A Month of Reading – Day 25, Catching Up

I haven’t updated this series since December 17!

On December 16 I caught Kyle’s sickness.  The next day, Stewart got it too.  By then Kyle had recovered and Brady seemed to have missed it altogether.  That means in a two-parent home there were two sick parents and two healthy kids.  You know what that means – a sickness that would have taken maybe two days in bed to recover from is still upon us.  With both parents down, neither of us could shoulder the family burden and give the other a 100% break.  We’ve been limping through the days, doing our best to show up for the kids’ holiday stuff, to decorate and wrap presents, bake and frolic.

There was one day, though, when I went to bed early and couldn’t sleep so I read most of an entire book.  Somebody Else’s Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage.  My mother had sent it it to me in a box of gifts, not as a gift itself but as a pay it forward type of thing.  I do that, too. Books I like but don’t need to keep, I give to someone who I think would enjoy it.

Everything I read is so full of violence lately.  Ugh.  But this novel started out more gently, with very vivid character descriptions that I enjoyed.  It turned into a finely-spun web of small-town deceit, but since the genesis of the story was an event borne of love, I had high hopes for the tale to have a happy ending.  Which it does, sort of.  There were gaps in the characters’ actions where I felt that Brundage set up these people in such a way that they veered off in directions that were not exactly believable.  Overall, however, it was a page-turner, full of the kind of descriptive prose that I love, and it was perfect for a sick day in bed.

A few days ago I started reading J.K. Rowling’s latest, A Casual Vacancy, which is our next book club selection.  It starts with somebody dying.  It’s not terrible, but I think I need to read some Nancy Drew because I just can’t take any more gruesome or sad books right now.

I’ve read other stuff in the last week or so, but I can’t remember it.  My head is still full of snot.

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Change Can Be Good: Oral B ProfessionalCare 1000 Electric Toothbrush

Years ago, after I would I get my teeth cleaned at the dentist’s office, I would go across the street and treat myself to a salted bagel, toasted, with strawberry cream cheese.  That’s because there was an awesome bagel shop there, and I used to have to drive 30 minutes to get to my dentist’s office.

That was kind of dumb, because there’s nothing better than the way your teeth feel after a good cleaning by a dental hygienist.

Moving to our new town 2.5 years ago cured me of this ruinous habit, because now we live only 5 minutes away from the dentist office, and there’s really no novelty to going to that bagel shop anymore, now that I can go anytime I want to.  So now I get to relish that squeaky-clean feeling on my teeth after my appointments.

But just this morning I noticed that I have that feeling right now, even though it’s been a little while since I went in for a teeth cleaning.   It’s because I’ve been using an electric spinny toothbrush that is just like the one the hygienist uses.

After I went to O You! 2012 as a guest of Oral B, the company sent me an oral health care package that included the Oral B ProfessionalCare 1000 electric toothbrush, a box of Crest White Strips, and flossers, toothbrushes, and toothpaste for both of my kids.  That way I could experience the kind of at-home self-care they were promoting to guests at the O You! event at their booth.

Stewart, my husband, has used an electric toothbrush for years now, and recently he even added a WaterPik device to his arsenal of dental care devices.  But I’m rather resistant to change, and I’ve been happy with my regular old manual toothbrush and regular flossing. I may not have tried this electric toothbrush had it not been sent to me as a PR gift.

So here’s what I think about it:

During the first few days of using the Oral B ProfessionalCare 1000, (which retails around $40, plus extra for replacement heads) I drooled like a teething 1-year-old as I brushed my teeth.  Without the dental hygienists sucking device to whisk away the extra saliva, that’s just what happened.  I’ve learned to angle my head differently, but it took some getting used to.

The process is a lot less labor intensive than using a manual toothbrush, and as such it doesn’t feel like I’m putting in the work to get my teeth clean.  That’s just it – the rotating brush does all the work for you.  This week it’s been extra helpful because I’ve been sick and I need conserve my energy anyway.

I can’t ignore the clean feeling – I never got that with my old toothbrush.  It is so worth it.  I am looking forward to hearing what my hygienist says when I go back to the dentist for my next cleaning.  Ever the good student, I always want to get an A in teeth, and I’m sure this handy electric toothbrush is helping.

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Songs That Stab Me in the Heart: “There’s Still My Joy” by Indigo Girls

Last year someone gave me Indigo Girls’ new Christmas album.  I played it on my computer while I was wrapping presents.  This song came on, and that was the end of that.  I had never heard it before.  It’s a cover of an old Melissa Manchester tune.

I brought my tree down to the shore

The garland and the silver star

To find my peace and grieve no more

To heal this place inside my heart

I still can’t listen to it without physically transforming into a pile of tears.  I couldn’t even get through the first verse of this version.  Just reading the lyrics kills me.  Forgive me for not watching the whole video before I posted it here.  I just…couldn’t.

