Grief, Joy, and All the Rest

Well, that was a difficult week.

We buried my Grandpa on Thursday morning. The day was hot, but there was a strong sweet breeze and the cemetery was grassy and dotted with bright flowers. My Grandpa built and played the mountain dulcimer and we were lucky that a group of Appalachian musicians who knew Grandpa came to play at the visitation and the funeral. I’ll never get the beautiful and bittersweet sound of “Amazing Grace” on the dulcimer out of my head. It is comforting and heart-bruising all at the same time.

Grief is such a strange bird. I’m sad my Grandpa is gone, but glad he is no longer suffering. I enjoyed time with my family, but hated that we were together under sad circumstances.

We all had what my Grandmama called, “crying diarrhea.” Crying diarrhea is when tears slam you all of the sudden; you don’t know where it came from, but you have to cry right then. Oh, and it spreads quickly. At one point we were all in the den laughing about how much my Grandpa liked candy. He always had some Mentos in his pocket and he ate candy corn year round. After a few minutes of talking about Mentos everyone in the room was laughing, then weeping. I think I could brace myself for the big, obvious sad things: walking into the room where he died, planning the funeral details, writing an obituary, finding musicians, ordering flowers. It was the tiny things that sucker punched me: the smell of his closet, his slippers at the bottom of the stairs, the sound of my Great Uncle Bobby’s voice that sounds similar to Grandpa’s voice, but isn’t quite the same.

My grief was compounded by two things: watching my mom grieve and watching Hope grieve. My mom seemed so tiny and broken. I felt like I was hovering from wanting to hug her all the time. For Hope this is not only the death of a loved relative who was a part of her life, but it is also her first experience with death. Hope curled up in my lap and wept, but then asked to spend most of her time with her Papa (my dad).

There were other difficult things that happened this week. They pale in comparison to the death of a loved one, but there was very much a “seriously? now?” type of questioning going on each time a snafu hit. A $300 car repair, a traffic ticket, losing my work keys (that could get me in HUGE trouble), feeling behind on work, another poetry rejection.

And yet… and yet…. and yet….

…there was so much joy this week. Hugs and great conversations with family members, spending time with my immediate family, music, food, a date with Sam, and sweet funny antics from my kids. Each time something tender, kind, funny, or comforting came along I felt this great underscoring of this is life, this is precious, this is goodness. As the great Albus Dumbledore once said, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

(Me with my sister and brother / Atticus drew me a hot potato to cheer me / Hugs after the funeral with my sweet girl)

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For Some, Poetry

I tend to use poems like others use scripture. Sad, grieving, joyous, etc… there’s a poem for that. A way to beautifully and terribly describe the beautiful and terrible – sometimes at the same time – that flows through our life.

All the beauty. The hours this week writing with good strong strides, hours in a bookstore with a dear friend, countless cups of coffee, the sweet dear love of my children. On Wednesday I had a thunderstorm all to myself; grey sky, booms of thunder, rain, and my own thoughts at home. So much good. So much beauty.

All the terrible. My grandfather is dying. He is in hospice and not expected to last more than a week. I was there this morning. I’ll not describe him. This is a private grief. All I’ll say is I felt the panic bird flapping furiously in my own chest as he struggled to find his breath. I wish I could breath for him. O, to see my grandmother a knot of grief and terror; my mother weeping and scared. Phone calls from my brother. Searching for someone to play the mountain dulcimer at his funeral. Settling down to write his obituary. Constantly asking how can I help? 

Right now I’m re-reading Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things because I am at a beautiful and terrible moment in my life. In her poem “Relentless” Limón writes about her stepmother’s death. Limón and her father talked mostly about her stepmother’s breathing and the weather during those last days. When she passed it was, “… light / escapes from the heart’s room and for a moment / you believe the clock will stop itself. Absence. / You see: light escapes from a body at night / and in the morning, despite the oppressive vacancy / of her leaving’s shadow, light comes up / over the mountains and it is and it is and it is.”

Mixed in with all the grief is memory, joy, sorrow. Joy from the love that bundles my family closer and closer together. Memory rich with humor. Sorrow from thinking of absence and remembering others who have passed. Death underscores how temporary this life is.

I’m going to hug my grandfather as much as I can, help with the funeral, provide comfort when I can. I am also going to spend my time appreciating the life I have, talking about the good things that bring me joy, and pretty much hugging anyone who comes in contact with me for the next few weeks (you’ve been warned).

How does one end a post like this? With love, friends, so much love to all of you.




