Tuesday, September 29, 2015

runny noses, chicken soup and marmie.

I feel like you know you've reached a memorable moment in your adult life when you make chicken soup by yourself. You didn't make it in mama's kitchen, you didn't have her help, and no she definitely did not make it for you. You made it all by yourself... or at least tried to.

Sunday morning I woke up with a harrowing sore throat and stuffy nose.
Ah yes, cold season, where sniffling noses, hacking coughs, hot tea, vitamin C and balled up tissues flow eternally. 
No matter how hard you try to avoid sickness, somehow it always gets you. It's like induction into every new season.

Obviously this calls for chicken soup, right?

Odd how when you're sick, the only one you want to take care of you is your mom.
I don't care how old you are... how old I am, I will always want and need my mom.
She knows how to soothe a heated brow, an upset stomach, a ruby red, raw nose, a broken heart and a weary mind. She knows how to make soup for the soul and sustenance for the heart, not just my immune system.

So it's odd when you're living on your own, feeling wretched, wanting soup, and realizing that the only person who's going to make that soup for you is yourself. It's half liberating out of human ego, yet half victimizing because you feel prey to not having your mom make you soup while you wallow under the covers.

Regardless, I set out to make chicken soup, a recipe I had found on Pinterest because let's face it, Marmie doesn't have a recipe for chicken soup... she just puts it together with this and that and it's always amazing. So I set out to make this recipe, only to find that I had not quite half the ingredients.


With runny nose, Kleenex box in hand and a Cold Eeze lozenges stuffed in my mouth, I set out to make my soup with random ingredients from the fridge. This was the lovely recipe (if you care to take a stab at it) that should have ensued, however my pajama clad, indisposed self only procured the following:
• garlic
• carrots
• chicken
• fresh basil
• chicken stock
• rice
• lemon
• eggs

Needless to say, the soup was eventually concocted and simmering. Somehow it turned out pretty tasty, despite all the missing ingredients. It also turned into not quite soup because I didn't have enough chicken broth, but alas, what's a sick girl to do? It was food, and it was hot and I ate it.

Runny noses and chicken soup aside, it just made me that more grateful for my Marmie.
Love you Mom.
(See how it's not actually soup? Oh well... I tried, I suppose.)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

moments of impact

It's funny how certain moments can become so engrained in your memory; how time can pass, yet you can still remember where you were, what you were doing, what you were wearing when something happened.... in fact it's almost scary how moments of impact can become apart of your psyche. Some memories just stick.  

I remember everything when I first cried. We were living in Fredericksburg and I was four, wearing a pink silk nightgown; my favorite one with little roses at the neck. It was 3am, I was painfully sick and couldn't sleep so mom stayed up with me and put on Beauty and the Beast. I cried when the Beast died because I remember something hurting inside. 

I remember everything when I heard I was an aunt for the first time. We were living in Lexington and I was 13, wearing plaid shorts and a brown shirt. My hair was red from henna. It was raining and we got the phone call that Liam was born. Such exuberance ignited in my heart in that moment. I could hardly breathe from excitement.

I remember the day I got my first job.

I remember my first day in France. 

I remember everything when I heard my grandfather had died.

I don't want to remember that so well.... I don't want to remember it at all. 

I was staying in Staunton with my parents and I was 21, wearing pajamas and watching TV, but I wasn't paying attention. My makeup was still on... I was putting off going to sleep. Mom came home from the assisted living home to pack a night bag because she thought this was it. I asked if she wanted me to go, half desperate to be there with her, half dreading the thought and wanting to resist the reality by staying home and watching TV. She said no... she knew. She understood. And with packed bags she left. 

A movie was playing, I don't remember what because I was staring. Staring through the screen. Was
 trying so frantically to think about anything but him. Yet no matter how hard I tried, every image on the screen morphed into my Pop-Pop. Then my phone buzzed. 

He's gone... 

