Wednesday, March 21, 2018

In which I out myself

Photo by Max Brown on Unsplash

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering, as I share some of my own struggles in this area. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386, or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

There is a war going on in my head

I've shared this before. Several times.

Why do I struggle so much with my depression?

Nature? Most definitely, my genetics are rampant with mood disorders and addictions. I'm medicated and unafraid to say so.

Nurture? Equally causal. It wasn't a rosy-glow picture.

Trauma? Multiple.

Systemic oppression? Check.

Spiritual battle? To the extent that I believe God made doctors and pharmacists to improve and save lives, yes, I would say the converse is that the fallen nature of this world means that biological ailments occur and can be used to rob people of their joy and peace. What I am NOT saying is that mental health conditions can be prayed away. That's bad theology and I won't have it.

Stress? You have no idea. BINGO.

I kind of stacked the cards against myself this semester; 

  • A full-time job (which I enjoy, even if it's fairly taxing)
  • Six credit hours of graduate study/week (and that's just class time, not counting homework
  • Participating in the leadership development program for which I work (with Kelsey and that has been a great bonding experience with her and my peers, also takes another 4 hrs/wk + homework)
  • My marriage is turning 20 years old this year and both Seth and I are staring at mid-life somewhat disillusioned that neither of us are where we pictured ourselves at this point. We've changed and grown a lot. In some ways together, and others apart. And marriage is HARD WORK.
  • The developmental task for my teens to think outside of their amygdalas (amygdalae?), utilizing critical thinking, empathy, self-control, is a task of MONUMENTAL proportions and is taking all of me to not eat them and be done. Kidding, I don't really have a taste for humans.
  • I seem to be the only one who is both bothered by the chaos of unattended chores AND is willing to spend lengths of time doing them in our common areasThere is a child who is very meticulous about their space, but that's it.
  • Two of my children are in high school. And one is driving, working a part-time job (struggling with time management and stress as a result), has been in relationship for two years, and is going to be a senior next year. This equates to a daily prayer of, "Dear God, please don't let me f*ck them up any more than I already have," and new strands of glitter hair making their debuts, contributing to my future as a peach-haired geriatric.
  • In a world that bases the value of a woman on her appearance, the daily reminder of time beating along via the mirror's reflection of the more-than-fine lines on my face, steady accumulation of inches on my waist, and the fading of what has always been my crown jewel, my red hair, I'm not exactly feeling bodycon these days.
Add in the family dynamics of being between the parents of teens and launching center stages of the family life cycle, where family role strains are highest, and I. JUST. CAN'T. EVEN. 

In the grad school realm, I feel lost. Where I've always been a quick study, both socio-perceptively and intellectually, I'm struggling to focus and comprehend the pretentious linguistics of scholarly articles, much less to be able to recall specific details on which to base any intelligent fodder for the class discussions.

Part of this (most?) is for sure a bandwidth issue - I am well aware of that. 

Perhaps another underlying issue is that I'm in a program in which I do not have an undergraduate foundation. I feel like the proverbial fish out of water in many regards as my classmates readily draw upon knowledge from an undergrad class they had with my professor(s), and I'm like, "Uh, I know about sensation and perception, socialization, and human development. Maslow, Piaget, anyone?" And....crickets. Not really.

While I feel confident that this is the right program for me, in the classroom full of young adults who are closer to my daughter's age than my own (that was made clear, again, tonight) and did study political science, or in my other class (in which I am the only master's student - the rest are all PhD candidates), sociology, I feel like I'm missing some of the basics, and often feel inept in comparison.
I know,

    But being a PT student in a program that is heavily skewed toward FT students (classes only offered every 3-4 semesters) and no summer session classes, kind of required me to do this if I wanted these classes before 2020.

    Scale back at work, you say? At a financial cost  - the tuition benefit I receive as an employee is pro-rated to FTE %. So, if I were to negotiate a reduction in my hours, I would have to make up the difference cost-wise. Being that we don't have a nest egg for Kelsey to attend college and that is in the near future, I would rather not rob her of any educational resources we could offer her, spending them on myself instead.

    Also, grad school is competitive, and I yearn to do better than I did as an undergraduate, where I simply attended, gained, and applied knowledge without participating in student activities or forming relationships with the faculty because I was a working, married, 1st generation student who just kept my nose to the grindstone. Because this is important to me. This experience is something that will help me in furthering my goals of working for social justice through policy. I also hope for the advanced degree to serve as a means to facilitate Seth's future career change as manual labor continues to take its toll on his body, offering a higher income on my part to offset any losses that might be incurred in that life transition.

