Thursday, October 30, 2014

Metaphorically Speaking...

No mother I have ever met has asked to become a member of the “Grieving Mothers Club.” This club is not fun or normal and yet I am finding that mother by the 100’s are being forced to join this club on a yearly basis. While I am not happy about being a card carrying member of this club, I am so very thankful that I am not at the beginning of this journey, a newbie to the world of grieving the death of a child. I have come a long way in my 66 months and 10 days. To some who stand on the outside of my world, judging and telling me how to do this, I look very foolish and pitiful, but to those who have accepted the new me they know I have come a long way, baby!

While some mothers are further along and other are just beginning to come out of the fog, I have learned many valuable things along my journey. I have tried to share my feeling with everyone as best I know how; to a world that cannot comprehend what I am going through. I have tried to describe my journey in very descriptive details, more than most normal people want to read, but the words that other grieving mother can read, relate to and breathe a sigh of relief to know they are “NORMAL.”

I am reading a new book, a biography, and I found something that the author said very enlightening and felt it applied to me and all other grieving mothers. If you are new to this journey you may feel I am silly with my words and how can that be possible, but if you are further along you will understand me, metaphorically speaking.
The fall wreath on my door-I made it...
I have learned that I have times when I “take off the grieving mother and hang her in the closet,” I can put the grieving mother on a hanger, and put on a “semi-normal” me to face the world. There are times now when I can literally “be” Sherry, without feeling conflicted with who the world thinks me to be from my title of grieving mother. I have learned it is OKAY to be both—I don’t ever get rid of the grieving mother; I just need to know when to wear grieving and when to hang her up, metaphorically speaking.
Mimi and Snook
I know you think I am insane and I have really lost my mind now. What in the world am I talking about and how is this possible. I have shared with everyone that I recently went back to work after 29 years away from the working world. I did not go applying for every job that came along, I had a very specific job in mind and I went after it and I got it. I have been on the job for 5 weeks and I LOVE IT! I am happy! When I go to work I am a Disney Cast Member and not a grieving mother. For a small amount of time being a grieving mother is not my main title. I have been able to “hang-up” the grieving Sherry for the Cast Member Sherry. NO! Heather is never very far from my thoughts, but for me when I am working, I am focused on the guest and making their visit magical.
What do you mean I am dressed like Minnie and I am NOT seeing my Mimi? Lil E 6 weeks old
Many of you will say okay, Sherry, I work and I don’t feel happy or magical. I would say then you don’t work for Disney…kidding. For me personally, I have needed to be away from the house with something specific to do. The Cast Members for the most part do not know me or my situation. I have shared with a few new friends the quick version of 21 yr old daughter died 5 yrs ago..blah, blah, but they know the “new” me and not the old me that was I was. All they know and see is the ‘new” me. I also needed to focus on something. When I was raising the girls, they came first, then Heather got cancer and she came first, and then she died, leaving me to wonder who I am and where do I fit. Working at The Disney Store I feel I have found myself, the new me. I am using Disney language in my everyday life, and it feels good! I find myself feeling and being very positive and others around me are noticing how happy I am. 
My name badge-My character is Rapunzel for many reasons
Honestly for the first time heading into the holiday season I am okay. This is not to say that smelly old man depression isn’t going to show up this year, I am just at a better place right now in this moment. I am terrified about working my first retail holiday season. I have listened to the girls tell about their experiences and I would be foolish if I thought this was going to be easy. Here it is Halloween and I have skipped forward into Thanksgiving and Christmas. I realize that my decorations and Christmas letter need to be done the week before Thanksgiving. Our store is open for 26 solid hours the Thanksgiving weekend beginning on Thursday at 8ish.While I am racing towards the retail season I also know that I am racing towards Heather’s birthday as well. But this year as with all the other years is different and that is okay, metaphorically speaking.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It is Just A Job, Right?...

What is a job? Have you ever really thought about that beyond the meaning of money to supply your basic needs?
          A job is defines as:
            A regular activity performed in exchange for payment, especially as one's trade,
                        occupation, or profession.
A position of employment.
A task that must be done.

