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Remembering Mom: part 5

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Remembering Mom: part 5

It feels bizarre that I’ve been grieving for five years.  It went by much more slowly in the beginning.  The sorrow is less all consuming five years in, but the hurt is still there, as I suspect it will always be.

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Mom

I attended a funeral on Friday (my mom’s birthday) and that put me into a state of contemplation.  Death is so final. Obviously I understand that death is final, but I was thinking about it on a deeper level.  The DFW National Cemetery is huge, there are so many graves that it’s almost unconscionable to even wrap my head around.  What happened to all of those families?  Were they able to move forward, or is the loss still affecting the family generations later?

I’ll never know the answers to those questions for those families, but I know the answer for my family.  If I were walking through the cemetery where my mom’s dad is buried, I know for sure that the effect his death had on my mom deeply affected my childhood.

I’m not resentful about this, I point it out to illustrate that there is a cycle that can develop in families if grief and trauma remain unresolved.  Our brains love patterns and seek them from the moment we are born.  If there’s a pattern of sadness and grief in a parent, the baby’s brain will pick up that pattern and light up in the same areas.  If that grief remains unresolved in the parent, as the baby’s brain develops it will continue to follow that pattern.  That pattern of grief and sadness becomes the foundation for all the future relationships the baby has, even though all those feelings could be going on subconsciously in the parent. Isn’t that bananas?

The brain is amazing.  It loves patterns, but is also adaptable.  We have the ability to change those early patterns in our brains at any time.  This is what has been going on with me.  When something clicks in my self awareness and I examine it’s origin, I can create a new pattern my brain can follow that works better for my life.

Look how far I’ve come by simply becoming aware of the deep fear I was experiencing and learning to recognize the negative impact it was having on my life.  I am in graduate school pursuing the career I always wanted but, until recently,  never thought I could actually have.  For the first time in decades, I actually feel ambitious.

Something that has really resonated with me over the last year has been to really take advantage of my abilities and talents rather than minimize them.  When I use my creativity or connect with a child, I feel enriched.  These are my gifts and I think they were given to me so I can use them to influence the world in a positive way.  Maybe not the entire world, but someone’s little word.

I want to be honest and let you know that I still struggle.  A lot of my recent growth has been sparked by having to accept some painful realizations about myself. I still have to keep strategies in place to cope with my anxiety and depression. It’s required if I want to be my best self and I own and accept that.

For me, there has definitely been marked change in the way I grieve at the 5 year mark.  I’m beginning to come around to the idea of letting her go in a way that I wasn’t before.  I was holding on to so much for so long because I was afraid that letting go of those feelings would mean letting go of her.  I realize now that, regardless, she’ll always be a part of me.  I still miss her everyday and I wish she could be here to see the person I am becoming, she’s the one who started me on this journey and she will always be a source of inspiration to me.

RIP, mom. I miss you and I love you so much.

Peggie Gardner
April 15, 1951-April 19, 2011

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Artwork by Logan Pack

 

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I’m baaaaaaaack

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Great news! My brother was discharged from Johns Hopkins on Thursday and we were given the go ahead to move back to Dallas!

After the transplant, my brother was going to the hospital everyday to have his levels checked, get transfusions, make sure there was no infection, etc. After about a month, he only had to go 4-5x a week, now, once a week! He’s also transfusion independent, so he’s making his own healthy blood cells and platelets!

The transformation has been incredible. To see my brother back to his energetic, playful self has been a blessing. Thank you for all the positive energy you have sent our way. I think it truly made a difference in his recovery.

He still has a long road ahead, he still has to avoid sick people, or anyone that’s been exposed to someone who is sick (he lost all of his vaccines since he has a new immune system). He has to stay out of the sunlight because sunburns can be especially damaging. Even so, it’ll be nice to have him in Dallas for a while longer and also to be home myself.

I’m very happy to be home. The city life just isn’t for me. Not in Baltimore, anyway. Three years ago, maybe. But today I’m in the mindset that if one more person throws their dog’s poop in my trashcan, or waits for the bus in the middle of the street (why??!), or walks into traffic blindly, failing to use even the most common of sense, I’m going to freaking lose it!