    All of that is a lot. A freaking shit-ton of life burden.

    I'm more sweary than I'd like...while I appreciate a well-executed curse on occasion, I'm not such of fan of the ubiquitous use of them that many are. That may be scandalous to some of my church friends, but I like to think I'm a bit like Mary Magdalene in that regard (aside from the whoring bit), and she and Jesus were tight.

    I find myself crying a lot. Like "pre-natal a lot"....BUT IT IS NOT THAT. We took care of that...and had it confirmed. 

    I lost my car in Denver, causing unnecessary stress that initiated the self-fulfilling prophetic cycle.

    The negative self-talk is relentless.
    • You're a crap mom, your kids wouldn't fight like this if you were any good at mothering.
    • You don't belong here. (In grad school, at work, on earth in general - and PLEASE KNOW, this admission carries so much guilt and shame with it, because I KNOW that it isn't true, but that voice isn't one of knowledge and objectivity. Besides if God had meant for me to be gone, I would have perished with The Great Pneumogedden of 2009, among many other things which I have overcome. Also, no, I don't have a plan.)
    • You were never meant to be..
    • Nobody actually likes you, you know? 
    • The only one who looks after you is you, and you can't even do THAT well.
    • You FAIL
    And that is just the beginning of the self-inflicted cruelty.

    We could go all day. Oh, wait, I already do.

    I try to combat it with affirmations, meds, therapy visits, and self-care the best I can. It's exhausting, and I'm just SO TIRED.

    I am fighting my damnedest to get through this though. And enlisting help, so rest assured I'm not in this alone.

    Looking at life a bit like Avery did when Jerry Maguire said he wanted to break up with her.

    "I did the 23 hour nose-route to the top of El Capitan in 6 hours! I can make this work!"

    I've done it before.

    As my boy Bruno says, "Don't believe me, just watch."

    *I totally should have been doing school work while writing this, but I chose to take care of my mental health by putting this out there.

    Wednesday, February 28, 2018

    Dude, Where's My Car? A Cautionary Tale of Distracted Feminity

    Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
    Lately I have been channeling Green Day's Basket Case on a daily basis.

    Things are pretty overwhelming.

    But then, aside from my confessionals here, most people just see the outcomes that get produced, and think, "I don't know how she does it [all]."

    Truth is, I am barely getting by [in my head, anyway] and this semester is thoroughly kicking my [rather large and growing daily] behind. Add in a touch of Heather's Crazy [un]Luck, and well, things have been interesting to say the least.

    On any given day, I've got a gazillion "browser tabs" open in my brain from meal planning, to chauffeuring needs of my children for their various activities, to bill paying (read: juggling, given Seth's recent medical leave), to two graduate courses' weekly duties/contents, to relationship maintenance, to blah, blah, blah. It never stops grinding, this ole cerebral system of mine.

    A week ago Monday, I had to get off work early to take Kels to turn in her new job paperwork at Taco Baco.

    It had snowed.

    I got overly invested in the work I was doing and ended up leaving later than I intended.

    As I walked out the door, I pulled my phone out of my coat pocket and called her to say she needed to be at the ready when I got home. 

    I do NOT like to be late. Ever. For meetings/appointments, assignments, deadlines. None of it. And, when I am, the self flagellation that ensues is nothing short of neurotic, especially if said tardiness is caused by external, uncontrollable factors. But I digress.

    Walk to the parking garage, go to grab my keys.

    And. They're. Not. There.

    I rush back into the office to see if I left them there. 


    My phone rings. It is my gym calling to say that someone picked up my keys and called them, and that the woman also works on campus, in the Biology Center.

    I wrack my brain, trying to mentally locate the Biology Center. The campus has changed immensely since I originally arrived 20 years ago. A flash of memory hit me with the revelation that I walk past the new Biology Center on my way to Clark every day. It is further away and I'm going to be still later.

    Stress thermometer ratchets up more.

    I walk to the Biology Center and go to their "front desk" area, per my gym's instructions, tell them like 5 times what I understand to be true only to be greeted with blank stares of confusion.

    My inner voice is swearing a blue streak at this point.

    Did they mean the new medical center?

    I don't know, did they?

    Add stress.

    So I head out to check that alternative, when a train blares through the midst of my pathway, blocking my progress. I think to call the medical center - inside the Biology Center for quiet - and they say, no, no keys have been reported.

    Ok, think, McFly!

