it’s story time, y’all

I had a busy day today. Well, “busy” is relative; it was busy to me since being home on short-term disability. I had an appointment at 10:30 and then was going to scoot on over to my surgeon’s office to drop off some paperwork. Those two tasks required me to wear real clothes and put forth some kind of effort with my hair and face.    So busy, you guys!

I head over to the 3-story office building that is conveniently located next to the hospital. The parking lot isn’t too crazy today; I actually found a parking spot in record time. I gathered the papers I needed and glanced at my cell phone. Decided to leave it because I would only be a minute. Why am I telling you this minute detail? You will see….

I walk across the parking lot and notice a food delivery van parked right at the door. There’s a guy bent over the seat behind the driver’s side, fixing his hands around a cardboard box. Must be a food delivery for an office. Never heard of the eatery on the side of the van. I made a mental note to look it up later. 

With my keys and handy paperwork in tow, I bee-bopped through the lobby and headed towards the elevators. I think about taking the stairs briefly… but they are on the wrong side of the building. I press the elevator button and look up to see the food delivery guy coming in. We stand in silence together for a minute until the elevator chirps and the doors open. No one comes out. And it’s just us two going in.

“What floor?” I ask politely – because my mama raised a polite Southern Belle.
He replies, “Third, thanks.” 
I press two buttons. The door closes and we start to move up.
Granted, we are only going to the second floor for me to get off first, so our journey isn’t too long. 

The lights in the elevator flicker. They come on. They go off. They come on. And then they’re off. Like O-F-F, off

It’s pitch-black. No light. Not a single light. I couldn’t see anything. 
No worries – I’ll just use the flashlight on my phone.
Oh.
Remember? I left my cell phone in my car. 
Apparently my new friend, who we will call Sam, also left his phone in his vehicle.

So…..
Here we are. Staring into absolute blackness and wondering if the lights are going to come back on or if we are stuck. In an elevator. 
Guess what???
We. Are. Stuck.

We both say something like, “Ugh! What is going on?” 

I hear a voice outside the elevator door, “There is someone in there!”
She sounds way more panicked than I feel.
But wait.
Should I panic?
Is this bad?
I don’t think I am going to panic.
It’s fine. It’s all fine.


I have a nice little exchange with a voice on the other side, and she says, “Ma’am….we know you’re in there. We are trying to get someone to help you. Can you use your cell phone to call 911?” 

Sam and I laugh at this assumption that we had our cell phones. I tell the voice we do not have cell phones. Or a light.
But wait!
Sam has a lighter in his pocket. And I have a mini-flashlight function on my watch. He lights up the elevator with the Bic and I jokingly say, “Oh man! Don’t you put off any smoke detectors in this thing.” He didn’t laugh at my obviously funny joke.

Instead, Sam reaches over and pushes the button on the elevator that says “PUSH IN CASE OF EMERGENCY”. You know that button? The one I have scolded my kids not to touch, EVER, unless there is an emergency. Like being stuck in an elevator. I always told my girls that the button would directly link you to 911. Well, guess what? That’s not what happened.

Sam & I laughed at each other when there was a ringing on the other end of the button. And then there was a recorded voice directing us to press a button for assistance. Well guess what, folks? There wasn’t a key pad. No phone receiver to pick up and talk into. Just the button Sam pressed, which is now flashing red. Another recorded voice in Spanish apparently repeated everything that was just said. I don’t know. Then….a recorded voice directs us to “please hold“. HOLD? Where are Sam & I going to go? 

Then classical music started to play. Actual elevator music from the emergency call in our paralyzed elevator. Again, we laughed.
And sat down because we realized it might be a little while.

We sat in silence for a few minutes until a cheerful lady on the line says, “Hello, you’ve reached the call center for XXX Elevators. How can I help you?”
“We are stuck on one of your elevators,” I calmly say.
“Did you try to push the ‘door open’ button, ma’am?”….
Y’all. She was serious. I laughed. Because…really???

“We pushed all the buttons,” Sam says.
“Are the overhead lights on?” she asks.
“Nope, no lights,” we say.
“Is the door closed all the way?” 
“Yep, the door is closed. No lights. Buttons not working. The power is out in the whole building,” we chime in.

We could hear some commotion outside the doors and were hearing bits and pieces of information. We knew there was an issue with a power pole; we didn’t know if there was an accident or if the construction out front accidentally cut the lines. Did it matter? Nah. We stuck, yo.

