4.08.2021

Don't Get Stuck on the Cookie: Part 1

The year was 2014. I was running ridiculous miles as Boston loomed near. I was having doubts about my purpose and worth and wondering whether I was doing what I was actually here for. I struggled with food, had a bit of body dysmorphia and was obsessed with health and performance. I was likely an anxious mess but I wasn't about to let anyone in on that. (I am sure no one noticed, right?)

I had apparently made a Lenten promise to "write one person a little note" every day of Lent. I do not recall this idea. I doubt I made it through two days because although the thought was in the right place, I know the follow through was probably lacking, and I would hope that if I really wrote 40 different people over the course of 40 days that year, that I might remember it. I do not.

At any rate, fast forward six years. As I was cleaning out some things the day before Easter this year, I found an envelope that read (in my handwriting):

To Karen

(Open on Easter)

Intrigued, I held onto it to open the next day, on Easter, like it instructed. And I subsequently forgot about it, again....apparently that is how I roll you guys. 

Anyway, I read the letter the day after Easter. And the next day. And the next day. Not because it was such a great letter but because I guess I still need to hear the wisdom of my 37 year old self. I want to be more like her again one day. (But maybe with a better memory and a better grasp on a few things!)

Here is what I wrote: 

3/5/14

Dear Self, 

There are 40 days in Lent and you are going to write a note every day to someone new. Day 1 is YOU! Of course, you are totally feeling that second glass of wine (it was totally worth it no matter what you think tomorrow!) but you have to know some things so I (you) am going to tell you. (Confused yet self?)

First, you need to fight for your family; for your kids, their needs, for the things that are going to build memories and connect you. The time is NOW. Get movin' Girl!

Secondly, eat the damn cookie already! You are running 50+ miles a week. I am pretty sure it won't be a problem. Stop thinking about it and just do it. Then you will have more time to move on to bigger and more important things. Don't get stuck on the cookie!

Third, people need you. Stop your constant inner struggle with "figuring out your purpose" because you are living it! Start acting like you, your purpose, and path are in front of you because THEY ARE!

Finally, relax a little and remember to love--Love your life, your husband, your kids, you family and friends and the strangers you run into on the street. These are the moments that life is made of; these are the greatest and least and everything in between and you will do well to love as much as you can. Take a deep breath and just relax. You are doing just fine. (So long as you don't get paralyzed by that cookie!)

Much love, 

Your Self


So today, remember: Don't get stuck on the cookie! And honestly, there are a lot of cookies in this lifetime! 

Cheers!



2.04.2021

Open Letter to Fellow Parents

 Dear Fellow Parents, 

I know you love your children. I know you want to protect them and keep them safe and all that stuff. I get it. I have kids, too. A lot of them actually. But, we need to have a little chat about Middle School drop off. You see, when your child was 5 and 6, and you insisted on driving up exactly in front of the school door to drop off your precious cargo, we all understood. We were all there, making sure we saw our little angels walk into the building so that we could drive away with emotional ease. Afterall, they were babies then. 

Two years later, we were encouraged by the teachers on Drop-Off duty at the Elementary school to let our kids out earlier; there was even a sign back then: Drop off Kids After this Point (or something like that) letting us know, "It's ok, mom and dad; your kids can safely walk from here. We are here to make sure they get into the building." And many of you understood and readily dropped off your kid at the sidewalk, letting them walk a few extra feet into the building. You did it! They made it! And we all went about our day, happily ever after. 

But now, dear parents, your child is a 7th or 8th grade teenager, and I have to ask, how did you forget all those years of drop-off training? Even my kid living with Autism eagerly jumps out of the car 4 or 5 cars back because he knows he can do hard things.....things like, I don't know, walking an extra 20 yards into the building. I imagine, one day, he may even tell his own children how he quickly jumped out of the vehicle and rapidly walked those extra yards on a slick, salt covered sidewalk, through 14 degree weather, wearing his pandemic mask, just to get into the warm building. It is building his character and who knows, maybe even making him a little more grateful to be able to go to school. And yeah, I know, sometimes the kids are reluctant, and haven't slid over to the drop off side of the car quick enough, or are struggling to get their stuff together or are being, gasp, difficult.....we've all been there. It happens....but not every gosh darned day!

