Monday, May 30, 2011


"You're such a strong person"

"I can't believe all that you do"

"You are doing an amazing job"

"There is a special place in heaven for you"

These are just words.  I hear them (or read them).  For a brief second I try to believe them.  Then the doubt creeps in and I realize with a certain clarity that I'm completely overwhelmed.  I'm failing on so many levels.  I wonder how much longer I can sustain this marathon.

But some words mean something.  Some words can cut to the chase and at that moment mean everything.

My husband of 15 years, friend for over 20, the one person I really need to believe in me just told me that I was "mentally weak."  Ouch.  Yes, we were in an argument and sometimes people say things that they don't really mean.  But after he said it the first time I waited and asked him directly, "do you really think I'm mentally weak?"  "Yes," he declared.  Cold.  No feeling.  Double ouch.

The fight started over me walking into the computer room to get him for dinner to find him with a brand new computer.  What?  Our family computer has been acting weird for the last few days.  This morning I couldn't get windows to start up and kept getting a black screen with the cursor showing without doing anything else.  I worked on it for a bit, but family demands ensued and I had to get on with our day.

When I questioned the fact that we actually had no idea what was wrong with the computer and that it could be something simple he told me that I had whined about it and then he did something.  I asked him what he was planning to do about all of files and computer games that had just been downloaded (including a new one A bought with his birthday money just last week).  My main point was that a major decision like this should have included me and that I wouldn't do the same thing.  This could have been a quick trip to the geek squad and $100 later a fixed computer without all the hassle.  He then brought up the fact that I waste money on things like "therapy" and "the cleaning lady every other week" and that if I want to spend money on a new fridge (we need one) I need to start cutting back.  Huh?  Seriously, the argument was ridiculous.  When I tried to point out to him that I need therapy to help me get through the week, the bombshell comment landed.

Lots of other hurtful things were said, but those four words, "you are mentally weak" were like a dagger.  I went upstairs, locked the door, climbed under the covers and sobbed.  After a few minutes the tears abated and a knock on the door produced L, needing me.  I read him a few books to calm myself down and went downstairs to all the demands from the kids.   I didn't eat dinner.  I have no idea how I'm functioning.  I'm taking a few minutes right now to get this out or I think I'll explode.  Laundry needs to get done.  Lunches made.  The kitchen and dinner that I didn't eat cleaned up.  Oh, and my brother-in-law just called and I have to do swimming in the morning (up at 3:40, home again at 6:30).  I feel like crying just thinking about it.

I don't know why words of encouragement are hard to hear, yet K's words rang true.  Of all the people in the world, he is supposed to believe in me.  Take care of me.  Love me.

Some words can mean everything...I love you.  I need you.  I believe in you. Others can make you question everything you thought you believed in.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An Empty House

When the family finally decided to split the girls up it was pretty much universally decided that we should just rent their house and not sell it.  The market being what it is, blah, blah, blah...But what really motivated the decision was that none of us were ready to let it go.  Weeks after the accident C, S and I cleaned out Jeanne and Mike's room, bagged up their clothes to donate and pack up special items to save for the girls.  Over a bottle of wine we cried, laughed and did the most difficult thing we've ever had to do together.  When E and M finally moved in with us last August, we moved all of their bedroom stuff and as much as they wanted to bring in terms of toys, books, bikes, etc.  Since that move, the house has been sitting as if no one has touched it.  Dishes in the cabinets.  Pictures on the walls.  Like it was waiting for its family to come home.

We set the goal as a family as April for finally moving forward with renting and cleaning out the house.  My dad worked with an agent to find a family to rent and the date was set for June 23rd.  After months of learning how to move forward as a family and trying to find some sense of normalcy, the pain and stress of the previous year came rushing back.  Despite giving ourselves time and making a solid plan about how we were going to make decisions, it has been an excruciating process.  A clean line has been drawn within the family between those who place value and meaning on the things in the house and those that just don't.  CA and KM have been plundering the house for months, taking things as they see fit (and then lying about it of course).  S and my dad only see the stuff as junk and are amazed at the amount of things a family of 6 had accumulated. 

But C and I have been heartbroken over everything.  Just because their parents died doesn't mean that E and M's childhood goes away.  Unless I specified, toys of theirs were automatically assumed to be donated if CA didn't want them for the little girls. "It's just stuff, " declares S.  But I look at the Arthur match game and it reminds me of playing it for hours with E and M and how Jeanne used to play for real and try to win against the kids.  I remember buying all of the furniture for E for her Madeline house one Christmas.  Jeanne saved all of their artwork and papers from school.  I feel responsible as their guardian to also be the guardian of their childhood memories.  Our living room is currently filled with toys, dolls, and bins filled with mementos of a childhood once carefree and far from the reality of car crashes and funerals.

