in 66 days

In 66 days, I will be pinned as a graduate nurse.
I am over-the-moon excited, and wildly terrified if I’m being honest, about the direction our lives are taking.

And while I’m being honest, I’ll tell you that I have no idea where I want to be when I start my career.

But I know who does…
And I trust Him implicitly.

Happy June!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

supporting grief

I laugh at myself when I think back to the time when I thought I was prepared for this.
I actually thought I had prepped myself adequately for grief.
And I did.
To the best of my ability, at the time.
I had pretty limited experiences with loss when Chad got sick; and those losses, although terribly sad, did not penetrate my daily life. Those losses did not change me.

But now?
Now I have it allllllll figured out…
You know how you prepare best for it?
It’s a little secret I’ll let you in on….

You don’t. You get thrown right into it.
You see how you feel. You adjust yourself to those feelings.
You readjust.
Every day, if needed.

Grief is an enveloping monsoon, an ocean consuming every single second of every minute of every day.
You jump in, in preparation for the flood, you probably prepare a life raft, so to speak. You fashion it with self-help books and blogs, prayers and discussions with your loved one before they pass away. You think you’re ready.

But, oh.
You are never truly ready.
That little life raft will keep you from sinking, but you are going to be tossed here and there and everywhere in a sea of cruel loneliness and sadness.

I can tell you that you will eventually see that the water recedes and you can breathe a little easier.
Just don’t lose sight of that raft. The water will come back to take you out again and you need to know that.
The grieving waters will come back repeatedly.

One of my biggest lessons through this journey is learning to adequately support those who are suffering in the loneliness and isolation that grief creates.

A friend recently asked what was the most appropriate thing to do for someone who was dealing with a fairly new and significant loss in their life.

Meals?
Sure. People have to eat. But please realize that your friend is probably receiving meals and they can’t keep track of it all. And they might not even be hungry. I know I wasn’t, but I was responsible for feeding two little people – so I welcomed meals. It was one less thing I had to think about.

Acts?
Absolutely. If you know that your grieving friend needs prescriptions picked up at the pharmacy, children ushered to and from school, dogs walked, the house cleaned, grass cut…then by all means, DO IT FOR THEM. Or arrange for someone to do it for them.
One of my biggest discoveries was that I didn’t know how to accept help. And even more than that, I did not know what I needed. When someone said, “please let me know if you need anything,” I didn’t know what to say. It was too overwhelming to make a list, I felt it was too presumptuous to ask someone to help me with daily tasks I should be able to do myself, too draining to even talk about. I didn’t want to call someone because I was so fragile I would burst into tears and I didn’t want to make anyone feel awkward.
If you KNOW of a need, then just DO it.

Love?
Yes! Hold their hand. Talk to them. Cry with them. Share some wine and a meal.
Whatever you would normally do with your friend before grief came, do it.
Especially do it now.
Sit in silence, together. Start a new routine that includes your grieving friend, even if it’s dropping off a fresh cup of Starbucks every morning and leaving.

Pray?
If your grieving friend is the praying type, then yes. If they are not into that, that’s okay too. They are entitled to their beliefs, just as you are. And you can pray for whoever and whatever you want to. Include them in your prayers. Just remember to support your friend in a way that makes them comfortable.

Remember?
Please! Tell your friend that you remember certain things about their loved one. If an anniversary is coming up, a birthday, remember it. You have no idea how much it will mean to them if you call them the morning of their husband’s birthday and ask if you can take her to lunch or have a coffee date. She may decline, but she may really appreciate the gesture of celebrating that day in some small way.
There are very few people in my life who remember Chad’s birthday or our wedding anniversary. Even fewer who send me a short text, just to let me know they thought of him on that day. It’s such a small gesture, but it speaks volumes to me. He deserves to be remembered. Your grieving friend will appreciate it, too.

Words?
I am not a speaker. I get tongue-tied and my words don’t come out of my mouth nearly as daintily as they do when I write. So, if you’re a talker – then talk. If you’re a writer – then write. Just tell them you are there. Tell them you care. Tell them you miss their loved one too. Tell them you know they are hurting and you want to be whatever they need you to be.

Please don’t speak these words, in any form:

  • “It will get better”

In my experience, the pain is less severe. But it never goes away. Ever.

