Renn Faire Privateer Gone Mom.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Being Inked is My Superpower

I'm guest posting over on The Wild and Wonderful World of Gingersnaps today!  She is celebrating her 10,000th blog view with a week of guest posts from some pretty fun-tastic bloggers, and I am so lucky to be included!

The Wild and Wonderful World of Gingerssnaps

On to the goods!

Tattoos.  Do you have them?  Love them?  Hate them?  Judge them?

See what I've got to say about them and why I feel that:

Have you been ever judged because of your choices of self expression?

Friday, June 28, 2013

So THIS is what guilt-free parenting feels like.

Have you guys seen the Orange Rhino Challenge?  In a nutshell, it's a challenge to stop yelling at your kids. 

*eyeroll*  Right?  How can you be a parent and not yell?  That's what parents DO.  It's like, 90% of the job description.

Isn't it?

Here's the thing: I'm a yeller.  My family of orientation has some anger management issues that were blissfully passed on to me.  The Captain, though much better than me most of the time, feeds off of my stress, so when I yell, he yells, too.  The kicker?  We never yell at each other the way we yell at the kids.  I would never, in a million years, use it as an acceptable form of communication with him, and he is usually so even keeled that I doubt he'd yell at me if I stuck a fork in his hand (okay, that may be an exaggeration, but you get the idea).

How is it okay to speak to our kids in a way that we would never dream of using with our partner?

We've made excuses for a long time.  "They just don't listen... I ask nicely 1,000 times and it's only when I yell that we get results... We do it to keep them safe... We can't communicate as effectively with them and we get frustrated."  I think most parents would think these are all viable excuses.  BUT THEY ARE NOT GOOD REASONS.

Since becoming parents of multiple children, our stress and anxiety levels have increased.  Now, we're about to add a 4th into our barely contained mass of chaos, and I've been thinking.  I've been thinking a lot.

About how I hate the way I feel when I tuck the kids in with tears on their faces, because I had to yell at them to just go to bed.  How I hate myself, because I should be doing better than this.  They deserve better than this.

About how I want to do better, and feeling guilty because I. Just. Can't.

So, upon my frequent blog hopping, I came across another Orange Rhino post.  This time, though, instead of passing it off as a wishy-washy idea, I read about it.  And I read some more.

I mentioned it to the Captain, and he became interested. 

This could be good for us.

We're starting small.  Like, one day at a time, small.

But you know what?

I did it.  I went the whole day, and the one time my voice got to a 4 level, I quickly reigned it in, took a breath, and started over.

And it was AMAZING.

But not yelling wasn't the only part of it.  I had to let go, too.  I had to let go of the need to control what my kids were or weren't doing.  I had to remember that they're kids.  One of them is barely considered more than a baby.  Cabin Boy #1 was the toughest.  Being nearly 4, he's picked up on my 'start yelling if someone doesn't do what I want' habit, and that's going to be a tough war to wage.  It will be so worth it though.

Because I got to say goodnight to my kids tonight without the guilt of things I said in anger, or things I yelled about, hanging over me, marking me as a less-than mom.  Less-than I want to be.  Less-than I should be.

Today, I didn't yell.  And I will strive to do the same tomorrow.  Because my kids deserve more than the less-than mom, and so do I.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Theme Thursday: Road Trip

Back when Cabin Girl was about 18 months, the Captain was offered an interview for an apprenticeship program across the state.  Since this was the first of several potential trips, we decided to go as a family.  For fun.

Our first 4.5 hour road trip.  Over long, dreary stretches of plains and desert, then through two separate winding mountain passes.  With an 18 month old.  FUN.

We made it through the first 2.5 hours fine.  Through the boring stretches, over a colossal river, and through one twisty pass Cabin Girl napped a bit and we kept her occupied with snackadoos.  We made a pit stop at the 'halfway point' city along our charted course and grabbed some golden arches for lunch (this was well before I had any inkling as to what GMOs and junk were).

Cabin Girl had greedily inhaled her hamburger (read: bun) and sucked down her juice, and was happily munching on some french fries as we started our downhill descent through the second, bigger pass.

We were cruising along in our Honda Accord and I turn to see if CG needs anything, only to discover her vomiting.  All over herself.  A LOT.

