Archive | February, 2014

reluctantly taking care of business

It turns out the days leading up to the anniversary of Greg’s stomach ache were much worse than the actual day. Last week, I had been gathering tax info for my accountant so I had to go through all of our medical bills and receipts. I even pulled out our CaringBridge entries and our 2013 calendar to help figure out our medical mileage. Greg’s handwriting had marked the days of important appointments, “Esophageal Ultrasound, MRI, UW biopsy”. And an appointment with his psychologist, written in classic Greg-style, “Brain Doctor – 11 a.m.”  :)  It was strange to be reminded of a time when we didn’t know, when we started worrying and then when we knew it was what we’d been dreading. It was almost as if I was a stranger looking in on us from the future…”Those poor bastards were so happy and clueless, they have no idea what’s about to happen to them.” It made me feel so sad for them – for us.

Not only was the process of leafing through those three months a painful reminder, it was frustrating to do because this was Greg’s job. HE was supposed to do taxes. HE was supposed to figure out our mileage and look through receipts and make phone calls.

The other day I finally figured out our healthcare so that I don’t have to continue paying $1,104.65/month to occasionally visit the doctor!  As I tried explaining to the woman on the phone what a frustrating experience it had been working with them (insert reasons I had to call them weekly to fix something), I started sobbing to her. Greg would have been taking care of this for us.

A few weeks ago, Greg received a packet in the mail stating that he was the beneficiary of a small account that his mom had had. She died in 2004 and this company was JUST NOW aware of her passing. So I called and filled out the proper forms to get it transferred to my name. They left me a message a week later so I called them back. The woman on the other line couldn’t disclose any information over the phone because the last name that it had been transferred to was different than mine. I heard her laugh a little when she said that. I thought that was strange but she told me to just fill out the additional forms with my real name when I received them and it would be fine. So earlier this week I got a package in the mail from them addressed to MARIAH CAREY. So maybe someone had that name in their head as they were mindlessly typing in my information and I’m hoping that’s all it was. I’m not a person that gets angry very easily but for some reason, this makes my blood boil. It felt like they were making fun of me. Here I am trying to get something taken care of from my deceased mother-in-law left to my now deceased husband and it’s like someone is making a joke about my name. And how do you make a complaint about that? “Hey huge corporation – I’m already sad and you hurt my feelings!” This is something Greg would have taken care of for me…and not only would he have taken care of it, he would have made it right. And made me feel better.

Yesterday I had to call Greg’s old employer to ask a question that was pertinent to our taxes. I typed in their 1-800 number that I found online. I forgot that this used to be Greg’s work number and that it was still in my phone. So as it starts to ring, this is what I see…


“Hi Baby! Can you please take care of all this stuff for me so I never have to deal with it ever again? And then can you please come home? Okay, love you! Bye.”





Here it starts.

Today marks the anniversary of the stomach ache that revealed Greg’s cancer. I didn’t think this would be so hard but leading up to this day feels like someone punching me in the chest, all over again.

We were at a child’s birthday party and after a couple pieces of pizza, Greg started feeling bad. I realize this is a weird photo to include and I’m not even sure why I took a picture of him laying like this. Here we are at a kids birthday party; a fun place to play and run around with our kids in the middle of winter. But Greg is in pain and has to lay down in the middle of it. I walked over to him after I took this picture and he stuck his tongue out to the side and smiled like he felt silly but just couldn’t help it. I wish I would have known how much pain he was in – this day and every day after this. I look at this photo and just want to scoop him up and rush him off somewhere to save him. But even in this picture, his cancer was already at Stage 4.

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At some point, we asked Greg’s oncologist how long the cancer had been growing. They estimated that it had been about 6 months based on how fast it was spreading. I look back at this photo of him during a really fun date night  in August and wish we would have known on this day. Or maybe the day after this – I wouldn’t have wanted to ruin this night. It was perfect. And then I could have somehow saved him.

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I’m counting on my girls to help me get through today. Like every day, I guess.




chocolate ice cream face

In yesterday’s post, I included a photo of the girls with Greg. They both have chocolate ice cream on their faces. Here’s what happened just before the picture with Greg. We had just gotten home from a fun day in Madison and the girls had ice cream cones. I can’t believe I let Squeaky (at 2 yrs old) have an ice cream cone in the van by herself but I did! So Squeaky chows down her ice cream cone and is finished before Squirmy. Squeaky is totally eyeing up the rest of her sister’s cone. She asks Squirmy for some of hers. Without hesitation, Squirmy reaches over with her ice cream cone for her little sister to share. I remember this wonderful gesture and it is part of what made this such a great day. This, and as far as we knew that day, Greg was healthy.