    Go to walk back out and see a woman I'd seen when I went into the parking garage, and just as I notice she has my keys, she asks me, and I'm like, "Yes,thankyou, lovetostayandtalk, butIgottago."

    Call Kelsey's manager since this is MY mistake, and he's like, "Calm down lady, no big deal" dismissive.

    All's well that ends well.

    Fast forward a week to this Monday, and I'm heading to Denver to attend a meeting on my boss's behalf as he has yet to figure out how to be in three places at the same time. Will someone get on that, btw?

    The balance in the checking account was -$1.20 (payday was the next day), my gas tank is half full, and I'm running on fumes. 

    The ever present stress is simmering.

    I have $10 cash in my pocket and roughly as much on the credit card in my wallet.

    Google chimes, "Your destination is on the right," while I observed downtown parking had gone up considerably. 

    I drive around shopping for affordable parking lots, feeling my anxiety rise as the time ticks further away from "on time."

    I make note of the lot's general area, and decided to leave my heavy bag with my wallet in it, because I know I have to hoof it quite a ways to the meeting (roughly a mile).

    It's a nice day, sunny and 60 degrees, so my black blazer will suffice.

    I make a slightly less than fashionably late entrance, with some of the other attendees - solidarity! 

    Learn, network, and fin.

    I go back the way I came. 

    Or so I thought.

    I walked roughly 6 miles, back and forth, stopping to talk to some Homeland Security dudes. 

    See also: this is a branch of law enforcement whose officers are less than impressive in their intellectual reasoning abilities. They were like, "Bruh," :shrugs: "maybe call DPD?"

    Walk a bit more, notice it is getting dark. 

    I know where I am, I just don't know where my car is.

    I'm on Champa and 21st...aaaaaand there's CCH. These are my old stomping grounds, when I worked in homeless and affordable housing issues. The nature of homeless behavior has become more aggressive in Fort Collins in the 15 years since I worked in the field - legalized marijuana and the opioid epidemic has made the homeless more volatile than they used to be.

    And I'm chilled. 

    My feet are killing me. 

    I'm not being kind to myself at all.

    I walk to a 7-11 and I notice Seth has tried calling and texting.

    I text, "I did a dumb you in a min."

    When I tell him, he is incredulous. How?

    Well, I was in a hurry and stressed and apparently my recall was screwed by the cortisol in my system. Also, do you not think I feel stupid enough? Because I assure you, I feel like THE village idiot on which the archetype was based.

    I call DPD. 

    "So, do you have a receipt - the address should be on there," the dispatcher says, kind of annoyed by my plight.

    "See that's just the thing - it was a cash only lot. No receipts, just the slots system. It was $7, the sign was red and white, and it was somewhere near 20th and Stout, I thought. Seriously, the dumbest human trick I've ever done," I admit, defeatedly.

    He tells me that he's sending an officer to me, but it will be awhile because they are busy.

    I inform the cashier that I'm not casing her joint, but that I am waiting for the police because I'm an imbecile.

    Then I post on Facebook.

    And my friends - y'all are the best, you know? - tell me my Google maps should have a timeline (YES! It does! but, I've looped around no less than a dozen times, and there is no way to drill down to detail on my screen and see where I started/stopped) tracing my steps. 

    Dark blue is driving (before and after I lost the car - we drove right past it several times). Light blue is my foot work. Imagine this on a smartphone, and every time you try to drill down or change from landscape to portrait, it zooms out and you have to start all over again.

    Another friend (of the fabulous Tales of Public Transit) lives nearby, and comes to rescue me. 

    The DPD officer comes at the same time and is awesome.She also looks just like Sylvie Brett on Chicago Fire and my pop-culture loving brain is dying to mention it, but, objection, your honor! Relevance?

    My friend buys me a bite to eat (I haven't eaten since breakfast and it is now approaching 8 pm). We then drive around searching for this parking lot that has somehow been covered with an invisibility cloak. 

    No dice.

    The panic is real.

    Amy is amazing - keeps me calm. I think if I can look at my Google timeline on a larger screen, I can pinpoint where we need to be. 

    Except Google says, "You're logging in from a strange device - let's send your phone a code to make sure it's really you." Which is great, really, Google, I do appreciate your security, but my PHONE WAS DEAD. 

    I use my backup e-mail to send Google a note that I was stranded and unable to get in with a phone code. Hope for the best.

    I'm housed overnight, sleep a little and set out with her Amy's husband in the morning. 

    Second lot we see is the one! 

    And there is my Silver Subie in all her unadulterated glory. 

    Car starts, bag and wallet are in, and I'm on my way.

