I've been trying to get Jeremy into a Big Brother relationship for a while now. I printed off the paperwork months ago, filled it all out, and mailed it in. I received a call from somebody at the office a few days later informing me rather tersely that I had sent the forms to the wrong office for my county. She said I had to call back and get the new address so I could print out new forms and mail them off again. Apparently she was completely unable to forward my already completed form on to the right office-but whatever.
Of course, then life got in the way for a while, and I kept forgetting to re-do the forms. Honestly, I was a bit turned off by the somewhat nasty message left on my answering machine from the organization, but a couple weeks ago I mustered up the gumption to re-do the paperwork, print it out again, and bring it upstairs. It sat in my kitchen-taunting me. Today I finally sat down-forms in hand-to call the office and insure I had the appropriate address to send the paperwork to.
Another woman answered the phone and I said brightly: "Hi! I'm interested in getting at least one of my son's enrolled in your program...."
Before I could finish, she interrupted me: "We're not accepting boys right now."
"You're not?" I asked, incredulous.
"No, our waiting list is too long." she curtly replied.
"Um.....okay? Is there no other organization that could help me?" I ventured, a bit put-out.
"There is a larger office in town, but they're only taking boys who have a father that is incarcerated."
"You're kidding me. A father who is dead doesn't count?" I asked, completely incredulous and extremely irritated.
"No, only incarcerated fathers. Is there anything else I can do for you?" She asked in a fake attempt at being helpful.
I was beyond irritated at this point. I tersely replied "No. That just seems incredibly backward. But whatever". And I hung up.
I have friends that have been involved with BB/BS in the past-as mentors. I know the program is not meant to run this way. I'm disgusted that in my own city, this is the treatment that a TEXTBOOK CASE of a boy who needs mentoring is given.
If this bothers you, write a letter.
I know I will be.
Update: After a suggestion on Facebook and some encouraging from a friend, I decided to contact a local news station. I spoke to a woman who promised to do some further research and get back to me. I'll keep you posted if it turns into anything-but she seemed as shocked and flabbergasted with the information as I had, so I'm hopeful.
I still haven't heard anything from the doctor about the x-rays that Brooklyn had done last week, even though I've hounded them nearly every day. Yesterday afternoon I called and found out that the people from Radiology at the site we went to hadn't even faxed the results of her x-rays to our pediatrician. I'm beyond annoyed-and left a message for the radiology department saying as much. I left them alone today, but I'm going to call again tomorrow and demand some answers. It's been almost a week people, this is a little bit ridiculous.
For the last 2 nights I have actually gone to bed at a decent hour. The schoolwork seems to be letting up a bit for now-must be the calm before the storm. Finals are in about 3 weeks, so now we're in 'cram it all' mode where the professors scramble to get all the information in our heads before the quarter ends. It's always this point in the quarter where I start to get extremely weary and feel like I'm hanging on-white knuckled-just waiting for the ride to be over. I can't wait for spring break.
Last night I took the boys to a grief group that we attended very briefly the spring that Ammon died. It's a group geared specifically toward children aged 3-18, which means I have to find a babysitter for Brooklyn while we attend the sessions two times a month. The boys seemed pleased with it when we went almost 2 years ago, but I found it horrifically overwhelming and quickly made excuses to myself for never going back.
Fast forward to now, and the kids are all struggling in their own ways with our still new 'normal'. Kadon has developed a temper that is flash-fire and intense. I'm not sure how much of it is related to age, temperament, or grief-but I feel like it's important to explore every opportunity and avenue available to us to get the problem resolved. I don't expect miracles overnight, so I know we need to commit to attending this group for at least the foreseeable future before anything good will happen. We're blessed to have an amazing group of friends who are willing to help make this possible, which is a major incentive. Last night neither one of them had much to say other than 'it was fun', and 'Can we go back', but I wasn't expecting much more than that. For now, I'm satisfied to be moving in the right direction to deal with their ever-changing grief cycles.
The final days of diapering have arrived in the Fellows household. Brooklyn has been ready for this milestone much longer than I have-she had pottied for everybody-daycare, YMCA, family, and friends-before she finally pottied for me and I was forced to face the truth. Diapers, in many ways, are easier than being potty trained. If she needs to go during a trip to the grocery store, no biggie if she's in a diaper. Suddenly, the small porcelain appliance has become central to my existence. Where is the closest one located? When was the last time she went? Do I have spare clothes? Did I remember to ask her if she needs to go?
