Archive | March, 2014

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

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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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calvin and hobbes and greg

I came across this photo today (taken in 2005 when Greg still had long hair) and had to laugh because every time I look at it, I picture a Calvin and Hobbes collection of comics that Greg had (and we still have!). He used to read it with Squirmy and explain to her what all the jokes meant. :)

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Calvin and Hobbes sledding

Just this.

Oh and Happy Spring!

xxx,

Mariah

0

daddy bears

When Greg was at the hospice unit in late April, his Dad’s cousin flew in from Pennsylvania. While he and his wife were here, they went to a Build-A-Bear store and got two bears for the girls. They brought them back to Greg and had him record a message on them. Greg spent a lot of time thinking about what he wanted to say, and here is what he decided on:

Hi H….. Squirmy Wormy, this is your Daddy. Your Mama and I loved you a long, long time before you were born. And when you were born, you made ourselves a family.

Hi H…. Bagel, this is your Daddy. Your Mama and I loved you a long, long time before you were born. And when you were born, you made our family complete.

These little guys spend a lot of time with the girls and they get a lot of squeezing to hear Daddy’s voice. Squirmy sleeps with her bear every night. At first she did not like her bear’s eyebrows that she even frowned when she got him and asked me if we could cut them off. But a few weeks later she told me, “I want to keep him just the way he is.” They don’t have specific names, we call them both simply, “Daddy Bear”.

DSCN2732Sometimes, if I’m upset or crying or angry, Squirmy will run to get her bear, give him a good squeeze and hand him over to me. Even though I don’t have one of my own, the girls are willing to share. And hearing his voice with one little squeeze is good enough. Most of the time, it’s all that I need.

Thank you again, Ted and Leni, for such a wonderful gift.

xxx,

Mariah

 

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affirmations

When I was pregnant with Squirmy, and at our doula’s suggestion, Greg made me a bunch of heart-shaped post-it notes and put them up all over the house with positive pregnancy/birthing affirmations. As a first time mother-to-be, I had a bit of anxiety about giving birth. I knew I wanted to have a natural birthing experience and having these post-its around the house helped me to stay calm and reminded me that I was strong enough to do just that.

When Greg got sick, he wanted to use this same idea to stay positive and let go of his fears, so I made him some. They said things like, My family loves me more than anything…I accept help…I am healing. As I was going through a box of his things last week, I opened up his wallet and found this.

i am healing

In the end, these post-it notes didn’t save his life. But they were a nice reminder to him that he was loved, his body had been good to him and if not in a physical way, there were parts of him that, through this intense process, WERE healing. Parts of him that had been hurt in the past and had essentially shut down. I’m not sure if I ever wrote about how much Greg reached out to people when he got sick. He was a man that, for the most part, stayed away from a lot of social situations and he now wanted people around. He reached out to people…and he let them reach right back, sharing the love.

I was making some of these post-its for a pregnant friend and I had a few ideas but wanted more. I found this list. It’s a long list at this specific website but I’ve compiled my favorites, things that really spoke to me. I know it’s just words on paper but that simplicity is part of what makes it so great. I think I might start including these as gifts to all my pregnant friends.

My baby is strong and healthy.
I trust my body.
My belly is full of light and love.
I am a strong and capable woman.
I have patience.
There is no need for us to hurry.
My body knows exactly what to do.
I trust my labor.
I embrace the wisdom of my body.
I am surrounded by loving, nurturing support.
I feel good being pregnant.
I listen to my body and my heart.
I believe in birth.
My baby knows how to be born.
I put all fear aside as I prepare for the birth of my baby.
My mind is relaxed, my body is relaxed.
My baby will be born at the perfect moment.
My body knows exactly what to do.
I love and trust my body.
I am a wonderful mother.

Sometimes all we need is a little reminder.

xxx,

Mariah

 

1

vegetarian mulligatawny soup

Years ago, I checked out the New England Soup Factory Cookbook from the library and had Greg scan a few of the recipes for me. There were many great soups in there but this one is my favorite. The cookbook tells me that mulligatawny originated in India and the name comes from the word for “pepper water”.

This is also the soup from the famous Seinfeld episode where the guy yells out, “No soup for you!” I honestly have never seen it (are some of you yelling at me?) but Greg was a huge fan of Seinfeld. When he got sick, his co-workers at AmFam had some bracelets made as a fundraiser for us and they had that phrase on them. :)

I just made this soup for a friend’s baby shower this weekend and I didn’t get any photos of it so I’m going to borrow a photo from another website/blog, The Good Weekly. She takes great photos of the process and gives great instructions. Hmmm… I wouldn’t blame you if you just followed her blog on this one. BUT if you just want the basic recipe, scroll down for my version with all the extra carrots I add!

mulligatawny

Vegetarian Mulligatawny Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large Spanish onion, peeled and diced (I usually use yellow onions in my cooking)
2 ribs celery, diced (I use at least 4)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced (I use at least 6)
1 lb dried lentils
2 cups (16 oz) canned whole tomatoes, cut into pieces (I use whatever tomatoes I have)
1 can (16 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I always double this because when the girls were younger they insisted on having a chickpea in every bite of soup so only one can, or 16 oz, was not enough)
8 C vegetable stock
2 C tomato juice
3 tsp yellow curry powder
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 can (16 oz) coconut milk
2 Tbsp honey
1-1/2 C cooked basmati rice (I mess up the recipe by always using brown rice)
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a humongous stockpot (this recipe makes a lot!) over medium-high heat. Add the oil, garlic, onion, celery and carrots. Saute for 7 minutes. Add the lentils, tomatoes, chickpeas, stock, tomato juice, curry powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes (I don’t simmer this long because I don’t like my lentils to get too mushy). Stir in the coconut milk, honey, rice, cilantro, salt and pepper. Makes 12 servings.

Whenever I make soups, I never think the recipes include enough carrots or celery so I always add more than they call for. I think I’ve always thought that if this is going to be our meal, we all need more veggies!

This soup really is delicious. You should try it. The recipe makes a lot so invite some friends over and make it a party!

xxx,

Mariah

1

color block candles

When we lived down by Madison, I was a part of a craft group. We’d get together once a month to make something that the host would prepare for us to do together. We made great things like shower caps, cake stands, teacup candles, canned veggies and fabric travel shoe bags. Plus, it was a great mix of ladies and we had a ton of fun seeing each other.

I decided to try and start a craft group in my new town. It’s slowly taking off since it’s hard to find time every month to get together. Everyone is just so busy. I’m hoping we get into a good groove with it.

Anyway, I chose to make color block candles when I had people over to my apartment in January.

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We followed the step-by-step tutorial HERE using soy wax and crayons. The candles turned out really sweet although it took a long time for the wax to dry (and lots of microwaving!) and I only did one of the tilted method because I didn’t have a great place to prop them (although that’s my favorite one!). The rest I just did in straight up stripes which was much easier but I don’t like the look as much. I had a lot of wax to use so I kept making them even after my guests left.

DSCN2612And I still have a lot of wax left so I think my next craft will also be some sort of candle! Maybe I’ll have to make THESE again, from Martha.

teacup candles

Happy candle crafting!

xxx,

Mariah

 

3

billboard

A friend from Madison sent me this last week. I gave Agrace the okay to use our photo for a billboard and I guess it’s already up. I’m not really sure where it is…somewhere along the Beltline in Madison. We haven’t been back to visit yet and I’m not sure I’ll ever see this in person. That’s probably just as well, it might be overwhelming.

Billboard

It’s hard to put into words how much Agrace helped our family last year. I will be forever grateful.

If you see this, give us a wave.

xxx,

Mariah

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