  •  “Time heals all wounds”

Again, not true. Time allows the pain to feel less fresh, but it will never be the
same.

  • “They are in a better place now”

There is no better place my husband can be than HERE with me and our
daughters. Heaven? Yes, it’s a glorious place. But to my grieving heart, to anyone’s
grieving heart, heaven is just too far away.

  • “He/she would want you to move on”

Does.Not.Compute. Your grieving friend will “move on” when they are ready,
whatever that means TO THEM. It has nothing to do with you or how you view the
situation.

  • “It’s been ___ days/months/years, aren’t you over it by now?”

I will never understand how people let this spill from their lips. Do they not think
about someone’s feelings before they speak? Again, this has nothing to do with
you and everything to do with your grieving friend. And this is clearly an
opinion…which are unnecessary and unwelcome during this grief journey.

  • that whole “biggest battles given to the strongest soldiers” crap

It’s a good thought, you mean well if you’ve said it. But it cheapens your grieving
friend’s feelings. He/she doesn’t feel strong. And I can assure you he/she doesn’t
feel like a soldier.

  •  “_____ fought a hard battle…”

I have a hard time with this sentiment. Again, I know people mean well.
But being in a “battle” implies someone is going to win or lose. And if they lose,
it’s because they didn’t fight hard enough. Of course, you would never say, “your
husband didn’t fight hard enough to win the battle” to your grieving friend.
That’s what it will feel like to her.

  • ditto for the “everything happens for a reason” mumbo jumbo

I have said this myself. And at times, I earnestly believed it. But being on this side
of it? Nah, I don’t buy that. People die. People are dealt crappy hands in the game
of life. It’s what happens. I don’t believe there is always a “reason” for every
heartache we endure.


Understand?

It may be hard to understand what someone is going through privately. Even if you have experienced great loss in your own life, it doesn’t mean your friend is experiencing the same thoughts or feelings you did. We are all different and we all handle situations differently.
Your friend is going to do some changing, and that is OKAY. They may do crazy things like jump out of an airplane or go back to college (for example). But guess what? That person is still your friend. She is figuring out who she is without her other half. That part is tricky and was never, in any way, part of the plan she had for herself when she said “I Do.”
Forgive her if she cancels plans you’ve made. Give her a little grace if she lashes out about something totally unexpectedly. Support her. But, please, don’t judge her.

Time?
Give it to her! Grief has no timeline. She may do well in a month, a year or two. She may not. It will be a cycle for the rest of her life.
Give her space to breathe – but do NOT leaver he alone.
I can’t tell you how many people flooded me in the beginning of my journey without Chad.
SO many.
And after the first week or two, they slowly dwindled in number.
Surprisingly, at that precise time, I needed support more than ever.
Life kept spinning around me and I wanted it to stop for my grief. Just for a day.
People avoided me. I know it is awkward and overwhelming to be friends with someone who is going through this; I know.
I also know who my true friends are – the ones who called me and asked me how I was, months after he died. They still, nearly seven years laterremember his birthday. They still remember our wedding anniversary. We may not see each other all the time, but it means so much to me to know they think of Chad on those days and share it with me. It is priceless. And he deserves it.

Speak of the loved one?
Some people feel differently than I do about this – but I firmly believe you should speak of the person who died. They were here on this Earth, they made a difference. Someone misses their presence. Every single day. They were a husband, father, son, brother, friend…they mattered and they deserve to be remembered.
I love to hear funny stories about Chad and I love to tell them. It took me a little while to get to that point, though. And it may take your friend some time, as well. Or it may not; they may just talk about them from the beginning. And it’s okay. It is all okay.

Y’all. This is important stuff.
This is showing grace and mercy and love to people when they need it.
This is being a light in the darkness of grief for someone else.
This is life, real life, that is really hard to maneuver sometimes.
This is showing compassion and living it to help other people.
We are all in this together, regardless of our beliefs, race, gender, age…
We all matter to someone.
Take care of each other.
Be kind.
LOVE each other.
And take care of yourself, too.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

MOMventuring

Mother’s Day is around the corner.
Finding this old post made me giggle this morning.
I’m so glad I documented so many of these MOMventure moments on my blog(s).
I have forgotten how delightfully tired I was then.
I am still tired. But also still delighted
————-

Things I’ve learned since becoming a Mom
From 2/5/2009

I can never go anywhere alone. Especially to the bathroom.