We started training about a week ago, and so far it's gone pretty well. People that have been friends with me for many years will shake their head in disgust to hear that. Cosmically and karmically, I'm due for a tough-to-potty-train child. The boys were easy-they both trained earlier than many of their peers, and with very little fuss. There was a minimum of accidents, and after the first couple of days staying home and near a toilet, the process was pretty much complete. I had prepared myself for Brooklyn to be much more complicated even though technically and generally speaking girls are supposed to be easier. Fortunately, it didn't turn out that way. Other than the fact that for the first 6 days of training she refused to make any contributions other than the liquid variety, her training has gone well. Tonight she finally made a solid deposit, so I suppose the next hurdle to clear is consistently staying dry while she sleeps. I'm of the 'panties during nap, diaper at night' mentality, so that makes things a bit easier.
I must admit, though, one plus to potty training her: the darn little girl panties. I'm used to boy underwear. I'm used to Spiderman, Batman, and Thomas the Train floating through my washing machine. Wide waistbands, the fold over pocket in the front-utilitarian underwear. Little girl panties are another story entirely. They are pink, they are frilly. They have lace, flowers, and pretty designs. They have tiny little waistbands, with sparkles sewn into the elastic. They are all my favorite colors. Combine little girl panties and fill them with a little girl behind-and I'm nearly overcome with the cuteness of it all. I suppose that even though the porcelain statue has become central in my existence for a time, the cuteness of the bum will make up for it.
I've got some thoughts rolling around in my head, and I need to get them out. Maybe this will become an actual blog post, maybe it won't. It's a quiet Saturday afternoon, and while I have a few semi-quiet moments to think, I need to sort through some things.
As I said in my last post, Brooklyn has been a bit preoccupied with the concept of 'Daddy' lately. She has asked for Daddy a few times when she's been frustrated, and has begun pointing at random men and asking "Daddy?"
"No, not Daddy." I always assure her.
Brooklyn knows Ammon through pictures. She really has no concept of what a Daddy does, what it means, or what he could provide for her. I think she's starting to realize that this concept of 'Daddy' as a male figure is something that other kids have and she doesn't. I don't think that i bothers her, really, other than she is starting to become aware of the difference. This has been a milestone that I have known was coming, but I didn't expect it so soon.
When Ammon died, the boys had a solid concept of who he was, what having him in our family meant, and most of all-what they had lost. From there it was left up to me to explain the concept of death to a 3 year old and a 5 year old. It was difficult, but at least I had a baseline to work with-they knew who daddy was. He was here, now he's not. He was nice, he was fun, he loved me-we miss him.
Brooklyn has no baseline. She has no idea of who daddy is or what it means to have one. How do I even explain this to her? How do I make her understand something that she has never had, when she is still struggling to understand the idea of toilet training? Her speech and comprehension are blossoming, but these are two concepts that she's not ready to understand. In some ways-and I know many people probably won't understand this-I don't want to explain to her who daddy is. See, if she has a full idea of what it means to have a man who loves her, plays with her, and shares our lives, then she'll know what she's missing. If I gloss over the daddy idea, but don't go into details, she doesn't hurt. No daddy is her normal-I don't want to shatter that. I don't want to make him real for her, show her how much he loved her, make her understand how our lives would be different if he had lived-and then rip it all away by having to explain death to her. She's too little. I'm not equipped to deal with this. I knew grief would be delayed for her. I knew she would experience all the stages as she got older and comprehension dawned, but I thought I had more time.
Dating. Dating has been on my mind a lot lately. I posted here some months ago about being 'ready' to date-whatever that means. I've dated some since then, but not a lot-and nothing really successful. I've tried to force myself out into the Mormon single adult scene-and the scenery leaves much to be desired. I've ventured into the online dating world, and 'met' some very nice individuals, but nobody that sparks my interest or makes me want to go any further than an occasional email. In all of this, I've done a lot of thinking. What is wrong with being single? Other than the occasional fiercely painful bouts of loneliness, I have pretty much accepted my lot in life. I'm lonely-of course I am. I wish Ammon were here, but he's not. I wish I had somebody to share my life with, but I don't. And here's the thing-I have worked so hard at being self-sufficient, at creating a life for me and the kids, at healing, at grieving, at learning to live again-and I'm very, very good at it. I HAVE grieved, and I AM healing. But because I've been so efficient at it, I'm starting to wonder if I've left room in my life for anybody else to be a part of it.