Nothing prepares you for that. No matter how many times you tell yourself the reality.. the truth of what's coming.. it never hits until it happens. It's never truth's true. And no amount of words or preparation can protect your heart from the throb that ensues... your ribs from the tightness that clenches... your lungs from the lack of oxygen... your eyes from the excess of fluid... your throat from the foreign sound of anguish slowly escaping in erratic tremors. 

It's been four months since Dr. William Elgin Harman passed away. I haven't written about it because I haven't wanted to revisit this. I thought perhaps my mourning had just passed by quickly.. that I had processed everything already and was fine. But I didn't process anything, I just shoved it down, swallowed it. I didn't realize it was still there until I saw a video of him. Christmas morning, everyone opening presents. I was traipsing around in a red Christmas dress, wild hair tumbling behind me. I was crazy - loud, boisterous, giggling and hanging on everyones arms.

And he just sat there. And he just watched. He was silent... and he saw everything - unlike me and my flailing arms. I don't even really remember that morning, probably because of my obnoxious ebullience. I saw myself opening a present from my brother Matt; a white Beanie Babies cat named Crystal. I still have her, and loved her from the moment my hands grazed her soft, white fur. Oh I was all thrill, running to and fro showing everyone my cat. Everyone laughed.. of course I liked the stuffed animal, of course I was acting like a 5 year old would. They would glance at the cat, "Oh that's so nice. That's so cute Sarah." But Pop-Pop.

Oh Pop-Pop. How could I not remember the way he looked at me?
"Look, Pop-Pop, look."
When I showed him that cat, when I watched him as a 21 year old woman through a screen of family videos... he really looked at that cat. And he really looked at me. Like it mattered.  Like it really mattered. Not that this was a game, but something so special, and so precious... and he really saw me. And yet I whisked off, youth that I was with avid buoyancy. What I wouldn't give to go back to that moment and wrap my arms around that neck just for his one look at me and my cat. What I wouldn't give.

I know that it is customary for people to be remembered for their accomplishments after passing. So while my grandfather has many praises to be said about him, as duly and respectably noted in his obituary, perhaps it sounds odd that I will not mention any of those. But they don't necessarily come to mind when I think of him.

I remember kind eyes. You've seen those before, haven't you? Not the kind that pierce your soul or grip you with intensity. They're the kind that cascade over you with gentle warmth. Like smooth velvet they drape you in unassuming compassion and put you at ease. I see them now, faded grey-blue, wreathed by winkled skin. I remember soft, almost hesitant hands. Ones that gripped you with strength upon first meeting, but that held or patted you with silent reassurance.  I remember his tender chuckling that was never abasing. I remember morning, the smell of blueberry pancakes, hot coffee and the sound of his hushed slippers shuffling into the kitchen. I remember story-telling, animated faces, side-splitting voices and distant, misty gazes when speaking of the war. I remember the love of nature, the smell of lake water, love of fish, love of simple. I remember chewy gingersnap cookies, Virginia peanuts and green peas. I remember flannel shirts and an old floppy hat. I remember binoculars looking at a TV. I remember a corner chair in room with orange carpet.

That chair is empty now.

Somehow these memories all created this wonderful grandfather I knew. I miss him, yes. I realize I won't ever hear his laugh again, hold those hesitant hands, see those kind eyes. But I think what hurts the most is being afraid that I'll forget all those little details. You see, those details would flood my mind every time I was with Pop-Pop. They were like the caulking of an old brick house that held it together, that made it known. But they don't come to mind anymore... because he's not here to bring them to mind. And forgetting those little details feels like forgetting him, forgetting the way he looked at me on Christmas morning. They're moments of impact, and ironically I didn't want to remember all of them because they hurt.

All I can say is I appreciate them now... I appreciate the hurt, because regardless of missing him, I remember it all... and remembering it actually heals. I learned many things from Pop-Pop, but he saved his best lesson until after he passed away.

He taught me what it meant to miss somebody. And I will always remember that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Goodness, how many times is she going to ask me the exact same question? 