We were still at least an hour from our destination.

A few truckers probably wondered what the hell we were doing, stripping our baby down to her diaper on the side of the soggy interstate (Did I mention we were heading towards the Puget Sound?  Seattle weather.  Awesome stuff.).
Photo from Wikipedia
Pretty right?  Not so much with vomit all over your car.

The hotel staff sure gave us some strange looks when we checked in; CG wrapped in one of my long sleeve shirts, the Captain with her disassembled car seat in tow.

Thankfully, the shower in our hotel room got both hot enough and had a strong enough stream to clean the car seat well enough for the return trip home.

For which we did not get McDonalds.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Whimsical Wednesday Weekly Wrap-Up!

For the Unicorns Fart Glitter blog hop, I'll be posting whatever cutesy, happy moments I happened to catch throughout the previous week.  Enjoy!  And don't forget to Link-Up!

They love each other!
Sweet snuggle bug.
Lilies are my favorite!
Gorgeous surprise bloom as I headed out the door one morning.
The Captain, snuggling up to feel The Kraken's hiccups.
Cabin Boy #1 and I sending the Captain a Good Morning picture.
CB1 dutifully helping Cabin Girl clean up the mess he made.
The 'bouquet' the Cabin Kids picked for me.

Domestic Pirate

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Days 4, 5, and 6; Bump in the road? Or creating a new norm?

Miss Days 2 and 3?  Get caught up here.

Day 4!  You'll notice I'm no longer listing water, but don't worry, it's still being consumed in copious amounts!  Cabin Girl and I went shopping for a birthday party present then hit the Farmer's Market before heading to said party.  Here's how the day went.

Coffee with creamer
Steel cut oats with raisins and walnuts (yeah, sorry, no pancakes this weekend)
Chicken adobo and rice
GF cookie
Bunless burger
Potato salad
Fruit salad
Piece of cake

"WOAH WOAH WOAH, Jessica!"  I hear you saying.  "I thought you were eating clean and cutting out gluten!  Coke, potato salad, and cake?!"

Here's the dealio:

I'm not trying to diet.  I am creating a new norm.  If I can make sure my habits are strictly gluten free 99% of the time and clean 80% of the time, I'm okay with indulging in a piece of cake at a birthday party.  I know myself, and it's when I expect myself to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time that I find myself failing miserably.  Out of everything I ate in days 1-4, one thing for sure had gluten, one was likely not clean, and one was definitely not clean, but I'm okay with it.  If I expect too much of myself, I will crash and burn, and possibly do more damage to my body than what a small indulgence every few days will do.

For dinner we had baked chicken, asparagus, and a cheesy potato bake.  No treat, because I had that cake and coke earlier.  Moderation.  Plus, Captain headed out of town for a job interview (but not before THIS adventure!) and by the time I wrangled all the Cabin Kids into bed, I was ready to pass out.

Day 5.  Captain was out of town, so we went easy and simple with leftovers and snackadoos.

Coffee with creamer
Leftover steel cut oats with blueberries and walnuts
Strawberries and raspberries
Chocolate almond milk
Chicken breast and carrots

GF cookie
Peanut butter

Dinner was cobb salad using iceberg lettuce (gifted from my lovely neighbor's garden!), sugar peas (farmer's market!),  grated carrots, avocado, hard boiled egg, chicken, and, of course, bacon)
Day 6.  Captain stayed home to get a few things taken care of and rest his shoulder that he keeps messing up playing softball.  So I took the opportunity to hit the laundromat and wash a few comforters (including the one mentioned in the adventure from day 4).  Before leaving I put a partially thawed beef roast in a baking pan, seasoned it with garlic powder, salt, and black pepper, and stuck it in the oven at 350 degrees.  It'll provide an easy, simple dinner tonight and leftovers for something tomorrow. 

Omelete (spinach, italian cheese)
Tomato soup and grilled cheese
Peanut butter

Beef roast with onion, carrots, and red potatoes (there are no leftovers)
Yogurt with chocolate chips and pecans

This week we're getting ready for our summer vacation, so I'll be sharing a post about preparing to go 'camping' while eating clean soon!

