Fear of the unknown

Friday I had the privilege of giving Father Keith an early Father’s Day gift – spending most of his day with me. It’s actually the other way around. It was so nice to get to hang out with him without distractions. We spent the day at a conference learning all the ins and outs of the health condition he battles.

Pulling into the parking lot and seeing the sign “Hope starts here” really resonated with me. As I fought back tears realizing I’d soon be face to face with fears of the unknown, I took that sign as not only a sign from God but from my mom. I couldn’t help but think back to her interview with a local news outlet discussing the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition-IA Chapter’s annual Break the Silence Run/Walk. Her message of hope just made me feel like in that moment, on Friday, my dad and I were where we should have been. Together, educating ourselves (and smuggling suckers from the vendor tables). Because all you can do is educate yourself and #sweets4life.

I actually listen to her interview often. I selfishly need to hear her voice and a verbal reminder of hope. And, ironically a couple weekends ago, we attended the Break the Silence run/walk in her honor. It was incredible to see all the people supporting their loved ones. It’s bittersweet attending without her but having her Grandkids and sister participate were a close second best.

How do you handle fears of the unknown? Do you like to be educated or are you stronger when you’re unsure?

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Just cancer.

“Your mom just has cancer. Not you.” I’ll never forget those words. When my mom was diagnosed someone told me this after I explained  how my life had changed, my values and priorities had shifted and I’d grown. The comment stopped in me in my tracks.

And while I can’t remember how I responded, I catch myself thinking back to that moment every once in a while. “Your mom has cancer, not you.”

True, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer, the kind that is past the point of easily being cured –  I was by all accounts healthy. But anyone who has lost or seen someone suffer a loss knows that while the patient does carry the heaviest burden – family and loved ones have their own struggles. How do you keep it together when your world is falling apart? You just do the best you can. And some days you have it together and others you don’t, but both are ok.

Some days will be fighting through the fears of the unknown, the questions of whether or not your recent phone call will be the last. Will they feel up to talking with you or having you visit that day? Who is going to talk to your siblings guidance counselors and make sure they don’t miss athletic events they simply cannot miss? How will you give the play-by-play of athletic games you don’t understand? Smiling when you can because you know that’s how they want to see you. Making the hospital or chemo/doctor visits your new place to visit and going for that hour run when you’re way out of shape because they just killed their chemo treatment and want to run.

And that is “just cancer.” It’s your dad sitting at your wedding by himself in a pew that he should be sharing with his fourth grade sweetheart. That is grief, that is loss and that is heartbreak – a different kind of heartbreak. It’s having your world flipped upside down. It’s bittersweet memories…always. It’s being afraid but smiling. It’s crying harder than you’ve ever cried and it’s realizing that you don’t have to keep it together. Things can fall and you can change. There will be good days and there will be hard days. And that is ok.

How do you cope with a the loss or fear of losing a loved one?

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today we celebrate the birthday of a beautiful woman who turns 60 in heaven. All day I caught myself wondering how she’d spend her day. We did our best to honor her here on earth. I finally hung decorations in Hayden’s room that have a special tie to her — bald eagle prints, horse decals and an “I’ll love you forever…” print. I couldn’t help but tear up as I was cutting flowers from our “Grandma Kristi” garden thinking how badly I wish I could share life with her. I wish she could see the excitement Hayden has for the bird feeder anytime he catches a visiting bird in his binoculars. Or the way he is so happy and proud to smell our flowers. He loves to play baseball and bake and just live life. I would give anything for her to have a slumber party at our house in Hayden’s teepee then greet Leah in the morning smiling wide-eyed in her crib. We’d take them on a long walk or runs, talk about recent award shows, the news and grill seafood.

I know she’d love sitting with my dad and just watching her Grandkids play and laugh. She’d be right there with them. And while it breaks my heart to think of all the things I don’t get to see her do, I know she does them all in Heaven.

I love you mom. Thank you for every moment you remind me that you are here, never far from my thoughts and always in my heart. Happy 60th.

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Mother’s Day gift guide

This week is always a hard. Staying positive when you want to celebrate the person who brought you to life takes a toll emotionally. But the one person who’s mission in life was to always celebrate you should be celebrated. The countless marketing emails and social posts calling out Mother’s Day make it hard to escape. The best decision I made when my mom passed away was to not think of her as past-tense. She’s still my mom regardless of whether she is on earth or not. So, even though the day is bittersweet and May is especially hard because it’s her birthday month, I’ve put together a list of ways to celebrate or honor moms who are here in person or in spirit.

Mother’s Day road race
Whether its specific for the day like this local one (I signed up for the 10K), it’s a great way to get celebrate an active mom or honor your mom by doing an activity she loved and can no longer do.

Flowers
I love flowers and all you haters can say they are a waste of money but they will no doubt bring a smile. Whether you buy a bouquet (I’m obsessing over Boesen’s collection) or hanging basket from a local greenhouse like Canoyer – you can’t go wrong. And these can be taken to a grave site or given to a hospital or place that maybe meant a lot to your mom. We’re going to plant our garden and a peony bush in my mom’s honor.

My wedding bouquet courtesy of Bella Flora Event Design.

Brunch
Give mom a break and take her out to brunch or visit her favorite restaurant. Order her favorite meal or bake your own using family recipes. Check out my friend and blogger, The Makerista’s take on how to throw a simple Mother’s Day brunch with Keurig.

Makerista Mother’s Day Brunch w/Keurig photo: Justin Salem Meyer

Perfume/Candle
A scent can bring on nostalgia. Perfumes make a great gift but they can also take you back to a place and a memory. These Anthropologie candles are my favorite.

