… from the bungalow


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Are You There, Mom? It’s Me, Your Son

Hi, friends! I’ve missed you. Writing anything at this point feels a bit moot, but we’ll give it a go.

Two years ago was my first Thanksgiving without my mom, and it kind of sucked. I didn’t even spend it with family. I spent it working on what would be a 23-page comprehensive literature review (for my first grad class! Ugh!), then eating at a friend’s house. Last year was spent with grandparents and relatives, along with my father-in-law right after we lost my mother-in-law. Not exactly conducive to the warm fuzzies. So, I’m working on regaining that sense of nostalgia and warmth that used to make Thanksgiving my favorite holiday. I spoke with my therapist last weekend about how to do this. My assignment is to write to my mom; it might help me lift some of the weight from my shoulders. I thought about this as I got ready for work this morning. As serendipity (synchronicity) would have it, a guest post I wrote for The Monster in Your Closet (three years ago!) popped up, right on cue, to get me started. Ready?

Dear Mom:

I miss you. Sometimes I think you’re here with me, but I don’t dare ask or hope. I don’t think I could handle the realization that you’re just … gone. It’s easier to keep it in a perpetual state of “I wonder,” you know? Like suspecting there’s something medically wrong with you, but never going to the doctor for fear they’ll confirm the worst. But when my therapist appeared to get a chill down the back of her neck and mentioned green bean casserole, I got hopeful. Pesky hope.

I’ll be honest. When you decided you didn’t want to be placed on a ventilator–and subsequently stopped breathing and died in your sleep–it made me angry. I mean, I’m glad the transition was relatively peaceful for you, but it gutted me. I couldn’t get there in time. I know you never wanted to cause me pain, but you did. Maybe you were OK with not living anymore, but I wasn’t. And maybe your family needing you wasn’t worth the high cost of living with a degenerative disease. I wish it had been. Still, I get it. Given your situation, I honestly can’t say if I would do anything differently.

But, Mom, life without you has been really f*cking hard. (Sorry. I know you hate the F-word.) Every time I think about you, I see a void. When I’m stressed and want to call you? Void. When I visit relatives? Void. Whenever Dad visits, I see a void: big and obvious and standing right there next to him where you used to be.

Where you’re supposed to be.

It’s gotten so I avoid visiting or even talking to family members. I can’t tell if the loss of you is getting easier because I’m accepting it or because I’m ignoring it.

The thing is, you’re more than a void, and my memories of you demand to be honored as such. More than dishonoring you, I’m choking off any potential joy I could be reveling in having been raised by you. So, hey, let’s go back, OK?

Remember when you read Ramona and Beezus to us at bedtime? Or Grimms’ Fairy Tales? Or The Five Chinese Brothers? Remember when you bought me my The Fall Guy lunch box? The bologna, American cheese, and Miracle Whip sandwiches you packed for me that stuck to the roof of my mouth? Remember the time I turned on the vacuum cleaner while you were holding the cat and she freaked out and clawed you up and you were bleeding all over yourself? How you were so calm and kind in telling me, “It’s OK; it wasn’t your fault”? Remember how you stayed up half the (all?) night to make that vampire Halloween costume so I could wear it to school the next morning and I was too shy/self-conscious to wear it? How you were disappointed, maybe even ticked off, but still validated my feelings and reassured me in my worry and guilt?

Remember when you saved my life?

I’m not angry at you, Mom. I’m angry at the disease that took you from me. The decision you made not to go on a ventilator was yours to make. I may still be angry about it, but that doesn’t mean I disapprove, necessarily.

I’m reclaiming Thanksgiving, Mom. It can still be my favorite holiday, I’m sure of it. I think I just need to remember you for You, not for the void you left behind. Instead of avoiding memories this week, I’m going to actively engage family in reminiscing. That’s the plan. I might even bake a green bean casserole.

I miss you. Sometimes I think you’re here with me. Let’s hope.

Love,

Your Son

This Thanksgiving, will you join me and love up the people you love? Tell them how thankful you are to have them in your life. Tell the ones you’ve lost how much they mean to you, too. And if this post resonated with you, please share. Maybe it will resonate with someone you know.

Thanks for letting me share.

Love and light,

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Waiting, Hoping, Wishing…

Right now, my wife is in surgery. A partial nephrectomy.  I probably won’t see her for about four hours. It’s a relatively minor procedure, but I’m feeling scared and anxious.

We didn’t talk much about it in the weeks leading up to the surgery. As usual, I avoided the subject. Subconsciously, consciously, probably both. Any time you are anesthetized or operated on, there’s a chance you could die. It’s unlikely. Unfeasible. Improbable. It’s all of those things, but not implausible. So when I finally brought it up with her the other night, my question to her was, “So, you could die, right?”

I hadn’t shown much emotion about it until then, and I still didn’t in that moment, but it was more than I had previously. Part of the reason for that was avoidance. Denial. This is so minor, I thought. And the part of me that didn’t consciously think about it knew there was some risk involved. Hush up, brain, I thought. I said this is minor!

In the moments leading up to her leaving the prep room for surgery, we had mixed emotions. Anxiety, hope, dismissive-ness. We nervously joked about going ahead and yanking out her gall bladder while they’re in there, fashionable hospital wear, and how the anesthesiologist could be a complete jerk, even if the nurse did say he was a good guy. (Why would he say otherwise?)