I promise you, it won't kill your kid if they get out BEFORE they are the first car in line. I suspect, it may even make them a wee bit less soft. But really, you've got this. Your kids will survive....if only you would let them! And then one day, they will be able bodied enough to get to High School all by themselves. These are the days we have been working towards, Parents! We've got this! We are in it together! 


All the best, 

That Mom behind you who has been waiting for 4 cars to drop off kids right at the front of the line (my kid has been safely inside for minutes!)

 


12.31.2020

Are We There Yet? (A year in review)

I preach it to other parents all the time: let your kids fail. Let them make mistakes. Help them learn from the stumbling and they will be more steady on their feet and stronger for it. I preach it all day long. If the parents promised not to call the PsychWard, I'd get it tatooed on my forehead and make them read it at every encounter.

And 2020 hit. Boy did it hit. I was trying to journey back in my mind to recall how this year began (yes, I was in the photo app on my phone....no way my brain would ever remember all of THAT!) and it kind of hit me...this year was like my view on failing magnified by alien zombies who are clearly experimenting with torture using my own darn sermon topic (with some additional random BS thrown in for good measure.) 

A quick review of my year includes:

January: The septic system clogging up and backing all the way into our basement (which subsequently took about 10 hours of cleaning and throwing away $h!t, metaphorically and otherwise, and 6 months of psychological recovery....I mean, how can that smell just stay on you and permeate your entire being when drenched in that much bleach!!!!) (I am not including the actual pictures....you're welcome!) But, I learned so much about the septic system....and my kids were given a treatise on what you can AND CANNOT put in toilets.....so much learning.....and THAT is why Sloth made his way into our home....to offer stability and humor. 

February: A carbon monoxide leak that was on the verge of killing our whole family ("you would not have woken up tomorrow" was a common statement by the fire department, the EMTs and air/heat/plumbing guys as they miraculously discovered the problem, evacuated a very confused us out of our own home, turned off the gas, capped the hole and made sure our blood oxygen levels were ok enough to not require further care.) We now own carbon monoxide detectors that actually work and I thank God often for the incredible timing of that random Air/Heat appointment. 

March: Oooooh, when those March winds blew....while it started with this tiny little GLOBAL PANDEMIC, we took a splendid trip down to FL where everything was ok, so long as you were on the beach, breathing in the salt air, soaking in the salt water and around absolutely no salty people. The trip ended quite abruptly, right after I secured a quick little concussion, when we found out school would be starting back up again, but this time, at home. ALL FIVE KIDS TOGETHER.... USING THE SAME INTERNET!!! But, not to be outdone by January or February, March threw in a tree almost falling on Liam and me while we went for our daily run. And again, we thanked God for the impeccable timing. 

April: I can honest to God say....April would, maybe, have been our best month (if it weren't for the lights and noise and screens all continually hurting my head)....and oh, the anxiety. So, here's the thing, I have experience limited episodes of anxiety in my adult life. For the most part, I am fairly resilient and soldier through random stresses and fears and don't get too anxious about random life stuff. But then I had a concussion, during Covid, and the insomnia at night was unbearable and I got to the place that I was scared I had hurt my brain badly enough that, this time, I was actually going to die. And that is when I realized anxiety had crept in while I was unawares, and I needed to go to the doctor about this silly head problem. By the time they got me in, I was on my way out of it, I had broken down and had a mini-midlife crisis in which I finally surrendered to whatever might be because I felt like my life had had purpose and meaning and so, it was okay if I died. (Seriously, that was a conclusion I drew in order to keep myself going.) Luckily, the anxiety started to lessen as the concussion healed and I was given the go ahead to get back to my normal life.....which of course, by that point, was nothing even close to resembling normal. 

