Thursday, May 24, 2018

Becoming Refined

I’ve been watching my daughter nurse a broken heart over the last few weeks that has left her feeling abandoned, rejected, confused and depressed. And it has left me feeling helpless, worried, concerned and prayerful. It’s not a boy that has broken her heart, but her close knit group of friends, which in some ways I think can be even more painful. I had a very similar experience in Jr High myself and I can still remember how my spirit and my joy was crushed by an insensitive ‘friend’, so I understand the pain my girl is going through.

My mama’s heart wants to fix everything, but I can’t. So I listen to her, love her, hug her, wipe her tears and mourn with her as she deals with the pain of her loss. And I encourage her, pray for her and remind her that her worth is greater than rubies, that she is chosen, holy and dearly loved, that she is above and not beneath, the head and not the tail, blessed and not cursed, remembered and not forgotten.

We’ve had many talks over the last few weeks since she was ostracized by this group of ‘friends’ and I’m so proud of my daughter. She is strong and brave, she takes constructive criticism well, she continually strives to become a better version of herself, and she holds her head up high even when she is feeling overwhelmed and alone. And so I really want to say a sincere thank you to her former friends. (No sarcasm, sincerely sincere.)

Thank you for teaching my daughter to choose her friends more wisely and more carefully. Thank you for helping her learn how to be a better friend to others, to be forgiving, loving, and accepting and how to build up a friend instead of tearing them down. And thank you for presenting a challenge that is refining my daughter and making her a stronger person. Because of you, she is growing into an even more amazing young lady than she already was. It’s sad you’ve chosen to miss out on that.

And to my daughter, I want to remind you that you are gorgeous inside and out and it is always more than okay to be a continual work in progress. It is a good thing to be under construction, to make your foundation stronger and to work on the things in yourself that need refinement. You are growing into a phenomenal young woman and I couldn’t be any prouder of you!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Arriving at Happy.


The first thing on my mind this morning when I woke was my list of To Do’s preparing for tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day. I ate some breakfast, woke the kids, cleaned the kitchen and scrubbed the stove after leaving it a mess during a lazy ‘vacation day’ with the kids yesterday. I prepared the green bean casserole, cleaned more dishes and retreated to my room with some ice water and my list to get the rest of my day planned out. 

Then I pulled up Facebook on my phone to see who else might be preparing for Thanksgiving and came across my sister in law’s post remembering her brother, my late husband, who passed away 5 years ago early this morning. ‘Wow’, I thought, ‘Five years’.

The first three years were difficult. Last year I determined I would make an active choice to be happy when faced with moments of sadness. But this year has been different, easier. We’ve transitioned into a new normal. I could not have imagined that I would start this day not thinking of him, but planning the holiday instead. Yesterday and today have typically been the two most difficult days of my year and yet here I am feeling good, pausing, reflecting, smiling and happily preparing for Thanksgiving Day. 

I still think of him every day. I still dream about him fairly often, I still miss him, I still love him, I even still get mad at him. But perhaps within this fifth year, I’ve become accustomed to living without him. That statement almost sounds like a betrayal. I imagine the me from three years ago is glaring at the present day me right now and scoffing at how I could be humming through this day, the date of his death.  I’ve spent hours planning and making a Thanksgiving feast, not because I have to and he’s not here to do it, but because now I want to and I enjoy it.

We hang an ornament with his face beaming at us on each Christmas tree in our house (yes we have three trees). Before this year I hung them out of sight to avoid his face whereas now I find myself smiling softly at the sight of his dimples. I fondly glance at the mistletoe he kissed me under as I walk past it when the sight of it used to crush me with the knowledge I wouldn’t receive any more kisses from him. We have not forgotten him, but the holidays are happy again. 

Life has somehow moved forward, even without him here and I think I’ve finally, for the most part, caught up with it. I can accept that I am both mom and dad, good cop and bad cop, the bread winner and the home maker and I am good with that now instead of feeling overwhelmed and abandoned. The bed doesn’t feel empty anymore. I don’t wake up and sigh with disappointment that a new day has dawned and I am still here. I find myself opening my curtains to let in the sunshine. I can sing songs we sang together without weeping (most of the time). I can watch videos of him with my kids and laugh and smile. Life, is happy again.