As I kissed her and told her I’d see her soon, nurses and doctors wheeling her away, I made a wish that her wedding ring, worn on my pinky, would keep us linked while she’s asleep.

Chris

P.S. Thanks for all your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. I’ll keep you posted.


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I’m streaming live from the St. Baldrick’s shaving event in Chicago!

3:15-ish Eastern, 2:15-ish local (Central)! This is the first time I’ve streamed live. Please be gentle with me. 😉 Here’s the link!

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/from-the-bungalow

About 24 shavees are expected to be participating today, and I’m excited to see just how much money they raise. Last year’s even raised $79,000! And don’t forget: it’s not too late to DONATE! 😀

Among those present will be:

Bloggers, please feel free to link up your other pages in the comments below. (e.g. the Twitters and the Pinterests and whatnot.)


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The End

Stephen Covey taught me to “begin with the end in mind.” When I started writing, the end goal was nothing more than having a creative outlet that would lead me to other modes of creative activity. But if you want to achieve a goal, you actually have to move in the direction of that goal. That statement seems painfully obvious, but I tend to get into the habit of wishing and waiting. When you’re engaged in something deeply, you make more of those distant connections or vague associations that you wouldn’t have come across during periods of distraction or preoccupation, which for me are frequent and extended.

Continue reading


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I haven’t blogged in so long. I think about blogging every day (literally), and the stakes seem to rise higher and higher with each non-writing day that passes.

I’ll be honest; I miss it.

Saying “I’m back” doesn’t help, either. It only adds to the feeling that the next post had better be… better. Greater. More.

So I’m writing tonight simply to take action. Maybe I can lower the stakes a bit. There are so many things I want to write about, and I never seem to make the time to do it. In all fairness, I’ve had some life changes lately. I started a new job, which is awesome, but stressful nonetheless. Just prior to that, my mom (55) was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). The prognosis isn’t great. And right before that, my mom’s mom passed away fairly quickly from ovarian cancer and related complications. And of course, right before that, my parents’ house burned down, and they blew a tire on their drive home to see the wreckage. Needless to say, the past few months have been stressful.

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It’s Not You, It’s Me

Well, I’ve done it again. I’ve somehow removed myself from the one thing that’s been a sure source of motivation and inspiration in my life lately: my blog.

You could argue that your significant other or your kids or nature hikes or what-have-you are sources of happiness, but they’re not. Not really. It’s the way we perceive those people and events, how we process and engage in those experiences and interactions. Our happiness is directly proportional to our compound ability and willingness to perceive goodness. In other words, it’s not you, it’s me.  It seems too simple to be accurate, but I believe it fully, at least for myself. Unfortunately, I have the willingness, but not always the ability. And as we all know, anything multiplied by zero is zero.

How could you question the validity of such a high-quality, professional-looking graph? You can’t.

But I’m trying. God help me, I’m trying.

I’ve been mentally flogging myself for Continue reading


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12 days that amaze, Day 3: I keep good company.

This is the third of 12 amazing installments of “12 days that amaze” I am pushing myself to write 12 posts about things that amaze me leading up to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser in Chicago that Karin, Deb and I are participating in. In doing so, I must also be open to the everyday amazing things that happen around me.


Everyone has obstacles to overcome. Some obstacles are simply insurmountable and we lose the battle despite our best efforts. Other obstacles are merely challenges and we push right through them. And then there are those obstacles which seem insurmountable at times, and we have a choice to make: succeed or fail.

“I keep good company.”

I’ve said this phrase a lot over the past few days in response to all the positive energy surrounding the upcoming St. Baldrick’s event and fellow bloggers. You know, the internet is an amazing thing, isn’t it? For me, connectedness is at the top of my list of “things that energize me.” I’ve met some of the most amazing people through blogging. Well, I haven’t met them in person, yet, but I will meet some of them very soon.

I already talked about Deb in my first “amazing” post this past Monday. She’s one of the amazing people I’m looking forward to meeting in a week and a half. So today I want to talk about two other amazing new friends I’ll be meeting in person.

First up, Katy of I Want a Dumpster Baby. (I sometimes affectionately call her Kitty. It’s the glasses, I think.) Katy is an open book. She’s honest with herself and others, and she’s passionate about what she believes in. Every day on Facebook and on her blog when she writes, I see her humor and strength. The blog post that really hooked me was “Gratitude for 10 Years Sober.” That was the day I perked up and really started paying attention. So much strength. So much gratitude. She has taken on what I presume felt like an insurmountable task, and has continued to do so for 10 straight years. I suspect there are days when it starts to feel that way again, and she pushes through it. Amazing.

The other person probably goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway: Sheila of Mary Tyler Mom. She’s a true inspiration. Again with the honesty, passion, and humor. As a parent of a child with special needs, I’ve always said, when faced with tragedy, you find purpose and meaning in it or risk self-destruction. Donna’s obstacle, despite everyone’s best efforts, was insurmountable, but there were many successfully cleared obstacles along the way. Sheila and her husband are heroes to me. And again, in their case, I know that there are gut-wrenching, seemingly impossible days, yet they push through it. Amazing.

Honestly, I don’t have words to describe how much folks like this inspire me, but that never stopped me from trying. March 24th promises to be an emotional day, and I’m so looking forward to it all. I’m proud and honored to call these people my friends. After all, I keep good company.

No–amazing company.

P.S. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter if you’d like. 🙂