    I get to FoCo around 8am, stop at home, change my clothes, go get the cars registered (due the next day), and go to work, then class, then meet the fam for dinner and pick Kelsey up from work at 9pm.

    This is my life. 

    I'm exhausted all the time. 

    There's more to it than the sheer bad luck and stress response clouding my judgment and/or memory (a nagging reminder of the scene in Still Alice where she hides a gun for when she loses too much of her brain to Alzheimer's occasionally plagues me when I'm really in brain fog).

    My mind is packed to the gills with new information from classes, umpteen schedules, things I want to say (and often don't) to my loved ones about how important they are to me, dreams...

    There's this stupid insecurity and self-doubt of a 1st gen student popping up that never manifest itself in my undergrad studies. It keeps the stress dialed up. 

    There's the mom guilt of not being there for ev.ery.thing. Am I spiting the quality of their childhoods by chasing this dream?

    And before anyone gets all self-righteous about "But HOW?" could this happen and they would never... let me remind you that this crazy, American pace of life has had more tragic results than mine.

    One mom got so into auto-pilot that one day when the routine was upset, she forgot her son in the back of her hot car all day. He died. My heart breaks for that family still, because I can totally see myself in that situation. But for the grace of God go I.

    And sometimes, it's not just busy mom dysfunction. Our human minds are feeble, quick to take shortcuts, especially when the primitive brain is in control and being doused with cortisol, adrenaline, and whatever external stimulants we're feeding it. [I'm living on a caffeine drip these days...this is stupid, I know, but you do what you hafta].

    For instance, the Australian woman who was raped in 1975, and accused a guy who couldn't have done it because he was speaking on the news at the time of the assault. You would think in such horrific circumstances, someone would KNOW who attacked them. But, like commonly happens, her mind mis-recalled and subsequently misinterpreted the cues she had seen.

    The moral of the story is that when stress compromises your executive functioning, there is hell to pay.

    ---PSA - Had I "dropped a pin" on my phone in the parking lot, none of this would have happened.

    Had I realized my confusion before walking around in circles for hours, I could have read my timeline better, and maybe figured it out.

    Links are for your benefit. 

    This is Heather (actually Emma Stone, but she's pretty and I like her voice better than my own - I would totally cast her to play me in a movie of my life).

    Don't be like Heather.

    I'm here to serve. So you don't have to.

    You're welcome.

    Thursday, January 11, 2018


    Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash
    I remember.

    This one day in a college lecture the instructor was highlighting the virtues and pitfalls of hallucinogenic drug use on the human psyche.

    "So I have this friend who's a brilliant writer, you know? He calls me up and says, 'Dude, I keep having this amazing word pop into my brain the last few times I've gotten high. Like its structure just blows my mind, and the meanings it conveys, and I gotta capture it, I just keep forgetting.' Ok, so I tell him to keep one of his gazillion note pads handy next time he lights a joint and write it down so he can find it when he's sober."

    "Well, kids, he did it. Wanna know what this transcendental language icon was?"

    "'The.......' Just the word 'the.'"

    Titters from the crowd.

    "I know, right? So there you have it."

    And he launched into a litany of other effects THC and other hallucinogens can have on the brain, particularly with respect to short-term memory.

    (Let it be known that I have never had the slightest interest in experimenting with pot. Not a moral high-horse thing, simply too many negative associations with the drug as a child.)

    So keep that story in your back pocket.

    Monday night, I was so excited, practically giddy - really, to go back to yoga after a very long absence during fall semester.


    This specific class has gained some crazy popularity, and when I opened the door on-time, the studio was packed to the gills.

    No room at the Yoga Inn.

    Sadly, I resigned myself to climbing the stairs to the cardio balcony that overlooks the basketball courts, where Colton and Christopher redeem their 6 hours of school-day sedentarism through sweat on a regular basis.

    I'd planned on 50 minutes of yoga plus 30 minutes of cardio that night, so I set the elliptical for an hour.

    See previous note about my gym hibernation last semester. And note, that's a hella long time for an out of shape mom.

    But where a girl has goals and endless power jams from Adam Levine, Ed Sheeran, Kelly, Meghan, and Katie, a girl has the ability.

    About 30 minutes in the endorphins start to kick in, and with them, insights to the speech I need to write for my upcoming Sentate confirmation start to trickle through my mind.

    Then flashes of thought as to recent marital strife - how I could really resolve some things on my end.

    Hey, you know, I bet you could solve the world's problems with this strategy....

    Churchy thoughts, reflections of Saturday's time with the homeless.

