Signs and Butterfly Kisses

15CAF31A-0A8F-4561-B7AF-0F15F94FF2F5.jpegIn nursing, we learn to look for signs and symptoms that lead to nursing diagnosis.  If you follow the clues, they usually lead to the problem or the source.     What if you were broken and lived in a world where you asked your source for signs?    It’s like an equation in my mind.  Move one piece around and the same pieces fall into the spots.

My friend at work who lost her best friend and had the butterfly on her wedding dress recommended a book.  Signs the Secret Language of the Universe.  She explains in the first part of the book that the source is God and everything comes from him.  She tells a story about giving a speech at a conference and asking for confirmation that it went well by an orange.   She walks out into the area where they are preparing lunch and there are crates and crates of oranges everywhere.  She didn’t get one, she got thousands.

I find this concept fascinating.   Do we psychologically pick something that will make sense later or that we invite into the world as my daughter’s boyfriend suggests? I don’t know, but I was determined to give it a try after a week of trying to hold myself together without losing my emotions around my family.

I was contemplating this while finishing up a procedure at work.  What would be something relevant to Mikenna that I could ask for as a sign?  I thought about a song I used to sing to her when she was little in her bed at night after butterfly kisses on both cheeks, or when we were hiking and she would complain we still had quite a way to go.  I would sing a version of Frank Sinatra’s, High Hopes song.  What can make that little old ant, think he can move a rubber tree plant? Everyone knows an ant can’t Move a rubber tree plant. But he had highhhh hopes.  He had highhhhh hopes.   He had high apple pie in the sky hopes.  So every time you’re feeling down and you start to frown, just remember that ant!

So I asked for an ant.  Riding home on the train, I got an email from my 23 and me about a second cousin.  I reached out to my cousin on my father’s side and told her about the ancestry information.   She said it was too bad I didn’t have any contact with my biological father or his sister since she had had all of our ancestry information.   I hadn’t talked to my bio dad in 18 years or his sister.  In fact, I noticed I had tried to reach out to her by facebook 2 years ago and hadn’t had any response.  My cousin also sent her cell info so I sent her another message and went about my day.  About an hour later, to my surprise, I received a very detailed message from my Aunt including information and contact information about my biological father.  As I look at the phone I thought, wait a minute, is this my ANT/AUNT?   I was given an aunt, interesting.

Still considering this as my possible sign, I went back to work the following day and I was the head nurse for the day.   Sometime around lunch, I got the strangest call.   In the operating room, all the air is filtered and all the gowns and drapes are sterile to prevent the patient from infection.  Outside boxes, bags, and shoes are not permitted in an operating room.    The surgical assistant called me into the room because for the first time, in anyone’s experience, an ant was on the surgeon’s surgical gown.   No one could explain how it got there.  Crazy.

Still pondering the idea of asking for confirmation that I am on the correct path,  I straightened my hair before going to my first high school to present a suicide prevention video.  It wasn’t just any school, It was the school my daughter that passed and my eldest daughter attended.   I couldn’t come up with anything that would be a decent confirmation that what I am doing is worthwhile.  The author of the book used an orange.  How about grapes?  I had nothing else I could think of so grapes it was.  Being a nurse I figured I had the ability to put my emotions aside and talk to the students as a professional.  Nope.

I entered the building and immediately remembered bringing Mikenna there for her orientation.  I remembered being a parent sitting at the round tables signing up to volunteer.  I shook hands with the principal and felt a lump in my throat.   Luckily the representative for AFSP was there.  I asked him to do all the talking so I could watch him facilitate and I could know how to run a presentation for the next school.  I wouldn’t have to talk.  (Or so I thought.)

The presentation got started and I sat down.  I looked around the room and noticed they had painted the entire inside of the common room where the presentation was.  The same room I had sat years earlier with Mikenna.  I turned around and asked the counselor if they had recently painted the inside of the school.  She acknowledged that they had.  I said, “it is such a dramatic color”.  I was thinking I know that color well, It is one of my favorite colors, the color of my nonprofit, Mikenna’s favorite color, but more specifically it is the exact color of years of making sandwiches, it is the one side of a PB and J) I love it I said, “It’s GRAPE”.

