And Then We Watched the Sunset

I started writing this post last spring, when it had been one year without my mom. While it is very personal to me, I felt it was time to share. I know Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for some but a mother’s love is forever. Be sure to squeeze your people tight while you can. And don’t spend too much time in that place of hurt. It’s more than acceptable to grieve and feel but take time to remind yourself of all the goodness that still surrounds you. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there. You do the greatest work known to mankind.

I wanted to watch the sunset with you today. So, I went to the prettiest spot I know here. Where you can look down into Latah Valley and see it all. Trees, the first signs of spring. Life moving forward. Even if it I felt as if it stopped, I knew that wasn’t true for everybody else.

I wanted to watch the sunset alone, except for you of course. We listened to Elton John because I know how much you love him. It was a little bit chilly outside but I didn’t care. Being with you that day was really all that mattered.

I wanted to watch the sunset because I knew I’d find you in the moment where everything becomes still. When the hues of yellow, blue, orange and pink all blend together on the pallet of sky, finally disappearing into complete darkness.

I wanted to watch the sunset because things needed to feel real. I didn’t want sympathetic looks from strangers or the “I’m sorry’s.” They mean well and heck, I’m sure I’d do the same, but gazing at the sky with you finally brought back some normalcy into this life.

 

I wanted to watch the sunset, not to be reminded of everything I’ll miss, but of what I still carry with me. The concerts and plays where I found you in the stands. Silly moments and arguments. Cooking lessons where I spent more time with my nose in a book than actually learning how to cook. Christmas mornings and holidays where we didn’t have a single place to be except together.

I wanted to watch the sunset but also I didn’t. Because of what that would mean, of what I would feel. Of the tears flowing too easily. For what I would learn in this shared quiet moment between you and I. In the way the memories flood back, making it difficult to catch my breath. So for a bit I could forget the unfairness of it all, shrinking away from the tragedies that form our stories.

I wanted to watch the sunset because to say I needed a place to visit you sounds so cliche but yet, I did. To glimpse past the veil that seems to separate us at times, between those who are here and who have left. To see more in the stillness than we generally allow. To recognize that the love is greater than the loss.

I wanted to watch the sunset. So we did. It wasn’t perfect but it was beautiful. It was the point where bliss and hurt coincide. The sharpness of the pain meets up against your unbroken love. We hurt, we heal, we start again. In it all, we never stop loving. In the sunset that day, though I felt my foundation was shaky, I found assuredness in you. In each gift you’ve given. In each smile. In every moment I saw your heart. And wouldn’t you know it, the sun keeps rising and setting. Just like that glorious circle, your love reminds me to rise and to rest. To cover all I can with my own love and warmth.

Thank you for so very many of my best days and for the strength to make the rest of my days as beautiful as those I spent with you. I love you mom.

18446900_10154671293153763_1240181830749525525_n

 

Mom-isms & Mending

So, I realize when I say mom this can be somewhat confusing because to me, I always sort of felt there were two ladies that I was able to call “Mom.” I lived with my birth mom in Wisconsin until I was about 6 years old and then I moved to Montana, where I was raised by my stepmom and dad. I visited my mom in Wisconsin every summer, at Christmas, and eventually lived in Wisconsin for awhile, where I graduated college. While the story doesn’t fit into the mold of your typical household, I’d like to think that these two gave me unique perspectives and love in this lifetime of mine. Many of you have heard me share stories of my stepmom and now, I’d like to delve into what I’ve gained in my other relationship.

My mom flew from Wisconsin to visit me this past week and while the weather was dreary and gray most days, we made the best of it. We took a trip to Wallace, Idaho and although our hike was put on hold due to the snow, we found some unique spots to stop at. There was shopping, cleaning and maintenance of my living space (thanks Mom), wine tasting and Mamma Mia. Oh, and let us not forget the delicious meals! So yes, it was an enjoyable trip and I’m thankful I could show her the place I’ve called home for the past three years. In light of this week, here are a few tidbits I’ve taken away from my mother:

