Unexpected Second Life

I had my life planned.  It was a good plan.  It was an altruistic, fiscally responsible, family-friendly kind of plan.  It was a dependable and worthy plan.  My plan blew up.

I don’t have a plan anymore.

In May of 2017 I was a part time Music Therapist and full time Stay at Home Mom happily tending to the needs of my young children, cooking healthy dinners, doing mediocre housework and generally enjoying the life that comes from new babies and happy marriages in Madison Wisconsin.

In May of 2017 my husband and our two kids left for a three week East Coast Extravaganza!  A family adventure that would bring us to see most of our friends and family throughout the Northeast through a compact, kid-friendly and well thought out travel schedule.

In May of 2017, my husband died in a hospital room in New York City.

In May 2017, my life imploded in what continues to be the most profound, painful and mind-altering experience imaginable.  Welcome to my journey.  Welcome to the inner workings of my mind as I process, grieve, expand, continue.

Welcome to my unexpected second life.

 

It Gets Worse.

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I haven’t posted regularly.  You may wonder why, or not, maybe you didn’t notice and that’s ok.  I haven’t posted much lately because I’ve been sad.

Really.  Fucking. Sad.

I thought the first couple months would be the worst.  That numb dark fog that hung over my life, choking me of my joy and motivation.  Then things started to feel ok.  I started to have a good day now and then.  Maybe several good days a week.  I started feeling moments of excitement for what my future may hold as I started piecing together the plans and visions that emerged from the chaos.

But then I got sad again.  Really sad.  The kind of sad that makes it hard to function.

It might be the holidays.  All this forced cheer that is expected of us mere mortals just because some baby who grew up to either be a really important dude or just a man living with severe mental illness was supposedly born on some arbitrary day in December.

It might be the new snowfall that blanketed our yard in pristine white fluff and reminded me of all the days I watched Tim play in the backyard with Byron.  Their cheeks blotchy and red with cold.  The hot cocoa I would stir over the stove while watching them from our kitchen window.  The cozy afternoons that would follow.  The reminder of the life I used to have, last year, last century, whenever that life existed.

It might be the reality of raising young, highly energetic, highly demanding children alone.  Forever.  Or at least until they grow up and go off to live their lives as they should and leave me.  Alone.  Forever.

It might be the long nights and dark days.  The disappearing light.

 

Or maybe it just gets harder before it gets better.

 

There is an emptiness that comes with losing your person.  A jagged chunk of myself died with Tim.  A gaping hole that can never be filled.

I’m working to patch it up.  To function and live.  Because that’s what Tim would want for me.

So that’s what I keep doing.

Some days are harder then others.

I’m trying.

 

 

Thanks giving.

 

We have entered the winterish season.  The natural world is dormant, almost dead.  The days are short and gray.  The once verdant fields and mountains are brown and gray, icy with frost and snow powder.  It feels right, this dark, desolate season of existence.  It makes sense to see the dead frozen corpses of wildflowers lining the highway.  It’s helpful to see the natural world a reflection of my internal states.

It’s harder too.  Thanksgiving day will mark six full months since Tim’s official transition off of this earth.  Six months since the day in the hospital that he released that last breath and I cradled his dead body in my arms.  Six months since that little slice of hell ended and my odd, awkward, painful second life forcibly began.  Six months feels significant.  Half a year.  A lifetime.  A blink.

With the holidays upon us I’m not thrilled to be entering into this supposed season of joy and peace.

I don’t feel a lot of joy and peace.

Joy and peace can totally fuck off.

Something I do feel, that is good and healing and happy to feel, is thankful.  I’m thankful to have had Tim in my life for 12 years.  To have grown into adulthood with him.  To have explored and traveled with him.  To have had babies with him.  To have sat next to him at dinner every night talking about anything or everything or nothing at all.  To have slept in the same bed with him. To have fought with him.  To have held his hand.  To have had nights out at shows and evenings at home with Netflix.  To have lived a life with him.  For 12 years.  I got to have him for 12 years.

