Friday, September 2, 2016

Never Again

The other night I was surfing channels and came across the movie Brooklyn.  My father-in-law (British of Irish descent) bugged me non-stop last spring to go see it since they had seen it twice in the theatre.  The movie is about a young Irish immigrant who comes to America and falls in love with an Italian American, yadda, yadda, yadda. Anyway, I happened to start watching about 10 minutes before the main character finds out her older sister has died back in Ireland.  As she's being consoled by her parish priest, she realizes the finality of situation as he explains that the sister will be buried the next day.  Tears welling in her eyes, she looks up at him and asks, "But Father, I'll never see her again will I?"

I started crying.  Tears rolling down my face.  It's been almost 7 years since Jeanne died.  I think about her every day, but I try not to think about her being dead, as strange as that might seem.  My big sister is dead and I'm never going to see her again.  The finality of that fact is still unreal and hard to accept.

Sorry for the long absence. Just haven't had the time or the writing mojo.

Too much has happened both good and bad to fill you in on how things are going in our family.  All the kids are fine in varying degrees of "fineness."  All five carry bundles of anxiety and I work hard trying to help them each find ways to handle that load.  The difficulty of that job is compounded by my own anxious bundle.

We have three high school teenagers in the house now.  Just that fact is a bit scary.

I am reminded daily what a blessing it is to have a 9 year old in the house.

Being independent and in college doesn't mean you still don't need parents, even though you still can't accept them as your family.

Marriage is hard. I wish it wasn't. I've lowered my expectations in that area which makes it both easier to accept and sadder.

Not sure why I decided to write today. The reason for me starting this blog is still as difficult as it was 6 years ago to accept.  Hoping to start writing again since it has always been a great way to deal with that reality.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Well it's funny with age
you get to the stage
your head and your heart
Aren't on the same page
Your heart will wait forever but your skin says you're getting old

Good things come to those who wait
well the lights were up and it was getting late
She wore my coat because she said that she was cold
Funny how quick a coat turns into a ring
Looking back now I don't remember a thing
We don't talk about the writing on the wall
Somedays we don't talk at all
But when the lights are dim
And my time is free
I sometimes think about the good times that I missed
Sometimes think about the girls I could have kissed
But I settled for her
And she settled for me
-"Settled" by Passenger

He was my high school friend's big brother.  He was cute, funny, smart and a soccer player.  The complete package to my 19 year old self.

He's still the perfect package to me.  The package is a bit beat up.  Marred by resentments, hurts, family stress, breakages of trust and pain.

I'm no perfect package these days either.  Grumpy.  Yelling way too much.  Tired.  Sad.

I don't want to settle for our status quo.  I don't want "this" to be it, with us waking up one day with the kids out of the house and that house filled with a deafening silence of two people who lost their way.

I love him too much for that.  I love "us" too much for that.

Friday, January 22, 2016


A snow storm of historic proportions just started.  As the flakes peacefully fall from the sky, our family is prepped and ready for an extended hunkering down with plenty of food, games, firewood, and non-stop watching of the weather channel (that's all D our resident meteorologist).  It feels a bit like Christmas Eve, with the anticipation of something momentous to come.

I haven't written in a long time.  A really long time.  There are lots of reasons for this fact.  Busy with family stuff.  A horrible work situation where I had to request to be taken off of the project I had been running due to a hostile work environment.  A pretty awful 20th wedding anniversary and further marital woes. The holidays.  A vacation to FL after Christmas with the kids (car broke down on way, I threw up the whole time, with a flat tire the day after we got there).  Fatigue on my part both physically and emotionally that limits my urges to write in this space.  This laundry list, though, doesn't seem that much different from my usual venting about the stress that is my life.

This extended writing break seems different.  My life in the last few months hasn't been bad as much as it hasn't been good.  This distinction based on the consistency of the normal bad things, but my inability to find as much good on a daily basis.

I have not been feeling very well on all counts.  I've had a hard time shifting out of the sadness from October. Totally disconnected from those around me and struggling to simply get all the stuff done I need to in order to keep our family afloat.  I have tried to be normal mom for the kids, but I think they have noticed.  A especially often tells me how much he loves me and expressing his thanks for doing basic things.  Physically, I've lost weight (not good) and am so very tired all the time.  I wake up most mornings with awful anxiety and dread for the day ahead.

