Grief at Five

“We feel mad and sad,” these were the words my five year old daughter articulated to my mom’s neighbor when Mom couldn’t respond to his question the day after my dad passed.  Parker’s wisdom in the moment demonstrated some maturity and emotional understanding of what we were all experiencing.

And just as everyone in the family has shown moments of strength, we have all succumb to the weight of his loss in different moments too.  For my daughter, she began grieving the changes to her Papa long before he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Parker and Papa shared rituals.  She would get the stick and flashlight for Papa and they would get down on their hands and knees to get kitty toys out from under the stove.  She would bring him the DVD case and together they would put in a movie and she would snuggle on his lap to watch.  Parker would sit with him after dinner to have dessert and he would allow her spoonfuls from his bowl of ice cream even when she had her own.

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Papa would let Parker interrupt his work in his home office to let her sit in his chair and play on the computer or make copies of her hand on his printer.  She would get excited when Papa would fill up the teapot and assist by getting out the honey and a spoon then patiently waited for her helping of honey.  Parker started calling him “Poppy,” a term of endearment he adored.  And a favorite ritual before we left their home was for Papa to pick her up for a giant sandwich hug with Poppy and Nana.

When my dad injured his back we made modifications to the sandwich hug.  Instead of getting down to play on the floor, she found joy in getting to play in his remote lift chair.  She naturally became more gentle with him and found on some days when he was more comfortable, she could still snuggle in to watch a movie with him.  Parker asked a lot of questions and mourned why Papa couldn’t pick her up anymore.  I tried to reaffirm it would only be a matter of time, he would heal and things would be back to normal.

poppyparker

30 July 2015 – One month before diagnosis.

This time last year, her worry became even more evident, she questioned daily when Poppy’s back would be better.  He was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma about a month shy of Parker’s fifth birthday and it seemed too complex to try to explain what was happening to her Papa.  “The doctors are helping Papa because he is sick,” seemed the only rational thing to say to a five year old.  Then we would talk about praying for him to heal and for his back to be all better again soon.

Repeating this conversation seemed to temporarily satisfy her and my dad improved through the autumn of 2015.  He was showing signs of healing and getting around easier.  Parker understood his limitations and adjusted to how their adoration for each other was changing.  A huge setback came just before the new year when a lesion on his femur broke with only the weight of his body standing.  With the exception of medical appointments, Papa lived in his own personal medical suite upstairs.  As the months passed in late winter and early spring, Parker went upstairs less and less.  I could see how nervous she felt in his presence and witnessing him suffer.  I made attempts to encourage their interactions with playing games or showing him a dance she was practicing in class.  Right or wrong, I tried to explain what was happening to his bones in five year old terms.  For months straight she would pick out the same bedtime story “Magic School Bus: The Human Body,” and often stopped on specific pages displaying a graphic of a skeleton to talk about Papa’s bones.  It was her own way of coping and trying to understand.

Dad never rebounded from the surgery, medications and treatment.  He passed at home in his sleep days after Easter.  Since it was early in the morning when I got the call, I left before Parker woke.  My husband and I agreed not to tell her, instead sending her to school so we could have a day to sort out arrangements.  The following morning, I dreaded telling Parker what happened to her beloved Poppy.  I worried she wouldn’t understand what death meant as she had no memory of losing someone.  We sat down with her in the kitchen and I did my best to conceal my tears and calm my voice.  Her tears were immediate as though she completely understood the gravity of him being gone.  We embraced and tried to turn our sadness to appreciation for him to no longer be in pain.  When we told her we would be going to Nana and Papa’s house for the day Parker begged to go to school, a place where she could be happy and forget.  She didn’t want to go to the house where Papa is supposed to be and him not be there.

As always, the opportunity to see her cousins and trumped the fear of the empty house.  She played with her cousins while the adults seemed to float around the house without intention, numb from the turbulence of the last year.  After her cousins had been gone a while in the late afternoon, Parker came running from upstairs sobbing.  Mom and my dad’s sister and I all felt the ripple of emotion and broke down with her.  I believe she had been upstairs to play in his lift chair, a game that was no longer fun with him gone.

In the days and weeks following we cried together frequently.  We expressed gratitude he was free from pain and we talked about how he would always be with us.  I encouraged Parker to know he could be with her whenever she felt she needed him.  On the way to school she would say she was going to bring him with her and talked to him on our way there.  She joked “He’s going the wrong way, no Poppy that’s not the right turn…”  And when we talked about him being with his mom, she would sometimes bring Grame along to school too.

