Blurry Vision

I feel like I’m floating. I’ve always been goal oriented with short term, long term and super long term goals. So is my hubby. It works well… but now I feel like most of those goals were checked off the list or changed… and I need new ones.

Everything feels up in the air. We’ve been stuck in this period of grieving and can’t seem to pull out of it. It reminds me of when you step in that super gooey sticky mud and every time you shift your weight to move forward, you feel your foot sinking down further and the air sucking in around it, making it impossible to pull out of it. I guess our grief has been compounded by more grief, making a tough life changing event grow.

My husband said it best the other day when he asked who is he supposed to call now? Dad’s gone, my Gramps (who was incredible to talk to and always got you to find your own answer, just by asking the right questions) is gone, his mom has been gone for ten years… I obviously volunteered myself, but he told me that was a given and he did that already. It just is this big hole that can’t be filled. And to make it worse, it just doesn’t end. Taking care of the property, selling items, moving all his dad’s special things, figuring out trust details and how to get it all divided but still have money to pay the taxes in January… it’s all a big tangled web of details to sort through. For example, we sold the house finally and thought it was done… then after Vince leaves to go hunting a letter comes saying more people need more documents to be able to transfer records. Then today (after Vince is back at work) another letter about another detail someone needs. Just doesn’t end.

I guess once we’ve settled all those things, maybe we can start to regain our normal.Or our new normal I guess. It’s been impossible to do anything but distract ourselves by keeping busy and then losing it privately in the quiet moments. It’s like we need a whole new set of goals and dreams, because the previous ones involved people who are gone now. My brain feels like a video that’s frozen but kind of moving from the current scene to the next- know what I mean? Sort of shaking and not able to go backwards or forwards.

Our current ‘normal’ can’t be our long term normal. I’m a hot mess that’s one coffee spill away from a crying session. I’m fine and happy one day, getting stuff done and working out- being amazing- then a few days letter… hot mess Mama has returned. It’s like a roller coaster of emotions that I didn’t expect to be so largely present by now. But it is. Popping up it’s head every now and then, just to remind me my loved ones are missing from our lives here.

Today I was flipping through this ‘count your blessings’ type book I bought myself to try and inspire some self-reliance/recovery. This page with this super cool poem popped out at me. It’s by an ‘unknown’ author, but I’ll share it here:

“God didn’t promise days without pain.

Laughter without sorrow. Sun without rain.

But he did promise strength for the day,

Comfort for the tears, and light for the way.

If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it”

Pretty good, right? Funny because my Gramps told me ‘God made us a lot of promises. He better keep up his end of the deal!’. Maybe me wishing for some of Gramps’s words of wisdom came in the form of this today. I’ll go with that for now.


Planning Your Funeral

My Gramps planned his own funeral.

I guess that’s a ‘perk’ of knowing you’re sick and the end is truly imminent.

When I was five or six I was down in Washington with my Grandparents. We used to go down there every summer for a week or two to stay with them and our cousins. It was a great bonding time and I am eternally thankful for that gift. We are all close to this day.

The incident I’m referring to took place in the car driving down the coast. We were talking about how hot it was, which led to how far away the sun was and the Earth moved around the sun. I vividly remember this moment… standing up in the backseat of the car leaning up to the front to chat with them (100% safe… well back then). My Gramps says, ‘and then one day the sun will explode and our planet will be eaten up by fire’. Nonchalantly, like no big deal. I burst into tears (similar to how the sun will soon burst into flames) and was inconsolable.

Thinking back on it, regardless of how it ends, the one thing we know for sure is life on Earth, most definitely does end. Gramps knew that always, but even more so with a diagnosis of a terminal illness and even, at one point, a time frame of 30 days to live. Not to worry- my stubborn genes may have come a little from him, as he lived another year after that.

In that year he planned a beautiful service. His favorite hymns were sang. His daughters, granddaughters, nephew, cousin and even my Grams spoke. A favorite lesson was shared. And we all ate cake. They put red roses in a vase up front, symbolizing each year Grams and Gramps were married. The Pastor leading the service wore Grandpa’s prayer shawl. We saw faces I had grown up getting hugs from every time we visited. We listened to beautiful stories about how Gramps had changed people’s lives. It was amazing.