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A few minutes later and the principal askes me to stand up and share my story.  Crap.   I stand up and after a brief shaking of my voice, I share a little about Mikenna and her struggle.  I made sure to do her proud and mention being second in her class with a 3.99999.  Valedictorian was taken away from her the day before her speech by her runner up.

We made it through the presentation and I thought about the 170 kids that had just heard it.  I’ll never know if we reached someone enough to get help.  If we kept another family from walking this path.  I came home and fell apart and hugged my husband. I have to keep trying in her name, I am thankful for the people that have joined my crusade and walk alongside me.  Maybe following the signs is part of my own psyche.  A way to cope with the impossible.    I choose to believe and have faith that God knows I am trudging through quicksand and will give me what I need to continue on.  To celebrate getting through this hurdle of speaking at her school, I have chosen to have myself a PBJ, here in the kitchen, with all my memories or four little loud girls rushing out the door sack lunches in hand.

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Defining Grounded

IMG_5944The conversations around my house for weeks were centered around Prom.  You can blame Disney, social media, or our culture, but being a pretty princess is somewhere in our DNA or at least part of our little girl daydreams.   The talk was on dresses and shoes, clutches and nails, dinner and transportation, make-up and hair.  What we should have discussed with my introverted daughter, was skills for feeling overwhelmed when 250 teenagers are bumping and grinding in a dance circle.   All and all she did well, she spent more time in the bathroom than the average teenager, but she went, she took pictures, she talked to the people she felt the most comfortable with and next year when she goes again, she’ll know what to expect. She will have ideas on how to navigate the dance circles and awkward conversations.  Honestly, the most difficult things in life are the unknowns.

The day after prom I found a post in my feed about grounding.  It was called,  “Tips to Help with an Anxiety Attack.  Look around you and find Five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. The post continues to say this is grounding.  It can help when you feel like you have lost all control of your surroundings” -The Anxiety Therapist.   The first thing I thought was the person that wrote this has never had an anxiety attack.   When you are feeling anxious, your body gears up for a fight or flight response,  your heart beats faster, you can be agitated or restless, and mostly you have impaired concentration where your mind goes blank.  Not to mention in an actual attack, your vision can become narrowed and your hearing can feel overstimulated.   This made me chuckle to myself.  I just envisioned myself at nursing school breathing heavy with my head down asking, “I’m supposed to touch something, or smell something? Five of what and four of what?  I’ve only had a couple of these anxiety attacks, one in nursing school many years ago, and the other when my daughter passed unexpectedly,  I do, however, see the merit of teaching yourself or a friend the concept of grounding, taking your shoes off or holding an inanimate object.  It is supposed to help with bringing you back to the present moment.  I think that might be a teachable concept that someone can remember when they are feeling anxious if you keep it simple.

Later I was dusting and noticing how the dust was everywhere.  It was on every crevice, top, bottom, sides on all the knick-knacks on my shelving unit.  Two analogies came to mind. First, dust is like a loss.  It is everywhere, there is no hiding it.  It touches everything, every part of your life is touched by loss.    Second is that loss and grief scatters a person like dust in the wind.  I have never felt more fragmented than the months following the loss of my daughter.  My thoughts were scattered, my emotions were scattered, and the concept of time was also scattered.  I am just now slowly piecing myself back together. The concept of grounding comes back to me and I think about different forms of grounding.

Months ago I noticed some people, that were years out from their loss, seemed to be doing a tiny bit better than others.  There were some that were still having a hard time functioning on a day to day basis and others that struggled but seemed to be functioning.  I met with a few of them trying to understand what it was I was going through, reaching for someone who understood the terrible pain.   I started to notice a theme.  My one friend and husband organize a charity for children with the same disease as their son, Another set of parent went on to battle in courts to change a law that would save other children, and another couple works around the clock running a non-profit for wilderness therapy.  A father, I haven’t met in person, collects books annually because his child loved to read.  These people were also still married to their spouses after suffering such a loss, I believe the father was a single Dad before the loss, but he was writing and functioning a few years outside of the loss of his child.  One study indicated that divorce rates among bereaved parents are as much as eight times the norm ().  What did these parents have in common?  A sense of purpose, a focal point, a different form of grounding to the here and now.  Their pieces that had been broken and scattered to the wind brought together for a sense of purpose they had found.

Sitting in my Sunday morning coffee bible study group, somehow the subject of grounding came up, (probably I brought it up).  One man discusses the importance of using grounding wire, it keeps you from blowing your circuit and from the electrical current being scattered everywhere. We talk about how having faith is like being grounded.  Faith helps keep a person from being scattered, it brings light to the darkness.

Our group leader then reads Psalm 119 verse 105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Without anyone near the light switch that we could see, the rest of the conference room lights, at that same moment, turn on.  Luckily, this time, it was in a room full of people, and one of my friends that was with me the last time I had a similar experience, was there.   God has such a funny way of getting my attention, I felt like I got a “right on” and I can’t help but think my daughter’s sense of humor could also be at play here.  

 

 

 

 

Struggles and Signs of Hope

Oregon Coast

Everyone says, grief is a process, and there are many stages of grief and you have to move through them. Unfortunately for the goal oriented person, you can’t just move through each step like, “check, got through anger. That one was a doozie” I kept thinking if I made it to a year, everything would be so much better.

If you look at our society, we are all about instant gratification. I could go on and on about how this has a small part to play in depression of our young people, but that’s a blog for another day. So it is no wonder that even my surviving girls feel like they must be better by now. There friend’s don’t understand their moments of angry outbursts, the unknown triggers that cause tears to flow, their lack of control in their world causing their need to try and control anything else they can. Friends move away from that, its too hard of a concept. They find themselves in and out of friend groups. Still trying to sort through their own feelings in an ever changing and moving world.

I don’t know what I was expecting at a year, maybe magically able to function through my day to day life without triggers? The shock as worn off. I have manages through one year of holidays and birthdays. I feel like that is a small milestone. But i still feel like I am running on reserved fuel so to speak. Daily, I have multiple times I have to duck into a restroom to dry my eyes or stop a second to keep my watering eyes from spilling over, even in the happiest of moments. I have finally learned not to apologize for it. Just carry extra tissues and invest in some waterproof make-up. I’ve yet to add a full face of make-up back into my routine.

Depression has a way of hoping onto the back of grief. I remember reading in my Psychology undergrad that when your brain has a difficult time with coping, depression can find it’s way in. Loss comes with its complications. It takes, well, as long as it takes, to wrap your mind around it. To accept it I guess. I’m guessing my brain is just not ready to accept the loss fully. I’m ok with that. So I found myself having to step up and talk about it. I told a couple of my closest friends, my counselor, and husband. I had a lot of awkward moments. I wondered about how young people would feel like, having conversations about being depressed. I realized just how difficult that conversation can feel like. Never-the-less, I am not ashamed to say I restarted an anti-depressant I had been avoiding taking anything.

To back track a bit. I went to wonderful retreat. The speaker was amazing. Uncanny was the fact he talked about his daughter, going into nursing and getting married and she was the same age and name of my daughter. the morning finished praying. In that personal moment, I prayed for the deepest concern in my heart and for a sign for the answer. I asked for a sign that my daughter was ok there in heaven. It was a working church retreat, so I set about my assigned task of painting the welcome sign.