The road here wasn’t short or easy and it’s definitely not over. Each morning I smile and say hello to the new day instead of waking and sighing because I’m still here. Each morning I begin again. Each morning I try again. And again, and again. And even though arriving here five years later has been a long, bumpy, painful journey, I am here and I’ve arrived at yet another new beginning. Life isn’t perfect and it’s not pain free. But, I’m alive again. And I’m happy again. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Four Years Later, Our Family of Three.

Today, I am a widow of four years and my children have grown four years older without their father. We are no longer broken, but some days we are still learning how to live without him. 

I still have some sleepless, lonely nights. My daughter sometimes come to me in tears because she misses how her daddy adored her. My son still keeps a photo of he and his daddy on his dresser and after months of introspective silence, will talk with me about him for hours.

In those moments, my children listen with rapt attention to my stories of our fun dates and silly fights and the life lessons he and I learned together and they retell their favorite, funniest and saddest moments of their dad that fill their memories. Kellan can't remember the day after Donnie passed, it's a complete blur to him. Emmi can recall almost every detail. I try not to remember the day before or the night we lost him and yet I can't help but think about where I was, what I was doing and how I had no idea what was coming. 

Losing your love, your loved one, or your dear friend can be sudden, world shaking and hurt as if you've lost a limb. It takes time to regrow the nerves that were severed, to realize there will be phantom pain, to understand you must work hard to move forward or even re-map your entire life plan. It's a painstaking process that is full of missteps and hesitations, tentatively placing your foot forward and finding yourself falling over and over again until you are finally able to pick yourself up without assistance and start moving forward with a hard fought confidence in each careful step.

I still dream about Donnie sometimes, even as recent as last night, but my dreams aren't as dark as they used to be. ~ In my dream we were planning a wedding vow renewal on a vast lawn under the stars, with lanterns hanging from trees and laughter floating on crisp fall air. ~ Life feels different now versus the last few years; still unknown, but brighter, hopeful and full of new beginnings. 

Today we will decorate our house for Christmas, tomorrow I will start cooking for Thanksgiving and our family of three that used to be four, will see a new year begin in just a few more weeks. We will miss him at each milestone and in the quiet nights. Every birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas we will experience somber moments. But we will also laugh together, love each other and live each day with the intention of joy. And we will have new stories to tell in the years to come; our family of three. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Reagan Got Shot and I Got Spanked.

My family always had strong political views and shared them freely in our home. As most children do, I listened to my parents views, soaked them in and I adopted my parents' opinions. During the election between Reagan and Carter in 1980, we were very supportive of Jimmy Carter. My older brother Mark even dressed as Jimmy Carter for Halloween, in a tan corduroy suit with a Jimmy Carter mask on his face and at every door instead of saying the typical 'Trick or Treat' he would exclaim "Vote for me!". It was awesome.

As we know, Reagan won the presidency, was sworn in and took office in 1981 and just two months later there was an assassination attempt on his life. At the time, I was nine years old and my younger brother Gerald had just turned eight. When we heard the news, we ran outside and began dancing around our willow tree together, rejoicing and singing "Reagan got shot! Reagan got shot!" with blissful grins on our innocent faces.

I think it was our neighbor that overheard us and told our parents what Gerald and I were doing. And let me just say, we definitely received a proper scolding and sported some red bottoms that afternoon. Our laughter turned to tears and not because we were worried about our President, but because of our punishment. I remember feeling so confused and also quite ashamed. We were told it was not right to rejoice in anyone's demise and that we must respect the office of the President, even if we did not value or agree with the person in that office. 

That afternoon helped shape my current outlook. Since that time, I've understood that the President is the President. I may not like him, I may not agree with him, I may not have voted for him, but he is my President. And because he is my President of the nation that I live in and love, I pray for him and I respect the office that he holds. 

Today I have seen so many posts on Facebook from unhappy or angry people, from ecstatic or even gloating people, from people that have mixed emotions and from people that just don't seem to care. I have my opinions. They might follow after my family's or they might not. They might be different from yours or they might be the same as yours. They might be more grey than black or white. They might not be completely formed. They might be ignorant opinions or they might be researched opinions. 