Of course, in the end, we all returned home. To the house that was once filled every summer with the laughter of five rambunctious cousins, one enabling Grandpa, and one smiling Grandma- probably soaking it all up. I would hear the echoes of my brother’s footsteps coming up the stairs during a wild game of hide ‘n seek. I could feel the intensity of sneaking into the attic to hear Becky read scary stories. And hear the giggles of all us girls sleeping on the hide-a-bed in the living room.I even did one quick lap around hidden porch, for old time’s sake, barefoot and running as fast as I could.

Know what else I could feel? Grandpa’s love surrounding us all. Like he was there, lifting us up. Like he always has. Like he always will.cousins

Quiet Time Leads to a Loud Brain

I haven’t been writing. It hasn’t been good for me. My new coping technique has involved constant activity. This is the first day I’ve just sat down in months. Literally.

I haven’t slept all night in months. I try to, but every noise wakes me up and then my brain keeps me up. It’s exhausting. During the day I find things to keep myself busy- jobs that must be done now-or lists to make- or items to cross off the lists. The irony is I never understood why my father in law was always on the move… I get it now.
Quiet times makes for a loud brain. And it quickly fills with beautiful memories. Which leads to tears because there are only memories now. Which leads to this incredibly frustrating anger. I am not an angry person. The emotion itself is one I’ve always had to stretch to understand… I have known people my whole life with anger issues- it’s almost their default emotional status- and mine tends to be… contentment. If that can be considered an emotion?

Lately I just feel this anger bubbling inside me. And it’s not at anybody, but fate. Or maybe God. Or life. It’s not fair that Curt is gone. I feel like my body starts to vibrate with this intense feeling and I might just explode. I don’t know how to make that stop. Or if you are supposed to just ride it out and assume it’s part of the ride of life with grief in it. To be clear- the angry shivers I get never progress past that- it’s just not in my nature. One time I ripped a poster I made for a school project when I was mad and the intense regret that filled my soul afterwards led to me never acting in anger again. Seriously. I was in second grade at the time.

We have his house on the market. I stopped by and did yard work yesterday and paid myself in perennials dug up at his house. The lilac tree that was tiny when Vince and I started dating is now taller than the house. The glass ‘pond’ my mother in law and I made when I was 17 is still there, covered up by weed blocking fabric. The creek all the cousins (including my kiddos) have spent hours at throwing rocks, looking for fish and being kids in runs through the back providing a soothing background music. The porch we’ve drank tea, cocktails, beers and ice water on a hot day is sitting there waiting for the next family to make memories on it.

I hope that with the sale I’ll get a little more closure. Or maybe with more time. I just don’t know. But I do know my house and the cabin is going to be amazing with all this time off I have this summer. Keeping busy, crossing items off the list as fast as I can add more on and somehow finding time to make new memories with my sweet babies…

Five months out. Still waiting (but not idly) to wake up.

A Blink and Forever

Today marks 10 years of my husband’s Mom passing away. I was lucky enough to date him in high school, and get to know his mom then.But we were not together when she passed away. After this January, and losing his Dad, maybe it was a blessing that she wasn’t a daily part of my life then… although the pain would have been worth the gain.

Things that remind me of her are springtime, tea on the porch, dirt… digging up flowers and moving them again, and again and again, playing games in the winter, Christmas… the crazy excitement over that train that went around the bottom of the tree. Party mix. Knowing that what you want is worth working for. Ladybugs. My daughter’s smile. The idea that helping others, even if it is inconvenient to you, is important and should be a priority.

The world is a darker place without her here to light it up. I wish my kids could have experienced what she felt like. She lit up a room when she walked into it. But they won’t get to know that. Just like we didn’t get to see her smiling face on our wedding day. She never got to hold our sweet babies in her arms. I never got to show off my garden to her  and the kids will never get to help her in hers.

Her opinion on our landscaping is unknown. Her advice for simple things and big things is a secret, lost forever. We frequently feel her around us… see her signs… and we have to make that be enough. Enjoy each tiny moment where it feels like she is there, lighting up around us.

My sweet husband is in a world without his parents. At too young of an age for anybody to be there. So today we will gather together at the lake, let our lanterns fly up and deliver our wishes, and have a seven and seven in memory of her. Or two. Make party mix and eat too many raspberries with cream. Look at old pictures and read old memories. Remember all the amazing times instead of thinking about what we are missing out on.

