Friday, October 30, 2009

How Google saved my son's life...

So, the other day, this guy who claims to be my kids' grandpa suggested he come over and torture me help out with the pumpkin carving this year. I told him I was maybe going to let the pumpkin carving tradition fade away, but agreed this was probably not the right year to do so. He wanted to come help me out because he knows that while THIS is adorable:


Makes me feel all, like this:

While we were starting our clean up process, I noticed this on my beautiful, expensive kitchen table:

And I realized it was THIS:

So then I was all, like THIS:

So, after some attempts at wiping it with various non-abrasive, non-surface-defacing products, and some sharp pointed comments towards the culprit who was soon formerly to be known as Grant, I decided to google: "How do I get sharpie off my wood?" And wouldn't you know there were several hits! I knew, by experience, not to use the Magic Eraser if I wanted to keep my finish, so I found an article that said to use this:

And guess what? It worked. After I buffed out the eraser smears and wiped it with some pledge oil, it is barely noticeable. So, then we were both all, like this:

Thanks Google! The child still known as Grant thanks you, too.


Monday, October 26, 2009

take a compliment

Brian used to say I was terrible at taking a compliment.

When he would delight in something I made for dinner, I would discount it by pointing out how THIS wasn't quite done or I couldn't find THAT ingredient or simply shrug it off as being OKAY.

When he would tell me I was beautiful, which was JUST often enough to be believable, I would dismiss his words of praise by commenting about the spot on my sweater or my smudged make-up or how my hair just didn't cooperate that day or how my pants were too tight or how I had a pimple on my hairline or how I needed to brush my teeth, OR... OR... OR...

And sometimes he would jokingly and sarcastically say, "EW. I didn't notice that. Now that I know that, I take it back. Yuck."

And sometimes he would say, "You are no fun to compliment because you discredit everything I say."

So, over the last two years, I learned to just say, "Thank you. Now kiss me and prove you mean it." MOST of the time, that is. I still discounted the compliments some.

The funny thing is that today I MISS THOSE COMPLIMENTS. I miss being told I am a good cook. I miss being told the house looks nice. I miss being told I am smart and capable. I miss being told I look sexy or even NICE. I miss being told I am beautiful. I cannot begin to tell you how much I crave hearing those words today. When I get even an unsolicited, I LOVE YOU from my boys, it takes me through the day and into next week. Rarely hearing a compliment anymore is one of the most difficult aspects of losing my beloved.

Because when you stop hearing those things, you stop believing those things. I never realized how much Brian was validating me with his words of encouragement and love.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Going Down the Road Feelin' Bad....

Look for me.

Or listen for me.

I will be the one driving 72 mph in a Honda Odyssey down I-55, IL Rt 4, I-64, I-57 and I-24 from Peoria to Paducah today belting out showtunes. My kids will blissfully ignore with their wireless headphones and overhead DVD player.

You see, I defaced Brian's beloved IPOD. Brian is Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead and the Doors.

I am Evita, Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Madonna and Prince.

And while Brian gave me an appreciation for Classic Rock and I do love it, NOW I CONTROL THE IPOD. I deleted Metallica (less Enter Sandman) and all other Metal. I added Britney, Avril, Evita and Phantom.

But, I did not TOUCH the beloved and now sacred BOZO'S MIX playlist. NEVER!!!

One road song Brian and I ALWAYS agreed upon which requires at least a 20% volume increase while screaming along with an occasional air guitar and a drumming on the dash is this one:

And guess what else? I left Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, and the Doors.

So, between my renewed, heavily discounted XM, a reloaded IPOD and some Podcasts from our church, I am hoping this drive actually goes quickly. We will see.

Oh and by the way, in keeping with this theme, see that big green blob covering the entire middle section of our country. That is our route. Awesome.

What about you? What makes your road trip time pass faster? Especially the road trips where between here and there the only scenic pleasure is a corn field. Times 3,584.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Guess who...

Remember how I mentioned recently how things seem to go in my life....

Well, guess who has a first grader who's class was doing a math/science project with pumpkins?

Guess who didn't sign up to help?

Guess who developed a conscience about not signing up to help and last minute asked the teacher today if she still needed help?

Guess who was needed (badly)?

Guess who got to school to find only two other moms helping - both with twins and trying to bounce from classroom to classroom with other first graders?

Guess who helped 6 first graders carve a pumpkin so they could explore the inside, count seeds and decide on a face?

Guess who's group discovered their pumpkin was ROTTEN in the middle?

Guess what a rotten pumpkin looks, feels and SMELLS like in the middle?

Guess who gagged for the first 5 minutes after opening and still scooping seeds out of a slimy partially rotten pumpkin?

Guess who's first graders all last interest in helping with a slimy, smelly, partially rotten pumpkin?

Guess who didn't breathe out of her nose for the next 30 minutes?

Guess who washed her hands no less than 15 times in the next 30 minutes and still will never get that smell out of her now etched nostrils?

Guess who hates carving pumpkins even at home?

Guess who loved it and began this tradition with his kids years ago?

Guess who is able to take Texan Mama's advice and laugh about this situation even as it was happening?

Guess who would be so proud of the mom who hates carving pumpkins, who is getting burned out on volunteering at school and who did it anyway with a giggle in her memory box about the entire situation?

Guess who rejoiced upon completing this project (for the second straight year since she also had a first grader last year) knowing she has no more first graders?

Guess who found out that third graders also carve pumpkins?

Guess who will have a third grader next year?

Guess who will have a third grader the year after that?

Any guesses?


Monday, October 19, 2009

two steps forward, one step back...

I don't know if you have noticed or not, but to me when I read over the last 7 months of posts, I notice a slight trend in the overall mood of this blog. As I read, I notice that the first several weeks after Brian's death were full of, "I don't feel like doing this" mentality. My mentality is changing a bit to not wanting this for anyone else, to understanding that it does get easier, to simply forcing some mood changes at home.

The forced smiles are working. Strange therapy, I realize, but honestly, I have heard enough sermons on the topic and been in enough Bible studies to know that there is JOY to be claimed even when your heart is hurting and your whole body doesn't feel like rejoicing. JOY is still abundant. And Christ wants JOY in our lives. You can still have joy even if you have a bad marriage. You can still have JOY even if you are fighting illness. You can still have JOY even if you are oppressed and mistreated. You can still have JOY when you have been told you are dying. And you can still have JOY when what you thought was your future left this world without you 7 months ago.
(one step forward)

In the past 6-8 weeks, since around the second week of September, my mindset has been shifting a bit. I have started focusing more on what lies ahead instead of what just happened. I find my thoughts looking more towards my potential future rather than mourning the future I had planned - one that included Brian.
(one step forward)

The kids and I are in a better routine. The schoolwork is probably the biggest challenge. Honestly, they both struggle a bit - especially Grant right now. That is very difficult for me because I lack patience in this arena. I am praying for patience and gentleness in this aspect of my life so I can be a better teacher and mom to the boys since this will be a huge part of their lives for years to come. Honestly, I get Grant so frustrated with my lack of patience, that he sometimes claims he wants to go back to Kindergarten. My problem is that I never really struggled in school. I didn't have to work hard for many years and when I did, if I just applied and practiced and did some homework problems, I pretty much "got it." (except Dynamics [shudder]). So, I don't "get" "not getting it." Clear as mud? That's what I thought. I've had a couple friends offer to work with Grant independently, so pending the outcome of his conference on Thursday, I may hold them to that offer.
(one step back)

Still, other than the homework, the boys and I are finding our groove. I have implemented a 'no screens' rule (video games, computer, TV) on Mondays-Thursdays. There is no Spongebob to compete with teeth-brushing time in the mornings. They come home and do homework immediately with no ICarly tempting them in the background. And they PLAY with TOYS in the evenings. Well, sort of. They usually set them all up in some sort of never-ending war of the worlds they have created in the basement. A war that makes it very difficult to get from point A to point B. Point A being the bottom of the stairs and Point B being ANYWHERE IN THE REST OF THE BASEMENT due to their elaborate traps, battle zones, MASH tents, headquarters, etc. I do love watching their imaginations at work, but I do LOATHE the resulting mess.
(one step forward)

The boys are almost finished with their counseling sessions. The counselor thinks we have done a great job in processing their grief, which is obviously ongoing, and are equipped to continue. I, strangely, was more worried about Grant who seemed to suppress his emotions a bit in the last several months - since mid-summer. The counselor suggested that he did not see anything alarming in Grant, rather that perhaps Grant was farther along in his grief process. Last week, during Grant's session, he finally spoke of Daddy. He claimed, as he does to me all the time, that he does not miss Dad. This initially broke my heart when he made this proclamation to me this summer. Still, he told the counselor again he did not miss Dad. And upon further discussion (through a game) he told the counselor that his Daddy wasn't hurting anymore. It must have been very difficult for Grant to come home from Kindergarten every day at lunch time last year and watch his Daddy - his male role model, his protector, his human superman - slowly deteriorate. Kids in essence want their parents strong and happy. Anyway, Grant was able to process what was happening to Brian as he witnessed it first-hand with me last Fall and Winter. And he has come to terms with it as being okay for him and okay for Brian. In the end, that is the place we all need to be.
(one step forward)

