Thursday, November 19, 2015

Christmas Presence

   Christmas is approaching. It's always been my favorite time of year. Even after the passing of my mom & my husband, when I struggled to choose happiness, I still love Christmas. I love the lights and songs and the smell of cinnamon-y, pine-y, balsam-y, wintery things. The whole nine... even plain red Starbucks cups. Just today I took a selfie with a Christmas tree at Kroger, just because it smelled so damn good. 

Every year, I see more and more about simplifying; getting the kids ONE gift. Doing a small tree or no tree. Not wanting to be bothered to remember to move the damn elf (you really don't have to make him zipline the house, y'all). Skipping seeing Santa because of the line. Maybe because you truly feel it takes focus away from Jesus and the reason for the season. Maybe you're lazy. Maybe you're tired or bored or disenchanted. I get it. I'm so far past tired, it would take light a billion years to get back to tired from where I am! Maybe you're mourning something or someone. Maybe you need a Christmas off. And you know what? That's fine by me. Make your season about whatever you want. Lay low. Celebrate your King however you want. Simplify it down to a prayer and a good breakfast on Christmas morning. 

  The Christmas after my mom died, I wasn't sure I could keep up the "Christmas pace" as usual. It was hard to accept that it would be the first year in my whole life I didn't get a stocking from Santa. Yes, I was 31. So? I loved my mom's traditions! I missed the orange she always put in the bottom of the stocking. And the toothpaste and toothbrush. I missed the chapsticks and the lottery scratch offs, and the random trinkets I had no idea what possessed her to get! You have no idea how loved I felt by my mother because of her efforts to love me. On December 25, 2012, I woke up to no stocking. And I felt sadness. Christmas hoop-la may be a thing of the past for me. Something that died with my mother. Christmas isn't *just* about Jesus for me. It's about my family. And I felt alone without my mom, even with my husband and daughter, and yes even Jesus, next to me. I needed the Holy Spirit to help me that day. 

Then, in Fort Worth, Texas... it snowed... on Christmas Day. To non-believers, that's no sign to you (it's just weather, right), but I read it loud and clear. It was a big gift from my mom. I LOVE snow. It isn't something we get to enjoy a lot of around here. And I can't think of a better time to have it. I cried in my closet for half an hour that Christmas Day, while Jason played with Lila in the snow. MY snow. I'm sure she had to call in some favors to arrange that. 

So for me, it's go big or go home. I almost let Christmas die for me, y'all. Never again. We are going to see Santa. The elf is coming all the way from the North Pole. And he will move every night! The dog gets a stocking. We are watching "Elf" 10,000 times. I will burn through 50-11 Balsam candles. I commit to play Michael Bublé softly, while I sip hot chocolate. We are putting up a big tree, we are putting lights on the house, and I'm going to get my girls more than 1 present to unwrap on Christmas morning. We are going to make a gingerbread house, snowman cookies, and popcorn garland. ALL OF THE CHRISTMAS THINGS. I'm wearing an ugly Christmas sweater as I type! And I'm spamming ALL the Facebook feeds with it! 

Call me commercial if you want, but I know you only get so many of these things. You get a handful. A couple years when your kids will light up so much in anticipation and excitement. It's truly magical. And each Christmas morning that passes, they'll be a whole different kid than they were the Christmas before. Then one year, they'll take their own car to the local Jack in the Box for a grease-pocket taco on Christmas Day after they're bored with you. So, while I have their attention, I'm taking advantage. Remind me to add oranges to my Christmas shopping list. 

Ps. Yes, I realize it's "not even Thanksgiving yet!"  

              
Whatever it is you celebrate, I'm good with it! Just make it good,
                          Claire 

   { Lila, Christmas 2011}


{Lila & my snow, Christmas 2012}

{Daddy & Lila, Christmas 2013}

{Harper, Christmas 2013}

{George girls, Christmas 2014}






Friday, January 30, 2015

It's February.