Furthermore, we let E have some say in what is being saved and what is being donated and it's the first time she's been allowed to help make decisions in what happens to her family.  It was hard for her, but I think an important step therapeutically.  To E, it isn't just stuff, it represents her family.  It's not just stuff.  I'm sorry but it's not. She is old enough and mature enough to be able to make decisions about what she wants to save of her family home. 

I know it's not going to bring them back, but being in that house still makes me feel close to them.  I can sit in it and fantasize in my mind that they're coming back.  Not gone forever.  Jeanne and Mike loved that house.  Mike put in all the hardwood floors himself.  They had a designer work with them on the kitchen and family room.  The back yard is awesome.  Some of my favorite family memories are of barbecues  there, sitting on the back deck watching the kids run around, zoom down the zipline or taunt each other on the badminton court. 

Jeanne was such a homebody.  She was never truly happy until she was home with her family.  Their house and "all their stuff" reflected that.  Finally cleaning out the house and actually letting another family live in their house feels like losing them all over again.  It's been 18 months since they died and the shock and loss still feel so fresh.  I wonder often whether we'll be able to move forward.  Will our lives be forever defined by this terrible tragedy.  And if it is, is that a bad thing?  How could something so devastating not have profound effect on our lives.

It's all just still so sad.  I miss them so much.  Letting the house go and going through all of their belongings feels like another loss.  Another step forward, but another reminder that they aren't coming back. 

Friday, May 27, 2011


Weekends in our house used to be a time of respite.  Yes, we did have sports activities and parties but we also sprinkled in there naps and just hanging around the house relaxing, playing and laughing.  Nowadays, our weekends are just a continuation of the marathon.  This weekend in particular is ridiculous.  Three soccer tournaments (all at different locations) and a swim meet.  E also has two graduation parties and starts her life guarding job.  Somewhere in there everyone also needs to get to mass and finish homework.  We are getting help, but that actually adds a whole level of stress and guilt needing help from my family. 

Today is just one of those days that I want my life back.  I know it's not very healthy to go there mentally.  I miss our old family.  I miss our lazy weekends.  I guess I'm just feeling sorry for myself and tired.  It's been a rough couple weeks and I could use a break.  Sigh.


I think we have a pretty normal marriage.  We've been together since college, married 15 years, with three wonderful active boys.  We definitely have reached that comfortable stage with each other.  We know each other better than anyone else.  We make each other laugh (something I think is really important in a marriage).  In the bedroom, things still remain fun, passionate, and satisfying for both of us.

But we also have our issues.  I don't think we communicate as well as we should.  This often leads to me feeling he's really doesn't know what's going on in our family life.  He's often overly critical and I'm too controlling.  When we're both stressed, we tend to take it out on each other.  It is often not a pretty sight.

The last 18 months has put a definite strain on our marriage.  It has gotten exponentially worse since the girls moved in.  I do acknowledge that K has stepped up.  He has taken on all of the financial mess that is the girls' assets and the crazy reporting requirements.  He drives E to school three times a week and picks M up from practice twice a week.  He usually cleans up dinner and is good about cleaning up L's toys in the family room every night.  He'll make late night runs to the store for milk, juice, lunch things, etc.  Most of these things, though, were things he already did before the girls came.  In many ways, his life really hasn't changed.  He goes to work, coaches, and often spends his evenings watching sports or on the computer managing his many fantasy sports teams.  He golfs when he wants and plays on his softball team.

I want him to be happy.  I do.  I want him to have fun and enjoy his life.  But.  My life has completely turned upside down.  I am dealing with this awful grief.  We've added two traumatized children to our family.  Our kids are struggling with this.  Instead of two busy older kids, we now have four.  I still have to work.  I do all the laundry, cooking, cleaning (plus cleaning lady every other week), homework, doctor's appointments, therapy, schedules, bedtime, pets, wake up, school lunches, and everything that's involved with running a busy family.  I am completely overwhelmed.  Add on top of this the grief, my own trauma from that night, and dealing with the emotional aspect of all of this with the 5 kids.  I have lost weight.  I don't sleep.  I haven't played soccer in months.  I don't get any other exercise.  Frankly, I'm a mess.

So seeing him continue with his fun is really annoying.  I resent it.  I can't help it.  I know things aren't always equal in a marriage, especially when it comes to the kids, but after a long day after I've finally gotten all the kids to bed, and lunches still be to be made, laundry folded and work for my job still needs to be done and he's laying on the coach watching TV, I just can't take it.  I've tried to talk to him about this, but it goes nowhere and he just ends up getting defensive and mean.  I regularly feel like he doesn't care about me.  I know he loves me, but that's not the same as everyday caring about me.