That being said, it was still awesome to spend so much time with my big brother in Baltimore. My brother is the best guy I know, he’s always there for me and present when I need him to be. He offers me priceless advice and wisdom and I love spending time with him and talking to him. I definitely won the sibling lottery, he’s my hero and I know he would do anything for me. Including going through painful, debilitating treatments and the fight of his life so I don’t have to live without him.

yep, this was pretty much our entertainment.

So what now? Well, I was offered a live-in nanny position for my little chickpea’s family and I accepted. I love her and her brother so much, I am very excited to be a part of their daily lives and be a positive influence on them as they grow. So this will really be the start of something new!

my little chickpea turned one this week, so I made her a scrapbook of her first year

my little chickpea turned one this week, so I made her a scrapbook of her first year

I also got a great part time morning job with another family with a little girl and a newbie set to arrive at the end of next month. I’m really excited about both opportunities, I still feel very much like this is what I am supposed to be doing right now. It makes me happy and I love my work. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.

I really wanted to travel after I was done in Baltimore, but I think it will have to wait. Luckily, with my new job I can accrue vacation time. Also, since they pay for rent and food I can save up for a great vacation and other things. It just takes patience, which I’m used to.

So. I’m home for good! I start my new job in July, June is going to be a time to regroup, I’ll be working a little but also taking it easy and trying to get into the right mindset for what’s ahead. I’m still doing heavy personal growth work, even more so than before. It’s already helping me achieve more clarity about who I am, what I want out of life and who I want to eventually become.

That’s about it! Thanks so much for reading, I’ll write again soon.

Remembering Mom Pt. 3

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Hi there. I am all settled in Baltimore. My brother received his transplant and is now making healthy, donor generated blood cells. He has a lot more energy these days and things are looking up. It’s kind of crazy that all this would go down almost exactly three years after we did it the first time. April, man.

My mom’s birthday was April 15, she would have been 63. The anniversary of her passing was April 19. I sometimes wonder what place she would have in all of this if she were alive. I speculate on whether or not she would trust me to take care of Bryant, if she would be here taking care of him too…how she would have handled it. IF she would have been able to handle it at all?

I don’t know, in some ways it’s probably better that she’s not here for this. I, of course, selfishly wish that she was so she could comfort me. So I guess craving your mother’s comfort is something that never goes away with time.

Some things do change though. While last year and the year before I was concerned with what impact my mom’s death had on me, I now find myself looking for answers about the impact her life had on me.

Maybe coming to terms with who exactly she was and what influence that had on me is what I need in order to be able to celebrate her now that she’s gone. Up until a few weeks ago I had been focused on her death and consequently, my grieving.

Now I want to focus on life and healing. The process of grieving led me on this ongoing journey of personal growth. This journey has brought up very important questions about who I am and maybe even more importantly, why I am who I am.

The influences my parents had on me will stay with me forever and I’ve only been looking at the big picture. I am only just now realizing that events that, at the time I thought had no effect on me… are actually at the core of who I am as a person.

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Wedding day!

It’s not always fun or easy to answer questions about who I’ve grown to be. But as my very wise big brother tells me, “once you’re done growing, you’re done living.” I never want to stop growing, improving myself, learning. The bottom line, and I’ve said it before, is that I have a responsibility to the people that love me. You see, if I stop growing, I’m not only cheating myself, I’m cheating the people that love me and the people that I love.

I’m not sure if that makes sense but I hope it does. I can’t explain it any other way except that I never want anyone that ever loves me to feel like I gave up. My mom labeled me a fighter the day I came into this world (prematurely, dangerously underweight with a hernia) and I will remain a fighter until I absolutely cannot win anymore.

So, that’s that. I was able to keep myself distracted on April 19 with some of my amazing friends here in Baltimore. They were kind enough to take time out of their Easter weekends to join me on a local pirate cruise. It was ridiculously fun, I laughed the entire day.

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Getting knifed and photobombed simultaneously

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World class scallywags

Last year, my best friend and I went to the Perot museum in Dallas and also laughed the entire day. I decided that after this year I’d like to try to make it a tradition to make April 19 the most fun day of the year.

Mother’s Day was tough, I can try to laugh as much as I want, but deep down, I never stop missing my mom. The pain is always there. My brother was there for me though, he hung out with me all day, hugged me while I cried and tried to keep me laughing as much as possible anyway. Lots of people tell me he’s lucky to have such a great sister, but it’s me who is lucky.