Jason,
 I can feel it closing in. I can literally feel it behind me, just over my shoulder. And if I pick up my pace, it picks the pace up too. If my breathing increases, so does its. If my heart races, it matches me. I know I can't outrun it. Its shadow lingers just behind my own. The last few days, I feel like I am reliving the moments leading up to the worst day of my life. It's almost like watching it in slow motion. This time I can see it coming. I want to yell at the character playing myself and tell her what's about to happen! I see it in my Timehop app (thanks a lot, Timehop), I smell it in the crisp outdoor scent of this time of year. I feel it when I see all the God-awful Valentine's Day stuff on store shelves. Valentine's Day... more like the Ides of February. A warning sign to throw up that guard. Put the snipers on my emotional roof and call out the dogs. There is work to be done in the next few weeks.
 So I have to turn around and face it, because its the only way to get past it. Its just another day to most. But to me, to us, its a huge milestone. One whole year since the last time I talked to you. One whole year of birthdays, holidays, illnesses, blood, sweat, and tears. One whole year raising our children without you. One whole year since I saw your name pop up on my phone. One solid year that Lila has been asking for you. Don't worry, she doesn't seem to hurt when she asks. She simply states that Daddy is in Heaven and he is her Guardian Angel, which is confusing for a 3 year old whose gym teacher at school is named Angel (no, seriously). You would be so proud of her. She is sleeping in her own big girl bed and doesn't use any diapers or pull ups at all anymore. She is still taking dance classes and Uncle Joey is going to hopefully take your spot for the Daddy-Daughter part of her recital this Spring. She was also in her first Christmas show this past holiday! She did awesome! 
              {Lila Bug}

              {girl's lunch after a mani}


 Harper is not even the same little girl you last saw. She has pigtails now. She is S.P.U.N.K.Y! She talks and takes her coffee with two sugars! And she hits me sometimes just so she can say "sorry!" She runs and laughs and has a paci addiction worse than Lila's! She looks like you to me sometimes. But then I blink and she looks like me. She sleeps in her bed all night now. Took months after you left to get her to do that. 
            {at the park}

             {trying on your boots}

  It occurred to me recently that I don't have a place to "visit" you on special days. You're probably aware that what's left of your earthly vessel is sitting on my shelf, as I figured that would be the best place to keep you so you could keep watch. But it left me with no place to go to let myself FEEL... 
So...
 I went to the hospital today. I can't explain it, but I just had to go to the last place I saw you alive; the last place I talked to you. I have been thinking about going for some time now, I knew I had to. It wasn't even my choice, I was being led and knew I would be going. And today was the day. After work, I just kept driving. I parked in the same spot I parked in that night. I walked through those same automatic doors and immediately the memories assaulted me. I explained to the front desk lady that my husband had died in "Room 1" almost a year ago and that I would really just like to see "Room 1" for just a brief moment and leave. She said that room is a "trauma room" and that she would have to ask a head nurse, and she disappeared behind big locking doors. Funny, I remember them telling me they needed to move you closer to the nurses' station and that the room looked much more equipped than the first room we were in, but nobody called it "trauma" room. I would have remembered that.
 The two elderly women in the waiting room must have overheard me, because they ceased their conversation promptly and stared at me while I stood waiting, gazing over at the bench you were lying on that night before they took us back.
 The front desk lady (is that her official title?) returned quickly and said I could go back but she had to get the security officer to go with me. She poked her head into a little office, whispered about the lady in the lobby who wants to see "Room 1", and a very nice man in uniform came out and walked with me back to "Room 1". Nobody was using "Room 1" today. At least not at this moment. It looked as I remembered it, only perhaps larger without 12 bodies in it, frantically running in and out. It looked like the resting version of the room I remember. Like it was having its day off. The lights were dim and the machines were covered in plastic protective dust covers of some sort. There were no extra chairs for the woman who was about to enter widowhood to sit in. The officer left me alone and I stared at the room. I stared at the monitor that flat-lined for more than half an hour while I rocked back and forth at your feet. I can hear that awful beeping in my head, still. It's one of my biggest scars from the whole night. I stared at all the screens and tubes and life-saving devices lying dormant and quiet under those plastic covers. Those same ones that were in full force that night under bright lights, and I wondered why YOU couldn't have been saved that night by those stupid machines. I let myself take it all in, as crazy as that may sound to anyone else, because that is just what you do for people you love. You took your last breath here. Your heart stopped coursing blood through your veins here. In this room. And I wanted to come back and say "Hi and bye, and I miss you, oh, and fuck you, machines!" I allowed myself to feel that sick, sad, black, lonely, horrified, shocked feeling I felt a year ago. I usually can stop myself when I feel it coming, just throw those snipers on my emotional roof, but today I needed to have it. I wanted to go there and remember it and FEEL it. I wanted to relive it, just for today. And I did. Could you hear me cussing the machines? You would have done it, so it only seemed fitting. Could you hear my prayers from that night? From today? I can assure you it is true what they say...

