Side effects may include:

This past Saturday I pulled into a large field filled with anticipation, dead brown grass and volunteers wearing bright yellow vests. As I pulled in they asked to see the code on my confirmation. A woman much younger than me scanned the barcode and told me which lane to pull in. She and her partner were discussing which Taco Bell they were going to hit up for lunch when they were done. I left my window down and eavesdropped as I watched the line of cars moving at a sloths pace, waiting to get this over with and out. I laughed to myself thinking, ” This teenager is volunteering here and just chit chatting with her friend like this is the most normal thing ever.” Thousands of people have died this past year, and here’s this smiling young lady talking about a cheesy Gordita crunch.

I think that’s pretty awesome.

Looking back, I wish I could have somehow ordered a big card saying, ” You have no idea how far this selfless act of volunteering at this vaccination site will change the lives of so many. Here’s some tacos and mountain dew. Thank you.”

I had no idea how this whole thing was going to make me feel. Last April I sat in my car parked in my garage while my kids watched Paw-Patrol re-runs and screamed. I screamed and I cried. I punched the steering wheel and I asked God, ” Why?”. Why? How could this happen? Tragedies across the globe have always seemed so far away. It would never happen to us. We’re American. We’re safe. We wash our hands and have health insurance. We’re fine. A few years back I was on the red line about to get off at Argyle in Chicago when I first heard of the swine flu. I remember looking around at the other passengers thinking maybe I shouldn’t hold the arm rail, too many germs. As the train pulled into the stop, I lost my balance and grabbed that rail for dear life so I didn’t crush the poor pregnant woman to my left. I never thought about it again until now. I had no fear, I believed that I was different. We were different.

We’re American damnit, we’re elite. We cure cancer! We purify our water! We wear Adidas sneakers and attend large music festivals. We do what we want, bro.

I wasn’t there to say goodbye. I wasn’t there to hold my mother or share her tears. I wasn’t there to see the people lined up and down the streets honoring the life of a man who served his community and family with humor and love. I wasn’t there to stand beside my grandmother as she stood bravely with courage that I have yet to comprehend as they handed her the folded flag in honor of his service as a Marine. So, I sat in my car and screamed. I couldn’t speak my emotions, there was this eerie internal silence that had muted me from the moment my mom called to tell me he was gone. I felt like I was choking for days until I just had to scream. Once in awhile one my kids would peak their head out the door and try to see what the heck I was doing. I’d pull myself together for the .3 seconds I would need to tell them to close the door I”d be inside in a minutes and bribed them with chocolate.

I sat alone. I no longer had a husband. I no longer had the support system that I thought I had in the past. I no longer had the privilege of hoping in the car and driving to the city to be with my family, because it was too dangerous at first. We had so much fear and loosing another family member was not an option. I had never been through anything alone like that. Everything was amplified by my impending divorce and the stale, slow burn of grief for things I could and could not see. I had this imaginary canvas in my mind that reminded me that life wasn’t pretty. It was a canvas splashed with black tar and shards of glass. It was the kind of thing you wouldn’t want to hang on a wall, it might have scared someone. It was the kind of thing that needed to be tossed in a bonfire, letting it go in the ashes and out of your life.

That was my experience with Covid. It took my Grampie from me. I can’t get him back. This past Christmas I stood at his grave with my grandmother and I told myself over and over to keep my shit together, because this poor woman does not need to see me cry like an idiot at her husbands grave. I tried to swallow it down. It was impossible and I realized that I had to let it out and I had to let it out with her. I had grieved without her a million miles away, and finally standing there with her, I wasn’t alone. We held each other close and I can’t explain why- but being there with her, holding hands, looking at the grave of a man who had treated me like I was a person that mattered in this world my entire life- the weight of it all just flew right off my shoulders. I asked God to just be with us and there was no doubt that He was.

When I found out I was eligible to get the vaccine I wasn’t sure I wanted it. It seemed too good to be true. What if it made us sicker? What if this was all some government planned bioterrorism take over? What if it turned us into flesh eating zombies? What if?!

I think I had quarantine brain.

My family back East and family in Chicago started getting it and I saw the relief in their faces through the phone. They were going to be ok. They were excited and hopeful that this shot could potentially put an end to this lonely, bleak time in our lives. So I said- screw it. Zombie or not, I’m getting it.

Which brings me back to that crowded afternoon in a field of people I had never met before who were volunteering their time to potentially save my life and so many others. Even though there were hundreds of other cars there, the line went fairly fast. I pulled into the area where the shot would be administrated. After I filled out the forms, showed them my license and let them know that the only thing I’m allergic to is elementary level common core math, the woman prepped my upper arm, put the needle in, took out a small piece of cotton and then said to me, ” You’re all set! Congratulations!”. As she put the bandaid on I could feel the salty tears pouring out of my eyes and down my cheeks. She looked at my face and said she was sorry. She asked if she hurt me. Did I need anything?

She didn’t hurt me. She healed me. That sounds pretty dramatic, but she did. I’ve watched my family going through grief and anxiety for an entire year. My sister is in nursing school and has always been incredibly selfless and kind. The constant looming fear that this disease could take another one of us down weighed heavily on her. She has one less family member to worry about now. I hope her load is lightened by those of us who have chosen to get this vaccine in a time of so much uncertainty and fear.

I finally had a momentary break from the heavy tears and I looked at this woman who was still holding the wrapper of my bandaid in her hand and said, ” I lost my Grampie last year. I miss him so much. I wish he had been here to get this for himself, but he can’t, so I will… This is for him.”

I’ve heard a lot about the side effects: Fevers, chills, body ache, fatigue, headache, gastrointestinal issues and more. The side effects I was unaware of started with a lighter heart, a hopeful mind and a sense of community knowing that we were all doing this together. There will still be extremely difficult issues worldwide, but in that brief moment after feeling so helpless for twelve months, I was finally able to contribute to the ever changing and evolving treatment and understanding of Covid-19. My contribution is smaller than a speck of sand but every speck counts.

I’m filled with so much gratitude for all the people who worked endlessly to be able to provide this brand new vaccine for all of us. They took the impossible and made it possible.

Me.

Peace, she supposed, was contingent upon a certain disposition of the soul, a disposition to receive the gift that only detachment that only detachment from self made possible. – Elizabeth Goudge

Self-love, or lack thereof, has been the largest stumbling block of my life. I have constantly viewed my outside as too much and my insides as too little. If only I could shrink my physical size and grow some smarts on the inside, maybe I would like myself. Maybe you would like me too.

I need you to like me.

Please like me.

Once we’ve got that covered I’m going to need you to tell me exactly how much you like me several times a day. I’m not going to actually tell you that, I’m going to assume that you can read my mind.

Communication seems to be an on going issue as well.

Insecurity is as much of a part of my DNA as the color of my eyes. It’s been with me always, that loud voice screaming , “You will never be of any value.”

I remember as a child staring at my left arm and feeling embarrassed about the splotchy birthmark that spread out over top of my arm all the way down to my pinky finger. An older neighbor told me that it looked like a map of the world once. I wanted to cut my arm off right then and there. I didn’t want a map on my arm, I wanted a skinny arm. Thin. Long. Skinny.

I was six years old.

I remember learning about birth defects in 10th grade biology and suddenly realizing that this thing on my arm made me defective. My high school boyfriend traced the outline of it with his finger, saying he loved it. It was part of me, and he loved all of me. When he broke up with my shortly after to head to Boston for college my first thought was that he was probably the only man who would ever love me with this defective arm.