    Ideas on how I could start writing more of my stuff, creative plots, beautiful vignettes.

    Seriously, mind-blowing, revolutionary sagaciousness was flowing with the blood pumping through my mom-bod.

    See also: bordering on delusional.

    I'm gonna have to write these down, these are so good!

    And then, scene.

    Workout is over, I'm dripping sweat everywhere (regrettably after the staff had just wiped the area down - sorry, folks), I'm in that blissed out state that occurs when one really moves and pushes their body.

    Go pick up the boys and wrangle them to head home.

    Arrive at casa del Meyer.

    And poof! 

    All insights are gone. What were those amazing thoughts?

    I suppose I'll need to start recording my thoughts as they pop up during my elliptical time.


    A tiny bit of me is scared the profundity will be much less in real time.

    You know, about as deep as "the."

    Friday, January 5, 2018

    When the 'sleeping dogs' grow restless Michael Mroczek
    When you grow up knowing your mother's partner, your air-quotes dad, isn't actually your father,

    It's kind of like being adopted.

    But not really.

    Because growing up with your mother and siblings

    Is not like being adopted.

    When you finally meet the paternal side of your DNA, at age 14,

    It's like a birth parent reunion.

    Except, you've known who he was all along.

    You went to school with your cousins.

    And you knew it.

    And they knew it.

    When trauma enters that newfound parent-child relationship,

    It's like death of a family.

    Especially when the book finally closes shut for decades on that brief chapter.

    Except, when social media allows you to look them up, see pictures of your then-toddler brothers all grown up and pushing 30,

    You know.

    It's not really like they're dead.

    They are quite alive.

    Without you.

    Are you dead to them?

    Do they remember?

    Wondering what half of your medical history is can be,

    Like being adopted.

    So much unknown.

    But you know.

    Exactly how to reach them,

    Should you have the desire.

    But that's the question,

    Do you desire to know and be known,

    More than you are comforted by the insulating comfort distance affords?

    Is the wondering insufferable to the point you must act?

    Or is the bliss of ignorance prized enough that these passing fancies of curiosity will be sated with a glimpse of your child's bone structure staring back at you through a screen?

    Almost 25 years ago, I met them.

    Nearly 17 years ago, the book of our relationship closed, both covers gradually moving a mutual direction toward the closure.

    And yet, a niggling curiosity will awaken.

    I don't always know why, but sometimes it isn't very easy to let the sleeping dogs lie.

    Monday, January 1, 2018

    Actualization: 2018

    I suck at New Year's Resolutions - always have.

    And ONE word for the year?

    Seems so constraining, so limited for this tangential, all-the-strings-in-my-web-are-connected thinker.

    So I did the vision board thing.

    Yes, the very thing that I've poked fun of over the years.

    You see, there's science that backs it, and I am determined AF (and, truthfully, a little lot overwhelmed) about making 2018 very, very different from 2017.

    There are a lot of moving pieces to this year:

    • First official semester (i.e. IN the program) as a grad student, taking two courses, not one
    • Going through the Family Leadership Training Institute, and harnessing my voice
    • Second half of Kelsey's junior year, i.e. figuring out life plans and making $#!t happen for her
    • Lacrosse season - high school and club for Colton and Chris, respectively
    • Seth going back to work
    • My appointment to the Colorado Children's Trust Fund Board
    • Answering the calling God has given me (see all of the above!)
    • Really pursuing my fitness/health, and taking care of myself
    • Pouring into my relationships
    So, I really needed something to bolster me as I pursue all of these things.

    The BIG words for 2018 that I am holding onto for dear life?
    • Awakening - civilly, spiritually, life path-wise 
    • Hope - we have to do better in our families, communities, country
    • Transformation - intellectually, physically, emotionally, spiritually
    • BREATHE - I have to take time to rejuvenate, PLAY, and create
    • Triumph - I will succeed where I put my mind to it
    • Active - I have to make time to be healthy
    • Tribe - my friends and family are priceless and I want to continually invest in them while adding new people to the tribe
    The small words are ideas for how to accomplish these things.
    • Find beauty in common places
    • Made in America with love (shout out to the idea of making America KIND again)
    • Daring Dissenter
    • Pioneers of HOPE
    • Refresh: Mind, Body, Soul
    • I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart
    • Truth be told
    • Because I have this crazy idea that my purpose is bigger than me
    • Breaking borders with Kindness
    • Class (as in the academic type)
    • Work harder
    • Relax
    • Gratitude
    • Write
    • Rejuvenate
    • Quest
    • Explore
    • Playtime
    • Camp
    • Getaway
    • Free to be you and me
    • Friends
    • #justsayhello
    • Surround yourself with inspirational people
    Can't wait to see what's in store!

