Plus, I had a high bun in my hair (Yes, I saw some college girls with their hair like that so I copied them!). And this is what Squirmy decided to draw.

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There is so much I love about this drawing. For the record, I do not own any red high-heels but maybe I should – I look good in them! And all the black spots on my skin…my freckles and moles.  Thanks Squirmy….very accurate portrayal!DSCN2041

Squeaky’s picture? Well, she drew some mountains and then needed help drawing a castle. Then her eyes got big and she said, “I’m drawing crazy” and scribbled all over the entire thing. Yeah, she’s 2-1/2!

xxx,

Mariah

1

wedding rings

A week or two after Greg died, I was filling out one of a million “someone just died and there is a shitload of paperwork to fill out” forms with my Dad’s help. I came to the question, “What is your marital status?”. I honestly wasn’t sure what to write. Where was the “YES I’m married, but my husband died” option? My dad quietly said, “Well, technically you aren’t married.” :( So my husband is gone and so is my marriage? I guess it makes sense but it felt too much like someone else, someone far away who has no idea who we are, made this decision for me. I know it’s just a question on a form, an official status, but I still get kind of upset thinking about it.

After months of wearing my wedding ring, I decided last week to take it off. I now have it locked up in a safe spot so it’s ready for someday for one of the girls.

One night at dinner, in the spring of ’06, Greg told me that we should start looking at rings. Yay!  So we did. After we decided and had the ring made, I told him I still wanted to be surprised.

A few weeks later, as we were raking the yard, one of our rakes broke. Greg volunteered to run into town to get a new rake and off he went, leaving me raking. He had gone to get a rake AND to pick up the ring, which took him about an hour and a half. And I think he probably stopped and had a little chat about it with every person he saw along the way! I was so mad at how long he took to get that damn rake (or probably that fucking rake…I think I said fucking rake…just trying to accurately recall history!) that I almost didn’t realize what he was doing when he started on a little speech asking me to marry him. He loved recalling the story of how I was mad at him when he asked me to be his wife. And then I even managed to say yes! Fuck yes!

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Our rings look so cute next to each other. Just like we did.

Greg’s wedding ring fits on my right middle finger so I’ve started wearing his instead. It makes me feel like I can keep our marriage a little bit alive even if he is not. And since I’m not officially married anymore, this is my little protest. I think he would be proud.

xxx,

Mariah

0

rosemary butter cookies

This weekend, I baked for Squeaky’s daycare bake sale. This was the first time using my apartment oven to bake so I really had to pay attention. But I guess I didn’t pay enough attention because I kind of burned the first thing I made…orange almond biscotti. I felt bad so I made something else and burned that a bit as well! Oops.

Actually, even a little over-done, these rosemary butter cookies from Martha Stewart were very yummy.  Mine weren’t as pretty as this picture but that didn’t matter because they were delicious. The rosemary adds a surprisingly nice flavor and that lovely rosemary and cookie smell hung around the apartment all afternoon.

rosemary butter cookies

 

Rosemary Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup fine sanding sugar

1. Put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in whole egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour, rosemary, and salt, and mix until combined.

2. Halve dough; shape each half into a log. Place each log on a 12-by-16-inch sheet of parchment. Roll in parchment to 1 1/2 inches in diameter, pressing a ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow log. Transfer to paper-towel tubes to hold shape, and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 375. Brush each log with egg white; roll in sanding sugar. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until edges are golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Store in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

My oven baked these babies up in about 15 minutes. I didn’t buy special sanding sugar but I think that would have given it a really nice crunch and probably would have made them look prettier. I was glad I had time to freeze the dough into shape because I hadn’t read ahead and almost panicked when I had to wait an hour for it to harden in the freezer. But I got it all done in time for the bake sale…maybe just a teeny tiny bit burnt. If anyone complains, I’ve enlisted Squeaky to deal with them…

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xxx,

Mariah

3

coffee table

Greg kept a lot of furniture from his childhood, furniture we still have. This glass coffee table was something that he loved. He would always tell stories about his older brother trapping him and his middle brother under it. And I think his middle brother even got his head stuck between the bars once too!

