Today marks one year since my biological father passed suddenly. I’m not sure what to think or feel, let alone write here. But I wanted to acknowledge the uncertainty and make peace with it for today, so here I am, freewriting to help me process what’s going on inside.

We weren’t close when he died. We hadn’t talked in 11 or 12 years, and we had also spent 7 or 8 years before that without speaking. That means he missed more than half my life. Do I have regrets about that? Sure, I do. I’m human, afterall. I have a lot of questions about his life without me and my brother in it. I have to live with the fact that I’ll probably never know what he was like, except for a few tweets I saw and what is public on his Facebook page, and maybe a few questions I can ask of people who did know him at the end of his life (if I can ever bring myself to ask). We never had an adult relationship. He never met my son, and I don’t think he knew he was a grandfather. All I have are my childhood and adolescent memories, many of which aren’t good or comforting. Should I cling to the ones that make me smile, ignoring the painful ones? Is that doing myself a disservice, or is that being kind to myself? What will I share with Jax some day?

Those are some of the thoughts that run through my head today and occasionally at other times. I don’t know what to do with the questions, the emotions that range from sadness to anger to guilt, or any of it.

How do you forgive someone who is dead? I tell myself that he was mentally ill and also in physical pain, and my empathy for those who struggle helps alleviate some of my pain about our relationship. I tell myself that because he wasn’t in my life, I was able to be closer to my stepfather, who has been a strong, positive influence for 30 of my 35 years. I remind myself that life would have been very different for me, my brother, and my mom had she not divorced him when I was little. I think about what I know about his relationship with his third child, my half-brother, whom I first met at the funeral, and I take comfort in thinking that my dad learned from his mistakes with me and my brother and was a better father to his third child. I tell myself that I have learned from those mistakes, too, and that I am a better parent as a result.

I guess the best thing to do today is allow myself to grieve for the relationship I didn’t have with my dad after the age of 15. And breathe.

 

It’s Monday, and it’s raining. I think this calls for measures of extreme self-care.

I scheduled a routine physical examination months ago–just because–and this afternoon, I have to go to the appointment for the bloodwork results and remainder of the exam. Blah. I’m keeping anxiety at bay by avoiding caffeine this morning, which is painfully difficult given that I’ve slept poorly for a week now, and have I mentioned it’s a rainy Monday? I’m also listening to my favorite music while I work, and that’s helping to keep me focused and calm.

Some people think that having a routine physical and accompanying bloodwork is like asking for trouble–why look for any problems if you’re feeling fine?! But I think having this done every year or two is part of my responsibility to my family. I want to ensure I remain in optimal health as long as possible and figure out any problems before they really become problems. I know there is only so much you can do to protect your health, I do. And yes, maybe all my anxiety about the bloodwork and then waiting for results is doing more harm than good (assuming the results are fine), but I can’t shake the feeling that having a physical is not only an act of self-care but also the right thing to do for my family. I do not take good health for granted whatsoever. It is what I am most grateful for in life (besides Jax, of course).

So, to treat myself for my good behavior and to help alleviate some of my anxiety about my appointment later, I’m using my 2.5 hours of free time between work and the appointment to indulge in a few things that make me happy. Like blogging. Calling a friend to catch up on my drive home. A slow lunch in front of the tv. A bubble bath.

When was the last time you had a routine physical exam? Consider this your reminder to take care of yourself!

 

Guess where my family is headed this weekend? Here’s a hint:

Ignore the messy hair, please, and focus on the ears!

Ignore the messy hair, please, and focus on the ears!

My parents bought my family, my siblings, and themselves trips to Disneyworld for Christmas 2012. Back then, March felt forever away, but here we are, on the day before our departure–and me with a bazillion things left to do before I can get into a vacation mindset. Isn’t that always how it goes?!

Tomorrow will be Jackson’s first Disneyworld vacation (but probably not his only), as well as his first time on an airplane. We chose to fly with Southwest because of the great word-of-mouth they typically receive from bloggers who fly with their kids, in addition to the schedules and perks like bags checked free of charge and in-flight wifi.