    Tuesday, December 26, 2017

    My Unraveling

    If ever someone saw into my soul and summarized the anguish seen inside, "Queen BrenĂ©" did.

    I wouldn't say that this tug of war has been specific to the last couple of years (i.e. mid-life, I guess?) rather this pull between what I want to be and what I'm supposed to be has been the constant state of Heather.

    This year, twenty-seventeen, has been a rough one for me, and I'm beyond ready to shake it off.

    But, since my other strong female warrior she-ro, Glennon Doyle (Momastery), likes to say, "First, the pain, then the rising," I thought some reflection on the events of the past year was apropos.

    I started 2017 out with the knowledge that my beloved position with a local non-profit was ending due to an imminent layoff. The December to May job-seeking process, even whilst well-connected and known for excellent work, was more-than brutal. The vicious and exhausting cycle of opportunity - anticipation - rejection rendered my newly re-acquired confidence back to the level I'd had as the insecure little fat girl who always got picked last for kickball. That some of my interviewers were colleagues with whom I had worked made the notifications thanking me for my interest, noting, "but we went with another candidate," sting all the more. Mostly, though, I began to feel like this idea of living the life I wanted was a fantasy.

    In the middle of that anguish came the call that my grandmother had fallen in her home and broken her hip. Somehow, in that borderline psychic way I've always had about me, I knew it was the end for her. Her health had been declining steadily since her love affair with cigarettes had cursed her with COPD and a host of other ailments, leaving her independence and mobility all but gone. I knew in my heart of hearts that she would not return home.

    She would rather die than be put in a nursing home where she couldn't smoke, though. Grandma's compromise to it all had been to allow my aunt - long-addicted to meth and sex - to live-in with her under the ruse that she would be Grandma's 24/7 caregiver. The quality of that care was laughable, but as all other aspects of that life had been dysfunctional, they made it "work." I had been appalled by the filth and food hoarding (MONTHS of leftovers in the fridges - yes, two lovelies filled with grotesque science experiments) when Mom and I flew out in 2015. During the summer of 2016 visit, were it not for us stopping by with breakfast each morning, unbeknownst to my aunt, Grandma's first meal of the day would not be until late afternoon.

    I talked to Grandma in the hospital after she'd had surgery to fix her hip, and she lamented that I wasn't there. A couple of days later, she contracted pneumonia in the hospital and I borrowed money (more like my dear friend shoved it upon me, bless her) to fly out there and be with her. At the same time, I was able to offer my cousin some desperately needed respite. She was juggling work at a new job with being a young, single mother of 3 boys against the desire to have someone with Grandma at all times.

    It is hard enough to lose someone you love. Harder still to watch them fend off the regrets and demons of a life wrought with betrayals, abuse, and secrets no soul should ever have the burden of carrying, as they die a torturously stretched out death. I've written about this previously, but it is time to really process.

    I arrived on Wednesday evening. My cousin and I drove from the airport to the hospital straightaway. Grandma looked so pale and frail, even thinner than she had been just six months prior. She knew and recognized me, and scolded me for spending money to come see her. I told her to save it for someone who would listen, that I was a stubborn broad, too. She grinned at that and said, "Well, okaaaayyy," in her wry, sing-songy way she always had, "Then I guess Imma glad you're here." That moment of lucidity was short-lived, as within moments I was a man she didn't want touching her, as she snatched her hand out of mine.

    My cousin and I spoke at length with a male nurse that night regarding her disorientation and hallucinations. He perfunctorily surmised it was dementia and that she'd had it for a long time. Hope and I firmly said, "Impossible," even as he reasoned away that many dementia patients "pass" the daily tests of living by relying on the cues of a familiar environment. I told him that may well be, but that when my kids and I visited that was VERY out of the norm and she never skipped a beat, let alone when we talked on the phone. Both of those "tests" would have failed at some point if she'd had dementia. He showed us her brain MRI and pointed out a bleed that looked to have been chronic, saying that it would be miraculous if she didn't have dementia because of the oxygen deprivation her brain had experienced for what looked to be a long time.

    That was the first inkling for me that she'd actually had a stroke first, which caused the fall, resulting in the hip fracture. God, oh, my dear Lord, the exhaustion of having to play forensic detective and medical advocate, while also begging my loved ones to face the music that despite the doctors' sunny outlooks, she was not going to survive. It was soul-depleting.