A couple hours went by and a volunteer at the camp came by to help paint the letters. She was a retired women, who wanted to help in any way, so she braved the ladder and climbed up next to me. We chatted a bit but mostly painted quietly. There are only three songs in the world I would consider a sign, I Will Always Love You, by Whiney Houston, Blackbirds, by the Beatles, or You are my Sunshine. Out of the blue, the volunteer next to me started signing, You are my sunshine. I kind of casually say, “That was my daughter’s song.” She didn’t say much in response and almost didn’t even seem to notice she had sung the song. I had forgotten my prayer two hours earlier, as I heard the song sitting up high on that ladder, I knew I was getting what I had asked for.

When I came home from the retreat, my week became impossible. My husband, injured his knee and was unable to move or walk. At the same time, one of my daughters discovered they had lice. Anyone who has ever dealt with lice knows how it can really throw you over the edge. You have to wash everything, treat everything and then do it again multiple times until you are absolutely certain the pesky creatures have been destroyed. Forget the glitter bombs, if you have enemies try sending lice. Actually don’t, I just thought there’s a reason plaques included insects.

Trying to work and deal with it all I found myself done. I was angry at everyone and frustrated. My last straw was stepped on. A light bulb went on in my head. I needed a little more help. Depression had set in. In world that doesn’t understand it, I feel like it’s important to admit it’s something I am dealing with. I think this is how it sometimes works, we have all our balls in the air, and the world keeps throwing in new ones, until you reach a point where you just can’t juggle any longer. That feeling is a good time to seek help.

I like to add lots of projects to my plate, distraction always being one of my coping mechanisms. I decided to start an elimination diet, to help with inflammation. I had a friend at work doing it also so I decided I was going to try and give it my full girl scout try. Sitting in the kitchen, I was talking on the phone with my sister. I was telling her things I was doing to try and help with the depression and grief. At this point, she was the only person I had told about how I was truly feeling. We moved on from that part of our conversation to the elimination diet. I was reading her recipes in my book. I stumbled on one about Ratatouille. Neither of us had ever had it.

We talked about our lack of using kitchen utensils purchased from Pampered Chef. I actually heard myself laugh. We both had grown up in the midwest and struggle with making ethnic dishes, or anything besides the basics. It just doesn’t come to mind to add my own rosemary to a dish or make my own sauces. I have to write myself a menu or plan ahead for anything like that. So we discussed Ratatouille and what it was. I then got off the phone and headed to the shower. I had a head full of mayo because I have a bug phobia, nothing on my head, but I was treating it just the same.

Not five minutes into the shower I hear my phone go off sitting on the counter. I reach out and look at the text. It’s from my sister. Her 12 year old son and just come home from school. He walks in the door and says, “Hey mom, why don’t you ever make Ratatouille?” She about lost it. “what made you think of that?, she said. “I don’t know,” he said. She then asked him if he even knew what it was. “He said, “yeah it’s got squash in it.” Remind you, my sister has never mad it, or has even talked about it. I chalked it up as unusually odd and went off to a book group.

I was just getting to my book group and my sister sends me another text. She was just sitting down to snuggle with her seven year old and she turns on the t.v. scrolling through the movies on regular cable. She texts me, “I just can’t make this stuff up.

Playing on the Christian channel was, you guessed it, Ratatouille. Memories came flooding back of my daughter, then 13 years old. Rescuing her rat from becoming snake food. We had rats for a few years. My daughter being such a lover of creatures, she was even a vegan for a while. I could hear my mother-in-law calling them Ratatouille. It was a Disney movie from when my older girls were about 8 and 10 years old. I was thankful for the memory. I came home and checked my t.v. guide. Yep, there is was on our channel called “Free,” also a Christian channel here. I looked to see if it was played again later in the week and I didn’t see it.

What are the odds that I would discuss ratatouille after discussing difficulties with my sister, then on the same day her son would ask about the dish, one he has never had, and the same night have it playing on both our televisions on the Christian station? I am not a statistics wiz, but I would say incredibly low. All I know id that we are promised to be comforted and I have been in need of it. Maybe when we ask and reach out, we get the type of comfort each of us needs. Mine just happened to come in the form of soft fuzzy rats.

Whole 30 Cookbook
Whole 30 Cookbook instructions