Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Another year comes to an end

The last time I posted here was in February 2015. I was still grieving my youngest son's death as well as that of my father.  I wrote about being in a rut, losing my ambition, beginning a new chapter as a virtual assistant. Little did I know then that my life was once again about to come to a screeching halt.

At that time, my oldest son was incarerated in the county jail awaiting trial for domestic violence. That alone was bad enough because ANYONE who knew Nik - REALLY knew him and his heart - would have never believed it. but his life since his Grandpa and baby brother died, had been a roller coaster of emotions and turmoil. His drinking was out of control and one week before the anniversary of Zachary's death, he used cocaine after drinking heavily. That night forever changed his life.

February brought a tailspin of emotions. He came home, spent a week doing projects around our house, and ended up in the hospital with a virus. He spent 5 days in intensive care and ended up on dialysis to lower his muscle enzymes due to rhabdomylosis caused from falling and laying too long in one spot. Nik came home and slept for 2 months. His energy level was never the same. He was crabby and sullen and barely smiled. He started back to work early April and we thought that would help his mood, and it did a little. He loved working! But it was not to last.

On April 23, Zachary's birthday, Nik set up a shrine in the basement, honoring his little brother. Then he injected himself with heroin. We will never know if this was intentional or if he was just so low he decided to start using again. This is the same guy who overdosed many times throughout his 20's. He had not used heroin for 8 years. Apparently this was enough to kill him.

All through 2015 I have been on the roller coaster of emotions they call grief.  I have good days and bad days. The good days are spent rmembering all the good memories. Then I feel angry at the loss of creative spirits with big hearts. On the bad days I blame myself. I ask myself why this happened to our family. Then I remember all the people I still have in my life. Those people get me through the dark times.

As 2015 finally comes to an end, I can honestly say I am looking forward to 2016.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Last week I received a call from someone I used to work with. During the call I mentioned that I had left the mental health field and he seemed surprised. It got me thinking about how mentally and physically drained I was when I  lost my job became unemployed took a sabbatical. I reflected on that for several hours, wondering why I decided to leave the field entirely. After all, I worked hard to blaze a trail for others to work in the mental health field who lived the experience but did not have a degree. And then it hit me.

I've lost my ambition.

During my sabbatical I have gone through several experiences. Many "first-times". First knee replacement in 2011, first 5K in 2012, first time I have lost a parent in 2013, first grandson born in 2013, first loss of a child in 2013, and first time I realized I was floundering with no consistent direction - in 2015. I am in a rut.

I know what I would like the end result to be. I have a goal. I have a bucket list; I have a LOOOOOONG bucket list.

I thought it was because I just can't seem to develop a plan and STICK to it. But I think it is more than that. I think that once again I am in the position of blazing another career trail. One that will carry me from "pre-retirement" through retirement. One that does not require another degree. After all, I got a Bachelors degree and 2 years later I lost my job. As a result, I will be paying off student loans for another 10 years. A career that allows me to use my creativity, to work from home, to work around family schedules, to bring in the income I need, and provides an opportunity to help others.

Virtual Assistant - working for others based from home using technology that is already at our fingertips. It pulls everything I have been doing for the past 4 years together under one title and allows for flexibility and creativity. I can use the skills I have already developed during my 20+ career and in college, but still affords me the opportunity to develop more.

So, do I have that kind of ambition left in me? You betcha!

Friday, January 23, 2015


Wednesday we took Avery to the Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore. We had never heard of it so we didn't quite know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that we happened to be there on FREE DAY. It ended up being a very nice place with live turtles, snakes, spiders, and other small repiles. There were also large jungle animals that were stuffed (statues as Avery said). We were doing pretty well, comparing the animal skulls and teeth they had on display to our own, and learning about various monkeys, mountain lions, mountain goats, and mammouths. And then we came across the lions.  

At first we weren't sure whether to allow Avery to see this or steer her away, which would have been next to impossible given the location. She questioned why the lion was trying to eat the goat. We could have told a story about how they play in the jungle, but she is too smart for that and saw the looks on the faces and knew instantly that the lion was eating the goat. So we compared it to the Lion King movie and talked about the circle of life and how lions survive in the jungle by eating some of the animals. Her response?  "Oh look! There IS a giraffe here!"

 After a good lunch of pancakes and bacon, we stopped at a friends farm so Avery could gather eggs. She loves to eat eggs and loves animals so we thought she would get a kick out of spending time with the chickens and gathering the eggs herself.