Monday, June 24, 2013

My house smells like a sex toy. I swear, it's not what you think.

You know those romance parties?  Groups of ladies gather together to giggle over naughty euphemisms and freely discuss their sexuality, while snacking on suggestively shaped foods and perusing the latest and greatest pleasure enhancing products out there.

I've been to a couple.

They're totally fun.

No, the Captain and I don't NEED anything to enhance our bedroom relationship, but sometimes it's fun to try something new, even if it is a different scented massage oil.

I've brought a few things home from these parties.  Mostly door or game prizes (Who can suck the candy off a Blow Pop the fastest?  This chick.) and a few small purchases, like lube and whatnot.

Things that were used once or twice and promptly forgotten about in my bedside table.

Until now.

When the nearly 2 year old Cabin Boy #2 went perusing through our bedroom drawers while I was cooking dinner and the Captain was showering off his softball game.

For some reason he has a fascination with lotions lately.  Leave the toothpaste within his reach and he'll squeeze half the tube out in a heartbeat:
Or, he'll scale the changing table to get to the diaper cream:

Apparently, Strawberry Cheesecake Massage Cream is no exception.

Upon Captain's arrival to the bedroom from the bathroom, he discovered it:

On my laptop
Our comforter
The floor
The bedside table
The dresser
CB2's face
The stairway wall
The stair rail

But NOT, ironically, on any of our 'toys.'

If dinner hadn't been ready right at the moment of discovery, it would have been an early bath time.

As it stands, we had dinner while CB2, Captain, and I all smelled very strongly of intimate cream.

Cabin Girl thought it was lovely.

And now I'm hoping the Captain will take my pleas to replace our bedroom door handle more seriously.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Returning to GF/Paleo: Days 2 and 3

Welcome back!  If you missed the first 2 posts of the series, you can see them here and here.

Day 1 was rough.  I felt like I was hungry all day long.  I need to start eating more raw veggies to fill up, but if they don't sound good, I can't eat them, or I get nauseous and won't be able to eat anything for quite a while, which is not okay with me.

I want to take a minute to talk about meat.  I'll be honest and say I don't concern myself with the fat content of most meat I purchase.  We eat a lot of uncured bacon, and we've been eating quite a bit of the 1/4 + 1/8 of the organic, grass-fed beef that's in our freezer.  Chicken is something we used to eat a ton of, but only have once or twice a week at this point.  Firstly, because of the cost.  And secondly, because it's so much more convenient to cook the beef we already have.

That being said, if I spot a deal, I SNAP IT UP!  Thankfully, we have a flex budget every paycheck that allows us to go beyond our usual cash grocery budget if need be.  I went shopping yesterday to round out a few things we needed for the coming week and scored a huge deal on free-range, organic chicken.  It was nearing its expiration date, but since we keep it in the freezer until the day we use it, I'm not worried about it going bad.  I grabbed 5 packs of chicken breasts, 6 packs of thighs, and a whole chicken, each pack marked down around 30%.  I also found some uncured breakfast sausage links, which are a rare treat for us, and a package of uncured spicy Italian sausage that will be perfect for the next time I make zuppa, also with a 30ish% mark down.  If you really want to be on top of great meat deals, ask the department what day/time they mark the discounts, that way you can be there for first pick.

All that out of the way, here's what I ate on Day 2.  I'm still including how often I'm drinking water, to give you a good idea of just how much you can get in during the day.  I keep my handy-dandy Dirty Girl water bottle with a straw-like spout with me at all times, so it's easy to just sip on it all day long.

Scrambled eggs with broccoli and bacon
Coffee with coconut creamer
Greek yogurt with chocolate chips and pecans
Chicken with sliced cucumbers (I kept one of those packs of chicken thighs out of the freezer to bake for a late lunch.  It was perfect!  The cucumbers, however, just tasted like chemicals, despite being organic, washed, and peeled.  Very disappointing.)
Gf pizza (I used Bob's Red Mill GF Pizza Mix.  For sauce I just used some organic crushed tomatoes and seasoned it myself with red pepper flakes, garlic, and oregano.  Topped the kids' with cheese, uncured pepperoni and black olives while Captain and I had cheese, uncured pepperoni, spinach, mushrooms, pickled jalapenos, and black olives.)
After dinner we scooted off to a ping-pong social with Captain's work friends.  We had Pirate Booty and some GF cookies for a snack.  With water, of course.