With the 6 month mark coming up and the natural world transitioning, I am more raw now.  I feel more.  I remember more.

When I go to bed at night I am flooded with memories of Tim.  Not usually the stuff you think you will remember, like the nights I gave birth to our children or our wedding day. It’s the everyday stuff that comes to me most often.  The way his face looked when he laughed.  Seeing him come in the door just before dinner.  Cuddling next to him in bed.  Driving in our car.  His voice.  His warmth.  His physical presence.

It has taken time for the numbness to wear off and for the memories to return.  And I’m thankful for that.  It’s harder.  I hurt more and more often.  But I hurt because I need to hurt.  It hurts to loose your soul-mate.  To watch him die twice.  It hurts to face the rest of your life without your life-partner and father of your children.

But I HAD a soul mate.  My children HAD a father.  And I’m thankful for that.

Not everybody gets to love the way we loved.  Not everybody gets to connect the way we connected.  We were lucky to have crossed paths in this chaotic Universe…it’s possible we could have never even met…but we did…and we connected…and we worked on our connection to make it stronger…and we got to have that. And I would rather have had that and lost it then to never have experienced that kind of love and connection at all.

So, for that, I’m thankful.  Because I was loved.  I had a soul-mate.  And I still love him.

 

 

When Music Heals the Musician

I have always used music to create a soundtrack of my life.  To carry me through long drives and heavy feelings.  To push through a tough workout.  To set the mood in my home.  To connect with other people and share my inner world through harmonic expression.

In the first months after Tim’s death, I listened to music incessantly.  Silence was too open and vulnerable, so I would carry my phone with me to play songs for the shower, in the car, cooking dinner, and in my back pocket just walking around the house.  I play music as I lay in bed and let whatever needs to wash over and through me in that moment.  Music was, and still is, a constant companion.  I have used music to feel when I could not.  I have used music to alter my mood and state of mind.  I have used music to process the unfamiliar anger and sadness that has pierced my being and transformed my human form.

When Tim was in the hospital, I played music for him all day every day.  Aimee Mann and Conor Oberst.  I wanted to give him love and comfort in any way I could, and music was something I could give him even when I couldn’t be in the room with him.  It was mental and emotional stimulation.  It was comfort.  It was something I could do in my most helpless hours.

One song stuck with me through Tim’s hospital stay, Bahamas’ “Lost In The Light”

The lyrics took on new meaning as I saw Tim struggling to survive, the ventilator breathing for his lungs and dialysis functioning for his kidneys.  I struggled with the reality of what his future might hold should he survive.  With severe brain damage.  With physical and emotional turmoil.  With months to years of rehab and recuperation.  With half a dead heart.

“So if someone could see me now, let them see you
Let them see you
See you through
All the hard things we’ve all gotta do
‘Cause this life is long
So you wouldn’t be wrong
Bein’ free here with me on my own…”

I listened on repeat.  In the shower.  On the subway.  Through the nights I couldn’t sleep.  It helped me connect with my love.  Lost in the light.

 

After Tim died I couldn’t feel anything.  Nothing. My brain drifted just above my body on a thin string tethered to my torso.  So I used music to bring me back into myself.  To feel anything at all.  One bad night, my dear friends Sam and Maddy sent me Neko Case’s “The Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” and Brandi Carlile’s “Give Up The Ghost”.  These albums became my new support system.  Neko’s haunting voice carried me through the new emotional world that was unfolding within me.  Brandi’s power and vulnerability gave me focus, drive, confidence.  I didn’t feel so alone.

 

Then came Paul Simon’s Graceland.

“And she said losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow”

No truer words have been spoken.

 

And The Mountain Goats’ “This Year”.  My new anthem I listened to with open windows.  Driving a bit to fast with the speakers blaring far too loud.

 

And Mavis Staple’s “You are Not Alone”.  Because I’m not.  And neither are you.

 

I don’t listen to most of the music I used to.  Some I just can’t.  I continue to discover and uncover new songs that bring support and meaning to my day-to-day.

 

I’m starting to sing again.