The girls loved the stories and one day, Greg told Squirmy she could go under there to play. Because the glass on this table is so heavy, it was only something the girls could do with Daddy. I’m just not strong enough to feel comfortable lifting it up without it slipping and hurting someone. But because they could only do this with Daddy, it made it that much more special.

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This coffee table is still in our living room. I think the girls have almost forgotten about playing under it. The few times they’ve asked since Greg died, there hasn’t been anyone around to help lift it.

I’m hoping that one day they’ll tell their own kids stories of how fun their Daddy was and with this table from his childhood, they can show their kids why.

xxx,

Mariah

0

dreams

Greg was fascinated by dreams. I have an entire journal that he filled with his dreams over a couple months when we first got married. On his nightstand he had a book called, “Lucid Dreaming for Beginners”. He would always tell me that once you knew you were dreaming (while you were dreaming) you could do anything!

And then there’s me. I am one of those people who hardly ever remembers dreams. I have a handful of dreams that I remember from my entire life and that’s it.

Towards the end of Greg’s life, we talked about how he could try to communicate with me after he passed away. He was confident that he could contact me through my dreams. He had a couple dreams about his mom just after she passed away and they were very important to him. He felt that it was her way of making contact and making sure he was okay.

So, I told him I would try and remember my dreams. For months and months, I haven’t remembered any…until last Friday night, just after my ‘Reset Button’ post!

In my dream, we were in my childhood church in Iola (of all the places that Greg would show up, this is pretty funny to me!) and I walked in with Squeaky to sit down next to Greg and Squirmy in a pew. I remember putting my arm around his neck and nuzzling into him. His neck was so strong, sturdy, soft and warm; not the weak, frail, cold and clammy way he felt when he was so, so sick. In my dream, I remember thinking that the people behind us better get used to it or move because I’m going to be like this, touching him – not letting go, during the entire service. The dream moved on to something else but I remember waking up thinking, “YES! I HAD A DREAM ABOUT GREG AND I REMEMBERED IT!”

Then, the next night, I had another dream! Earlier in the night, I had gone out with a friend to a restaurant and bar in Stevens Point. We were laughing about feeling old and, for me, now being single (BLAH!) and what a pain in the ass that was. Anyway, my dream was also in some kind of a bar but Greg was there. Another guy started talking to me and I said to him, “Actually, sorry, my husband is still alive so I’m going to spend as much time as I can with him.” And I turned away from this guy and followed Greg out of there.

I know I’m processing a lot and of course this is my own brain working through my feelings and what is happening in my waking life. Can someone contact you through your dreams from beyond? I don’t know and maybe that part doesn’t really matter because I still feel Greg with me all of the time. I just know that I love this way for me to see Greg, to talk to him, even touch him and feel him again. And I’m so happy for that little bit of contact.

xxx,

Mariah

 

4

apple cider

Last Sunday, my mom and I took Squirmy and Squeaky to a friend’s house to make apple cider. When I was a little girl, I made apple cider in this same spot at Laurel’s house using this same press. :) We ended up picking some pears as well so we pressed those too.

It was a beautiful and chilly day and the sun was actually shining for a bit too. Here are a bunch of photos from the day!

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DSCN1898Thank you to Laurel for taking the time to show us how it’s done, let us use your press and go crazy with your apple picker. This day made for a bunch of happy gals!

xxx,

Mariah

0

the reset button

Today I need to get some sad out. Things have been going really well with the move and getting used to our new town but I think the sadness has been building up a bit. So here is me getting it out…publicly, I guess. I apologize if this sounds like a therapy session but I guess that’s kind of what this blog is for me.

Anyway…

Some of you may know or remember that when Greg got sick, he had a reset button. When he would think sad or bad thoughts about the future and dying, he wanted something to help ‘reset’ his mind. So he took this button off of our old Filter Queen vacuum cleaner. He brought the button everywhere we went and even in the middle of the night, I would hear that sad little clicking sound. And then I’d cuddle just a little closer to him.

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When the movers took our bed out a couple weeks ago, there was Greg’s reset button on the floor. I wanted someone else to be there to share this important find with me. But there was nobody but James, one of the movers. So I blurted it out to him as well as I could explain it in a few sentences. He looked confused and didn’t really know what to say. I wanted to just yell out, “It’s really important!” But I felt stupid and started crying and clicking it myself. James hustled out of the room to go move something else.

