It Comes in Threes

The other day, I broke my moratorium on posting to write a few words about a friend I never formerly met. Sometimes it feels like I spend a lot of time writing about death. Death, travel and family probably sum up my posts. One being my least favorite thing, and the other two being my most favorite. This week, we had a lot of interweaving of the three.

Friday went like any other day. Work, racing kids around here and there at night, and me looking forward to crawling into bed to relax. As I bustled around getting the kids ready to head to bed for the night, I began my nightly routine of making sure the animals were all fed. I started downstairs and worked my way upstairs to feed the guinea pigs their nightly veggies. I knew almost immediately something was wrong. They had swapped houses, and one was laying in a strange manner in his little grass house. The other looked unsettled. I gently lifted the house and saw my little piggie laying flat, breathing, but definitely not well. I panicked. I could tell without a doubt he was dying, and not far from it. I mulled over the options. I knew there weren’t many. He didn’t care for being picked up at all, it just wasn’t his thing, and I knew me trying to pick him up would cause him stress. I also knew trying to get him to a vet likely wouldn’t be helpful at this stage, and that the frigid temps would probably shock him into death as well. This wasn’t a case of simply being under the weather. I had to tell my kids the situation, and I explained it all the very best way I could. He was gone not too long after.

Now some people will say “meh, it was just a rodent”. In our home every life matters, no matter how big or small, and a loss is a loss. Our pets are all a part of our family, and we love them all dearly. My daughter and I do the most with the guinea pigs, and we were certainly hit the hardest by the loss. My husband and I cleaned the cage, set up a little coffin for our deceased piggy, and tried to comfort the other piggie the best we could. My daughter had fallen asleep before she knew he had died, camping out on one of her brother’s bunk beds, and was devastated. We held a funeral for our lost pet in our yard, my husband saying a little prayer. Years ago my father in law gifted me a large stone engraved with my mother’s name for my yard so I’d have a place to go and think about her since she’s buried overseas. I asked my daughter if she’d like to move the stone over where her little lost piggie was, and that seemed to really comfort her. It was a somber day.

The same weekend, I got a call my great uncle had passed away. I felt saddened to hear the news, but knew that the past few years had been physically very tough for him, enough so that he was unable to attend his brother’s funeral (my grandfather) which had upset him greatly. I felt relieved he was no longer suffering, but I did get upset when I realized he was the last of that generation for the family. The three siblings and the little boy my great grandparents took in during WW2, all now deceased from cancer or old age. A whole generation of love, stories and memories, all gone. It made me inherently sad.

One of the few truly happy things that came out of my grandfather’s funeral was meeting his cousin, who regaled with me with stories and love for my grandfather. Those two got along famously, and I’d never met her before. I just called her to inform her of the loss of my great uncle. She had heard already, but the two of us had a quick chat. She and I are two peas in a pod really. In the short time I’ve known her I’ve found she’s feisty, silly, and a bit messy, just like me. Our birthdays are a week apart. She’s in her 90’s now and the last one of that group left. I’m hopeful she’s around for a long time, and will go visit her when I get back to England. She’s amazing, and I am sad for not having met her sooner.

One the bright side, this year is shaping up to be pretty awesome so far, and I sure hope it continues. Plans are falling into place. I was able to make some big moves on a personal level which will open up some opportunities for my family. Travel is on the horizon, with at least 5 trips planned this year, possibly more, and I’m hopeful for a big trip next year. Mindsets are being changed. Big plans are coming down the pike. I’m more content than I’ve been in years. I’m freeing myself from anything and anyone that brings me down and it feels AMAZING. I’ll expand more when I can.

In a week, I lost 3. It’s a reminder to focus on the good, and work to fix the bad. While I’m sad for the losses, it’s a reminder, no matter how cliche, to live loud and big. I don’t want to regret not doing things. I want to go places, see things, love people with all my heart, and on my last day, know that I gave it my all.

Friends We Don’t Know: A Tribute to The Real Old Housewife.

You know, I started this blog about 8 years ago or so, along with my corresponding Twitter account. I used to write mostly about the Real Housewives franchises, and gained a small following and subscribers here. I had two small kids and spent my evenings home, so I watched quite a bit of TV while they slept. Over time, the blog evolved to include more of my adventures in motherhood, marriage, my relationship with death, crazy people, and plenty of posts where I laugh at my foibles. I spent less time on Twitter, but did manage to keep most of my followers and “Twitter friends”. One of whom, was Linda.