It seemed the tearful sadness of losing Papa was lessened during the early summer.  She could talk about him without the heavy emotion and I was relieved she was coping so well.  Then there were times I wondered if I was doing everything right to help a five year old with grief.  On a few occasions she got stuck looking at pictures and would break down unable to catch her breath.  I validated her feelings by recalling stories of him and the funny things we would remember him by to help in the moment.

I had been concerned maybe my daughter was reflecting my emotions, maybe she was feeling the grief I was immersed in and so I have been careful to not initiate her thoughts or feelthelightfeelings.  I know her moments of grief are her own because many times I am blindsided by her eruption of sadness.  Like a peaceful ride in the car interrupted by a quivering voice in the backseat “I miss Papa.”  Parker recently began associating one song to Papa, a song she has loved for a long time but now can’t manage to hear without thinking of how much she misses him.There are even joyful celebrations where she turns to despair because Papa is not there to share in it.

The variety of ways Parker has expressed her heartache demonstrate how much she deeply loved her Poppy and also resemble the complicated way our whole family is coping with his loss.  In the last six months there have been times when talking about him was easy and then there are days when even the sight of a bird soaring can cause hysteria.  We know we each have individual triggers which can cause deep sorrow; a song, a date, a place or any synchronistic event.  And then there are other waves of grief which don’t seem to have a pairing, the misery builds to a peak and subsides.

The helplessness I felt with my dad in the last year of his life has transitioned to feeling helpless to support my mom and my daughter.  I want to always have the perfect words to make them hurt less.  And just as there were days I couldn’t do anything but stare at my dad, there are moments I am paralyzed in the faces of my mother and my child.  I am managing as best I can and accepting the unpredictable nature of grief and how it is impacting us in unique ways.  I understand it will get easier over time, though the waves may be less intense or less frequent we will ride these waves of grief indefinitely.

My hope is the waves Parker experiences will calm much sooner and easier than my own.  I want her to be able to remember the love he had for her without the deep sorrow of missing him.  I worry her memory of their rituals will fade, though I know she will never forget how much she loved Poppy.  And I know the pride he had in her will live on forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life on Purpose

As a mother and wife, it has been an extreme importance to provide a healthy life to those I love.  Until recently I believed I was doing a great job by being mindful of nutrition, being aware of toxic products and making conscious decisions about medical interventions.  It seemed simple because it was the lifestyle I was fortunate to grow up with, though something changed to make me understand there is more I can do to improve the environment I am raising my child in.

When my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in September 2015, I watched his condition deteriorate and felt the confusion, frustration and fear involved with cancer.  He was the only person in our family to ever receive a cancer diagnosis and I thought he was doing everything “right” to avoid getting cancer.  He was one who rarely got sick, religiously took vitamins, stayed active, maintained a healthy weight, often ate a vegetarian diet and stopped using the microwave because it zapped nutrients from foods.  Dad had never been hospitalized for anything ever, I wrongly assumed he would be safe from this type of disease.  Like most cancers, myeloma doesn’t have a direct cause provided with the diagnosis.  My dad received a double major in chemistry and biology, then made his professional career working in the chemical industry.  Despite the doctor’s hesitation to name a cause, it’s easy to see some correlation in how his cancer likely developed.

About the same time of the diagnosis, a friend contacted me about Norwex and emphasized how important this product could be in his home.  I declined hosting a party or learning more about the products as we were all engrossed in treatments, symptom management and appeasing his appetite.  At the end of March 2016, my dad passed and was finally at peace from the pain.

In the cycle of grief, I consider what we could have done different, how I could have helped more or what might have changed his outcome.  There are many things I wish could have been different for my dad and because I can’t change what happened with him, I am propelled to try to reduce the chances of anyone else suffering in the same way.

In every home there are known cancer causing agents; environmental toxins we clean with, put on our body, ingest and breathe on a regular basis.  Because they have commercials and are available to buy in stores, it’s normal to believe they are safe.  Alarmingly, of the 80,000 new chemicals which have been introduced to our market in the last fifty years, less than 200 have actually been tested for safety.  Many we use on a regular basis in the United States have been banned across Europe.  The statistics are shocking and really show consumers are not protected.  Norwex can provide the same or better standards of clean and can do so with only water and a lot less time.  Don’t believe me?  I’d be happy to prove it and help you create a safe, chemical free environment in your home.  While I cannot change the past, I am confident in my choice to live life on purpose now and share the microfiber magic with those I love.