My first job was in the summer of 1981, when I was 16 and under the delusion that I needed a job so I could pay to drive the car that sat in front of our house. (That was not my step-mother’s plan as I was never allowed to drive any vehicle while I lived at home.) My Daddy knew the owner of the local Orange Julius fairly close to our house and this was my first job. I was thrilled to be working and feeling like I was gaining some independence.

Sadly, I worked this job for 2 days and then I quit. I am normally not a quitter however, in this case the manager thought I was a spoiled, rotten person and she worked me to the bone to prove her point that I would never last in the job. WOW! Imagine how crushed I was to have to quit this job to find out she did this to me on purpose. I was made to wash everything, mop, sweep and empty the trash my entire shift. I was not allowed to work with customers or learn how to make anything. The breaking point for me was when I was coming to the end of a 5 hour shift and I was informed by the other worker I needed to sweep and mop and take out all the rugs while she sat there and did nothing. I was defeated, deflated and of course I felt like a total failure to have only worked 2 days. But I was never treated fairy or like I belonged.

Because of my first job experience it took me a very long time to try again for another job. In January 1985, I applied and got my second job. I honestly had no idea what I had applied for and I didn’t know the place I was working. What a dumb way to get a job. I worked as a part-time TBS operator for The Navigators Organization. (All that means is I solicited money on the phone for different Christian organizations.) Because I was part-time I was not treated like the full-time employees were. They were allowed a 15 minute morning break and I was not. I could not be on the phones alone as it was a computer driven system with 4 people on the system at a time. So I was made to find other things to do during those 15 minutes. I was given a 30 minute lunch break and then I was supposed to be off before the afternoon break. BUT, they always were behind in their call totals for the week and I usually ended up working till 3-4 pm every day four days a week.

Sadly, I worked this job for 9 months and then I was let go. I was pregnant with Jenn and had planned to work up until closer to my due date. This did not happen as my boss’s daughter had died in June in a car accident and she couldn’t stand to look at me. (This is totally understand now.)  I had been extremely sick and decided to turn in my 2 week notice. When I told my boss she told me to make that day my last day and I could go home. WOW! While I was happy to go home and sleep and rest it was not the plan as we were buying our first house and I needed to be employed for those two weeks. I was not considered part of the team of girls that worked there as they had a long history together and I was the outsider, newcomer.

You would think that I would have gotten the hint by now that I am not ever meant to be part of anything not a work place, not my step family, never by my birth family and certainly not my in-law family. I have been thrown under the bus and blamed for just being on the planet in every aspect of my entire life. Of course I am a very unique person and sometimes I am very hard and very hard to love. I also have a tendency to be a perfectionist and a my way or the highway sort of gal. Not that this is bad, I know that about myself and I am a work in progress.

The day that Heather died I once again I was thrust into the “I don’t fit in” group. It is not a happy place to be and many misunderstandings have happened. I refuse to apologize anymore because I AM DIFFERENT! I am the round peg trying to fit into the square hole. My entire life has been this way and this is just the icing on the cake. Being a grieving mother is not easy and I can’t just let it go and “be myself” again. The old me is gone and the new and different me is what is left. For the most part not many people want to come along on this journey with me and why would you? I wouldn’t want to either! I never wanted to think about one of my children dying. I understand that I am once again the weirdo that just doesn’t belong.

Roughly 2 years ago I began toying with the idea of getting a job, but not just any regular job. I wanted to work at The Disney Store. Honestly I would love to work at Disneyland but since I am a 6 hour drive away the morning commute seems a bit much. I did not go out and apply at every place I could trying to get work experience before I applied to The Disney Store since I have not worked in 29 years. I kept looking and watching the online Disney job site for an opening. I first applied in the summer and made it to the final interview but because I was not willing to break our cruise in December, I was not hired. I was crushed and wasn’t sure I wanted to have my hopes so high again only to have them dashed again.