According to the little people in my life, I am rich if I have two pennies, a quarter and a some lint in my pocket.

Polly Pocket’s shoes fit nicely into a little person’s nose. As do tweezers (for shoe removal), small beads from a broken bracelet, several mini M&Ms, fingers & french fries.

Wiping your face is overrated. Shirt sleeves work best. Especially crisp, clean, white ones.

When potty-training a child, you are likely to find undergarments discarded in/around objects where they don’t belong. Like under the glass dome of a cake plate, for instance.

When preparing dinner and things get quiet, there’s a reason. Usually, that reason involves glitter, broken glass & a watery mess on their bedroom floor. Snow globes don’t break themselves, people.

When the phone rings, my little people go seven kinds of crazy. And they get very loud. Well, louder than normal.

I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, even though my children think I do. I tell them I see everything, and it usually means I get to the bottom of the glittery, broken glass & watery mess on their bedroom floor.

My little people think packing peanuts do not taste like real peanuts, in case you were wondering.

Eating your vegetables means “accidentally” dropping them, one-by-one, on the floor. Then they’re dirty, and we can’t eat dirty food.

Remember that embarrassing thing I did last night? Well, my little people remember it. And they’re telling everyone at Wal-Mart today.

Just don’t talk about body parts or body functions. My little people will talk about it openly in public, even when begged not to.

Chewing gum in your sleep is a learned skill. Ask Carys. She has the missing patch of hair to prove it as of this morning.

When trying to remove marker from a painted wall, the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is a lifesaver. However, it also removes the seven layers of the previous homeowner’s pastel Laura Ashley paint underneath the marker, if you scrub too hard.

Cats don’t like toothpaste.
Dogs and Beta fish don’t either.

No matter what, the other little person did it.
Just ask one of them. Then ask the other one.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

celebrating 39

Happy, happy 39th birthday!

We’ve celebrated this day seven times now, without you here.

I will always celebrate YOU on this day. Always.

We love and miss you!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

sucker punches

Grief is a terribly sneaky monster.
It leaves you alone for a while.
You almost feel normal…for a while.

Then it sucker punches you.
Seemingly out of nowhere.

Grief has its own set of rules.
No one tells you that; they don’t prepare you for the fact that you will never be without it.
It is always there, always lurking in the shadows and demanding attention when you least expect it.

His 39th birthday is quickly approaching and I am finding myself wrestling with the monster, yet again. This will be the 7th birthday we’ve celebrated with out him. One would think I would have grown accustomed to the feelings attached with birthdays and holidays by now.

But, no.
And I don’t think I ever will.

The only thing I’ve found to be stronger than grief is love.

Love.
Love.
Love.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

when the end is in sight…

Y’all….(read that very dramatically and enthusiastically)

I registered for my FINAL semester of nursing school this week.
As in:
Final.
Last.
NO more after this.

I’m currently in the middle of OB/Pediatric nursing and swimming along just fine.

Next semester is preceptorship, critical care & nursing trends…during summer school, no less. It is going to be difficult and stressful, as most summer classes are.

But you know what?!
The end, that finish line, is within my sight.
I’m almost there.
I have *almost* completed one of my goals and I could not be more excited about the future for my little family of three.

2017 is shaping up to be SO amazing, full of hopeful & promising things.

I am so very in love with my life at this moment; it is amazing and fruitful and purposeful and just FULL of amazing & ordinary things.
I am slightly stressed at times, but then I remember how all of that means absolutely nothing when the end is in sight…

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Merry Christmas 2016

December has been a busy month for the Lanford Ladies.
Carys turned 13…and I cried. A lot. I had  written a long, sappy post but decided to keep it for myself.

She did receive a special gift I’ve been holding onto for 6 years…she knew it was coming and hasn’t taken it off since the day she opened it. So very special and treasured.

carys-13th-ring

The other major present was contact lenses for my TEENAGER!
(It still feels weird saying that…)
Carys was SO excited to ditch her glasses. The confidence boost has been amazing to see! It makes her happy — but you can’t imagine how happy it makes ME to see her hold her head a little higher.

carys-contacts
We celebrated turning 13 with a few of her close friends and an art day at a nearby art studio. We had a great time and made some memories, as well as beautiful pieces of art.