Next time I’ll write about my trip to Dallas. It was super fun, and nice to have a break and be home. Thanks for reading as always!

it ain’t no lie, bye bye bye

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Hi, thanks for reading. As many of you know, my brother is having a relapse of Aplastic Anemia. In case you don’t know what that is, the easiest way to explain the disease is to say that it’s a blood disorder in which the bone marrow doesn’t make enough cells. This causes my brother not to have enough red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. It’s dangerous because blood cells fight off infection, stop bleeding, make blood, etc.

Anyway, my brother was on a pill we were hoping would work to get things back on track over the course of six weeks. Unfortunately, my brother didn’t respond the way we were hoping for. The result is that he has to get a bone marrow transplant.

Dear old Stanley the manly, my dad, is going to be Bryant’s donor. It could change to me at any point, but right now, they think my dad’s marrow is a better match.

The hospital has expedited this entire process and my brother’s actual transplant will be April 4. There are many tests, preparations, chemotherapy, radiation, etc. that need to be done before that though.

My brother has an amazing hematologist in Baltimore that will be doing the transplant. We’re lucky he will be under the best care possible for this disease. However, his doctor being in Baltimore and me being his caregiver after the transplant means I will be moving to Baltimore indefinitely once again.

The timeline calls for my brother to be near the hospital for 100 days after the transplant. If they extend the time they want to keep an eye on him or there is any other unforseen circumstance then it’ll be longer. I don’t really want to speculate as to when I’ll be back.

Good news is, we’ll be living in the old place! Love the row house, familiar territory…I’ll also get to see some old friends I made the first time around. I’ll also have a lot of time on my hands to update my blog?

Bad news, obviously it’s pretty serious that my brother has to get a transplant. I’m going to miss my dance class and the kids I nanny for(don’t tell any of the other kids, but ESPECIALLY my little chickpea. I mean seriously, how will I get through the weeks without pinching or kissing those checks and seeing that smile?). Also her brother told me I am his best friend, and all my other little ones are just sweet as pie to me as well. I’ll really miss them all a lot.

If you want to do anything to help, I need a ride to the airport the morning of April 1. Also, anything that would fill up time would help, as I feel relatively useless when I’m not working. Book and movie suggestions, adult coloring books, recipe sharing because I’ll be cooking a lot, cheap hobby suggestions, good vibes, prayers and just keeping in touch with me. If you were linked here from Facebook there were only a small number of people I shared that link with, so if you saw it I want to stay in touch.

So that’s basically it. Thanks again for reading, and I hope you’ll stay in touch while I’m gone!

remembering mom: year 2

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It’s very strange to  think that I haven’t talked to my mom in two years. I haven’t heard her tell me that I’m her favorite daughter (I’m her only daughter) or that she loves me or simply that everything is going to be all right.

Over the last two years I have realized it’s hearing little things like that, that I miss the most about not having my mom here anymore. Especially since I’m like a child in the sense that I never tired of hearing stories from her about myself as a baby. I always asked to hear, and she would always tell me without complaint, how she was absolutely certain that she was growing a tiny alien when she was pregnant with me. This is because I used to sit in there and run my fingers down the inside of her stomach. I can imagine myself doing it, too. It certainly sounds like something I would do.  She said it was the weirdest feeling ever. It’s because of this story that I tell the kids I watch that I’ve had a tickle monster inside of me since before I was born.

Another good one that I liked to hear her tell is- well, let me back up, the first thing you need to know is that when I was a toddler, I had this weird accent. I really have no idea where it came from, especially considering that as an adult, I have almost no discernible accent. So when I was three, my favorite color was purple (shocking!) and one day, my mom picked out this pink dress for me to wear and I straight up told her I didn’t want to wear pink, I wanted to wear “puhhhpul.” It’s the way she said “puhhpul” that made the story so funny to me. Her impression of me saying purple as well as her telling me that I wanted us to be together because we were “guuhls” (girls) never failed to make me laugh.

I wanted to talk about what has changed in the second year without her compared to the first year.  Everyone grieves differently, and this has been my experience compared to last year: I miss her just as much but it’s a little easier not to cry about it. I don’t get the urge to call her anymore, although I still wish that I could. I still think about her everyday, but not the entire day. I no longer feel the weight of my grief holding me down, although some days are still better than others. And the biggest difference between this year and last is that my memories of her are much more pleasant and I no longer feel any guilt whatsoever.