To be fair, I never knew her real name. I knew her by her Twitter handle. I often giggled at her posts as I scrolled through my feed on occasion. She and I saw eye to eye on a lot, and I enjoyed her posts. About a month ago, I popped onto Twitter and saw a post from her that left me unsettled. She posted that she had been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, and it had spread into her neck and spine. My thumb stopped scrolling. I paused, and began to cry.

My mom died from lung cancer. It’s the number one killing cancer, with an estimated 200,000 people diagnosed each year and 150,000 people dying from it. It’s a beast. I have multiple friends who’s parents died from lung cancer. It is swift, cruel, and painful. I felt so heartbroken for this woman I didn’t even know in person Perhaps it was the link with losing my own mom, perhaps it was just the knowledge of how it would likely play out, but it hit me harder than I ever would have expected.

Over the next few weeks, I found and followed her blog, where she details her experiences and thoughts. I read about her doctor visits, her husband, hospice, and how she felt about all of these things. I read about how she took charge of her care, telling the doctors she wanted to do things on her own terms, and I cheered her on from my little corner of the world. I worried about how her husband would cope without her. I was relieved that she found such good care in her hospice team. I felt dismayed I hadn’t seen her blog before because her writing kept me so enthralled and entertained. I was amazed at her grace and humor even during such a difficult time. I became invested in this stranger, and I was rooting her on, dammit.

It hadn’t occurred to me that I was checking Twitter daily to make sure she was ok. I didn’t write her too much but I was rooting for her from afar. Last night as I wearily crawled into bed, I suddenly realized I hadn’t checked on her all day. I hit my Twitter app, looked up her name, only to see a sweet post from her husband that she had passed away. I paused, and then broke down in tears. How do you ugly cry for a stranger you’ve never met? It’s funny how people have a way, even through just Twitter, to impact your life in a positive way. Maybe it’s the way you relate to them on some level, maybe it’s that they make you laugh or feel something deeply. Whatever it is, Linda struck a cord with me. She brightened the days with her frank humor and she handled the toughest of moments with grace, honesty, and a good old laugh.

I’m going to miss her, and if her timeline is any indication, you can see the wealth of people posting love, tributes and prayers for her. One person can make an awfully big ripple in this big pond called life. Thank you, Linda, for all the laughs you gave me, for the strength you showed me, and for posting a picture of yourself so we could see the beautiful face behind it all. Thanks for creating a ripple that reached me, and let me into your life a little bit, because I am better for it.

We were all better for knowing her, even if we didn’t know her well behind the screen.

Mama Clause

Well, it’s Christmas Eve! I can’t wait to see the kids open their presents tomorrow (and my husband too!). I LOVE Christmas. My mom and dad (mostly my mom) always went above and beyond to make Christmas magical. Christmas was big in our house. As a mom now, I realize how much effort my mom put into things to make Christmas seem as magical as it always did. She had a great attention to detail, and she must have worked her ASS off to make everything seem as perfect and special as I remember.

Speaking of mom, I have been missing her a lot lately. 12 years later, I still miss her presence, her laugh, and our daily phone calls. Today I was feeling a bit down this morning. As I left the house to run to the store, I saw a bright, shiny new penny sitting on my from door step. I bent down to pick it up and briefly though of “pennies from heaven”. It made me grin and I slid the penny into my pocket. I hopped into the car and pushed the start button. The radio came on loudly and Adele was belting out the lyrics “hello from the other side”.

A smile crossed my face and a tear rolled down my cheek.

I have been working hard to get things ready for Christmas, in the hopes I can make my kids’ Christmas as magical as mine always were for me as a kid. Tonight will be full of baking, prepping, and last minute wrapping. Most of their gifts are wrapped. I learned the hard way last year when I was wrapping until 3 am. I spent Christmas feeling broken and exhausted last year. The magic escaped me. This year, I sacrificed Christmas cards to get more wrapping and prepping done. I didn’t get Christmas cards done this year. With the trip overseas, orthodontics, activities, shopping and every day life, there just wasn’t the time. I have a love hate relationship with Christmas Cards. I love getting them, hate writing them, but I know the older family members overseas like them. That being said, something had to give, and the cards were it. At the end of the day, sometimes, you just can’t do it all. I see posts where women are beating themselves up because they didn’t get it all done. The fact is, most of the things we stress about will go unnoticed. In an age of Pinterest, it’s so easy for folks to see what we think we SHOULD do.