Once the eggs were gathered, it was time to feed the chickens, ducks, and turkeys. We now call her the turkey whisperer. Last year we visted a zoo and spent time in the baby goat pen and those little goats just followed her everywhere. This year, it was the turkeys.

All in all it was a great day. We came back to Gaga's house and made bread and had a tea party. I love spending time with her. At 5, she sounds like she is 25. Her reasoning is better than many adults. 

While the trip to the museum was fun, we don't want to over do it. Next time, we will bake cookies.

Monday, January 5, 2015

80 Days with Judy - Updates

Since I haven't posted regularly I felt it was important to bring you up-to-date on several projects I have discussed on here. I will start with my Mom since that has been the most consistent.

Dad died in April of 2013 which kicked into gear the next phase of downsizing for my Mom. She had started Phase 1 before that but had not taken it seriously. We basically cleaned her bedroom at that point, giving away books she had read and not really liked, magazines she had read, etc. After Dad's death however she realized there was no need to keep all of his clothes and knowing she would need to move "someday" she wanted me to start Phase 2 - the REAL downsizing process - preparing to sell the house.

I referred to the time I spent with my Mom as "80 Days with Judy" since frankly, given her health concerns at the time, I knew I was going to be there a while, and - her name is Judy. It was also in reference to a scrapbook I made for her of our first vacation together a few years earlier that I called "8 Days with Judy."

This was clearly going to be a longer vacation.

We made it through downsizing part 1, part 2, and part 3 and she moved to Minnesota in late September 2013. She loved her new little townhouse that was very different from the home she built with my Dad. I left her a week after getting her settled and came home to rest and get back on track with my Sabbatical, look for a full time job with benefits, and reconnect with my hubby, grandchildren, and dog.

Two months later, she wanted to come home.

Well, she lasted over a year in Minnesota, but in October of 2014 she announced that she IS moving home and directed me to start looking for a place in Minooka so her friends will come to see her. "80 days with Judy" lasted more like 380 days the first time and was rather stressful at times, but this's going to be fun. She is healthier and we have already completed Phases 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the downsizing process in Minnesota. (She discovered her small house was smaller than she thought.)

So stay tuned. "80 Days with Judy, Adventures with Mom" begins this month and you will find those stories here.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Welcome 2015!

Seriously? It has been 16 months since my last post? I knew it had been awhile, but sheesh!

So much has happened since then. I left off with the post about my son dying. I will post more about that in the days to come but I want to highlight the best part of 2013/2014. The momentous occasion that always seems to be "forgotten" in all the details of all the tragedy.

Well let me tell you. This little guy is not one to be forgotten. Meet Preston Elijah.
"Hey lady, what at YOU doing?"
Preston is almost 2 (in March) and was born just days before my Dad past away in 2013.  I spent so much time with Avery at this age but circumstances have been different with Preston. First, his Mommy decided to be a stay at home Mommy and start her hair business, traveling to customers homes when Daddy was home with the kids. While that can be a challenge at times, she loves it and I do get to spend time with them both, just not consistently like before. I guess I will survive. She enjoys spending so much time with the kids.

Second, if you remember, I was looking for a job. Enter "Judy's house of horrors adventures".  For several months after Dad died I "lived" at my Mom's, tending to her physical and emotional needs, downsizing and prepping their home for sale, and moving her north to Minnesota. Being so far away from the grand kids killed me. I had a glimpse once again of what it would be like to work full time and I was not impressed. Mom also felt bad so she suggested I work for her. I must admit, that helped a lot by taking the pressure of finding a job off and it allowed me the flexibility to do contract work for the government.

Third, Zack died and that sent me into a tailspin of moving full steam ahead without stopping to think about grief. I operated like that for several months. The weeks leading up to the one year anniversary left me feeling unsettled in a way I cannot explain. To make it worse, our oldest son went off the deep end and landed himself in jail. He is still there.

Also in 2014 my brother was diagnosed with cancer, had surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and is heading back in for more surgery. But so far the tests are good. We have our fingers crossed.

Christmas 2014 was just weird. Fall of 2014 this year brought depression, but in the midst of all of that was joy. And it looked like this:

My middle son Nathan and his family
How can I be sad? 2015 will be a good year. Mom is moving back home. Minnesota is too cold and too far away from her friends. We didn't bother to remind her that it was HER idea to move there in the first place.

I will write more in 2015. I will sell more Avon and I will receive more contracts. I might even find a job with benefits. But until then, GrammaGaga will continue to stalk Nathan's family and count her blessings.