Friday, September 28, 2012

Coming Out Of The Pit

Hello?  Is this thing still on?  It's been a few weeks since I have felt like sitting down to write something here.  Let me just jump right on in and say that I have been in a deep emotional pit these last few months.  How did I end up there?  I'm not sure exactly, but here's what I know: 1. For six months I saw my mom deteriorate and suffer in a hospital room.  I saw things that I have not wanted to go back and revisit in my brain, so I have "stuffed" those memories to a dark mental corner where I didn't have to think about them. 2. My mom died sixteen months ago.  Coupled with the images of her slow decline, I chose to again just not think about this as much as possible.  3. For the last year I have been trying not to process my loss too much.  Mostly I just shove my feelings aside and press on as best as I can. 4. Some events that happened this summer caused me to have to deal with some issues and feelings that I have been avoiding. 5. I emotionally bottomed out.

Now, before you think I am completely crazy, please know that I am doing SO much better right now.  And I know that writing about my grief here on my blog has been extremely helpful (so helpful it has given me a new idea for something in the future, but more on that later....).  But because the events that have transpired over the last few months involve other members of my family who read this blog, I haven't been able to write openly about my feelings lately.  Feelings of anger, sadness, disappointment, pain, loss, unmet expectations, and fear.

The fact is, I needed more than the short break I gave myself back in July.  I have needed to take a much longer blog break so that I could deal with some things.  Two weeks ago, I had a breakthrough.  I had just finished spending an hour reading my Bible and praying when I walked to my mailbox and discovered a letter.  Before I get into that, let me say that I have been studying the book of Genesis this fall.  The word "genesis" is Hebrew for "beginnings." I have been praying and asking God to help me accept this new beginning in my life.  In January, my dad is getting married.  This marks a very new beginning for my family.  So back to the letter....When I opened the envelope I discovered a letter from my soon-to-be step-mother.  It was very sweet and very honest.  She expressed her desire to want to have a good relationship with me and my family, not as a mom-replacement, but as a friend.

In the weeks since I received that letter, I have felt a big weight come off of my shoulders.  It has literally opened a door for communication between us, and it has alieveated my fear of losing my dad in all this new change.  In addition, I have started seeing a counselor on a regular basis to talk through things.  It has also been a big help.

I am starting to feel like I am back on steady ground.  I know there will be some challenges ahead as the wedding date draws closer, but I feel so much better about where things are right now.

So that's me right now.  Alive. Breathing.  Thankful.

Monday, September 3, 2012

New Books at East Side

 Two of my Mom's favorite things have always been books and kids. When she graduated from college with a degree in Special Education, she included reading to her special needs children as a part of her work.  After a few years of teaching a special education class however, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and had to take a few years off from teaching to go through her many surgeries as well as chemo and radiation treatments. When she finally was in remission, her body was so weak from battling cancer that she couldn't return back to the special ed classroom which required a lot of physical energy.  Instead, my mom got a part time job at the local public library and there truly found her calling.  Being immersed in children's literature and reading to the children during story hour both created a new passion.  Soon after she started working at the library, she found out I was on the way.  Once again, her career got put on hold as she stayed home with me for many years. Finally, when I was in fifth grade, she was able to go back to college and get her Master's Degree so she could fulfill that calling she had many years ago-- to be an elementary school librarian.

In 1990 she landed her first job at Eastside Elementary, a school in the middle of an economically depressed area on the city's southeast side.  When she arrived, the library had long been neglected and was seriously underfunded.  My mom saw this as her personal challenge.  She wrote grants, ordered new books, started after school reading programs, and brought in guest authors and illustrators to inspire her students.  She had story time, craft time, and helped older students with research papers.  She really rolled up her sleeves to make the East Side Elementary library a sparkling jewel in the middle of a run down area.  She loved it and worked hard at it until her heart condition forced her into an early retirement 12 years later.

So this year, on the one year anniversary of my Mom's death, my friend Beth spearheaded a project to collect new books and donate them in my Mom's name to the Eastside library.  Beth contacted the current librarian, who was thrilled to be a part of the project, and she called all of our friends to encourage them to donate a book or two.  And on that one year date, Beth presented me with the bags and bags of books all ready to donate in my Mom's memory.  It meant so very much to me.  Over the summer my dad and I added some books to the collection and this past Friday, my dad and Lucas and I drove 40 minutes across town to deliver them to the library-- my mom's library.  It was really special.
Just a small sampling of some of the new books
Beth had made sure that each book contained this sticker.

Eastside Elementary
The school is across the street from an air force base so rumbling sounds of jets taking off and landing are as common as a clock ticking to these students.

 My dad and Lucas checking out the fish tank in the library
So many memories here.  
I'd like to think my mom is smiling each time a child picks up a book.