May: By May, we had things better figured out. We were using most of our time wisely, spending solid hours connecting with each other at home, had learned how to zoom and google chat and group facetime, were not sitting in the car for thirty minutes every time we went to the grocery store because of the anxiety over having to wear a mask (a true story....it took me weeks to bravely wear a mask into a store, and still, I rush through most shopping experiences as quickly as possible because it gets me into the fresh air sooner.) My girls made my birthday one of the most special ever and I can honestly say, May was a saving grace to this year in many ways for me. Really, the only big negatives were those raccoon attacks in the coop but even there, we just threw up our hands to the universe and then started catching all those babies, (and then their parents...and cousins....) and finding them new homes that don't involve my chicken coops. It was like our own little Mini-Raccoon Rescue. Kind of. 

June: Oh sweet Jesus....things were looking better....things were opening up! There was hope. We saw beautiful sunsets, gorgeous days outside, Liam even played baseball. Sure, we were still catching the rest of the raccoon's extended family (man they are prolific breeders), but all in all, June was almost amazing. 

July: We were still coming off our June high, living summer life to the fullest, lake trips, fluffy clouds and rainbows, so when I cut my finger deeply trying to cut a late night snack, Lily and I just patched it up by ourselves because, shoot, is THAT all you got 2020? (Never, ever test fate like that y'all....it just isn't worth it!)

August: I never thought I would say this but I LOVED Middle School Soccer tryouts this year. It meant we were on the field, together, and yes, it meant coming up with all sorts of crazy activities due to the covid protocols we had to follow and yes, it took me a few days to stop being harsh underneath the mask (did I mention masks are not my favorite things ever?) but generally speaking, it was fantastic. And when the time came to make cuts, I was very honest with the girls: I don't know any coach with half a heart that actually likes making cuts. Cutting kids is hard. But it is not the hardest thing I have ever had to do and I knew those girls who did not make it this year would face it bravely and go on to do great things. And then, Solomon played football! Like, real tackle football! And Liam tried out for a travel baseball team and honestly, it may have been one of the proudest moments in my life. He was a little nervous the day before....I'll admit, I was nervous for him. My instincts were to talk him out of it, protect him from failure, but then I heard my own sermon play through my head and I knew he needed to do it. 

"What if I don't make the team?" he asked.

"Is that any different than now?" I asked back. ("No.) "Will you die?" I asked. ("No.") "Then there is no reason not to try. If you don't try, you will never know. If you do try, you will either be on a team or be right where you are but better because now you know what you need to work on."

He gave it his best. He fielded the balls. He caught the pop flies. He even pitched! And I was completely shocked at how far he had come. For a split second, I thought he might actually have a chance. But then he had to bat. And he needs a lot more work on that. But, now he knows exactly what he needs to do. And the smile on his face when it was all over, well, that was worth every bit of it. And then, in 2020 fashion, he found out he didn't make the team from kids at school. But, no worries because he was already off running cross country and he never really looked back!

September: Oh, September.....2020 decided to rear its ugly head again....multiple hospital visits and that doozie run in with one of my players that had me in a brace for what felt like eternity. While fully tearing both my MCL and ACL, was never on my bucket list, the experience has been chalk full of real life moments. I learned how to navigate the insurance system and workers comp, I'm fairly familiar now with the internal structure of the knee, the strengthening and injury prevention methods to better help my players, and I learned what a wonderful community I have supporting me. I am so thankful for the generous outreach of unfettered help from so many people. I was injured, without a doubt but I was also blessed in so many ways. 

October: October was spent relearning how to use my leg, through injury and pain, while also strengthening it to prep for surgery. I was unable to drive for almost the entire month. Try that sometime, with 5 kids....so much fun. 

November: Surgery.....for anyone who has had surgery you know what I am talking about....I am glad that is behind me. I am so thankful my brother was able to be here but pretty much the rest of it was just icky. But, Madeline also turned 16 and bravely faced some new life experiences herself and oh, we got a new puppy! Not all was lost!

December: Outside of that random dog fight between Storm and the neighbor's Doberman, you know the one in which my 16 year old thought to tackle the doberman in order to save our dog.....it was a pretty smooth month all things considered. But I will admit, as we enter 2021, we are so thankful to start anew. 