The very best way to experience this safe clean and do it for free is by hosting a party.  Norwex is an extremely generous company by spoiling a hostess with free gifts just for bringing friends together to learn about the products.  Please check out my website, contact me about hosting a party and share with those you love and wish to protect.Norwex life on purpose

Strawberry Adventure

My family loves an adventure, sometimes just a ride in the car with no destination in mind will lead us to creating fantastic memories.  On this particular day, we did have a plan to try something we hadn’t done together before.  We found ourselves near Edgerton, KS on a family farm for strawberry picking.  The fields at The Gieringer’s Orchard wafted with the 01strawberrysweet fruity fragrance I had engraved in my childhood memory bank from the back corner of our yard in Minnesota.  It was refreshing to crouch down and search deep into the leaves to find the most perfectly ripe fruit others had passed by.  I had forgotten completely about the little white flowers on the plants and the method to plucking with the stem.  Like some new adventures, Parker was hesitant at first and then enthusiastically joined in the hunt.  When I noticed she had a tendency to choose tiny berries which were far from ripe, as she has an undeniable preference for tiny things…  I asked her to nibble on one and tell me if she would like to eat more.  Her pre-prepared it tastes good mom nodding smile turned to a bitter tongue out frown and her strawberry picking greatly improved instantly.

It was a chilly morning for May, though the temperature didn’t impede on the dozens of other strawberry pickers present there.  Thankfully we were able to fill our tray before the skies opened up to a cold shower.

As we love to eat strawberries: plain, covered in chocolate or juiced with spinach.  I know we will be back again soon because picking up a carton in the grocery store just won’t taste as good now.00strawberry

How are you?

A while back a friend inquired, “Has anyone asked you any stupid questions?”

After the conversation, I was still left lingering on the thought.  In general people make statements and ask questions which may come across as stupid, when really it’s with good intentions or out of complete ignorance.  I know I am guilty of this at times too, we all have been there.  When it comes to sensitive topics, these stupid questions can come across as insulting and evoke strong emotions.  Fortunately, I’ve been able to brush off some comments and find the humor in them.  There is always one question I get stuck on and don’t know how to answer.

“How are you?”

This usually simple question has a much different meaning to it when people look at you with their head already tilted to one side and a worried frown on their face.  My mind frantically looks for a reasonable reply and I wonder if I should state my mood right in that moment, or an average of the past day or week?  I give a thoughtful pause but really it’s to internally criticize my own response before it escapes my mouth.  I don’t want what I say to be too positive and have someone judging me for being happy or too negative and risk they might think I’m not handling things well.

“How are you?”

Does someone really want to know it’s a struggle to drive in the car alone with your thoughts at times, that for some reason those are the moments when the regrets become their strongest?  Is it okay I have had fun days full of laughter and smiles when I have been present in what’s happening in front of me?  Should I tell people there are lapses in time when I have been completely numb and have proven to be ineffective at everything?  When is the appropriate time to say I haven’t been able to keep myself together when my daughter is full of sorrow and I cannot possibly fix what she needs fixed?  Is it unhealthy for me to have times when I think I am accepting and other times when it is unreal, it didn’t happen and it’s not true?  Do people want to know I can be fine one minute and completely loose my mind in a sobbing mess all while washing dishes?  Is it alright to tell someone “I was great until you asked and made me think about it”?

“How am I?”

Dad passed four weeks ago today, how I am is existing moment to moment.  Sometimes I am good and sometimes I am really not.  There isn’t really a consistent progression of things getting easier, one day may feel less emotional and the next day feels as raw as the day he passed.   The truth is I don’t know how I am doing, I know I am doing the best I can and things will be okay.

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My Father, My Friend

Early yesterday morning my dad passed at home in his sleep, he had been ill and fighting for his life for the past year except we didn’t know how quickly it would take him from us.  How unfair it had been for him to get sick right at the time he should have been celebrating his retirement and living well-earned carefree years traveling with Mom.  I keep thinking of other things I wanted to tell him, words I wanted hear from him one more time and other ways we would have handled things if we weren’t acting out of a paniced fear.  My Dad and I knew each other in a way no one else on earth could relate to and I can’t think too long about how lonely life will be now without his connection.

I knew he was dying, I could see life fading away and I felt helpless to know there was nothing I could do to take the agony away from his body.  He pushed his body past it’s limits while bones collapsed and broke with no effort at all.  Dad’s steps became slower, his body weaker.  Towards the end he was sleeping more and eating less each day.  I knew he was dying, I could see life fading and I still believed I had more time.  His appearance became more fragile, he avoided having visitors because he didn’t want others to see him and remember him so sick.  For months I avoided being physically close to him when I came to the house, afraid I would unintentionally infect him with germs and make him feel even worse.