But they are my opinions. We have the right and the freedom to express ourselves. I rarely express myself when it comes to politics and related hot topics. And that's my right as well. Here's what I will say. We live in a country that gives us the freedom to vote, for some of us that was more hard earned than others. I don't take that lightly and any time I am able to vote, I do so. I mark my vote, my opinion on who should be president and I do my part. 

My vote joins millions of others and they are then counted and we are given a result and it is what it is. We don't have to be thrilled about it. We can even be disappointed. We can be ambivalent or delighted. We can express those feelings, that is our right. 

What makes me sad, so very sad, is the hatred I am seeing. The absolute unbending hatred. And people, it is coming from both sides. My oldest brother Phil's best friend who is without a doubt pro-Clinton, had a Facebook friend in the pro-Trump camp post "Now, I want to go out and start shooting Muslims." This breaks my heart. And I've seen plenty of posts from the pro-Clinton/anti-Trump side too that I won't go into right now, but I'm sure you've seen at least a few negative posts as well, from both sides. 

I'm not going to tell you who I voted for yesterday. It might be who you think I would vote for and then again, it may not. It's my right to keep that private. All I'm saying is I'm sad today. I'd like to see us be 'Stronger Together' and 'Make America Great Again'. I'd like to see if we can be civil and kind to one another and see how we can work together because this is our America. This is our country. This is our very opinionated nation made up of very different people who are all very passionate about our country's future. 

We are an amazing country that has come a long way and still has a long way to go. We are not perfect. There will always be disappointments and failures to face; personally, privately, publicly, nationally. I still hope for our future. And I know you do too. I think it would benefit ALL of us to learn to be kinder to one another, to sometimes hold our tongue, or soften our words, to treat one another the way we would like to be treated. 

We're going to disagree at times. Let's love our nation. Let's be kind to one another. And let's work hard together to make a difference. And to both sides I want to remind you that bullying gets us nowhere. Hatred gets us nowhere. Kindness goes a long way in expressing your opinions and makes a huge difference in delivery and reception. 

Play nice people. 


Thursday, September 8, 2016

11:57 pm.

This post was written by Kellan. It's a memoir, an assignment given to him for his English class this year. Posting with his permission. (I'm a proud mommy!)

11:57 pm

By, Kellan Thibodaux

It was the night before Thanksgiving when everything changed. My mom had let my little sister and I stay up late and we were watching TV when I paused the DVR to check the time. It was 11:57 pm. “Hey! Why’d you pause it?!” my sister Emmi belched out. “Checking the time.” I replied boredly. Then from the other side of the house, we heard loud whispers; panting. We walked with unease towards our parents’ bedroom to see our mother pushing repeatedly on our father’s chest, as he laid unconscious on the bed. 

“Mom? What’s wrong?” I said with tears rolling down my face. She turned and saw us and yelled, “Go sit on the porch with some toilet paper!” We ran to the bathroom and grabbed a roll of toilet paper to dry our tears with and sat on the porch waiting for our Pastors and an ambulance.

A few minutes later our pastor’s mom (whom we didn’t know at all) showed up and took us to her house and tried to distract us with basic conversation like “Sooooo, how’s school?” and “Sooooo, what’s your favorite color?”. My sister and I snuck glances at each other silently saying ‘Why is she trying to distract us? It isn’t going to work!’. Then she tried to distract us further by playing a Jackie Chan movie which we watched for all of two minutes before my Pastor’s wife Mrs. Cyndee saved us by walking in the front door to take us to the hospital to be with our mom.

At the hospital, we waited inside a small waiting room that held only two tables with magazines, a box of tissues, a potted plant and a few chairs. We sat impatiently while the doctor shared the news down the hall from the waiting room with my mother, Pastor Nathan and Mrs. Cyndee.  My sister and I decided to peek out the door to see what was going on but nothing was happening and we couldn’t hear anything so we went back in and shut the door to keep waiting.