And before you think I am delusional enough to believe that 2021 is going to turn everything around (Madeline did jinx the entire year within the first few minutes by jokingly saying: Ah, 2021, what's the worst that could happen?!....Why Maddie why??), I will just say this: I am grateful for the opportunity to believe in fresh starts and for the turn of the year to offer just that. I also believe 2020 has prepared a lot of us for the unknown in ways no other year ever has. And that is something. Maybe the January addition of Sloth to our household was just a sign of things to come....of days spent together, enjoying each other's company. And for me, of a time when slow was the new norm and smiling for no good reason was really the best way to be. (I have started to think of that smile as the smile of survival. Thanks, Sloth!)

Happy New Year Everyone....or at least, Yay! A New Year.....at last!

Much love. -K

10.28.2020

Last Bat

[Note to reader: When I originally started this post, we were in the month of July....and then some life stuff happened and now it is October and I opened this up and thought, Oh.My.Gosh. It is no longer almost August, it is ALMOST NOVEMBER! And that pretty much sums up the entire year....I left the post as it was though and will try to get to the next post within the decade. Thanks for your patience.]

So here's the thing: I have no idea how it is already July, much less about to be AUGUST! WHAAAT? 

JULY! As in J-U-L-Y! The 7th month of the year, going on the 8th month and soon, back to school, whatever that might mean! I'm personally stuck somewhere between: "Where the heck did months 3 through 6 go??" and "Argh! We still have FIVE months in this year of insanity!"

We started 2020 with all this awesomeness and then March hit and HOLY GUACAMOLE! At first, I spent hours on end laughing at all the funny Covid memes, excited about the little "Spring break" we were having. But after a whirlwind trip to FL, a dumb concussion, and having to become my kids homeschool teacher long enough to realize I don't care enough about elementary school grades to actually worry about whether my boys were actually completing their work or not, (and then realizing that trying to explain that to their teachers was not my best idea ever)....well, like everyone else, we spent a lot of time in the trenches of this thing, trying to figure out how to spend so much time together in our house without kicking anyone off the island while also testing the social distancing waters and make our way back into our former life, now through a completely different lens. 

Exhale.

And still, FIVE months left in this year! 

I have been asked to keep writing. Well, I think someone may have mentioned it like six months ago but since I can't really recall what we did yesterday, I could be making that story up in my head. I am going to have to get back in the habit of making mental notes and getting to my computer every night. I wish I had been better about it from the beginning of this thing but instead, I had to learn how to Zoom....and how to coach soccer teams via the internet and how to make masks (note: I have a love hate relationship with my sewing machine and after a dozen tries, several cursed at bobbins, a broken needle or two, and that extra half hour it took me to remember how to put the presser foot back on correctly, I broke down and bought them like the other non-crafty people I know. Kind of kicking myself for not starting THERE but, I have in fact used my sewing machine for so many other fixes recently that I guess it is all worth it. Thanks, Covid!)

At any rate, I wanted to share a semi-uplifting story about one of my favorite characters: Liam. If you have been a reader long enough, (or are related) you know that Liam is a special kid. Yeah, yeah, we all think our kid is special, but as an extroverted kid on the Autistic Spectrum, who can't help but smile at just about everything and whose love for sports surpasses that of most athletes I know, well, he really is special.

And he LOVES baseball. I will be honest. I don't know how. I have such little patience for it myself but seeing how baseball lights up his face even more than it is naturally, well, his radiant joy becomes contagious. 

The only problem is, he is now 12 and there is no longer "rec" baseball for him to play. The only real option he has is to try out for a travel team and if we are honest with his ability at this point, his chance is slim to none. 

I was pondering this last night at the final game: a pick-up "sandlot" style game for the kids who don't play football. They chose captains and the captains chose the teams. I will admit, my stomach turned a little, knowing Liam would be one of the last ones selected. He was next to last but his huge smile and the cheers of his teammates eased this mama's heart. The camaraderie and supportiveness he has experienced in this league have been incredible. I took a deep breath and the game began. 

One of Liam's big struggles is hitting. He was okay when it was coach pitch and they could adjust the speed of the balls thrown for him. But with the kids getting so big and throwing so fast, Liam hadn't hit a ball all season, not even a tip. Last night though, the coaches pitched and as Liam made his way to the plate for the first time, I prayed my mama prayer: Please, just connect, just this once, in what might be his final game of baseball as a kid, please let him hit the ball.

