Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Conceal, Don't Feel...

TATTOO: a form of body modification made by injecting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment color to a specific color or shape. The Oxford English Dictionary states that it is from the Polynesian Tatau. There are five types of “tattoos:”

            Traumatic or natural tattoos these result from an injury
            Amateur and Professional tattoos done by traditional or modern machine
            Identification or forcible tattooing as used by the Nazi’s during WWII
            Cosmetic tattoos such as eye liner or known as permanent makeup
            Medical tattoos needed to make proper machine placement for treatments

It seems like everywhere you look today just about everyone has a tattoo now. Even people who you never expected to see or hear that they have one usually has one hidden somewhere. It has become common and normal to see tattooed people even in the work place now as well.

Honestly growing up I never thought about tattoos. My Daddy, Jim, was in the Navy and had tattoos all over both his arms. He hated them and told me they were the result of drinking a lot and being a dumb kid in the Navy back in the 40’s and 50’s. Because of his tattoos he never wore short sleeved shirts and very rarely rolled his sleeves to reveal his tattoos to the world. But to me, that was my daddy. He had tattoos.

As we began our own family I told the girls if they ever got a tattoo that was the day they moved out. Period! No if, and’s or but’s about it. A lot of this was because of our association with a certain religious group that saw these as an abomination. Of course as the girls got older times changed and my view lightened up some, but still wanted the girls to make the tattoo decision after they were much, much older. I think almost all of us have a decision made in our youth we wish we could erase or do over.

When Heather died my thoughts about tattoos went out the window and I got my first tattoo in June that same year. I loved and still love this tattoo that is on my right shoulder and for the most part it is hidden away and no one can really see it. The same goes for my second tattoo, my tramp stamp, which I got on the one year anniversary of Heather’s death. This one can be a bit showier depending on how I bend over or how low the waistband of my pants or shorts might be. I then added Heather’s heart and signature to the butterfly one on my shoulder last year for what was supposed to be the 5 year cancer mark.

Of course we all have heard about the movie FROZEN and the song “Let It Go.” This has become somewhat of my signature phrase of Conceal, Don’t Feel, Don’t Let it Show for how I feel as a grieving mother. I have to conceal my feelings, don’t let my heartbreak show, and don’t allow myself to be sad. Of course this is the world’s view of how grieving mothers are supposed to act and feel. BUT—it then dawned on me that I was concealing my tattoos. Yes they were for Heather, but they were hidden unless I shared them. I had no visible way to show my life, loss or family.
all drawn and ready to begin
As the 5th death anniversary got closer I decided I wanted to get a tattoo on my left forearm to “show” the world that I will no longer “conceal, don’t feel. I had a beautiful daisy growing from a wounded broken heart with the words Conceal, Don’t Feel written around it. Daisies are the flower for the 5th anniversary. I met with Brian, my tattoo artist, and everything was all worked out for me to get my tattoo on Monday, April 21st. Because of the bunny holiday being on Sunday the 20th everything was closed.
outlining all finished
When I left and began to drive home I had no peace or excitement about my tattoo. I loved the design just didn’t feel it was what I wanted anymore. So, I changed my mind before that tattooing began. I came home and shared with my family my idea for what I really wanted. This would include every member of my family, including Sandy and Margie, and my love of Disney. I told my ideas to my son-in-love, Sunnie, and we worked it all out and I emailed Brain with the new idea.
The stars finished
SO, Monday, April 21st came and I went to get my tattoo. At first I was disappointed that Brain did not have the design drawn and waiting for my approval. The last two tattoos were very planned out and I was a bit thrown by this "let’s see how you want this" idea. First thing that was changed was the bigger Mickey and Minnie Mouses for Bill and me. I was not thrilled but when Brian found retro mouses I was hooked. This was Minnie with her daisy flower hat instead of the bow she has now. Of course the daisy flower fit perfectly with my design and the daisy had five petals which fit as well. Then we began to “build” my tattoo on my arm. I was a bit worried at first but once it was laid out and the “magic” was added, I was hooked and ready to go.
added the color and the swelling began
Everyone was telling me it was really going to hurt bad and be prepared for extreme pain. I was a bit nervous but as Brain began to outline I realized this was not bad at all. As fate would have it I was actually texting with a lady I had never met but she was reading my book Confessions of a Grieving Mother. After several months of feeling she was going crazy she felt I GOT IT…I understood how she was feeling. I felt mixed emotions as I felt sad that I have the knowledge, but then looking back I am glad I am not just beginning again. I was overjoyed to realize for the first time that my book was doing exactly what I wanted it to do—to reach out to grieving mothers and help them know they are not alone. I am not really sure I felt the tattooing that was going on as I was texting with my new friend.
magic added and all finished
swelling by the time I got home-the magic hurt really badly
Not that I need to explain my tattoo but it is very symbolic and I would like for you to understand what this means to me. The black star at the top of my wrist is for my Daddy and the baby that Jenn miscarried, Mickey is Bill, the purple daisy is for Jenn, and Retro Minnie is me. The smaller Minnie right below Mickey is Heather, the star behind retro Minnie is Wendy. Moving to the pink daisy this is Sandy, the next smaller Minnie is my Snookie (or Violet) the next smaller Minnie is for Baby Ellie to be born in August, the blue daisy is for Margie and the final star is for December 10th and all that represents to our family. Then Brain added the Disney MAGIC, the swirls and sparkles that tie this all together and gives it the flare I was wanting. Of course more grandchildren will be added as smaller Minnie’s or blackened in Mickey faces.
a few days later and all is well-I LOVE IT!!!
I am getting used to my newest work of art and I LOVE IT!! It is my perfect Conceal, Don’t Feel and the response has been very supportive and positive. For many of you that read my blog you may or may not understand or agree with me and that is fine, you don’t have too. I am going to be me and I am going to LET IT SHOW, LET IT GO and I am going to be the only me that I know how to be anymore.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Balloons and Books....