I keep hoping that something will fill my heart.  I do this self-torture series of sad songs because it helps me feel my feelings.  The music reaches a place inside me that is so raw and vulnerable and makes my emotions rise to the surface.  I feel a passion that makes me want to share it with you.  So, to those of you, like my mother, who wonder why I do this to myself – that’s why.  When I start posting happy songs instead, we’ll all know that I’m on my way to healing.

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Hugs For the Holidays: You Are Not Alone, Even Though It Feels Like It

In the past year, I’ve lost one of my best friends, my grandfather, and my illusion that I can keep my family safe.

It is that first loss, the one of my friend Lisa who was my best friend in Los Angeles and the woman who gave me a reason to move here from Connecticut when I was 24 years old, and who died suddenly at the age of 40 for no apparent reason, that first rocked my world and sent me into a tailspin of grief and loss and barely hanging on.  Then my Grampa, who was in his 90′s and choked on a chicken sandwich and had a heart attack and left us suddenly, even though he had had a long, prosperous life that was full of love and sacrifice for his family.

That was two too many funerals for me to attend in a few months.

Then the shootings last week in Connecticut, where many people will attend 26 funerals in the space of a week.

When Lisa died her friends and family came together and filled a huge church.  They keep her Facebook page alive with tributes.  They fund charities and pour wine in the ground near her grave.

When my grandfather died people came from all around to pay respects.  The wake was extremely long and I have no idea how my grandmother got through it with such grace and strength.

The entire world watches Newtown, CT and asks “Why?” and “What can we do to help?”

But at the end of the day, even in a crowd of people who love me, I can still feel alone in my grief.  It’s actually a depression, that sense of no matter what you do or how much wonderfulness is around you, things are still really shitty.  It feels like a giant hole has been cut out of my heart.

Over the past year I have climbed out of it, mostly, but when bad things happen, especially like Newtown, I plummet back down again.  My friend said the other day that it seems like I’m stuck.  I told her I didn’t think I need grief counseling, because it is normal to grieve.  And what is normal, anyway?  In America we really don’t have a framework for grieving.  There isn’t a time period that is set aside, like maternity leave, for me to work through my emotions and then get back to the business of living.

I credit my children the most for giving me a reason to get out of bed and function.  They need me, and I love them so much.  I don’t know what my life would be like today if I didn’t have them.

Still, sometimes I feel terribly alone.

And here it is, Christmas again.  It’s the second year I won’t be taking Kyle to Lisa’s house to bake cookies with his godmother, while I watch and drink her amazing chocolate martinis.  It’s the first year in my entire life that I won’t be checking in with Grampa and hearing his gravelly voice with the Boston accent telling me to have a Merry Christmas.

Shake it off, I tell myself.  Other people have it way, way worse.  And then:  be kind to yourself, I tell myself.  That’s what everyone advises me to do.

I have learned that in my worst moments I should turn to other people.  In fact, turning to my blog has helped a lot.  I know that I have blogged a lot about Lisa and grief overall in the past year, and that sometimes this site is one huge pity party.  But its primary purpose is to be a place for me to express myself, and that’s what’s going on right now.

The fact is that way too many people are going through similar things, and a lot of them have found solace by writing about it.  I find solace in reading their words, at the same time that I am sad that we all have to be members of this awful club.

That’s why we started #HugsForTheHolidays, this movement of remembrance and support for people who are experiencing Christmas without their friend, parent, child, sibling, lover, or spouse.

My friend Mary lost her dad 12 years ago, and she writes:

I am living proof that it gets better, and that light will shine for you one day, and the tears won’t burn a hole in your sweater when they stream down your face, and the hole in your heart will not weigh you down to your knees.

Caught in this awful moment, even though I’m pulled out of myself by my wonderful, innocent, enthusiastic children, I find it hard to believe that there will be a day in the future that I will not feel such a conflict of emotions within.  But I have more faith in Mary’s statement than I’ve had in anything else, mostly because her loss came before mine and now I know her as a vibrant force of life.  And that’s what this blog link-up exercise is all about.  If you share your story, you might help someone feel better, even for a second, and that’s a lot better than nothing.

We have multiple link-ups on the sites below, where you can comment and/or link up according to the type of loss with which you are dealing. We have also created a Pinterest board called Hugs for the Holidays and will be pinning many of your posts there as well, if you would like to follow it.

You can link up anything you would like to share about your lost loved one: a link to a Facebook photo/post, a blog post about a particular memory, a Pinterest pin sharing how you cope, whatever you would like others to read or see. The link ups will be displayed as follows:

If you have had a miscarriage, stillbirth or loss of an infant link here: fourplusanangel.com

If you have lost your mom link here: sandiegomomma.com

Your dad link here: mamamaryshow.com

Your sibling link here: myinnerchick.com

A child link here: aninchofgray.blogspot.com

A spouse here: gfunkified.com



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