Maybe my writing avoidance is my inability to admit how bad it really is.

I have been trying to change the tide.  I've been going to therapy and at least admitting to her how badly I've been feeling.  I've tried to make sure I get to my indoor soccer game once a week.  Power naps during the day to restart my engine and clear the brain.  Reading before I go to bed to settle my thoughts.  I'm trying, but it feels like I'm trying to swim out of a rip current and not making much process.

Not sure where I'm going with this post.  I'm sorry for not writing as much, and sorry to my blogging friends for my lack of comments. I've been reading, just not finding the time to comment.  A difficult time connecting with those in my real life, is exponentially harder in the blogosphere.

This blizzard has provided the gift of uninterrupted time.  Its weekend occurrence allowing me the freedom from work demands and kid logistics.  D is currently making cookies.  L wants to play a game.  I may indulge this with a quick dice game and then maybe take a nap. 

I hope everyone being affected by the blizzard stays safe and warm. As long as we don't lose power, I'm looking forward to this forced period of slowing down.  I definitely can use it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


6 years ago today I stood before hundreds of people who knew and loved Jeanne and Mike and spoke these words.  I was surrounded by my sisters as we each took our turn to talk. I was at the most peace at that moment that I had felt since the accident.


Good morning and thank you everyone for coming to be here with our family.  Words can’t begin to describe how much we appreciate the love and support we’ve received over the last several days.  Please know that even if we have not yet been able to thank you personally we know how much our family is loved and are blessed by the prayers for us and the girls.  K and I would especially like to thank our friends and K's family for helping us get through this and taking care of our boys.  We are truly blessed to have you in our lives.

Several times during the last few days, as appointments have been made and jobs have been doled out amongst ourselves, I’ve found myself going through my head making a plan and deciding who is going to do what.  Whenever it involves us sisters together I’ve automatically thought, me, CA, Jeanne, C and S.  The five us have always been a unit.  Moving forward without Jeanne is still unbelievable.

As those of you who know us well, we are an extremely close family.  C and I joke sometimes that at times we’re in each others lives a little too much.  From E’s latest swimming achievement, to A’s broken arm to the latest antics from W and I, the family communication system goes into effect and within hours or sometimes even minutes, we all know what’s going on and a shared laugh is circulating or help is on the way. 

The family communication system is never more effective than when we are sharing the sporting lives of our kids.  And Jeanne and Mike were the ultimate sports parents, whether it was showing a good example to their kids of a healthy lifestyle with their running and biking (usually with a dog in tow and jog stroller), or cheering loudly from the sidelines or pool decks.  One of my favorite things is our Monday morning phone conversations recounting scores from the day before and how our respective little athletes had performed.  This is actually one of the only areas that I was able to give Jeanne some advice and I liked that my "big" sister would listen to me when it came to soccer and the girls.

It goes without saying that Jeanne and Mike were amazing people and parents.  Jeanne taught me how to be a mom.  She is always my go-to person with questions, from how to set up a nap schedule to what to do with fevers and homework.  She has been my lifeline.  I wouldn’t be the mother I am today without her.

But Mike and Jeanne also had their wild side.  My sons A and D love me to tell the Aunt Jeanne legend about when she ate her entire hotdog dinner before we had even said grace.  I’ll never forget the phone call mom received one Monday afternoon from the principal at O’Connell that Jeanne was in trouble for going off-campus during lunch and getting a diet coke.  When I was a senior in high school, my sister-in-law Sonya and I travelled to James Madison to see the campus and stay with Zhea and she actually bought us beer.  Mike taught me how to smoke a cigar.  Or who doesn’t recently remember K’s 40th birthday party or any of the McNutt Christmas parties, where Jeanne and Mike were the life of the party and more often than not the last ones to leave.  Even then, they both showed us how important family and friends were to them.  I can’t remember any party or family get together that didn’t end with a huge hug from Mike and him telling me we have to do this more often, getting our families together to share a meal, drink a beer (or two), play some waffle-ball or just share time together.