Historically April 19th & 20th are the most terrible days of the year which is ironic since the 20th is National Smoke Pot day. Our country especially has suffered unspeakable tragedy on these dates.

            Waco : April 19th, 1993

            Oklahoma City Bombing : April 19th, 1995

Hilter was born April 20th, 1889

Ludlow Massacre : April 20th, 1914

Korean Air Flight 902 shot down by Soviets : April 20th, 1978

Columbine : April 20th, 1999 (Heather died on the 10th anniversary)

BP Oil Spill : April 20th 2010

It seems only right that these two days happen to be the worst for our family and for me personally. That Sunday morning, April 19th, 2009 I awoke not knowing that my entire world was going to be turned upside down. It began with the news that my brother-in-law, Rusty, had died. Bill and I had very little time to grieve for Rusty and try to process that news before we got our NEWS. The news that no parent wants to hear EVER, the news that there was no hope and we needed to decide. Needed to decide what? How was that possible? Seriously, until that moment, I had a few bad feelings in the back of my mind, but now I heard them out loud.

The stained glass daisy pattern Heather drew but never made

This year Easter and Heather’s 5th day anniversary were the same day. Again how is that possible? I began to think about parents that had children die on Valentine’s Day or Christmas Day. How could they survive the advertisements with their child’s death day on every media outlet possible? Every email, television commercial and store had Heather’s death date glaring at me.  
Heather's signature and heart etched in silver
As the 5th anniversary got closer I knew I had to do something special and different. I did lots of research and found out the 5th anniversary flower is a daisy and the modern gift for the day is silver. I found a stained glass pattern that Heather had drawn but never made any daisies. So I decided to make some for the girls and a few very close friends. Then I had Heather's signature and heart etched into a bar of silver as a charm for Jenn and Wendy. These keepsakes turned out unbelievably stunning.

the centerpiece for the table with Heather's tiara in the center

I decided to have a small gathering to mark this most important milestone. I wanted to release lighted balloons and place luminaries so that I felt that Heather was remembered. I had an amazing cake created by a local cake maker named Cake By Heather. It seemed only fitting that the cake to be served at a gathering for Heather should be made by someone named Heather. This cake did not disappoint and was the “crowning glory” to my perfectly set table. (Everyone know me and my party planning, no detail is too small)

the most stunning cake ever

beautiful quilting and perfect
The day began slow as the day finally arrived. I did not want any Easter greetings or celebrating on the 20th. We had gone out to Red Robin as a family on the 19th to “celebrate.” I stayed busy which was probably a good thing, but the memories of those days 5 years ago were not dulled. They are ever fresh and vivid in my mind. Try as I might I cannot keep my thoughts from going to what I was doing at this time or that time. Maybe someday…it will be different, but I doubt it.

