Dear Reader,

If I’m gone tomorrow, please understand why I’m writing this blog. I’d like my children to read these and smile. Maybe these posts can provide some comfort or will give them some insight into who I am. I’ve been craving some sort of creative outlet and I’ve always liked writing my thoughts. I can write what I’m feeling better than saying it out loud. I want to capture moments and thoughts and pictures and conversations because I cherish every second with my family. These posts will be a way to reflect on my day. But also, maybe you can relate to my daily struggles and successes and all the emotions and laughter in between. 

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Featured post

Part 1: Mack

Dear Mack,

There was a time before tiny footprints filled our home that I needed you. I needed your neck wrapped around me. Your puppy eyes begging for attention. The endless amount of entertainment you provided. Your whine as you begged for my wine. Remember that time you stole two full unattended beers. That night I felt like I had a drunk teenager. You were not to be trusted.

Your tail wagging so uncontrollably that your behind went with it while greeting me as I walked in from a long day. Except sometimes, you were both hiding as I walked in with trash all over the apartment or chewed up shoes, couches, and blinds. You were not to be trusted.

I needed those adventures we took every weekend. Your eyes have always appreciated a view. Exploring Skyline drive. Basking in the sun at the beach. Hiking at Great Falls. Remember that time the rangers were shocked that you both climbed straight up the Rocky ledge that they were clapping and cheering you on. Then they immediately kicked us off the no dogs allowed trail. I think you were the only reason I made it up that ledge because you were pulling me along as if I were the one being led on a leash. Hours and hours spent curled up to Bill in the back seat during long road trips. Making me have awkward conversations with other dog owners at the dog park. Remember that time at the dog park we met your previous owner that told me you tried to eat her kittens. You were not to be trusted.

I know our attention shifted as soon as tiny human cries filled our home. I know you’ve heard “no” more often since tiny footprints filled our home. Now you’re kicked out of bed to make room for those tiny feet. Your naps are cut short with tugs to your ears and tail. You put on a few pounds from tiny treats. You lost that pep in your step. It’s harder to climb up the stairs. Your face is graying more every day. It’s nights like these where you’re cuddled up close that I need to remind you that you’re loved. I need to say sorry things have changed. So I let you curl around my body as I pet your head. One day it will be very hard to say goodbye because you stole my heart, yeah, you were not to be trusted.

Tribute Post: Grandma and Grandpa Up North

As a young child, in one breath, I called them, “Grandma-and-Grandpa-Up-North.” As if, that was their name. In a sense, it was their unofficial, not so clever, nickname. In many ways, they were synonymous and I couldn’t speak of one without speaking of the other. I couldn’t think of them, without thinking of life “Up North” in Northern Michigan. In all of my memories, they were side-by-side, hand-in-hand.

Grandpa retired from a GM Factory in Pontiac and settled in Indian River, Michigan to enjoy the Great Outdoors. He fished, hunted, explored, observed, and appreciated all nature had to offer. Browsing through pictures of him post-retirement, he wore the biggest grin. Light was beaming from his face in every single shot; whether it was from pulling a huge fish out of the water or standing with anticipation in his hunting gear. The only time I saw that same twinkle and unbridled happiness was when he glanced at Grandma or he saw us grandkids.

After a terrible car accident in the mid 1990s, my once outdoorsy Grandpa rarely left the comfort of his home. He was restricted by exhaustion, pain medication, and unreliable breathing. His outside interaction became solely visits to his doctor or trips to the grocery store. His trips had to be short and purposeful. The requirements included clean air, a comfortable place to rest frequently, and eventually an oxygen tank. He was in constant pain and suffered from collapsed lungs. Doctors tried so many reconstructive surgeries over the course of 20-years, but his diagnosis was ultimately hopeless.

As soon as Grandpa became housebound, Grandma too, became trapped indoors. It was too difficult for him to travel and too difficult for her to leave him. Luckily, shortly after retirement and prior to the accident, they took off on a road trip. Side-by-side, hand-in-hand they travelled through the southern states by RV. It was a lifelong shared dream of theirs and I only wish they took more Polaroids.

For a few years after the accident, we could still take short walks with Grandpa through the woods on their property. However, Grandpa could no longer live the life he loved, which often consisted of camping for weeks on great hunting and fishing adventures. His retirement dreams were cut too short. Don’t worry though, because with every tragedy, love saves us.

My Grandma and Grandpa managed to keep their love alive while inside their retirement home, surrounded by trees on Old School Road. I will never forget the excitement of seeing their road sign and then pulling into their driveway. They established a safe, happy, creative space for us to be as free as the wild animals that came roaming through their yard. Similarly, the animals came because they felt safe and were given delicious treats.

Growing up, we did not take typical family vacations. Instead, we packed our bags for this safe haven. Honestly, looking back, I preferred it that way. We spent most school breaks and holidays there. Yet, each time it felt special. Summers were spent: gardening, picking berries, learning how to paint, exploring their property, observing birds and deer, and swimming in Mullett Lake. Winters were spent: building snowmen, orchestrating snowball fights, baking cookies, slowly walking through the winter wonderland of carefully decorated Christmas Villages, and staring at the beautifully lit Christmas tree. By day, we set off on family adventures. By night, the entire family bonded over laughter during the card game, Pass the Ace or sprawled out like cats all over the living room floor on ice cream and movie night! Time spent with them was filled with family, love, and comfort. I can still picture Grandma and Grandpa, watching us load into the car to leave. They became teary-eyed with each goodbye. Standing there, side-by-side, hand-in-hand, holding each other up. As much as I lived for visits Up North, they did too.

Maybe being stuck inside their home developed a new kind of love and dependency for one another. Grandpa maintained a small garden; Grandma cooked the delicious Midwestern cuisine. She painted landscapes; he wood worked. She dished out ice cream, and…let’s be honest, they both ate it. She yelled at him; he hollered louder. She walked passed him; he grabbed her passionately. Even at their angriest, they never went to sleep mad at one another. Their secret to 60 years of marriage was to always say I love you and give a goodnight kiss.

Their love for nature was unparallelled, which I’m forever grateful they passed down to me. As an anniversary gift to my Grandpa, Grandma painted a beautiful Bob Ross-esque Fall painting of ducks flying across a pond in the middle of the woods. It hung on their living room wall and I can still remember every detail. You see, it wasn’t the perfection of the painting that everyone loved, but rather the slightest imperfection. Something at first glance, would be missed by most. She unwittingly painted the ducks feet on backwards. Grandpa took every opportunity to tease her about it. However, this painting embodied what we all loved, a reminder of their love and who she was. Grandma was thoughtful, talented and nurturing while still being endlessly goofy, playful and carefree.

By the time we saw the signs, Alzheimers already had its strong grip on her life. Forgetful and flakey had always been part of her charm. Spouting random stories from the past and missing birthdays or mismanaging the checkbook. As far back as I can remember, this is how she was and we brushed it off until she began mishandling Grandpa’s medication. This was the first of many wake up calls. Grandpa was forced to watch as the love of his life slowly slipped away. He fought tirelessly for her to stay in their home for as long as possible. Towards the end, for her safety, she was moved to a nursing home.

During her final stay, my stubborn, demanding Grandpa got himself checked-in so he wasn’t too far away. At night, the nurses found their beds pushed together and there they laid, side-by-side, hand-in-hand. The night before she passed away, on the Fourth of July, he fondly spoke of how much she loved watching the fireworks. If this were a movie, he would have heroically snuck her out and she would die peacefully in his arms watching the fireworks. She passed away on July 5, 2015. Of course, to keep myself from crying, I still picture her Up North, rummaging through the woods to find creative ways of making art from her findings. I’ll never forget walking through the woods with our baskets, collecting small discoveries for our next art project. She always had a plan for our findings. The acorn could be a tiny hat. The pine cones could be tree bark. The leaves could be tops of trees. The moss could be grass. Her appreciation for every detail and creative imagination was inspirational. She not only taught me how to create art, she taught me how to bring it to life.