Bill, my husband, works in Chandler and goes into the mall almost every day to eat lunch. Well, there is a Disney Store there and not just any store, but the only one like it in the state. I knew the manager at that store that had come from the San Tan Disney Store when they opened the Chandler mall store. Bill also knew the manager and told her I had applied and had been turned down. A few weeks later when Bill was in the store I received a message that seasonal jobs for the Chandler Mall Disney Store had just been posted and I should go online and apply. Long story and process later and I am now a seasonal Disney Cast Member hoping beyond all hope I get to stay beyond seasonal.

I have finished my training and have had two shifts “on stage” so far. Both of them have been amazing and to say I love it is an understatement. Maybe I have drunk the Disney kool-aid, but I feel like for the “first time in forever” I actually fit in. (that is a song from Frozen by the way.) I feel really good and I am loving my coworkers. With that being said, something happened on Monday that I know the Cast Member has no idea she touched my heart and soul with her kindness. It all has to do with the Blue Aurora doll. This CM (Cast Member) wanted the blue doll and no one else had said anything about wanting the doll. At this store when just one person wants something they usually get to purchase it. Otherwise they would have a drawing so it is fair to all CM. This CM was on vacation when I asked about the doll and they offered to do a drawing. I said no way I would try online or buy from Ebay, I would not take this CM’s doll since she was on vacation and not able to be contacted to tell her what had happened. Monday, she was back and had wondered if she got the Blue Aurora. I told her yes she did and then I told her I got mine online and showed her the photo of Heather in the blue dress. The following words still to this moment are probably the most moving words I have ever heard: this CM who has never worked with me and knows very little about me told me if I didn’t get my Blue Aurora she would give me hers. WOW! Really! Did you hear her words or did you just read them? She was willing to sacrifice something she wanted to make me happy. She has no idea that those few words have shown me more love and support than I have had in a really, really long time. (To my inner circle, I do not mean you.)My Blue Aurora has been shipped and should be here late this week or early next week.

I come home and I am flying and talking non-stop. I love the whole thing. Yes I know that “Magical” Friday is coming and I will be pushed to the limits, but somehow working for Disney is different than I have ever felt before. I can’t wait to go to work and be “on stage” and help to make our guests have a little bit more magical day. It feels good to me. For the first time in forever I feel HAPPY. Maybe because I am not focused on myself. So…for the first time in 5 years as the fall season has come, I am not depressed. As I am thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas I actually have some joy. Not to be too over optimistic as I know old man depression will make his arrive sometime, I just hope he goes quickly and maybe for the first time in over 5 year I can breathe this holiday season.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Aurora in the BLUE Dress...

Please bear with me here:

I know I have mentioned "The Ball" many times and also have spoken about the moment Heather knew she was Aurora. Thank you for your patience as you listen to me babble on and on as I do not have any new stories to tell you about Heather. I wish I had wedding photos and baby photos and and and to share with you, but I don’t. All I have is 21 short years of memories that for a Momy I am trying to deal with the best way I know how and find things that mean something to me. It is about trying to find a connection with someone I love with all my heart and I cannot touch her or see her or hear her.
When you hear the words “your child has cancer” your whole world and outlook on everything suddenly changes. You don’t see anything the same way again and your thought processes things in a weird new way. It was never a weird idea or thought to me to throw Heather the cancer survivor ball. It seemed to be the natural end and celebration to what was the most difficult time in all our lives. 
When I invited the doctors and nurses they were shocked and amazed at my idea. For one they had never heard of anyone throwing a party like this nor had they been invited to one. It was a black tie formal affair that would put most wedding receptions to shame. I spent weeks and months planning this party and looking for all the right invitations, decorations and food for the ball. The theme of the ball was never in question; The Grand Duchess Heather’s Cancer Survivor Ball. Of course it was to be princess themed as Heather was considered a princess at the hospital and the doctor’s office. Dr. Fastenberg once called for her from the waiting room as Princess Heather. The night she died the aide’s on 6 south told me they never had a real princess on the floor before and they never would again.