As things have gotten hard with the girls, he completely checks out.  He comes up with reasons why this is the case, whether it's work or coaching.  He doesn't want to hear about my stress or pain.  For example, the past few weeks I've also had to deal with cleaning out Jeanne and Mike's house.  We're renting it in June.  Dealing with my dad, sisters, E and M's feelings, and going through their stuff has been extremely painful.  I feel responsible for packing and saving all of the girls' things.  It is a huge job has meant a lot of work here at our house and theirs.  K hasn't even noticed.  He acts like it's not happening.  On a pretty big day, when I was raw with stress and grief, he ignored me and hid in the basement watching baseball.  It really hurts.  Any concern about my health or weight comes out as criticism not truly caring.

I often feel like he's angry at me.  When I've complained about everything, he's said to me at least twice that I "wanted this," meaning taking the girls in.  Instead of a decision we made together, because nobody else in the family would take them, it's my fault.  It was my sister that died.  These are my biological nieces.  I feel guilty like I did this to him and our family.   To make this work we need to be a team.  I feel like we're anything but that.  I feel so alone.

So this new life has put a definite strain on our relationship.  It wasn't perfect before and this has definitely not made it better.  I don't know what to do.  I don't want to worry about it because I honestly don't have the energy.  I do know that something needs to change.  The kids need to see a positive healthy marriage to feel safe.  I just don't know how to get there.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Still here...

...I'm still here but am so overwhelmed I don't honestly know how I'm getting through each day.  I have tons of posts being written in my head....renting the girls house, the boys, work, feeling alone, marriage in times of stress, etc.  I'm hoping to have time soon to write.  I've missed this outlet.  I just don't have time to write let alone breathe these days.

So I'm still here, just barely keeping my head above water.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Mother's Day Schedule

My mother's day was not idyllic.  We had a really busy Saturday with 2 soccer games, a kid birthday party at the local park/pond for A and 5 friends, and a family birthday party for A and K Saturday night for 30 people.  My tiredness from Saturday probably didn't help my mood for Sunday...a lack of shower also didn't help.  It was actually like most of our Sundays.  Crazy.  Stressful.  On the go.  Here's how my day went:

--Up at 8am.  Got A, M and L up, fed and dressed for church.  E was swimming and arrived home at 8:40 for us to make 9am mass.

--Home from church at 10:15 for about 5 minutes before heading out for D's soccer game at 10:30.

--Home at 12 from game, fed A, L and M and headed out at 12:15 for M's game at 1:30 (she had to be there 45 minutes early).  Gave my mom her present at the game because of course my parents went to M's game and not any of the boys' events this weekend (I'm not getting AT ALL resentful).

--K, A and D met us at M's game.  He took the A, D and M home while I brought E to the store for flowers and the cemetery.

--Got home at 4 and left at 4:15 with D and L for A's 4:30 soccer game.

--After A's game, went to Nana's house (K's mom) for a mother's day, and grilled sausages (actually bangers brought home from England).  Good, but basically because I didn't have to make it.

--Home at 8:45, bathed boys, and dealt with crying D who's chubby frog is missing (kid's of family friends let him out on Saturday night after teasing him about it....long, long story but suffice it to say K and I are furious as their 3 kids continue to lie about it).  We put out Tupperware of water under beds and dressers hoping that if he's still in the room, he'll be able to get water.

--10:15 finally got kids to bed and K wandered in with lame gifts (even he admitted they stunk) all of which are being returned except the $15 itunes card.  I really don't need anything.  It's sounds a bit selfish to want some special attention.  I'm a bit embarrassed to admit, though, that I was a bit jealous as I listened to other moms at the game talking of their lovely days with brunches, gifts, massages and breakfast in bed.  It sounds pathetic, but it would be nice every once in a while to get some spoiling.  A little acknowledgement for all that I do....I could write ad nauseum on this subject, but I have to go and change over the laundry into the dryer and make lunches...a mom's day is never done...


I went to a funeral today. It was very sad.  Mrs. E had been at our school for 22 years.  She was a beloved teacher who not only taught A last year, but also my sister and brother-in-law who are in their twenties.  I sat in the pew and tried not to cry.  I was honestly sad for her family and the staff and all of her students.  I think the tears though brought me back to Jeanne and Mike's funeral.  The opening hymn was the same.  The incense brought me back.  I tried to focus on the mass but kept on finding myself reliving sights in my mind from the funeral....