I took out my guitar today.

 

I’m medicating myself with daily doses of harmonic and lyrical resonance.

 

 

 

 

 

Some White Lady’s Version of Peruvian Roast Chicken.

You guys, I can roast a chicken.  Ask anyone who has had my chicken.  It’s good.  Like, really good.  I’m not bragging.  I’m just stating a FACT.

Everyone’s favorite time of the year is upon us.  When the days grow shorter and the air grows chilly and everyone starts looking forward to those familiar sights and smells and feelings of that very special time of year.  That’s right, you know what I’m talking about…ROAST CHICKEN SEASON!

I make roast chicken different ways, but this is my absolute favorite way to prepare a bird.  The sauce is a perfect balance of creamy, spicy, and fresh.  The chicken is moist and delicious.  The potatoes soak up all that beautiful fat and flavor.  It’s good.

I originally found this recipe on epicurious and have made it my own.  I’m white and I’ve never been to Peru.  I’ve never had actual Peruvian Roast Chicken.  So I don’t know if this recipe is authentic, but it’s fucking good.

 

Some White Lady’s Version of Peruvian Roast Chicken

1 Roasting Chicken.  Get a big one.

RED Potatoes.  (Small ones, or quartered larger ones.  Whatever will fill the pan around the chicken. )

Cumin

Paperika

Oregano

2 generous pinches salt

Black Pepper

2 Tablespoons Oil- I prefer safflower, grapeseed, or any other high heat- neutral flavor oil.

Juice of 1 lime

Sauce To Make Your Life Better

1 bunch fresh Cilantro

juice of 1 lime

4-5 cloves garlic

1 jalapeno

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup mayo

 

To make the chicken, take that lady out of the bag.  Don’t bother rinsing her, that’s gross. Plop her down in a roasting dish, the kind you use for lasagna or whatever.  Surround her in a nest of potatoes.  Season the chicken and potatoes generously with the spices, don’t be afraid of that flavor.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Drizzle oil and lime juice over everything.  Now, get your hands nice and clean and GIVE THAT LADY A MASSAGE.  That’s right, rub those beautiful spices all over her glorious, glistening skin.  Really get in there.  If this freaks you out, you shouldn’t be eating meat.  It’s a dead animal and you are eating it.  Deal with that.  Good, all set.

Wash your hands.  With soap.

Put that bird in a pre-heated 415 degree oven.  Now, just let her cook.  Around 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the juices in her body cavity are clear and you can easily jiggle her legs. The spices might blacken a bit on the skin, but it’s ok. It’s fine I tell you.

While the chicken is cooking, make that sauce.  Now, this sauce MAKES this recipe.  I’m OBSESSED with this sauce.  Put the cilantro, jalapeños, lime juice, garlic, and salt in a blender or process with a stick blender until it turns to a sauce.  Add the mayo and process it more.  It might be a bit thin, it’s fine.  Pour into a serving bowl and stick it in the fridge until later.

When that chicken is done, take it out of the oven.  Let her rest. REST, DAMNIT.  She has worked HARD for you and she deserves at least 15 minutes to soak up her juices before you tear into her like a god damned animal.

Has she rested?  Lets do this.

Carve up that bird.  Cut off the legs at the hip joint next to the body.  Slice up that breast.  Yes.  This is the reality of meat and if you are going to eat it you are going to get COMFORTABLE with it.

Get your chicken and potatoes all nestled together on a plate and spoon a generous amount of sauce over.  Stick some salad in there too.  You are being healthy.  Good for you.

Time to eat.  Mmmmm.  It’s amazing, right?  Right.

 

The Hopefulness and Sorrow of Forward Motion


We are five months out now.

