Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chapter 2

H Norman Wright's Experiencing Grief: Pain and denial. Well the pain part is easy to identify and obvious. A choir friend's mother died 2 months after mom and she summed it up with, "When your mom dies you're instantly five again." Talk about childlike. There is no processing that loss. You have to get through it until the pain eases a bit.

Denial. I feel like I've been in an imposed denial. At first I was tired of crying but quickly realized putting that aside wasn't helping me. Going back to work, getting back into routines right away. I think that was a mistake. I think our corporate expectations of getting right back in are a mistake. I don't know how to change that but to encourage others to take whatever time they might need. I also think that once I realized the imposition I should have taken another week or so off work. I'm not quite sure how I could have done that given the insane schedule I had but had I put more thought into it I could have made it work.

So, there you go. Yes, pain, yes denial-whoever's denial you wish to define. I'm glad to be in education to have the summer off. It looks busy when I start listing what I've got coming up but I've intentionally kept the list to only things I really want to do. No doing things because I always have or that they're expected. I am jealously guarding my time as mine.

Next chapter: Grief is so disruptive.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Shy Calla

I had to pull aside quite a bit of leaves to get a nice photo of this one. Very shy, very small yet.

That was this morning. Here is another from this afternoon. Pretty!

I think I'm going to need to read the 2nd chapter of Experiencing Grief a few more times. Topic-Pain and Denial. Them's some powerful emotions for you.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

This IS Normal

My suspicions were right. My instincts on grief are fairly on target, so I read. The intro of H. Norman Wright's Experiencing Grief talks about our society not being so good at grief. I was right! The first little chapter is on the faces of grief. The two analogies are waves and dust storms. I think the wave analogy feels about right for me so far. When you fight the wave you get sucked under, when you yield to the wave's energy it moves around you, it moves you.

Yep, Yep. Felt that. Maybe that's why I sometimes feel like I'm exhausted, laying on the shore, wet and bedraggled. It's why at other times I'm over here when I used to be over there. It is disturbing to read that grief and mourning are "work" and a "lingering process". I feel that but it is not pleasant to see it in writing.

The promise in the book is that this is normal, I am not alone-was not my Savior called "Man of Sorrows?" Others have been and are on this journey, too.

If nothing else the books will keep me honest. I suspect I won't be able to read them without tears. The other two books are Helping Those Who Hurt and Recovering From Losses in Life. I think I'll take them one at a time.

I've been on a reading tear lately. I found a Debbie Macomber Blossom Street Book the other day, Twenty Wishes and devoured it in a few evenings. Nice, light, fluffy read! I finished the fourth in the Charles Stross Merchant Trader series. The fifth is out but I'm going to wait for the paperback.

I bought a friend the first two in Jan Karon's Mitford series this evening and managed to come home with three books for me. I bought Jennifer Chiaverini's The Cross Country Quilters for my vacation novel. I found and bought two more Charles de Lint novels, Forests of the Heart and Widdershins. I'm going to try to save one of them for my back up vacation novel. We'll see how that goes! It's a good thing that school is out.

SCHOOL'S OUT! Whoohoooo! My students went to "fun day" and were gone all day so I finished progress reports, getting them entered into the computer, and distributed to students to take home. My valient assistants packed most of the room. I have a few hours of clutter to take care of tomorrow morning before and after staff breakfast.

And as a parting gift I have to hold an IEP tomorrow. I have a student with declining physical skills (syndrome). We have to have goals and objectives in order to access low incidence funding for equipment. It shouldn't be a long meeting but one more thing new to be learned in a hurry this year.

My little favorites:

Waning Santolinas. I'm going to try to gather some of the seeds in a few weeks and plant them for next year in a different bed.

AND, the calla lily pushed up ANOTHER flower today. My photos didn't come out at all so I'll try again in the morning. It's another more delicate pink like the last. It's no wonder that brides love these flowers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Upward Spiral

It seems to me that my brain is revisiting grief moments. But something is different. While the memories are no less intense my reaction to them is more controllable. I am finding it easier to revisit some things-most of the time. There are still moments and memories that take me back into raw grief. I am learning not to stay there. At the same time the quantity of memories threatens to overwhelm me at times. Getting busy helps. Living in the present helps.