Defective and dramatic. Tragically dramatic.

Years later when I gave birth to my youngest daughter I did the same thing I did with the older two when they were born. I counted ten fingers, ten toes, and made sure I saw no birthmark. No daughter of mine would suffer the way I did. So much suffering.

For what? An arm? An arm that works perfectly well. An arm that has carried textbooks and children. An arm that hugs the people I love. What else matters?

When she was two weeks old, a red dot showed up on Lucie face. I asked asked the dr, I asked the nurse, I asked family members- Is that a birth mark?

Wait.

Is that one of those birthmarks that grows and grows and disfigures poor innocent babies all over the world?

Yup.

I watched day after day as it grew and grew. I cried at night when I was breastfeeding her, holding her hand, knowing that people would ask her, ” What’s that thing on your face?”. I imagined all the kids in school who would point fingers and laugh. I took my over dramatic personal experience with birthmarks and marked my daughter with a bleak future of isolation and insecurity.

Her birthmark stopped growing pretty fast. It was dark red and shaped just like a heart on her lower left chin. She was born on February 10th, and her sisters thought it must be shaped like a heart, because her birthday was so close to valentines day. She’s four now. Her birthmark is 99% faded, no one ever made fun of her, and when people asked what it was, it was never a big deal. She’s fine. She was fine.

I wasn’t fine. I was projecting my insecurities on a newborn. I hate that those thoughts ever crept into my mind. If her birthmark hadn’t faded, she would still be the beautiful, crazy, sweet girl that she is. Her birthmark has nothing to do with who she is or who she will become.

When I was in high school I used to spend hours on my Dell computer pretending to do homework. Instead, I was instant messaging this guy I thought was cool. He use big words. He talked about math and space. He quoted historians and famously dead musicians. He was interesting. I was boring. I would type out a message to him and before sending it, I would do spell check, use the thesaurus and double check to make sure I sounded witty enough. I signed up for dictionary.com daily emails so I could pull out a new word to spice things up if I started to sound too basic.

I’m not as smart as you. You probably think I’m dumb. Dumb and fat.

Even after treatment at fifteen for an eating disorder, even after countless appointments with therapists, all I saw was a stupid girl who still doesn’t have a thigh gap. I once dated someone who told me he liked having a little something extra to hold on to at night. I interpreted that as to mean he liked to spoon my belly rolls. Needless to say, we never snuggled again. Later in life, I spent hours on the couch of an older man talking about anything and everything. I felt understood, I felt smart, I felt appreciated and I felt worthy. I figured if this man thought I had something of worth to give to the world, I should start to feel that way too. That was all fun and dandy until he cracked a joke about me still carrying the baby weight from my last pregnancy several years before.

The hate just boiled and boiled until it became too much and the only thing I could shut it up with was a drink. Not one. Not two. No three. As the wine started to do its job, I started to feel better. I began to feel pretty and witty. I would look into the same mirror I had just been staring into crying and see a confident, beautiful, engaging woman who could do anything she wanted.

Get ready world, because here I come! Well, just wait a sec, let me finish this Pinot first.

I wanted more, more, more, more, more to feel less, less, less, and less.

Next came the tears and the blackout. The self loathing would continue to grow evry morning when I couldn’t remember what I did or said the night before. My pounding head would quickly remind me that if I pounded another drink with the sunrise, I would be able to reach that euphoric feeling of self worth, if only for a few minutes.

The same cycle over and over.

I’ve been sober for a few years. Sobriety has given me my life back. Sobriety allows me to be a present mother. Sobriety gives me a healthier perspective on how to cope with hard times. Sobriety has given me friends and love. I surround myself with other sober people and make a conscious effort to work on growth in my sobriety every day.

It’s a beautiful thing.

So, how come I still don’t feel beautiful or worthy? My entire outlook on life has changed, just like they promised it would. I have experienced happiness, tragedy, divorce, death, love and heartbreak with such a different perspective than before. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life even though some stuff really sucks some days.

When I sit down to write, I always hope that my experience may be able to help someone else. I write a lot about the positive changes I have experienced due to my sobriety. I do my best to make sure that the message I want to convey includes the miracle of sobriety.

This post is a little different. This post has been in my heart for so long, I just didn’t know how to share it. I have to be transparent and I have to be vulnerable to allow change. I know that things take time and every single moment of every single day is exactly how it should be. I know that I am not in control. I know that there’s something far larger than myself guiding me on my journey.

And yet- I still don’t know how to love myself.

I still want to apologize for being me.

Where does self love begin? How do I get there? The simple answer is prayer.

Someone out there must feel this way too. Perhaps just knowing that you’re not the only one struggling helps. By sharing this, I wanted to remove myself from the isolation in my mind that I have experienced with this.

This is me now.

I know that if I surrender, if I call myself out, if I stay honest and open- I can get through absolutely anything with a little help from a force larger than myself and the people who have always promised me that with a little work miracles do happen.

I’ve seen it in others time and time again.

I hope that I will see it in myself, with our without that mirror I stood in front of before.

Today, tomorrow and the day after that…

It’s been a hell of a year. The twelve month rollercoaster that none of us wanted a ride on is reaching its final loop de loop. We’re all sitting in our seats, pulling the safety bar close to our torsos, bracing ourselves for the last upside down, hands in the air, twisty, terrifying moments.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve yelled up to God saying, “CAN WE STOP NOW? I THINK WE’VE HAD QUITE ENOUGH.” I can’t think of a single person in my life who hasn’t had their world rocked by this past year. There has been loss of loved ones, loss of income, loss of health, and loss of normalcy. Empty classrooms and empty booths at your favorite pizza joint. Abandoned playgrounds and libraries closed until further notice. Nursing homes and hospital floors with big warning signs- no visitors allowed. Grocery stores and targets running out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Mothers with empty arms that once held their precious loved ones, now carry their grief instead of their children. Weddings and graduations postponed until further notice. We wear masks on our faces to stay safe, while others have taken this turbulent time to remove their masks and show us who they really are with violence and hate.

We’ve taken things for granted that would never have crossed our minds before- like breathing. Filling our lungs with the oxygen that’s required to keep us alive. People have suffocated right in front of us.

Breathing. So simple. But- when the breathing stops, so does the living.

I’ve been spending a few much needed days home with my amazing, loving and extremely patient parents, as well as my amazing, loving and extremely patient little sisters and brother.  After months and months of FaceTime and many tears, I’ve finally been able to hug my grandmother and visit my Gramps final resting place. There’s some kind of magic in the New England air that fills up my heart and heals the parts I thought were broken. 

Earlier today, I was sitting at my Aunts house today admiring the warm, familiar space where she and my uncle live. The walls are covered with memories of an ever growing and changing family, the Christmas tree still lit up and pretty.I felt at ease as we sipped on tea and reflected on the past few months.

Yup.

Shit got real this year. Shit got ugly. Shit got desperate and dangerous. Shit was never ending. Shit was big and bad. Shit got messy and we lost our way.

And then we came together.

Eventually.

Slowly.

But- surely we realized that the human spirit is not so easily crushed.

Families came together and made sure that their neighbors didn’t go hungry. Teachers gave their students their all, while taking care of their own families in the classroom or remotely. Parents working from home balanced conference calls and middle school algebra. Bus drivers deliver free food and graded homework to all the kids on their routes. We’ve supported each other in peaceful protest, louder than the contagious hate others have shouted on Twitter and sidewalks all over.