Mom and Dad, I am so sorry for your loss.  As a parent myself, I can only imagine what you’re going through.  But please know, that our closeness and the love we have shared as sisters is because of you.  Your example of love, patience, humor, and forgiveness has helped us beyond measure.  Even though our world is forever changed I have faith that this bond you’ve created between us will never be broken and will help us in the days, months and years to come.

Mike Sr., Molly, Tim, Sara, Joe, John, and Andrew I am also so sorry for your loss.  Please know how much Mike was loved by all of us.  He had the great honor of being the first brother-in-law.  And he truly was our brother.  His love, patience and kindness to all of us sisters was amazing.  From early on he was at every soccer game, family event, home project and important family moment.  I know that he has helped K, DG and CS be the wonderful brother-in-laws, husbands and fathers that they are today.

E, M, MG and KT.  All four of us were there within minutes after each of you were born.  I have never seen your parents happier than on each of those days.  Your parents loved you the moment you came into their lives and it has multiplied each and every moment of every day.  You were the center of their lives.  Please remember that even though they’re not here, that love will never go away.  Their immense love pulled all of us into your lives.  Your parents left us that legacy and we will always love you and will do our very best each day to remind you of that love and take care of you.

I really don’t know what else to say and then at the same time there is still so much to say.  Jeanne and Mike I love you and I miss you.  Again, everyone thank you for all of your love and support, please keep us and girls in your prayers.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

October 24, 2015....6 Years of Balloons to Heaven

MG, L and KT

Sister C, A and M

D, K and Sister S

M and D

Sister C and cousin W

The men of the family

The twins that are not twins

Brothers J and W

Our sweet M

Cousins I and MG

D and M with baby cousin S (with A in the back)

My parents

The whole crew (minus E)

Just the kids

Me and K

My family

The boys

Our family's goofy picture

The family

Cousins and siblings

L melts my heart with that smile

The littlest cousins H and S

It was a good morning overall.  I was very tired from a late night the night before travelling to and from to see E and delivering her balloons (she was touched and grateful). As the kids played and adults talked, I was able to hide behind my camera and capture all the love in our family alongside the bittersweet reason for our gathering.  I had a good cry on the way home from A's cross country meet by myself in the car.

Later that night the cousins (minus MG and KT) all hung out at sister S's house while the adults (minus my parents, CA and KM) went out to dinner and had a few beers.  Telling funny stories about Jeanne and Mike minus the kids around was nice.

I feel emotionally hung over today.  We've been busy with lots of soccer all day so tonight has been the first time I've had to post.  I'm hoping to move through this week of remembering the days after the accident as just that, moments to remember, not another round of heightened anxiety.

Another year without them.  Another year of moving on.

I love you Jeanne and Mike.  I miss you every day and hope you know how much.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Last night L and I got home about 7:30 after his soccer practice and I was immediately barraged by the 15 year olds.  A's foot is sore with a little bit of tendinitis and he's worried about his run on Saturday (side note: based on when he's running, he can come to balloons!!).  He's buying a tiger salamander and since the last pieces of the habitat he's making arrived yesterday he wanted to know when we could order it.  M on the other hand wanted to give me a detailed explanation of why their biology lab report was going to suck and how it's not her fault and she thinks one of the girls is faking a concussion to get out of doing the work.  She also needed a hug.  And then another.  And then for good measure just hang on me with her head on my shoulder.  L meanwhile needed to get his gear off and was hungry.  Simultaneously E was texting me from school NOT to come to the meet tomorrow because "her body is completely nonfunctional in the water" and I should just come down to bring her to dinner.  This was all after my dad called me on the way home to say, "Take it or leave it, but I think M might be in a funk and I wasn't sure you noticed."  Really grandpa?  You think? Thank goodness D was at soccer practice.

As all their needs were pelting me, I had this sudden feeling that I need to be bigger than myself this week.  An image of myself as Baymax from the movie Big Hero 6 popped into my head.  Blowing myself up to be their cushion and comfort. Expanding myself to be more than I really feel like being this week.

What I'd like to do is stay under the covers all week.  Watch mindless tv.  Listen to songs that trigger some good therapeutic cries. Do lots of nothing.  Sit and be little sister Peg who lost her big sister and wants nothing more than to be able to talk her one more time.  Hear her laugh again. Give her one more hug.