We are put on hold while Elevator Call Center Lady finds our location…and then we get disconnected. No worries. She knows where we are now, so she can direct someone to help us. Right? Right!

All during this time, we are also talking to people on the other side of the door. 
They don’t have a key for the elevator. They don’t know what to do. They can’t open the door. They are very reassuring to us though, which was nice. 
Thank goodness Sam and I kept our cool because that little steel box suspended by cables was getting pretty toasty and was starting to smell like the inside of a deli. I like delis thought, so it was fine. It was all fine. 

“I have cookies. You want a cookie?”
I assured Sam I was fine and didn’t need a cookie.
A cell phone or elevator key maybe, but definitely not a cookie or chips (as he offered a few minutes later). Sam was a nice stranger to be stranded on an elevator with.
Trust me on this. I know…

Elevator Call Center Lady calls us back, which was weird. All of a sudden, there is a loud, “Skye???” coming from the elevator speaker. She informs us that she has alerted an elevator mechanic who is on his way, but will be about 30 minutes. 
“Okay,” I thought to myself. “Thirty minutes is fine. It’s fine.”
But Sam? 
Nah, Sam wasn’t having any of that.
He asks Elevator Call Center Lady to alert the fire department to come help.
She verifies his request – like he was kidding? YES, we want the fire department to come help us get out of this elevator. K, thanks!

More commotion outside the doors, as the staff is trying to evacuate the whole building. It sounds like chaos out there. Sam & I are just chillin’, no chaos in the elevator. Just blackness. And heat. And sandwiches and cookies and chips, too. 

We chat a little, but not too much. We were listening to everything going on and trying to piece together what was happening. Every few minutes, someone would say, “Hello? Ma’am? Are you okay?” I would assure everyone that Sam and I were alive and well.

And then we just sat.
And waited.
In the darkest dark I have ever experienced.

Sam and I discussed if we were between floors and I tried to decide how I would crawl out with my one useful arm and protect the one bum arm. You know, I was preparing for a disaster. Which thankfully didn’t happen.
(But I was prepared to eat all the sandwiches and cookies and chips. Carbs or not, this girl won’t starve.) 

We heard some jingling, like keys or someone taking tools out of a toolbag. We saw some light come from the edges of the elevator shaft, like someone was shining a flashlight. The elevator moved slightly and then light started to creep in, slowly. The door was pried open and my God! It was so bright. I felt like I was staggering out of a tunnel and had been trapped for 3 weeks without food and water.
Alas, it was only 35 minutes or so. 

I saw a sea of faces, one I recognized as a staff member at the doctor’s office I was trying to visit before I was stuck on an elevator with Sam and his sandwiches. She scooped me into the office, like I was traumatized and needed to sit down.
Nah.
“I came here to drop off these papers and I am not leaving until I give them to someone,” I say as she ushers me through the waiting area of their office.

I saw Sam head towards the stairwell and attempt his sandwich delivery upstairs.
Bon voyage, Sam. I hope you have a wonderful life outside of the elevator. You were a great companion for 35ish minutes of my life.

The parking lot was full o’ fire trucks, ambulances, security, medical office staff – it was a scene, for sure. And no one was there asking for my harrowing account of surviving in that elevator – HA!!!!!

Oh. Seriously. I have to call that office tomorrow and verify that someone has those papers. They might have to meet me in the parking lot if they need anything or didn’t receive them. I ain’t going back in that elevator, y’all.
Just kidding. Yes, I will – but only because there are only 3 floors.
If it was 43 floors, I’m OUT. 






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the end of another summer

School starts in two days for the girls.
I am not ready.
They are not ready.


But, still. It’s upon us.
In the past, I was eager for school to start back at the end of Summer.

Not because I was ready to ship my kids off to school, but because it was so stressful to juggle childcare and school and house projects and fun time, too. I was always exhausted and ready for a routine so I could plan what was next.

 
But this Summer? I feel like I have been robbed of a proper summer.
We have had a strange few months; surgeries and me being out of work. It was nice to be home with them this summer…but I want more. There were so many things I wanted to do this summer; but time & my ability didn’t quite allow much of it. 
I have enjoyed hanging out with my budding sarcastic teens. We’ve bonded over watching television (a lot of it, while I was immobile), laughing, freaking out over bumps in the night after watching horror films, and just being around each other ALL THE TIME.
They are funny and sarcastic and silly and honest and so intelligent. I knew all of these things, but I have really enjoyed this time we’ve had without all the chaos of homework and after school activities. I’ve just really enjoyed them.
I’m just not ready for the chaos, emotions & routine of the school year.