The coach lobbed the ball his way; Liam let it go by. Again, the coach pitched and Liam swung and missed. And then, something awesome happened: as the next pitch came in, Liam got a sly little look on his face and bunted the ball. The coach took his time fielding the ball, threw to first and Liam found himself safe at the base! 

The boys went WILD! Liam was grinning ear to ear! 

Three times at bat, three bunted balls. And in that last bat, Liam bunted and started running; the coach slowly fielded the ball, purposefully overthrew first and round and round the bases Liam ran as the other boys scurried to catch up to the play. When Liam stopped at third base, everyone cheered and Liam could hardly stop laughing. 

While my heart grew three sizes that day, I still don't prefer baseball, but I am so glad Liam does. And I can't wait to see what he conjures up next! 









1.24.2020

That Time Mom Bought a Sloth

So here's the thing: I don't think anyone walks into a store with the intention of buying a pet sloth. Is it a LIVE pet sloth you ask? Well, of course not. I'm not crazy! (Wait, can you get a live one somewhere?)

But, sometimes things happen. And while it had been less than a week since Kurt told me we needed to cut back on our spending, there I was with this unfortunate dilemma. I really needed to buy a sloth. I couldn't explain it. Don't ask me why. It was definitely impulsive but once strapped into my car, I knew it was the right thing to do with that $20. (Some people might think it is questionable that I am being told to cut back on spending when clearly I make very good choices....hee hee.....apparently those people do not know me AT ALL!)

In my defense, I don't shop at Walmart if I can help it and when I do, I don't usually let my eyes wander to the big bargain bins of fun things. And I usually am not talking to my soccer team manager while doing those two things and wouldn't then mention the hilarity of the gigantic Llama stuffed animal that 'I am sure I need to get for my daughter Lily.....and oh look! A Smiling Sloth!' I blame my manager for telling me her daughter would love the sloth....because now I have one. In my car.

At any rate, here is Sloth strapped in.



Seriously. Something's very wrong with me. But look how happy he is!



So I picked up the girls from the bus stop that day.

"Mom, do we need to ask?" one of them said.

"No. Better if you don't. But, oh, you are giving a Sloth to your little sister, Leah, by the way." (They are in a mentorship program with my soccer teams and Leah is their little sis. It justifies everything.)

Anyway, they know me pretty well, so they snickered a bit, and I am pretty sure there may have been some eye rolling action going on, but they knew to leave it alone.

A little later, I went to the elementary school to pick up Solomon. He got into the car and there was this silent pause before he closed the door. Then I looked in my rearview mirror and saw him glaring at Sloth. The next thing I know, he is beating the snot out of Sloth with his book bag!

"Solly! Why are you beating up my pet Sloth?!" I intensely asked.

"Because.... HE STOLE MY SEAT!" Solly yelled back.


****

Later that night, a coaching friend texted me a bit upset because a basketball parent had become belligerent with him at his Futsal practice, called him arrogant, told him soccer did not belong on a basketball court, among other things.

"Want me to stick Sloth on him?" I texted back, hoping to lighten up the situation.

"No, the parent would probably just call him lazy," he said.

"Well," I replied, "Sloth's been sitting in the same damn seat ALL DAY! He IS lazy!"

I probably need to work on my empathy skills.

****

Meanwhile, Liam knew nothing about Sloth. He had been picked up and dropped off in my car several times during the day, but had been in and out of the front seat and never looked back. We were on the way to school and running a bit late the next morning when I came to a quick stop and commented, "Hopefully my pet Sloth doesn't fall out of his seat."

Liam looked at me confused as he struggled to get his seatbelt on.

"Are you calling me a Sloth?" he questioned.

"Um, no. I am referring to my pet Sloth," I said, pointing to the back seat.

Liam turned around and immediately started belly laughing like I have never heard from him. He was so tickled he could hardly contain it.

Solly, quietly sitting next to Sloth, was not amused.

"It really isn't that funny," Solly scolded Liam.

"Yes, it really is!" Liam snorted.

"No, he is REALLY ANNOYING!" Solomon exclaimed. "Why do we even have to have him IN THE CAR?!"