I do miss Brian immensely right now. I miss the laughter he brought to my life with his sarcastic, dry, witty comments. He was great at a quick one-liner. And he thought I was funny. To get a laugh these days, I have to do things like this: While Gavin was practicing typing his spelling words last week (another medium we try to use to change up the mundane task of printing the same 15 words 4 days a week), I took MY turn. I printed the words: "Gavin is a poopy head." Which had Grant in stitches. Then I typed: "Grant is a fart-face." Which had Gavin in stitches and opened a can of worms I wish had stayed sealed shut with what they continued to type the rest of the evening. Still, that is the level to which I have to resort to get a laugh.
(neither forward nor back, or is that just back??)

Also, I miss having a driver. I have been to my parents' (4 hours one way) twice since the last weekend of September. This past weekend we went to Indiana to see McKenna get baptized. (4 hours one way) This weekend, we are going to Paducah, KY to see Kevin, Heather and the kids in their new house (at least 5 hours one way). In two weeks, I am going to St. Louis (3 hours one way). All that driving and being the only driver gets really old. I long to be a passenger again - reading, taking care of snacks and movies for the kids, channel surfing or manning the IPOD, telling Brian he is driving too slow, complaining about the route Brian chose, you know, all that kind of passenger stuff...
(one step back)

Also, I miss Brian's touch. Oh my LORD, how I miss being touched by him. I miss simply holding his hand. I miss his warmth next to me at night and intertwining our feet while we slept. I miss resting my head in his lap on the couch while he played with my hair. I miss snuggling in the crook of his arm. And yes, I mean I miss his touch in every other way your mind is taking you right now. Holy Cow, if someone could just tell me how to shut this off, I would really appreciate it. Honestly, I PRAY for these desires to flee me. And I can't believe I am sharing this with you, but I was NOT prepared for this part.
(one step back)

I have done a lot of road time as I outlined above and I am soon to do even more road time. One of the things this ROAD TIME allows is opportunity to think. WAY TOO MUCH TIME TO THINK. Since the kids pretty much watch movies the entire way, my mind just marches all over the world and back again. I think about Brian and how I miss him. But, mostly, when I think of Brian now, I smile. My memories of Brian are good ones now. I am not so consumed with the week of his death as I was. I am not so much caught up in my guilt of how I stopped believing in his healing. I think about the man he was. I think about how inspiring he was. I think about the silly things he said and did. When I think of him, I smile more than cry. From what I research, that is a pretty big step in grieving.
(one step forward)

I, also, think about the future. As I stated before, when I think about the future I now think about a different future instead of pitying myself for the future that won't be. I think about where I want to live. I still don't know. Part of me wants to go back to St. Louis to be closer to my family. I have not lived in the same state or within 4 hours of my family since 1995. I would love to experience that. But, I know it is not so easy to just pick up and go somewhere I haven't lived in 15 years. And, to do that, would be to take on an identify in my world of 'single mom of two boys.' It would no longer be - 'Angie, widow of Brian.' I am not ready to take on my identity without Brian, yet.
(neither forward nor back)

Also, when I think about the future, I think about the boys and me. I really don't want to be alone. Right now, I MAY be saying that more from the loneliness I feel every day and from the human desires I spoke of a few paragraphs above. (is anyone still reading this far along anyway?). Still, when I think of myself in the future, I don't see myself alone. I think when you experience a love like Brian and I had - a mutual, respectful, nurturing, physical, encouraging, spiritual, Christ-centered LOVE - you can't help but want part of that again. It is not a desire to replace that love. It is not a desire to redirect loneliness. It is simply a desire to love again.
In the right time...
When my confusion is less and my priorities are better in line with Christ-like thinking...

If God wills it....