lighted balloons are so amazing to see

I am beyond proud to announce that “Confessions of a Grieving Mother” book is now available at amazon and barnes and noble.com. It comes standard in paperback, hardback and kindle book. I am very proud of this book and hope that it will be a help to grieving families. It was very surreal to hold this book as my picture is on the front and this is my journey, this is mine, personally.

luminaries placed by Sally angel

The 5th anniversary has come and gone and somehow the moment that day is over I feel better. I am sure that you could ask any of the families of the events that at Columbine, Waco or the OK City Bombing and they would tell you that time does not heal these types of wounds. I can learn to live through it but I will never learn to like that I have too.
my book at the place where my journey began

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hello, April 10th, You Again?

I have mentioned time and time again that dates are very important. If it is a really life altering event the day, date, time and place may stay with you forever like your wedding day or the day your children were born. I feel like days and dates have always been engrained in my life from the very beginning and my mind seems to remember them whether I want to or not, especially when it comes to events, days and dates that have changed my life.
Grave decorated for Easter, but will be changed for the 20th
For 24 year April 10th had been the anniversary date for Margaret and AC Coombe. This was a very important date for them as they got married on this day over 50 years ago. We, as their kids, were not supposed to forget this day even though it was not my wedding anniversary. The date became bittersweet when mom died in 2005 but it became a day like any other day to me UNTIL…….

Thursday, April 10th, 2008…this became the day that would change my life and my family’s life forever. But my life was not the only one that was changed that day. April 10th many years ago my BFF Sandy’s mother died. Now I remember when she called to tell me her mom died but I did not remember the exact date. On that exact same date in 2008, Sandy’s daughter, Brandy, found out she was having twins. So even before this date changed my life forever, it had change Sandy’s life already. As I made my calls that afternoon Sandy’s life was going to change again, just neither one of us knew just how much this would touch us.
The light burns in the window for 33 days
Other memorable things that happened on April 10th in the past are some of the following:
            1925 – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is first published in New York City, by Charles Scribner's Sons.
            1964- Disneyland It's A Small World opened for the first time
            1970 – Paul McCartney announces that he is leaving The Beatles for personal and professional reasons.
            1979 – Red River Valley tornado outbreak: A tornado lands in Wichita Falls, Texas killing 42 people.
            1981- Computer glitch keeps Space Shuttle Columbia grounded
            1989- H.J. Heinz, Van Camp Seafood and Bumble Bee Seafood say they would not buy tuna caught in nets that also trap dolphins.
            2010- The American company Apple, Inc. announces it is worth over $600 billion dollars, making the technology company the largest in the world by market capitalization.

Now, April 10th, had been forever changed in my life. This is the day I knew bad news was coming I just had no idea how bad and how fast it was going to come. I was caught off guard and unprepared. Until April 10th, I had no idea that chemo could require a week long hospital stay, included chemo injected into your spine or that my then 20 year old daughter could be the bravest person I have ever known. Looking back now I don’t know how we did it. The only thing I know is that when you are in the moment you do what you have to do to survive.

