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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Play ball!


We had our first game on Tuesday and I’m really happy to report that it wasn’t the total blood-bath, spanking that I expected.  Sure, we lost 10 to 5 BUT I went into this season convinced that every game would end in something like 29-0.  It’s not that I have no faith in our little team; it’s that on paper, we ARE a joke compared to all the others.  We have the youngest, newest, smallest team.  Our best player took one look at us and left.  He was replaced by a kid referred to as a “safety hazard” that no one else wanted.

At the beginning of the season, I made all of our players and parents sign a contract that they would be “RAD.” (They would Respect – coaches, teammates, themselves, equipment.  They’d Always have fun. And they’d Do their best. One kid thought I’d made up the word rad.  I explained that it’s ‘old school’ for awesome.) 

I’m proud to say that on Tuesday, they were RAD!  We only had one inning that ended because the other team hit the 5 run max.  All the other innings, we were able to make three outs.  Our pitchers did surprisingly great.  Matthew OWNED 2nd base.  He made an awesome out – getting the ball and lobbing it to first in time to oust the runner.  Matthew’s first at bat he struck out.  However, I could not be prouder because he DIDN’T have a big ‘ol pity party hissy fit about it.  (After a post-strike out tantrum at practice on Monday, we had a BIG talk about that).  He heard the ump yell, “Steee-rike!” Took a step back.  Took a deep breath and then walked off the plate towards me in the dug-out with even a bit of a smirk on his face.  It was SO great. 

Matthew’s second at bat was very exciting.  He got walked by the pitcher.  Then for the first time ever he got to slide AND steal 2nd base.  Then, once on third, he was directed by his head coach/base coach (his dad!) to slide and steal home.  IT WAS SO AWESOME.  I’m so proud of my guys.

At his last at bat, with a full count on him, Matthew managed to get a single!  He didn’t score that time, but still…the whole thing was a huge success in my book.

After the game, as Matthew and I drove home, I said, “Well, now’s when I would’ve handed you my cell phone to call D-dad and tell him about the game.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said quietly.

“I’m sure he knows how well you did, kiddo.  He’s got the best seat in the house…like a bird’s eye view maybe.”

“No,” Matthew said, “He was right down there next to me the whole time.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One day at a time


I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to write.  I mean I’m writing now, but I’ve got way more to say than what I have time for (constant truth).  This week is the busiest I’ve seen in a long while.  I had a meeting yesterday for music classes for next year and then taught a music class.  Mike had three meetings in the afternoon/evening and made it for part of baseball practice.  Kayli has swim lessons Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.  Zachary has a friend coming over tomorrow after school.  We need to plan Zach’s birthday party (which will be April 26th).  I’m going to Spin this morning for my mental and physical health.  On top of it being Holy Week, we’ve got our first little league baseball game today, had practice last night, have games also on Thursday and Saturday.  In addition to that, Mike has meetings at church as an RCIC sponsor for a 12 year old boy getting baptized Saturday night at the Easter Vigil.  Mike is also getting his feet washed at Holy Thursday mass.  We’ll all attend Good Friday service. Easter Sunday is, well, Easter and it’s also my mom’s birthday.  First birthday with dad gone.  Last year, Easter Sunday was also my dad’s birthday celebration (his was the following day).  Anyway, so much to say and do and just not enough hours or energy!  Thank goodness for amazing friends.  My bestie, Rebecca, upon hearing about my week and stress, announced: “I’ll be bringing your Easter ham and your mom’s birthday cake Saturday afternoon.”  WHAT?  Who does that?  Uh, she does!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

One of the "firsts"


Today marks one of those “firsts.”  Today we experience dad’s first birthday without dad.  He would’ve been 75.

Like an emotional teenage girl, I’ve been listening to a certain song over and over and over lately.  It might seem like an odd pick, but I love everything about it: the words, the music, the picture it paints in my mind, and how it eventually builds and concludes in optimism. It’s funny too, because I’ve heard this song a thousand times without it resonating with me. 

I first got The Lion King soundtrack (the Broadway version) years ago after mom and I went to it.  This song never really stood out to me.  Well, when Zachary and I went to the show a few weeks ago, I could certainly relate to this one on a whole new level. 

Just as this song ends on a happy note…for today, dad’s birthday, we’re going to just get through the day and then meet up with my mom and brother for ice cream tonight.
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLaChLkIY_g (Endless Night from the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Disney's The Lion King)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Grief...tofu??


I haven’t wanted to write for a bit because I’m getting tired of writing about being sad.  I feel that, unfortunately, I’ve turned into a whiney person.  Those closest to me get to hear me whine nearly every day, so I figure the least I can do is (occasionally) force myself to censor my blog from my whiney ways.

But here’s the truth: thus far 2014 has had a really sucky pattern to it.  It’s gone like this: sick for a week, good (or OK) for two weeks; sick for a week, good for two.  Last week was supposed to be my first week of the two good weeks.  I was excited that it was my first healthy week so – as always – I was anxious to get back to my exercise schedule (that definitely takes a hit during my sick week).  I set out for my first run.  I ran a block – nay, half a block – and suddenly my right ankle started to hurt.  I ignored it and hobbled on for the last half of the block.  I then realized it freakin’ hurt a lot and could no longer be ignored.  I hobbled home and whined to Mike about it.  I spent the rest of my first good week hardly exercising because of my stupid sore ankle. Super stupid. And whiney.

Later on Saturday (first day of stupid sore ankle day), we were at our best friends’ house.  I was whining to Jason about my woes, because – poor guy – hasn’t gotten to hear me whine quite as much as everyone else and I imagine he feels very left out.  I believe my current whine was about my inability to truly get into my exercise routine due to my frequent colds, etc. and now, there’s this ankle business and I’ve already put on a solid 10 pounds of grief weight so this really wasn’t helping.

Jason told me that there’s a word in German for the weight gain that often accompanies grief.  It’s made up of two words and directly translated to English means, “GRIEF BACON.” 

I decided to be Vegan for Lent.  Mike and I both did it last year and found it was definitely a huge sacrifice.  I felt great and thought that it would be not only an extra challenge this year but obviously healthy.  It resets my eating habits and with my 10 pounds gained since dad died, I could use that.

I’ll admit that just hearing about “grief bacon” made me salivate and long for the sound and smell of sizzling bacon.  Tofu just doesn’t quite have the same effect on your senses.

MMmm, bacon and cheese and…while most of the time the Vegan business hasn’t been TOO difficult, it’s hard!  Ahh, shoot, and now I’m whining about my Lenten sacrifice and you’re definitely not supposed to do that.  Lent fail.  Maybe I should just throw in the towel and go fire up some grief bacon!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Today


It’s St. Patrick’s Day Eve.  I’ve amused myself with thoughts of dad partying in heaven with St. Pat himself.  Will they wear shamrock-shaped plastic green glasses?  Will they eat corn beef and cabbage? Weird.  Heaven.  What the heck is it like?  I have no stinkin’ clue. 

Today is one of those days.  I could tell from the moment I woke up this morning.  I just knew I wouldn’t be able to shake it today.  I got through Mass alright – despite the fact that Father Todd’s homily was, of all things, about Heaven.  I got through a stop at the grocery store afterwards.  I got upstairs to my room, and then I was done.  I was done getting through it.  I finally gave in.  Gave up.

I just don’t like it.  I know that sounds dumb – and duh! – but it just hurts.  It hurts my heart and it hurts down to my toes and it hurts to breathe.  And then I hurt because I feel guilty.  I feel bad that I’m lying on my closet floor having a total sob fest while Mike makes lunch for the kids, takes Kayli to the bathroom, gets the boys doing an activity.  I feel guilty because I know dad would be mad that I’m just giving in and having a serious pity party when my family needs me.  I’m totally playing hookie from helping at the boys Faith Formation (Sunday school) class right now.  I told Mike, “Tell them I’m not feeling well.”  It’s not a lie.  I’m completely stuffed up from crying and have a massive headache now.  I don’t feel well. 

It’s still weird.  It’s still completely surreal and just doesn’t make sense.  It’s been about three and a half months now.  I don’t know if that’s long or short any more.  In another couple of weeks – April 1st – we’ll go through another one of those “firsts.”  The first time it’s dad’s birthday with no dad.  A friend told me that those firsts are hard, yes, but there’s so much build-up and expectation to them being “so hard” that there’s almost a letdown when you realize, huh! It’s not that bad.  But then the really hard hits at other times, at unexpected times, at kind of doesn’t-make-any-sense times.   I guess today is one of those times. 

And we had a great week too.  A really, really good week.  We had our first baseball practices and they went well despite some frustration (our best player’s parents took one look at the team his kid got put on and decided to go to a different league.  Now our team is SO much less experienced/talented than the others it’s kind of funny. Oh well.  It’s good to be the underdogs – people have no-to-low expectations for you and you can really only go up from there).

 Another great thing this week: Zachary and I got to go see The Lion King on Friday night.  We were given tickets by my dear friend’s dear mama and I’m still in awe of the generosity.  We had great seats and Zach was on the aisle.  When the hyenas came down a couple lunged and barked at him.  He totally jumped and grabbed my arm – but loved every minute of it.  He’s been talking about it nonstop for the last two days and has repeatedly said, “I just can’t pick my favorite part, Mom.  I just can’t do it.”  (I’ve assured him that it’s perfectly alright to not be able to pick one – I can’t either).  Of course, aspects of the musical were hard: Simba’s dad dies for crying out loud.  (Oh, sorry. Spoiler alert).  But that musical made me cry even before dad died – the Circle of Life opening number with all the animals is just breath-taking.

And last but not least, a huge great thing this week: Disneyland called.  They were responding to the letter that I wrote voicing frustration with aspects of our visit (the number of rides closed, breaking down, etc.).  I was pretty surprised when the caller i.d. on the phone literally said, “Disneyland.”  Disneyland is inviting us back and will be providing us with five 2-day park hopper tickets that we can use in the next two years.  We were already planning on a So-Cal trip June of 2015 (for an Engaged Encounter convention), so this will work out awesomely. Looks like we’ll get to go back to Disneyland!!

These are all great things.  There are so many great things about my life and I know that and am so thankful.  It just sucks when I can’t fully experience and feel just how great it is.

It’s just one of those days.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The telling dream


I had my first dream with dad in it last night.  At least the first dream where I clearly remember talking to him and looking at him and knowing he was there.  I think I had one other dream where I woke up with the vague feeling that “I had a dream with dad in it,” but I couldn’t recall any of the details.

Last night’s dream was awfully telling though.  We were driving in a car.  I was driving.  Which is weird since if dad and I were going somewhere he almost always drove.  He asked me abruptly, “So, what are you going to do?”

I knew what this question meant.  It said so much more than just what are you going to do?  He was also asking, “Why haven’t you started studying and getting everything together for going back to school?  You’re supposed to be working towards your Masters in Elementary Education.  That was the plan.  That’s what we had figured out.  That’s what I wanted you to do.  So, what are you going to do?”

With my heart pounding hard (which always happened if I had to tell him something that I knew wouldn’t make him happy), I said, “I don’t know, dad.”  (How honest).  “I’m trying to take some time and figure out what I want to do…what I want to be when I grow up.”

He gave me a look that said a lot.  His look meant, “Well, what’s taking you so long?  Why don’t you have a plan?”

I shot my best sullen teenager look at him followed by an eye roll.  Clearly I was saying, “DUH, dad.  I’m taking my time and not sure what to do with my life because the rug was pulled out from under me when you suddenly died…weeks after setting up this plan.”

His return look clearly says exactly what he wants for me, “But getting your Masters will give you job security and retirement savings.”  (Always the practical one, my dad.) 

“I don’t think I can be a full-time teacher and a full-time mom.”  And then I finally get the nerve to say what I was never able to say in real life, “I don’t want to.” 

I woke up.  I woke up with the feeling in my gut that I’m disappointing my parents.  My dad. 

My heading back to school plan, was all dad’s idea.  He saw how I struggled to line up more music classes for this school year.  Obviously, there’s very little job security in running my own little business, in trying to line up more venues.  It’s hit or miss.  You can’t count on it.  And you certainly don’t get any benefits – health insurance or retirement savings plans – from it.

Whether he was thinking of himself (like, he knew the end was near somehow) or if it was the obvious – the fact that Mike’s had Cancer twice – and therefore, we’d be really smart (and stupid not) to have a plan in place where I can immediately work and support myself and the kids should something happen to him.  It was with all this in mind – looking out for my future security – that prompted the discussion of my going back to school. 

I get it.  I get that that’s the practical thing that I should do.  I understand that that would be smart.  I talked myself into the plan, and I had gotten mostly excited about the idea.  But deep down, underneath it all, I just still didn’t want to.  It wasn’t my plan.  My plan (and Mike’s plan, therefore our plan) was that once Kayli is in school full-time I work to add more music classes.  Maybe I get something that’s a more permanent gig – being the part-time music teacher in a preschool or private school – but also sticking with my business as THAT makes the most economical sense for the time spent.  I’m also REALLY good at it.  And I think (when my life is normal and I’m not in mourning), I think that I really like it.  It’s hard right now to say. 

So, I was going to teach music classes still – more, if possible – but only part-time so that I can also write.  And take time to come off of my anti-depressants from the postpartum depression…from my now 7 YEAR old baby.  I was going to be available to occasionally volunteer in the kids’ classrooms, maybe even chaperone a field trip or two.  I’ve never been able to do that since I’ve still got my little side-kick at home.  I want to be home before school and after school.  I want to be here if someone gets sick and needs to stay home from school.

I want to get a dog.  I want to have a dog that I can take for a long run in the middle of the day after starting laundry, putting dinner in the crockpot and when I’m having writer’s block.  Does this sound like a totally self-involved, greedy, lazy plan?  Am I really contributing to our family and society and the rest of God’s peeps, if I go for a run in the middle of the afternoon when I could be teaching other people’s children or working or somehow impacting the greater good?

Greedy? Maybe.  Probably a little.

That was my plan.  But now I question everything.  What do I do?  What do I even want to do?  What makes me happy?  What would be practical (and therefore, the smart, mature, provider-for-our-children) decision?

I don’t know.  Which is why right now my decision is to do nothing.  To not change anything.  To try to just keep on keepin’ on.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Cardinals have woken me up


With the start of little league (or at least our new coaching role this season), a weird phenomenon has occurred within me.  I will elaborate on this more later.

Mike attended the little league ‘draft’ on Monday night.  Having been asked at the very last moment to coach a team, he was at a huge disadvantage.  He went in with no assistant coach (all the other guys had two each).  He also hadn’t observed the two days of evaluations and assessments.  He had taken Matthew and really only paid attention to him.  The other guys had pages of notes and had busily been conferring with their “coaching staff” to map out their top draft picks.  Many of the guys also pick their assistant coaches based on how good those coaches’ kids are (that way, you’re automatically gaining two quality players for your team that don’t even count towards your draft).

Anyway, Mike showed up and was quickly assigned two assistant coaches.  In the end, this is a good thing, although it took us a bit to realize it as we weren’t given a choice at all.  We know both guys.  They’ve coached before.  They’re super dedicated and both even played college ball.  They know and love the sport.  One of the men, Jim, is also pretty outspoken and was quick to side with Mike (uh, good!) in pointing out to the other coaches what a disadvantage we had going in to this draft.  Mike and Jim said that it only seemed fair that the other coaches share their top picks seeing as they had the opportunity to observe the assessments while Mike and Jim didn’t and therefore only knew a handful of kids.  Some of the guys refused to share.  I repeat: some of these dads are so wrapped up in trying to stack their hand for a winning deck that they – very erroneously apparently thought they were actually drafting teams for MAJOR LEAGUE baseball – and REFUSED to share and help these new-to-the-scene coaches.  ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?!  Ahh, to be a fly on the wall and listen to these boys – I mean, men – fight about – I mean, discuss – their teams – I mean, their KIDS’ LITTLE LEAGUE team. 

I could go on and on about all this.  How one guy had a hissy fit because there were two kids whose assessments he didn’t get to see and how unfair this was to him.  TWO kids.  Mike didn’t see ANY.  One coach – with the benefit of his assistant captains – was able to gain FOUR of the only twelve returning/2nd year kid-pitch players.  While, the rest of the teams gained at most ONE 2nd year player.  Perhaps, the piece de resistance: when picking team names, Mike found out that this same team (with the four returning players) also wanted to be the Red Sox.  Mike even explained, “Look, my father-in-law recently passed away and was from the Boston area.  It would mean a lot to my wife…”  The assistant coach was willing to let us have it, but the head coach refused.  He wanted to be the Red Sox, so too bad.

Based on the jersey colors available, Mike’s choices were limited.  He ended up going with the Cardinals.  He explained that with the Red Sox not available, the Angels also out, that the Cardinals seemed the closest thing.  His reasoning: they fly, like angels.  And, Cardinals are Catholic!  Oh my gosh, what a stretch, but I love him for it.

We weren’t able to get Matthew’s best buddy on our team; we ended up with a few players that we don’t know a thing about (but are supposedly good players and nice kids); we got a few kids from our team last year who are awesome (sweet boys who love the game and work hard), and we have two very dedicated and knowledgeable assistant coaches…Not to mention a cut throat team manager (me) who also runs the most organized and enthusiastic dug-out in town. All in all, we’re in for a great, busy, excitement-filled season.

Here’s what the start of little league season has done for me: hearing Mike talk about the ridiculous drama with the other coaches, how a lot of the guys do this more for their own ego than the benefit of the kids, just all of it – has awoken something within me that’s been asleep for the last three months.  For the first time yesterday, I realized that I could actually 100% FEEL again.  I could experience the frustration, the amusement, the emotion to the depths of my core.  It seems such a silly thing, but to be able to really experience how passionate I am about something is amazing.  I haven’t felt even luke warm about anything.  Even Disneyland – it was great, we had a good time, but I still wasn’t 100% THERE.  It’s like when you’re underwater and you hear people talking or noises outside but they’re muffled and fuzzy-sounding.  I’ve been underwater. 

It sounds completely trivial – this little league business – being the thing that makes me experience life again to the fullest.  But in some ways it makes sense.  Dad and I bonded over this baseball business together.  He got all caught up in hearing about the drama.  He tried to work with Matthew (and shared in our frustration when Matthew would throw a total pity party when he didn’t play well). I didn’t play team sports as a kid; I was the chubby orchestra, drama nerd that couldn’t run a mile.  So, it took nearly thirty years for dad and me to finally connect in this way.  But it was so fun when we did.  And I so wish he was here to share in it some more.  It truly still baffles me that he’s not.  No one wanted to talk about it as much as I did…besides dad. 

Yesterday, I experienced the ultimate ride in emotion.  I took perhaps the biggest breath of my life in the realization that I am totally passionate about this baseball stuff.  I am able to LOVE something again.  I’m living life and fulling experiencing the highs and lows (albeit in something as inane as coaching my son’s little league team).  It felt amazing to recognize that.  And yet, like so much of this grief process, the good is completely intertwined with the bad.  How is it that I can feel totally happy and yet utterly destroyed at the same time?  I could honestly say, “I’m so happy!...It hurts and sucks!”  How weird is that?!  It’s like a new way to live. To feel.  To be.  I guess this is what people mean when they say: it never goes away.  You never stop missing them.  You don’t ever really stop being sad.  It’s just the new normal.  And it’s so weird.
 
Ahh, the irony (or not).  Just this morning, my ‘daily meditation’ for grief book started with this, “Faith is the bird that feels the light/And sings when the dawn is still dark – Rabindranath Tagore…May we, in our season of darkness and sorrow, hear – and sometimes as a surprise – a song heralding a brighter time.”  And I kid you not, after waking several times during the night to the sound of pouring rain and strong wind, a little bit ago, I suddenly noticed the emergence of daylight outside.  The rain’s let up, and I just heard the faint call of one little lone bird.  OK, OK, I hear you.