Imagine how a life went by in the blink of an eye…. and yet it still feels like forever since she was here.



At Least We Have Us

So here’s the thing. We have always talked about how much it just sucks that Brenda (my mother in law) isn’t here to be a part of our kiddos lives.  It will be ten years, on March 25th, since she passed away.We’ve lamented about how much our kids are missing out on.

*Every time someone complains about their mother in law, it takes every part of my patience, every piece of my being, to keep my thoughts to myself about how lucky they are to have her there. Every time. And sometimes my thoughts just spill right out of my mouth. (So… note to reader: Enjoy every day with everyone in your life. Are they bugging you? Giving their two cents? Hug it out. Tell them THANK YOU for loving your kids so much they need to meddle in your business and tell ‘how they did it’. Even if you don’t want to at the moment, just do it. And you’re welcome.)*

But in all our complaining and missing her, we always  have said ‘At least we have Dad’.

Aunt Elaine was taken from us  in a horrific accident almost two years ago. It was shocking and earth shaking. Unexpected. She had filled such a void for our kids, making them feel so loved (and us too, of course) and always taking the time to make them feel important. When she was taken, we were again so glad to have Curt there to hold everyone up. To look to for what to do next. I feel safe in saying that the whole family felt like he was the rock to lean upon and a guide to get us through the darkness. We thought ‘At least we have Dad’.

Here we are coming up on our first Easter without him. Having to plan our own celebration instead of Grandpa putting it all together. We just got back from our first cabin trip, just the kids and I, without Grandpa there to meet us. I found myself wandering around the cabin, finding jobs to do and things to move around. While looking around for ‘the eagle’ who lives there, and feeling sad he wasn’t there to remind me of Curt, I noticed a set of footprints walking from the cabin down to the lake. All the snow was melted away, except for a set of tracks, set in ice (probably from when the ground first froze). It was my sign that he was there… but also bittersweet to know those tracks are all that’s left.

Tomorrow my husband comes home from his first ‘hitch’ at work without his dad around. I haven’t gotten to talk to him in a few days. And the Grandpa calling to check in call is glaringly apparent. Just feels… extra mean. If that makes sense.

Losing someone always is hard. Always. We love big and we love hard in this family. You’re in or you are out. No middle ground.  But it’s not fair that he is gone. He was our best buddy, for all of us… not just my husband or me or Sawyer or Gracie… but for every member of this family, he felt like a best friend to. And now… there’s this hole that can’t be filled. And it isn’t fair. I feel like we’ve picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off so many times… and now again. We have to do it again.

I’ve been hanging in there. That’s the only way to describe it. I’m ‘cursed’ with being stuck on the bright side of things, most of the time. Even when thinking of all we have lost, I can’t help but count all our blessings and the amazing times we did have.And all the time we have coming to us in the future to make new memories with our kids, and each other.

But there is never enough time. Maybe… my bright side isn’t a curse, but an opportunity to pick up those around me. Maybe I’ll pick myself up in the process and find something else to write about beyond the losses we’ve encountered. That seems like asking for a lot- but we have to have goals to know where to go. 😉

grandpa wait for me

First Time Again

My husband left today for the first time since we lost his Dad. I have to convince myself every moment that it will be okay. And that nothing is going to happen, just because he is gone. And nothing will happen to him because he is gone. But I cried the whole way home from the airport this morning… first time I’ve done that in a while.

The problem is this… his dad was so… invincible. Tough. Strong. Dependable. A problem solver who fixed things you didn’t realize you needed to fix. He was a respite in moments of madness when Vince had been out of town and I had been ‘single mama-ing’ it for far too many days in a row. An adult who could make my kids laugh so I could go sit on the dock and fish for a few minutes. Or take my kids out to help him stack wood… something they aren’t really into doing with me. But it was cool when Grandpa asked for help.

We would go to the cabin and he would be another adult to talk adult things to. A sounding board for my crazy ideas. And somebody who knew about everything because of his awesome life experience. His life of working hard and playing hard influenced our lives tremendously! This December Vince was telling him he thought he might only get a few weeks of work this winter. Curt’s response? “Would that be the end of the world? To be home with your family for a couple months?”  