I am slightly nervous about how Jax will do on the 2.5-hour flight from Philly to Orlando. But I am reminding myself today that he usually is very well behaved and pleasant, and I usually do a whole lot of worrying for no good reason. I’m also nervous that I’ll have forgotten to pack something essential, but of course everything is replaceable if you’ve got the cash or the cards. Note to self: Don’t forget the cash and cards!

After this past week with its cold-from-hell and a near-ER trip with Jax, I’ve never been more mentally ready for a week in the sunshine. The weather in Orlando is in the mid to high 80s currently. I’m thinking that will eradicate any remaining germs! I just hope Philly weather gets itself together while I’m away and I come home to spring!

The only downside to all the sunshine I’m going to bathe in? Freckles. Even with a good sunscreen, the freckles on my nose and cheeks will reach the hundreds after this coming week. Ugh. They’re cute on everyone else, in my opinion, but I hate ‘em on my own face. I’m curious whether Jax will get any new Floridian freckles!

By the way, I’ve lined up a special guest post for Monday, so please don’t you stay away while I’m away.

Have a fantastic weekend!

 

26. February 2013 · 2 comments · Categories: Family · Tags:

I am lucky to have such a large family, full of amazing women. I have 8 aunts, all of them with unique personalities, qualities, and stories. From them, I’ve learned how to knit, how to grow vegetables, the importance of family, some of my family’s history, and so much more. Some of them have taken care of me during times in my life when I’ve needed support.

I’d like to honor  the women in my life today by telling you about 3 of them in particular.

My Aunt Eileen is in the center, just under me and Jax, and my Aunt Faith is on the right end.

My Aunt Eileen is in the center, just under me and Jax, and my Aunt Faith is on the right end.

My aunt Eileen, who is my biological father’s sister, has been one of the most positive influences in my life and my lifeline to that whole part of my history I never really knew well, given my strained relationship with my father. My aunt Eileen is the kindest person anyone who knows her has ever met, I’m sure they would agree. She is a natural and tireless caregiver who knows exactly what is needed, the right way to do it, and just what to say. She inspires me to be kind, gentle, and graceful. Sometimes when things are rough, I literally ask myself “What would Aunt Eileen do?” or think or say. There has never been a time in my life where I couldn’t call up my Aunt Eileen and confide in her and she wouldn’t drop everything to talk to me–about anything! I don’t know if she knows how much that has meant to me.

My Aunt Karen, Nan, my mom, Aunt Kathi, and Aunt Pat

My Aunt Karen, Nan, my mom, Aunt Kathi, and Aunt Pat

My grandmom, who I call “Nan,” is a caregiver, too. From her childhood, she has always taken care of someone–or many someones at once. She had six children, in addition to caring for her husband and her brothers, and then her mother and her mother-in-law, not to mention most of her grandchildren at one point or another–or even all at once! And we were quite the handful, putting it mildly. My many cousins and I spent summer days in Nan’s narrow rowhome. Sometimes she’d leave my oldest cousin in charge while she ran to the Acme–probably for more ice cream (there was always a minimum of 4 flavors of Breyers at any one time), and in her absence we’d quickly turn the entire living room into a wrestling ring by de-cushioning her couches. Then we’d bodyslam and pin each other, careful not to break any of her beloved Hummels. Those summer days at Nan & Pop’s were some of the best days of my life, and certainly of my childhood. Nan has taught me how strong women can be, how fierce and protective. She is a woman who had little but made it feel big. Her home has been the gathering grounds for our entire large family, so many of my childhood memories are set there. Her home may have been small and our family large, but she made it work and gave me and my cousins so many wonderful, hilarious memories. One of my favorite things to do is hang out with my cousins and reminisce about the time we spent at Nan’s as children.

My momma, back in the 70s

My momma, back in the 70s, out front of Nan’s.

And what can I say about the woman who has most positively influenced me for the past 35 years–my mother. My mom was 17 and still in high school when I was born. Since then, she’s taught me, through her example, how important it is to take risks, to stand up for yourself, to take advantage of opportunities, and to create them where it seems none exist. She is ambitious, confident, hardworking, and successful, not to mention generous and supportive. She doesn’t realize how smart she is, in my opinion, or how much of a role model she is to me and others who know her.