My gift to myself this year is less stress, and ok, a new Joules coat, but I digress. My husband joined in to my less stress mantra and ordered a tray of food as the entree for Christmas dinner. It’s one of his faves, and he wanted to make things easier for me. I no longer need to spend the day locked by the oven. Instead, I can whip up some side dishes and easy desserts. Score! Pair that with some wine and it will be an easy peasy meal.

Merry Christmas, y’all. I hope your day is magical, in whatever way you wish it to be.

Love,

Messy xx

Death Before Christmas

Yesterday I woke early, and decided to luxuriate in bed for a while to scroll through my Facebook feed before beginning the day.  The first post I saw was a picture of 2 hands holding on to each other that began with “Today I lost my best friend…..”  I immediately glanced at the name of the poster and began to panic.  I read the post and saw my fear was correct.  My good friend’s father had passed away.  My heart sank, and I found myself crying for my friend’s surely broken heart.

My friend, I’ll call her Sue, is a single mom of 4 I’ve known for many years.  We live close to each other and often chip in to help each other out.  We pet sit for each other, borrow sugar or flour, jump cars, and mow lawns for each other.  We know we can count on each other in a pinch, and there is never any judgment about our often messy houses, chaos, or asking for a favor.  We both lost our moms and we understand how deep that loss goes. We get each other.  It is a simple and easy friendship that I treasure deeply.  

Sue’s dad has been her rock.  He was often swinging by to help fix things, or take care of something she needed help with.  I never met him, which seems strange to me now, because he was such a prominent figure in her life.  When times got tough for her, he would give her money to help out.  He kept her afloat when she thought she might drown and she simply adored him.  She was always grateful for him and told me on many occasion that “I don’t know what I’d do without him”.  She spoke of him glowingly and acknowledged how lucky she was to have him.  

Last week, my husband and I went by to help her when her Christmas tree fell over, not once, but twice. She mentioned she was going to visit her dad to check on him because he had felt out of sorts.  It didn’t even occur to me that he would end up passing away a few days later.

Once I read her post, I sat wondering how I could help.  I WANT to help.  I want to do something, anything to ease her pain, but I’m so unsure of where to begin.  Death, especially death of a parent, is so very difficult.  I’ve often posted about how deeply the death of my mother and friend have impacted me.  That being said, when I asked myself “what did I want or need when my mom passed away?” I came up sort of empty handed.  I remember feeling utterly alone.   My dad was 300 miles away, the rest of my family 3000 miles away.  I had my husband, and he tried his damnedest to get me through it all,  but I still felt alone.  I realize now I’m not sure if I alienated myself a bit.  I had so much overwhelming grief I didn’t want to burden others with it.  I didn’t want to have to console other people.  I just wanted to get through the grief on my own terms.  The problem was, I was newly married with an infant, so there was no time to grieve properly, not in my eyes anyway.  I just got on with things the best I could and let the grief seep out when I could….5 minutes here, 10 minutes there…

My husband suggested cooking a meal.  Meals are good.  I know this.  The problem is, I’m not a super cook, and she has some dietary restrictions (her son is also a very picky eater).  In the end, I saw her best friend was with her and I messaged the friend that Sue could call in an order to any place and I’d fly and buy, or I’d pay for whatever meal she wanted.  Also, if she needed to talk, to vent, I’d be here, day and night, any time she needed. 

It’s a fine line of offering, being there, but not imposing.  I wish I could say or do the perfect thing to ease her pain, but I know I can’t. I can just be here if she needs a friend. 

Death before the holidays seems particularly painful.  People are rushing around, cheery game faces on.  This is the time of year we tend to focus on love and family.  How do you console someone who has had such a huge loss?