  1. A love of wine.
  2. Dance parties in the living room to the musical stylings of ABBA will always be needed.
  3. Never underestimate what a great pair of shoes can do for your day.
  4. Sometimes you will make mistakes but the very best people in your life will keep loving you.
  5. Moms will often know your life and/or decisions before they happen. For example: break-ups, relationships, whether or not I will go back to school, etc. I have yet to understand this strange phenomenon because I do not have children of my own. When I call her with the latest happenings in my life, she generally has already informed me things would go this way at some point in the past. I’ve found I often have to learn these lessons for myself and she can just keep predicting the future in the mom way that she does.
  6. Laughing at yourself makes life a whole lot easier.
  7. Standing on our own isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it is essential to seeking out that which makes us who we really are. 
  8. Don’t forget to have fun or life will really suck.
  9. Sometimes you just need to cry to your mom.
  10. Each relationship in our life will look a little different. It isn’t about HOW it looks, but instead, if we are doing our very best to cultivate it, even if it’s difficult. Life is rocky, uncertain and all around frightening at times. Mending those relationships doesn’t mean we are settling. (Unless that person is harming you physically or emotionally, in which case, you should stay far away.) After the dust has cleared and we take a step back, we can find good. 

img_20170323_171130217.jpg

img_20170321_131335918_hdr.jpg

33188.jpeg

Thanks for visiting me Mom. Looking forward to more adventures in the near future. 🙂

Blessed by Your Love: What I Found in Losing My Mom

I have put off writing this. All day I have wrestled internally with keeping it together so nobody knows the immense hurt that is bubbling to the surface inside. I have wanted to put off this “feelings” part altogether because the pain is unreal. Contrary to the hours, days and weeks we account for, grief is one aspect that cannot be measured. The loss of your presence in my life strikes abruptly. Tiny  moments and increments that sneak into my life. At a wedding when a mom looks at her daughter with more love than she could ever hope to convey. When I find something that reminds me of you. A holiday, birthday or anniversary.

I didn’t know the world would keep spinning. That time would creep on, ever so slowly, keeping us all in its steady rhythm. That my tears would flow less often but my heart would still bear a fault line, your name forever etched in. How certain memories might make me burst into a smile with thoughts of you, yet others would cause me to pause in the moment as I realize I can no longer reminisce with you. How different of a world this is than the one I had envisioned, the one where you were there.

A friend once told me that my mom isn’t really gone, that I can simply start talking wherever I am, out in nature or during my day. That she’s right there with me. I’d like to note that, even as a woman of faith, just how badly I wanted to call bull on that. How I have still spent these past two years hurting, harboring anger at times, and navigating the ways in which I can lighten this burden. But then, I thought, what if she’s right? What if this is part of the healing process? This hurting heart is searching for peace and despite how stubborn I can be, I’m willing to try.

Dear Mom,

I feel I never thanked you as much as I should have. That I am still mad at how life played out and a couple of years during college were wasted in anger. I am simply amazed by all I still learn from you, how much more sure I am of myself now and that I know you would be so proud of me. Your strength was remarkable and your unending love was displayed in your willingness to always put your children first. I’m the luckiest for being able to call you mom!

I found fun in everyday moments. I found courage to stand up for what is right and true. I found that family doesn’t always mean blood but as long as the love is strong and welcoming, none of that matters. We were able to mesh that which was familiar and that which was new to create something lasting. Families are NOT picture perfect and I am so sorry I felt they needed to be. You will forever be an incredible woman and mother to me. 

 

I found somebody who believed in me. Someone who watched me play the clarinet at festivals and concerts, supporting my love of music. My biggest fan at my school plays, laughing in all the right places. You gave so much of yourself that I often wonder if there was any room left over for you? I will never understand how you did it all. Working late hours each day, dinners often prepared for us ahead of time, and still attending our events. You held us up and you held us together. The hardest working woman I knew, hands down.

I’m just now beginning to see how extensively you shaped me. How your love is still reaching me even after you’re gone. And no matter how many times others may have said that to me in the past, it is only now starting to feel that way. So yes, maybe I did need to get out of my own way. Quit overthinking and drop my uncertainty. (I’m also learning that there are no rules in grief, more of a feeling things out as you go along.)

In reflecting over all that you were, you helped me to discover who I am. I am capable and gifted. I am strong and loving. I am able to give because you continually gave all. I am forever held up by you and that can never be taken away from me. The pieces of you that reside within me are cherished and shared with the world.

Instead of wishing for more time, I’m going to be praying for more grace and keep filling my life with as much love as I can. Undoubtedly, your love was the best gift of all. The one which allowed me to reach the pinnacle in order to view myself and our relationship with more clarity. Sweet, sweet love that keeps finding a way to open my heart a little more each day. 

I love you Mom.