Now that things were falling into place the dress needed to be chosen. Heather always considered herself to be Aurora;

Aurora is 16 years old with long, golden blonde hair with curls at the end, violet eyes, rose red lips, and fair complexion. She's best described as kind, gentle, sweet, graceful and charming. (While I know Heather was not perfect these qualities seem to describe her very well, but she had crystal blue eyes.)

Heather wanted a pink dress like Aurora, since she is always depicted in the pink dress. We went to Susanna’s bridal and tried on many dressed but none of them seemed to be right. There was one that was found kind of in the back of the store and a defeated Heather decided to try it on. All I can say is the moment she turned around and saw herself the look in her eyes said she felt like a real princess and that this was THE DRESS. I had no idea at the time, that this was me and her picking out her wedding dress, as I will never get the opportunity to do that. The dress was BLUE and it was amazing. She just about cried when I told her yes she could have this dress. She changed her mind at that moment and decided to be Cinderella instead. She even found shoes that were mesh with crystals; the best she could do for a glass slipper.
Our doctors and nurses now our friends
The ball was amazing and a grand time was had by all. It was a royal ball for her royal highness like none other. When we arrived home she asked me if this was what it felt like to be a bride…I said yes. She hugged me and told me she loved me and that it was the best time ever. Of course again, I had no idea that this was her wedding as I would not get the opportunity to plan her wedding.

For her 21st Birthday we took a trip to Disneyland, her favorite place to be. The Walk Thru Sleeping Beauty Castle had just opened up after 9/11 and we took a trip thru the castle. Heather got ahead of me and then came running back to me all excited. I cannot put into words the emotions that she had. She was like nothing I had seen since the words cancer had come into our world. Her eyes sparkled with delight as she begged me to come see what she had found. What she had discovered was that when Aurora pricks her finger and “falls asleep” she was in the BLUE dress not the PINK dress. She just kept saying “I was Aurora, I was her I really was Aurora after all.” Now to you and me it doesn’t really matter, but to a 21 year old girl who had just survived two deadly forms of blood cancer it meant the world to her. She needed to know that she really was Aurora and it was very important to her to know that.
It was 4 months and 10 days after that delightful moment in time that Heather became my “Sleeping Beauty” only true love’s kiss will not wake her from her sleep this time. Heather was laid out in the BLUE dress, just like Aurora. She had a rose in her hand, just like Aurora and she looked beautiful, like Aurora. It has been five years, 4 months and 17 days since my “Sleeping Beauty” died. I keep finding more and more things that mean so much to me and that also include Aurora at the same time; like my NOAH painting of “Awaken The Beauty.” Today was the release of Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray. Of course The Disney Store had many things to go along with this release. When I was hired at The Disney Store I was so bummed to find out that they offered a pre-order Aurora doll in the PINK gown and I had missed it. BUT then I was elated last week as I learned that The Disney Store was going to release an Aurora limited Edition Doll in the BLUE dress. This is not just a want or another doll for me, this is the DOLL that when I look at her I will remember the delight in Heather’s eyes as she learned she was Aurora in the BLUE dress. So far, this doll has not come to my possession, but I am hopeful that I will be able to get her ordered online tonight at midnight. If not I will be paying all those high outrageous prices on Ebay for her. I may actually sell a couple of my collectable dolls that I purchased in the past.

I will say that in the movie Maleficent it is an amazing twist that the Prince does not wake the beauty, but Maleficent does. This movie is the back story of how Maleficent became who she is. It is quite interesting that this story shows Maleficent caring for Aurora like a mother would.

”Maleficent starts to protect Aurora, initially to ensure her survival until her curse can take effect, but eventually comes to see Aurora as a daughter, Aurora in return regarding Maleficent as her 'fairy godmother' until she learns the truth, displaying great affection for the Moors where Maleficent and other fairies dwell. When Aurora falls victim to the curse, it is Maleficent's motherly kiss to her forehead in regret for her actions that breaks the curse.”
Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose, Aurora, Maleficent and anything else associated with the story is what I am drawn to. I can’t help but feel a connection to heather somehow. Thank you for once again reading about Heather, the ball and Sleeping Beauty.