Teddy Bears and a Legacy

Harrods

My mother always had a fondness for Teddy bears.  As a child, I remember having a few dolls I played with, some hot wheels cars (my red VW bug was a favorite), a garage with a ramp (I spent hours playing with that) and a few other toys.  When it came to comfort though, teddy bears were my go to.  There was something about them that made me feel safe, happy, and they were the best to cuddle with at night.  I think she got me some of my favorite bears.  When I grew up, she got herself a Harrod’s Christmas bear.  Then she got a couple more over the years.  After she died, I made the decision that the bears would come home with me.

The bears were stored in my daughter’s closet.  Recently, she has taken a bit of an interest in them, especially because they were her Nana’s.  My mom died 4 years before my daughter was born.  She never got to meet my mother, and has only heard stories about her over the years.  I have always tried to share stories of my mother with the kids, as it’s the only way to keep her memory with them.  I usually try to select funny stories, which they love hearing.

My daughter’s school gives reward stickers for good behavior.  Once the kids earn a certain amount of stickers, they get a reward, and my daughter finally met the required amount.  I asked what her reward would be, and she said that she was allowed to take a stuffed animal or doll to school.    I fully expected her to take her lifelike baby doll that she adores.  Frankly, I find the doll a little creepy, but she LOVES that doll.  It looks so much like a real baby, I unfortunately had to tell her she can’t leave the doll in the car for fear someone will think it’s real and smash my windows out.  I was rather shocked when I saw her clearly gearing up to ask me something she was nervous about.

“Mama, can I take one of Nana’s bears? Nobody can touch it but me, and I’d love to be able to take one.  Would she mind?”

I fought really hard not to have my eyes tear up.  I told her of course she could take one to school, as long as she took care of it.

She spent several days mulling over which one to take, before settling on the one from 2000.  It was a special bear, with moveable limbs.  I said we should put it in a plastic bag so she could carry it easily. She looked concerned.  “Nana might not like that….is it a boy bear or a girl bear? What was the bear’s name?  Would she mind if I changed the name or gave it a name?”

I thought for a moment and responded “your Nana loved this bear.  She would be so HONORED that you would choose her bear as your reward. She would be so proud that you are concerned about how to best look after it, and she would be so THRILLED that you would love this bear for her. She would be so incredibly, undeniably proud to be your Nana, and she would love you and your brother more than anything”.

And with that, she and the bear hopped out of the car and headed to school, a big smile across her face.

Some random facts about me, in case you (never) wondered:

myself

Some random facts about me, in case you (never) wondered:

Some are silly musings, some are a bit deeper in nature.  Maybe if one is interesting I’ll blog about it later.

I talk to myself in the car, Every. Single. Day.  It’s where I work out my problems, get out my frustrations, and narrate my life to myself.  If you’re driving along side me, you’ll probably see me having a full on convo with myself.  Ain’t no shame in my game.

When I was little, I trained with olympic coaches for figure skating.  I was ambidextrous, which was desirable.  I quit after my skin split from the cold and started bleeding one night, and my babysitter at the time freaked out.  Her fear scared me, and I decided I didn’t want to skate again after that.  My parents were sad, but never pushed me into anything I wasn’t comfortable with.

Little dogs make me anxious, probably because they seem more delicate.

I lost my English accent when I was a kid, but it comes back when I am in England or talking to my family from there.  I wish I had it all the time. My brain just switches and I don’t have any thought into it.

When I was a toddler, I had imaginary friends that I would talk to every night.  I always wanted my door shut and the lights off, and if my mom came in the room I would cry she had frightened them away.  One day, I saw a picture of a couple in a book and asked my mom how she had gotten a picture of them….it was a couple who had lived nearby who died long before I was born.

I have had several experiences that lead me to believe in spirits, however I’m not religious and struggle with the concept of God. The two seem to go hand in hand but for me, I can’t reconcile it all.

I believe that the more someone tells you how real they are, the more full of shit and deceptive they probably are.  Real people don’t need to advertise it.  They just live their lives.

One of my favorite quotes is “you are never to old to be what you might have been”-George Eliot.

Self esteem is the root of many of our problems, in my opinion.  If we all believed in ourselves more, loved ourselves more, we’d make MUCH better decisions and put up with a lot less nonsense.

Ice cream is one of my favorite things.  The texture, the temperature, the multitude of flavors….just everything about it makes me happy. I rarely say no to it, and I’ll sometimes allow my kids to have it as a treat before dinner.