Here we are at the end of Day 3.  It was an odd day, since I spent half of it out of the house, but with a little preparation I was able to still make good choices!

As usual, I started the morning off with water and then my coffee with creamer.  I packed myself an apple, a bag of mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, and macadamia), a to-go cup of chocolate almond milk, and a banana, then my local bestie picked me up and we headed to the Dirty Dash!

I had the apple and nuts before the race, for carbs and fat, but stopped drinking water about 40 minutes before the run.  There was no chance of me trail-stopping for a pee break.

Apparently, that's my "Look strong" face.  Yeah.
My dad's response to this picture was that we needed to go play outside.  What a funny guy.
Immediately after we finished I grabbed some water and a banana.  I rinsed off a teeny-tiny bit, then we headed over to grab a smoked turkey leg (They gave me 2!  What, did they think I needed the extra calories or something?) and I drank my almond milk before playing get-changed-without-anyone-seeing-my-goodies in the woods.  I think we were successful. 

On the way home I had water, my banana and a GF Cliff bar that they were handing out at the Dash.  Here's what I've had since cleaning off 3 layers of mud:

Yogurt with chocolate chips and walnuts
Water and a 3 hour nap.
A carrot (and the first ripe pea from my garden!)
Dinner: Grilled flank steak, mashed sweet potatoes (with butter and a touch of coconut sugar), roasted beets, and green salad with some dressing. With, you guessed it, water to drink.
Now I'm sitting/laying (it's really hard to type while laying on your left side, btw) in bed, trying to discourage contractions!  Whee!!  I do plan on sneaking down for a cookie, or maybe a piece of super dark chocolate once the kids go to bed.

Tomorrow is Sunday, which is Captain's day to sleep in, so I'll be making one of our favorite grain-free pancake recipes tomorrow and hitting the Farmer's Market for some local produce!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

First Dinner, Preparations, and First Full Day- Returning to GF/Paleo

If you missed the preface post to this one, you can read it here: Double Whammy.

So, you're all caught up on WHY I'm returning to a gluten-free/Paleo/Primal lifestyle.

Here's how we're getting started.

Thankfully, I've kept quality meats at the top of my grocery priority list, even at my laziest.  We have grass-fed, organic beef, free-range chicken, and a bit of wild caught fish in the freezer along with a few cuts of pork and loads of uncured breakfast meat like bacon and chicken sausage.

I had plans to roast a chicken to go with the fettuccine alfredo I was craving like mad, so I had a thawed chicken in the fridge when I learned that my switch to gluten-free had to be immediate.  Scrounging around the cupboards, I found rice, organic crushed tomatoes, and canned coconut milk.  CREAMY CURRY TIME (recipe will be at the end of the post)!

We already use olive oil, butter, lard, or coconut oil to cook everything, so that's not going to be a hard switch.  I made our grocery list after dinner, keeping in mind what we have discovered works for our family and what doesn't, and hit the road.

I happily took my time perusing the shelves for what I wanted.  As I was leaving, this happened...

Going from what I brought home and what we already have, this is the plan for the next few days (all of it is gluten free and as much as possible is organic).

  • (Alongside my coffee with coconut hazelnut creamer) Breakfasts will consist of:
Gluten free steel cut oats once or twice a week
Eggs with veggies (either broccoli or kale) and bacon/sausage most mornings
Hard boiled eggs on lazy mornings (read: mornings I don't have to cook Captain's post-workout breakfast)
On weekends I'll make Paleo pancakes or waffles
  • Lunches:
Leftovers from dinner
Tomato soup
Tuna/chicken salad with kraut and cucumbers
Hard boiled eggs with salad or black olives
  • Snacks:
Kettle Brand potato chips (Kettle Brand, NOT Lay's Kettle; non-GMO is important!)
Homebrewed kombucha
  • Dinners:
Spaghetti with meaty marinara and salad (from my garden!)
Beef with roasted red potatoes and beets
Roast chicken with lentil soup
  • Treats:
Greek yogurt with pecans and Enjoy Life chocolate chips
Almond shortbread cookies
Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk

It's important to note that during the first few days of a dietary change, your body will rebel.  HARD.  I feel like I am starving today, so I'm allowing myself to eat as much as my body thinks it needs, even if it's trying to trick me.  I'm also drinking copious amounts of water to help flush as much gunk out of my system as possible.