Being in a relationship or a marriage takes a lot of compromise. It takes time, energy, effort, and thought. It's not easy to constantly take the feelings and preferences of another human being into account at all times. I was one type of woman when I was married to Ammon, and now I'm not that woman anymore-I've become a different Victoria entirely, and I'm not even sure at this point how Ammon would fit back into my life. Oh sure, I'd make room for him. I'd alter, he'd change, and we'd choose to mesh again. Somebody else? I don't know. I've built a life for our family-a full, happy, productive, and bursting-at-the-seams-with-activity kind of life. I honestly don't know if I'm ready to give up any part of that to settle down with somebody else.
As difficult as they've been to find-and I've spent a long time searching-there are perks to being single. I get to do whatever I want with my time. My weekends are my own, my money is mine to spend, vacations are up to me entirely. Dinner is my choice every single night. Don't feel like cooking? Pizza it is. Don't feel like doing this dishes? They can sit in the sink. Want to stay up until 2 am chatting on Facebook? No problem. And there are bigger things-things that I couldn't even explain to somebody who hasn't walked this path before. I'm lonely now-but the opportunity for somebody else to hurt me, to leave me-it's not here. I wonder if it's my defense mechanism. If I never let anybody else in, if I never fall in love again, then nobody else can die and break my heart again. If I keep my soul intact and hold it close to myself, it can't be ripped apart again.
Don't get me wrong-I know firsthand how good it feels to let that compromise in, to let my heart open, and to share my soul. I get it. I did all of that with Ammon, and they were the happiest and most fulfilling years of my life to date. This life, however, is fulfilling in a different way. I like to think that I'm not emotionally closed off. I still love my kids fiercely, and I'm a pretty open book when it comes to my friends-especially those that I have come to share this widowed path with. I also like to think that for all my blustering about the perks of being single, I'm open to the idea of changing it. After Ammon died I thought I had a good idea of what kind of man I was intent on finding. Now those boundaries are pretty fuzzy. There are still character points that are indisputable, but for the most part the rest of him is a fuzzy image I can't quiet wrap my eyes around. I don't know if he's a figment of my imagination or a premise of things to come, but I'm trying to accept things either way.
I've been told I'm too young to accept being single for the rest of my life, and maybe I am. I don't look too far in the future these days-the next couple of years is plenty to keep me occupied. I have a 3 year plan-I know that I want to graduate in 2013, and I know where ideally I would like to transplant my family when my degree is complete. It's a loosely formed structure, but it works for now. It gives me direction, it gives me a starting point, and I guess I'll figure out the rest as I go along. I don't see myself growing old alone, but maybe this season is one I will spend in a solitary fashion. Going to school, raising my family-maybe I wasn't meant to share those things with somebody else. Maybe once all those things are passed and I have a more flexible life somebody else will fit in easier. Maybe not.
I'm not going to lie-it's scary, it's lonely, and it's frustrating. I started to type that I'd give every bit of this new life up to have Ammon back-but halfway through the sentence I realized that's a lie. That realization, in this moment, takes my breath away. What wouldn't I give up? My strength. My self-reliance. My education. My new friends. In losing Ammon, I have gained these things. I'm sitting here, staring at the computer screen asking myself: if I had the chance to get Ammon back, but I had to go back to being that girl, would I? Would I choose to keep this life, and live it without him-willingly?
Wow. I don't know.
What a realization a few minutes of typing will find for you.