The opportunity to help or hurt others didn’t start in 2020 and it won’t end in 2021. There’s always something happening, somewhere in the world. It’s a little unexpected when it ends up on your doorstep and blows up like a glitter bomb, covering everything and everyone. You can try to vacuum it up, or you can surrender and realize you can sparkle. Even just a bit.

New Year resolutions can be a starting point or a crutch. Loosing ten pounds, quitting smoking, training for a marathon, reducing screen time, finally finishing reading that book you started three years ago- all of that stuff is good.

Instead, wouldn’t it be great if we could all sit back, take a deep breath and search within ourselves to pull out that euphoric feeling we get when we do the right thing? Helping our neighbors. Going that extra mile. Recognizing gratitude. Standing beside those who are hurting.

The date really doesn’t mean much. There’s no real difference from December 31st to January 1st. A resolution doesn’t have to be made. Your expectations don’t need to be all that high. If you fail, it doesn’t have to be the end. You don’t have to wait another full 365 days to make a change in your life or others.

You can do it right now. You can do it tomorrow. Do it whenever you want. When we wake up tomorrow it’s still going to be Friday. The calendar date is irrelevant. Make it simple- just for today. One day at a time. Do your best. And if you can’t? There’s another day coming. I can promise you that.

Happy 2021, happy new day.

(…and don’t be afraid to steal a smooch from someone you like to get smoochie with at midnight. You have to live a little!)


Fear & Loathing

This time last year a lot of us were blissfuly unaware of what lay ahead of us after January 1st. I was adjusting to life in a new town, new state, excited to host Christmas Eve at our house for the first time. New year, new me…right? Let go of the past, march straight into the future with anticipation and hope.

I must have taken a wrong turn, because I marched straight into a tsunami. The sheer depth of the wave stunned me and as the current pulled back from the shore, I watched parts of me drift away. Lost at sea.

I lost friends.
I lost sleep.

I lost weight.

I lost my partner. I mean, he’s still kicking’, he just ain’t kickin’ it around here anymore.

I lost my serenity.

I lost my sanity.

I lost my socks. All of them.

I lost family.

I lost my voice.

I lost my light.

I lost library books.

I lost my patience.

And most recently, I lost my car keys.

Couch diving to find keys…

In the early months of 2020 I had a hard time trying to figure out if I could live through my wreckage. The voice on the other end of the phone repeated over and over that I was crazy. A sociopath. An insecure, jealous, vindictive little girl. My brain tricked me into believe these things were true. I could have let it wash right over me, but my reaction was to make those statements my truth. Night after night screaming and crying in my mind. I am the one who made myself suffer. I could have chosen to pause and breathe. Someone once told me that just because your thoughts are there doesn’t mean you have to listen to them.

I didn’t listen. I started to future trip and let fear take over.

What if my kids grow up to hate me?

These people must think I’m super fat.

Only an idiot would fall in love with me.

I’m a disposable piece of trash.

My daughters would be happier without me.

I believed those things for a long time. I felt like a voodoo doll being poked for pain. I just wanted to be happy, but the negativity was smothering me. At some point I realized that there isn’t a single person or thing that can make me happy. My happiness is my issue, no one else’s. My happiness must come from me.

My happiness is right in front of me.

I let fear creep over and over. I feared what life would be like as a single mom. I feared that my ex leave me and I would never have love again, if I ever had it to begin with.

Fear spreads quickly like cancer destroying your insides before you even realize it. Fear lives in the “What if’s?”. What if I hadn’t walked out? What if I asked for help years ago? What if I raised my hand more during class? What if I hadn’t left home? What if I kept pursuing my dreams of music and theater? What if I had waited to have kids? What if I hadn’t snuck away night after night trying to fix or fill my heart with someone or something else?

What if I had surrendered and let go?

What if I held onto the comfort of late nights and cozy blankets? What if I followed my heart, my gut or whatever you want to call it?

Or- instead of running on the hamster wheel of what could have been, or who I thought I should be and decided to embrace the fear. Push through it and never look back. In the words of Robert Frost, “ The only way out is through.”.

Turn fear into motivation. Turn loathing into action and open up to a new way of life without the weight of resentments and broken expectations. Instead of counting losses, count my blessings.

So grateful for these little weirdos…

There are so many right in front of me. I don’t know what lays ahead, but I do know that it’s not my job to control it. My job is to be grateful for what I’m given, stop whining and start living. Half of the reason I write here is to remind myself of these things when the ghosts of the past show up and try to confuse me into believing I’m weak and disposable.

Children live what they learn. Watching my daughters grow and forge their own path is both inspiring and terrifying. I am inspired by their childlike wonder. They approach things with an unbiased view. Each new experience is an adventure, whether realize it or not. They learn as they go and experience bumps along the way. Bumps turn into life experiences that shape who they will become. We all make choices in our lives, but what if we based our choices without the fear that we’re used to? What if we opened up our our minds and hearts with fearless exploration? Will we still have mistakes, heartache, addictions, sadness and grief? Yes. But instead of it detouring our path, what if we accepted those things as a part of our journey thats led us to where we are now and where we will go? What if we replaced fear with gratitude?

I’d like to find out.

Bless This Mess



I’ve been staring at this computer screen for a few weeks now. I have all these words and thoughts running around my mind, but they’re stuck. I can’t seem to convince them to leave my head and make their way onto this page. The longer I delay their exit from this cracked up head of mine, the more stuck they get.

I feel lost.

I want that comfort that you feel when your mom hugs you and tells you everything will be ok. I want the comfort of late night couch dates with my sisters and brother. I want the warmth of my dad’s wood stove that keeps us cozy during the winter months. I want to eat my stepmom’s chicken curry at the family table. I want to wake up to the smell of my stepdad making his morning breakfast scramble. I want to hug my grandmother and laugh at funny stories about my Grampie.

I hope you’re enjoying my pity party as much as I am.

I’ve spent the past year hoping, wishing, and praying that I would somehow be able to drive the 880 miles with my kids to my parents’ houses on the East Coast. Unfortunately, there’s this tiny little pandemic thing that’s really put a damper on our travel plans.

Clicking my heels together three times didn’t do the trick either.

There’s no place like home.

Home is where the heart is, but my heart is all over the place. Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, England, Ireland, and California.

I’ve spent a lot of time moving furniture around, buying decorations, hanging pictures, sitting by the fire, and more. I keep thinking that those activities will make this place super homey and cozy. It doesn’t.

It feels broken, it feels unfamiliar, and it feels lonely. That’s not the kind of home I want my girls to grow up in. Recently, I was talking to my sister LeeLee about all of this. I called her up, crying and full of worry that the girls would never have the same comfort of home as I had growing up. I told her I felt like I had failed them, that this was all my fault and I’m a horrible mom. She interrupted me before I could finish that last sentence.

She said, “Katie- you are their home.

BOOM. Instant emotional happy tears cry fest. A big ‘ol mess, and ever so blessed.

When we moved from Michigan, we talked a lot about what a house was and what a home was. My oldest didn’t want to move and leave her purple and yellow bedroom behind. I told her over and over that a house is just some wood, pipes, plumbing, and glass.

That’s it. A house is a bunch of things with a roof. It gives us shelter, but it’s not what makes a house a home. A house can’t hug you or kiss your booboos. It can’t tuck you in at bedtime and it can’t make you laugh. It’s pretty easy to say those things to someone else, but I have a hard time saying them to myself.

Finding Nemo premiered when I was sixteen and my sister was three years old. I took her to see it once, and then took myself about three times. I LOVED IT. The themes of finding your way back home, family, community, figuring out who you are, and unconditional love really lightened my dark teenage angsty heart.

“Because when I look at you, I can feel it. And I look at you and I…I’m home.“- Dory

Home is inside.

Home can be anywhere your heart takes you.

Home is looking into my daughters’ eyes and wondering how I ever lived without them. It’s seeing myself in them and knowing that I’m in their heart and home too. Home is snuggling with my dog and the magical way he brings calm to our racing minds and love to our hearts. It’s the memory of my grandmother’s voice as she sang, “All The Things You Are” at her last Thanksgiving with us. My home is filled with my daughters’ contagious laughter which pulls me back in when my mind wanders far off into the dark. Home is singing them to sleep and snuggling like sardines. It’s spontaneous dance parties when our hearts need a little joy. Home is being able to acknowledge the broken home that took up residency inside of me and moving into the new homestead in my heart while shining out the light that brought us all together.

Wherever I am, wherever they are…we are home.

Just know you’re not alone, ‘cause I’m gonna make this place your home- Philip Phillips

Grandmother

I grew up during a time when Family Video was a thriving business filled with endless amounts of VHS tapes to enjoy on a Friday night. The checkout line displayed row after row of candy. When you reached the cashier you were greeted with signs saying, “Friday Family Fun Night Snacks!” next to large tubs of popcorn with real movie theater butter. That was the shit right there.

She’d let me pick out whatever I wanted. We rented “Selena” with a side of candy lipstick (if you’re a child of the 90’s, you know what I’m talking about), a big tub of popcorn, some skittles, and a soda. If I had asked her to buy the entire place out, I’m sure she would have. I was the only grandkid for ten years and I wore that crown like a boss. She would set me up in the guest room upstairs with the big AC unit so I could watch Jennifer Lopez reenact the career and life of Selena. I learned every word to “Como La Flor” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” while dancing on the queen-sized bed, using the remote as my microphone. I remember knowing right then and there that I wanted to be a singer. The music moved me in a way I had never felt before (I mean… I was nine years old, but whatever). That movie, in that room, on that hot summer night is when my love affair with music began. As an adult working on a degree in musical theater in my 20s, I reflected on that night over and over.

I learned to swim in the pool out back. I can remember the way the pool liner felt on my feet as it dipped from the shallow end to the deep end. “Look! I can still touch here!” Flip flops off the diving board. Underwater handstands that ended with a mermaid splash. I would put my goggles and flippers on and spend hours dipping in and out of the water while getting in touch with my inner mermaid. “Count how long I can hold my breath underwater!” I would yell out as she dipped her toes on the edge, watching me try to break the Guinness World Record for youngest person in the history of time to hold my breath underwater for the longest amount of time. Or, at least that’s what it felt like. She gave me unconditional love and attention, which I’m sure was exhausting. I was kind of dramatic, if you can imagine that!

Hard to picture, right? I was an only child, the only grandchild, THE LIGHT OF EVERYONE’S LIVES until some other kids were born and blah blah blah. (Love you little cousins and siblings!). After my parents got divorced, my grandmother joined my mom and I on a trip to Disney World. It was fantastic- until we lost her. Yes, my mother and I lost her. One minute she was standing next to us, the next I started screaming about wanting my own parasol with my name written on it in cursive and I had to have it RIGHT NOW before the nighttime Disney parade started. If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you know that they close the park each night with a massive light spectacle and parade. When the parade starts you can’t really move. If you’re on one side of the street and your family is on the other, that’s just too bad, because Mickey is on his way and you better just stand back.

Did I know this at the time? Probably. But I needed that damn parasol. My parents just got divorced, woe is me, my childhood is ruined forever! The only way that I would ever have happiness in my life was if I had that parasol. The purple parasol with my name written in fancy cursive on top. She crossed the street at the last second. I think we thought she would probably stay there until the end of the parade, but as things came to a closing we realized she wasn’t there.

Imagine losing a family member in Downtown Disney and then having to go to the “Town Hall” where a man in a barbershop quartet is taking your information and putting out an announcement that there’s a lady missing: blonde hair, medium height, probably wearing a fanny pack. My mother was freaking out, and I realized that we may never ever find her- or my parasol.

Priorities.

A few hours later after an extensive search by people and Disney characters alike we realized we had done all we could do. There were no cell phones or GPS trackers yet. We hopped onto the trolly back to the “Mighty Ducks” parking lot trying to figure out what we were going to have to tell everyone back in CT.

“Lost? Disney? What happened?”

“Did she bibbity-boppity-boo herself right out of there?”

“Did she turn into a pumpkin at midnight?”

“Did you call the police?”

As we pulled up to our designated lot we saw a figure in the distance sitting on the hood of a car that looked vaguely familiar. There she was! Sitting there under the stars, waiting for us to finally show up, parasol in hand.

Every winter and summer we would head up to the homestead in Oxbow, Maine. It was a place of serenity and beauty. There were acres upon acres of forest covered in fresh snow and small woodland creatures. We would walk a bit down the road to fill old milk bottles with fresh spring water. If you came for a visit in the summer you would have a chance to see the beautiful gardens cared for by her loving hands and experience the thrill of being eaten alive by 50,000 black flies for weeks on end. My great-great Uncle, whom we called Gramps, warmed the cabin with a wood stove and cooked bran muffins every morning to eat on the screened-in back porch. We’d also do another very fun, exciting – thrilling, if you will- activity while out in the wilderness up there.

Moose watching.

We went moose watching.

Not once. Not twice. But dozens and dozens of times in my childhood.

We’d wait for it to get dark out, hop in the old fashioned mini van that looked like a cross between a station wagon and a box, drive out a bit, turn the lights off and wait.

And wait.

Until all of a sudden you saw something out of the corner of your eye.

“Shhhhh! Look…Katie… see? See over there?” “See what? I don’t…”

…and BOOM turn on your headlights and there’s a handful of large Moose ready to charge into your mini van from 1994. But, they didn’t. They just took a good look at us and we took a good look back, and we continued this tradition for most of my life.

“TEN! Ten moose this time! Can you believe it?”

I had more fun looking for moose with my grandmother as a kid than I’ve ever had playing candy crush on my iPhone. Those were some of the best times, and there was no social media to distract us from the wonder and beauty of life.

She has a green thumb that I envy. I couldn’t keep any plant or flower alive if my life depended on it. She has always taken great pride in her work outdoors. Her garden always flourished, and so did the poison ivy rash she would get countless amounts of times. Honestly, in my 34 years of life, not a single spring or summer has passed without that woman catching some rash from this and that in her own backyard. When I was in high school, I went away for the weekend once. She had come over to help my parents with their garden and ended up staying the night. She slept in my bed. A few days later I overheard her talking about her recent bout of poison ivy which just happened to be all over her body. I started itching before she could even finish the sentence. I somehow manifested phantom poison ivy itching because I was certain that the woman had infested my sheets with it. I was a teenager. I never changed my sheets. All of a sudden I imagined big pink and oozing poison ivy blisters all over my torso and how my boyfriend would never want to hold my hand ever again.

The closet upstairs is where she keeps most of her photos. If you opened the door to the damn thing, you’d be buried alive under all the albums that she’s shoved in there over the years. Books filled with photos from Memorial Day parades, birth announcements, birthday parties, piano recitals and more. She would pull them out for me all the time and say, “Hey Katie- look at this one. Remember that?” She would hand me a picture of the time we had a unicorn at my birthday party in her backyard. Of course I remember.

She’s always made me feel important.

Loved.

Cared for.

She and I have always had a special bond, but I didn’t realize how special it really was until recently. Our demons know each other well. When I was a child I found this all to be very confusing. What happened? What was going on? Was she okay? Where did she go?

She always came back. I didn’t ask questions, I just knew that she loved me and she was trying to love herself too. I had no idea how heavy her burden was. I didn’t know what it felt like to carry that burden alone. I had no idea that one day I would understand.

I do understand, but because of her, I have never had to carry that burden alone.

I woke up a few years ago and realized that I was missing out on life because I was too busy numbing myself from it. I couldn’t experience joy, pain, sadness or happiness. I did my very best to drown my feelings, good or bad. I thought it was normal, until it wasn’t.

I isolated myself from everyone I loved and who loved me. I was too terrified to try to cope with life, I just wanted life to shut up. It was too loud. I drank up everything I could, hoping to float. Instead, I just sunk deeper and deeper to the bottom. The deeper I went, the more the darkness grew.

I was scared. I was ashamed. I was broken. I was nothing.

I thought I was alone.

With trembling hands I reached for my phone, dialed her number and waited for her to say hello. I could hardly get the words out, tears were streaming down my face and I could hardly breathe. I called her because I knew that she knew what this felt like. I could hear her own voice trembling and could picture the tears on her cheeks too.

She said she was proud of me for asking for help. She said she loved me and she was sorry.

“Sorry for what?”, I asked.

All the times she wasn’t there. All the times she tried and failed. All the times I saw her at her worst.

I could feel her heartache in my own heart.

None of that matters, Gram.

Every obstacle we go through in life has the ability to either take us down or make us stronger. Even in defeat we have the opportunity to grow.

I sound like a cheesy self-help infomercial right now, but it’s the truth.

When I think about what she’s given me, I can hardly express my gratitude. She and I share the same disease. Without help, it’s fatal. If she wasn’t who she is and hadn’t gone through what she’s gone through, I’m not sure I would have been able to recognize it in myself and muster up enough courage to say, “My name is Kate and I’m an alcoholic,” if she hadn’t said it first.

Her journey helped me discover my own courage to accept and surrender.

She saved my life.

I love you a bushel and a peck Gram. To the moon and back and over again, endlessly.

63,072,000

Have you ever closed your eyes while driving? I don’t recommend it if you’re planning on living a long life. But, if you’re a risk taking kind of gal like myself, you might have. It takes less than a second to make an irrational, reckless decision like that. I remember thinking how badly I just wanted to feel alive. I wanted to ride a rollercoaster with my arms up in the air screaming, “I CAN FINALLY FEEL MYSELF LIVING!” or “I’M GOING TO PUKE.” Either of those scenarios would pump adrenaline in my veins forcing my brain and body to snap into the present.

I wasn’t suicidal. I just wanted to feel something, anything, no matter what the risk. The big hole inside of me had spread. I was numb to everything- love, life, sadness, reality, happiness… all of it. It felt like I was being pulled down into the ground by branches and weeds. It felt like I was being covered with dirt and sand, unable to breathe or experience anything, but still hopelessly alive.

92CB02D3-1918-454B-BA2C-6CB396F05092I felt this way right after I got sober. I had already admitted to myself and every person in my life that I was an alcoholic. I cannot drink normally. I’m allergic to alcohol, it makes me break out in stupidity. Saying that kind of thing out loud didn’t really seem all that difficult for me. Yeah- hi, I’m Kate and I’m an alcoholic. Whoopdeedoo. It wasn’t rocket science. Everyone in my family had been walking on egg shells for years wondering when I was finally going to stop.

I stopped. Aren’t you happy with me now?

Aren’t I happy now?

No. Sobriety doesn’t come with a Groupon for instant satisfaction and joy in life. What it does deliver is a swift dose of reality and most of us are very startled by that. What do you mean I have to work on myself? I just gave up my best friend. Isn’t that enough? Are you seriously telling me that I have to show up at these meetings with you random, weird people and tell strangers about my life? What the hell is wrong with you people? I like to air my dirty laundry out on facebook, not face to face. That just sounds savage.

I’m was willing to kiss Pinot Grigio and PBR tall boys goodbye. Peace out alcohol, this relationship is over. I’m moving on to bigger and better things. I figured that first night that I would go to sleep an alcoholic and wake up to a happier version of myself.

That’s pretty typical of us alcoholics, right? We want what we want and we want it right now. If we can’t get what we want when we want it, we can become slightly…insane. I can’t even count how many tantrums I had when I ran out of wine.

It’s pretty clear that alcoholism is a symptom of something much harder to break. Our mind can be a weapon against ourselves. Our lives are full of self-destructive chaos. We slowly kill ourselves with substances to avoid situations and emotions that cause us stress.

Shortly after I decided to get sober I started to see the real world and it was FUCKING TERRIFYING. I had to tell myself, “Don’t worry, you stopped drinking, you don’t have to feel those things. Alcohol was the problem!”

HA. HA. HA.

Every table I sat at in the beginning was filled with people who had coping skills and they seemed pretty damn happy. I wanted what they had and this time I could get it. Ask and ye shall receive. They told me what to do. They told me I would have to work hard to achieve sobriety and start a better life. They told me to surrender. They told me to pray. They told me to breathe.

F238EE5C-D1F7-4900-8F56-A2BAD60F91E2Breathe. I have always been trying to catch my breath. Trying to run around and search for anything or anyone to fill the void. When that didn’t work I kept running in every other directions until I finally couldn’t.

Sobriety is simple. I have regularly found that I don’t exactly do *simple*. Breathing is also simple. But, I find myself holding my breath. I breathe in fear and let it settle into my core. Instead of living in the moment, I get stuck in the moment. I can’t control anyone or anything but myself. I hold my breath when I’m hurting, when I’m demoralized and beaten with words. I hold my breath as I watch my children grow and worry if they’ll make the same mistakes I have. I hold my breath when I think about the love I have lost and the love I’ll never have.

Sounds pretty sad right? I’ll invite you to my pity party. All of my fears dancing around me taunting me, pushing me, trying to break me into the shadow of my past.

 

Woe is me.

 

Here’s why I haven’t suffocated yet- I drop to my knees and quietly ask God to take over, be my ventilator until I can inhale my serenity and exhale the rest. I reach out to others who have learned to breathe and ask them how. How do they do it? They just do it. They put the time, the effort, and the service to help others and themselves.2A62B932-A96B-4B41-B785-64080836D04B

I’ve been breathing my whole life. When did I complicate it? The answer doesn’t matter, the solution is sobriety. It’s trying to comprehend that this life has not been handed to me, I have to work for it. It’s taking those risks, opening my heart, opening my mind, and asking God to take over. It’s accepting that shitty people, places and things happen. It’s accepting that I have been shitty to people, places and things (… I’ve thrown a good amount of cell phones in my time.) but that doesn’t define me. I define me, and I identify myself as a sober mom just taking it all in day by day. Am I perfect? No (unless you ask my dog, of course). Am I trying? I am.

I’m taking life one day at a time. One minute at a time. One second at a time.

63,072,000 seconds to be precise and a lifetime more to go.

17247AE6-DFBA-46B1-B255-24D2CDDD6C24

 

 

Be here with me now.

 

“Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be set free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” -Chuang

 

I can’t sit still. My mind is always going at full speed into a million different directions at any given time. I could be cooking dinner for my kids and my brain will be thinking about what color backpack I should get them next year and when was the last time that the lawn was mowed.

8936BB3B-F1DE-46EE-A2C9-0667F28B3FD2My mind is loud and reckless. It’s distracted and random at best. I spent about a decade trying to quiet the damn thing down by smiling hard and guzzling wine.

Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.

Please.

I found it very easy and simple to shove it all down with one substance or another. Feelings are dumb. Don’t have the feelings. If you have too many feelings you might end up on the Dr. Phil show.

Distraction works as a defense mechanism. Instead of being present and taking life one day, one minute, one second at a time, I’m over here planning my three year old daughters wedding several decades from now instead of working through my own relationships in life.

Even without a hefty amount of toxins in my body I found the act of being present in my life was a challenge.

Here’s a quick example: I don’t have time. Time for what? Time to read the description of a television show called, “Unsolved Mysteries” on Netflix. I am a true crime junkie. I live and breathe for documentaries I can watch when the kids are asleep. I became emotionally invested in the entire first episode. On the edge of my couch, I counted the minutes. I realized that the show was more than half over and the audience was no where near knowing what happened to this poor guy. I waited and waited…

 

WHO SHOVED THIS MAN OFF A ROOF?

Did his coworker kill him? Tell me! Details! Now!

Then the screen went black and at the bottom there were a few lines saying, “If you have any information about what happened to so and so, please call this number…”.

ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?

The show is called Unsolved Mysteries. UNSOLVED. I must have just skipped right over that first word before starting the series. I couldn’t even take the time to pay attention to what was playing right in front of me.

Typical.

EEE16D89-13CF-437D-BDD0-A0E5865EAB11There have been so many moments in my kids life where I couldn’t or wouldn’t be present for them. Sober or not. When I was drinking, the alcohol came before everyone and everything. When I realized what I was doing and how I was missing precious moments with my kids, I chose to drink even more to not have to feel the guilt or shame. Even in sobriety, being present for others and myself hasn’t been easy. My daughter is always asking me to play with her. Let’s play ponies! Let’s color! Let’s go outside!

 

Sure! Sure. Yes. Absolutey. I would love to do those things with you, but first just let me finish folding the laundry, chopping the veggies, sweeping the garage, feeding the cats, charging my iPad, stare blankly at the wall while I forget which task I was supposed to do next, all the while missing out on moments that would have been memories. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into the mens restroom in various gas stations, because I wasn’t paying attention.

I have never once left my house with everything I was supposed to bring with me. I’ve forgotten diapers, pants (MY OWN PANTS), wallet, phone, children…you name it.

I try my best to not spend all of my days drowning my sorrows, worries, hopes, fears, dreams, reality, or broken heart in a bottle. I slow down. I pause. I pray. I talk. I listen. I make progress, not perfection.

BBD40C79-2B4B-4F74-9C7D-7462BEC5235DA few months ago my mom filled me in on a little secret. She told me that she had started meditating and it was helping her with stress. I can’t remember my exact response but I’m sure it went something along the lines of “That’s cool, but that sounds like some hippie dippie shit.”

New Age Bullshit.

Well, maybe those hippie dippie people had a point. I was introduced to meditation in a group setting. I hadn’t intended on spending my evening with a bunch of people meditating in a room together. I just walked in the room. I saw some familiar faces. I made eye contact and realized I was fucked. I had to stay. Leaving would be rude, and my mama raised me better than that.

I sat in an uncomfortable chair, listened to the instructions, sat up straight, closed my eyes and promptly heard a familiar voice in my head that has always comforted me over the years.

Britney Spears.

 

I wasn’t exactly sure where my brain was going with that, but I think we can all agree that the Queen of Pop has changed all of our lives with her #1 hits over the years. So, if my brain wanted me to hear the classic early 2000’s hit “Lucky”, I didn’t question it.

I was told to let my thoughts happen, whatever they were. Good or bad. Just let them come and go.

C1B9573C-DC7F-419B-88C1-0F625EDC29A5The waves in the ocean, crashing with impact and then pulling slowly back with the tide, making room for the next. Over and over.

Ten minutes later I felt like a completely different person. I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t understand it. I just knew that something had happened. My damaged heart started to open, the light that I had been avoiding came through the cracks. My mind allowed my heart to feel gratitude in a way I had never felt before. My eyes started to water, because the peace I felt in that moment was a gift. The tiniest amount of serenity left me with an awakened heart and mind.

So, I did what anyone would do.

I walked out of the room and promptly forgot every single thing I had learned.

But I kept coming back. I keep coming back.

Meditation has allowed me to experience life differenty then before. I can breathe. After all of these years, I can breathe.

2AF2ED41-3568-48B5-B3E1-BD045F6C925ASerenity and peace don’t just fall into our laps. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Yeah. No. That’s not how it works. The only way I can stay in the light is with an open mind, open heart, willingness, honesty, prayer and fellowship with a few like minded people.

048AF1F4-7EDD-4365-AB75-C1A8A7F7218BI sat outside a few days ago surrounded by rocks, paint, glitter and my daughters. I watched them laugh and goof off with each other. I watched them share the paint brushes (for the most part). I watched them show each other each and every stone with pride. I watched them toss glitter in each others hair and dance in the afternoon sun. I sat next to them fully present and grateful that I could be there with them. Right then and there. I could be still without thinking about next weeks dinner plans, if the car had gas in it, how to get rid of cellulite and if I fed the dog yesterday.

6F301EB5-F4F4-48B2-BF8D-ADA7CD7315CDThis moment matters. This singular moment. The moments that follow will matter as well, but I don’t need to worry about that.

I just need to stay in the moment until the next one comes.

There’s a force so much larger than ourselves that keeps whispering in my ear repeating this over and over again-

Be here with me. Be here with me now.

0A1C4AC6-404F-4F27-95C2-8FD36AF0115D

“Breath by breath, let go of fear, expectation, anger, regret, cravings, frustrations, fatigue. Let go of the need for approval. Let go of old judgements and opinions. Die to all that and fly free. Soar in the freedom of desirelessness” -Surya Das

 

 

 

 

 

A Womans Worth: A Letter to my Mama

Dear Mom,

I have been sitting on this topic for a few weeks. What worth do we as women have in this world? Do we acknowledge our worth, or do we let others diminish it?  Do we stay silent to hide our strength, because our strength is intimidating to others? A woman can’t be worthy in this world if she’s too much.

Too much or not enough.

Don’t appear too confident, too smart, too brave, too beautiful, too independent, or too successful if you really want to succeed in life and have a great husband.

0-2*Get it girl*

My dear Mama: you have raised me well. Some of the lessons I have learned from you have sat dormant in my mind for quite a while. I ran in the other direction. I made choices that kept me small. I firmly believed that a white picket fence would make me happy. It didn’t. I firmly believed that the only thing I could offer was giving birth to babies and emptying the dishwasher.

Don’t get me wrong- being a mom is the greatest honor I have ever experienced. I have the pleasure of watching these three wild, silly, strong-willed girls grow day by day and I get to be part of that. It’s amazing.

But is that the only thing I can be?

What about my dreams, my passions, my goals? It never occurred to me that I could do those things and still be the badass mom that I am today.

I let men silence me. I let society silence me. I let alcohol silence me. I let myself silence me. 

0

When I think about your life Mom, I hear symphonies instead of silence. You have spent your entire life pushing yourself to be better, wiser and stronger. You worked hard for your education, your job, and your home with a grateful heart.

0-1*

I know that as you are reading this, you are going to be flooded with emotions. I mean, if we’re being honest here, you kind of always have floods of emotion! That’s good. Gotta let it out.

I know that you have spent hours replaying different memories from my life where you wish you could have done things differently or wish you had been at one thing or another. You tell me over and over how sorry you are for missing stuff. I know that your heart broke when I went into labor and you weren’t there. I know that you still carry that guilt.

Let me tell you something. If you had been around, you would have been ushered out into the waiting room as I entered the OR for that damn emergency c-section. You wouldn’t have been allowed in. You dropped a heck of a lot of money to turn around and get on the next flight back to me. Everything was such a rush. The first baby. Total beautiful chaos.

0-13

I remember almost nothing about my c-section.

Do you know what I do remember? I remember you basically sprinting into the room several hours later. You dropped everything and made it back in record time. Maybe you don’t remember this, but by the time you arrived I was tired. More than tired. Emotionally drained and emotionally full.

 

What I’m trying to say here is that I needed a nap. I straight up just needed to sleep for a minute. You have no idea how deep the exhaustion is after birth until you’ve actually experienced it. You came in and walked right up to us. You picked up Fiona and held her to your heart. You sat down in the rocking chair and introduced yourself to her. I said something about being tired, and you told me to take a nap.

Nap.

Nap?

Moms are allowed to nap? I heard that was a myth.

0-12

You rocked that little smooshy face for almost two hours while I zoned in and out of an unusual sleep. You never sleep the same after a human being exits you. You have to be on call 24/7. I remember the wave of calm that came over me when you walked in there and I closed my eyes. I had spent the past several hours absolutely terrified when my *natural* birth plan didn’t work out. I felt guilt, as if my body had failed her. I don’t know how, but your presence helped calm those emotions.

You’re my mom. You knew I needed to sleep. Moms know everything.

Let me repeat that: Moms know everything.

You would have missed her birth if you had been one mile away or across the country. You would have had to sit and wait outside for who knows how long. I was ok. I did it. I had a baby. I needed you, but not right there at that moment. I needed you to come in like Wonder Woman, sweeping the sleeping baby out of my arms and into yours. I felt my shoulders relax. I felt my eyes getting heavy.

You were there when I needed you. I didn’t need you in the OR, I needed you right then and there in my hospital room. That’s what I remember. Not that you left, but that you came in at just the right time. 

We joke around a lot calling you a *workaholic*. You work. You work really hard. It’s easy for me to sit here on this couch and say you do too much. But I wouldn’t have the damn couch if you hadn’t worked so hard to make sure that we all have always had everything we’ve needed.  You work your ass off even when it seems impossible.

0-9

Being a mom is much like walking on a tightrope. It’s hard and almost impossible. People constantly ask, “How do you do it?” And the answer is simple: the love that we have for our children gives us no other choice. If we have to move a mountain, we will move a mountain. Moms are incredible.

0-5

The past year I have heard you say a lot of things about divorce. Your own and mine. At times you seem to believe that if you raised me differently, that perhaps my marriage wouldn’t have ended. You also seem to believe that you have some kind of control over this situation.

Let me tell you right now-You, your life, your family, your everything…not one single part of your past makes you responsible for what I’m going through, or what my kids are going through.

This isn’t your fault. 

You have brought me back from the ledge of the bridge too many times this past year. You have picked up every phone call. You’ve read every text. You’ve let me go on and on about superficial things while you are mourning the loss of your father. You put me first.

A few months back my marriage ended. I didn’t know what to do, who to turn to, how to make it through one more hour of the misery I was consumed with. A few days later you flew out. Dropped everything, got on a plane, and came out to give me a break. My house was flooded with sewage water. It smelled like a porta potty. You took care of everything. EVERYTHING. You changed your flight home, because you knew I needed more time with you.

You put your own exhaustion aside and sat by me when I needed you the most.

We lost Grampie. You lost your Dad. You had to be the one to call me that morning. Your voice didn’t even tremble. You knew you had to be strong for me in that moment.

I hope I can be strong for you too someday. 

Even when circumstances have been less than ideal, you still do what you need to do for us. You don’t give up. You push. You push into the right direction as much as you can.

0-7

I have spent my entire life watching you soar. You aren’t just a mom. You aren’t just a successful business woman. You aren’t just a loving and kind Grammie. You aren’t just the shoulder your daughters cry on. You aren’t just the mom who has pulled her daughter out of financial and emotional ruin. You aren’t just a devoted daughter. You aren’t just a beloved sibling, leader of the pack. You aren’t just a woman who has a deep love of twizzlers and diet pepsi. You aren’t just the mom who has sacrificed sanity to drive across the country with my three screaming kids in the back. You aren’t just the big promotion. You aren’t just the woman who has helped your daughter stay sober. You aren’t just the woman with a new car or a new house. You aren’t just a hallmark movie watching junkie.

You are Susan. 

You don’t have to be anyone or anything else, just being who you are makes your worth in this world and in my heart immeasurable.

You are enough. You are worthy. You are loved.

 

Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.

0-3

Semper Fi

Every morning for the past few months I have woken up, slightly terrified, thinking to myself, ” WHAT NOW?!?“. How can it get any worse? Everything is falling apart. God must hate me. Divorce. Plumbing. Quarentining. Death. I could go on and on. My pity party has been throwing it down day after day after day.

Boo hoo. Poor me. My life is a waste. Nothing matters. Blah, blah, blah.

My head has been so far up my ass that all I see is dark. I’m sure that I’ve been a pleasure to be around. Everyone loves a selfish, dramatic, midwestern housewife.

A few weeks ago I was sitting on my balcony in the middle of the night. It was cold and I was crying over something stupid. I just kept weeping. Snot nose and all, thinking of all the wrongs done to me. My house was flooded with sewage water. It smelled like thirty people all decided to take a dump in my hallway. My relationship was officially over, and the weight of that statement sat right on my shoulders pushing me as far down as it possibly could. So many scenarios popped into my head. My kids would have a broken home. I might have to miss certian holidays with them. I have nothing of my own- house, car, job, or bank account. I have ruined my childrens life. I’m a bad mom. Only a bad mom would allow this to happen.

It’s a pretty sad day when you’re sitting in your house tearing up wedding pictures while the faint smell of poop lingers in your floorboards. I thought to myself, ” THIS IS IT. I’m done. I’m not cut out for this life stuff.” My favorite thought that came to me time and time again was, ” I’m so glad I got sober just in time for my entire life to implode right before my very eyes.” My poor, fragile mind had always used alcohol to cope with feelings that hurt. Every glass of pinot grigio numbed my heart and mind. No one can hurt a drunk like me. Go ahead. Try. But before you do- can you please open that second bottle up for me?

The news started to focus on a virus across the world that was killing people at a very fast pace. If it’s across the world, why should I care? Sucks to be those dudes.

I had no idea what was about to happen.

I had no idea.

IMG_0607-3.jpeg

A few weeks later we were ordered to stay home. Stay home from work, stay home from school, stay home from restuarants, stay home from anything and everything. I get clausterphonic really fast, and I could already feel the walls coming in closer and closer. At first, it was bearable. My kids school got cancelled for a week. A week? I can handle a week. That’s cool. Maybe we can do some family shit.

Oh wait, no we can’t. We can’t leave our homes. It’s just a week though. It will pass.

One week turned into two. Two turned into a month. A month turned into the rest of the school year.

Homeschooling a six year old, four year old, and three year old can be trying at times. All times. My kids come from an amazing school district and the teachers are super helpful and care so much about our kids. A few weeks in we found our groove. I started to enjoy helping my kids grow and learn. First grade math is tough though. I have such a deeper appreciation for teachers. This shit is hard.

Just as I was able to wrap my head around this whole quarantine, I experienced something that I could never have forseen or ever imagined. I didn’t have a partner to hold my hand or comfort me. I had to hear this news alone, my mothers shaking voice on the other end of the phone.IMG_0486.JPG

My Grampie died of COVID-19.

 

 

IMG_0490.jpegLet me tell you a little bit about my Grampie. I had him wrapped around my finger from day one. One of my earliest memories was asking him to get me an icre cream sandwich at 9 pm on a random summer evening. He walked down the road to the general store. A store in which they generally sell things that you might generally need at one point or another, generally speaking. So, he got me my icre cream sandwich. This event was repeated over and over when I was a kid. Grampie never said no. As I grew older, I would call the house to check in and say hi to him and my Grammie.

” Hey Gramps! How are you?”

” Now, who’s this?”

” Your favorite grandchild!”

” Oh, hi Jill!”

 

Yeah… I’m not Jill. (although she is my bomb ass cousin who has amazing hair and equally amazing sense of humor)
” Gramps! Haha! It’s me!”

” Miss Kaitlyn, how’s it going in Chicago?”

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*Here we have on the right the so-called favorite, Jill.*

We had an on going joke for a couple of years. If there was a ever a time where my grandmother was out of town, I would call him and ask when the keg was being delivered and did he have enough singles for the strippers that would be showing up in a couple hours. He would usually say, ” Well, I ordered two kegs this time. Just to be sure.”

Once every few weeks he would check in with me when I was in college. He would always end the phone call with, ” Now you be careful, alright? I mean it. Be careful.”

His favorite TV show was Keeping Up With The Kardashians. His favorite Kardashian was Khloe. According to him she was, ” The only normal one.”

My Grampie embraced his Scottish heritage with pride. But, I still had to beg him to wear his kilt to my wedding. It had been years since he had worn it. During the family photos I walked over to him. He said, ” Now listen, don’t get too close. I’m not wearing any underwear.”

…WHAT??!

Apparently, thats a Scottish tradition.

5666CA1B-2E9B-4DD0-A73E-EBC4315AB0BF.JPGHe loved my Grammie with all of his heart. Stubborn, but full of love. He was a police officer and made a very large impact on his community with his generosity, kindness, service, and a crazy sense of humor.

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For as long as I can remember, he was battling one ailment after another during his life. Cancer, cellulitis, bad knees, heart stuff, infections and more. None of those things ever took away his joy of life. He went through most of that with a smile. Maybe not the entire time, but he dealt with things in his life with humor.

A few months ago I flew to CT. Neither of my grandparents were in good health. I was very worried about my Grammie, and not quite as worried about him. The virus had already started to infiltrate Connecticut and we were told to wear masks in the hospital visitng him. He was in the hospital getting antibiotics through an IV. His roommate walked by and let out one of the most haneous farts I have ever smelled. It just lingered. And lingered. Grampie said that he does that all the time, you just get used to it. Honestly- it’s a wonder that those deathly farts didn’t take his life first. I don’t know why, but it seemed important to make sure I took a picture with him. I didn’t know it would be the last one.

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My kids loved him a bunch too. Everynight we look out at the Grampie star in the middle of the sky that seems to get brighter and brighter. We sent balloons up into the sky with messages about how much we loved him. The grief came in waves.

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There was no chance in hell that I could go home, because Covid-19 was everywhere. I’d be putting myself and others in danger. But- grieving someone you love from 800 miles away really, really sucks.

Really sucks.

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I cried myself to sleep a lot. I’m extremely blessed to have my aunt, uncle and two cousins out here in Illinois. Being around family during this kind of stuff  is so important.Screenshot 2020-05-07 at 12.27.57 PM.jpeg

I had to watch his burial on a youtube. He would have loved it. He was given a marine burial, sending him to heaven with the gratitude of many police officers, family, and friends. I saw my mom holding it together so she could make a speech. I watched my grandmother be given the American flag that was draped on the casket.

IMG_1332.JPEGBut here’s the thing- he died. That hurts. It will always hurt, but I don’t have to drink over it. I don’t have to grieve him while black out drunk on my couch. I had to accept that I couldn’t change anything about it. Acceptance is an absolute miracle.

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All of these things could be categorized as major life events. So many changes, so many tears, so much uncertainty. A big ol’ broken heart to top it all off. These are reasons to drink that are completley validated. All that stress can be washed down with a cold Bud Light, and you know what? Things are so hard, why don’t you have another one. And another. And another.

Another until there is no more.

Drinking wouldn’t make anything better.

But I know what does- sobriety. I packed up my pity party and threw it in the trunk. Every single person has to go through this kind of stuff at one point or another. It never dawned on me that you could deal with all this sober. How would anyone be able to do that?

I did what I had to do.

I prayed. I reached out. I sat around with a bunch of other drunks who had found ways to deal with stuff sober. I learned. I grew. I’m still learning. Still growing. Every single day I can choose to either work hard on this shit and come out stronger, or I can succumb to my demons.

I’m not the only person dealing with this. Thousands of people have lost family members.  Thousands of people have lost their jobs. Thousands of people can’t pay their mortage. Thousands of people have put their own lives on the line in order to help others. Thousands of people will never be the same.

So, what right do I have to complain about this current wreckage? Nothing. I have no zero reason to complain. I’m fine. My kids are fine. I have a roof over my head. I have food to cook. I have zoom. I have friends from 6 feet away. I have people who laugh about how ridiculous our masks look. I have my dog. I have so much.

I will never see my Grampie again on this earth. But I know with great certainty that he is here with us. Always will be.

My youngest ran out of the bathroom last week screaming, ” MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY! I FOUND GREAT GRAMPIE STAR!” We all looked up and there it was.

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*hot chocolate on the balcony saying hi to Great Grampies star*

 

That star.

 

I’m 800 miles away from my parents and siblings. At first I was jealous that they could all grieve with each other while I’m out here in rural Illinois. My support system walked out the front door without ever looking back. My heart burned. I figured I didn’t have a choice. I had to be alone.

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Ok yeah- screw that. I’m not alone. I have that star. I have my sobriety. Sobriety is the gift that keeps giving. I did not think I was going to be ok a few weeks back. I really didn’t. I also was choosing to be a grump narcissist, that might have had something to do with it. Because I am sober, and ONLY because I am sober can I appreciate the life of an amazing man and the blessing it is to be his first born granddaughter. Dear cousins- if you’re reading this you should know that I was the favorite. Admit it. You know it’s true. Don’t you dare say that we were all his favorites, theres only room for one. And that one being me. Me, me, me! (still working on that narcisit thing…)

 

I love you Grampie.IMG_0609.jpeg