Three weeks later on July 27, 2015, my Grandpa would pass away in their home on Old School Road. Before he died, as if he sensed her nearby, he requested to be all cleaned up. He needed to be clean shaven using Grandma’s favorite smelling cologne and aftershave; I am lucky enough to have a bottle to sniff when I’m feeling nostalgic. Afterwards, he proudly announced that he was on his way to see his love, Bev. And he did just that. They left the world together, but are forever emblazoned in the hearts and memories of many. Especially, in mine; sitting side-by-side, hand-in-hand, Up North.

I’m paying attention

Every inch of my being feels for the community, the victims, the families, the scared, the future. I felt a lump in my throat, the sweat building up, the heat radiating from inside and tears forming. In a high pitched, screech, I heard “mommy, I want a cookie!”  I took a huge breath as if to chew up and swallow my feelings. My-whiney, not a morning person-3 yo urgently needed me to explain why sugar at 7am is not great for her. I found myself trying to move on with my morning.

As I pushed away the tears, I realized if I move on with my day, as if it’s out of my control or treat it as another sad day in the news, I’ve failed those victims. I’ve failed my daughter’s future. I’ve failed as a human. As a writer, I hope my one superpower is to make you feel. To think outside of your own point of view and to empathize with others. Maybe I can spark change in one person. Shooters can show up at any given time, any given place. If you think you or your children or your grandchildren are currently safe, YOU’RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION. We need change. Don’t be scared of change. Be scared of weapons easily accessible to unstable and mentally unhealthy humans.

My 3 yo has her first lockdown drill at preschool next week. My heart breaks as I imagine it. The pitter patter of children’s tiny feet. The whispers. The giddiness for something new breaking up their routine. The fear settling in while learning of real life bad guys. The very moment our 3 yos learn the world is ugly and messy. This all shakes me to the core. Even as I sit, typing it out, my chest is heavy but I can’t stop because we need to feel and act NOW. I know the exact reason it shakes me to the core, because at any given time or place it can be my reality and her reality in this current environment. Times are ugly and messy and we need change. Quite simply new laws, regulations, policy, and mindsets. It’s true that not all humans are “bad” but this current environment we are accepting is creating a lot of “bad.”  We all start out the same, as adorably ugly, squirmy, tiny innocent humans. We are all humans trying to live in a messy world. We need to stop spreading hate, give love&support, break stigmas, make professional help readily available, offer and accept help, spread mental health awareness. And obviously, reasonable regulation of firearms is a necessary start. We need to FEEL and ACT NOW.

 

 

Dear Florence,

If I’m gone tomorrow, thank you for being my daughter.

I was terrified to have a daughter. I didn’t know what to dress you in; luckily, you dress yourself. I didn’t know how to be patient; okay, I still don’t but I’m learning. I didn’t know how to guide you into a “proper” woman; screw proper, I’d rather you be fierce and unstoppable while being polite and considerate of those around you. I didn’t know how to raise you with a tender heart; though, yours has always been sweet and empathetic. I didn’t know how to teach independence. I didn’t know how to help you become a strong woman. Luckily for me, (or unluckily depending on the moment) you came into this world as a strong, independent, determined little person.

Quite simply, I didn’t know how to be a mother to a daughter. I still don’t know how to be a mother to you. But I can promise you that I work at being better daily.

You’re constantly giving me advice for my worries or frustrations. Yesterday, I was annoyed that you wanted me to run all the way downstairs and back up to grab you something. You had a solution, “mama, I have a great idea, you don’t have to run, just go slowly.”