In the past few weeks I returned to giving him kisses on the forehead or cheek when I said goodbye.  Being so close, I could feel his bones protruding through his face and still I wanted to believe he would rebound, this would not be his fate.  I realize now our final interactions were my last goodbye.  If I had known, I would have stayed for longer. I would have told him I’m okay with him going because I don’t want him to be in pain.  I know he knows this now.

There are moments when peace calms the house and I feel reassured, Dad is not in anymore pain.  He is not suffering.  Our family is together now and connected by hugs, holding hands and laughter.  Then there are waves of grief which catch me off guard and squeeze the air tightly from my lungs, how did we get here to this point, how could this have happened to him?

Seeing how family and friends have responded in the last day has made me observe I am not the only one who has a unique and special connection to my dad.  It’s both comforting and distressing to recognize how influential my dad was to so many people.  He taught life lessons, was an example for how to be genuine to people and a devoted husband, father, brother, uncle and friend.  His cancer spread to impacting the lives of so many who loved and respected my dad, the grief is widespread.

In one of the moments of calm yesterday, I looked through the photos on his cell phone.  As predicted there were pictures of his grandchildren, of him with my mom, of his motorcycle travels with his brother, of the only cat he says ever loved him “Mozie,” and of the countryside in Italy where he took his last international trip.  Some pictures made me sob to see the joy on his face and the love in his eyes, knowing I wouldn’t ever see this in person again.  Then one image seemed to stand out from the rest, a heaven sent message from my dad for exactly this moment.oksign.jpg It hurts so much right now to think about him being gone and I know down the road everything is going to be okay, even if I can’t see it or feel it today.

My Little Storyteller

In the moments Parker will go play by herself it’s not unusual to peer into her room and find her occupied with books.  Sometimes she curls up in her brown corduroy rocking chair and looks through the illustrations.  My favorite is when she lines up her dolls or stuffed animals and presents the books as though she is reading to her own make-believe classroom.  She carefully tells the story of each page before lifting and turning the book to her viewers to see the pictures.  01booksEach night we read each other one story before bed too.  She has several stories or lines out of books memorized and even mimics the inflections and character voices I use when I read to her.  A lot of her reading is completely made up as she goes along incorporating characters from the story I had read or from events that happened in her day.  It won’t be long before she is truly reading the words on the pages but for now she is using her imagination and her own words for storytelling.

Parker has an advanced vocabulary and communication skills for her young five years.  She is full of opinions, questions and comments and is fearless about opening her mouth to speak.  I want to empower her to continue this since it demonstrates curiosity and leadership, while also trying to rein her in and ensure she remains respectful with her words.  It’s also been a priority for me to educate her on the proper use of her vocabulary and practice pronunciation.  It’s not uncommon for her to completely make up words and throw them into sentences.  She has a few words she frequently stumbles over, like before she could say computer and asked to play on the “paduter.”  There are two words which come to mind I hear currently mispronounced, as long as she is not still saying them this way five years from now they will be a fun memory of her growth.

“Mom, we are out of skabetty?  That’s just rediclius.”

(*Spaghetti, ridiculous)

Teddy Bear and the Nightmares

babyWhile both of my parents are significant influences in my life, I have to give the majority of the child rearing credit to my mom.  Mom fed us, dressed us, bathed us, got us to school, chauffeured to activities, read bedtime stories, fixed boo boos, and knew all the details of her three children’s lives growing up.

There are some memories I have of my dad during my childhood which stand out, like the time I ran screaming from him when he asked to do my hair during a summer trip to Colorado.  It was in fact the first and only time I can recall him showing any interest in doing my hair and it was my mom’s job…  Or so I thought, until she pointed out how upset he looked at my response.  Remorsefully I agreed to let him try to which he responded, “Nevermind.”

My dad may not have been successful at styling his daughters’ hair, though, he did have a knack at resolving my childhood nightmares.  I had a reoccurring nightmare which likely stemmed from cartoon watching and stranger danger lessons in early elementary school.  To a six year old, the Care Bears being kidnapped was a wickidly frightening dream and one I would wake up from crying.  Whether from brilliant parenting insight or just an effort to keep me from trying to sleep in my parents bed, my dad reassured me in a way I found strength and confidence.  My dad told me to fall asleep holding my teddy bear up to my head and it would scare the bad dreams away.