We’ve been busy, as I’m sure you are as well.
This is always such a crazy time of year – chaos at its best. I hope you can slow down a bit – like we plan to do. We aren’t really going anywhere and that’s just what is needed right now.

I haven’t done Christmas cards in a few years because I just haven’t felt like it. Christmas will never be the same as it used to be. I’m learning to embrace it all, even though it’s not how I had pictured it would be. It’s still wonderful. It’s still beautiful. It’s still a little crazy…kinda like us.

Merry Christmas!

lanford-ladies-christmas-card-2016

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

six

6 years =
2,192 days =
52,608 hours =
3,156,480 minutes

Not one of those 189,388,800 seconds has passed without the three of us missing you. The hurt is always there, looming in the background.
Sometimes, its presence is subtle and quiet.
Sometimes, it screams for attention. Like today, for example.

Another year has passed without you here.
Life keeps going on; the earth takes another slow dance around the sun.
The seasons change. The girls are changing. I am changed and changing.

It never gets any easier to think about today’s date and its significance.

Funny how the mind works when you’re sleeping…I’m always subconsciously trying to get to you. To get you back. To be where ever you are.
When I’m awake, I know that’s not possible. But dreaming? You’re always there, somewhere, all the time.

Over the years, I’ve had dreams that we “just” got a divorce.
Isn’t that crazy?
That would come with it’s own pain; a different kind of grief would be attached. After all, it’s the death of a marriage, death of a relationship.
In my dream, I’ve reasoned that the girls would still have you in their lives – which would make it okay.
The mind is always working to explain things the heart cannot understand.

Carys will be 13 soon. She’s looking forward to the card and gift you left for her 13th birthday. There will be tears, but there will also be joy in knowing you chose the gift for her.
She misses you more than she can express. I’m proud of the emotional growth she has shown, even if it has been slow at times. She does things in her own way, in her own time; I’m learning to embrace that about her personality. It’s difficult for me at times, but I am learning to navigate the Tween years the best I can.
She’s a fun mix of the both of us. She’s sweet and daring, and even a bit sarcastic. She still loves swimming and hopes to ditch her glasses for contacts soon. She’s an amazing kid, honestly. You would be so proud of her.

Cailyn is 10…and looks so much like you it takes my breath away at times. She’s funny and helpful. She loves to make DIY videos right now, which is hilarious and frustrating at the same time. She’s a fierce friend who takes school pretty seriously. She will still hold my hand in pubic and likes to snuggle all the time. She’s pretty awesome – and doesn’t make me question my mothering abilities (yet…I know that’s coming, too).

I’m eager to complete nursing school; I should graduate next Summer. The girls and I will then decide where to go from there and how we will arrange our lives, yet again. All good things moving forward though – which is an amazing light at the end of this educational tunnel I’ve put myself in.

We would have celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary a couple of months ago.
Sometimes, I’ll hear a woman complain that her husband didn’t buy the right item at the grocery store or didn’t get her obvious hints for an elaborate anniversary gift. I quietly scold them in my head, all the while being jealous of their lack of deep hurt. They don’t know what I know. I would never wish it on them, either.

I can never adequately explain how your death has changed me, shaped me and continues to direct me. I just can’t find the words. I hope my life does you, and us, justice.  I hope my tears reach you – I hope they somehow convey my heart the way words simply cannot.

We miss you, always and forever.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

wishes

They have wished their childhood away so frequently (and loudly), that I fear we are there.
I have a preteen.
And a pre-preteen.

I also have a huge heartache.

After this year, our family’s journey through elementary school is over.
I’ll have two middle schoolers next year.
My heart literally cannot take it.
At the start of this school year, I would get teary-eyed every single time we passed by the high school. The girls would make a joke about the “Cry School.” Yes, yes, I am a mess about it sometimes. Then I turn the corner and remember my baby is still in elementary, my older one still has a little while left in middle school. All is well for a bit…

Y’all.
Middle school is rough.
Carys has been navigating it pretty well so far; but it is very tricky.

No matter how I try to lift her up at home,
No matter how many positive people I place in her path,
No matter how many times we discuss the importance of ignoring drama,
It still seeps in.