I’m not ready to give up our time together.

I’m not ready for any of it.

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still, it stings

I can’t count the times I’ve stopped whatever I am doing and just think to myself, “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.” Sometimes I shed a few tears, sometimes I sigh heavily and return to whatever I was doing.

It is okay.
But that feeling?
Man.
Still, it stings.

I am watching my girls change into young women right before my eyes. One is on the cusp of high school and will be on to start her own journey before I can bat an eye.
The younger is right on her sister’s heels.
And then what will I do?

I had plans, at one point in my life, for what comes after the girls leave.
We had plans, should I say.
Now I don’t really have any. Everything feels up in the air, all the time.
I know our time in SC will come to an end and I will move on to another area; somewhere I want to be for the rest of my life; a home my grandchildren will eventually visit and fill with memories.

But now? Now, I go to work (which I love, by the way), come home to sleep while the girls are at school and try to be present at much as one exponentially exhausted person can be.
I am here, though. I am good cop. I am bad cop; the comforter and the punisher. I am the fun-planner, the boring-master, the road trip driver, the daily taxi, the short order cook, the lazy housemaid, the dog whisperer, the homework figure-outer, the snuggler, the stern-talking-to-er…the mender of all things, from hearts to jeans to shoe soles to fish tanks.

I am so many different, needed, things.
And I am also missing my husband, my partner in crime, my compass, my best friend.

There will always be a Chad-shaped vacancy in my life. It’s like finding a rogue puzzle piece and trying to make it work in another puzzle that’s missing a section. It just doesn’t work. It’s not right.

I’m learning, every day, that grief is always lurking around the corner.
Some days are easier. Some days are harder.

But the sting? It’s always there.
Just in case you were wondering.

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the best season of the year!

I love the Christmas season.
I love how people smile a little more,
laugh a little longer,
give a little more
&
speak more kindly to each other.

It’s magic.
How wonderful would it be for us all to live this way every single day!

Wishing you a Christmas season filled with love, wonder & peace,
The Lanford Ladies

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7 years

Everything can change in an instant. Then there is only ‘before’ and ‘after’…

7 years passes quicker than you think possible. We miss Chad daily and speak of him so often. Sometimes the loss feels so fresh we can’t see past it.

I see him, his big blue eyes, his quirky intelligence and sense of humor in our daughters.

Our ‘after’ may not look like I had always imagined it. But it is still good.
It’s still full of everyday victories, memories, laughter & love.

I pause sometimes, just to take an inventory of this life we’ve built after. It’s good; we are good.
And TODAY is the day I received my first-ever paycheck as an RN. Today; of all the possible days in a year. I think of it as a little fist bump.

I am so grateful, today and everyday, ‘before’ and ‘after’.

Thank you for the love today.
We appreciate it so much ♥️

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first day

Today, my girls started a brand new school year.
Carys has been excited to see her friends.
Cailyn has been so nervous leading up to her middle school debut.
I’m happy to report they had a great day and have so many nice things to say.
It’s so nice having them in the same school on the same schedule this year.

When I see these pictures, I just can’t believe how quickly they are changing.
Right before my eyes.
Taller and a little wiser.
Oh, and sassy…if you can believe that.

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new beginnings

This journey was amazing and so difficult.
But it’s finally over!
So humbled and proud to walk the stage with some of the best people I’ve ever met.

I have accepted a position at a local hospital and will start in late October.
The only thing left to do is celebrate….and pass the NCLEX-RN to earn the privilege of putting those beautiful letters behind my name.

Thank you so much for encouraging me along the way.
Your support of my little family and our journey has meant so much to me.

Yes, I did become a nurse for ME.
I did it for my girls.
I also did it for Chad, who I know helped push me across the finish line.

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almost finished

In just 12 days, I will be pinned as a graduate nurse.
During this journey, I have frequently questioned my sanity and tried to talk myself out of my dreams.

It’s been a lot like childbirth.
In the middle of it,
when things are at their peak,
great change is taking place
inside of you.
It hurts and
you think you can’t take it for another second.
You may throw up…
You may hold your breath
and someone has to remind you to breathe steadily…
You may poop yourself (ha!)…
But you keep pushing because
you are promised the best reward at the end.

And then,
when it’s all over,
you look at what you have accomplished,
and think,
“I can’t believe I did that”
and
“That wasn’t so bad after all!”

Thank you all for your support.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

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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!

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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.

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