Saturday, September 22, 2012

"It's Okay to Throw it Away"

"It's Okay to Throw it Away" became my motto roughly 3 years ago.  My late husband, bless his heart, had a hard time throwing things away. There was always an excuse ... "If we just clean it up, someone could use it." "We could sell it." "It's not broken." "I wasn't sure if you would want to keep it."  The long, slow process of now cleaning through 20 years of accumulated junk has been no picnic. Thankfully, Richard has no emotional attachment to these things and is able to just toss things that clearly don't need to be kept. I also can cut ties and let things go. I just procrastinate. I really don't want to do it so I put it off until it can't be put off any longer.

Today, I had to clean out my dead refrigerator to prepare for the new one to arrive.  I was throwing away all the expired stuff and things we just didn't need.  All of the sudden, I found in my hand a small bottle of J. Roget Spumante (I know ... nothing but the best, right? ;)). It was actually dusty, even though it had been in the refrigerator. That little bottle has actually been in every refrigerator I've owned since 1990.  It was a small gift from one of Dale's brothers when we got married.  My hand lingered between the fridge and the trash can. Should I throw it away? Why should I keep it? It's not like he's here to open it with. Maybe I should keep it. I've had it forever. It means something. What? What does it really mean? It's just a reminder of what was lost. It's a reminder of what was once a good memory. Don't get me wrong, my wedding to him is still a "good" memory. But like that song says, "Now every memory is haunted." All the good memories inevitably lead me to the One Big Bad One. Even though I know I can't wipe out every memory, I also know that I don't need to hold on to material things in order to remember. "It's Okay to Throw it Away."  So out it went. Throwing it away doesn't mean it never happened. Throwing it away doesn't mean I didn't care. It just means that I'm okay with the memory living in my heart and not in my hand.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Won't Give Up

I wrote this on the first Father's Day after Dale died. Re-reading it now brings tears to my eyes because I remember how it felt to write it the first time and also because I can see how far I have come since then.  If you are going through a rough time, a horrible time, keep on going and don't give up.  If I can do it, so can you!  "I don't want to be someone who walks away so easily. I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make." (Jason Mraz ~ "I Won't Give Up")

I was nervous about going to church today, knowing that fathers would be recognized and that the message would be, if not centered on, at least a primary subject of discussion. Brother Byron's message was hard for me to hear today. It was quite biblical, nothing wrong with it whatsoever, but the feelings it raised in me as I listened were difficult to experience. I listened as he talked about the father's role in the household both as husband and father; the importance of that role in the fabric of society; the decline of society as that role has been pushed aside as irrelevant or altogether abdicated by the father; and the original meaning or root of origin of the word "husband" as basically being the band that holds the family together. I couldn't help but continue to think over and over again about how my kids don't have that now. I become frightened about how it is I am to repair that which they have lost ... not replace, repair ... How am I now to fill both of those roles and not let them get lost in the process? Not let them be part of the statistics of kids gone awry because they have no father in the home? It was hard to hear Bro. Byron talk about those fathers who have abdicated and left that role on purpose. It brings up those mixed feelings because on one hand, there are strong feelings of anger in believing that Dale left us all ... and on the other hand, strong feelings of sorrow over the extreme sadness and anxiety he had experienced that i just didn't see in time. I don't want to think that he left us, that he abdicated his role as father, as head of this house because I know in my heart how much he loved this family ... But is it easier to feel the sorrow? No, it's much easier to be angry. The sadness is too hard ... too reflective ... too much to bear sometimes. But anger hardens the heart and also becomes difficult to bear after time and an angry person is not who I want to be.

So what do I do? What do I think? How am I supposed to feel? Everything is swirling around ... These are the moments when I have to stop ... just STOP. Stop thinking. Take a deep breath. Close my eyes. "See" God. Remember who He is and what I know about Him. He is the author and finisher of my faith. He is my redeemer. He is my prince of peace. He is my best friend. He is Alpha and Omega, beginning and the end. He is my rock, my fortress, my strong tower. He. Loves. Me. Enough. to. Die. for. Me. He is worthy of my trust. He is worthy of my faith. He is worthy of my love. He will take these broken pieces and will make them whole again. He will show me, if I let Him, the path I am to take. He will give me the words when I cannot find them. He will give me the strength when I do not have my own. He will give me wisdom and discernment when I am unable to make the right choices on my own. He will equip me to do that which He has called me to do. He will carry me when I am unable to carry myself. He will do all the same things for my children. He is Love. He will do all that He has promised to do. He cannot lie. No one can snatch me from His hands. He works in all things. He understands. He knows. He saves. His mercies are new each day. 