But that Peg can't be in the cards much this week.  The kids need me to be present and let them know everything is ok.  My parents need me to show them we are all alright.  My sisters need me to be the rock.  

So here's a pep talk to big Peg: We'll get through this week. You got this.  You've done it before and you'll do it again.

I believe in this road we’re on, but grace going nearly gone,
Days are quick and these nights getting long
I see you wonder if you will sit alone, my heart’s always with you but I fail with my skin and bones
Great lights in darkness have been shown
I hear you laughing still, oh conquer worlds we will
Warmer waters are waiting near for us, but leave right now my dear we must
For I fear our love grows cold, but if we go we will save our weary souls
Oh cling to me promise you will, as we travel through these valleys and hills
When all is said and done I will seek your name still
For love is no grandstand nor a pocket piece, when my hands are not dirty it shakes me to my knees
And all the world sees, that it’s gone from me
My heart and my soul are home in your eyes, so bring just yourself leave the rest behind
This body of mine oh it would move a mountain for that body of yours shining in the ocean
I hear you laughing still, conquer worlds we will

--Save Our Weary Souls, The J Band

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What You Can't Know

This post is for the several people this week who have said to me, "It's been 6 years since the accident?  It must be not as bad after all that time."  Or for good measure, "The girls are doing so well and seem so happy.  They must be over their parents dying."  To those people, this is how this week feels.

As irrational as it sounds, it feels like we are going to live the accident and the aftermath all over again.  The anticipation is physically and emotionally draining.  The trauma of that night is permanently imprinted in my mind.  As the memories come back in spurts throughout the day, I have an anxious feeling in my stomach, my chest feels tight like a heavy weight is sitting on it and I get hives.  I feel sleepy and tired. The only way to escape this feeling is to close my eyes and try to take a quick nap.  20 minutes sleep can often reset my body and mind.  This is all after years of therapy which have helped with my day-to-day, but can't stop the tide of feelings this week.

6 years is actually a very difficult number.  The accident happened on a Saturday and the anniversary this year also falls on a Saturday.  This means that the accident day and all the days following will fall exactly on the same days.  You may think that it sounds silly, but that makes it even worse.

Triggers for the trauma come in all forms. Sunday night we ordered Chinese for dinner because we had a crazy day.  I didn't think anything of it, until I sat down to eat and was transported back to a Saturday night 6 years ago when the Chinese food arrived minutes before I got a phone call from my sister that there had been an accident.  I couldn't eat.  In general, I'm having problems eating (see above paragraph about the anxious stomach).

Grieving while parenting grieving children is hard.  E and M are both struggling.  Thank goodness I was able to get M into an extra therapy session last night. The boys are worried about her and have been giving her extra hugs and attention.  L is very clingy and wants to make sure everyone in his family is alive.  A is worried that he is going to miss balloon day because he's running varsity in the championship cross country meet this Saturday. He knows how important it is for him to be there for M.  I think my physical symptoms are worse because I bottle up my own grief in order to support the kids.

The accident suddenly took away two people in our family.  We miss them terribly, but it also was absolutely devastating to the fabric of our family.  The decisions surrounding who was going to take the girls and ultimately splitting them up were gut wrenching.  Those decisions have had permanent negative impacts on our relationships.  My parents have never been the same.  Guilt, hurt, jealousy, and anger have seeped into our family bonds.  It's hard to handle at times.

I've documented for years here in this space how our immediate family has been affected.  In many ways, we have been defined by our trauma.

Grief can be very isolating.  There are often feelings of an "otherness" that you can't understand unless you have experienced it. Empty statements of support or canned phrases like "it will get better with time" only make me think something is wrong with me for feeling this way.  It sometimes feels like we're living in an alternate universe.

So for those people who think we've "gotten over it" that is definitely not the case.  Other people may not have the same reactions, but this is my reality.  A reality I wouldn't wish for anybody, let alone my children.  Unless you've been through something similar, you can't know how this feels.  So rather than offering platitudes or, as a friend did last night when I told her I was struggling, text me stupid pictures of kittens hoping I have a better day, simply say, "I'm sorry."  "I'm thinking of you." "I love you."

Anything else just makes an already awful situation worse.