Saturday, February 25, 2017

Making Room

I wasn’t expecting this.

It’s been nearly a week since we got home from Disney World, and I am still trying to process the emotions that bubbled up during those four magical days (as well as get caught up on laundry and put my house back together). I expected the typical emotions that so often accompany an occasion that should be filled with joy. I knew that even at the happiest place on earth, I would be sad.

Not Eeyore sad.

Just not head over heels happy.

I’ve come to realize that even on the sunniest of days, it’s going to be a bit cloudy in my heart.

So that’s why the feels I was feeling throughout our trip have me a bit perplexed. Yes, I felt that all-too familiar tug as we entered the park that first day. But on the last day of our trip I was overcome with emotion. Ugly cry emotion.

And here’s why (well, my theory anyway):

I spend a great deal of time and energy holding onto my Addie memories. I play them over and over and over again as a way to keep her here. Present. Somehow within reach. I can’t bear the thought of forgetting one single thing about her, so I replay the conversations, the moments (and not just the big ones). Instead, I get lost in the everyday. The way she’d pull her hair up in a ponytail and smoothe out all the bumps. The way her hands would cup the sugar canister as she walked toward the cereal bowl waiting for her on the kitchen table. The way she’d sit on the edge of our living room chair, waiting for the bus to pull up to our house and take her to school. I can’t let one single moment escape me. And so, I spend so much time keeping those memories safe and secure that I have little room for anything else.

As we got lost in the magic of Magic Kingdom, I realized that there were memories to be made here too. In fact, we were making them. And that I wanted to hold onto those memories just as tightly.

Because I realized that these tender moments are just as fleeting.

Life is fleeting.

We may return to Disney someday. We may not. But I know it won't be the same. We will never experience what we did this past week.

A return trip doesn’t promise that my littlest girl will be smitten with princesses. That one of my boys will ask me to hold him tight. That another will reach for my hand. And hold it.

You only get that once.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Gift

In 2012, I described myself as a mother whose heart was broken and whose spirit was bruised.

I am still that mother.

I had questions; needed answers.

As to why God would take away one of my most precious gifts.

And give me another.

I've been re-visiting this blog post a lot lately.

Maybe it's because tomorrow is Landry's birthday.

And I'm feeling a little sentimental.

I'm taking stock of the years that have slipped by.

Thinking about where I've been.

Where I am now.

Or, maybe it's because my 3 year old said what I've always known to be true in my heart:

God got me to you.

I've told her she was a gift from God.

That she came into my life in my darkest hour.

That mommy needed something to believe in; something to let her know God would not abandon her.

But those words are not mine.

God got me to you.

That particular turn of phrase could very well be 3-year-old speak. Perhaps she meant gave instead of got.

Or perhaps she was meant to find me all along.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Things I Wish

Three years have passed since I wrote about the things I miss. I still miss those things, Addie. All of them.

But now? Your friends have left elementary school and now middle school behind, and I find myself trapped in a cycle of wishful thinking. Here I grasp at what should be and come to grips with what is.

Gone are their round faces, Addie. They have cheekbones now. And cell phones, of course. All have grown taller. So. Much. Taller. They've experimented with makeup; and by now they've gotten it right. The boys' voices are deeper, Addie. And a few of them have caught the eyes of your friends.

They've grown up.

Like I wanted you to do.

But your line on the door jamb downstairs won't ever move.

And so, I'm left with the things I wish.


I wish there was a homecoming dress hanging in your closet. Something we'd picked out a week or so ago. It'd be short, but not too flashy. Classy, I bet. A compromise we'd arrived at after hours of scouring various shops at the mall.

There'd be heels to match. In two weeks you'd stand in those heels and talk about how impossibly uncomfortable they are. In front of the fireplace probably. There'd be a smile on your face, a hand on your hip. You, Addie. And minutes after you'd left for the dance, I'd post photos on Facebook and type these exact words: Where did the time go?

I wish I knew what it was like to comfort your hurting heart. When the boy you so desperately wanted to ask you to dance didn't. I'd take that. I'd take your hurts. Over this.

I wish I could see your crookedy smile grow into something beautiful. There would have been braces, Ad. Before pictures. And afters.

I wish I could glance over at the passenger seat of my car and see you sitting there. Perhaps you'd be messing with your phone. Texting. Or Snap-chatting. Nine year olds don't get to sit in the front seat of the car. They don't have phones either. So I'd take a moment with you by my side, doing your best to ignore me.

I wish I knew what it felt like to hand over the car keys, watch you pull out of our driveway, and drive the one and a half miles to school. By yourself. Your friends can do that now. I wish I knew what it felt like to hold my breath. For five minutes, maybe six. And then let it out once I knew you'd safely arrived.