"Well," I said calmly. "I could hide him in your bed as a little surprise if you'd rather."

"Well then I will just put him outside your bedroom door before you wake up and see how YOU like it!" Solly exclaimed.

"You are right. That would probably startle me....Sloth would definitely make me jump first thing in the morning," I admitted.

Solly got really quiet....and then, out of nowhere, starts laughing and laughing and laughing....

"Mom, why can't you take me to school first? I might be late now!" Solly asked once he got a hold of himself.

"Just tell your teacher Sloth made you late," I told him.

"But I blame you!" he said.

"That may be more true, but it is WAY more interesting if you tell her it was your pet sloth!"

"Still annoying," he said before getting out of the car, a half smile still planted on his face.

"Have a great day, Solly!" I yelled back.

It's about making memories y'all!

I heard a quote recently that resonated with me. It went something like this:
"Now I know, my life will not make me happy but happiness will make my life."

And that is why I bought the happiest Sloth ever.....

(Totally. Worth. Every. Penny! hee hee hee)


The Sunrise

Sloth watching the sunrise

Sloth meeting the cat

Totally. Worth. It.

5.12.2019

Happy Mother's Day

I was asked to write again. And as such, experienced this dichotomy between feeling appreciated or wanted and at the same time a little guilty and sad. Maybe that is part of this crazy balancing act we all go through when we have to let some things fall through the crack and realize the one thing that was keeping it all together was the one thing that we had to let go!

Anyway, it has been a while and too much jumbled chaos has filled all the moments of my life and left no time for the quiet reflection that cleanses a soul and helps tell a story. So I cannot put it all to paper, er, screen. I don't know if it is just the having five kids thing or the time I have dedicated to coaching or taking care of chickens or the seven kittens or the nine bunnies (and that is nine only because we gave five away) or the fact that one of those kittens came home one day pregnant because I just hadn't gotten them all fixed yet.....because I hadn't worked out the time (it's ok to judge, but don't be surprised if a "live animal" package shows up for you at the post office)....or because one of our kids was feeling neglected and needed more from me and it seems that someone always needs more and more and more, and then the babysitter quit and .....  before I spiral here I am going to take a moment to tell some stories. Hopefully humor is actually what we all need a little more of but sometimes I wonder if I am grossly mistaken. (When I finish laughing at this whole universe, I will let you know.)

As it turns out, there is another parenting thing they don't tell you about in the pregnancy book that is equally important to all that "What to Expect When You are Expecting" stuff. (And that book by the way, is essentially a fairy tale with a cute little ball of baby in the happily ever after.....the hard stuff comes AFTER that baby gets home....the pregnancy was the EASY part. Thanks for that little exclusion, Book!) Anyway, here's the thing: One day, if you are so lucky, you get the opportunity to teach your teenager how to drive, or at least, how not to drive like you do because there is no way it will pass the driving test!

So, by the grace of God, Aidan turned 16 in February, and has since been chaufferring me around (it's about time) and what they don't tell you is that you don't realize how important that breathing stuff really is until you sit on the passenger side of the car the first time your teenage driver gets behind the wheel. (Who knew that Lamaze stuff would come back around!)

Seriously though, for the last few months, (and by few I mean like half a year) Aidan has fallen behind in his school work and has subsequently not been taking his voice lessons each week. Never fear though, I like to be challenged so the first time he asked to cancel, I showed up and became the "substitute" vocal student. I figured, hey, teachers do it, why can't the student? So on most weeks, I show up to his voice lessons to learn how to control my breath, project, open my soft palate and transition through the vocal ranges flawlessly (which I'm sure comes with practice, at least that is what she tells me) but the biggest benefit has been the deep belly breathing that we sometimes do to relax me on those few occasions I tamper with my human side and come in stressed. It was as if the universe just knew I would need this technique because in that first moment with Aidan behind the wheel, I think I stopped breathing for oh, five hours of that 20 minute car ride before I realized I needed to put those lessons to good use.

Deep breath in, relaxing the chest, filling the belly, and out....instant relaxation....well, instant once we were safely home....and after I reminded him that he needed to turn the car off BEFORE exiting the car. Details.