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2-24-13 photos 041I am so grateful for my darling girls.




my own group therapy session

I wrote this on Monday evening but I didn’t want to post it because I didn’t really like it and felt like I was being too negative. Plus, I was exhausted from crying. I remember when Greg was sick and I couldn’t bring myself to post on CaringBridge because I didn’t have anything positive to say. I guess I still feel the same way about writing something that you will all see. I want to be able to have a happy ending or at least some hope to leave you with. For you and for me. So, to add a little happiness to what you are about to read…I’m feeling better today. The sun was shining and I let Squeaky play in the van out in the parking lot (buckling and unbuckling her ‘babies’ is so much fun!) while I stuck my head out the door for a little sun. I prepped everything to work on taxes with my accountant next week. I THINK I finally figured out our health care situation. AND Squirmy and I found a game on the iPad to play together that had us cheering and high-fiving each other – the game is Where’s My Water. I’m sure you have all heard of it already and have been playing it for years and years but we had a great time with it tonight!

Anyway, I still don’t like this post but I’m going to share it anyway. See below for some ramble-y, 3-day old whining.


I don’t feel fun anymore. I THINK I used to be fun. A fun mom. A fun daughter. A fun friend. I’m just not fun. I’m too stressed. I’m crabby. I don’t know how to participate in small talk so I just shy away from conversations regarding anything about anything other than my immediate sphere of circumstance. I have tried participating in some conversations but I float away, feeling like I have no right to be talking about daily things, silly things, trivial things. Things that don’t pertain to life and death. I still don’t know what’s going on in the news and that’s depressing to me. I try participating in things in the community but I’m held back by inability to converse and the fact that I’m now a single mom with no back-up parent. My girls like babysitters but I sometimes think I get them too often. They are usually very crabby and clingy to me the next day. I don’t want my girls to think I’m leaving them too, but mama just needs breaks. And it seems so selfish of me but after I get a break one day, I need another one a few days (sometimes HOURS) later! It’s never-ending guilty feeling.

I was supposed to go to my first group therapy session tonight but it was cancelled because of the snowstorm. I was actually looking forward to starting some kind of therapy. The next one is a month away and that feels like ages from now. I keep telling myself it was meant to be because everything that has happened since Greg died has felt bigger than me, more deliberate, just meant to happen. Every door that opens, I wander through. I do this because I’ve always liked going with the flow but in some ways I don’t feel strong enough to attempt anything else. It’s exhausting to stress about going in a different direction so I just float through that open door. Maybe this is the way I’ve always done things and I’m just more aware of it now. I’m paying attention more, wondering in what ways Greg is still helping us along.

I’m used to mourning the loss of Greg but I guess I’m now feeling like mourning the loss of me. The old me. The fun me. The aware me. The crafty me. The political me. The self-deprecating me. The save the earth me. Some days I just don’t recognize this crabby lady. This lost lady. This lady growing grey hairs and new wrinkles who’s yelling at her kids to go to bed or plopping them in front of the tv or telling them that she’ll read them a book only to realize she forgot to call the IRS to request 3 years of back taxes because she can’t find them anywhere in her computer files or that she hadn’t even thought of what to make for dinner and all that there is in the fridge is old tofu and yogurt. I realize that there are a lot of people going through hell in their lives worse than I am so I don’t like outwardly complaining. I just hate seeing me this way. Me not being able to handle it all. I’ve always been someone to pick myself up and go. But I still feel lost. I can pick myself up but I just don’t know where to ‘go’. Then I do my floaty thing.

We’ll be coming up on a bunch of anniversaries soon…the day Greg got his stomach ache. The day I KNEW it was cancer. The day we got the actual cancer diagnosis. The day I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe because I knew he was dying. The day he started radiation. The day he started chemo. The day the oncologist told us there was no more plan. The day hospice came to our house. The day he was taken to the in patient hospice unit by ambulance and the girls started screaming and crying and clinging to me when they found out I’d be going with him. The day of his party. The night I woke up and cried to him because I knew there would be so much to do when he died and he wouldn’t be there to do it with me. The day that was the beginning of the end. The last time I held his hand.

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Greg and the girls on February 23rd, 2013, the day before the stomach ache.

People always tell me that firsts and anniversaries will be hard but I never really believed them. I didn’t really even think of ‘firsts’ until I had a shitty time this Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and an even shittier time at Christmas. I wanted it to be good but it was all just too normal. Normal stuff we would usually do but with that big, gaping hole right next to me. I guess Monday, the anniversary of Greg’s stomach ache will feel like just a normal day. I’ll have to plan something to make it not normal. Maybe then I’ll feel a little better.

I don’t feel like this every day. Just some days when I feel I’ve done a shitty job of what I’m supposed to be doing. Or when I just don’t give a shit about this or that. Or when I feel like I should have my shit together a little more. Shitty shit shit.

On a bright note, I do remember making some people laugh the other day. And today I was watching an old video of Squirmy and Squeaky dancing that Greg had recorded almost exactly a year ago. It made me laugh so hard I cried. It’s been a very long time since that has happened.

Well, I guess that’s my therapy session for this month. And a successful one at that, since I have a pile of snotty tissues on the floor next to me. Maybe next month I’ll be able to say it all out loud.



P.S. I did NOT go with Greg right away to the hospice facility. I stayed home to make sure the girls were okay and happy having a picnic before I said goodbye…just in case you were wondering.



piles and piles of artwork

Our little apartment is being overrun by artwork and papers sent home from school/daycare. I want to preserve the artwork without having to save bins full of papers that nobody will ever look at again.