Summer Fun, Sorta

When I left work Friday afternoon I went to Aldi, came home and did a few chores, and then settled in for a few hours of writing. When I put my poem to bed and packed away my writing materials I decided to do absolutely no work for a few days. By no work I mean no checking things off my brain to do list: reading, writing, blogging, etc….

This holiday weekend has been an absolutely lovely break. I spent time with the kids; we swam, went out for ice cream, and spent plenty of time inside watching movies. Hope and I went shopping. Lunch date on Sunday with Mom. Cheesy movie watching with Sam and Hope (honestly, Pride and Prejudice and Zombie stayed closer to the book compared to some adaptations). Napping, coffee, loads of Candy Crush. I did my usual July 1st ritual: pinning autumn things. Seriously, I hate summer (we neared triple digits) and I’m reading for dead leaves, cardigans, and pumpkin-infused scents. And no, we didn’t “do” anything for the 4th of July. I’m not paying $10 a car to sweat my ass off, battle mosquitoes, and take a potty-training kid to a porta-potty. No thank you.

Tomorrow it is back to work, but not really. I’m taking a few days of vacation, but I certainly have some plans to work on writing. My goal is two hours of poetry writing and an hour of editing and two hours of other writing. Under other writing you can file a writer’s retreat application and essay and several essays for graduate school applications. Oh yes, blogging. Maybe blogging.

Happy Fourth of July, y’all and Happy 79 days, 12 hours and 25 minutes until autumn begins!

Goodbye, September and Hello, October

looking to October

Goodbye, September!

Highlights: This has been such a full month. The university was busy with students starting projects and papers. I love the library best when it is like this, busy… but busy in a fulfilling way.

I had so many events this month. The Decatur book festival and chance to hangout with Shannon and meet the ever-dapper Thomas in person, a date day with Sam in celebration of his birthday, Purity Ring concert with my friend Natasha, the first official meeting of the Young Democrats, lunches with friends and nights with knitters, and this past weekend a wonderful Welcome Autumn dinner with some good friends. At times I’ve felt so busy that I can hardly catch my breath, but it is a good busy. Yes, I am an introvert and I have been craving some peaceful time to write letters and read, but all of my busy days were filled with people close to my heart. You can’t get much better than that.

It wasn’t all hustle and bustle and excitement. Sam and I have been having regular dates on Friday and Saturday nights; these dates involve ice cream and watching an episode or two of Twin Peaks. I’ve taken to hiding on my lunch breaks to read. We’ve had loads of one-on-one time with the kids at the park or just watching them play at home. On the whole it has been really nice.

What I read: Well this is embarrassing. I only read one book in September. ONE BOOK. Of course that book was East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It was a chunkster and I had to take a break of about a week after reading it because no other book could quite live up to it. I am now five book behind in my GoodReads Challenge. Perhaps #15in31 and Readathon will help with that this month.

What I made: I spent a little more time in the kitchen this month, although not as much as I wanted. The first pumpkin spice baked good was made and consumed and I brought along some pumpkin baked beans to a dinner. I finished one baby blanket and I’m still working on my letter dishcloths.

Family Updates: Sam is busy with teaching and taking classes and tomorrow he takes the first two of his teacher exams. Hope has a new boyfriend and he is very nice. We had the dress code fallout that cost me a blog reader (cry me a bucket). After a dismissive email from the principal I wrote a letter to the superintendent. Still haven’t heard back. Atticus had only one minor blip, he told me didn’t want to do ballet after school. He wants to do ballet, but he said after school he wants to “put on jammies and play.” Oh my little introvert needs a recharge! We’ve moved him to an earlier afternoon class that he will start this week. His current hobbies include building forts and constructing elaborate fights between dragons, super heroes, and monsters. Persy Jane is suddenly busting out with complex sentences and a stubborn little will that is frustrating, amusing, and empowering all at once.

Hello, October!

Anticipating: I hadn’t anticipated that we would be starting the month out with a projectile vomiting toddler; we’re on day three and let’s hope it isn’t a nine-day stomach bug like last time.

I am anticipating quite a few things this month. First of all my work schedule changed. I’m back working every weekend, but on Sundays. I have the morning with the family and then go in later. This means that I have Fridays off to run errands (or read!) while the kids are in school. Also, Atticus won’t have to do afterschool which will save money and preserve family time. Oh yes, and there is a blissful regularity to my days.