Now the other person in my world who I always viewed as ‘invincible’ is now going out there away from me. Not only away from us at home, but off to work where he’s running equipment, battling trees and working on the Haul Road, out of cell phone service. Just gone for two weeks. With big ol’ semi trucks cruising by them… and last time he was up at the same area he almost got swept under the ice in the river… and didn’t tell me until the next summer. No wonder I get carried away in my anxiety.

I’m excited for him to get back into the work routine and get his mind off all this mess. For him it will be a break from it all. For me it is going to be a sharp reality check as I find the person I leaned on when I was ‘alone’ is now truly gone forever. It sounds selfish when I read it back to myself- hahah. At least I can see that… so that’s a step forward. I think.

We are lucky that we have the kids to help us heal. And my parents who are beyond essential in our lives. I don’t know if we would have made it this far without them there to help every time we ask. Which has been a lot. Another couple people I now find myself obsessively worrying about being safe. I don’t want to be one of those families people read about and think… jeez, hasn’t it been enough? Because it already has to this point. I think we should tap out on bad things. Right? I’m sending it out there and hoping that works!!

Wish me luck!!   Two weeks starts now….Dada airport.jpg

One Month Later

So it’s been a month. Somehow it’s been four weeks since that day we lost Cabin Grandpa, Dad, Curt… but it feels like yesterday and forever ago at the same time.

This week I had good days. I got up every day and went to work. I cried every day. But not that hysterical, can’t breath crying, just the ‘normal’ cry that happens sometimes.

I seem to be suffering from some mild PTSD. I don’t really know if that’s the right term, but can’t seem to come up with any other one that applies so well. Every time the door bell rings unexpectedly, I freeze. Can’t move, can’t answer the door, just stand there… short of breath… and then have a small tear fest over it. Hopefully that goes away some day. Can’t burst out crying every time someone drops off a package or pops by for a visit, right?

One of Vince’s friends came over and was helping him move some stuff the other day. He is a guy Vince works with and was with him when I called him to tell him the news. I guess he just got home Tuesday… when he said that all I could think of (and say cause I can’t keep my mouth shut apparently) was that was the day Vince would have come home if none of this had happened.  Then there was a moment of silence and just… it felt like acceptance that all this really happened. And… then I had to jump ship (or the kitchen in this case) and go cry it out in my car on the way to pick up the kids from the babysitters.

Our house has been inundated with belongings that aren’t supposed to be here. I am so glad they are- we have pieces of an amazing man’s life surrounding us, but I’m so mad they are too. I don’t want his things- I want him. His first chainsaw is posted proudly on the beam in our garage… makes me cry every time I pull in. Boxes and boxes of die cast models he left to Vincent, labeled in Curt’s handwriting… makes me smile and cry every time I get out of my car.  A ‘sport’s diary’ Sawyer pulled out of Grandpa’s gun cabinet (empty of guns, mind you) and was sitting by my bed and written in 1974… makes me laugh and cry.

How long until it’s just laughs and smiles and less and less cries? And how long will it be until we pick up his shirts that I’m saving to do a project with… and they don’t smell like him anymore? How long will it be until I’m able to actually cut and sew those shirts into what I want? I still feel like if I do I’m going to get in trouble (from him!). How long until the weight of this isn’t a daily struggle to survive? How long until the waves are less and less frequently and smaller so I’m not pushed over each time?  I don’t ever wish time to go by because it already does too fast, but I do want the hurt to be less. Working on it.

The other morning we finally had a moment, a ‘visit’, a ‘sign’ from Curt that he made it. I’ve been waiting and waiting for something. I can feel Brenda (my mother in law) around us at times… other great people we’ve lost too. I’ve always felt that way about those who have moved on: that they are still here, checking in on us. But I couldn’t feel him.

At 2:50 in the morning, the radio came on. It has NEVER done that ever… and a song was playing. It’s called ‘Rainbow Stew’ and neither of us had ever heard it before. The song is about how great life will be and we will all be together under a sky of blue, drinking and eating rainbow stew. It was written during Vietnam (which Curt served in) and the singer toured there and sang this album. It was a moment to let us know he made it and was drinking ‘free hub-a-lub and eating that rainbow stew’ with his sunshine. I know it was him… I guess seeing more and more of those signs will help to make the pain feel manageable? I sure hope so! Until then I’m going to keep wading through the waves and trying to lift up those around me. Wish me luck!