My giggly girl is still happy, but I can tell you that something has changed.
I know it’s the age and hormones and all that stuff.
But it’s also something more.

It’s losing innocence.
It’s knowing a little more than she wants to know.
It’s seeing friends change and deciding if you want to change, too.
It’s hearing people snicker out of earshot and wonder if it’s you they are talking about.
It’s staring yourself down in the mirror daily, wondering if you’re good enough.

I wish I could put them in a protective bubble where only good things happen to them for the rest of their lives. I know that’s not possible, but I’ve wished it a thousand times.

I wish I could adequately explain that these days, these middle school years, don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of LIFE. Mean girls will grow up to be mean women; the cute boys are going to be balding and divorced one day. I’ve been to high-school reunions…I speak the truth.

I wish they could see how truly beautiful and unique they are. They are special. They have their own gifts and talents; they don’t have to be like everyone else.

I wish they knew that this awkward phase doesn’t last forever.
Everyone (well, almost everyone) outgrows it.

I wish I could let them see a glimpse of the future.
I wish I could show them that everything turns out okay in the end.
I also wish they come to understand the dangers of people on the internet – and not from learning the hard way.
I wish I could preserve their innocence, their eagerness, for life.

But most of all?

Most of all, I wish them peace and love.
I want them to be happy kids who develop into happy adults.
I want them to feel safe and unconditionally loved under my roof.

That’s what we all wish for, isn’t it?
I know I do.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

the importance of holding a hand

I believe touch may be the most powerful sense of all.
A gentle touch has the ability to calm us and let us know someone cares.

Did you know that chronically ill people and many aging adults do not receive touch stimuli like a hug, a back rub or even holding a hand?

Take a moment to think about how you would feel if no one ever hugged you or reached for your hand.

Would you feel unloved?
Uncared for?
Insignificant?

Yesterday, I had a busy day of errands and tasks to complete. Usually, I am quite annoyed if my plans go awry. If I don’t get to check everything off on my “to do” list, I become quite cranky. But this wasn’t the case when hospice needed me.

I had to drive nearly an hour “out of my way”, using my GPS to guide me to a destination I’ve never seen. I entered doors I’ve never darkened, spoke to people I’ve never met, and had the privilege of holding a stranger’s hand.

A patient needed hospice yesterday, as she makes the transition home. She was comatose, but I sat with her, read scripture to her, spoke to her about the pictures she had around her room and just held her hand. I firmly believe she heard me, just as I believe Chad knew I was there when he was transitioning.

People often ask me why I want to work with hospice:
“I could never do that…isn’t it sad?”

Yes, it is sad. It’s heartbreaking most of the time.
But you know what is even more sad?
The thought of someone being alone, dying. Alone.

If you think there aren’t that many people who are truly alone…think again.
I used to think that everyone has someone — a family member or a friend — that would step up and assist when the need presented itself. But it’s not the way things often work out.

Sometimes, the patient doesn’t have children.
Or their families are busy with their own lives that they don’t fully grasp the fragility of life for their loved ones.
Sometimes, their spouse is older, too; not a suitable situation for taking care of one another.
Sometimes, family members are estranged for unknown reasons.
Sometimes, the patient has been socially withdrawn due to sickness or depression.
Sometimes, the family or friend is dealing with the death process by ignoring it.
Sometimes, a patient’s health decline is rapid – a family doesn’t have time to prepare.
And sometimes, a patient doesn’t say much to their family about their health because they don’t want to worry anyone…

Whatever the reason, it’s important to realize that all families are different. Just because I feel I would handle the death of a loved one in a different way, doesn’t make it the right way.
This has been a struggle for me to accept, especially living amidst an aging population. Many people retire to this area, leaving their families in other states. Then, when an illness strikes, it’s difficult to mobilize family members from multiple states in order to care for a parent (or other relative) that needs help.

It breaks my heart to realize how many people are in need of hospice, in my area alone.
I am eternally grateful for our own journey with hospice and my ability to assist now. It has really changed my outlook on life; the brevity of it all. I understand the importance of things I once took for granted.

Never underestimate the importance of holding a hand.
Never underestimate the ability you have to make a difference to someone.

I’m looking forward to holding many more hands…

hospice badge

“Your life may be the only bible someone ever reads”

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments