Friday, August 29, 2014

(Almost) Home

You might say I'm a sucker for signs. Especially those that are painted and a little bit primitive. I have them all around my house.


And, at various points in my life, each sign - with its simple message - has served as a mantra of sorts.

So when it came time to finally cover up an enormous nail hole select the perfect piece to go above our fireplace, I just knew a sign was the way to go.

But, considering all that's happened, what's my mantra now?

Life was good. And then it wasn't.

Don't worry. It'll all be over soon.

I'm kidding. Sort of.

Obviously, I needed something a bit more, um, inspirational, something that wouldn't make guests do a double-take when they entered our home. And, I needed something that said this is our family.

And what worked for us before just doesn't cut it anymore.


So, I spent a weekend tossing around a few ideas (nothing really worth mentioning here) and one in particular just stuck. It was this idea of home and what home should be.

Before all of this, home wasn't half-bad. Sure it was loud and it was messy. You can read more about that here and here. But it was also beautiful because everybody that I loved was right here, within arm's reach.

Without Addie, I'm not sure it'll ever quite get back to the way that it was.

It's home, but it's not.

The noise has resumed. The messes too. In fact, I'm not sure either ever really went away. But, there is a voice missing. There's one less baby to tuck in and kiss goodnight, one less plate at the dinner table. We smile for the camera, but it'll never be quite right.

It'll never be home.

So, we settle for what we have in our almost home. And we realize this place where we live and work and love really isn't our home at all. Never has that been more apparent to me than it is right now.

I could try to put into words exactly what it is I'm talking about, but I'm not going to do that. What I've realized (and I'm really trying to avoid going all Mary Katherine Gallagher on you now) can best be summed up in the song Blessings by Laura Story.

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is
the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?

I have a deep-seated need to have my family all good and whole again. And, there is no substitute for that. I do believe things will be good again (they are at times), but I know our lives will never be right until we're Home.

So, until then, we're almost Home.

Plus, that sounds so much better than that it'll all be over soon stuff.

So, about the actual sign.

I contacted Deb from Deb Hrabik Designs and gave her the scoop on what I wanted.. We tossed around a few ideas, traded a few emails. She painted. I waited. And within a couple weeks time it was here. 

What can I say? I. Love. It.

And here's why:

It's beautiful (obviously). It's big. And it's bold.

It says and does everything I wanted it to. It even hides the incredibly large nail hole, so that's a bonus.

But here's the best part: there's a piece of Addie in that sign. 

That, my friends, is Addie's handwriting (and all Deb's idea) taken from a story she had written in fourth grade.

We are well-aware of the huge, gaping hole that's been left in our hearts and our lives, but seeing that little piece of Addie on my wall every day makes me feel like she's saying, "It's OK, mom. You're doing alright. You're almost there."


Back to School

Note: This post was actually written a year ago when I first began teaching at Addie's school. But, I sat on it, fretted about it, and finally decided to roll with it. Especially since these days I've been feeling like I'm right back where I was. Sigh.

It’s no secret that the first week of school can be a bit of a shock to the system.

Gone are the days of spending half the day in your jammies, pinching snacks from the fridge at 10 in the morning, and lounging around the pool, or in my case, lounging on the couch with Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil.

Nope, come 8 a.m., it’s go time.

Go time for me came and went a little over a week ago.

I’m not going to lie, I had a hard time getting out of the gate.

And this had nothing to do with school itself.

It was everything else.

That’s the funny thing about grief (and I hate using that word – funny – because, really, there’s nothing funny about it). People tell you you’re strong and there are times you start to believe it a little bit and then you find yourself pinning all these inspirational messages on Pinterest and really believing it.

And then you crumble.

For me that happened two days before school was supposed to start.

At open house.

Well, after open house, technically.

During open house I stood there smiling, my throat in a vise, as I watched seventh-graders and their parents struggle with locker combinations, empty backpacks filled with school supplies, and move from classroom to classroom meeting this year’s teachers, all the while thinking about the little girl who won’t ever set foot in the seventh-grade hallway.

Let’s face it, two days before school starts isn’t exactly an opportune time to start doubting whether you can do this. Especially since Pinterest had been telling me I could do this all summer long.

Stupid Pinterest.

Stupid me.

Stupid cancer.

And then, school started.

My first go with a group of Addie’s classmates was a little awkward.

It was a five-minute exchange before they checked out books.

I was nervous. So I snapped into teacher mode. I may have even avoided eye contact.

And that felt awful.

Who was this person standing in front of them?

It wasn’t me.

And who were these kids staring back at me?

Her friends. The girls who suckered me into filming a staged video that they were certain would win them $10,000 on America’s Funniest Home Videos (it didn’t). The girls who convinced me kittens were trapped inside our walls (they weren’t). The girls who swore they beat Scott and me in a dance-off on Just Dance 2 (they most certainly did not). 

Their Mii’s are still on our Wii console, their notes and phone numbers and proclamations of being BFF’s are secured safely among Addie’s keepsakes, and their acts of friendship - in the face of the absolute worst - will forever be written on my heart.  

These are her friends.

Luckily, the next go-around was markedly better. I kicked the teacher to the curb and decided to just go with me.

I asked for a show of hands to see who already knew who I was.

Silly question.

I’m Addie’s Mom.

And I can do this.