I also think about what Brian would want for me and the boys. I credit Brian solely on my ability to begin a new outlook on the future for two reason. First of all, we were blessed in that we were able to have these conversations for years due to our circumstances. I know he wanted a new future for me and the boys. He spoke of it even while believing in his own potential future. And in knowing that, the guilt of thinking about it is subdued. Also, Brian rarely looked out on his life and lamented the "could have beens." Rather, he concentrated on the "here and nows" to get to where he wanted to be. He did not allow the fog and cycle of self-pity to enter his daily regimen of a good attitude and a positive outlook. I have no doubt if this situation were reversed, and it was I who had passed on to heaven, he would rejoice for where I was and would pick up the shattered pieces of his broken heart excited about the next adventure in his life. If I were in heaven, isn't that what I would want for him and my boys on earth until they joined me?
(one step forward)

Thanks for listening.

And now for something completely different....
That was for you, Babe. You LOVED it. Hopefully, Sean and John will appreciate it today and see a bit of you in it.

And even more different...
A few pictures because I haven't posted one in a long time...

Grant taking a pic of me doing a cartwheel. That's my game face. If only I could get my abs to be as cut as my calves. I'm working on it.
P.S. Yes, I am geeky enough to make sure I had a 2 to 1 ratio of forwards to backs. I may not keep a very clean house, but when the math doesn't add up, I have a sleepless night.
P.P.S. I would have chosen a different picture of myself, but since the camera went swimming in the lake in July, I have taken only a handful of photos and this is the most recent of me. AND, I wanted you to see that I still do cartwheels despite being 37 AND despite my grief. Sometimes there is no better therapy than a curse word or a cartwheel.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I am smiling as I write this

I am smiling as I write this.


For no reason in particular.
No big revelation.
No news.
Nothing, really.

I am smiling as I write this because I am trying to train myself to smile more in my everyday life.

You see, I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately - a lot of "what was I doing this time last year?" And this time last year, we had this news. I spent two hours the other night reading all my posts from October through January - reading the rollercoaster we called LIFE in those three months. Holy SHIT! By the way, I am trying, VERY UNSUCCESSFULLY, not to curse as much, but I figure I have pretty good control over at least not writing it out. Still, HOLY SHIT is all I can think worthy to write when I read the posts from last October til the time Brian died. I didn't even have the emotional stamina to keep reading past the news in January that we faced.

Still, while reading all of those posts - while quietly reflecting lately on what life was like a year ago and 7 months ago today when Brian passed -I couldn't help but notice a pretty familiar theme.

Despite the chemos, the ups and downs, the ever changing symptoms, the heartache, the insurance woes, the waste-of-time doctor visits, the sick kids in the midst of it all - despite ALL of that - I was able to instill some humor in my posts. And it wasn't forced. Forced humor is obvious. It was real. I was actually pretty funny sometimes.

While I know that JOY and HAPPINESS are not one in the same, we had JOY that led to happiness even during that traumatic time. Brian had a way of keeping the air light and enjoyable even while his body slowly faded. And it wasn't forced. Forced joy is obvious. He had true JOY in his heart that exuded from him and was absolutely contagious.

So, I write this with a smile on my face today because for now, I am going to force the smiles at home - a place where the smiles have been few lately. I figure if I write with a smile, then maybe something funny will come out again - maybe I will look back on this post one day and see some happiness in the midst of it all. I figure if I start forcing the smiles now, the joy and the happiness will have to follow suit.

For right now, though, my cheeks just hurt.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

how things seem to go in my life

I cannot tell you how often the most simple mundane events in my house evolve into complete disasters.

The kids were sick Monday evening causing them BOTH to miss Cub Scouts causing me to somehow find the time to make up BOTH events so they can earn the right to advance to the next level before the end of the year. Actually, they can still advance, but without the badge, and let's face it, they are in it for the bling.

I had to keep them home from school on Tuesday causing me to cancel the very first Bible Study that I am going to be leading.

Last night, I got my hair done, so grandma babysat for the kids. They did not do their reading and Gavin did not wear his protective garments to bed. Naturally, he wet the bed after batting over .500 for staying dry lately. Of course, I forgot all about the sheets until he reminded me around 30 minutes til bedtime tonight - delaying bedtime.

Today, I was not feeling well. Naturally, the kids had two days of sick energy built up causing them to be loud, obnoxious, rambunctious and half insane causing my headache to reach near splitting levels. And they missed the bus this morning because they were moving at record slow speeds.

This evening, Grant had a coughing spell that led to a gagging fit causing him to vomit a bit and spiral into a complete melt down freaking the heck out. And add to my laundry load. At bed time.