Maybe it's the fact that I know-with every fiber of my being-that he is waiting for me. Choosing to live this mortal life without him only delays our union in the hereafter. If I can learn such amazing things in this life-but can do so only without him by my side....is it worth it? I'm so grateful that I had the chance to know him. To love him. To be his wife, and the mother to his children. He formed the woman that I am today in every way. He formed me by loving me, and then by leaving me. His presence or lack thereof has formed and shaped every facet of who I am, and who I will remain for the rest of my life. No, Ammon is not gone. I am not without him-we are woven too tightly together to ever be separated. Maybe it is for that reason that at least in this moment, I think I might have the strength to accept the trade off and choose mortality without him. Maybe this is a glimpse of the moment when we made the agreement to come to this earth and accept our fate. I've believed for a long time, sometimes begrudgingly, that Ammon and I sat down together in the life we had before we came to earth. We reviewed the options, and we considered seriously what we were being asked to do. I believe we knew-our heavenly, eternal selves-that we would be separated in this life prematurely. I think we knew the pros and cons, and weighed them carefully before agreeing to come here and go through with the plan.
I think we knew how much it would cost. It would hurt. We would suffer.
I think we also knew what we stood to gain. To learn. To endure.
I think we chose this.
Wow. Maybe that realization is why I needed to sit and sort today.
Seriously. They did. I have a series of updates, hopefully I can remember them all. I'll do them in whatever order they occur to me, which could perhaps be a very odd post. Enjoy!
We've had several-and by several I mean 4 and 2 delayed starts-in the last 2 weeks. 2 WEEKS, people. And in those 2 weeks Jeremy had a silly 'mid-winter break'. In essence, he attended school roughly 4.5 days in the last 14. Yeah, it's been a little hairy at our house. My classes have been canceled 3 times, which has stressed me out almost to the breaking point. In elementary school you get a snow day and it's no big deal. In college, you get a snow day and the information gets crammed down your throat in less time-but you're still responsible for knowing every bit of it. My class schedules have been compacted, tests have been shoved in every direction, and professors are frantic to cover everything in the three weeks we have left until finals. It's been fun...or not.
On the plus side, I have freakishly developed arm muscles from shoveling snow.
Brooklyn has been sporting a dry cough off and on all winter. She has been diagnosed with croup at least once, and has had a series of ear infections since November. I had her into the doctor several times before Christmas, but finally gave up trying to keep up with the constant stream of illness. One of the issues (benefits?) of receiving a medically focused education is the fuel it adds to my 'I hate doctors' fire. I know it's a bit backward, but I am really beginning to feel that most people are horribly over medicated, over treated, and immune systems are undervalued. Most of the time, illnesses and infections will clear up on their own. Not all the time, of course, but most of the common childhood illnesses that our young kids are afflicted with aren't worth a trip to the doctor. That being said-the last week or so I have suspected that Brooklyn has been showing symptoms of the same asthma illness that Kadon has had in the past. I have the machine, I know the mechanisms for treating it, but my medication is expire. I decided to go ahead and take her to the doctor so I can get a new prescription for the steroid I'm most familiar with. While there the doctor listened carefully to my concerns and quickly agreed with my home-diagnosis. She also looked in Brooklyn's ears and declared an active infection in one, and offered antibiotics (which I declined). I was surprised when she listened to Brooklyn's lungs and informed me that they sounded suspiciously like they are harboring fluid-a sure sign of pneumonia. The doctor asked me to take Brooklyn to the nearest children's radiology clinic to check out the status of her lungs, and I complied on my way home. Despite the fact that aside from a somewhat troubling cough Brooklyn has been acting completely normal, I'm still a bit anxious to get the results. At this point it is Friday evening, and I know the earliest I will hear from her pediatrician is Monday, so I will be watching her carefully and using my own stethoscope in the meantime to make sure she doesn't get any worse.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last week, you're well aware that the Winter Olympics are taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia. I've wasted nearly every evening in front of the TV, ensuring that my already precarious school situation has fallen even more behind. Really, I should be completing a chemistry assignment right now instead of watching the Men's Super G competition and blogging.
I'll get right back to homework. Just give me a minute, I swear. Just one more race?