Today, five months ago, we were in limbo. We did not know what Tim’s fate would be. We clung to hope and faith. We would find out the reality the following day.  Nothing would ever be the same.
At five months out I feel different. My head is clearer and my heart is harder. My own visions of the future come to me in fits in spurts. I’m able to think about what I would like for myself and my children in the coming weeks, months, years, as we move along together as a family of three.
In the weeks following Tim’s death I felt ripped open, my whole being exposed and raw for the world to see. Those wounds have begun to heal as pink, jagged, scars that cross-cross my mind, heart, and soul. I’m pulling myself together in the moments I can. I’m having more good days. The darkness sets in regularly, but I see beyond it.
In the past, I have likened my grief to a vast and dark ocean. It’s waves are unpredictable and unforgiving. In the first days I clung to a buoy. Then a raft. Now a small island, with shelter and simple comforts. Maybe a tree or two. The ocean is there and will always surround me, but my relationship with it is changing. I’m owning it and learning it. I’m working to gain back myself and the life I want to lead from here. I’m taking the steps to make it happen. I’m trying.
I’m working now. For a local non-profit. It’s a position that allows me to serve my community through work in my field that does not require me to use my clinical skills. I’m looking ahead towards a private practice in my future. Once the state approves reciprocity on my license. Once I start caring about other people’s feelings again. Not that I don’t, but the petty, trivial hurts that occur in daily life no longer move me. I’m hardened. I’m traumatized. I know that I am not ready to work with people the way I used to, not yet. But when I am ready, I will own a deeper and more profound understanding of pain, trauma, and transition.  And that will allow me to help others in meaningful ways. When I’m ready.
I’m house hunting. The process has been interesting and exciting. When Tim was alive we talked about buying a rambling farmhouse with land. We wanted a large garden, chickens, fields and forest for our kids to run free. Tim wanted a “mad scientist” workshop and I wanted an art studio. We wanted to see the stars at night. Now I’m looking for a home in a village, close to neighbors and amenities. Large enough to host friends and family but small enough for me to maintain on my own. A small yard. A vintage home with charm, but I’ll settle for a cape if it comes to that. A home that I can maintain as a single woman with young kids. A home to raise my kids with love and creativity and warmth. A home just for us.
Byron started pre-school. He adores it. Claira is weaned. Sooner then I had originally planned, but it was time. I don’t feel sentimental about these milestones anymore. I see the fathers at pre-school and wish Byron could hold his Papa’s hand. Hug him at pick up time.  Laugh at Claira’s awkward toddling and joyful cries.
I wish Tim could see how they have grown and changed in the past five months.
I wish Tim was here.
Two weeks ago I was driving the kids home from school and day-care. It was a warm, sunny autumn day with brilliant colors and blue skies. I felt light and peaceful with the windows open. A little voice appeared in my brain and peeped “Maybe Tim will come home and everything will be ok”. And it all crashed down around me. My eyes filled with tears. My heart choked into my throat. The dark haze clouded my eyes and, for a moment, I was washed back into the ocean.
Tim will never come home.

But.



Everything will be ok.

Revisiting Somerville

We moved to Cambridge in August of 2007.  The previous year we had lived in Northampton, MA with Tim’s brother and best friend.  Our move to Cambridge brought, to me, the beginning of graduate school.  Tim was to continue commuting to UConn to pursue his Ph.D, and work locally out of his office at the Harvard Smithsonion ITAMP.  We spent just over 6 years in the Somerville/Cambridge area and lived our young adulthoods out amongst the narrow streets and triple-deckers.  We became we in this place.  It was where we lived and grew through grad school, roommates, engagement, the start of my professional career, marriage, under-employment, financial struggles, loud concerts, friendships, late-night drunken adventures, youth.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to return to Somerville solo.  Since Tim’s death I had felt a deep pull to return to our city and revisit the years we spent there.  I felt there was unfinished business to address.  To needed to get back to this place of our young adulthood.  I spread some of his ashes over the Charles River from the Week’s Pedestrian Bridge.  Friends joined me.  I enjoyed the music at Honk! and the oysters at The Foundry. I stayed with a good friend in her new home and reconnected with loved ones.  It was a beautiful, joyful and deeply needed weekend.

In the 6 years we lived there, we lived in 4 apartments.  Four.  Every year we would move a half-mile north-east.  In pursuit of more room and less rent.  Learning our city.