Someone told me today my dad was one of his heroes.  My eyes teared up and I welled up with pride.  My dad is such a quiet guy who doesn’t really share all the amazing things he does.  I wish I knew more, but he’s humble and doesn’t think to really share such things.  I’m so proud to be his daughter.

I like silence.

I have about 16 tattoos.  Most people think I have 4, (small ones).  A former coworker once sat and told me how they hated tattooed women and how they thought it was horrible.  They became very uncomfortable when I explained my husband tattoos and I have quite a lot of them.  They responded “well, at least you can’t see them”, as if that made their comments any better.  I just laughed and walked away, knowing they felt really uncomfortable.

I have a stalker. She checks my blog on the regular and created fake accounts to get notifications of when I post, to harass me with on other platforms, and to stalk others. I almost moved the blog and changed the name, but I decided for now to keep it as is.  I know her IRL.  Awkward.  On the bright side, things seemed to have calmed down, so I’m hopeful it will end.

An ex of mine was black.  I’m about as fair as it gets.  When people tell you that racism doesn’t exist, when they tell you that black people and minorities are “exaggerating” how bad racism is, they are lying or they are ignorant of what really goes on.  I never really experienced racism growing up, but I learned quickly during that relationship just how deep it goes.  Racism isn’t always in your face.  Sometimes it flows like a silent, underlying current, or it’s whispers.  Going to an event with my ex and someone white sidled up to me and whispered asked who invited the “N*****” to the party with a laugh.  I was horrified, first at the racist comment, and then at the fact the person felt just so comfortable in saying it to me, clearly because I was white.  I guess they thought that they were talking to someone in the “white club” who would share their views. Their laugh quieted very quickly when I called over to my ex and asked him to come over to introduce himself.  We then politely turned to mingle elsewhere, while that person sat looking inherently uncomfortable.  Yes, it was the classier thing to do, but looking back now I wish I had told the person off.  Then again, I think they learned at least a small lesson.  Sadly, they are probably the same ignorant racist but perhaps they will be less likely to spread their thoughts to others.  While that relationship with my ex eventually ended (on good terms as well) it opened my eyes and ears to an issue. Which leads me to:

When we know others are suffering, but we say “well, it doesn’t impact me so it’s probably not my business”, we are ignoring a basic truth that we are all people, and that kindness matters.  One day, that hurt may come our way, and we would hope someone would stand for us.  It’s not easy to stand for others sometimes, but it is necessary if we wish to raise empathetic children.

I am sometimes really awkward. I’m also generally self aware enough to know when I am being awkward, which makes me feel even more awkward.  Ah well.

When I was a little girl, a neighborhood kid tricked me into sitting in dog shit so the other kids would laugh.  That humiliation was DEEP and it stayed with me.  I’d probably punch her in the neck now if I had my chance.  Her name was Cindy.  That’s all I remember.

My best friend growing up has a dad who is a hoarder.  I’m to this day one of the few people he is comfortable letting in the house, because he knows I don’t judge.  I have a bit of a fascination with hoarding.  I believe it’s way more common than people think it is, and I’ve had several friends who have relatives who hoard. My house is messy. (I’m sure you figured that out by the blog title) but not at hoarder standards. I think the combination of working full time, limited free time, 2 kids, and a lack of organizational skills in the home is the root.  It bothers me a lot because my mom was a neat freak and I wish I had inherited at least a little bit of that.

I love comedies.  Laughing is one of my favorite things.

I often try to see both sides of a situation.  Sometimes this drives people nuts.

Being born British has its perks. For example, nobody expects me to be a very good cook.  Usually they ask me to bring plates or soda to events.  Luckily nobody expects any highly complicated dishes from me.   I’ll admit I’m not a fancy cook.  I have a few things I make pretty well, or at least well that people will go for seconds for.  That being said, I love British food, but then again, most British people probably do. 🙂

Speaking of British food, fish and chips is my comfort food.  It is hard, though, in the US to find a place who can make it JUST like it is in England.  It’s often close, but never quite right.  A Salt and Battery in NYC has it to a science. If you’re in the area, GO.  Then go next door to Tea and Sympathy for hot rhubarb crumble with custard.  You’ll thank me later, even though you’ll have to roll yourself to your final destination because you’ll feel like a fatty after.  It’s utterly delish!

I love getting comments on my blog.  Drop a line sometime.