The walls of hospitals hear more prayers than the walls of any church ever will.
       {Room 1, ER, Texas Health Presby}


               Hi, bye, I miss you, and f*** you, machines,
                          Claire 
           {Feb 15, 2014}

            {Feb 15, 2010} 


           {just us}

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A quick note: Do Not Pity Me

  Do not pity me. I don't have it so bad. I have lived through some horrible experiences that will leave me with a life-long wound, but it's really only a small part of who I am.  I have so much more to do and see, and hopefully people to inspire, kids to raise, and people to love. Someone once told me that if you put all of your problems in a big pile with everyone-else-in-the-world's problems, you would gladly take your own back. That is so true. There is a lot worse than my life. Just because we miss daddy, doesn't mean we can't have a full and happy life again. I have so much to be grateful for. I have a cozy roof over my head, a career helping others and my community, the most beautiful and funny kids I could ever ask for or deserve, great friends, funny coworkers, people who love me, a good support system for my kids. I have access to health care when I am sick and medicine when I need it. And I live in the UNITED FUCKING STATES where I can do (mostly) as I please and be (somewhat) safe from the war and violence that other mothers have to live among in their own streets. In front of their own homes. There are people starving at the hands of their own government. There are children being neglected or abused. They are SCARED. Do you know what it's like to be scared? I mean really and truly scared. Have you ever been deeply and sincerely scared? What was it for? There are veterans begging for dollars on a street corner. There are addicts who cannot put down their needles. There are mothers losing their babies to the streets. There is a grown man who cannot read, not because he is stupid, but because NOBODY CARED ENOUGH TO TEACH HIM. There is another widow out there somewhere who didn't make it. There is a mom who cannot get out of bed. There is a child missing BOTH of her parents. There is rampant mental illness that we just have not figured out how to help. There are kids being bullied to the point of suicide for their sexuality, their skin color, their weight, their socio-economic disadvantage.  There is so much out there for me to reflect on that make even my huge losses seem small. Perspective. It's what I've been talking about this past year. Get some.

I am damn lucky. Don't ever pity me.

Claire

{The BEST smiles}

{Lila peeping horses at the Stock Show}

{plaid love}

{Future blogger?}

{Safely sleeping in her much overdue big girl bed}

{Plus, I still get to model & call dibs on these awesome clothes!}









Thursday, January 22, 2015

Confession Time

  We are closing in on year #1 of my "new life".  I've had a lot of time to think. And I think it's time I confess something.  It won't make me look good. In fact, it will make me look like the opposite of what I have always wanted to be. I prided myself on being a "catch" in that I had my shit together and was smart, funny as HELL, and faithful. But in retrospect, I see that I was also often a naggy, whiny wife to Jason. I kept that man on his toes... but probably TOO much. Nobody wants to ALWAYS be on their toes. The stresses of money, a household, the loss of my mother, our full time jobs, and 2 children got to me (and him) and I took it out on him a lot of the time. I still expected him to be a romantic husband to me, with surprise notes, gifts, flowers and dates at our special restaurant. And he came through. He always showed up. I have all the dead roses and engraved Tiffany & Co. charm bracelet charms that I can possibly want. But now I feel I didn't match him as much as I should have. Sure, I was the responsible one who took care of the big things like phone calls to the mortgage company, protesting the proposed property taxes on our home, bills and budgets, doctor visit coordinating, etc. But, I also fussed when he wanted to go out with friends (because who wants to take care of the kids alone?), yet he never said a word if I did. I griped at him to do chores. I even made a chore chart. When did I become THAT annoying mommy who makes a chore chart??? Then I blamed him for making me be a person I didn't like because I felt the need to make a chore chart! I talked about money issues constantly, because I was the one who had to figure out who gets paid that month. I complained about his work hours when he was working retail (which I still hate and I stick by that complaint!).  But Jason didn't flinch. He wasn't scared of me. He got me those flowers, ran those errands, even went out and made more money, AND got a new job with regular hours. He treated me like a princess he wanted to care for. He delivered.
I regret I didn't let him take more naps or let him get stupid tattoos he wanted. I wish he had told me he wanted the new mountain bike he bought behind my back instead of hustling a way to get it without me knowing. I would have kicked.his.ass. for that. Like, filed divorce papers (it was a VERY expensive bike). But I didn't find out until he was gone. He never even got to ride it.
  Anyway, I guess the reason I am putting this in black and white and calling myself out is because I know I am not alone. I know there are so many wives reading this who do the SAME thing. Husbands, too! Because it is just human nature to fuss at the one who you love the most. You may even hear yourself doing it but you can't stop yourself. Because, dammit, you wanna be right. But I'm here to tell you, it's not worth it. Do not let the stresses of life affect you to the point that you feel you have to just get out of each other's way. Don't take life so seriously... It's not like you're gonna make it out alive.
I have a new perspective now and I am using my reflections to make myself into a better person to have on your team, to share life with, to JUST BE with. I have learned my lesson. No longer will I complain before I make attempts to fix things myself. I will be the woman I have wanted to be. I still want to be treated like the only girl in the world, but I will do the same in return for someone special, including my kids, friends and family. Don't get me wrong, Jason was far from mistreated, and we had a good and happy marriage. But there is always room for improvement, isn't there? And now I have all the time in the world to think of how I could have done certain things differently. 
So today I challenge you to examine yourself and make a list of the things you maybe aren't delivering in your relationship. Next, hide that list somewhere he/she won't ever find it. I'm not totally crazy, don't show your spouse/partner!! Too much ammo there. Then, work on it BY YOURSELF first. Rome wasn't built in a day. It won't happen overnight. But really examine your mindset and see what your part is. Be who you want to be with. Make this count. Go watch a sunset, because you never know when you'll be out of them.