61 Fayette St, Cambridge– We lived in the tiny one-bedroom in the back addition.  We had our own entrance and a tiny porch and that seemed like the best.  Our kitchen doubled as our front entrance.  The living and dining areas growing off the side, in one, small living space.  Our futon faced the bathroom door.  Our bedroom was a sheet rocked in area just large enough for the double bed.  We lived just around the corner to Inman Sq. and enjoyed many nights at Bukowskis’s Tavern and takeout from Punjabi.  We would walk to Central Sq. for the Red Line and Harvard for the experience.  We rode our bikes a lot until mine was stolen.  I found it weeks later, painted black and chained to a fence.

10 Loring St, Somerville–  We moved the second year to join new roommates near Union Sq.  We lived with Jared and Luke, two dear and deeply loved human beings.  We were two Atheists, a Jew and a Devout Christian from Texas.  We had countless meaningful conversations.  Fun evenings at home.  Passive aggressive stand-offs.  Nights out as a crew. We loved each other.  It really was a beautiful year.

The Ikea kitchen distracted us from the cracks in the windows.  The natural light was blissful.  There was literally no insulation.

One night I was sitting on our second floor porch, enjoying the beginning of summer, and heard a neighborhood couple loving on one-another with open windows.  I gleefully cheered and clapped with their climax.  I never heard them again.  Bummer.

Luke fell in love with his soul-mate, Mandy.  They married at the end of the year and Luke moved out.  Tim and I got engaged.  We moved north with Jared.

7 Richdale Ave, Somerville- The kitchen was big but the energy was weird.  The landlord had two too many padlocks on the basement door.  Tim was in the beginnings of an extsistential crisis.  I was getting my feet wet as a new professional.  We were planning our wedding and the new roommate dynamic lost it’s cohesiveness.  Sometimes we would have flash floods.  We would rush into the rising water to move our car uphill.  Our neighbor’s basement regularly flooded.  Sometimes you could see the rats float by.  It was a weird year.  We got through it.

442 Broadway, Somerville– This was our longest rental.  We lived on the second floor, at the top of Winter Hill, for 2 years and 8 months.  This was the home we returned to after our wedding.  This was the place we lived when Tim joined the Occupy movement, shook up his department through his pursuit of social justice, left his program and started anew.  This is where I rooted myself as a professional and grew as a person.  We were we here.

Our bedroom was painted meadow grass green and overlooked the canopy of the large maple tree outside the bay windows.  We watched the seasons change from our bed.

The kitchen was crap, but I painted it teal and added a chalkboard wall, which made it all worth it.

We had a lot of big discussions in that home. Some hard nights.  A few bad fights.  We loved each-other hard.  We learned.  We kept going.  We chose each-other.

We walked to Davis Sq. every weekend.  We walked everywhere.  The laundry mat up the street was clean and friendly.  The bus ran outside.  We had a little garden next to the trashcans outside.  And a free grill Tim had found on the side of the road.  We weren’t making it work financially, but we were having fun.

One day I came home from work.  Some random company from Wisconsin had contacted Tim to apply for a software job.

I sat on the bed and said “Hey, it’s at least worth a shot”.

 

 

 

Spirituality and Shit.

I never really believed in God.

Even as a child, the concept seemed unrealistic and odd.

I was raised in the Catholic faith, where my endless questions went unanswered.  I remember coming home from catechism on my 6th birthday and sobbing.  I had been told that I should love God more than anything else, even my parents.  I couldn’t imagine such a thing.  To love this mysterious, magical man in the sky more than my own parents, the people who raised me and loved me and tucked me into bed every night.

As I grew older my questions increased and grew more complicated.  How could we even know that Jesus was the son on God?  Why is Original Sin even a thing? What proof existed that there was a God at all?   Why did so many people believe such different things?  How could two people with the same beliefs believe such different things?  What purpose did this God have?  But what about multiple Gods?  Why was God a man?  Why did we need this concept in the first place?

I was confirmed at the age of 16 to appease the expectations of my family and community.  I never considered myself a Catholic again.