I'm standing in the kitchen of my grandparents house, making dinner for them. I was working at a therapeutic horse program for the summer and decided to live with my grandparents to help out and be closer to the barn. The first week flew by, strenuous hours in the sun all day. I wasn't used to long hours in the heat so my body and brain felt fried by the time I got home to make a meal for my grandparents. I was too tired to notice anything different about them. Until that one night. 

She just kept asking the same questions. I'd reply in lengthy, long winded answers because that's how I talk. We'd shift into another subject, and then she would ask the same question again. I brushed it off initially and would just assume that she hadn't heard everything the first time. 
She'd ask again. Odd, I'd think. 
I answered, this time slightly shorter than my first answer. Dinner was ready and my grandmother would come to the table, followed by my grandfather who had been sitting in his corner chair the whole time going through mail. We said the blessing and then began eating. 
"So tell me what did you today?"
Really? A third time? 
"Don't you remember Mom-Mom? I told you when I got home that I was working at the barn." 
"Oh?... No, I don't believe you did." 
I would sigh, slightly perturbed and then I'd repeat the days events. 
This continued for the following weeks. Every once in awhile there would be bouts of anger, frustration and confusion mingled with her innocent, repeated questions. But her somehow blissful befuddlement was too sincere to ever get too frustrated with her. She had genuinely just forgotten that I had answered her question. 

This was eight years ago. I didn't realize what was happening at the time. I didn't put symptoms together. It wasn't until much later that my family saw the precursors for what they really were. The exasperation, bewilderment, displacement and fear.
This was dementia. 
This was a woman we knew who was slowly... painfully.... becoming a stranger. 

I don't say this flippantly or insensitively, but sometimes I think seeing someone with dementia is harder than having someone pass away. Because you see, when someone dies.. they're gone. They aren't coming back. The painful realization of never hearing their voice again, never seeing their face again.. it hits you like a sucker punch..and it keeps hitting you until the truth settles. You don't see them. They're gone. And eventually you move on. This doesn't mean the pain isn't still there.. it just means that its physical presence isn't staring you in the face.

Dementia isn't like that. 
You don't get to not see your loved one. 
You see them...every day...but it's not them. 
They disappear and then come back. Sometimes it feels like a cruel game of peek-a-boo that life plays with you. The person you know, their face, their voice, their physical form and being is tangible, is there before your eyes, interacting with you. One second you're there embracing this beautiful person... the next, they're gone, completely forgetting who they are, and you begin to question if you ever knew the person who sat in front of you. It's a continual state of touch and go. It rips you apart and puts you back together when the person you know returns. 

I don't know how my mother does this. Day in, day out, she sees her mother like this. Her own, beloved mother. Each day, each week, each month... time runs on. Time runs on my grandmother panicking because she's lost her phone, because she's lost her jewelry, her chocolates, her home, her husband whom she forgets has passed away, her mother, her father...herself. She forgets herself. 

My grandmother is in a wavering state of oblivion. Everything is fading for her... and she is fading from us. 

Deep breath. 

Oh this hurts. God, why does it hurt so abdominally? Why is it hard to breathe?  

It's moments like these, when pain and suffering flow mingled together, that life is most tangible. You can taste the pain through salty tears. 
You can feel the sorrow through quivered breath. 
You can hear the inward groans of despair. 
You can touch life and feel the sting of its mortality. 

It's moments like these when you feel it... 
It's moments like this when you see it...
It's moments like this when you know it...

Coursing through your veins, pulsing through your heart, your tears, your pain, your suffering, your realization that life is so fragile. 

This isn't a moral of the story post where I've learned a lesson. This is an honest confession of life, happening now. This is the reality that an ever present God is meeting me, meeting my mom, meeting my grandmother where we are. He meets us in the mire. In the oblivion state of mind that we all encounter. He meets us and He comforts us here. 

He is here, in the oblivion. 
And that's all that matters. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

the painter.

august 31st, 2015

dear journal, 

I felt like a painter today. How? Let me try to explain. 
My original walls in my life are painted with a myriad of colors. Some I love, some are okay, and some I'd rather not have on my walls, but I've learned to live with them. The wall is painted in a pattern that has been little influenced by me. It's a pattern of what others say my wall should look like. Sometimes I look at my wall and notice how awkward the patterns are. They start to go one way, making sense, and then all of a sudden go every which way possible. That's my life on that wall. And here is why I feel like a painter. 

Because I repainted them. Monday, August 31st started at 6:30AM. First day of classes! I woke up, had my coffee, took my shower, had devotions, made my bed, packed my bags, ate breakfast, headed out the door and had a glorious first day of classes. 
Except, wait. No. 
That wasn't my Monday at all. 
I'm not at school this semester. 

Reality says that Monday, August 31st started with my job at 7am of which I was scrambling out of bed at 6:41 still tired from closing the night before, tearing through dirty clothes because I haven't done laundry yet. Bed definitely didn't have the luxury of being made because finding a clean shirt, pants and shoes was enough to get me to work by 7 with a minute to spare. Face still swollen from sleep and groggy, blearing eyes still straining to find a cup of coffee. I had to leave work at 10 for a car state inspection. End of the month last minute details. Then back to work at 11:30 until 4:30. Wait! Bills need to be mailed today by 5! Writing checks, paying bills. First of the month last minute details that should be first minute details. Clean my room now? *Grumble* Oh yeah... you haven't eaten anything today. Maybe dinner is a better option. Between cooking and eating dinner with brother, time with neighbors, my housemate, cleaning the kitchen and my lack of enthusiasm for cleaning my room at this point or even thinking about laundry, my head hit the pillow at 10... Nope. Forgot to take out the trash, turn the porch light off and lock the door. 
Make that 10:05. Asleep in the minutes that followed. 

This isn't my usual schedule. It changes every day due to my job hours, but it's much different than last semester and last year. I actually love it and love that I decided to take a semester off. 

I read a quote the other day. And it hit me. 

"Once in awhile it really hits people that they don't have to experience life in the way they have been told to." - Alan Knightly

I grew up in an environment where everyone I knew (practically) went to college, graduated in four years, found a spouse, got married, had kids...etc. Not going to college never seemed like an option. None of that was ever pressured on me by none other than myself, but that was the norm I was following. Taking a semester off junior year or even thinking about it seemed unnerving. 
Well... no one else I knew was taking a semester off... so do I really need to? Maybe I'm just being lazy.. not smart enough? Not trying enough? Not enough to get through? Of course insecurities and doubts plague you when you wander off the beaten path. Taking a semester off to focus on working, what you want to do in life and even personal wellbeing and health was a huge step for me. It seems to go against the grain and that's uncomfortable. It's so sad and unbelievably frustrating that our culture and society doesn't celebrate people doing life at their own pace. How much anxiety, stress, depression and health problems have been caused due to this pressure of doing something the way that other people tell you to do it? 
I have stress, yes. Paying bills, fighting with landlords, making ends meet, planning a budget, working 40 hours a week... it's great. It can be busy, it can be tiring. But it's not crazy. I'm not doing something all the time. I can actually have a few hours to myself to write or to do nothing. There's a fear of being ashamed of that. Why? I think there's an odd sense of pride that comes from people being always busy. There's always something going on! Always an event, an activity... it's almost embarrassing sometimes when we're not busy... it's as though we aren't accomplished. Our identity becomes our business. At least mine did. And it wasn't worth the cost of my mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

I'm painting a new wall right now, and it's great because it's completely different than what I had before. I think our culture and society paints a picture of what our life should look like, could look like and we have the misconception that it has to look like whatever that is. Malarky. 

I thought I knew exactly what I wanted my life to look like. I had it all planned out. Turns out, I ain't got a clue! And it's alright. It's more than alright. I actually like figuring this all out as I go. So while part of me feels like I missed out on those first day back to school pictures and the excitement of a new school semester... I'm really happy that I decided to repaint what my norm looks like. I like this new wall and I can't wait to see what it looks like when I'm finished. 

Moral of this entry? Don't be afraid to paint... and don't be afraid to get messy with it.