                     Pull the stick out,
                             Claire 


Proof I was the responsible one :)
      (A belt of beer)

     (Mooning his own driver)

     (Trying to drown our kid)

       (The secret bike)




 

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 in Review


Betrayal
  You cold, dirty, back-stabbing traitor.  I signed up for a life of a married woman with a loyal husband, with 2.3 children, a golden retriever, a career, a good retirement plan, an iPhone 6 with longer battery life, and a tiny piece of land I own to build a modest hut and call it home. The American dream.  Is that so much to ask? I didn’t just “sign up” for the taking of this life. I played the game and earned it. I attended school for something like 19 years by the time I was 24 years old, have worked since I was 15 years old, took my sweet time to pick the right man (loyal, handsome, funny, a provider, someone who life has kicked in the teeth a few times, and no ex-wives) to have kids with, waited until I was educated, employed, and insured.  Then I bought a house, got married and had babies (in some such order).  I thought I was doing it all right. I never anticipated being a “single mom”. I never thought I would be widowed at 32.  I thought I was in control.  Then, 2014, you came along. A sudden catastrophic event and nothing looked the same. Oh, how little control I actually had. Like a dark night falling in the desert, far from familiar city lights, my life turned black. The color drained out of the familiar, comforting surroundings.  I could no longer recognize things right in front of my face. I felt like I was suddenly a different person. Because I was. I will never be the Claire I used to be, ever again. My story had changed. I was living a whole new life, feeling my way around the pitch black desert. Joke’s on me. Touché, universe, touché. It mattered not that I planned or worked hard.


Blessings
  So, I prayed for daylight. With weary eyes, I see amazing beams of light and hope shine through the blackness. Daylight is coming. Tip-toeing ever so cautiously out of survival mode, my eyes started to adjust to my new surroundings, and I could see.  I had the most amazing support stand behind my girls and me while I found my way around my new life. I met selfless people who gave me what I needed. I am forever indebted to a circle of virtual strangers, old friends, and new companions who supported me with kind words, prayers, food, company, love, childcare, and let’s face it, some money to get us by for a while. Harper is just *now* on her last box of diapers that were gifted to her, 10 months later. What amazing love that I got to experience first hand! I could never have gotten through the first season of my new life without YOU. I believe God has put a few good people in my life for a reason.