As far as what hasn’t changed…how much I love her, for one. I still want a hug from her, I probably always will.  I’m also still not ready to celebrate her life because even with so much progress- and there has been a lot of progress– I’m still not there yet. I feel like I can’t truly celebrate her life like she deserves from me, which is genuinely, until I’m more happy that she’s free than sad that she’s gone. I haven’t reached that point yet, even though I realize how selfish it sounds. However, even though I know without a doubt she wouldn’t want me to be sad, she definitely wouldn’t want me to pretend to be happy when I’m not. She knew how important she was and is to me and would be able to see right through it anyway.  She didn’t even have to see me to know if something was wrong, she could always detect it in my voice, even if I was deliberately trying to hide it.  She knows how bad I am at pretending, hell, it’s because of her that I’m so incorrigibly genuine.

I think as a daughter, sister, cousin, niece, friend, babysitter and whoever else I am to anyone- the most important concept I’ve come to accept from a major loss is that now, more than ever, I want to take responsibility for the people that love me. By that, I mean do whatever it takes with what little control I have over how long I live to keep myself happy, healthy and safe so I can be around as long as possible.  I hope that the people that I love take responsibility too, because I don’t want to miss anyone else.  I can see how easy it is to get wrapped up in my own worries, or even fun, for that matter- without regard to what life would be like without me for everyone else.  And I’ve learned that if someone loves me, I should hold that in extremely high regard because I would never wish losing someone you love on anyone.  Especially if I love them, and especially if it’s forever.

Rest in peace, Mom.  It’s been two years since you left, but your influences continue to live on in my life daily.  If I become even half the woman that you were, I’ll be doing pretty well. I miss you and I love you.  You’re the bestest in the westest.

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Peggie Anne Gardner

April 15, 1951-April 19, 2011

halfway there

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Hi there! I am a deadbeat blogger lately, my apologies. There has been so much going on with work, which is why I’m starting to write this at nap time on a Sunday, at the end of a 50 hour work week.

I’ve read time and time again about how once someone is on their right path, they start getting lucky all the time. Things all of a sudden just start falling into place and aligning correctly in a path that leads forward. That isn’t to say there aren’t any or many bumps along the way, but generally, circumstances start moving in your favor.

This year is the first time I have ever felt that in my life. I decided what direction I want to take my life toward the end of last year and set up small goals to work toward being able to start by next year. As “luck” would have it, I’m ahead of schedule for once in my life! Okay, twice, if you count being born early.

As a late bloomer in most, if not all aspects of my life (as well as being an unrelenting realist and somewhat of a pessimist) I can barely contain my excitement at the prospect of something I want actually coming to fruition. It’s still really early on, but I have a lot of encouragement, determination, and faith that I’m going the right direction. And really, that’s the only feeling I’ve ever wanted in a career.

I’ll reveal more when I have more and get all the way to goal #1. I’m halfway there already, just have to keep my eyes on the prize.

How’s YOUR year going so far?

Summer One

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Lots to write about since I got home from my trip.  Before I write about California though I wanted to write about the baby shower.   I had the honor of throwing a baby shower for one of my oldest friends, Michelle.   We met in 9th grade algebra, if you can believe it.  No matter how long it is between talks or seeing each other, we can always pick up right where we left off.

I took to Pinterest for ideas about the shower and then kind of let my imagination run wild.  Our mutual friend, Rachel did the amazing cake, which was not only the cutest thing EVER, but was also melt in your mouth tasty.  The whole thing went off without a hitch and here are some pictures so you can get a sense of the theme.

Isn’t the cake adorbs?  Michelle told me she was doing baby girl’s room in classic pooh bear so I wanted to do a little bit of hundred acre woods, mixed with a girly garden theme.  There were flowers everywhere.  There still are! They brightened up the house so much, we left a lot of them up.

On the table is a frame that says “Love Letters to Sophie” and all the guests either signed the guest book or wrote letters like the one you see hanging from the tree.  I loved that.  The other pictures are of the  diaper cake and the “hunny” party favors.  Everything was hand made by me (and my dad, who helped me devise an apparatus to keep the tree standing).

Over the next couple of days I will be trying to organize my thoughts so I can start writing about all that happened in California, so keep an eye out for that!  Til next time!