...It was the Thursday after the accident.  The church was packed.  Cars had to park in side streets and police were called to deal with the traffic.  Local TV crews parked across the street.  I drove E and M to their parents funeral.  K went to the church early with the boys because he was a pall bearer and doing the second reading.  We were amazed by the crowds as we pulled into our reserved space.  It was a bit overwhelming.  I can only imagine what it was like for the girls.  The kept their composure until the coffins were brought in.  M leaned into me and started sobbing.  They profoundness of our loss was so clear seeing the two coffins.  The tears sprang into my eyes as a watched my stoic, strong husband carry in Jeanne with tears streaming down his face.  We followed the coffins in and found our places in the pew at the front of the church.  K did a great job on his reading.  I remember the sermon being way too long.  D actually had to go to the bathroom halfway through and I was relieved to have to walk him to the bathroom.  I remembered spying some familiar faces.   A had a broken arm at the time and was picking at it and scratching throughout the mass.  I remember feeling a little lightheaded and my legs shaking remembering that I really hadn't eaten anything for breakfast.

It was time for our eulogy.  The four of us sisters walked up to the podium.  CA, C and I prepared something and S read a letter from E.  According to A, our in-house critic, CA was the funniest, C was the most "holy" and I made everyone cry.  I have to say, I felt the most at peace during those moments. I could stand up there and let everyone know how I felt, speaking honestly to the girls, my parents, Mike's family and our friends.  I actually carry a copy of the eulogy in my purse and still look at it every once in a while to remember the promises and words of love we had for each other.

I also remember walking up the aisle out of church holding L and following the caskets.  People kept trying to offer condolences and get my attention.  I remember my old boss sobbing on my shoulder and telling me how proud he was us C and I.  I almost felt like I was comforting him as I struggled to hold L as he clung to me.  I just wanted to see the coffins go back in the hearses.  Just when I really thought I couldn't take it, my soccer coach from college slid up next to me and physically held me up.  I'll never forget it.  He knew not to say anything and just be there for me in that way.

We finally made our way to the reception in the school gym.  The first people I saw were my friends from the neighborhood.  It was good to see them.  Then I found my friends from book club and I could finally sit and unload.  We have all been friends for 15 years and have shared, cried and laughed together with such intimacy.  I needed them like never before.  They got me to sit, eat, and just talk without needing to comfort or explain.  I could just be for a moment.

We had a private burial at the cemetery for just family.  I sat trying to focus on what the priest was saying but it was an almost out of body experience.  When it was time to leave I just couldn't.  I couldn't leave her.  I didn't like the idea of leaving her by herself.  Tears are streaming down my face as I write this.  I still hurts so much.  Finally, my dad and K helped me to the car.  It was over.  Little did I know it had only just begun.

I drive by the cemetery at least 4 times a day.  I always mentally say hi to them.  Some days the tears need to be held back, but on most days it just is...not sad, not comforting, just the reality.  On Sunday for Mother's day I brought E to see her mom and bring flowers  (M just isn't ready yet to go there).  I think about the accident and the funeral every day.  Sometimes it's just fleeting moments.  Today was just one of those days in which it all came rushing back.  Maybe it was the visit to the cemetery.  Maybe it was Mother's day.  Maybe it was sitting through the funeral mass.  Whatever it was, I found myself a little overwhelmed today.  Fragile.  On edge.  Raw.  I am still in disbelief that it happened.  I miss Jeanne.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Whatever...

We're back and I have to say it was lovely.  I've been meaning to post for the last few days, but I have been so busy that I haven't had a chance to breathe let alone write the post that has been forming in my head this past week. 

The Good
--We had a wonderful week as a family.  None of us had been to this part of Florida so there were no memories or traditions to worry about.  We made new family memories with inside jokes, adventures, fun and lots and lots of joy.  K and I were so relaxed I think it had a trickle down effect on all the kids.  We easily got all the kids through the airport with their luggage and backpacks.  The kids were awesome on the plane both ways.  Without the stress of work, practices, homework, housework, etc., we only had to focus on enjoying each other and the beautiful location.  Of course we still had to parent, feed, intervene during squabbles, etc. but without the drain of normal activities K and I handled it with ease.

--E was an absolute delight.  I felt for the first time in months I spent time with the real E.  She was well rested, relaxed and really, really funny.  I felt like we were back to our normal Aunt Peg / E relationship.  The other kids totally sensed it too and had so much fun playing with her in the pool, hitting the rides at the water park and exploring nature around the condo.  We really needed it.  Frankly, I really needed it.  I love her so much, but it was nice to remember how much I like her.