Finally, they came back into the room. My mom sat down and said “Kids… I have something to tell you.” When she said that I looked backwards and Mrs. Cyndee was covering her face with both hands. I couldn’t tell if her reaction meant my dad was okay or not. I turned back to my mom and she said “Your dad… he’s gone.” I cried on and off while my sister cried hysterically and mom held us both in her arms.

The next few days were mostly a blur. I still can’t remember much of anything. I don’t remember Thanksgiving day which was the day after or even my sister’s eighth birthday which was the day after that. It’s a total memory fog.

This Thanksgiving will be four years without my dad. My fourteenth birthday is less than a month away. I’ve had to learn some essential things like riding a bike, mowing the lawn, and checking the oil on the car without him here to teach me. Sometimes it’s hard for me to talk to my mom instead of my dad about personal things as I’ve grown up the last few years.

Since I lost my dad, a lot has changed. Once in a while I cry myself to sleep at night and it’s still difficult for me to say the words “My dad died”. But I’ve come a long way in my grief and I’m so thankful I had such a great dad for the 10 years I had him. He was amazing. He loved me, my sister and my mom with everything he had in him. He was talented in so many ways. He was handsome, funny, smart, caring and giving. As I grow older, I find many of these pieces of him in me. And that makes me really happy.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

#ichoosehappy

Some of you in my facebook world may have noticed a hashtag I've been throwing around since day one of 2016. Instead of making a resolution, I pondered on what I wanted to see happen in my life this year and it is simply one thing. To be happy. So I chose this motto for myself in the form of a hashtag: #ichoosehappy

The first year after I lost my husband was such a dark year for me. I struggled to survive minute by minute, day by day. I hid in my room, I ate my feelings, I cried, I slept, I was numb and I won the title of Miss Dreary Non-Personality.

The second year it was as if I was climbing out of heavy waters, draggy myself out of a pool after spending all day in the burning hot sun. I was working full time again, moving from an apartment to a house, trying to do everything on my own, re-disciplining my kids (because for the past year I just didn't have it in me), learning to cook more than just 5 meals and basically becoming human again.

The third year was a bit easier. A little less anxiety and depression, giving more of my time trying to do fun things with my kids, trying to be build friendships, enjoying holidays and cooking my first Thanksgiving all by myself, and trying to figure out who I am, what I want in life and what I want to be when I grow up. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure that one out.

But this year, as I work my way through our fourth year since Donnie passed away, I've approached every day looking for the joy in each moment, seeking the silver lining when the inevitable tough times arrive, being positive and joyful instead of staying dismal and depressed. Choosing happy has made a huge difference for me when bills are looming overhead and one income has been a challenge. It's made me grin and bear it when I'm feeling grumpy or my kids have been stinkers. Choosing happy has made me laugh when I locked my keys inside my house and had to sit in the car waiting for a locksmith. 

Choosing happy has made me say yes more often to my kids' requests and surprise them with new privileges AND responsibilities as they grow older. It's caused me to live in and appreciate tangible moments that are now fantastic memories. Choosing happy has brought more peace to my heart and helps me sleep better at night. And when I look back through the first five months of this year, I realize they have been a very happy, happy five months.

The year 2016 is approaching its halfway point and here I am still choosing happy. It doesn't mean that hard days don't come. I just had three days in a row that were the toughest I've had in quite some time. Anxiety attacks and depression showed up out of nowhere, bad dreams and sad memories overwhelmed me and stopped me in my tracks, made me breathe deeply, stand still and even stay in bed for almost a full day. 

But even in the thickest, heaviest, most wearisome moment of those days I knew that it would pass. I knew I would come out of it. I knew I would feel the sunshine of happy again. 

I love the power I hold in choosing happy. I may not have all the answers, I might not know what tomorrow holds, how I'm going to cross the next to do off my list or even when the next dark cloud might try to cover me, but I know I can purpose to choose happy in the face of those uncertainties. I don't need to have the answers. I just need to choose happy. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nights, Three Years Later.

I climbed back into the bed, hearing it groan and creak with my weight. I turned and lied on my side facing him, facing me. I closed my eyes blissfully because I had 2 hours before I had to get up again. I swayed my body towards his and smelled his clean fresh scent he carried after his nightly shower. I reached out and wrapped both my arms around his right arm, pulling it gently towards me and snuggled my face against the arm hair that tickled my nose and kissed the sweet spot below his shoulder where he had a slight indention. I sighed in utter contentment and satisfaction.