I remembered the term my friends shared after H. Norman Wright spoke at my church. Stabilize. They relayed his thoughts and recent experience that although the grief never goes away our reactions to it stabilize. I have 2 of his books on order.

The pink Calla Lily is up to seven flowers. Here's the latest:

It's a much more delicate pink that the first few. Lovely.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Boom Boom!

I heard the double sonic boom of the Space Shuttle Atlantis re-entry this morning at 8:35! I was able to watch the picture perfect landing on t.v. What a thrill! It's also a bit sad as this may be the last landing at Edwards Air Force base in CA given that there are only three more shuttle missions before the program ends.

Here's a NASA link for the landing: You can see video of the landing from the same page.

Yes, I'm a NASA fan. Dad worked for NASA at Dryden.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Or picking at scabs?

I started this blog as a way to keep track of my thoughts and feelings about Mom's death. I think it's been useful so far. And, I like seeing what gathers my attention. But, I somehow got sidetracked during church this evening and was thinking about the usefulness of reviewing the past (not so off track considering it was the point of the message-just not in the way I was thinking about it).

Is the process of recounting this last year as I did recently helpful or just pickin' at scabs? I was quite amazed at how fresh and intense some of my feelings and reactions were just to write it all down. Maybe it's time to read a book or two by H. Norman Wright. I certainly wasn't ready two weeks after Mom died. Maybe I am now.

This evening I was thinking more that all of this could get into "pickin" territory or wallowing if I wasn't careful.

My pink calla lilies put up a new flower today. I'm delighted. View from the top. I would have had to crawl around a tree to get the nicest side.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009


We have 4 days of school left in this school year. Wow. A year ago I was freshly mourning the loss of my program and having to work outside of my specialty. Just typing that brings up tears and feelings of loss that still take my breath away.

I've never had a school year with such a bad start. Admittedly I had a chip on my shoulder. I didn't want this job, this school, or to work with one colleague in particular. The entire fall was one long slog of learning who and what could trip me up. The hidden school culture was brutal. I was tattled on, ignored by colleagues, saddled with untenable demands, and offered minimal support. I had fellow employees treat me with disrespect and unprofessionalism. It was a whirlwind of unspoken expectations, too many children, a little meanness, and well, home.

Mom. I knew in my heart the number of her days was short but I had so little to give those few months. And then, my uncle was on the same journey as Mom, different path. It was so frustrating not to be able to "be there" for him as much as either of us would have liked. I managed to steal 20-30 minutes several days each week to come in and read to him. The Psalms became our touchstone. He recognized so many phrases, verses and passages from his time as an organist and choir director during his career. We shared bits of joy in worshipping together. He modeled for me patience in enduring his illness and circumstances. He looked forward to the day he would be united with Jesus and reunited with his wife.

December came and he was called home to worship Jesus in heaven. I can't wait to see him perfected one day. He carried such a burden of undiagnosed mental illness for most of his life.

Christmas came and we started Mom with Hospice. We could have started sooner but I couldn't take one more set of people fussing in and out of my world. Their presence didn't change anything for Mom as far as her care. Mom had minimal needs. It was a time of lasts, last time to worship together, last Christmas, last visit with her sister, last visits with her sons, last days with her daughters.

In the middle of releasing "my elderlies" came some respite at work. Our speech and language therapist went out on maternity leave a couple weeks early. District scrambled to cover weeks of school she thought she'd be working. Plan A had me and another SLP sharing the caseload, each taking one day/week. That lasted about 2 weeks when the other SLP's own caseload exploded with new referrals. She had to back out of helping out at my school. Plan B was me. I was reluctant to take both days only because the fall had been so difficult. I was so worried about missing a detail and being "called into the office" and taken to task. Oddly enough it was me rising to the task that brought support from adminstration for both jobs.

From the first day sitting at the table with 4 speech and language impaired Kinders I was happy. I knew what I was doing. I knew what I needed to do and what the children needed from me. Because of our SLP needed to extend her maternity leave I continued managing two positions from December to March. I believe that shepherding the speech caseload saved me from spiraling into despair and from giving less than my best to the children I work with. It was crazy busy but a gift from God.