I try to keep to a bit of a routine…

  • Anything that is ripped out of a coloring book is tossed. Sorry girls. So far, nobody has even noticed. I would rather have a blank refrigerator than Hello Kitty or Lollaloopsy staring at me while I cook.
  • Artwork that the girls are proud of is either put on display on the fridge/bulletin board or put in a drawer for photo documentation when I have time or when the drawer gets so full that I can’t shut it anymore.
  • I take a photo of every piece of art before it goes into the trash/recycling/gift pile (he he!) with the intention of someday making a poster like this…childrenartwork

I do get rid of a lot of their stuff but I do also have a big bin that is almost full. Here is a current sampling of the girls’ artwork from the last camera download…DSCN2636



I asked Squirmy who’s in this picture. “It’s Aiden and me, marrying.” Well, SHE looks happy! :)


What do you do with your kids’ artwork?






greg and mariah simpson

The Simpsons was one of Greg’s favorite tv shows. He thought the writing was brilliant and even tried to convince me that Squirmy should watch it with him when she was about three. He did not convince me and also ended up agreeing with me that she should NOT be watching it. :) I really wish Greg was here to tell you all WHY he liked it so much because he would go deep into his explanation. He had the habit of going into great detail when someone asked him a question. I’ve realized lately how much he was genuinely interested in understanding other people’s opinions/way of life/careers/hobbies, etc. He expected the exchange to be reciprocal. He had the time to talk and to listen. He wasn’t in a hurry.

We went to one of The Simpsons movies in the theater and this was the time that Greg yelled out (the theater was PACKED) after 4 or 5 commercials, while it was quiet, “Enough with the commercials!” Some teenager yelled out, “Stop being obnoxious” (p.s. what a moron teenager), a few people clapped, a few chuckled and I slunk down into my seat, happy that we were in a DARK movie theater. Greg once told me he yelled something out at a Joe Jackson concert when it was quiet and I was happy that I wasn’t at that concert with him. Hee hee!

In 2007, there was a website called SimpsonizeMe (it doesn’t exist anymore) where you could create your personal Simpsons avatar. Greg immediately logged in and I remember it taking an entire evening (it was a really popular website) to create these beauties…

Greg and Mariah SimpsonI love that Greg’s avatar is talking with his hands. He is probably explaining something. Something that people are shocked and entertained to hear him say out loud. Something that he is not backtracking on or apologizing for. Something he may be going on and on about because that’s what he did. And if you had the time for an exchange with him, you most likely didn’t regret it.




last words

I recently clicked on some silly article about things men do that women love. One of the things was the way their eyes soften when they look at us. I remember the way Greg’s face relaxed and his eyes would ‘smile’ when he looked at me. The article made me think of the last thing he said to me.

We had a lot of people around us for the last month of Greg’s life. At times, our entire bedroom was full of people but we could always catch each other’s eye to share a little smile, send a little love without saying anything. On Greg’s last day, he was starting to get confused and was quickly getting worse. He had moments between clarity and confusion that reminded me of my Grandpa during the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.

Later that afternoon, Greg caught my eye from across our bedroom filled with family. His eyes softened and he smiled. It was like those beautiful blue eyes were trying to tell me, once again, everything I already knew, before the thoughts slipped away. He said to me, “Hi Baby. Hi Red. We made it. And look at the results.”

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Nothing else made much sense the rest of the night and a few hours later I couldn’t even understand the words he was trying to say.

But that statement. That little statement means so much, I can’t even express how much. Maybe it’s because these are his words for me. His LAST words for me. When I think about them or whisper them to myself, I feel like I might hyperventilate. Without being this obvious proclamation of how much he loved me and would miss me, I consider the sentiment behind it to be the ultimate statement of love. My Greg, on his death bed at 46, his eyes smiling at me, his Red, told me that we made it. We did it. We succeeded. We succeeded with flying colors because you just look at those babies we made and the love we shared. That love and those babies. That is ALL that life is.

Yeah Baby, we made it.





Greg and I never really got into Valentines Day (we were just TOO in love EVERY day!) so I’m not expecting it to be especially tough for me this year. We did, however, really like making valentines for Squirmy’s classmates. Squeaky will be able to participate this year too since she goes to preschool/daycare a bit now.

The girls have two places to give away valentines (4K and daycare) so I’ve been working hard, staring at pinterest, trying to figure out what we could easily make. And then I let the girls pick one of my pre-selected ideas. It works for now! :)

Last year, we made a little bag/fishbowl of swedish fish found in Family Fun magazine.

swedish fish valentine

In 2012, Squirmy gave away suckers stuck in a photo so it looked like she was handing the suckers to her friends. Credit for this idea HERE even though she found it somewhere else. :)

2012 Valentine

Here are the two we’re working on for this year…

Arrow Valentines tutorial found HERE.

arrow valentines

And these lipstick and mustache lollipop valentines – tutorial found HERE.


Happy Valentines Day!




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