It was a simple piece of advice from my dad and helped me sleep soundly through my childhood.  A few weeks ago I was fondly remembering how this memory made an impression on me when the realization hit me, my dad lied to me.  The teddy bear didn’t scare anything away, it was a false sense of security which tricked me into sleeping.  Now some people might say “so what, you got to sleep.”  Except my parents raised us with the belief and my dad maintains it is important to never lie to children.  He stands by the necessity of being truthful, not misleading with fairytales or disception.  Granted, this does not mean full disclosure to kids, there are times to limit topics into adult conversation.  For my parents it was important to set the example for always being honest.

In a quiet moment with my parents I broke the silence by asking my dad if he remembered this childhood advice.  I told him how I affectionately remembered the influence it had on me and my nightmares, he closed his eyes and smiled.  “It was a lie,” I pointed out, “The bear didn’t scare anything away, you lied.”  I felt so cleaver to finally uncover the one example in my lifetime where my dad was intentionally dishonest with me and hung to the thought for only a moment.

“It wasn’t a lie,” he said softly, “I helped you to change your perception so you weren’t afraid.”

As soon as he said it I understood what he meant, since a fear of a dream is unique from real danger.  The power I was given by the teddy bear wasn’t false at all, I was able to envision the protection it served me and it did provide me safety from my Care Bear nightmare.  The change in my perception gave me the confidence to control how I felt and what I didn’t need to fear.

Our conversation was broken up by a lab technician coming into the hospital room to take more blood samples from my dad.  He laid weak under the florescent lighting on an emergency stretcher, medical machines beeping with IV fluid being flushed through his body.  Dad’s skeletal frame had been deteriorating over the past six month, starting as a back ache escalating to full blown crisis.  Knowing what we know now, I wrestled with the guilt of thinking he just wasn’t trying hard enough to get well.

Dad was admitted to the ICU and the following few days were met with a whirlwind of doctors, blood tests, CT scans, X-rays, medicines and finally a bone biopsy.  For a man who had escaped injury and illness throughout his life, it was a nightmare come to life to watch him dependent on help from others.  My mom, siblings and our significant others rallied to support Dad during his hospitalization.  After an emotionally taxing weekend, we surrounded my dad when a doctor confirmed the diagnosis of multiple myeloma.

Six days after entering through the emergency room, Dad was sent home and began preparation for cancer treatment.  Taking advice from my sister-in-law to heart, I have not looked into the statistics of the disease and only focused my attention on gaining knowledge of treatment.  I am not naïve about his frail condition or the long road ahead, instead I am making a choice not to dwell in what we cannot change.  Dad’s advice of the teddy bear and nightmares seems to be relevant even more today.  By changing our perception we can develop strength and avoid fear, keep our minds open for opportunities and be confident about handling what the future brings.

My dad continues to reinforce life lessons and bring a positive influence into my life, as does my mom.  Through all of this, my mom has stayed the consistent caregiver.  She makes meals, helps dress, chauffeurs to doctor’s appointments, and maintains all the details of dad’s needs.  Mom even helps him with his hair.


For family and friends who are interested in knowing more about his diagnosis and treatment, Dad and I are keeping a journal to document the road to recovery on Caringbridge.  You can find him by searching his full name.

Giving Thanks

TurkeyhandThanksgiving is here to celebrate!

It’s not about the Turkey on your plate,

It’s not about watching football,

Or a late night shopping trip to the mall,

Thanksgiving is time to appreciate,

Be thankful and know life is great.

From Inspired Living we send,

Wishes for happy times with family and friends.

 

Since I am lacking in skill in the kitchen, Parker and I worked on a crafty project in preparation for Thanksgiving.  We painted her hands and printed cards for her family and a few friends.  Shepic&sig wrote out her name (in her sweet four year old print) on hearts and we pasted the turkeys, hearts, pictures and a simple poem onto cards.  Parker stickered up the envelopes while I printed out the addresses and sent them across town and across the country.

Parker and I talked about her cousins and her family, she was excited knowing her thoughtful piece of mail would make them smile.  As Thanksgiving seems less and less about being thankful, and more and more about consumerism and holiday shopping – I want to ensure she knows the holiday is dedicated to family time.  I want her to spend time appreciating the people around us who help make our life wonderful.

Catskills: Part II

The day of the wedding finally arrived.  I readied my little girl to her finest curled perfection and dressed her in the fall colored dress my mom made for the occasion.  I left Parker with my husband and dad so the ladies could all hurry off to my sister’s cabin in the woods.  Thank goodness she happened to pull up the country road behind us to follow her through the winding twists and turns we would never have found on our own.

Heather was radiating with bridal thrills and couldn’t wait to get the ceremony and celebration started.  My sister-in-law immediately went to work on her hair spraying, twisting and pinning.  Her soon to be sister-in-law prepared mimosas, because what bride prep wouldn’t be complete without some champagne?  My sister’s NY family/friends had made amazing individual gift bags of products, I Wedding Cabinshamelessly would never be able to justify buying on my own.  Although I had already gotten dolled up back at the hotel, I wanted to start over with my new colors…  Instead I took pictures and waited by my sister as her cup holder.

Once hair was set and make-up applied, my mom assisted Heather with putting on her dress.  While dress shopping I warned my sister not to find one too fast and to let Mom help with putting it on.  I remembered back to my own dress shopping, my mom was loving trying on dresses more than me.  Not just looking at them, the actual helping wrestle into them, lacing, zipping and adjusting.  I felt like I was taking a favorite hobby from her when I decided on one dress.  I knew that moment between my mom and sister was a special one, the final time she would be zipping up a daughter, I’m sure one or both of them had a tear.  She emerged from the bedroom, adorn with her beautifully simple satin gown to admiration.  Her soon to be mother-in-law helped with the finishing sentimental touches; jewelry from each of the grandmas who wouldn’t be physically present for the day.  Upon final observation at herself in the mirror the bride reported “Damn, I’d marry that.”

All of the guests were present when we arrived at her fiancé’s uncles’ cabin.  It was just the atmosphere they had planned, immediate family and a few close city friends on a cool fall day.  The party was underway as many guests had already poured drinks and were enjoying each other’s company on the deck.  Heather did a little touch-up in the bedroom before meeting our dad on the side of the house ready for her big entrance.  Guests found their seats, Parker and her cousins were ready in their claimed row holding hands.

My sister was stunning and my dad proud as they walked through the row of pumpkins, up the steps and down the aisle towards her waiting groom.  I wondered if he was as shocked as we all had been when she decided to wear a veil, if he was it was masked by the expression of pure happiness when he saw her.  The ceremony was officiated by her fiancé’s uncle, and he spoke to how honored he was to be asked and to be able to share his cabin for the event.

Following the ceremony, traditional wedding pictures were taken.  I acted as the photographer, keeping within the conditions they didn’t want strangers as part of the day at all.  They report they love the pictures, however, it was crazy anxiety provoking to know the pictures they will look back on FOREVER from this day are

I promise there were a lot more wedding pics and they are my sister's to have.

I promise there were a lot more wedding pics and they are my sister’s to have.

ones I am responsible for or responsible for messing up.   And simultaneously with pictures the party began.  A full bar, lawn games, socializing, adventures in the woods and crafts for kids, appetizers and dancing on the deck.  Once pictures were taken, some suits were replaced with jeans.  My husband also wanted to participate in dressing down, except his hodge podge of what he happened to bring must have been frightening to our company of high-class New Yorkers.  Imagine dress shoes, funky dress socks, light blue shorts and a black college hoodie.

With my sister living half a country away, I was removed from all she had been doing with wedding details.  Her attention to including grandparents into the day was thoughtful testament to how much they both appreciate their families.  On her bouquet was a thread of small pictures of four sets of grandparents. Wedding Day Heather hand painted wine, martini and brewery glasses with trees and fall leaves especially for the day.  Inside the cabin it was clear she spent a huge effort on exactly how she wanted the tables to appear with table cloths, runners, flower arrangements, and candle holders created the day before out of split logs and gourds.  And just like there was no professional photographer, there was no professional caterer, although you would think the fajita dinner was professionally done.

Since Parker already adores her uncle and his family, I was thrilled she would be able to meet his other significant family there.  It was a magical evening to watch her and her cousins interact with his family as if they had known each other their whole lives.  Throughout the day and into the night laughter and happiness came from two people and their families, the pieces fit just as they were meant to.  It was comfortable, intimate and personal just as they had been planning.

On Sunday, we figured since we had made our way to the Catskills of New York, we would need to visit Woodstock.  Disappointed by the fact that the actual farm where the hippie festival took place is not even near Woodstock, we still enjoyed the town, the hippie shops, hippie restaurants and hippie signs warning to STOPFracking.  My husband, parents and child found our way to the Woodstock Flea Market where we searched for an inexpensive replacement wedding band for my husband and settled for a hippie-toy guitar for Parker.  What could be more fitting as a souvenir from Woodstock?  We made one last rendezvous with the married couple before they headed back to New York City.  It would only be a few more days before we’d see them again for more wedding celebrations back in Kansas City.

The Woodstock Flea Market

The Woodstock Flea Market

 

 

Catskills: Part I

What do you mean you pack for him? The criticism was at the forefront of my mind as the cabin doors were closing and I stared at the vacant seat across the aisle from me.  I had chuckled at the idea of my friend packing for her husband on their trips, believing a grown man should be doing this for himself.  Except in the moment when my husband was still maneuvering TSA and our flight was securing its doors, I wished I had just packed his bag.

We arrived at the airport early, like the kind of early I will only wake for travel.  We were traveling as a family with my parents to my sister’s wedding in the Catskills of New York.  To say I was eager to get there is minimizing the feeling, I was ecstatic, the wedding celebrations were all I had been thinking about for weeks.  The anticipation of a year and a half engagement, ten-year relationship and all the suspense in sharing details for where in the world the ceremony would be had amounted to the peak of mania.  Who would have known the airport would have been buzzing with business before six o’clock AM, lines seemed longer than I’ve seen them in years for our convenient Midwestern airport. My parents and I adjusted baggage, ensured my four year-old Parker was holding a hand and prepared to find our way to the terminal.  My husband slowed with a look of confused concern, “I have to check my bag.” He borrowed a garment bag for the trip so that he could carry his suit neatly for the wedding.  My mom stepped in to reassure him the bag can be a carry-on and will fit in the overhead bin.  The concerned expression continued as he realized even if the size would fit he made packing errors which would make it impossible to bring it as a carry-on and began making his trek to the airline counter.

Security agents and airline personnel were as pleasant and accommodating as a box of hungry hedgehogs.  We watched him through the glass standing in the TSA line making slow progress to get closer to where we were.  I boarded the plane with Parker and my parents knowing my husband had not yet taken his shoes off but was literally a few sprints from where I sat.  The stewardess ignored my attention seeking as if it was impossible to stop checking seat belts to address a customer.  When she finally returned to my panic, she frankly reported “The plane is finished boarding.”  On the phone, my husband’s irritation was growing as he explained how they had only one line to accommodate security screens and chose him for a random search.  He added he was one of six people getting slowed down by processes who were meant to board the same flight.

By the time the flight was in the air I was fighting tears, all the excitement I had building about this amazing weekend were starting with a major absence.  I didn’t know what to be more mad about: TSA for only having one line to screen people, the airline for not ushering people who needed to get to flights, the fact that more than 2 oz of body wash is treated like gun powder to carry onto the plane, my perfectly-planned-for-travel pixie pants creating a sad muffin top or that I should have just packed the damn bag and avoided this.  By the time we got to flying over Washington DC (our connecting airport) and circling over for twenty minutes, then landing only to taxi for an additional 15 minutes; I decided my aggression was focused on US Airlines for insisting we had an on-time departure from Kansas City and leaving behind 6 passengers the 35 wasted minutes could have helped.

There was nothing I could do to remedy the situation so I focused on making sure Parker was comfortable with the flying experience, thankfully she laid her head in my lap and caught up on the early morning missed sleep.  One more quick flight and we landed in Albany for the long anticipated weekend.  We drove south down the interstate and then west to our destination in the Catskills.  I don’t think I had clearly envisioned what it would be likeIL01 in upstate New York, though I would have been wrong in a lot of ways.  The rolling hills of bright autumn leaves, picture perfect streams and creeks in the valleys all seemed familiar and foreign at the same time.  And even though my searches on maps and for rental properties showed limited occupied area, I guess I still imagined New York as a heavily populated land mass and was shocked at how rural living looked in the state.  The rich fall colors still clung to some trees when we arrived and by the end of the weekend most seemed to have fallen.

We checked into our hotel and waited for my sister and her fiancé to meet us after their wedding prep errands.  She was radiating energy to see us, screams of excitement and long tight-squeezing hugs.  Even her fiancé, with a typical all about business demeanor, showed a glowing smile of enthusiasm which stayed joyfully plastered throughout the weekend.  We followed them into Phoenicia, the nearest town where the main street consisted of a few restaurants, some gift shops and one pitiful grocery store.  My sister pointed out where we would be eating for dinner on Friday night at Brio’s.  I quickly realized the Brio in the Catskills is nothing like the Brio in Kansas City and I seriously overestimated the formality of my wardrobe.