Sweet Sawyer

“You guys I figured it out. I’ve been thinking and I figured it out. You can only go to Heaven if you stand on the cliffy side of trees or if you touch somethings sharp! Right?”     Sawyer, 2/1/2016

My sweetest boy,

Your heart break is breaking my heart in ways I didn’t know it could.   The sadness radiates off you, even when you’re happy. I don’t know how to help you process the loss of Cabin Grandpa. I can’t believe I even am writing this…. That we have even lost him seem impossible.

Your Cabin Grandpa loved you so big. In a way that still blows my mind. He was always finding ways to make you smile: catching fish, playing hide and seek with Ankie, taking you on lawnmower or four wheeler rides, hiding Grandpa candy in his shirt pockets for you to find, cuddling you on the couch when you were so tired and couldn’t sleep.. until you both were sleeping. Then we’d just laugh, take a picture and cover you with a blanket.DSC_0536

Daddy told me about when his mom’s friend was sick and how the house was filled with sadness and felt heavy. That has stuck in my mind and I can’t imagine you having such a dark memory in your life. I don’t want it. But I know that is what this will become. A dark spot.

We have been trying to make it lighter. Going to the cabin, but you and sister both wonder where Cabin Grandpa is. Going on weekend getaways, but when you had such a cool dude like Grandpa in your life, who always stopped by just for a quick visit, or met us wherever we were going… it makes his absence so big.

I know that since you are only four, your memories will be what we share with you. But I have to tell you, there are no bad memories. We aren’t leaving out anything to share him in a special light. He just was special. Every memory is amazing  and good and beautiful. There are no bad. So never think that.

Here is one of my favorite memories from last summer: Cabin Grandpa was stopping by every day to work on our fence (containment of you and sister and dogs). He usually came by in the afternoon, but it was a hot week so he switched to the mornings. Around 8:30 you looked out there at Grandpa (sweating away) and told me he ‘needed a beer break’. I hooked you up with a beer in your messenger bag and off you went. I could hear his surprised laugh and (even though I don’t think he wanted one) he sat  down next to you while you drank your apple juice and he had his beer in the back yard. That was just the man he was- taking a break to make you smile.

I know you are afraid of what it means to be gone. It’s a big idea and hard for even me and Daddy to understand. How can people who love us leave us? Where do they go and how do we know they get there? I hope you find the answers to this in our journey of life together. I hope you resume confidence in the idea that we will all be together for a long time. And most of all, I wish a life with less tragedy than you’ve experienced so far in your four years.

I love you so big sweet boy. And so does Daddy. And so does Cabin Grandpa watching you from Heaven.  And we will feel him all around.

Love, your sweet mama fish2



Two Weeks

It’s been two weeks.

Two weeks since my doorbell rang. My dogs went wild barking and my instant thought was, ‘It must be Cabin Grandpa. Why didn’t he call first?’.  He was going to stop by and pick up our Christmas tree, but usually he does give me a call to make sure it’s a good time.

Two weeks since I opened the door and was surprised to see a police officer standing there. He was looking for my husband. My answer was, ‘He is at work on the Slope… what did he do?’,with a smile. The officer looked down at my sweet boy standing by the door watching him and asked me to step outside. Little did I know my world was about to come crashing down.

‘I’m here to notify Vince that his Dad… his Dad is Curt Abbas right? (I nod)  He was killed in an accident this afternoon in Wasilla.’

There it was. This blow to our lives… a knock on the door, a poor man that had to break the worst news, and my two babies sitting inside watching a movie and eating popcorn on a Saturday night.

‘What am I supposed to do?’ I asked him. His face was filled with incredible sorrow for me and I (probably in shock) felt so bad for him… that this was his job. To come here and deliver the news that would change our lives forever. “Here’s a number to call and get the details. I was only asked to notify next of kin, but wasn’t given much”, was his reply.

He asked if I was okay and I did that hyperventilated breathing thing… sort of like when you’re in labor and trying to ride it out… but it was a kind of pain that would never subside. Eventually I must have said yes, because he left and I found myself in the kitchen… collapsing to the floor and sobbing hysterically. My intuitive 2 year old came around the corner and dropped to the floor next to me, crying equally out of control… ‘You sad, I sad Mama’.