Today, I had:
  • Water with my cranberry and spirulina supplements.
  • Coffee with coconut creamer and 2 hard boiled eggs.
  • Water.
  • Water.
  • Cookie.
  • Water.
Lunch: leftover roasted chicken breast, half an avocado, and a handful of black olives.
  • Water.
  • Kettle chips.
  • About 8 oz. kombucha
  • Water. 
  • Water.
  • Greek yogurt with pecans and chocolate chips.
  • Water.
  • The leavings of the kids' mango.
  • Water, water, water.
  • GF spaghetti with meaty marinara and salad greens from our garden with a touch of dressing.
  • Water.
  • Chocolate almond milk.
  • And more water.
Yes, I had lots of treats today and not many veggies.  No, I'm not worried about it.  Like I said above, my body is rebelling against the changes I'm making and I'm doing what I can to cope with alternatives.  I'm hoping all this water will not only flush out some of those SAD toxins, but help me deal with the allergies that are making me want to claw my eyes out right now, too.

  Now, on to the SUPER easy curry recipe!!

Sautee diced onion in coconut oil in a large pan.  Add diced zucchini.  Season generously with curry seasoning, paprika, garlic, and salt.  Add cans of coconut milk/cream and 12 oz. crushed tomatoes.  Simmer until it begins to thicken, then add half of the roasted chicken (I do exactly half, mixing white and dark meat), torn into bite sized pieces.  Let it simmer a few more minutes, taste to decide if it needs more curry or tomato, then serve on top of steamed rice or riced cauliflower!  If you can, steam your rice in half water and half chicken broth for a flavor AND nutrient bonus.  The best thing about this recipe is you can add whatever veggies you want to customize it to your family's tastes.  I LOVE sweet potatoes and cauliflower in my curry, but the Pirate Crew does NOT.  We also like this recipe without the tomatoes, and we add large chunks of bell peppers to the onions.  It is great the night of, but I love it even more reheated a day or two later!

Don't forget to clean the other half of the chicken and keep the meat for leftovers or tomorrow's dinner and SAVE THAT CARCASS, drippings, and giblets to make some chicken broth!

Dump all of those chicken remains (skin and everything!) into a crockpot, dice up an onion (carrots and celery tops are great, too) to toss in, cover with water, and let simmer on low for at least 12 hours.  This stuff is gut health GOLD!
If you try the curry, please let me know what you think! 

Double Whammy; The news that shook me out of my SAD diet stupor.

Being pregnant is hard.  Being food conscious is hard, too.  Being pregnant AND food conscious?  SUCKS.

My body has been craving simple carbs like mad.  Know what's full of simple carbs?  Crap.  Conventional, boxed, overly processed CRAP.  In a battle between hormones, sciatic pain, pelvic pain, and food cravings, the cravings are the easiest to take care of.

So instead of being our usual 80/20 selves (80% Primal, 20% not Primal but mostly clean with an occasional cheat thrown in), we've been more along the lines of 50/50 (50% crap, 50% whatever healthy thing I can manage to scrounge together).

The kids and Captain are LOVING it.  We've had crackers and cookies, bread for sandwiches, noodles and rolls with dinner, and take-out and fast food MUCH more than I am willing to admit.

I've been struggling.  Feeling guilty about allowing my family to eat this junk, feeding my family this junk, and every night I resolve to do better the next day.  Then, the next day rolls around and it's the same story.

Until yesterday.

**History break.  During each of my pregnancies my blood platelet count has dropped low.  Low enough that I hemorrhage after delivery and need intervention in the form of a clotting injection.   Anything less than 100 can cause extra delivery complications.

Yesterday my platelet count came back much lower than it has previously been at this stage in my other pregnancies; at 29 weeks my count is at 105.  Group F Strep was also found in my urine samples, meaning I have a urinary tract infection; not from e Coli, as most are, but from strep, pointing to an imbalance in my gut flora.