And then after bedtime, listening to Grant continue to cough, I decided to give him some cough medicine. He always requests a drink after ingesting said medicine, so I had him come to the bathroom to drink out of the faucet to save myself a trip to the main level to grab a cup. As I was giving him the cough syrup, he didn't drink it fast enough and it spilled all over his chest and left a splatter pattern on the carpet resembling a gory murder scene. So, I had a complete and total temper tantrum in front of my kids screaming and carrying on about how NOT ONE $&^% THING CAN GO SMOOTHLY AROUND HERE EVEN STUPID *&%$ SIMPLE THINGS. And I threw the towel I was using to clean up and stomped my feet a few times and then calmed down. Only to do it ALL OVER AGAIN when I realized that getting the cough syrup out of the carpet was a more daunting task than removing the paint I spilled on the carpet last week. So now I have an ammonia soaked towel that needs to be washed because I cannot stand the smell of it. Adding to my laundry load. At Bed Time. All of which could have been avoided if I had just gone downstairs for a cup of water to give after the medicine.

And I had to redo bedtime because I had to ask for forgiveness from the kids for the array of 4-letter words I emitted into the already ammonia polluted air in our house. All the while not feeling well.

Honestly, this is how my every day life goes all the time. I couldn't possibly make this up.

Like the time that Gavin came into my room in the middle of the night late this summer, and I had JUST read in my parenting book when your kids come into your room in the middle of the night over 75% of the time, it is due to a bathroom need. Instead of urging him to use the bathroom, I rolled over and invited him in. He fitfully slept the remainder of the night which meant I BARELY slept the remainder of the night. The next morning, he and my sheets were wet. Of course, we had someplace to be that morning, so I had to rush his shower and my shower. I had to wash my sheets and my mattress pad that I had just washed two days prior on the day that I had already separated a very neglected laundry hamper into 7 loads. My mattress pad is too big for my dryer, so I draped it over the deck to dry. When I retrieved it from the deck, it snagged on the railing. I had to spend 30 minutes pulling splinters out of my mattress pad that I had bought about 1 month prior.

It is in times like those that I struggle to find JOY.

And Grant is still coughing.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It gets easier. I guess.

This thing called grief - it gets easier. I guess. I guess the fact that I have successfully gone through every article of Brian's clothing and distributed it to friends or family, kept it for the boys, designated it as an item for the memory quilt, boxed it up for goodwill or simply called it a shoprag means that the pain is easing a bit. I guess, anyway. It is difficult to tell. I guess the fact that I have a pretty "normal" routine with the boys every day is a good sign that our transition to our new circumstances continues to go smoothly.

With the easing of the pain to get through day to day activities comes a strange sensation of not WANTING it to get any easier. I want to feel the absence of Brian. To not feel the absence or to become comfortable with it further evidents the reality of the situation. The surreal nature of life without Brian is wearing off. I'm not entirely okay with that. I think those that were closest with Brian are not entirely okay with that, either.

This thing called grief - it is confusing. It is contradictory. It is illogical. It is necessary, but it is confusing.

But it gets easier. I guess.

I am beginning to hate the word grief as much as I hated the word tumor. It is too vague. It sounds as though it should be more easily described or defined, yet I can't even begin to describe to people in words, actions or emotions what I am experiencing. What I feel, how I react, where my mind takes me - all surprise me one day to the next.

Grief. It is a word that we think encompasses a process or formula, but it is insufficient.


Yup, I hate that word.

Even so, it is getting easier.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Our special tonight is....

I love to cook. I really do. And I must say, I'm pretty darn good at it, too. I have developed a pretty good sense over the last 5 or so years for adding the right ingredients to shake up an old favorite, or pairing the right side with a new entree.

Brian was a true pleasure to cook for. He almost always enthusiastically tried my new creations. He was a great and gracious guinea pig. We agreed on most food selections (Except meatloaf. I hate meatloaf and I made it ONCE during our entire marriage. He LOVED meatloaf.). We enjoyed our meals together at home or out.

Since Brian died, and I am left with the world's pickiest eater and the world's heaviest snacker, I don't cook much anymore. It isn't worth the effort, mess and time to listen to someone incessantly complain about every bite, rendering mealtime less enjoyable than gnawing off my own arm.

Still, there was a time in my life just a few months ago, when I could whip up this Sweet and Sour Salmon and this Orange Sesame Shrimp without a recipe after a full day of blogging and googling random crap to prove my incredible intelligence housework and homework assistance. More impressive was that I always had those ingredients on hand, and limes had a purpose in my fridge for adding that little extra touch to something OTHER than my Corona.