So I picked myself up. Texted my own Mama because I knew when I heard her voice I would lose it. She texted me back, so must have realized I was trying to keep it together and was on her way to help. Then it happened… I had to call my husband.

I had no number… and he was in the middle of nowhere working. No cell service, no office number… I called him back on the number he had called me on, hoping someone could give me a number to get connected to him. A random man answered and I asked for Vince. He repeated his name and I heard Vince in the background say ‘That’s me’. As soon as he said hello I lost it. All I could get out was ‘You have to come home now’ before I became incoherent. He called me back on a private phone and told me he was leaving on the company plane in 15 minutes. Pick him up in 2.5 hours.

What a blessing that he was in the room he was in when I called, a blessing a plane had just landed and he could hop on it… a blessing my parents were home and could come watch the kids… another blessing that Vince’s boss and our close family friend would drive me out to pick him up… so many things fell into place that night. Except that I wish none of them had to.

The whole night seems like forever ago. The last two weeks are like a foggy haze of horror and having to adjust to a life that I would prefer not to. However… we don’t have that choice. Instead we are forcing ourselves to remember what Curt would say, ‘It is what it is’ and enjoy being alive. We are smiling at the small whispers of Grandpa we find laying around: a cigar frozen to a log at the cabin, his giant bunny boot footprint on the edge of the steps where he slipped into a hole, an open can of his favorite chips on the counter… trying to soak them all up while they are still here to discover.

My husband told me this weekend,”You know… I really miss my Dad. But there’s nothing I can do about that. Even more than missing him, I miss us being happy.” That was a really good ‘hey lady’ wake up call for me. Get it together, fake it til you make it and figure it out.

Somehow it’s time to pick ourselves up and move on remembering him and living a life he would be proud of. With him in mind, I went to work today and soaked up all those little people smiles, hugs and laughs. Not only did I make it through the day without crying, but I enjoyed my day. I’m hoping this can continue… and get better and better. There will still be waves of insane, insurmountable grief,but if I can smile everyday and can make my kiddos smile, I think I’m doing okay.


Defining Moments

There are defining moments in life… right? Like you can look back and think, ‘Man… that really changed where I was going.” I’ve had a lot of those during the course of my life so far… and expect to experience many more.

One of the recent moments happened last May. We were up visiting my sister in law. It was unseasonably warm and the kids were running through the sprinkler in their undies with piles of snow still on the grass. It was amazing. I literally put down my phone and soaked up every moment of that day.

That evening the phone rang right after the kids were all in bed and we sat down to chat. It was my father in law. He told us that his sister had been killed in a motorcycle accident. I vividly remember every moment of that entire day; how it felt to be so in the moment and loved, and also how it felt to hear those words and feel like my heart was removed from my body. I remember how my sister in laws face looked as my husband spoke the words. I remember his strength that enabled him to convey that message clearly. When someone who is an integral part of your life is ripped away from you, the details are solidified in your memory bank eternally.

I could write forever about my Aunt and how amazing she was. That will come later. I’m not quite there yet… so this is about what happened to me afterwards.

I decided shortly after that my life needed to change. I needed more days like that day. Days away from the phone, computer, tv… days living in the present. Sometimes we make these resolutions and carry them out for a day or a week. But my perspective on life was changed by this event.

Reflecting on the last few months I’ve realized how incredibly happy I have been. How my happiness has translated to happy kids who are confident and able. My relationship with my husband is amazing. My businesses are both thriving, which leads to less stress in our household. Being happy creates a desire for others to be happy around  you. You have to be determined to remain sad around me… most of the time.

We all have bad days… myself included. But now instead of being stuck in a rut, I hop right out of it and move on. You only get so many minutes, hours and days together. Soak it up! Laugh at the silly things- laugh at the serious things! Live your life like this is it. Because today, right now, in this moment, is it. This is your life.

So all I can say is thank you Aunt Elaine. Your absence leaves a void that can’t be filled, but we will continue to throw love, laughter and smiles at it in your name. We feel you around us everyday. I miss your laugh and ‘oh well’s and am always waiting for you to wander over when we’re the cabin. Thank you for changing my today, every day. Thank you for improving my children’s lives today and tomorrow, my relationships and hopefully my reach to those around me. I love you!Upper Gen