    I spent all day Thursday with Grandma at the cursed hospital room. She saw the souls of many who'd gone before her in that room, and conversed with them, fought with them, sometimes telling me what the contexts for these vignettes were. Often, I had to guess, educated by the pieced-together revelations of many dark family secrets.

    Someone had called Adult Protection Services on my aunt, concerned regarding the circumstances of Grandma's fall. My aunt began furiously texting my mother and me about that situation. Minutes later, the APS worker came to visit my Grandma and me. Never a dull moment. Grandma was sharp and lucid during that time, for the first time all day. She could barely take in any liquids, let alone food, and I constantly had to swab her dried, sunken mouth to get the chunks of dehydrated spittle out of her. She was in a constant state of agitation. So I sang to her for awhile, hymns of comfort and peace.

    Eventually, she was cleared for a transfer to a nursing home, where she would supposedly recover from the hospital delirium and the hip fracture, then go home. I knew otherwise in my heart. In the hours leading up to the transfer, her agitation and the ever-present death rattle in her throat just got worse and worse, to the point I felt her end was imminent.

    The transfer was bungled from start to finish. First the transferring medics came with a damned wheelchair, when clearly this was a gurney job. Hours later, they returned with a gurney into which to transfer her. They banged her hip on the rail, which caused her to cry out. The nursing home staff were not prepared for her meals since her arrival was well-outside their normal hours for such activity. The director came in to welcome us and explain everything, noting she would contact the kitchen for a liquid diet dinner, but she got called away to an emergency, from which she never returned. A couple hours later, when a CNA came in, I let loose my inner advocate - albeit professional, my anger had simmered all day about the incompetency from the hospital to there...that poor woman was terrified of me, and my cousin wondered in awe how I knew to be such an eloquent bitch without actually descending into vulgarity.

    Grandma entered a calm state, and we sat with her, my cousin, aunt (she'd finally showed up around 5pm, just as the transfer was happening), and me.

    My aunt bailed when Grandma had a painful altercation, bawling that she just couldn't stand seeing her like this. I roared, again, asking her - this time with plenty of vulgarity - how the fuck she thought I'd felt watching her heart-rending suffering all damn day. But, you can't reason with addicts, and she left, not realizing this would be her final goodbye. No doubt that haunts her today.

    She passed just a few short hours after Hope and I left her, sleeping peacefully, that night.

    Hope, my cousin Zaryn, my Uncle's son who had just been an infant when we'd moved from Washington to Colorado in 1993, and I managed the tasks of acquiring information from the funeral homes about options for Grandma's remains, which we would later relay to my mother, Power of Attorney while Grandma was alive, now Executor of her will. When we went back to Grandma's room to talk about arrangements with the funeral home director, we entered the scene of Grandma's body being put into the body bag, rather crudely and forcefully. Hope and Zaryn had to leave the room, while I broke with Mom on the phone. Just as I felt my knees start to give way, my body wracked with sobs, Zaryn's primal, keening embrace bolstered me. The fact that we were virtually strangers, yet his family devotion was so fierce caused me to weep even harder.

    It got worse from there. When Mom and my step-dad George arrived after their long haul from Colorado, we had to move through the grief-numbed motions of settling Grandma's financial affairs. What we found was heart-breaking. Exploitation in obscene amounts, leaving my mother with serious debts to settle and precious little in the bank accounts.

    Along with the normal phases of grief anyone goes through with the loss of a loved one, were betrayals that only compounded the emotions we had to navigate. I have found myself asking God how any one of the women in my family's history could ever have seen evidence of His hand in their lives, so much evil had colored their lives. Why do some people have so much ever-present trauma in their lives from birth to death that their souls are the hardened soil Jesus spoke of in the parable of the seed-sower? No hope for the Unreachables. Just how and where is the mercy in that? And for someone to quote John 3:16? Puh-lease.

    I'm still struggling with that. My walk with God this year could be illustrated as an arduous hike, riddled with fallen logs that have ripped chunks of my flesh off me, boulders that have caused me to slip and fall, repeatedly skinning my knees, elbows, and smaller rocks that have caught my foot, resulting in breath-robbing falls that have left me gasping. And I don't know that I can say that I've arrived on the other side of this period....yet. I'm still taking steps toward wounds keep coming open again, but each time they close up a bit, then re-open, smaller. I know some day, those wounds of my battered faith will no longer be scabs that hurt as the oozing restarts, but scars and bruises, painful to touch, but no longer vulnerable to the threats of infection. For now, though? I'm still awfully tender and would ask that you're careful with my heart.