I knew as I hugged his arm against me that we wouldn't lay this way for long in the early morning hours. We weren't two people that could cuddle while sleeping which was a good thing since neither of us liked to snuggle all night. It's not that I minded cuddling, I enjoyed it, but I just couldn't sleep like that. It got on my nerves and kept me awake and it was the same for him. But we loved these brief early morning embraces; short, intimate, sweet moments of pure joy wrapped up in seconds. Fleeting touches, quick kisses, deep squeezes.  

We totally had our own version of that 'hug and roll' move down from Ross on Friends. That was good enough for us. We only wished we had a king sized bed where we could roll away and not touch each other at all while sleeping. That would have been ideal, to feel like we had our own bed all to ourselves, with plenty of room away from each other and yet still close enough to cross the distance and grab these quick morning snuggles. I sighed as I squeezed just a little bit tighter, that squeeze that means I'm letting go of you soon but for just another second I just cant get quite enough of you.

My breath catches in a quick sob as I rub my face against the furry sensation because I know, I know he's gone. I'm just a 44 year old woman lying in her bed alone, crying and chuckling ridiculously at the absurdity of the fact that I'm squeezing the life out of a teddy bear for comfort. You see, I never had a teddy bear as a child. Well, I had them but I didn't sleep with them because I just did not like to cuddle. I cannot ever remember sleeping with bears or dolls. I remember snuggling them for a minute and then pushing them away from me because I could not, I did not, I would not sleep like that. I would toss and turn, flail and wiggle, pick my head up and put it down a million times on my pillow to find that perfect spot to rest in and no stuffed animal would have been able to take that abuse. I saved them from myself by ostracizing them from my bed and placing them in the corner of my room or my closet.

This teddy bear in my arms, it helps. It's been almost three years now since he left me and I still lie awake at night. For the most part, I've moved past the daily heart wrenching grief although admittedly it still comes back in moments and immobilizes me, like this past week for instance, but that's another blog entry. Most nights though, I find myself lying awake at night, unable to sleep, unable to settle, unable to fully relax. And then there are moments I am so frantic inside where I just have this feeling that something is wrong, something is missing, something's been taken away from me and I need it so desperately. I need to hold something close to me, I need to press it against me to have that physical knowledge that I am not alone. I am not alone. I am not alone.

So for the past nearly 3 years when I experience that desperate feeling of approaching madness, I will get up as a last resort when I just cannot stand it anymore and I will wake one of my children. I weigh the risk in my head before I wake them; who has a test, who's gonna be grumpy, who's going to be willing to come quickly, who needs more rest, who'll be easier to wake up tonight?

I reached out and touched her arm and gently shook her. Then I started whispering "Emmi. Emmi? Emmi, wake up. Emelia. Emelia Rose. EMELIA." She gasped and started awake. Her eyes blinked open and I say with quiet desperation in my voice "Please come lay down with me?" like a scared little girl waking up her mommy after she's had a bad dream. "Please baby, please wake up, just come with me, come lay down with me, let me hold you for a little while. PLEASE." She nodded her head, turned over and climbed out of the bed. I stood there for a moment to make sure she didn't lie back down and once I heard the soft padding of her feet on the wood floor, I turned around and I walked back to my room. I put haste in my steps and quickly reached my bed, climbed up once again, the mattress groaning, and spread out the blanket, preparing for her arrival.

...Preparing for her arrival. When I was expecting her, Donnie almost died then too. I remember waiting. Waiting in a long row of chairs outside of the operating area, nervously waiting with members from our church and my pastors. My family and his weren't able to be there because everything happened so quickly and they lived hours and hours away. So we sat there in anticipation, with a completely different kind of expectancy, waiting for an update on the surgery, waiting for the doctor's report.

The doctor finally walked out decked in his mint green scrubs, still wearing his surgeon's cap on his head and his mask hanging from the little bands on the back of his neck. He wearily reached up and rubbed his forehead and came to stand directly in front of me. He was all business, this surgeon we had just met the day before, this doctor that saved my husband's life. He had no bedside manner unless he really, really tried once in a while as I would come to find out over the next six weeks. But in this first debriefing he gave me, he spoke with fatigued matter of fact-ness. "Your husband is stable. There was a lot of infection. If we hadn't operated today he would have died in the next couple of hours. And he is not out of the woods. The next day or two will tell" he said, "and the next several hours. We'll definitely have to go back in again. We'll do it tomorrow."

My breath caught in my throat and I swallowed against the dry lump that had risen. I said "Thank you." and he quickly turned and walked away. And I was so, so angry, so pissed off. I could hear the murmur of consoling words and encouragement given to me by the pastor's wife and the other church members. In comforting tones they said how it was so good we had seen this doctor in time, and how great it was that he caught the problem. They sounded like an irritating, maddening swarm of bees buzzing in my ears and all I could think was "God, I'm so pissed off at you. If you let him die... if you let him die, and I have to raise this baby and my son alone I'm gonna be so mad at you. I'm gonna be so angry with you!!" Oh I threatened him, I warned him. I was so mad, knowing that Donnie could still leave me.

All these thoughts ran through my head in those split seconds before I felt my girl climb up in the bed beside me and lie down. I covered her with one of the soft fuzzy blankets and drew her close to me.  She likes to cuddle so it's not a problem, she'll stay as close as I hold her, only slightly moving to get herself comfortable. She'll let me squeeze her, squeeze her, squeeze her as close to me as I need to and hold her so, so tight until that empty starving feeling starts to dissipate just ever so slightly and I keep that pressure, the locked arms around her body so she cannot escape though she doesn't even try to because she loves it. She breathes in deep and she sighs, satisfied, content in my arms and I hold her so tight, trying to fill that void and it helps, it does. Warm, salty tears slide down my face and under my breath I tell myself with quiet determination "I'm gonna be okay. I'm gonna be okay. I'll get through this, I will".

I rub my wet face against the brown furry bear and chuckle again, shaking my head a little. I've replaced those 3:00 am tiptoed moments to my children's rooms with this bear. Well, not completely. There are still moments where I have to hold one of them, but this bear helps. I don't always hold him at night, but I do sometimes, when I wish I could feel Donnie's arm in mine.

I miss him. I miss hearing him breathe beside me. I miss how he would shift his weight to get comfortable. I miss the clearing of his throat, his reaching for a water bottle on his bedside table and drinking throughout the night. I miss hearing him sit up on the side of the bed for a minute when he got up, maybe so he could wake up a little to clear the cobwebs or maybe he was dizzy and needed to center himself before rising to walk. I even miss hearing his leg drag as he walked to the bathroom. His gait had changed after those life saving surgeries from that healthy strong walk he had when we first met. Step-thump, step-thump. It made a funny sound when his nerve damaged left leg landed on the ground. My ears strained, going from normal size to 10 times their size in my mind, like cartoon movements in my silly ridiculous imaginations. You know how in the cartoons when a character's ears would grow larger when they are intent on listening? That's how it felt when he was away from the bed. 

I would listen for every movement while he was gone until he returned to the bedroom, attentive just in case he needed me, body on alert until I heard him step-thump back to the bedroom. He would sit on the side of the bed, take another drink of water and then lie down, turn over and face me, reach out and put his hand on my arm and squeeze it gently before he pulled the covers back over his neck and simply say to me "I love you". And I would tell him, "I love you too honey". 

Maybe that's why nights are still difficult for me. I try to ignore the silence. I fill it with worship music or funny YouTube videos. I watch Hallmark Christmas movies or something from Netflix. I try to read or drink some hot cocoa or hot tea. I sweep or clean dishes or do laundry. I sit on the side of my bed, drink ice water and rock myself back and forth and try to push down the frantic feeling as I hug my new teddy bear, laughing at myself to keep from crying, but doing what I have to do to survive, to stay sane even if I am a little crazy. I miss him every day, but in the nights, in the silence, in the waiting, I feel so alone.

Becoming Refined

I’ve been watching my daughter nurse a broken heart over the last few weeks that has left her feeling abandoned, rejected, confused and dep...