Valentine's Day was never a big deal when Ammon was alive. I don't remember what we did our earliest years other than a rose he bought me the first year we were married. After we started having kids, I know we usually made it a point to stay home, and I'd make a nice meal for dinner, then we would enjoy a good dessert after the kids went to bed. I didn't anticipate that this year would be any different-I don't remember struggling with it last year, I wasn't prepared to feel grief this year. Honestly, I suppose this year wasn't full of soul-crushing sadness either, but I did feel a sense of loneliness that grew as the day went on. I attended church on Sunday, and seeing all the happy families, the affectionate husbands, and the stolen glances-I shouldn't have let it all in. I've healed so much in the last 22 months, but I'm still adept at looking away from affectionate couples. I'm happy for them-especially if they're showing outward and heartfelt affection, I know they appreciate what they have together. Most of the time, though, I choose not to see it. I look away, I walk away, I pretend I don't notice. On Sunday, I found myself paying more attention, and more than a sadness that it was Valentine's Day and Ammon wasn't there, I found myself longing for normal days. For normal evenings, where we could curl up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and a movie. The holiday wasn't anything special, but missing Ammon was a painful tinge to it.
During one of our snow days, I took the kids sledding. We had gone to this hill once before and had an excellent time, so I thought it was a wonderful idea to take the kids and go back. I don't know if I didn't bundle up Brooklyn enough or if she was as fed-up with all the snow as everybody else is, but she didn't handle the trip well the second time. Almost from the moment we got there, she cried. She demanded that I hold her, and even when I went down the hill with her on the sled she cried at the bottom. The boys were having a wonderful time, so I finally sat down on a snowdrift, unzipped my jacket, and nestled her into my chest with my enormous coat wrapping around both of us. She stuck her cold hands underneath my arms and huddled her face into my chest, crying the whole time. She was asking to go home, for a blanket, for a hug. After a few minutes I heard "I want Daddy". Brooklyn has heard Kadon say this in the past-usually in anger or frustration, and clearly it has made an impression on Brooklyn.
It hurt-so much-to hear my little girl ask for something she doesn't even understand. Daddy is only a concept to her, an idea that is loosely formed in her head. She has no idea what wanting Daddy means, or what he would provide for her.
Yet another way that this new life isn't what it's cracked up to be.
I hate Cincinnati this time of year. For months, and months, and months, and months, and months, and MONTHS, we get nothing but grey, dreary, overcast skies. Everything is shrouded in dim light. I could drive with my headlights on a noon for DAYS on end. When I flew to Florida a few weeks ago, the first thing I noticed as our plane lifted off the ground was the cloud cover as we rose above it. Above that there was a most amazing sight-THE SUN! The rare days that the sun comes out here, I realize I've forgotten what shadows look like. It's not bad enough that it's cold-the kind of cold that cuts through layers of clothing-but it's dead. The excess plant life in this part of the country is breathtakingly beautiful in late spring and summer, and vibrant in the autumn months. When all the leaves are finished descending in November, though, everything reverts to dead. Dead bushes, bare branches, empty flower beds. Usually, there's not even enough snow to cover everything up and make it pretty, so all the 'dead' is laid bare.
This time of year is dreary. It makes me cranky. And honestly-may be the main reason I end up leaving Cincinnati permanently. I love living east of the Mississippi, and really have no intention of ever living on the other side of it again, but I need to get more south than I am here. There are scant few things that I miss about Utah, aside from the people, but the near-constant sunshine is one of them. Even on days when it's windy, snowy, and bitterly cold-the sun shines in Utah almost every day. In my imagination, I have transplanted my future family to the northern part of South Carolina, or the southern part of North Carolina. It's on the eastern seaboard, it has mountains, forests, and the humidity I have grown to appreciate. There are still 4 seasons, but none of them are especially extreme. The best part? SUNSHINE!
I need the sun to come out, weather people. Please? I feel like I might lose my mind very soon if I don't see some shadows.
We had the most delightful snow day yesterday. I knew it was forecast for a pretty large accumulation overnight, and had really hoped-so I was thrilled when it came through. The kids and I spent the day shoveling, sledding, cleaning, baking, and hanging out with friends and it was the most delightful break from the daily grind! I knew more snow was forecast last night, and hoped for a second snow day...but I wasn't specific enough in my hope, apparently. Jeremy got to stay home from school, but I still had to go in. I'm glad to have had at least one day to relax, and great friends to spend time with!
Today is the Super Bowl. This Sunday has always been a big deal in our family, and we've thrown a party every year for as long as I can remember. I wrote about the last big one we threw here. It was the last year we were in Utah, and was incidentally the day I found out I was pregnant with Brooklyn. For the Super Bowl the first we were married, we got together to watch the game with Travis and Christina, who would become and remain close friends over the years. We've had large parties and we've had small parties, and the first year we lived in Cincinnati we had no party at all, because we didn't know enough people. Last year, I couldn't watch it at all.