SIGH. Peace settles in. Trust takes over. "Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5) I will set aside questioning what I can find no answers to ... I will stop worrying about things which I have no control over ... I will practice the Serenity Prayer: 

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.

I trust Him to direct my path so long as I seek His face and acknowledge Him in all my ways.

"Not a burden we bear, 
not a sorrow we share, 
but our toil he doth richly repay; 
not a grief or a loss, 
not a frown or a cross, 
but is blest if we trust and obey. 
Trust and obey for there's no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." ("Trust and Obey")

Today is Father's Day. I am ashamed that up until this last hour or two, I have not thought of my Heavenly Father much today as I have been too distracted and bogged down with what is missing instead of what is here. Forgive me, Father, for losing sight of You today. Thank you, Father, for allowing me to see You as I looked inside myself. Your Spirit is amazing, and I thank You for that gift. I. Love. You. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Good Days

This weekend my Jelly and I were talking, and he mentioned that his school’s homecoming week theme is “The 80's.”  Innnnteresting, I thought, since I am a product of that long-ago generation. How is it that I have lived long enough to see fashion repeat itself and for the music I grew up with to become “cool” to a new generation?  I know I haven’t aged any since high school like all the rest of my friends have. Hahahaha. Ok, ok. Anyway, he was complaining, incessantly, about how the majority of the class chose “ET” as the theme for their parade float.  Complaining, why, you ask? Because they obviously should have chosen Star Wars!!! Oh. Ok. Right. Sometimes I forget that my Jelly is a band geek. As he went on about how Star Wars was clearly the more appropriate choice, I started to think about other 80's movies. And then it struck me: we had GREAT movies to go see in the 80's. I started running through my mental checklist of movies I’ve seen that I would watch over and over again. So, so many of them are from the 80's. I whipped out my Google search engine and trolled through various lists and made my own List of Favorite Re-Watchable Awesome 80's Movies.  I hope you like this list and add to it :) Here goes ... 80's movies I loved:

9 to 5
Airplane ("And don't call me Shirley!")
Private Benjamin ("I think they sent me to the wrong place.")
Raiders of the Lost Ark (really, ALL Indy movies could go here)
On Golden Pond ("You old poop!")
Arthur ("Thank you for a memorable afternoon. One must usually go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your stature.")
Stripes ("Where have you been soldier?!" "Training, sir." "What kind of training?" "Arrrrmyy training, Sir!")
E.T. (My favorite part is when ET drinks the beer out of the fridge while Eliot is at school, and Eliot gets drunk from it and then lets all the frogs go before they can be dissected.)
An Officer & A Gentleman ("You can kick me outta here, but I ain't quittin'!"
First Blood (the first and best of the Rambo movies - "They drew first blood.")
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Flashdance (I SO wanted to be her!)
Trading Places
War Games ("Do you want to play a game?")
Risky Business
Karate Kid
Purple Rain
Amadeus (not to mention the Falco song which followed, “Rock me Amadeus”)
Back to the Future
Rocky (Add Rocky 2, Rocky 3, Rocky 4, skip Rocky 5)
The Goonies
Mask (probably my favorite Cher movie, actually)
Top Gun
Stand by Me
Peggy Sue Got Married (not a real popular movie, but a great concept ... going back in time knowing then what you know now. Would you make the same choices?)
The Money Pit (omigosh I practically pee my pants laughing at Tom Hanks in this movie..)
Good Morning, Vietnam
Moonstruck ("SNAP OUT OF IT!")
Lethal Weapon (the first was the best!)
Dirty Dancing ("Nobody puts Baby in a corner!")
Full Metal Jacket ("The dead know only one thing. It is better to be alive.")
Wall Street ("Greed is good.")
Roxanne (Steve Martin in a romantic comedy. Very “B” movie but it was sweet. I’m such a sap!)
Spaceballs ("I bet she gives great helmet.")
The Princess Bride ("Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.")
Rain Man ("K-Mart sucks!")
The Naked Gun
Beaches (Again, I’m a sap, really.)
Nightmare on Elm Street (the first and best one of all of them)
Stand and Deliver (made me appreciate dedicated teachers)
Little Mermaid (I could list 100 Disney movies, but this is probably my favorite)
Parenthood (I laughed. I cried. I wanted to have a baby.)
Dead Poet’s Society (My favorite Robin Williams movie)
When Harry Met Sally (..on the side..)
War of the Roses
Steel Magnolias (“I’d rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”)
Turner & Hooch (I laughed. I cried. I hugged my dogs.)
Major League (Wild Thing. You make my heart sing.)