I’m not sure any of the women in my life–all of my aunts, Nan, my mother, my sister, my sister-in-law, and the women in my husband’s family–realize how much they’ve influenced me, which is why I thought I’d write this post today. Thank you, all of you, for setting examples I try to live by.

Who are some of the influential women in your life? What can you do thank them?

 

Yesterday’s tragic news shook me to my core. Since I have been a mother, I’ve learned what triggers my anxieties and have learned to avoid them at all costs. The news is one of my triggers, and I somehow manage to successfully avoid it–even with a husband who is addicted to MSNBC.

Having the day off from work, I spent yesterday morning packing up donations to give to a family who experienced their own tragedy recently, and I weeded through Jackson’s baby clothes to make up a box for my pregnant cousin. Talk about emotional! I may have even snuggled an empty newborn outfit–the one I brought my baby home in. I had on music, not the television, and I had been working too furiously to check in to social media. I was in my own sheltered, small world, without even realizing or appreciating how good that felt until much later.

Once I finished packing up boxes, I left to go visit my uncle, who is a doctor and who agreed to give me my belated flu shot. It was around 2:45 pm when I walked into his office and sat down in the waiting room, where some news channel was on the tv, like it always is when I go there. I thought, “I need to talk to him about that. Maybe something lighter would be better for a doctor’s office waiting room!”

And then I started to piece together what I was seeing. I opened up Twitter and asked someone to fill me in, thinking it would be gentler to hear the news from a friend than from CNN.

And reading through the first of many replies to my tweet, I started to cry.

The receptionist asked me if I was ok. Through tears, I told her I hadn’t seen the news all day and was learning what was going on. I explained that I have anxiety and a 3-year-old son before I started crying again.

We talked for a few minutes, and I calmed down a little bit before she led me into the individual room where my uncle would see me. While I was alone, I texted my husband and my mother to try to fill in some of the gaps for me and simply to tell someone I was struggling very much.

Then I got that dreaded needle, which added a physical dimension of pain.

My uncle and I talked for a few minutes about my anxiety, about our family, about parenthood, about the shooting. I left there feeling calmer, but shaken still, of course. I drove to my next errand, the entire time fighting with myself whether to skip the errand and rush to daycare to pick up Jax versus resuming my life as usual and completing the errand right down the street from the office. It made sense to run the errand. It felt like taking control, it felt like maybe it would stop the anxiety spiral. So I ran the errand. On my drive to the daycare immediately afterward, some jerk cut me off in traffic and then I lost it completely. I wailed on the steering wheel as words screamed out of my mouth that I didn’t even know I was thinking. I was angry and scared.

The tragedy evoked a feeling in me that I haven’t had since I suffered from postpartum anxiety (PPA). During my PPA, I worried–is there a stronger word for worry?–that something tragic was going to happen to my son. I worried he would become ill, or that someone would hurt him in some way. I worried I couldn’t protect him from any of it. I called my dad one day during the early part of my maternity leave, sobbing into the phone about how hard it is to be a parent and how impossible it felt to keep a child safe. ‘ll never forget that frantic feeling, the anxiety of being a new mother and trying to figure out how to shield my baby from everything, then realizing I can’t. That feeling returned like a tsunami yesterday.

At a red light, I reached into my purse and fumbled for my pill bottle. It had become suddenly apparent I wouldn’t be able to mother Jax the way he needed without some help calming myself down before I saw him. I didn’t want to be like this in front of him. I didn’t want my fear to become his fear.

I swallowed a pill and decided then I would take Jax out for ice cream after dinner. Life, for us, would continue as normal today. I say that with some guilt, of course. But more so with gratitude.

I think that ice cream sundae was the most delicious one I’ve had in my entire life.

With hesitation, I checked Twitter and Facebook this morning after having avoided them nearly the entire day yesterday (to avoid triggering myself any further). I was glad I did because of this tweet I saw right away:

https://twitter.com/the_lame_sauce/status/279800893220745217

I read the article Gregg tweeted, and it reminded me of what my uncle said yesterday: There are more good people in this world than there are people who would murder children. We can only try our best to keep our children safe without sheltering them too much from the world, but we cannot let our fears become their fears.

That’s how I experienced this event. I hope those of you reading are healing and hugging and counting your blessings.