This year, our favorite team is playing in the Bowl again. It starts at 6:35 EST, and should be in full swing by the time the kids go to bed. At this moment, I'm still uncertain if I can bring myself to watch it. I stopped at the grocery store last night and considered getting some traditional Super Bowl snacks, but I didn't. It just wouldn't feel like a party to sit here and watch it by myself. I even briefly tried to find some people to come over and watch it with me, but I suspect those phone calls contributed to my malaise of the past two days so I'm not going to attempt that again.
All in all, it's another milestone, and I feel like it's a turning point-either I watch the game like I have every year for most of my life, or I miss it yet again-and set the stage for missing it in years to come. This grief journey is tough. It's hard, and there are no rules. I wish that a simple football game didn't give me cause for such reflection, but this is my life. I know if I don't watch it I will be letting the grief win. I know if I do I will sit on the sofa and long for Ammon.
As always, the sun came out, at least metaphorically speaking, this morning. Actually, it started to poke it's rays around last night, and its warmth was a welcome distraction from the pain I spent most of the day wallowing in. It's been a long time since I had such a grief-filled day. I had worried, in some small compartment of my brain, that that meant I was getting over his loss and betraying him somehow. I know now that yesterday was a reminder that his loss is still with me-it still hurts, I still long for him, and I haven't forgotten him. I hate that it has to be painful to feel those things, but I suppose it's the name of this game.
It snowed last night, just enough to give us snow to play in, and enough for me to shovel. We're all getting bundled up to head outside, and I'm going to spend some time just 'being'. The sad day I took yesterday hasn't completely worn off, but it's bearable now. I'm grateful for that.
I wrote this on my widow support group a little while ago. I know I've been neglecting this blog-life has gotten away from me again, and I feel like I'm in a constant struggle to maintain an even keel. Last night threw me for a loop, and I'm still reeling.
It will be 2 years for me in April, and last night was one of those nights that was filled with such crushing loneliness that I could hardly breathe. I cope well most of the time-really, truly well. I am enrolled full time in school and I'm busy raising our 3 young children. I manage to juggle all my responsibilities and I have seen photos of myself where real joy is evident in my eyes-not the fake kind from that first year. I know I've thrown my head back in honest, throaty laughter-but last night I was sucked back into a place of grief and loneliness. The worst part of it was when I tried to pull the memory of him close-I found that bits of him have faded away. His memory, the sound of his voice and the memory of his touch have been like a warm blanket that I could pull around my shoulders, especially that first year. I kept his voice alive in my head, the things he would say kept a running commentary on my day. However, as I've gotten further out from my loss and learned how to live again, I've let some of those things go. He is always with me, and I think about him every day, but he isn't necessarily always keeping a running commentary on my day. I don't reach out for him at night anymore, and frankly-I don't know if I really remember what it felt like to make love to him.
I'm torn-I feel like 'letting him go' is a necessary part of healing-if I work hard at keeping his touch and voice alive in my head, I don't know how I could bear the pain of not having him here. If I keep how much I love him, and how much I miss him front and center in my life, I can't function. I don't know how much choice I've had in the pieces of him I've lost-but I feel like in letting them go, I've betrayed him. I cried last night, for the first time since I stood on the beach after the rose ceremony in Ft. Lauderdale-and they were the loud kind of sobs I was afraid would wake the kids. In the midst of my wails, I realized it had been months since I cried like that. What does that mean? Does it mean I'm healing, and it's healthy? Does it mean that so much of him has slipped away that I'm not even actively grieving his loss anymore? I know-logically-that I love(d) him with all my heart, but if I've let the sound of his voice, the light in his eyes, or the smile in his face fade away, does that mean I don't love him as much as I thought?
I know-logically-that this is all part of grieving. I know that I'm certainly not the first widow to struggle in the chasm between active grief and whatever lies beyond that. I have grieved my love in the most healthy way I know how-but I fear now that in the healing, I've lost who he is. Little things I can't remember, touches that have faded away. Like I said-if I didn't let these things go, I don't know how I could bear the pain. But now that they're gone, I don't know how to go on without them.