I wish I was juggling the activities of four kids, not three. Don't get me wrong, Addie. Our nights are full; weekends, busy. But not busy enough. I'd love to know what it feels like to take in a pee-wee football game, shuttle a 7 year old to soccer practice, and skate into the gym just in time for your JV volleyball game.

I wish you'd had a chance to volunteer at the Humane Society.

And learn Spanish.

I wish you'd had a chance to try out a musical instrument.

And abandon it a couple of years later if you so choose.

I wish you were struggling to get your reading log completed. To understand algebra.

I wish we could go shopping. Just the two of us. Occasionally we'd let Landry come too.

I wish you were here for her.

And for Isaac and Tripp.

I wish there were clothes strewn all over your bedroom floor.

I wish we'd fight about it too. I'd take the occasional eye roll. Shouting match. Slamming door. I'd take anything.

I wish I could watch you adjust to high school, taking steps and missteps as you try to figure out how you can pack it all in, get it all done. Occasionally I'll ask one of your classmates how their year is going. I did it today. Those who indulge me and my questions have no idea how much I'm grasping. Just trying to imagine where you'd fit in to all of this.

I wish. I wish. I wish.

I wish you'd walk through the door. Right now. We could talk about what you did tonight. Where you went. Who you were with. Like it was totally normal and we'd done it hundreds of times before.

I wish I could have one more minute with you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I Don't Have Time for Tears Today

I don't have time for tears today.

There's a house to clean. Donations to drop off. Cookies to bake. Smiles to fake. Groceries to buy. Presents to wrap. Laundry to fold. Floors to mop.

All these tasks on my to-do list need doing.

So, I don't have time for tears today.

And yet, they fall anyway.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

I Would've Brought a Casserole

Grief takes your mind to some pretty peculiar places.

Since losing our 9-year-old daughter Addie, I've occasionally allowed myself to build a new reality, one in which my child is still here and this happened to someone else.

Someone else I know.

It's never anyone in particular. And it's not as if I'd ever wish for this to happen to anyone. I just wish it didn't happen to me.

With that new reality firmly in place, I think about what I would've done if I were the friend or the friend of the friend or the mere acquaintance that occasionally said hi in the grocery store. Basically, if I were anyone other than the mother of the child who was diagnosed with cancer and died. If I were this person, this magical person who still had all of her children living and breathing alongside her, what would I have done for this grieving mother and her family? Well, of this I am sure: I probably would've brought a casserole. Something cheesy, delicious, and warm. Something sure to bring comfort in a time of crisis.

And that's probably all I would've done.

Sure, I'd wonder about the family, how they were managing, if they were managing. But I would've done this from afar. Which is why I'm amazed by the people who haven't been afraid to put themselves in the eye of the storm, to get their hands dirty, to walk with us in our grief.

Early on, we were told that our address book would change. That we'd be surprised by the people who would step forward. And disappointed by those who would not. They were right. Relationships have changed, friendships have been lost. But in their place new ones have taken root.

Within a couple months of Addie's death, I received a phone call from a woman I'd met just once before. It was a casual meeting at a Saturday morning youth basketball game. She was standing on the balcony, trying to snap a pic or two of her son. I had moved to the balcony in an attempt to wrangle two very active boys who had lost interest in their big sister's basketball game. She introduced herself, we made a few connections, and that was that.

And then our world turned upside down. And out of the blue, a phone call. From her. I know we don't really know each other, she said, but I'd like to take you to lunch. I want to hear about Addie. I want to learn about you. And your family.

And for some reason, after holing up in the house for weeks, I said yes.

That afternoon I opened up about Addie - what a treasure she was - and I worked through the details of her diagnosis and the road to her death, as a platter of Mexican food sat untouched.

What makes a person do that? Get in, get all tangled up in the complicated yuck that is our grief?

Because she didn't have to.

But I'm sure glad she did.

Because even now, three years later, I can count on her to check in on me from time to time and show up on my front porch - fried chicken in tow - just because she knew I was probably having a rough day.

And there have been others.

Those whose hugs have held me together at back-to-school nights when I was almost certain I was going to break right apart. Those who've listened to me tell the same stories about Addie over and over and over again, smiling and nodding because they know the stories are numbered. Those who know I'll never quite get back to the way that I was, but love me just the same.

How do you grow a heart like that?

I wish I knew the answer.

Because I'm trying awfully hard to work on mine.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Landry's Big Girl Room Reveal

Landry spent the first eight months of her life sleeping in a crib in the corner of our bedroom. There was no chevron stripe for her. No lace detail on the lamp. No letters spelling out L-A-N-D-R-Y on the wall.


While I know babies don't need all that stuff and they don't know the difference, that they don't even see color until they're like four months old, I also know that moms do care about that stuff.

Only I didn't.

I couldn't.

I was still grieving the loss of my 9-year-old daughter Addie.

While I still grieve that loss every day and wish the transition from Addie's Room to Landry's Room involved simply moving a tween girl's belongings down to the basement bedroom as planned, that isn't how it shook out. The tween girl wasn't here to set up her new digs, to pick out her new bedding, to sort through her stuff. And so, I've spent the last three years working on that grief and, yes, working toward a space for Landry.

In what a part of me will always refer to as Addie's room.

I won't go into all of the work that went into arriving at a place that we felt we could do this. Notice I said we here. This was a we thing, not a me thing (well, the decorating part was). All I can say is that it was arduous - torturous at times - and I'm proud of the work we've done.

And the room turned out OK too.

It's kind of funny because when I first started this blog five years ago, I'd intended for it to be a way to keep track of our home improvement projects. And here I am kind of detailing a project that sort of involves home improvement, I guess. So, I kind of feel like I need to get all bloggy sounding again. And all bloggy sounding sounds like this:

The first order of business (see how bloggy that sounds) was painting the room. OK, that's a complete load of bull because there was a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff (messy stuff) that had to take place before we got to this point. But anyway, the first thing we did was find a wonderful person to come in and paint the room for us. She was one of Addie's teachers and we knew she was the woman for the job.

Before she could touch the walls, however, we all took our turn writing notes to Addie. Everybody but Landry, of course. I didn't really want to encourage her to write on the walls. Some wrote more than others, but each note was personalized and, in my opinion, perfect.

There were a couple of DIY projects (as DIY as I get anyway). Here's a look at a bench I bought off that garage sale three years ago. I guess you'd call this the "before" shot.

And here's after:

Here's a little pair of owls I picked up for $1 at a thrift store.

Cute, huh? Here they are after:

The pink frame was a thrift store find as well. Only it wasn't pink until I got my hands on it. Notice the A and the L for my two girls. If you look real closely, you might even notice a chevron pattern on that L.

Addie continues to have a place in the space, just as she continues to have a place in our hearts.

Moosey keeps watch atop the bed.

And I'll forever believe that my two girls are in some way connected.

Overall, I'm happy with the room. It's tough enough to withstand Landry's fury and sweet enough to honor Addie's memory. And as with any space in my house, it'll continue to be a work in progress.

Just like I'm a work in progress.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tell Them

I have a spool of yellow ribbon sitting on top of my dresser.

And I'd like to give a piece of it to you.

But usually it's not my style to put things out there.

To put myself out there.

This is different.

Because I have this yellow ribbon.

And I have something that I care deeply about.

I'll cut up a three-inch strand. I'll find a safety pin and I'll get it to you. If you need me to run it by your house, drop it off at work, drop it in the mail, I will. I promise.

As long as you promise me one thing.

When you wear it and people ask you why you're wearing a yellow ribbon, you tell them.

You tell them about the little girl who had plans to be a vet.

The little girl who was practically a card-carrying member of the ASPCA. The little girl who sold lemonade in the front yard and sold her family on spa treatments in her bedroom. All in the name of animals.

You tell them about the little girl who didn't live to see double digits.

You tell them that kids get cancer too.

You tell them September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. That we're going gold.

And you tell them about that little girl.

You tell them about the mother who tries with all that she can to live her best life each day, but finds herself failing miserably time and time again. You tell them about the dad who says things aren't good again, not yet anyway.

You tell them about two rough and tumble little boys who said goodbye to their big sister one morning and that was it. The last time they saw her. You tell them about the baby sister who knows big sister only through pictures and videos.

You tell them kids get cancer too.

You tell them it's tough to talk about. And it is. But tell them we need to talk about it.

You tell them 43 children were diagnosed with cancer today.* Forty-three. Trust me, their parents don't know which way is up.

You tell them 12 percent of children diagnosed with cancer will die.

You tell them childhood cancer doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care if you're rich or poor, black or white. It doesn't care if you have a slumber party planned for your 9-year-old daughter's birthday next week. It doesn't care about, well, anything you had planned.

You tell them about 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer by the time they reach age 20.

Yes, you read that right.

You tell them childhood cancer isn't all that rare.

You tell them research for childhood cancer is grossly underfunded.

You tell them how much that hurts your heart.

How much it hurts mine.

You tell them about the little girl - my little girl, the one who was diagnosed on a Tuesday and died six days later. Tell them what her 9 years on Earth were made of and think about what her life would've been like had she been given 60 or 70 more.

And you tell them that kids get cancer too.

Behind my yellow ribbon is an orange
one that Addie's friends distributed
three years ago.

*Statistics taken from,, and