The infinitely happy couple had dreamed of having their wedding ceremony in this outdoorsy romantic location.  They wanted their vows to be spoken in front of immediate family on the deck of his uncles’ resort like cabin retreat from city life.  All of the planning and organizing was finally coming to fruition, they were busy with final arrangements and checking into their own secluded cabin to meet up with us later.

In the haze of fatigue and frustration from the missed flight fiasco I omitted the discussion of plans for the evening and focused on the relief of knowing my husband would be flying out on the next available flight in the morning.  (This was paid for by the airline for recognizing their error in IL02abandoning six passengers.)  Finally when I clued in that dinner plans needed to be created a quick search lead me to finding a restaurant my sister and fiancé had never tried in their trips to the upstate getaway.

We met up with them for dinner at Peekamoose, an adorable spot further up 28.  The restaurant had a dining room, a playroom, a tavern and a patio off the side where you could enjoy a complimentary s’more after a meal.  We sat in the tavern where unique furniture, an eclectic grouping of artwork and tree trunks tastefully strung with white lights made for cozy gathering spaces.  The food exceeded expectations

A meal described as the cheese part of ravioli without the confinement of the pasta. Yum!

A meal described as the cheese part of ravioli without the confinement of the pasta. Yum!

starting with appetizers, bread and spreads.  I even took a picture of my meal, uncharacteristic of me, in the pleasure of the restaurant, the trip and the pending event.  Topping of the décor and the food was the entertainment of the night.  My daughter, deliriously excited and tired, interacting with her equally excited uncle.  At some points it was difficult to tell who was laughing more and by the end it was contagious to other tables at Peekamoose.

peekamoosegroup

Parker and I went directly to bed after dinner and both slept a solid twelve hours.  In the morning when we were nearly ready my parents came into the hotel room talking on speaker phone with my sister.  She added her fiancé’s uncle to the conversation to provide directions to the cabin where we would help them with wedding set-up.  He described turns, streets, crossing bridges, up hills, down hills and crossing back bridges.  IL04Between mascara brushes I watched my parents listening intently as the directions continued to mount.  Our morningIL05 chore was to pick up pumpkins before going to the cabin.  We found a market on the side of the highway to buy pumpkins and have a photo-op with a bear.  Then fearing my parents didn’t write a thing down in addition to no cell phone reception in these remote parts of New York, I didn’t think we would make it to the cabin.  To my surprise, like a comedic skit about two people who have been married for forty years, they bantered about the directions all the way up the mountain following my mom’s lead until we pulled into the driveway of the cabin – not making a single mistake.

Sister, fiancé and uncle were outdoors and dirty to greet us in the middle of potting flowers for the deck.  Not long after we arrived the fiancé’s family, also traveled the day before from Kansas City, got to the cabin.  After all the greeting and explaining why my hubby was not present, everyone jumped into tasks of moving, mowing, and decorating.  The cabin in the woods had a stunning kitchen, a magazine quality bathroom with soaker tub and the deck opened to views of a pond complete with a fountain.  My dad took my husband’s travel delay as an opportunity to escape the wedding prep and we left for lunch at the Phoenicia Diner and then a trip back to Albany with Parker.  At the Peekamoose I was impressed by the emphasis on local foods, then at the diner I realized this was just the norm in the area.

There was no chain restaurants and no franchise locations near the Catskills, it was a refreshing reprieve from my normal.  Except on the way back from Albany, after being reunited with my husband, I needed to kill my chai craving and made my dad stop at Starbucks.  I guess others felt the same withdrawal from franchise addictions because it was the longest lines and wait of any Starbucks I have been to.

By the time we made it back to the cabin, wedding preparations were complete for the day and there wasn’t anything to do except wait for dinner.  My sister was proposed to on her fiancé’s birthday and together they thought it would be fitting to get married on her birthday.  Since there wouldn’t be an opportunity on Saturday for the birthday celebration, we all planned to gather for a thirtieth birthday dinner in town on Friday night.  I left the dress I had brought hanging in the closet and opted for a more casual “weekend in the woods,” attire.  At Brio, our long table of family enjoyed beer and pizza.  Parker plopped herself down in the chair by her cousins where she colored and played contently throughout the meal.  My sister opened gifts and blew out candles.  It was clear her thirtieth birthday would be an unforgettable celebration and it was barely getting started.

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Next: The Wedding Day