Now, these belong in a category all on their own...John Hughes movies (I’m not putting lines here only because there are too many from these movies that I like):

Pretty in Pink
Mr. Mom
National Lampoon’s Vacation
Sixteen Candles
National Lampoon’s European Vacation
Weird Science
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (oh John Candy ... I miss you!)
She’s Having a Baby
The Great Outdoors
Uncle Buck
The Breakfast Club

Now I just want to spend my Monday in front of the TV!!  What are YOUR favorite 80's movies?

Thanks for reading! Remember, if you like my blog, share it with your friends :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Carrying Memories

"It is proof that through the prism of a broken heart, how the living carry the memory of those who have gone — and how that, in some small way, keeps these lost loved ones walking among us." Bob Dylan

I saw this quote this morning and it helped to put some feelings I've had into words. Good ol' Dylan. 

We DO carry around the memory of those who have gone and keep them living within us.  I know that for me, Dale lives in me. I hear his words; I see his face; I remember.  I've even sort of adopted some of his traits since he passed. He was always the early to bed, early to rise type of person, and I was the night owl. Now it's hard to get me to stay awake past 10 o'clock! He liked egg rolls. I never did. Now I eat one every time I have Chinese food. It's little things like that.  I took Jelly and Peanut Butter out to eat not long ago, and Peanut Butter likes to steal food off of her brother's plate. It drives him nuts. I smiled and thought of how Dale used to tell the story of how his little sister used to always steal food off of his plate and it drove him nuts. I laugh a little and shake my head because I see him chuckling and telling that story once again. I feel compelled to tell it for him because he's not here to share those memories with his kids anymore.  I'm so afraid I'm going to forget things he told me. I'll forget the stories he shared with me. I want the kids to know who he was in his life, not just how that life ended.  I want them to know what he liked to do, the music he liked to listen to, his interests, the things that he did to relax, the stories from his own childhood that I can never share.  I try not to be afraid of the memories or try to stop them from coming. Even though there is joy in carrying him with me, it comes at a price because there is always pain with it too. That sweet sorrow when you realize what will be missing from the lives of those who loved him, and especially for my kids who didn't have the time to get to know him well enough.  It's up to all of us who knew him to make sure that Dale's memory doesn't fade and that it continues to walk among us. 

Whose memory do you carry? 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never Forget

Today is September 11th.  I can remember this same day back in 2001 clearly.  I had dropped off Peanut Butter to school and was taking Jelly to his grandparent's house / daycare.  I was just a few months pregnant with Peanut Butter and had barely even started to show yet. I heard a news report on the radio that stated a plane had flown into one of the twin towers. It seemed just like one of those freak accidents. I was startled, but it was also clear there was not a lot more information yet.  It wasn't clear it was a terrorist attack on our country.

Dropped off Jelly and then made it to the office about 10 minutes later.  Someone had the TV on in the conference room, so we were congregating there.  I watched it all unfold. I sat in horror watching the plane hit the second tower; and then both towers collapse. It was too unbelievable for words, really.  The shock was stunning. I remember thinking that all I wanted to do was go pick up my kids and take them home, keep them safe, which is exactly what I ended up doing. I wondered what type of world I was bringing kids into. Who does this kind of stuff? What the hell is wrong with people?

Since that day, I have seen my country's pride swell. I have seen my fellow Americans really step up where it counted.  I have seen us all give new appreciation to our first responders.  What the terrorists tried to stop and destroy, they only strengthened within us.

I didn't know anyone on any of the downed flights.  I didn't know anyone who worked in the WTC or even lived in New York. I've never even been to New York. But on Sept. 11, every American is a New Yorker. I'm proud of us and will always be grateful to live in this nation. It may not be perfect; it may even be far from it, but I would rather live here than anywhere else. It truly IS the land of the free, the home of the brave.

Friday, September 7, 2012

It Seems Like a Good Place to Start ....

So. Here we are. My first blog entry. It took me 3 years to decide to start this venture. As a Master Procrastinator, I don’t like to rush these things.  I suppose I should give you all a little background ... it seems like a good place to start.

My name is Dina. I will celebrate my 43rd birthday this year.  I was born and raised in central Missouri. My parents divorced when I was 7, and I mostly grew up with my 3 older brothers. My father was married both before and after his marriage to my mom, so I have half and step-siblings too.  We didn’t have much, and my mom worked nights to help earn a little more in order to provide for us.  I spent summers and every other weekend with my dad.  Both my mom and my dad lived in small towns, so I am definitely a product of the small-town environment. My graduating high school class had somewhere around 50 students.  My home town, at that time, had a population of around 900 people.  Big City Living, I’m tellin’ ya.