For years I explored different religious belief systems.  I took religion classes in college.  I read books.  I talked to people about their beliefs.  People told me what to believe.  They told me the Universe and God were interchangeable.  They told me God was a specific spiritual being that make decisions for us.  They told me God is everything and nothing.  They told me I would understand one day.

I still didn’t believe in God.

In time I began to believe that the Universe had a plan.  Not a specific being.  Not a male figurehead, but the collective energy of space and time and life would intersect to give me what I needed when I needed it.  I would put my energy into the Universe and trust that I would receive what I needed.  I believed everything would happen as it needed to.

I believed in Secular Humanism and the collective power of people helping people.  I believed in nature and science.  (I still do).

I believed in plans and certainties.

 

Then Tim had his heart attack, on my best friend’s couch.  On our family vacation.

 

And I started to pray.  To anything and anyone.  To  any force that may intervene.  I sat in the hospital through that first night, his sweater wrapped around my body.  I waited at the doors of the Trauma unit, hoping for any word.  Any improvement.  I saw him and rubbed his feet and sang to him.  I paced and prayed and hoped.

Tim didn’t wake up that night.  But he did stay alive, and I was thankful for that. So they transferred him to Tisch NYU in Manhattan, and I continued to pray.  They sent Hospital Chaplains to his room to be with all of us.  I told them over and over, “we are Secular Humanists, we believe in people and nature and science.  We don’t believe in God”.

I told them “I don’t believe in God, but if Tim wakes up believing in God, I will too”.

They were kind and understanding.  But then they would pray to God out loud.  And I would rage.  And I shouted “THERE IS NO GOD!” in the Tisch NYU Cardiac ICU, and the doctors gathered outside Tim’s door scattered.

But I still hoped, inside.  That maybe there was a God.  

And maybe Tim would come back to me.

But he didn’t.  His body would likely not survive.  His brain would never come back.  

And I knew that I needed to let him go.  And he died in my arms, surrounded by loving family and friends.

In the days and weeks and months following Tim’s death I have raged at a God I don’t even believe to be there.  At the Universe.  At these plans and assumptions and trust that we have that everything will work out.  At “Everything happens for a reason” and “He’s in Heaven now.”  At all the bullshit we tell ourselves to give us the illusion of safety and security.

Because it doesn’t always work out. And Tim isn’t in Heaven, because Heaven is HERE, with his loving wife and his beautiful babies and the beautiful, wonderful life we were so happy to be building together.

Sometimes young fathers die for no reason.  Sometimes flood and mudslides and hurricanes and earthquakes destroy cities and communities.  Sometimes angry men open fire on innocent people.  Sometimes people die.  And God, the Universe, whatever it is that’s supposed to be in charge doesn’t give a shit.  Because it’s not even there in the first place.

But I will tell you what is there, my friends.  PEOPLE ARE THERE. 

People have been there to help me through every step of this godless process.  People have been there to drive me and feed me and comfort me and draw me baths and take care of my children and help me pack and drive my moving truck and love me and support me and protect me in every imaginable way.  God isn’t there.  People are there.

 

And so I’ve slowly learned to have trust in people.  And the cycles of nature.  And the innate goodness of human beings.

I’ve learned not to plan too much.  Not to trust the Universe so much.  I’ve learned to take care of myself more.  I’ve learned to trust in the consistency of change.

I’ve learned that death is just as natural as any other part of life.  And life continues after death, for the survivors.  And that’s just something we have to be ok with.

I’ve learned that prayers don’t work, but the love and support of people can get you through anything.  And sometimes thats kind of the same thing.

I believe that Tim is still here.  He is everywhere.  His energy expands the Universe (that doesn’t have a plan).  He is in my thoughts and my heart and my memories.  He will always be here.  He will always be everywhere.  He is StarStuff.

And I believe I will be ok.  Because I have people.  And the cycles of Nature continue.

And as long as I am alive, I will live.  And that’s enough.

 

Apple Crisp from an Apple Crisp Snob


There are a few things in life that I am not willing to compromise on.