 

 

 

Notes to My 11-Year-Old Self

This week, my littlest sister turned 11 years old. I can’t believe how fast she’s grown! I remember finding out my mom was pregnant when I was 16, shocked and a little upset that this newcomer would be throwing off the balance of our already established family (after all, we were a family of 4 and that was pretty much perfect). But oh, how wrong I was. And I’m so glad! She was born and I loved her, doted on her and had a blast watching her grow from a spunky toddler to a big-hearted young lady. I can’t wait to see what big plans she has in store for the world and what life will bring as she matures. As I reflected on her big day this week, I couldn’t help but wonder….what do I wish I had known at 11??

Hey 11-year old self,

It’s me. The grown-up version of you. You’re much older now (28 to be exact), though really not that much taller. That’s alright because after some struggles, you’ve really come to love and accept who you are. You’re even a fan of your freckles and curly hair! (Who knew that day would come??) I bet you didn’t know it at the time but Harry Potter turned out to be a pretty big deal! (They even made movies out of the 7 books J.K. Rowling wrote! Amazing times we live in.) And, in a crazy turn of events, you’re going to have a littler sister one day (she’ll show up about 6 years from now) and she’s going to be just as obsessed with Harry Potter as you are.

So, you’re in 5th grade huh? You’re probably pretty bummed because, from what I recall, that’s the year your best friend moved away. But, don’t worry! You’re going to become best friends with somebody else in your tight-knit class and you will have SO many laughs together, all the way until graduation day! Also, this is the year you end up getting glasses. I know, I know you think they’re dorky but you MUST wear them. One day, you’ll have really cute ones! You won’t even hardly want to wear contacts eventually because you’ll end up liking your new glasses so much.

Right now, you don’t think you’re pretty and that feeling is going to last for awhile. You’re going to have reservations down the road and a great deal of self-doubt as to whether you’ll EVER feel pretty. Well, little miss, I am here to assure you that yes, you are freakin’ beautiful and you’re just going to morph into this lovely young woman before you know it! (And, don’t forget, you’re going to dislike that you look so young but you’ll come to realize it’s a blessing one day.)

You don’t care much for boys because you know there will be lots of time for that one day. I can’t lie darling girl, you’re going to get your heart broken and you’ll break some hearts along the way too. After your most heart-wrenching breakup, you’ll wonder if love is even within your reach. Then, one day, somebody is going to carry you when you feel too weak, reminding you that yes, it’s real, lovely, and true. He’s going to be quite wonderful and, over time, you’re going to become an incredibly strong woman. (In large part, thanks to this amazing man and all the ways he has continuously shown you how much you are capable of.)

10544329_10152346290543763_3133002623135834964_n

You’ll really learn to love yoga….and sometimes do said yoga with dogs

282293_10151485710343763_1884634081_n

You’ll live in an adorable studio covered in ivy…and find ducks wandering around your neighborhood

562298_10151452403768763_1276063774_n

Finally, you’ll adventure to the breathtaking country of Spain for a wine class and occasionally chase after goats

In all of this, I urge you to really, really love life. Fill your cup up with experiences and adventures. With laughter and beautiful memories. Though I don’t wish to frighten you, you’ll lose somebody extremely close to you and although you have read the stories and seen the movies, you will be shaken by the reality of how this awakens you to your very core. This loss will precede that difficult breakup and you will transition into the darkest period of your life. But, never stop moving. Yes, you must heal and recover from this achingly painful time but I implore you to push through. And, as I am a witness, I know that you do. You are resilient.

622414_10151066083478763_1974802433_o

The muse that inspired this post (when she was a lot smaller!)

335978_10150947778833763_720097880_o

Always, always smiling

So, 11-year old self, your life will be anything but a walk in the forest but just know, you’ll reach the other side. Never give up on that huge heart of yours. It is going to do incredible good during your time on this Earth. Each day you wake up, incorporate fun wherever you can. Don’t be afraid to fail at your dreams because it’s better to have tried than to have lived a life wondering, “What if?.” You are smart, talented and valued in this great, big world. Find peace with your unique design, utilize your God-given talents and love like there’s no tomorrow.