This week I have been the one putting you to bed. I think daddy was slightly sad that you hadn’t requested him. You grabbed him gently by the face, looked him in the eyes and said it’s mommy and Florence time for a five days then it will be daddy and Florence time for five days. You were sweet and tender with his feelings.

My favorite advice you often give to me is “when you feel so mad, that you want to Roar, take a step back and count to four.” Usually, I’m huffing and puffing about the constant mess. Or getting you something to eat every 20 minutes because you didn’t finish your previous meal. I’m sure these complaints won’t go away and the messes will get bigger every year. Thankfully, you love helping me do chores around the house and love to cook with us. I’m glad you take pride in our house and want to alleviate some of my stress. And sing me little tunes to smile away my frustrations.

Basically, I just want to thank you. So far, you’ve taught me far more than I’ve taught you.

Heartbreak for humanity

I was a sophomore in high school.

I was never one to watch the news.

The closest I got was watching

Unsolved Mysteries with my Grandparents.

I wasn’t interested in feeling powerless.

That morning I was circling the hallway before class

with my girlfriend.

 

Desperately trying to catch her up on my ever

changing teenage life before the dreadedbells rang.

There was commotion in the hall but I was

too busy telling my self absorbed story.

One of my classmates passing us said,

“someone hijacked a plane”.

She trailed off into the mass of teenage bodies.

bodies.

I barely heard what she said.

I shamefully said, “who cares?”

Not because I didn’t care.

But because I did not understand the magnitude or really anything at all.

magnitude or really anything at all.

I pictured a small two person airplane that some teenage kid tried to steal in my

hometown.

I thought well that was a dumb move.

I had never even been on an airplane.

Or visited a big city.

My world was small.

My perception of the world was small.

As soon as these thoughts formed,

the bells rang and the hallway rushed with madness

I walked into class and the teacher had the news on and I saw.

news on and I saw.

I felt it all at once.

I felt every person’s fear and heartbreak.

I pictured it all as if I was there.

Rushing down stairs.

Stuck on an elevator.

Confused.

Helpless.

Running.

Jumping.

Walking the streets lost in Ash.

It was tragic and I cried every day for weeks, months, every anniversary.

weeks, months, every anniversary.

My heart will never forget it’s first real heartbreak for humanity.

heartbreak for humanity.


 

Cheers the new opportunities!

If you follow me on social you know that I enjoy writing. It’s something I grew up doing but took a long break from, outside of business writing. I took every opportunity possible in the corporate setting to write as often as I could.

After starting my blog last year, I have thought about pursuing writing in some capacity or even becoming a blog contributor. I randomly glanced at Facebook the other day and saw my favorite local site, was hiring writers. Clearly, that’s all I could focus on for a day and I’m so glad I applied.

They have given me an opportunity to meet with the editor and begin writing on a trial basis to make sure we’re a good fit.

The fact that my writing was chosen, means the world to me. It’s validating. It means that when I’m ready to go back to work full-time this is the path I should follow. I’ve never been this excited for an opportunity. I enjoyed Human Resources enough but to align a passion and career path feels better than I can describe.

The thing with dreams is that they feel so personal. I’ve always been artistic. I’ve always felt this creative beast in me that I could barely tame but I pushed it aside because I thought the way to success was through business. I never felt fulfilled working in the corporate world. Yes, I had highs but mostly I didn’t feel satisfied. My last job I would get motivated when they complimented me on my business writing skills. All of the signs were there but I never thought I could do anything with writing. But here we are.

Even if writing for my favorite site doesn’t pan out, that’s ok because I’ve discovered a new path.

Dear Florence,

If I’m gone tomorrow, please don’t lose your imagination.

Your imagination often reminds me of my grandma. She saw the world through creative eyes. As much as you enjoy the arts, I hope your imagination will continue to bleed into your artwork. As much as I love to create art, I was always missing the out of the box thinking that helps many artist’s excel.

The past couple months you developed an imaginary pet mouse. You take him on adventures. When we leave the house, you demand he ride shotgun and you even buckle him up. You cuddle with him on the couch. You bring him outside to play. You feed him Teddy Graham’s. You’ve even pretended that he doesn’t like the snack you’ve brought him. Once you tried to pour him milk, it ended in a mess. You sit him in a specific spot and remember where you sat him hours later.

We do live in an old farmhouse so maybe he’s a ghost mouse? It actually started after your love for the book series, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Wherever the idea came from, it brings a smile to my face to see you having fun and taking such good care of your friend.
I hope nothing squashes your playful and imaginative side too early. Life tends to make you grow up fast and forget this side.

But one day, when you’re forced to grow up, don’t completely lose your playful, joyful, imaginative spirit. Learn to tame it and let it out through the arts or in whatever you’re passionate about. It will help you enjoy life.
I hope nothing squashes your playful and imaginative side too early. Life tends to make you grow up fast and forget this side.

But one day, when you’re forced to grow up, don’t completely lose your playful, joyful, imaginative spirit. Learn to tame it and let it out through the arts or in whatever you’re passionate about. It will help you enjoy life.

Age 3 with your arm wrapped around mouse.

Got wrinkles?

What does a wrinkle represent? The stories of our lives. The many faces we’ve made. The laughter. The crying. The anger. The annoyed. The grinning. The crap I forgot my sunglasses now I have to squint.

I don’t mind my smile wrinkles or crows feet or my forehead wrinkles. I know these wrinkles have told a million stories. My face is very expressive. If you watch me tell a story I tend to use my entire face to provide emotion or help with my lack of words. I usually just let my facial expressions do the talking. I’m a quiet person but my facial expressions are not quiet. They are loud. Sometimes too loud. I remember going through our candid wedding pictures and thinking wow the many faces of Crystal. Why can’t I just nod and smile? Instead my head is thrown back. My eyes are wide. My forehead is wrinkled. My mouth is gaping. I constantly use all of my face muscles hence why the wrinkles are starting to show.
There’s only one wrinkle that I regret and it’s my frown lines. Oh if only I could stop frowning.

There’s only one wrinkle that I regret and it’s my frown lines. Oh if only I could stop frowning.

I’ve always given a good stink eye. If you annoy me, it’ll show. There’s no poker face. If I’m cranky, my eyebrows are furrowed. All I can do now, is try to stop frowning so much. Instead I’m going to do things that help relieve stress. I’m going to continue to exercise because it’s helping my mood. I’m going to snack more often so I’m not hangry. I’m going to breathe through my impatient tendencies. I’m going to flip that frown, upside down. I’m going to work on adding more smile wrinkles and you should too.

daily prompt – wrinkle

Flo took this picture.

Dear Charlie,

If I’m gone tomorrow, please know I love seeing your smile again.

It started with a cold last October. Your first visit to the doctor was early November. You and Flo had cold after cold. For you, the same cycle would occur. Cold symptoms, croup cough, ear infections. Within 3-4 months time you had approximately 6. You were up every night. And cried most days. You were miserable with a few good days sprinkled in between. I thought this is our new life. You hated diaper changes which is complete opposite of the newborn I brought home. I held you making many breakfasts and dinners. Nothing seemed to comfort you.

Finally we took you to a Specialist whom you cried at most of the appointment. He said you had fluid buildup that probably started with the first ear infection. The buildup caused pain and discomfort even when the infection subsided. He recommended tubes put in your ears the following week.

After surgery you started this new high pitch scream. You weren’t screaming in pain. You were having fun. After you healed, you started saying so many new sounds. You say mama more frequently. You started saying Flo. The grin on your face is different. You seem carefree and happy. I feel like I see my Charlie again and I’ve missed you.

You’re laughing and playing and talking. You’re not up in the middle of the night. You’re following directions and interacting more. It’s apparent that you’re feeling like yourself and it makes me incredibly happy for you.

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