October will also hold some fun events: a giant charity book sale, a day with my friend Catherine that includes seeing Of Monsters and Men, a date with Sam to watch the first Democratic debate with other liberals, a few days off for fall break, watching Crimson Peak with my friend Melissa, Readathon, an Art in the Park Bernie Sanders event, Atticus’s birthday, and Halloween. I’m also declaring October, Frocktober and plan to wear dresses as much as possible. Oh yes, and reading. Loads of reading plans.

My October TBR is ambitious (as usual), but I like to dream big:

  • In progress: The Quick by Lauren Owen, The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Tales by HP Lovecraft, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (audio).
  • Virago Project: Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
  • From my stacks: The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
  • More audio: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • YA Series: Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City
  • Classic: The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins
  • Contemporary: Among Others by Jo Walton
  • Graphic Novels: The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde / Dark Horse Book of Hauntings / Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
  • On my Kindle: This House is Haunted by John Boyne
  • Non-Fiction: Will Storr Vs. the Supernatural by Will Storr
  • A Re-read: The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield

Upcoming projects: Planning Atticus’s birthday party. We are going to do something different this year, but I’m saving that for another post. Halloween costumes. I really want to dress the kids as special agent Dale Cooper and the Log Lady from Twin Peaks, but they want to be Batman and a princess. Sigh. Also, I want to get from F to R on my alphabet washcloths. I have other things to knit and these are really so easy. I need to just do it.

Okay, October… I’m ready for you!

Staycation Update

Tomorrow I head back to work. Sam will split his day with online courses, a part-time janitor job, and teaching art at a local summer camp. Hope leaves with the church youth group for a week of camp. The two little kiddos start “summer camp” at daycare. In other words it is back to reality for we grown-up people and the kiddos will have a summertime blast.

Staycation was marvelous with minimum tantrums from kids and adults. Hope didn’t really participate. She started her first job and has spent a fair amount of time working, but I did get to spend a morning out with her shopping. Staycation began with a trip to the grocery store wherein I bought Things I Never Buy: SODA. The week was busy, but laid back. A birthday party, a picnic, trips to the library and the park, a trip to the water park, dinner with friends, and plenty of playtime. It was a nice break, but I’m eager to get back to a schedule.

Alrighty folks, on to the real world!

Goodbye, February and Hello, March!


February is such a busy blip of a month. I felt like it flew by too quickly. This was very much a month all about family. We spent so much time together, which is a good thing (for the most part).

Here’s a quick run down of what February looked like for me:

  • Persy turned two and Hope celebrated her 15th birthday. Big milestones for my girls!
  • Persy, Atticus, and I survived a major stomach bug at the beginning of the month.
  • I finished Atticus’s rainbow blanket, crocheted a baby blanket, embroidered two baby bibs, and started a knitted scarf for Sam.
  • All that making stuff meant a HUGE dip in my reading. I only read three books in February: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, Frost in May by Antonia White, and Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton
  • Another factor in my reading dip was inclement weather. Tons of ice and really unimpressive snow. We had six days total of weather that left the kids out of school and cooped up in the apartment. I can stitch and knit while the kids are mucking about, but reading just didn’t happen.
  • I started co-leading an addiction recovery group at church. New territory. Super fun. Kinda intimidating.
  • I hosted my first AND LAST swap. I had planned on hosting a swap every other month, but after chasing down people to send gifts and relaying “yes they sent it” and “no they didn’t get it” messages for four weeks I can honestly say that I’m not doing it again.

I suppose instead of meh swap experience and a wee bit too much family time and that one pukey weekend February rocked. No really, it did. This was my least depressing February in a long time (why does February always seem sucky?)

On to March!

  • I am reclaiming my reading this month. Cedar Station’s March Madness is going to help get me there. I’m behind on posting my TBR picture, but I haven’t picked all my books up from the library yet. My goal is to read seven books this month. My TBR thus far: In Chancery by John Galsworthy, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Her Highness, The Traitor by Susan Higginbotham, Mr. Fortune’s Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner, Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, and French Milk by Lucy Knisley.
  • To help reclaim my reading I am bringing back my early morning reading ritual. I was up at 5:30 this morning reading and my goal is to start waking up at 5am to get in a solid reading hour.
  • I don’t have many events scheduled for this month. Sam is busy with school and it is the height of track season for Hope and planning things just isn’t working. The one exception is this weekend. Sam and I are going on a mini-trip to see Gogol Bordello. Hurrah for gypsy punk music!
  • As far as thread goes, I’d like to finish Sam’s scarf and start another embroidery project.

Alright March, let’s get this party started.