Side Effects
  I am not bullet-proof. There have been consequences and repercussions to the events of this fine year. Of late, I have been experiencing something I didn’t believe really existed in this capacity. Anxiety. I have had some serious tolls to pay in the anxiety department. If you haven’t experienced it, I cannot ever make you understand. And if you have, then you know. My senses became heightened when Jason died. I know it sounds superhero-ish, but that isn’t always a good thing. I now fear something bad will happen to myself and leave my children without a parent. I am hyper aware of the fragility of life, and I am under no notions of myself or my family being the exception. My theory is that most people think “yeah but that won’t actually happen to ME (if you are reading this and don’t have life insurance or a will, you are one of them)” as a normal human life-coping or defense mechanism. It’s mostly a good thing to have, so you won’t know what hit ya. I don’t have that anymore. Mortality is a very real concept to me now. And I have worked myself up enough to end up in the doctor’s office a few times to make sure I am not dying, a cardiologist to make sure the ticker is good, and even the ER because I didn’t believe when the first 2 doctors said the ticker is good… all the way to a therapist’s chair.  I didn’t survive totally unscathed, but I have faith I will work through this part, too. It’s all part of my journey, even the ugly stuff like this. I have to work on BEING STILL AND KNOWING…



Today
  I mourn what was taken from me and my children this year, but I will never forget what was given to me this year. Perspective. Strength. Will to survive. Fellowship. Support. Love. Gratitude. Humility. A massive character-building exercise, if you will. I am not alone in a dark desert. Not today. God and I are working things out, but I know He is with me and He is patient. I am strong. I will not quit. I won’t give in to darkness. I am placing my bets on ME. Let me make it crystal clear that it takes PRACTICE to get in the right mindset. The mindset of a grateful heart, appreciation, and an open mind. The mindset of belief and hope. Without that, you ain’t got much. 


 
Tomorrow
  2014, you are definitely a “winter” year of my life. Almost a whole year of holidays and birthdays without daddy. But I know there will be a spring. The cold ground will thaw. Birds will sing again. The sun will warm my face again. There is still a promise of a spring with new leaves, new green, and new birth (just not of the human variety!). That’s the beauty of a New Year. 
Now, don’t EVER show your face here again.


2014, I bid you good morrow,

Claire







Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving

  For my whole life, the holiday season has always been my favorite time of year. Thanks to the efforts of my mother, my brother and I have always had festive Halloweens, plenty to eat at Thanksgiving, more than our fair share of presents to open on Christmas morning, and confetti to throw when the ball drops at midnight welcoming in a New Year.
  But life isn't always fair and losing people in my life, like my mom and Jason, has threatened to take away some of the joy I have always felt during this, my favorite time of year- I like to call them the "ber" months... Septem-ber, Octo-ber, Novem-ber, Decem-ber (seriously, not that creative of a name). It's easy to focus on things we think aren't fair to us or how good someone else must have it. It would be easy to "skip" Christmas or Thanksgiving this year. And nobody could blame me. I could ignore the tree in my attic waiting to litter its needles all over my wood floors. I could turn the other cheek from the sparkly lights waiting to blow my fuses. I could ignore the years' worth of Christmas ornaments my brother and I made during our childhood, tucked in boxes. I could forgo eating stuffing and turkey (and wine). I could. But, I refuse to allow that kind of thinking into my heart and head. That's the easy way out, and it is contagious. It will take over, like a fast-progressing cancer and make you a sad person. It is a thief of joy. And dammit, I hold onto my joy with both hands. It is the true wealth.

 When that poisonous thinking does try to infiltrate my thoughts, I force it out. It takes practice to obtain this mindset. But I get better and better at it. And one of the things I do on an almost daily basis is take an inventory of all the things I have to be thankful for. Something we should all do this time of year anyway, hence that whole giving of thanks day. I hope this year's "ber months" find you and your loved ones in good health, joyful spirits, and in an abundance of the true wealth. We all have so much to be thankful for, regardless of what we are going through. Happy Thanksgiving. 

Here is my list this year, including but not limited to:

Memories from Thanksgivings past





My healthy and happy kiddos



My family who has made an effort to be present



My cozy little house



My PIC


Tiny ballerinas 


Naps. Dear Sweet Lord, naps


My BFF


The ability to get on my feet and WORK- from my education, my accomplishments, to my retirement plan, to my coworkers... while helping my community. Bread & butter.


My fun part time gig & the girls I have met doing it




My continually improving commitment to my own wellness (and workout buddies)


My ever so patient dog, Jasper

 
My security detail



The girls' school, so helpful and so educational. Lila can count in Spanish. (sorta)


That I am woman, that I am here. Hear me ROAR! (LOL is this real life?!)



I'm a survivor
I'm not gon give up
I'm not gon stop
I'm gon work harder
I'm a survivor
I'm gonna make it
I will survive
 And keep on survivin'
 
Love, blessings, Thanksgiving & a little Destiny's Child,
Claire-can't-even-take-a-selfie-alone