 

Sincerely,

28-year old Heather10426876_10152240749293763_5916045892170636038_n

Feeling Deeply & Loving Fiercely

To the girl crying in the airport terminal, I see you because you are me. The one who misses her family or significant other with an aching so badly, you fear it could leave a hurt permanently etched deep into your heart. I feel you, sister. You are not judged for the snot running down your face and the enormous tears dripping down your cheeks. Or the fact that you would really like a beer and good conversation to make you momentarily forget the pain that comes with leaving. And maybe a quiet spot to send a quick text, reminding those you love of just how much they mean. Yes, you probably have a pretty neat outlook on the world. You love mighty fiercely and continuously, like a fire whose embers continually burn, despite the conditions surrounding it.
As a young girl, you might have felt you didn’t fit in. You cared (and still do) so deeply for those you love that any harm that came to them instantly created intense emotional turmoil within. You cried during the sappy movies, or when you felt you weren’t good enough, when that boy broke your heart, and when you fought with your best friend. I’m telling you that’s OK. Don’t fight that compassionate, sensitive side of you. I think the word sensitive has gotten a bad rep lately, especially in regards to how we raise our young boys to be men. Sensitivity is not equal to weakness and certainly doesn’t mean you can’t handle the situations life throws you. It means the way you input information and emotion is different from those around you. That you believe in encouragement, kindness, and love. That your heart is a well of unending goodness and you’d love nothing more than to share it with others.

Use your powers for good Supergirl and don’t ever, for even one second, let the insanity of life jade you. You were meant to feel with all the beautifully sewn together pieces that God gave you. Sometimes that means the tears don’t stop for a bit but just know that, eventually, you will have figured out the best possible way to channel all of that emotion. Even if that might mean going to a room on your own to collect your thoughts or simply just accepting the fact that bawling in your seat on the plane is what works in that moment. You will decompress, pull yourself together, and keep loving today, tomorrow, and the day after. One day you’ll even know yourself so well that, despite the hurt, you know exactly what you need to bring yourself back up from that down. And finally, you will find somebody who loves that sensitive side of you, even if they are the complete opposite. They will wrap you in their love when you hurt, reminding you that the pain will subside in time. With tears comes renewal and a reminder of what it means to be human, that there are still things worth fighting for in this madness. You are a wildly brilliant canvas and those tears just blend those colors together a bit, creating something incredibly gorgeous and new in the process. Feel every single bit of it.

Missing all of these beautiful people!

Thanks(for)giving Me Hope

I hope you all had a beautiful Thanksgiving! And for those whose heart aches during the holiday season, may you have found a bit of peace, however fleeting, and surrounded yourself with love. 

My Thanksgiving was filled with more food than I ever deemed imaginable. And don’t get me wrong, it was beyond scrumptious. But more importantly, that day was also overflowing with an abundance of love.

After losing my mom, I wasn’t sure if I could feel those happy feelings on a holiday again. Last year was my first holiday season without her and my heart ached deeply. I have truly beautiful people who fill my life and while they have helped to make this journey easier, it is one that I have largely had to walk alone.

I dreaded Thanksgiving Day. I was afraid of being happy, especially after a loss, because I have this tugging feeling that at any moment it can collapse. And if I’m being honest, I sometimes feel guilty for being happy, though I know in my heart that my mom would want nothing more for me than that. So, for the past week or so, I have been sad, slightly bitter, and a little angry as I put up a wall around my heart.(My sincerest apologies to those I love who put up with me.) I wrote, went running (not the best idea when battling a cold), cried a whole bunch and did whatever else was necessary to wade through this.

15725889294_12350eaeaa

Photo Credit: symphony of love Flickr via Compfight cc

I was fearful of the feelings the holiday would bring until….I awoke that morning, reminded of what an amazing man I have in my life. Until we stopped at the coffee shop where his sister works and I was filled with happiness (and delicious coffee!) at seeing her smiling face. Until we walked into his parents’ house and I was blown away with gratitude for how his equally amazing family has always welcomed me with open arms. Yes, grief can bring fear and sadness but the opposite of grief is joy, which brings with it a whole other array of feelings such as gratitude and love. I was so scared of breaking down that day, that I didn’t fathom the possibility of being lifted up by love. 

img_20161125_151057.jpg

I’m pretty sure this is the only picture I got all day.

Of course, I miss my mom. That part doesn’t go away and I am reminded when that gut-wrenching pain comes somewhere out of left field. However, through all of this darkness, I have grown increasingly grateful for the moments of light, as I don’t wish them to go unnoticed. So, on this Friday I am feeling an enormous amount of gratitude for all of you and the hope of better days that you have instilled in me. I can’t help but feel so much love for you all.

Thank you for reminding me of all the reasons I have to be thankful.