Low platelets AND a UTI.  Fun.

My doula picked the brains of a few colleagues and informed me that there are some inconclusive studies out there linking gluten to low platelet counts during pregnancy.  There are also a few connections between chlorella consumption and increased platelet count.  

So begins an experiment.  I'm officially going back to a strictly gluten-free diet, and at the same time falling back into a mostly Paleo lifestyle, with the exception of rice, red potatoes, and quinoa for simple carbs and Greek yogurt for extra protein and probiotics.  I'm also taking an spirulina supplement for chlorella and cranberry extract, to see if it helps my UTI in conjunction with focusing on gut healing foods.

In the spirit of camaraderie, I thought I'd share what we're eating the first few days of our re-adjustment, in case there are others out there needing some easy ideas, or a sympathetic ear.

If you live a gluten-free, Paleo/Primal, or clean eating lifestyle, what revelation(s) made you start?  Have you had any stops and restarts?

Check back tomorrow for the next post, which will include a curry recipe, meal plan ideas, and preparations for the first few days.

Booty my kid keeps sticking in his booty

Look.  We're all pirates here.  We love booty.  We have a house full of crap we don't need because we LOVE booty.

But you know what I don't love?  When my kid loves his booty SO much, that he thinks the only safe place for it is IN HIS BOOTY!
"Why you gotta play me like that, bro?"
In the past few weeks (in addition to the homie above), we have discovered:

Twice, in the same day.

 Way too many to count, on far too many separate occasions.

...yeah.  I have no idea how THAT was comfortable.

Just in case he needed to decorate something, STAT.

Vroom Vroom Motherf*&^er!

He likes to keep things that remind him of nature close by, apparently.
Also, CRAYONS.  Lots and lots of crayons.

I'm just thankful that we haven't found any of these things in his diaper along with what's SUPPOSED to be in there... yet.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Always listen to your gut, and never trust a box.

You know what's nice?  Instead of being woke up by nagging kids begging for food, being woke up with a soft kiss from your other half with a gentle request to come downstairs.

Until you discover why he needs you in the kitchen before 7 a.m.

To set the scene:

You're 7 months pregnant.  You've been fighting the seasonal allergy battle of your life (seriously, you're considering getting stock in pantyliners and tissues, you've been sneezing so hard and so often).  You stayed up late watching Green Hornet with your spouse, and even later reading the sci-fi classic, Ender's Game, hoping that at some point you would just pass out so hard you wouldn't be woke up by burning eyes and a runny nose.  At some point you say 'Screw it,' and go take some low dose, pregnancy safe allergy medication to try and get a little relief.  As you get settled back into bed with your Nook you consider going downstairs to check on the organic garden pest control you bought earlier that day.

But, 'No,' your sleepy, allergy overloaded self says.  'The instructions said 2-6 weeks.  Nothing's going to happen tonight.'  Finally, around the dark hour of 2 a.m., the drugs have done enough work for you that you can take the tissues out of your nose and sleep without fearing a snot coating on your pillow.

Back to 7 a.m., your spouse leads you into the kitchen, saying, 'Your mantis pods hatched last night.' 

Excitement!  "Really?!  Cool!"

'And they're all over the kitchen.'



In your defense, the box said that if you wanted to see them hatching, you should put them in a giant bowl.  In your defense, you thought the mesh splatter shield weighted down with a ceramic plate would keep any that *might* be able to climb up the sides of that giant bowl from escaping into the great unknown that is your kitchen.  In your defense, you know abso-freaking-lutely NOTHING about mantis babies.  For all the wide-world of information that is at your fingertips, you trusted a box to give you all the information you needed about the safe hatching of hundreds of tiny bugs.

So, you spend the first hour of your morning hunting down baby bugs in your kitchen.  BEFORE you get coffee.


  • Did you know that those long back legs make it super easy for a mantis to jump?

  • Did you know that they will play dead?

  • Did you know that they move extremely fracking fast?

  • Did you know that they're so light and tiny that they practically float to the ground on their numerous suicide-bomber-like attempts to escape you?

  • Did you know that kids will automatically assume they are spiders and try to squash them?