Since that day, I remember my belly breathing (and try to stop clenching all the muscles in my body or grinding my teeth down...and keep my choicer words to myself, among other things) and he has only forgotten to turn the car off two other occasions, so we're making progress.

And I guess, on this Mother's Day, that is all one can really ask for, progress.

So, to all you moms, Happy Mother's Day! May it be one big belly breath after another, rinse and repeat, and perhaps a little progress thrown in for good measure.






1.11.2019

Mary

Some people come into your life and reshape how you think, how you see the world and your experience of even the ordinary moments.  They just "get" you from the inside out, as if your souls have known each other for eternity. They understand your humor, laugh with your self-perceived wit, don't take you any more seriously than you take yourself and yet make you feel like they couldn't be any more serious about you. They are the kindred spirits, the fast friends, the ones who don't miss a beat, no matter how near or far.

For me, Mary DePersia was this and so much more. She was my chosen family. My west coast mom. Forgive the cliche, but she was a soul sister through and through. 

While it seems like I have always known her, I met Mary the day I brought my first born home from the hospital. Tired and worn, I took him straight to the front office of our townhouse community to introduce him to the two women who worked there. You see, I was already pregnant when we moved to San Diego, and knowing I would be staying home with our children, I did not take a new job there which left me plenty of time to meander. So each day, I would walk to the sales office, work out at the gym and then stop in to pass the time over coffee, cookies and conversation with the two women who worked there. (Sometimes they would interrupt our girl time to do their jobs.) On that fateful February day, Mary happened to be in the office doing the same. (Minus the working out!) We were introduced, she 'ooed' and 'ahhed' over my newborn and pretty soon, Aidan and I just met her at her townhouse instead to do life together. 

Mary quickly became a bestie, like a sister to me and a grandma to my child. She was so tightly woven into the fabric of our life and I spent so much time over there that I am surprised her husband Chris doesn't have a neck issue as he continually shook his head at us, laughing like school girls, gabbing on as we would, solving the world's problems (or at least making fun of them) over cheese and crackers. 

One of our favorite shared stories had to do with a trip to Costco. A constant companion, she would tag along whenever I went shopping to help me with Aidan. On one of these trips, Mary had offered to push the cart since I was big and pregnant again and Aidan, well, was Aidan. A little more sure on his feet now and wanting nothing to do with sitting inside the cart, he was given permission (i.e. he was already doing it anyway) to stand on the outside of the cart, holding onto the side, feet on the bottom rack. So there we were, walking along when I look over to see Mary pushing the cart while browsing the aisles and Aidan at the bottom, holding on for dear life as his body dragged along the ground, feet flying wildly behind, a big smile on his face. I started laughing and Mary looked down to see what she had missed, then looked back and ever so nonchalantly said something along the lines of: "Wow, I didn't know he could already cart surf! He is a real natural!"

She asked about her "cart surfer" during our last conversation, still getting a good laugh from that 15 year old memory. That was a week ago. No time at all it seems, yet between the then and now, life stood still a moment as one of its finest left us. 

The day Mary died was an unusual day. My normal energy was sapped. I had a hard time waking up that morning and after the first wave of kids left for school, I found myself crawling back in bed with such a heaviness I thought I must be coming down with something. I told Kurt that I thought I might need to go get checked for Lyme Disease, everything ached and the exhaustion was intense. No amount of caffeine could snap me out of it; something just felt very wrong. A few hours later, Chris told me the news of her passing and as sorrow filled my heart, the heaviness made sense. We had a weird connection, birthdays a week apart, both of us Geminis to the core (or so we laughed about anyway). I thought it oddly coincidental that the day she went in sick years ago to the hospital with pneumonia, I was fighting off a horrible cough, the worst I had had in years. Chris had called me to tell me the terrible news that she was so ill and they had found cancer in her lungs and were not sure she would make it out. Devastated, I wanted to fly out but my cough was so bad I knew they wouldn't let me near her. But Mary fought back. And granted us more time. 