    I returned days before my job timed out. The job that helped me re-see myself as the capable, confident, and stronger-than-most woman I am. I returned to the soul-sucking task of job-seeking adding a layer of loss to the already fresh row of grief covering my heart. It felt like an unrelenting season of injury.

    In April, a job opening was made known to me that didn't just call to me, it screamed to me. So I applied, interviewed and got the call with the offer the morning of my 38th birthday. It marries my interest in disrupting inequitable systems/policies with empowering others, and has provided the resources for me to return to graduate school. That is a part of 2017 that I would never trade.

    The end of September, I was able to realize a dream that has been in the making for the past 17 years. My March Mommies had finally devised a plan to get together! Not all of us, but 10 of us! We planned on spending a weekend in Vegas, and it was a-mazing. It was the first non-work, non-family crisis overnight time spent away from my family in...ever. And with the women who've known me the longest, walked with me through some of my most difficult times? Paradise.

    Until the last few hours.

    We had decided that night not to go out, to just eat in at the hotel and play around inside. We played Ellen's Head's Up game and sang cell-phone karaoke, drank wine and ate an equal amount of gourmet goods and junk foods. Basically Moms Gone Mild. We'd had so much fun.

    And then, texts about the shooter began to hit some of our phones. Just down the street, the nation's largest (within the past century at least) mass shooting was unfolding. I can't describe the feelings of terror with a specificity such that someone could understand.

    Some people have said, "Well but you weren't really there, there," meaning I wasn't at the concert.

    And while they're not wrong, they also don't get what it is like to see people streaming the streets, running in fear, fear that is very real. They don't know what it's like to not be able to contact loved ones to assure and be assured that you are ok (Seth sleeps with his cell phone on silent, and it was after 11 in Colorado). They don't know what it's like to be in such a hyper-vigilant state that you pull an all-nighter. They don't know that when you need to seek answers, even if they infringe on your political views, that their invalidation is re-traumatizing and basically tells you, "I don't give a damn, nobody means more than my guns!"

    I was in a fugue like state for a week before I called the therapist. I had to be able to talk about it, and my family members weren't safe to talk about common sense gun control with, nor was Facebook the media in which to do so. I'm still seeing him.

    Then, Seth's fourth surgery in three years hit. It's taken a toll, and wreaked havoc with our family dynamics, from finances to division of labor, to in sickness and health, to is this the rest of my life, to mental health role reversal and my discomfort with it, coupled with a dawning realization...we are now at week 10 of what we thought would be an 8 week recovery. There've been moments of barely hanging on, where another downed log on my faith trek clawed deep enough to reveal bone and require stitches. Thankfully, family and our church have shown up.

    In a BIG way. 

    For that, the Lord blesses you, and we are beyond grateful for the meals, cards with encouragement, and generous financial blessings.

    As it turns out, everything discussed here so far, all rolled together, brought me to the unraveling mentioned in the opening quote, facing some desperate questions:

    What do I really want in life?

    Who am I, really?

    Over the next several days, I am putting together my vision, hopes, and dreams for 2018 and beyond.

    First off?

    Saying 'Bye, Felicia,' to the trials of this year, and clutching the precious teachings 2017 provided close to my heart, carrying them into 2018. Growth mindset, baby.

    Saturday, December 16, 2017

    This has been hanging out in my drafts folder....

    Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash
    Summer is officially winding down.

    The boys both started school yesterday. three weeks ago Friday. Who are we kidding, winter break is next freaking Friday. Maybe that says a bit about the craziness of the past 6 months, particularly the last 4 since school started?

    3rd grade


    Do not get me started about the ridiculousness of starting school on a Friday.

    Kelsey starts started on a Monday. Three weeks ago tomorrow. (see above - the year's half over)

    Junior year.


    Anyway....Monday is (August 21st) was back to school for me, too.

    Yes, 20 years after I first stepped into a Colorado State University classroom, I will be returning returned to the Clark building, the building in which 90% of my undergrad classes were held, the building that housed that infamous basement bathroom wherein I learned I would be accompanied across the graduation stage.


    See also: Time, it does jet on by.

    Once again, I've found myself in that odd rhythm of life that brings things full circle. Despite so much changing everything stays much the same.

    **** And that's where the train of thought ended, my friends. I was probably called to attend homework problems or my alarm went off to go pick up one of the children.

    Where I was going, I'm not quite sure, but I figure I'll hit publish for the hell of it.