After you think you've gotten most of them, you grab your coffee and take a few minutes to catch on up internet stuff.

And you can't help but smile when you hear your spouse say, "Hey little baby, where'd you come from?" as he's getting his lunch ready.  Because, really... they're kind of cute.

Who knows?  Maybe they'll help with the fruit flies that always seem to ride in on your bananas.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

9 Years of Reconciling Grief and Joy

9 years ago today, something awful happened.

Because of that something awful, 9 years ago today, something extraordinary happened, too.

9 years ago, I had graduated high school.  I had been flirting with this amazing guy that I worked with, and his interest seemed reciprocated.  I had some awesome friends that I would miss terribly, leaving them behind to finish their high school journey as I embarked on mine to become a real adult.

On June 13th, 2004, I spent the day goofing off with my friends.  We hung out, played video games, watched movies.  I had plans to stay the night with them, until I got a text message.  The guy I was interested in was free that night.  Did I want to hang out after he got off work?  Maybe go see a movie?

Uhm, D'UH!

Did my parents need to know?  Nah.  They knew I'd be out, and that was good enough.  After all, I was 18 now.  An ADULT.

Off I flew to this guy's house, after creating a cover story with my friends, just in case my parents called while I was gone (I was out getting cupcakes, btw).  That whole being an adult thing still needed a little work.  My phone rang a few times, but I missed it because I was smoking and listening to my ridiculously loud techno music.

I pulled up in front of his house, tried to dumb down the shit-eating grin I had on my face, and, as I walked up the stairs, he opened the front door.  He had a bowl of spaghetti in one hand... I'll always remember that for some reason.  As he told me that my friend had called him while I was on my way over and that my parents needed me home immediately, I fixated on that bowl of spaghetti.  'Was something wrong?'  It sounded like it.  'Oh.'  You have my number, call me when you know what's up and maybe we can still do something later.

Back to my friend's house I raced to grab my things and give my parents a quick call.  'Sorry, yeah, out getting cupcakes.  Just noticed the missed calls.  What's up?'  Something bad happened and we need you at home.  'Is everyone okay?'  Just come home, we'll talk when you get here.

A 20 minute drive becomes a nightmare when you're left with such non-information as that.  Did someone get in a wreck?  Is someone in the hospital?  Someone's house burn down?  Dog get run over?

These are awful things to ponder in a car by yourself, driving down lonely rural roads.

When I pulled up our driveway, my family was sitting in camping chairs in the yard.  I did a quick count of the 4 of them, mom, dad, brother, sister, and the anxiety disappeared for an instant before returning.

I don't remember specifics of what was said... But, I do remember my mom holding a big, stuffed Tigger doll while she told me that my favorite Uncle, her only brother, had been found with his dog that afternoon, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

He loved Ren and Stimpy.

His favorite childhood character was Tigger.

He smoked Camels.

He was an amazing gardener.

He had a piranha that he decided to stuff and mount when his (eventual ex) girlfriend decided it creeped her out.

He drove semi-trucks for a living.

He called his dog everything but his given name.

That dog was his world.  He chose not to leave the world without his one ever-devoted companion.

He was 38.

He had struggled with drugs forever.

He had tried to leave us before, but intervention only seemed to make his conviction stronger.

9 years ago today, something awful happened.

Because of that something awful, 9 years ago today, something extraordinary happened, too.

After a while, the phone rang.  It was that wonderful guy, checking to see if everything was okay.

I told him what happened.  I cried.  He listened.  He listened for a long time.

For weeks afterwards, he held me when I would suddenly start crying.  He saw me snotty, puffy faced, and red eyed, and continued to call me and ask to see me again.  He'd listen to me just talk.  He came to visit me when I was getting the tattoo in memory of my Uncle and his dog.

This amazing guy was there when my family went through the biggest emotional upheaval it had ever experienced, and it didn't scare him away. 

9 years later, he's still with me. 

He still holds me when I cry.

He understands what I need when he catches me listening to this song:

Today, I grieve a loss.

Today, I celebrate what that loss sparked.

And I wish my Uncle was here to see it.

My Uncle's pendant and my wedding bouquet.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please don't hesitate to call.  There is always help.

1-800-273-TALK (8255)