High quality sheets

Coffee

Sensible shoes

Apple Crisp 

Apple Crisp is an art form.  The apples must be subtly sweet and spiced evenly.  The ratio of crumble to apples must be so that the Crisp can crumble into the soft apples and balance the fruit with buttery crunch without being overly soggy or dry.  Apple Crisp must be simple and flavorful.  Martha Stewart’s apple crisp has nothing on mine. 

I don’t have any time in my life for shitty apple crisp.  Neither should you.

Apple Crisp for Apple Crisp Snobs

8-10 Apples picked out of your dad’s back yard. (Oh, you don’t have an apple tree?  Huh.)

3/4 cup brown sugar 

1 tsp Cinnamon 

1/2 tsp Ginger 

1/4 tsp Nutmeg 

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 cup All Purpose Flour 

(plus 2 Tablespoons)

1.5 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup salted butter 

Pinch salt

Take those apples and skin them.  Slice them up.   Yes, it’s work.  You will live.  (Don’t buy those pre-sliced apples in a bag.  It’s offensive.). Throw them in a bowl.  

Toss in 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tablespoons flour, and spices.  Mix it good.

Dump in a pie dish or 9×9 pan.

Put the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Cut the butter and toss it in there too.  Now, roll up your sleeves.  Shit is about to get serious.  Take that butter and smush it into that dry mixture.  Mmm. Yeah, like that.  Really work it in there.  You will know it’s done when everything is buttery and crumbly and your kids start shoving in their face in fistfuls.

Spread crumble over apples.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 min, until apples are soft, the crisp is browned, and caramelly stuff is bubbling around the edges.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.
Hi, Autumn.

On Not Enjoying Every Minute

(My darling children.  I understand fully the weight of publicly publishing my thoughts in the digital age.  One day you will find this blog and read my words.  So read this first- I love you.  I adore you.  You are magical little fountains of joy who have bettered my world in every imaginable way.  I am eternally thankful to be your mother.  My love for you is the Universe- vast, unending, filled with the energy of infinite time, bigger than myself.  You, Byron and Claira, are my world in all the best of ways.)

 

 

Sometimes having kids is really fucking hard.  

Amiright?

I have noticed a distinct trend on social media that, whenever an overwhelmed young mother posts vent or complaint about the challenges of raising young children, some well meaning 60 something with grown children will cheerfully chime in with those same 3 words…

“Enjoy every minute!”

Jesus.

I get it.  Childhood is fleeting.  Seeing your kids grow up and fly the nest is emotionally complex.  Young children are perfect little cherubs filled with nothing but love and goodness.

Except, little kids can also kind of suck sometimes.

Because being a good parent and raising your children is REALLY HARD WORK.

They cry.  They tantrum.  They get up at 4:30am every fucking day.  They throw their food on the floor instead of eating it even though they NEED TO EAT TO LIVE and they just don’t understand that.  They pinch and kick and bite.  They cling to you when you are desperate for a minute alone.  They poop only half-way into the toilet while you are trying to eat your dinner.  They take and demand and scream and throw themselves on the ground, ready to die for a cause you can’t even understand.  Little kids are A LOT.

They need everything.  They need every ounce of energy, attention and care we can muster.  Because they can’t HELP that they need so much.  It’s just part of the normal developmental process.  It is, yeah, a lot.

When we lived in Madison, when Tim was alive, I was mostly home with the kids.  I had a small private practice because I loved having clients to work with, but my focus was on my babies.  Tim worked long hours.  Too long, considering what a greedy dickweed his company turned out to be (yeah, I’m talking about you EPIC SYSTEMS).  Tim would go away on 4 day work trips and I would feel sorry for myself and talk about how hard it was to “single mom”.  As if I had any fucking clue.  It was a lot, being home with my babies all day.  I had the support of my friends, but they all had jobs and/or kids of their own.  We were all busy.  We were all overwhelmed.