But, there was no warning call this time. Just the news of her passing. The flood of memories and emotions, the regrets and remorse; all so crippling. Only a few days before, we had spoken on the phone. The sorrow she feels at the holidays since the loss of her only son was more evident this year; her breathing a little more labored, but all in all, she was doing ok she said. I had sent her the yearly picture calendar we make for her at Christmas, a little late as usual but earlier than my norm. And my first flustered thought was, oh no, did the pictures even make it to her? Did she know I thought about her....that I loved her? And then the guilt overwhelmed me. I had always felt like her chosen daughter and yet, she had tried to call me just days before and I couldn't take the call as I was with company. I had made a mental note to call her back the next day, even told her incredible story to my sister-in-law, how Mary was a medical miracle, how she had fought off lung cancer, and how doctors were shocked with her survival given how bad it was, how she had had some melanomas removed recently and had been scheduled for another scan. But my life, too full at times to even think straight, had distracted me from returning the call. My stomach twisted into a knot as I rapidly checked my voice mailbox, hoping to hear her on the other end. She hadn't left a message. I crumbled.  

The thing about grief is that it all becomes kind of a big blur. There are so many tears shed, so much heartache, so many unanswered questions and unknowns. There were mournful hours mixed with moments of clarity and calm; tears shed for not only Mary and for Chris, their lost son, her brother, but then also again for my cousin, whose son's death is still so fresh in our hearts. It is all so raw. And everywhere I look, there is a reminder. The 'first year' frames she gave me for each of my children, the "Friendship is like a Sheltering Tree" plaque, the chicken wall decor, the Norman Rockwell Santas, even my daughter who was given Mary's middle name... and on and on. Mary is everywhere.  

I slept fitfully that first night, waking once in the bleak hours of morning, after a chilling dream, only to open my eyes and feel water rush out as if I had continued crying in my sleep. I have heard it said that sometimes when someone you love dies, and you wake up that first morning without them, for a brief moment, you forget and feel like your old self. But then, in a blink, reality hits like a sucker punch, taking your breath away as you recognize that it wasn't all a terrible dream and it pierces you all over again as if cutting open the wound for the first time. And that is when you know that your old life, the one with your loved one still in it, is never coming back. And that smothering moment is the beginning of a new normal, one that starts with a crawl through pain and heartbreak and leads you through unpredictable waves of sorrow that threaten to wash you away.  

Needless to say, the day was rough. I had traveling decisions to make and to be honest, I am not great at making travel decisions under the best of circumstances, much less in this one. Chris generously texted with me throughout the day, letting me know his sister and niece were flying in to help and he would keep me posted on the decisions made. With the false comfort of knowing he was not alone, I found myself keeping busy with the tasks I had been putting off a while like addressing Christmas (now New Years) cards and deleting my backlog of emails, all the while, wishing I had been given more time with her, that I had given more time to her. I just childishly thought there would be another day. Another year. Another conversation. Another lifetime together. 

Obsessive questions kept drifting through my thoughts: why didn't she leave a message, what was she calling to say, why didn't I call her back? I kept lifting them to God, praying he would settle my mind. That's when I ran into an unread email sent to me just days before. It was an e-card from Mary. Always thoughtful, she had sent me a beautiful JacquieLawson animated e-card, her favorite kind: a delightedly peaceful winter scene unfolded, snow gently falling, (like it had all day the day she passed and continued in that moment as I read), sweet little black-capped chickadees flying about, deer grazing, bunnies curiously watching and a cozy, little house to come home to with kids skating outside on a frozen pond; a cold, winter scene that warmed the soul and at the end was this message:

"Thank you! 
I tried to reach you by phone.....no luck and did you know your mailbox is full so I couldn't leave a message. Anyway (enough of my whining) I want to thank you for my calendar, I enjoy them so much....I love seeing how the kids have grown and am sad to see how the kids have grown...hoping that makes sense. Happy New Year to you, Kurt and the kids. Love you and we'll talk soon. I have some "biblical" questions!"

And just like that, she gave one last gift. Answers, much deserved sarcasm, peace and just like Mary, a little cliff hanger to ponder. 

Rest well, Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Depersia. Thank you for being you, for sharing your heart and life with us. May the only One truly capable of answering all your questions give you everlasting peace and comfort. (And sorry about the voicemail. I'm working on it!) Talk soon. 

I love you.