Music
Attend a concert, make a CD or playlist that your mom can jam out to or load it with songs that remind you of her. My mom loved James Taylor, The Eagles and Motown. I have a special playlist of songs just for her. Grab an iTunes gift card and make a playlist together.

Those are just a few ideas. How are you celebrating?

Sibling support

I’m in a few mom groups on Facebook and a mom posed the question of whether you can feel a family is complete after one child. They were debating having another but also felt good with one child and wanted other opinions.

So many factors go into that decision but I just felt compelled to comment with a perspective I unfortunately have had to realize and appreciate so young. Navigating grief can be really hard and it is definitely dependent on your situation but I can’t imagine my life now without my sisters. We didn’t always get along growing up – super competitive with each other and our parents (mainly mom’s time) and we’ve always loved each other but three girls wasn’t a walk in the park…I mean middle school years seriously.

A lot depends on family dynamic but I can’t imagine overcoming the last seven years as an only child. Sure friends and extended family offer their support, which has been great, but there is something comforting in knowing that two young women really actually do know how I feel because we are grieving the same person – OUR mom. She fostered great individual relationships with each one of us but it was and is challenging to find that new relationship and essentially our new sisterhood without our fearless leader.

My response to the question was basically this – As a new mom who lost a parent very young I’m so thankful for my siblings. Because good and bad days we’ve been able to help each other miss the one person we fought over (and still do some days). Now we get to direct all our smothering love at Papa Keith (formerly Father Keith). And who knows, my kids may grow up to not be best friends and talk occasionally or they may want to live down the street from each other and send their kids to the same school – who knows. But for me, I feel so much better knowing that they will have each other to make those decisions.

Due date come and gone.

Turns out I’m not the most consistent at posting and I have gained a whole new respect for dedicated bloggers since starting my own blog.

Today marks a hard day and really a day when I just want to call my mom. Today is the due date from our pregnancy that resulted in miscarriage.  It’s crazy to miss and love someone you have to wait to meet and it’s been comforting to hear of others who have gone through pregnancy loss just sad to know others have felt that same pain. In the sadness that haunts today, I’m blessed to feel the sweet kicks from our newest blessing due in July. Being pregnant after having a miscarriage has brought on a whole new mix of emotions but we continue to pray and remain hopeful as we continue the journey to grow our family.

Music is one of my favorite ways to cope. This song has brought me comfort in our pregnancy loss and especially these hard days when all I want is my mom. How do you get through the hard times?

 

1 in 4 is me.

This Wednesday will be five years since I last saw my beautiful mom alive. Each year it is always hard but this year hurts even worse. I think of all the times I’ve needed her here and all the things she’s missed out on.  Her shoulder to cry on and her hugs are something I wish I could have just one more time. Especially during the hard times like this past August when our journey to become a family of four (not counting Lou) was derailed when I started to miscarry at nine weeks; just two days before our nine week ultrasound appointment.

We found out we were pregnant right away. I remember being so excited and telling myself I would really make the most of this pregnancy. I was confident in my body’s ability to carry a healthy child full-term and had made it through a fairly uncomplicated labor and delivery (minus 36 hours of labor and a hematoma). After taking a few tests and thanking God for positive results, I shared the news with Joel and Hayden Keith. We were all so excited. Continue reading →

Soar on wings like eagles

Eagle_closeupAnyone who knows me knows I love Bald Eagles. Growing up my parents shared their love of this bird, due in part to their hometown, Decorah, IA. It’s a popular area for Bald Eagles and when we would road trip to visit family we would always keep an eye out for one. Dad said we’d get $5 for everyone we saw (still waiting to collect).

I never knew how this bird would become my saving grace in coping with my mother’s cancer. When her hair started to fall out from chemo, mom got together with her sisters to shave her head. She looked amazing. I wish I would have done it with her but my head has a dent in it. Regardless she looked beautiful. One day she was probably asking me to do something and I got sassy with her and called her “Bald Eagle.” She gave me a look but I quickly recovered and let her know it was a symbol of strength and grace. She liked it and the name stuck. Continue reading →

Words to live by

IMG_7943When my mom was diagnosed, it brought on so many emotions. I was in the middle of a quarter-life crisis (it’s a real thing), graduating college, ending a relationship, moving out for the first time, applying for jobs and THEN my best-friend mom was diagnosed with cancer. I needed advice. I wanted someone to tell me it was ok, that she would be alright, I would be alright, my family would be alright and life wouldn’t end.

To cope with the fear of the unknown, I found myself gravitating towards quotes and poems. Whether it was on strength, love, grief or friendship I started saving these in a homemade journal I received from my cousin. I still have it and will write down new quotes whenever I find them. You can find a lot of them on my Pinterest board. Continue reading →

Getting through the hard days.

74bbcd1045617cfdfc240e5a38480681 Some days are hard and some days are even harder. Last night was a really hard one. Over the last month I’ve been trying to cope with loss and understand how and why some experience more loss than others. I know everyone has their own battle(s), but some just seem more obvious than others but regardless loss hurts. It doesn’t make one loss any less than the other. But to some holding onto that loss and grief can be a sign of weakness. As if there is a time frame for grief and “getting over” someone or something. To those people I would say, “it is really easy to say that when you aren’t the one experiencing those emotions.” You don’t have to go through your day seeing people live a life you once knew or you wish you could experience. Logging into social media, you see so much joy (which is great) but on a hard day it can make it even harder. People having babies, spending time with their parents and friends, and it’s easy to start to compare and break yourself down because your life doesn’t live up to that picture. That’s my struggle. Continue reading →