Today, my fridge is stocked with plenty of Ranch dressing to enhance the CHICKEN NUGGETS my kids eat on a weekly basis instead of my salad that I NEVER MAKE anymore. Prepackaged cheese sticks have taken the place of fresh bricks of cheese. Danimals have overthrown the homemade dips and sauces. And leftovers in my fridge come from our Chili's, NOT my stove.

I think I sunk to a new low during my last grocery store visit, when my grocery cart looked more like that of the sad, lonely senior citizen than that of a young(ish) mother of two. It was filled with items like these:

And they actually tasted GOOD compared to the crap I have been eating.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Don't join the club...

Honestly, there are many days when I resent you. Yes, you random reader, who have no idea how lucky you have it. Last year when the first graders would bring home their journals from school and your kids would have random writings about unicorns and princesses and fairies and spaceships and dogs, MY first grader was bringing home a journal that said things like this:

One day, I went to the chrch and I sol my Dad. My Mom was crying. Then some people brot my Dad to the plas wher a caskit gets dug in the grawnd. Then I strted to cry to.

One day my Dad dide wan I was at my ants hous. Then when I got home I do not no what I did whin I got home.

One day my mom wos crying about my Dad. Then after my mom stopt crying we fixt ouwr tramprlen. Then my mom strted to cry agen. Then I sed wat is the mater mom. (in response to this day)

One day I sol my Dad in a cascit. And I felt his head And it was cold. And I sol a pichr of my Dad. And I love him. And I want him bak for evre.

And he drew THIS picture.

I bet most of your kids don't even know what a casket is or what it looks like. Regardless, I bet your kids are drawing pictures of their dads playing catch or reading books or mowing the lawn or playing golf. No, MY first grader? MINE? He was drawing a picture of his dad in a casket.

And if you were reading last month, you already know what MY kids were doing on an after-school afternoon while yours were eating snacks and doing homework.

So, I sometimes resent you and your normal life. Sometimes I think I just want to be surrounded by others who are like me.

And you know what MY kids did this Autumn Saturday while your kids were playing football, were at the movies or were playing video games? My kids were at camp. Camp Courageous, that is. A camp put on by one of our local hospice agencies for kids who have experienced a significant loss in their lives. And I resent you and your normal Saturday activities while my kids were at a camp for which the entire premise is A CHILD'S TRAGEDY.

I can only hope that my children took comfort in realizing they are not the only children living without a parent. I can only pray that they felt good knowing that their "normal" is the same "normal" many other kids get. Cuz, me? I didn't feel any better about it. I didn't feel any better looking around the room knowing these kids have the same crap to deal with as mine. In fact, the slightly glued together pieces of my broken heart fell apart all over today as I watched two six-year-old girls hold tattered teddies in one hand and grab each others wrists with the other hand delighting that "HER DADDY IS A GUARDIAN ANGEL TOO. WE ARE SO LUCKY!" I can only pray that made Grant feel a bit better to have those girls in his group. Because it didn't make me feel one ounce better.

It made me feel worse.

Then, I went to support a friend in a SHARE WALK she organizes - an event to remember babies lost in miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death. Babies who never had a chance to live life let alone experience a loss. I was surrounded by people grieving the loss of a life that was barely, if at all, lived.

When I went to pick up the kids, I found myself sharing "end-of-life, cancer, where do we go from here" stories with a sad, slightly anxious single dad who is left to raise a 6 year old daughter.

As I was resenting you, and wishing I could surround myself with others like me, I looked around the room at 70 kids and many more adults picking them up. I realized, I WAS surrounded by others like me. Others who also don't WANT their kids to be a part of this camp. Other single moms and dads left behind in the wake of tragedy and illness. Other kids just like mine living without moms and dads or aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas who were doing the parenting anyway. On the street, I would not have recognized that I was surrounded by those like me. It was only through Camp Courageous and the Sharewalk that I saw our common bonds called grief, loss, anxiety, loneliness, despair, sorrow and fear.

I also realized that as I resent you and your "normal" life and as I wish I could surround myself with others like me, I REALLY DON'T WANT to surround myself with others like me. I WANT you to have your "normal." I don't want others to be in my club. I don't want other kids in my kids' club. That doesn't help anything.

I will stop resenting you because the last thing I want is for you to walk in these shoes.