Since Tim’s death, the weight of motherhood has increased ten-fold.  I now have the responsibility to raise these kids on my own.  Their loving father is not physically present to be my partner in this journey.  We are a family of three, and I’m the only adult.  This is an immense responsibility to carry, and I am overwhelmed.

Because they need so much.  They deserve so much.  And I worry that I will not have the physical, emotional, mental, and financial means to give them everything I dreamed I would.  I worry that I will not be enough.  I worry that I will not be the mother I want to be.  The mother they should have.  The mother I was before, when I was half of a whole.

So it’s hard for me to enjoy every minute.

It’s hard for any parent.

But I work to enjoy and embrace the moments that I can.

I focus on what I am capable of.  I try not to focus on what I am not.

More importantly, I have my human community.  The hundreds of friends and family members who have risen up to support my children and I through this process.  My parents.  My friends.  Tim’s family.  All of us will work together to bring these babies up in the world.  We will work together to give them the life they deserve, even if it can never be the life I planned for them.  It will be a life.  A good life.  And they will experience the joy, the love, the wonder, the adventure that they deserve.

Facing this world alone, my babies at my side, is a painful and challenging undertaking.  But I am SO. DEEPLY. THANKFUL.

Because Tim gave me these babies.  

And with our love, they are the greatest thing we could have ever created.  

 

Memories and Maine

In the years that Tim and I lived in Somerville, MA, we traveled to the ocean often.  Well, not as often as we should have, considering we lived just miles from the sea, but often enough.  Scratch that.

Sometimes we went to the ocean.  It was good.

Our favorite trip of the summer was camping in Maine.  In the beginning of August, we would pack up our car with the camping gear we used exclusively for this adventure, and drive to Georgetown Island.  We stayed in the same campsite, overlooking the bay, where we would spend the weekend with our dear friends, Hannah and Andy, and their children.

We would go to the bay at low tide and walk the tidal sands, past men clamming in the mist.  We would go to the beach and play with the kids in the sand.  On Saturday, we would order lobsters from a local fisherman, who would deliver them to our campsite, freshly steamed.  We would sit by the campfire every night, drink wine, listen to waves, and just enjoy the company of dear friends.

Then life started to shift, as it always does. Our friends announced their separation the same month we announced our relocation to Wisconsin.  We moved 1000 miles west.  The ocean was no longer a short drive away.  Our yearly trip no longer seemed a possibility with babies and airfare and work schedules.  We would sit and talk about our memories.  We would dream of those future days when it would be possible again to enjoy woodsmoke and seafood overlooking the bay.

___________________________________________

This weekend, the kids and I went to Maine.  This time for my cousin’s wedding, and a short stay with family friends.  We went with my parents.  It was refreshing, to smell the saline in the air, to watch my children play in the tidal sands, to eat lobster and enjoy the company of friends.

It hurt too.

It made me miss Tim and the memories we shared.  Because he was the only other keeper of many of those memories.  He was the one beside me on the long drive up the coast.  He was the one next to me in our chilly tent on dewy mornings.  He was the love I shared those moments of joy with.

He’s gone.

I’m the only one who remembers now.

It was painful to see my children playing in the water.  To see my son excitedly collecting stones and shells and to watch my daughter’s wonder at the vast sea.  To know how much happiness it would have given to him.  To want to see him explore along-side our babies.  To know that he will never share those memories.

Tim and I were master travelers with one another.  We balanced one another out and filled each other’s needs with our own presence.  We took turns handling logistics and stress.  We carried each other.  I don’t have my companion in the world any more.  My parents were massively helpful with my children, as they always are, but they are not Tim.

So I missed him.

I felt a lot of pain in the days I once would have felt joy.

And it’s not fair.  It will never be.

 

But I am grateful.  For the opportunity to return to Maine, and the opportunities ahead.  To hear my children’s laughter.  To smell the ocean air, and stand, fully feeling in the cold, misty mornings.  To celebrate the simple beauty of nature.  To taste lobster and drawn butter.

To still be alive.

I’ll keep living for you, Tim.  For our children.

We’ll make more memories.  And I’ll always carry yours.