So, April the 10th maybe just an average day to the world but to me it is day my world stopped for a moment in time, I saw everything in slow motion and then time began again. I no longer remember that it is Margaret and AC’s wedding anniversary. This was and is a day that haunts my memory and mind and will do so till the day I die. I cannot force my brain to forget and I cannot act like it is just another normal day no matter how much time has gone by.
Wendy's black/white and hot pink afghan
My life is divided into three time frames; life before cancer, life during cancer and life after Heather died. As time goes on, my memories of most things fade, but not those of cancer or Heather. My greatest fear is that others have forgotten her. To me it is very reassuring to hear someone mention Heather’s name. If only people realized I cannot forget Heather or what happened to her. It was horrible, awful and no one should watch their child go through such torture and pain. I am sorry that the words cancer and Heather and death bother people, but please remember I am living and dealing with a life I didn’t choose. I am surviving the best way I know how to.
Snookie's FROZEN afghan with cat approval
As the 5th anniversary of Heather’s death is racing towards me I have had to do things to help me cope and deal with this milestone year. I am sorry that Easter has to be on the same day as well. Easter will not be celebrated by me this year. It seems in poor taste to celebrate a holiday on the day my Heather died. I just cannot do it. I had another glass bead made for my bracelet and a hand blown glass rose both which are made with ashes in them. I also bought an Easter egg charm for this year as these two days will not happen together until after 2020.
new stunning bead for my bracelet
beautiful rose made with ashes
I also began a crocheting project. The flower for a 5th anniversary is a daisy and of course I found a daisy granny square pattern. I am making squares as fast and as many as I can during the 33 days that Heather was in the hospital. I have taken this project to Disneyland, to the home opening DBack’s game and many other places. To date I have completed one pink daisy afghan that has 60 squares (to mark the 60 months that Heather has been gone), a bright mutli-colored one for my NEW GRANDDAUGHTER-ELINOR SADIE coming in August. (yes just found out even though Mimi had the afghan done weeks ago) and Snookie’s FROZEN afghan is finished but needs a border and I am nearly halfway finished with Wendy’s black and white with hot pink afghan. This has been something to keep me busy and make others happy. I really like the pattern and may continue to make more.
My pink afghan and "Ellie's" baby afghan
My book, “Confessions Of a Grieving Mother” PASSED the final content evaluation on April 8th. I had to make many changes last week to over 100 parts of the book and deleted two photos and replaced three photos. The book will be released in the next few days. Many more things will be coming as I get ready for a small, intimate gathering for the 20th. I have purchased the lighted balloons and the cake has been designed and it should be an okay time. This year is different, I feel very different and I am not sure why the 5 year mark makes it seem more real than it was before, but it does. I am once again in a fog of depression that will go as soon as the time has passed till the next year, and the next and the next.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Love of Carnations...

What is in a smell? A smell can unlock and release the most hidden and deepest memories that we ourselves have forgotten. A smell can instantly make us happy or sad depending on what memory is behind the smell. Smells from our childhood of crayons, makers, for me chalk, and many more too numerous to mention don't back laughter and smiles. There is one smell that still to this day takes me back to when I was 9 years old, the smell of carnations.
As I wiggled and squirmed with the scratchy white high lace collar  that was a right on my neck and the puffed sleeves that seemed to be to itchy for my arms to stand, my daddy handed me a basket of flowers. I loved them as they were pink and smelled ever so good. Many times over the next hour I stuck my nose into the pink carnations and breathed in deeply. It was sheer heaven to me. It had baby's breath with the carnations and some greenery, but I was on love with the very different smelling pink carnations.
When we were finished my daddy said since I had sat still and was as good as I could have been, I could take the flowers with me. I was delighted as we left the building and headed to the car. The black car, a long black limo. The door was opened and I crawled inside making sure my basket of pink carnations were safe and secure. My daddy and my grandmother followed me into the car and we were off. I asked my daddy what the name of the flowers were and he told me. To a girl of 9 years old I had never heard anything so beautiful as a flower named a carnation before. It just seemed to ring off my tongue. I told him the place that we has just been smelled like a carnation factory. I has noticed it when I walked in and he said yes because there were so many of them in the building.
The memory I refer to was my adopted mother's funeral and the place of course was the funeral home. The pink basket of flowers that I happened to pick out because it was so pink and beautiful was the floral arrangement from her first grade students that their parents. In 1975 the funeral flower of choice was carnations more than roses. Roses were for the very rich who died not a common school teacher in Farmington, New Mexico.
The memory while not a great one was my first real look and feel of death. For some strange reason I still to this day love the smell of carnations. The big ones not so much the smaller ones. One time in school, and I have no idea which grade, we took white carnations and placed them in water with coloring in it. We watched as the days went by how the white carnations slowly changed to whatever color water they were in. It was quite an amazing thing for me to watch.

So today as I went shopping the grocery store had bright beautiful carnations for sale. I picked up a bunch of them and put them to my nose and breathed deeply. Yup, the memory did not fail and neither did the sweet unique fragrance of the carnations.  It is a memory associated with death but yet for me a happy one.( I was very glad and relived when my adopted mother died. I actually had been set free from physical and emotional abuse) It sounds crazy but the smell of carnations is happy death to me and I needed some happy death. So I bought two bunches of them. As I walked out of the store my nose was breathing deeply the smell that is sweet to me.