Lately I’ve been pretty vocal and that’s a little worrisome to me. I’ve always tried really hard to say the right things, think of the best way to say something so as to not offend anyone and make everyone like me. And being more vocal = more chances of feeling like a fool because of something I’ve said.

And now I have this blog, I’m talking and meeting a lot of new people and getting things off my chest. I’m feeling empowered but at the same time extremely vulnerable. I really miss having Greg here with me to let me know that I’m doing alright. I think he thought I was always the centered, confident one but I don’t think he ever knew how much confidence he gave me. Because I ALWAYS knew that no matter what silly thing I would say or do, he would still love me. And not only would he love me, he would completely be on my side. If I was ever worried if someone would be offended by something I did or think I was stupid because I messed something up, his response was always something to the extent of, “Fuck ’em!” as he wrapped his arms around me. I just didn’t have to worry because if I ever needed back-up, he was always right here.

There is a long list of things I miss about Greg but today I’m so sad about the fact that I don’t have him to scoop me up and let me know I’ve done alright. I’m proud to be a strong, confident person but it’s a hard realization that I’m back to relying on myself that what I’ve done or said is the right thing.

I’m keeping this reset button for myself. Click.

xxx,

Mariah

2

apartment tour

Would you like to see our new home? Well, come on in!

So far, we’ve all adjusted quite well. There’s something about being physically closer to one another that makes the move worth it and I’m happy we did it right away. To be honest, I haven’t thought much about our Briar Lane house since we moved. Is that bad of me? I like that I’m able to let go of a place, a thing, so easily. Because Greg is still with us and my babies are here with me and that is ALL that matters.

The Briar Lane house and yard was beautiful and I’m going to miss our time there with Greg but I really don’t miss it’s big-ness. (Yes, I know that isn’t a word.) Right now, small is where it’s at with this family!

Once we unpacked boxes, put Greg’s pictures up on the walls and made the beds, it became home fairly quickly.

So, here it is…

As you walk in the door, you enter this living room/desk area although it is quite open so you can see the dining area, part of the kitchen and down the hall from the front door.

living roomSo far, I sit at my desk at the computer and peek through the plant (like nobody can see me) to spy on what everyone is doing in the parking lot! I’m probably worse than all our little old lady neighbors. P.S. We love our little old lady neighbors!

Office

Turn around and here is the entry. Thank you to my Dad for hanging all the hooks…actually, thank you to Dad and Uncle Wayne for hanging ALL the pictures in the place. Squeaky and Squirmy were both at school when I took these pictures otherwise there would be stuff strewn everywhere. I cleaned it up just for you!

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Our dining area is tiny and we even jammed the girls’ kitchen set in the corner so they have that to play with or eat at when friends come over.

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Here is the kitchen. Moving from a huge kitchen, I thought I’d feel crammed in here. There is a surprising amount of room and I think there is even one empty cupboard in there. Oooh. Aaah.

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The girls room. Sharing a room has been great and they play nicely together. With the exception of the stuffed animals they sleep with, Greg and I never really let them have anything that is just ‘theirs’. They have always had to share so we really don’t have fights about toys or things. And there is no line down the middle of the room either. Although I guess that starts when they are older, right? Bedtime is getting better but it’s still new to be going to sleep with someone else in the room. Squeaky has had a harder time but she is still only two so I’ll cut her some slack!

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We have a little reading corner where we cuddle with a few books every night before bed. (Huge bleach splotches on the carpet. Hello apartment living!)

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Here’s my bedroom. I kind of love it.  Off of the left side is a huge walk-in closet and to the right is my own bathroom. The girls can even be flopping on my bed right next to me while I get ready. That couldn’t have happened with the layout in our Briar Lane house.

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Here’s a view from my closet, across the room is my bathroom and you can see all the way down the hall back to the entry.

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And this is just opposite my bed. I tried to bring in as much seating as possible so when I’m ready to have crazy parties (my 98-year old neighbor downstairs won’t mind!), I’ll have enough seating!

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So, there you go. Home sweet small home.

xxx,

Mariah

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