--The condo was fabulous.  It was beautifully decorated, comforting and huge.  It really helped set the stage for a relaxing week.  At one point, while standing in the master bathroom shower, A declared, "this is the nicest room I've ever been in!"

--K and I were totally in synch.  It's been awhile since I felt like this.  We laughed and truly enjoyed being with our new big family.  When we're working on the same sheet of music, we're a great team and sometimes I think we forget that in the stress.

--A had a wonderful trip.  He caught geckos, anoles, a corn snake and all kids of frogs.  He recorded all of it on his new video camera (which he loved!) and has already posted his movie online.  We spent his birthday in the Everglades spying alligators, turtles, lizards and birds.  He was in heaven.  We even saw a mother alligator and her babies.  It was spectacular.  On our way to the 'glades, the song "Good Life" by One Republic came on and while all the kids cheered and began to sing (including little L), tears sprang into my eyes.  I felt so happy and at peace.  Tears of joy indeed.

--I read some good books.  I ate really well.  The royal wedding was so much fun.  I felt like myself.  It was awesome.

The Bad.
--M was a mess a lot of the trip and it's continued since we got home.  She has totally regressed in so many ways. Grunting, crying, bathroom accidents, screaming at her sister, jealous of any of the other kids if they were getting attention from me.  At times it seemed like the more E settled and was happy, M got worse.  She is so angry at E.  She was horrible on A's birthday because he was getting a special day.  She is an emotional hot wire and is definitely testing my patience.  I feel so bad for her, but she is certainly a challenge and she drains so much physical and emotional energy. 

--On our last night we had a wonderful dinner at a little hole-in-the-wall, cafe "down by the river."  The food was awesome and we all had a great time, laughing and relaxed.  After dinner we walked through old town Stewart to a new favorite ice cream shop.  The big kids walked quickly ahead while L and I sauntered behind them with me holding him.  He rested his head on my shoulder and said, "I am so sad E and M's family died.  I don't want our family to die."  It was so direct and sad.  It's the first time he's articulated it out loud.  I just started crying.  It was so sad.  I wish from the core of my being as his mother that he didn't have to know that mommy's and daddy's can die.  It absolutely breaks my heart.

--On Wednesday night, D threw up from the top bunk at 3am.  It wasn't that bad and with my new found "chill mode" I didn't freak out like I might have done at home.  But seriously, it was gross and the splatter factor from the top bunk was awful.  He also yakked all over his new book on the Mammals of southern Florida.  He was not happy about it to say the least.

--There was definitely much more good than bad, but we still had moments of sad and tension.  I'm hoping one day we'll be able to escape it copmletely for a least a little bit.

The Whatever.
--Since we got back, life has been absolutely crazy and there aren't any signs of it lightening up.  We had five soccer games last weekend.  This weekend we have five more, plus a baseball game, A's "friend" birthday party and a joint birthday party for A and K Saturday night.  Good Lord.  I know we'll get it all done, but  I sometimes feel like I'm running a never ending marathon.

--The whole Osama bin Laden thing has affected me a lot more than I thought.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm an analyst and deal primarily with terrorism and homeland security.  Prior to 9/11, I was an analyst spending much of my time on humanitarian assistance and international security issues.  That one event changed my professional career completely.  Sunday night also brought back a lot of memories of that day.  Worrying about colleagues in the Pentagon.  Worrying about K downtown, blocks from the Capitol.  Seeing people cheering on the streets in front of the White House also really disturbed me.  So I'm not sure how I feel about it all.  It's complicated...just like other parts of my life I guess.  I think I have another post on this subject brewing.

--This morning a 4th grade teacher at school died.  A had her last year.  She was a wonderful teacher, and the best friend of M's current homeroom teacher.  All the kids were crying, including M.  I am so sick of death.  I know that sounds so silly, but I would love to simply go 6 months without someone in our life dying.  When I asked A tonight if he wanted to talk about it, he said, "Mom, I just wish I could take a break from death.  It seems like everyone is dying."  Again, so sad and so honest.  I told E and M's therapists about it today and they couldn't believe it.  I think I need to seek some professional help for all the kids.  I need to know that they'll get through this with a healthy, normal perspective on life.  I need to know that they can still have a happy, joyful, worry-free childhood.  Naive of me maybe, but I don't want them to be scarred any more by the accident, death and the anxiety that comes with them.

So we're all okay.  We had a great trip.  I had a wonderful time.  We're back home and are faced with the complicated, emotional life we lead.  But, I still have hope "it's gonna be a good life" to quote One Republic.  I have to hold on to that hope.