 

 

 

 

 

Fearing the Reaper

reaper

Once death hits really close to home, it feels like it never quite leaves.  It’s like a booty call that leaves an item behind to have an excuse to collect it later. I’m not talking about the elderly who have lived long, full lives and it’s not entirely unexpected when the pass.  I’m talking about the under 60 set, like our parents, friends, siblings or even kids. When people are still crafting dreams and are in the middle of their lives, it seems like death swoops them away and their living loved ones are left floundering, stunned from the loss.

I lost my mother 12 years ago.  I was 32, she was 57.  She died of cancer, and while her death at that point was expected due to her illness, her illness itself was a shock to my system.  I never really expected her to die that young, to leave a life not yet fully realized and lived.  If I’m really honest, she told me in a dark moment “I’m not ready to die!” and I believe that she wasn’t.  She had plans, dammit, lots of plans!  While life for the living goes on, a piece of me stayed with her when she died. Like the Jewel song says “there’s a hole in my heart in the shape of you”.  Life continues in its twists and turns, but a little piece of me is held there in time with her. I started to also wonder, would death come after me like it had my mom?

A couple of years ago, and I’ve blogged about it, one of my oldest and dearest friends fell asleep one night and didn’t wake up. His heater malfunctioned and pumped carbon monoxide into his room.  He just never woke up.   His death was a shock to the core, completely unexpected, no sense to it, and heartbreaking for everyone who knew him. At the time we hadn’t spoken for a little while, simply because life had kept us busy and we lived in different parts of the country.  He was my age, and it seemed ridiculous to me that I was headed to a memorial for someone so young.  Death isn’t supposed to come for the young, or at least, the sorta young.

Last month, a friend of mine died. She was just a little older than me.  Her story is a different one.  We had been good friends until she made some life decisions I just couldn’t hang with.  She became a different person, and I think she was tired of some of the baggage I had myself, and we parted ways as friends. She didn’t come for me or do anything horrible to me, she just made detrimental choices for her own life, and I couldn’t have those choices around my kids.  See, here’s the funny thing.  I’m not really a grudge holder.  I also have a relatively piss poor memory, which means I let a lot of stuff go that perhaps I shouldn’t.  (Let me be clear, if someone comes for me or my husband or kids, I will become a beast like no other, and I will stop at nothing until that person stops their shit.) For the most part though, I don’t hold on to ill will.  I don’t stay angry, I just remove myself from the person.  When she died, we hadn’t spoken in years, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t miss the friendship, miss our hours of laughter, and giggle at old jokes.  I miss all of those things.  I’m sad things worked out the way they did, but I can’t have toxic people in my life, so I’ve removed them all.   Honestly, I looked at her facebook today, wishing their were more clues as to what happened to her, and I just felt inherently sad.

Sometimes, you don’t just grieve the person, there are more layers to it than that.  Sometimes you miss the old stories, the laughter.  Sometimes you grieve the hopes and dreams.  Sometimes, you simply grieve the fact that the person will never have a chance to get their shit together.

See, that’s the thing.  Once these people started dying, I became very interested in death.  From the actual science of some of it, to the grief process.  I belong to fb groups for funeral directors and other people in the death business.  I don’t think it’s something I could ever do….it freaks me out on one hand, but on the other I have a fascination with it.  Perhaps the study and conversation about death takes some of the mystery and pain out of it.  Sometimes it’s easier to look at something that saddens you in a way that removes all the emotion and just looks at the science of it all.  It’s not a popular conversation.  I’m that person who is honestly curious how people died.  It’s not polite to ask, of course, but I truly want to know what happened to the person who died most recently.  Do I have a couple of guesses?  Sure.  But the cause haunts me a little.

Maybe it’s because deep down, most of us fear the reaper.  We don’t want life to go before we have seen our life play out.  Even on it’s most boring days, our lives still have the hope of adventure and the unexpected.  One thing I have always told people struggling in life is that “you are only just one small decision from living an entirely different life.”  Nothing is permanent, and we can make different choices to have a different life if we choose.  Some choice are easy, some are devastatingly hard, but the choice remains.  Life is like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.  We hope we make good choices.  Sometimes the choices don’t line up he way we hope.  Sometimes the choices aren’t good or bad, they just are.  Sometimes a simple, innocent choice leads the whole story to end.