It seems like forever ago, but I graduated high school in 1988.  I met a man almost 10 years my senior the next year, and we married in the spring of 1990.  I was barely 20 years old.  He was not quite 30 years old. His name was Dale.  We met at the warehouse where he already worked, and I had just started in the accounting department. My first real 8-5, Monday-Friday job.  I stayed there until 1992 when they had a large lay-off and let me go.  I had good secretarial skills and always had an interest in law, so I started applying at law offices and landed a job within a couple of months.  I still have that job 20 years later. Some may say I’m loyal to a fault ;) It’s the Scorpio in me I suppose. But I love what I do and enjoy the people I have the pleasure of working with every day. It’s a good gig and always good for a laugh. My favorite movie line to quote is from Erin Brockovich when Julia Roberts as Erin is asked if she is a lawyer. Her answer: “I hate lawyers. I just work for them.” I steal this line a lot. A Lot.

Dale was a good, sweet man. His parents were still married; he was the youngest of three brothers and also had a younger sister. We had fun together listening to music, going to concerts, working together and just hanging out.  He enjoyed hunting and fishing, gardening and working.  He liked to stay busy, even if it was doing leisurely things. We had our first daughter in 1993, our son in 1997 and our second daughter in 2002 ... “Peanut,” “Jelly” and “Peanut Butter” ... my little sandwich of goodness.  We lived in a larger city not far from my home town until Peanut was ready to start kindergarten.  Then it was back to small town life and even rural life at first.  Neither one of us wanted the kids to be a part of a large school system. He grew up in it. I didn’t. I certainly didn’t argue with it, though, because I liked the small school setting myself.

In 2005, a lot of things changed. The company Dale had worked for since he graduated high school 26 years earlier had made the decision to close down the plant.  He would either have to find a new job at nearly 45 years old or move to Troy, Michigan to keep working for this company.  Uh, right. No way was I going to say “ok” to relocating our family to Michigan for a warehouse job.  And he really didn’t want to either.  All of our family is here. So he was faced with re-entering the job market.  Dale was insecure in a lot of ways, and this is the point where the anxiety attacks started.  His job ended and he bounced between a couple of other jobs before he landed something good for him, the hours he wanted, the environment he liked, people he liked. He started to get much better.  In this same time period, we moved from our rural house to a house closer to the kids’ schools. What I didn’t realize at the time is that he never really dealt with his anxiety issues or his coping with stress issues.  He also never seemed to be able to really trust our relationship in that it was like he always expected me to leave or find someone better than him.  I blame myself a lot for that. I suppose I just didn’t know how to show him what he meant to me, to us. Or at least I didn’t know how to recognize what he needed. By mid-2009, the panic attacks started again. Only this time, he didn’t tell me about them.  I could tell he was feeling a little stressed, but he never let on how much or how deep his fears were. Or maybe I just missed the signals. It’s hard to say now. Just two days after Peanut turned 16 and just five days shy of his own 49th birthday, he took his life on a sunny, Thursday afternoon.

Needless to say, my world was rocked. I was faced with not only being a single mom to three kids, but also with the stigma of suicide (if I allowed it to be a “stigma”). I mean, what do people think of a woman whose husband killed himself?  I know how much I blamed myself, so I could only imagine how much blame was coming at me from everywhere else.  Everything was just so unbelievable. Dale was gone. Really gone. And the myriad of emotions that a normal grieving person go through are enough for anyone to handle, much less those that come along with grieving a person who took their own life, who left you, who left your children and his children. I am not a quitter.  I may take my own sweet time doing things, and I may fight the system or the norm, whatever that is, but I don’t quit.  It’s hard to wrap my brain around the “why” of suicide. What I have found in the 3 years since the suicide is that I’m not alone in that sense. Everyone affected by suicide struggles with understanding why it all happened.  Most of us never actually get an answer to that question.

A lot of good friends reached out to me during this time. One of them was Richard. He never got the opportunity to meet Dale. Richard and I had just reconnected through Facebook a few weeks before the suicide; we knew each other back in our high school years.  Somehow, it was easier to talk about everything with someone who didn’t actually know Dale.  Talking frankly and candidly with people who already knew him kept me on guard, like I was always trying to be careful what I said so that I didn’t poison anyone’s image of Dale or their good thoughts or memories of him. He really WAS a good person. I just had a lot of anger over the suicide, and that had to be spilled somewhere, preferably not on my children or family who were already suffering so much.  Richard was that shoulder, that ear, that understanding person. We were so similar in so many ways. He let me say whatever I needed to say and always made it okay to do just that. I probably rushed things. But when I know that I want something, I want it now. The relationship developed, and we ended up getting married in the spring of 2011.  It was my turn, I guess, to shock everyone else.

So here I am. Three years later. Happy again. My kids have fared well through everything, and I thank God for it because He is the only one able to work such miracles. I now have three step-kids too, so life is full and busy most days. But this plucky little procrastinator is still darn good at putting off what doesn’t need to be done today ;)