I would rather have continued with both jobs but I knew her job was not mine. I also worried for "my kids" who had a sub two days a week while I was in speech. We needed to start preparing for state testing and I couldn't have my attention divided. I felt a great deal of relief at returning full time to my classroom accompanied by renewed sadness that I was in the wrong position doing the wrong job.

I was truly blessed to have the perfect job, work I was born to do for 23 years. All change is not good. I've learned a lot but I continue to believe that the loss of my previous program is a deep loss for the children of our district.

January comes and I'm still juggling at work. Sis was here and staying with Mom and her helpers. I regret not taking that week off but I had so much to prepare in order to be absent for 1-2 weeks. On the other hand, Sis and I may have just been tripping over each other. She had important gifts to give me: my sick leave and peace. Had I taken that time off I would have used all of my leave and lost pay. Had she not been there I would have felt frantic.

So, all of that leading to where my mind was a couple eve's ago: We're not very good at grief and mourning in our society. I know I covered this in an earlier post but it popped up for pondering. In hindsight I wish I had taken at least 2 weeks off after Mom died and just not worried about the sick leave, loss of pay, and not being able to take days off. Seriously, would God not have provided? Of course He would. At least now I can give counsel, should the need arise, to others. The day will be soon when two of my friends walk this path.

I'm hoping to take time this summer to "catch up" with myself in more deliberate and mindful ways than I have in summers past. I have no idea today what that is going to look like two weeks from now! Hopefully by then I'll have more and better plans.

Planning to plan. Now that sounds like my avoidance m.o.

Forgive me more photos but the Santolina continue as a source of daily joy. They are almost musical in both their sustained presences and in the little melodies of yellow they share.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Doesn't it just figure? Much, much later in the evening from my post yesterday I was ruminating and had some thoughts I figured belonged here. "It's late, I'll remember tomorrow." MmHmm, right. If I do remember where my mind was I'll be sure to run right in and post! And they were good, introspective thoughts on the process of grief and moving on. pft.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I have no idea what to say

today, really. Work, fine, home, fine, church, fine. Nothing awful, nothing exciting. I know! I'm grateful for an ordinary day.

It has taken about 3 weeks for some of the little Santolina's to open fully. I didn't even notice this last year. I am in awe of our Creator-God.

Friday, May 15, 2009

8 days and counting

Finally! I took a macro photo and it came out the way I wanted it! And yes, it's more Lavender Cotton. If you want to see how cool this little flower is click on the photo and see it on your full screen. It's amazing, gorgeous, and beautiful. When I look at something like this my heart knows it's Creator.

We have 8 days left in the school year. It's been such a relaxed ending. I'm even having time to think about next year and talk to my assistants about how we want things to be.

I'm in avoidance about "mom stuff" or "grief stuff". I do find myself not wanting to be with groups of people with whom I'm "close". I'm not going to Bible study, either of them. I don't want the intimate conversation about my life or other's lives. I still go to choir and bell choir and am enjoying them quite a bit. Conversations, while loving, are lighter. I'm guessing this is another phase in the grief walk.

I did have a lot of input for a friend whose mother is getting pressure sores. All of my experiences with mom are not going to waste! At the same time I can hardly stand to hear about other elderlies who are having a tough time. Though, the tougher stories to hear are the dementia stories. Makes me think of Dad in a sad way. I'm not wanting to be sad about Dad.

Although his dementia is progressing and his personality is changing he's a bit more, hmm, fun right now. He's more childlike and enjoys being in an experience. He's not completely childlike or dependent but it's a definate change. I bet the loss of sophisticated thought and action is frustrating and sad for his dear wife. I need to remember to call more often.

And, to close, I think this is my best Santolina picture to date:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I'm so enchanted by those tiny yellow flowers that I usually don't see them in context. They do brighten the corner of the front walk.

I wonder what else I walk by. Do I see the whole child at the table with me on a daily basis? Or do I see a collection of skills and deficit areas? Do I appreciate the entire experience of worship or is it all anticipation of the music? I wonder if my mental picture is stuck on the macro settings too often.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Awake my soul and with the sun thy daily course of duty run". Little flowers rising to greet the morning sun. It's not as obvious as sunflowers but Lavender Cotton flowers will follow the sun.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I don't think I have any. Focus, that is. Thank goodness the hardest part of the school year is done. My classroom life is unfocused, my home life is unfocused. I don't like it!

Even at bell choir the director stopped us midway and wrote FOCUS on the white board. We weren't our best ringing selves. Not the most awful we've ever been but the handy hint for better living was appropriate.

I don't even want to focus enough to make a plan. Well, kind of. I do want to make my summer plans-just not the plans between now and then.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Santolina Show!

I do believe I asked for masses of little blooms to pop open!

Brightening the flower bed under the Mediterranean Palm.

At dusk. I was trying to see if less contrast, less light would give me clearer photos of the flowers. I think it worked.

After working very hard with the macro setting here is the Santolina Photo of the Day:

And the runner up:

Calla Lily Pair: I spent a fun day with my younger niece and nephew on Saturday. It was her birthday but also Fire Services Day. Her Dad surprised her with a little birthday part at his station. He and her brother had made her a balance beam so she can practice at home! Grandpa came along and we had a fine time looking at different type of fire trucks. Some were those my brother had helped design. My brother also surprised the kids with their new pets, Sulcata Tortoises from Africa.

After reading up on them with the kids I can say these are not the tortoises for just anyone. They take some very specific care and need a large area or yard. At 12 years old they could weigh 25 pounds. They will grow to 100 pounds and be about 24 inches long. They are also very long lived and can be expected to outlive their owners.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Of Fridays, Fires, and Flowers

First the little tiny Santolinas (Lavender Cotton) are finally opening up....just a few. Cute, cute, cute. The flowers are less than 1/2 an inch when fully open. I'm hoping by time the weekend is over the mass of little flowers will be open. Cute, cute, cute.

I've been praying for the fire fighters and residents of the Santa Barbara area with the outbreak and spread of the Jesusita fire this week. My sister and brother-in-law are under evacuation orders. For tonight sis thinks they're safe. The fire is moving away from them.

Friday, yay! We have 13 days of school left and about that much work to get done. I haven't had a relaxed end to the school year like this-ever. I'm still busy with details, reports, cleaning up the room, etc. But, no IEPs. Usually I have 4-6 in May. None! I didn't think it was possible.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oh my.

We had our usual Thursday lunch, a friend and I. As we were leaving and she was talking about her mother-in-law and husband, who are both ill, I encouraged her to contact Hospice. It might be too early but they will assess for her and let her know. She needs more help. She needs professionals to go to bat for her loved ones and to make their days easier.

So, we say good-bye. I hop in my car and promptly dissolve in tears. Everything from Mom's last three weeks, from Christmas to starting hospice to the night before she died when she was jello in our arms, came flooding back. Such treasured and difficult days. Such grief.

It's a good thing I had to get back to work or I may have sat and sobbed for more than a few minutes. Oh my.

More Lavender Cotten/Santolina:

The Amaryllis haven't quit yet:

Mom's Calla Lily has a little friend:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Some days......Other days.....

Some days I have a migraine and this makes it go away:

Other days I take this again a few hours later, have a nap, and then take some tylenol, too. It's dulled enough for me to enjoy choir but it's not gone. Pleh.

Monday, May 4, 2009

This was Mom's

What a lovely surprise. I went out to take today's photos of the Amaryllis show and found this, too! I gave it to her one spring, Easter, birthday.

I'm happy and pleased to have this lily blooming (miniature calla) but sad at the same time. It makes me miss Mom, miss bringing her things, miss knowing that even if she couldn't focus on the flowers I knew that she liked them anyways.

The Amaryllis Show yet continues:

I like how ruffly this latest Amaryllis is. Bloom of the Day:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Spring Rain

A soft, warm rain is falling. It was spitty and dusty earlier. This should keep the dust down for the rest of the weekend. It's Relay for Life. They don't need to be walking in the dust.

I'm enjoying having things on an even keel. State testing is over at school and I have no more IEPs. I don't cry so much at church. I do think of mom often. I have a few friends whose mom's are not well or have recently died. I just hug them and tell them, "I know." They'll call if they need me and I'll keep checking in with them.

Last night was my nephew's jazz vocal ensemble's concert, his last with them. They were marvelous. I so enjoyed every piece they presented. Several stood out but I got the feeling that what stood out for one audience member wouldn't be the same for the next. I love that. I'm so happy I took the time to be there.

The amaryllis show isn't quite over. Here are today's photos:

Bloom of the Day: