Friday, October 30, 2015

Calm: A #WholeMama Post

Stress and Stars: Calm: A #Wholemama Post

Calm is little arms around my neck,
little hands curled into sleepy fists.
She is still while she listens
to my heartbeat with one ear
and my breathing with the other.

Calm is a few minutes of early-morning quiet,
before the coffee is made or the dog is fed -
before anything else but this.
Calm is the warmth of her
when it's just she and I in the silent night
and the way we breathe together.

I think she had to be here now,
that she could not have been my baby
four years ago or five years in the future.
She had to be who she is right this second
so that I will get out of bed each day,
if only so I can hear her breathe.

Calm is the way I feel when she is
all I think about. For a few minutes there isn't
a hole in the world where my dad should be.
I don't worry about money or want to go to bed
for a year. Instead, her arms are tight around me.
My daughter and I breathe together.

She may hold her arms out to me for help now,
but what I am doing is just the same.
When I sweep her up to watch her smile,
it's the way drowning men grab the hands of
rescuers and collapse with relief onto dry land. The way
they hold on to the sand and keep breathing.

The calm is in her terrible sticky kisses and
the way her hands are always damp. It's in
her halting steps and her big cheesy grin that
shows off all eight teeth. Most of all,
the calm is in those early-morning seconds
where we just sit and breathe together.

Calm is the way her eyelids flutter as she fights
to stay awake against the lull of my heart, the
first sound she knew. She always knew my breathing, too.
We have always known each other. I was once
the length of the world to her.
I knew her hiccups before she ever breathed.

The calm is in the way we sit and the weight of her
is more and yet somehow the same as
when I carried her. Calm is how we sit,
silent. I am calm and I don't think about
anything at all, except
the way we breathe together.


#wholemama this week: Calm. See the post over at Erika Shirk's blog Overflow!

Today's post is my tenth while participating in the #Wholemama linkup. This week's theme was "calm". You can find the link to this week's linkup and post over at Erika Shirk's blog Overflow - this week the "guest post" to start things off is by Gayl Wright, who I met through #wholemama only to find out she lives very close by here in South Carolina! .My other posts as part of the linkup or just inspired by the theme are A Hard Leap Off a High CliffMotherhood on PurposeOn Reading and PeaceI Lay You Down to Sleep, My LoveWhen It Rains... CelebrateParenting is SillyAnything But OrdinarySpacePrayer, and A Supermom is a Sleep-Deprived Mom.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Find Joy in November: A Challenge

I feel like things have gotten a little bit negative in my head lately.

Honestly, it's probably pretty understandable. This has been, by all accounts, a year that most resembles a tree attempting to withstand an avalanche. It began with my mother's battle with breast cancer, hit its mid-point with Jason and I becoming quite unexpectedly a one-income family, and because the universe has always been a fan of one-two punches, followed that up with my dad's sudden death. It just hasn't been exactly an easy year.

Lately, I feel like I've been letting the positives slip away.

I have been finding myself doing an awful lot of sitting around trying to figure out what's going to go wrong next. As someone who lives with anxiety, this is already something I am very prone to, but it's tipped over into a whole new world of worrying.

Who will be the next person to get sick? What's the next thing that will cost us more money than we can afford? Obviously, it's going to be something. I have had it beaten into my head several times over this year that we don't just get to have a good month - something terrible will no doubt follow.

As you can imagine, this is not a good place for my brain to live.

So I've decided I don't want to live there.

To that end, I'm giving myself (and anyone who'd like to sign up!) a challenge for the next month:

Find Joy in November

Here's my plan: On my instagram, I'm going to take a photo every day of something that makes me happy. Even if it's just a cup of tea or a well-written sentence in a favorite book. Just a photo, maybe a line or two, and the hashtag #FindJoyinNovember.

I'd like you to join me.

Just a photo, and a line or two. Or a few, if you'd like - a thousand if you want. Share it on Instagram, on Twitter, write a blog or a Facebook post. Do whatever you'd like! Just make it about a moment, big or small, that gives you real joy and happiness.

Once a week, I'll do a kind of linkup post. I'll showcase my favorite posts from the week and share what everyone has been finding their joy in this month. Anything posted under the #FindJoyinNovember is fair game.

While my challenge to myself will be to post on my Instagram account every day, that's not really my challenge for everyone else. Although I'd love to have someone post every day with me, just to help me keep motivated. But I want to see your weekly or even just occasional joys, too! As often as is comfortable.

Whatever you post, whether it's on Instagram or if something about the challenge sparks a blog post in you, let me know! I'd love to see what everyone else is finding their happiness in. Let me know!

I want to give myself something positive to think about every day, something to dwell on that isn't what might go wrong next. I'd love to dwell instead on my joy and on yours.

Share with your friends and see if they'd also be interested. Basically, if everyone could just flood me with images of happy things all November, that would be great. We could all use more happy things.

My first post will be on November 1st, and it will be here and include a recap of the challenge and the rules just to keep everyone fresh on it. Here's a shorter version of my idea, just for everyone to share around and start thinking about before things start.

#FindJoyinNovember Rules:
1. Comment on the introductory post on November 1st. Let me know where you'll be posting (Instagram, Twitter, Blog, etc) & your username or a link if it's a blog.

2. Take a photo of a moment of real joy or happiness, no matter how big or small. This can be daily, twice a week, weekly, whatever. Write a line, or two, or ten - it's up to you - about the moment and why you found such happiness in it. End with the hashtag #FindJoyinNovember

3. Post the photo and text into your chosen medium - blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook posts, whatever.

4. I will post a "roundup" once per week. If you've blogged on the topic, comment with your link. I'll pick 3 favorite posts or photos per week to share but of course will encourage everyone to look through the hashtag photos.

5. Share that you are participating around! Get friends involved! I like people!

6. Watch for a giveaway! I will post about it within the first two weeks of November, and it will be open to participants in the challenge! (Spoiler alert: It's almost certainly a book. I like books. I might go crazy and give away something else, though. I don't know. It's happened before.)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Google Maps Clearly Doesn't Know Where I Live

Today, I went out to a little pumpkin patch in Taylors with my friend Sarah and her family. We had altogether a lovely time in the bright sun. Audra was feeling a little insecure and is in the process of trying to get rid of the morning nap that she refuses to believe she really does need in order to not be a fire-breathing dragon all day, so she was basically glued to my arms the whole time.

Except, of course, for the short time that she was glued to the arms of Sarah's husband.

Then back into mine.

Audra was essentially apathetic-verging-on-miffed about the whole process. There were roosters that made noise and at one point one of them crowed and when she turned around, I had moved less than three feet away and that meant I wasn't right next to her and that was not okay. Then, her evil mean mother had the utter gall to insist on being within six feet of a pair of llamas that she was pretty sure were planning to murder her.

Although she did enjoy pretending to vacuum the little playhouse, which is sort of hilarious since I'll tell all of you, that child has never seen me vacuum.

That's her father's job. Mommies don't vacuum - we leave the house when the vacuum is on or hide in another room because vacuum noises were invented by the Devil.

She did cheer up for the hayride, where we went in a circle learning all about the farm animals. Our guide at one point had to defend the idea of pigs eventually becoming sausage to a little girl who was profoundly disturbed by the idea. It didn't help that this farm's pigs were exceptionally cute. I think I may have seen a vegan in the making in that little girl's face when the hayride ended.

In order to get to the pumpkin patch, I had gone to Sarah's house and then followed them out there. When we decided we were done, we went our separate ways.

"Are you okay to find your way home?" Sarah asked.

"Oh, sure," I replied. "I have GPS."

I put my trust in Google Maps, pulled up my home address, and followed the directions it gave.

I should not have trusted Google Maps.

Instead of heading straight back to my house, or at least as straight-back-to-my-house as the windy hilly roads-in-the-foothills would allow, Google Maps decided that what I really needed was a scenic countryside drive in a direction that, if I went long enough, would eventually end up putting me on a road I recognized as being connected to a road that's connected to a road that leads to another road that would lead me home.

I don't know the other side of town all that well. I could see Paris Mountain, so I knew that as long as Google Maps had me headed in that general direction, I'd be going the right way.

Google Maps proceeded to take me around the other side of the whole damn mountain.

Luckily, Audra fell asleep right away. I drove in silence (except for a quiz show on NPR) through the hills and down into little valleys and then back up again, around sharp curves, taking rights and lefts as my phone told me what to do.

Every once in a while, I'd catch a brief glimpse of Paris Mountain, not at all where I expected it to be.

I'm sure it'll take me in the actual direction of home eventually, I thought to myself.

Then, when I came up to a four-way stop with no one coming or going, I idled for a moment and looked at the map.

Oh, sure, it was going to take me home. By taking me north and north and north, depositing me on the other side of where my house was, then turning around.

So I turned Google Maps off, stared long and hard at Paris Mountain, took a deep breath, and decided my poor sense of direction and I could only get so lost before I ran out of gas and had to ask for help anyway.

I somehow ended up coming out in the middle of Travelers Rest, which is fine since that's at least roads I know and it's only about five minutes from my house. Audra woke up just long enough to drink a couple ounces of milk and then went back to finish up the long nap she so sorely needed.

And... to be honest, I think I kind of did need that countryside drive.

The leaves are starting to turn, finally. I couldn't go too fast and had to take my time and enjoy the view.

Plus, Audra now has her very own tiny little adorable pumpkin.

Friday, October 16, 2015

On Parenting Philosophies

"I would rather love my daughter than be 'right'."

This is something my mom said years and years ago, in response to someone else.

If you want to know who my mother is and was to us, that sentence says it all. It's also, essentially, my parenting philosophy and my guiding star for who I want to be to my children, too.

Of course, in a lot of ways my parents got lucky. The worst thing we did, as children, was slam some doors and date significant others they didn't exactly approve of. We weren't after-school-special characters, unless you count the Goody-Two Shoes Best Friend. But we went to college with the skills we needed to take care of ourselves, and built our homes with the respect for each other we knew from them.

Once, reading about something on teen pregnancies online, about a girl who was kicked out of her parents' house and ended up on the street, I turned to my mother and asked, "What would you have done if I ended up pregnant in high school?"

She sort of sighed and answered, "I don't know, Katie. Probably yelled at you and then we'd have figured it out together."

That's my other parenting philosophy.

I know my Audra Grace is so little, that the ways in which she'll stretch my heart thin and make me afraid for her are things I can't even fully imagine yet. Right now we spend so much time trying to teach her to speak. Soon enough we'll be desperately wishing for peace and quiet after the third time she tells us the story about the goose she saw at the park today, and soon enough after that she'll be a teenager and we'll working hard to get her to speak to us again.

I think that I will be afraid for her, because I already am. This isn't a nice or an easy world to grow up in. I feel uncertain, with neighbors we don't know very well and city traffic that doesn't compare with my childhood experience. Despite the fact that she is statistically safer than she has ever been, the news makes it hard to believe. We are raising our children with what is probably the worst invention of the modern age - 24-hour news on every form of media there is. We hear about every single terrible thing, live right as it happens, in the thick of the rumors and false information and the sense that no matter how far away it is, it's happening right here. It feels like she is in danger, all the time. It feels like that even when she is so little that all I have to do is pick her up and carry her.

I know that one day I will be expected to teach her how to be an adult. This is sort of a terrifying thought for me, as I mostly feel terribly un-adult myself. How can I possibly be responsible for teaching someone about responsibility when I'd rather read books than do dishes? When sometimes I eat leftover pizza just because it's there, even when I know I could make a salad instead?

I know that she'll make me angrier than I ever thought I could be at her. That she'll snap back or slam doors or lay there like a lump when we desperately need to leave to get somewhere on time. She'll make friends I don't like or ignore texts and phone calls (although God help her if she does that).


If I do this right, she will also come to me for advice on what to do, how to either fix mistakes or learn from them so that she doesn't make them again. I can't fix them for her, but I can help her navigate the consequences, good and bad.

So, there you are.

My parenting philosophies, straight from my mother:

I will love you more than I love being right.

I will love you unconditionally.

At least a few times, I'll probably yell at you.

Then we'll figure it out together.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Because Sometimes, Life Just Sucks For a While

So, because 2015 hasn't been enough of a rollicking roller-coaster of fun, the universe decided I needed one more piece of infuriating, harsh, nothing-you-can-do reality bleeding into my life.

Let's go over my last year or so, shall we?

Ahem. First, my mother was diagnosed with and subsequently underwent chemo treatment for cancer (although she is currently doing great healthwise, for those wondering). In July, Jason lost his job the day we returned from a vacation that we had cut short essentially so as not to inconvenience them. A month later, a tree fell on my car, because that seemed like a reasonable followup to the whole sudden unemployment thing. After that, my father's sudden death has made it clear to me that the ground under my feet isn't actually ground, but quicksand made from shattered glass.

Why not one more thing? The universe asked itself.

My cat is officially a "senior citizen", as she is either 14 or 15 years old, which means that she is somewhere around 80 in people age. She has recently begun to drool somewhat continuously, which is exactly as vaguely unsettling as it sounds. I looked her symptoms up (drooling, knocking food around her bowl, looking haggard and a bit gaunt lately) and was told by Dr. Google, Pet M.D. that it would either be a tooth/gum infection that may require pulling several teeth (inconvenient and expensive, but a fix) or outright kidney failure (inconvenient, expensive, and nothing you can really do).

I went ahead and scheduled a vet appointment.

Ten minutes after the vet came in to check her over, I discovered it was neither of the things that Dr. Google the Vet had assured me it would be.

Instead, I was informed my cat is dying of bone cancer.

So far all she's really doing is drooling. The vet says eventually eating will grow too tough and painful for her to keep it up, and then we'll need to decide when to make the call.

While she's a secondhand cat, she's been ours for over 8 years now. She was the very first Big Thing Jason and I did as a sign of being really committed to our relationship.

I found her in a newspaper ad, and Jason went to pick her up because I had to leave town that weekend and her previous owner said she'd have her put down if no one took her by a certain day. He brought her to my apartment and cared for her himself until I returned from my weekend trip, and so really it was him she bonded with first.

She has slept curled against our backs or purred in our laps for over eight years now. Her age had begun to make her a bit grumpy and prone to crankiness, but she's handled both the advent of the dog and a new baby like a champ. She's been known to lay near Audra and let my daughter "pet" her - which, granted, mostly involves my toddler daughter good-naturedly smacking her back and sometimes her face while chanting "Dat dat dat dat". Eventually, she will get up and move away, to escape those little hands that don't know that no one likes being smacked on the nose six times, no matter how gently it's done.

But she purrs right through until she's had about enough and decides, finally, to move.


If I didn't have enough weighing me down this year, the universe decided to throw "dying pet" on me, too.


Why not?

I've carried enough weight around my neck this year, why don't we add just a little bit more?

Friday, October 9, 2015

He Was Just Here

You have to understand - he was just here
in August,
holding my baby girl and hugging my niece downtown
by the waterfall in the park
His face was the first we saw
(who will be up to greet us now?)
at the hotel, my father of course
already up and out on a walk
with his hotel coffee in hand.

He was just here
at my daughter's birthday party
her very first
(the only one he'll have attended)
Buying groceries with Mom and I last-minute
Making friends
As easily as he breathed

He was right there
on a bench, holding my baby girl
as she finally warmed up to him,
this grandfather she's only seen a few times
(that she will never see in person again)
She babbled and giggled with him
I fell in love with the moment.

I'm not sure how here became there
so quickly, without warning
how we became the children
who visited "the site of the accident"
(shaking hands for seven hours next to a closed casket)
how we went from laughing on a bench downtown
to never seeing him again
so quickly

How did here become there
become the way I dread this Christmas
(and all the other Christmases, too)
how I find myself picking out flannels at L.L. Bean
In just his colors, just his size
only to remember
I no longer have someone to buy a flannel for

I don't understand how here
became gone.
How did it so quickly turn into
the way the stories will have to change
(he is no longer here to tell them)
or how the tenses have to shift from is
to was. I hate the word was.
I never hated it before.

Please, you have to understand -
he was just here
I did not see him go
(I always assumed I would say goodbye)
He is a shadow standing at my shoulder
A voice in the back of my throat
The ground underneath my feet
That gives way all over again every day

How here became there
became gone
is the mystery I rage against
(I ask God, but get no answer)
the inevitability I fight like hell
the truth I'd love to be in denial about
Denial stubbornly will not come

Gone is our good-natured arguing about everything
Gone is my father's laughter and smile
Gone is the standard by which I judge everyone

He was just here in August.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

5 Things: The Old Corn, New Beans and Other Such Things Edition

1. We have mostly given up on our backyard garden (and actually the front one, too, although I have tentative plans to find half an hour one afternoon to pull up all the weeds and leftover pepper plants and mulch them), but apparently it hasn't given up on itself.

We have new bean vines spiraling their way around the brown and dried-out stalks of corn we've left where they stand.

We even have some kind of butternut-squash-style gourd plant that has taken over every square inch of space, which is interesting since we didn't plant gourds. Only pumpkins, and all our pumpkin seeds sprouted.

I suppose that's the magic of gardening for you.

Also, we caught the dog stealing tomatoes off of what's left of the tomato plants.

He thought we didn't notice.

We totally did.

2. My friend Liz took me out shopping last Saturday, as a kind of "just have fun for a few hours" trip. We had breakfast at Panera, shopped in the mall, ended up having lunch with my friend Sarah and her family, and finally went home after the (always obligatory and the perfect ending to a day out) bookstore.

There's a store on our mall called Altar'd State that is a little bit like anthropologie went to church and then lowered its prices by 10 dollars. Usually the things in there are a little bit too young for me, but there are always three or four items that really catch my eye.

This time, it was a gray-and-black version of this shirt - and I ended up buying the green-and-caramel version pictured. It's basically the best winter shirt ever and I've worn it twice in five days and you can't stop me, so there. It's a skinny-jeans-and-boots kind of shirt. I'm trying to resist picking up the tan version that's available online, even though it's almost the same color as my skin and probably wouldn't be super flattering. The shirt is that comfortable.

They don't seem to have the gray-and-black variation online... or I'd already have bought it. I'm regretting not buying it when I was in the store. I could basically live in this shirt if it wouldn't eventually smell and scare people away from me.

So basically, highly recommended. A+, would buy again - or will buy again, if I ever have time to go back to the mall where the gray-and-black version lives.

3. Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood is on Netflix! Jason and I aren't huge TV watchers - we do more video-game playing, to be honest. Audra usually isn't even aware that the TV is on, unless you count "wanting to chew on the Xbox controller" as watching TV.

When I saw Mr. Rogers pop up in the Newly Added category, I decided to go ahead and push play. I remembered it, a little, from childhood. I didn't remember much beyond the theme song and a general sense that it had been one of the most pleasant things I had ever watched, second only to what Sesame Street was like before they became so heavily involved in merchandising instead of being "preschool on TV" for kids whose parents might not be able to send them to the real thing.

Audra. Is. Rapt.

Not for all of it, obviously - she's only 14 months old and tends to get distracted and play with something else. But the theme song has her sitting very still, listening to him sing. This morning, she and Jason cuddled on the couch while most of an episode played.

One of the episodes we watched recently, an episode that meant far more to me than it did to my baby, was an episode of dealing with really big sad feelings and how to be angry and sad in a healthy way, not to push it down or try to forget it but to actually deal with it. I sat there and thought, good Lord, Mr. Rogers is teaching me.

I'm 29 years old.

So... Mr. Rogers is definitely on our okay-to-watch list for Audra.

And, um, for me.

4. My blogger-friend Sarah over at Sarah On Purpose (I got to know her blog through our participation in #wholemama) just posted this list of 6 things you need to know about supporting a friend through a tough time.

While it's general and more geared towards a friend who is dealing either with their own illness/injury or that of family members than it is towards the kind of grieving-after-sudden-loss my family is going through, I think there are some really solid guidelines here to look into.

Her chart on the Circles of Support alone is worth taking a look at, and will ring very true for anyone who has gone or is going through stuff like this right now.

I can definitely say, these are important steps to take if you're trying to help someone deal with the awful that comes with illness or death. My friend Liz (who I mentioned took me out shopping Saturday) also lost a parent, although some years back and in a much different situation. One of the most important things she's done for me is talk about her own experience and how angry she was, gave me advice on grieving books she had read and which would be good to read vs. those I should probably wait to look at until the wounds are less raw, sympathized with me on how difficult it is to respond to people, things like that. These are things you don't (can't) talk about with many people, and having someone here who has experienced it walking with me through it when my own hurting family is so far away has been really invaluable.

Check out the blog post Sarah on Purpose wrote - you'll find some really good, important tips there.

5. Speaking of skinny jeans and boots, I am head-over-heels in love with this flannel tunic top from Lands End. Yes, I realize I live in South Carolina. Yes, I realize I'd only wear it for maybe two to three months a year.

No, I don't care about any of that.

I still love it and I still want it.

Look at it! It's such a pretty pattern! In an awesome color! And it's flannel!

I have a genetic predisposition to liking flannel, you know. I can't even help it. I'm not even responsible for my feelings about flannel.

Farmers wear flannel. It's what they do. When you come from farmer stock, there is always some part of your brain whispering to you, Now Katie, you and I both know today is a perfect day for a flannel shirt even when it's August and it's 92 degrees because you moved below the Mason Dixon line for some reason, who knows why*.

I. Love. That. Shirt.

This concludes your latest edition of "Katie is totally a walking Midwestern stereotype".

The End.

*We moved below the Mason-Dixon line because A. South Carolina had jobs and Illinois didn't, B. Jason's family lives here so we knew our eventual kids would still get to be close to at least one set of grandparents, and C. we wouldn't have to face the prospect of living without working heat during a cold Midwestern winter again. Just, you know - for the record. If you were wondering.

Friday, October 2, 2015

I'm Not Really Doing That Well

The weird thing about grieving is the way I can't seem to pull my brain back together.

I still catch myself staring off into space, losing minutes or even an hour and I'm not sure what exactly I was doing. I'm back at work, and yesterday I finally finished a large-ish writing project and that felt really good, but I had assumed I would finish it by 2 and I walked out the door right at four. Somewhere in there I lost two hours, and I'm not sure how or what I was doing, but I do know that my brain doesn't remember, either.

My mind is too busy trying to figure out why nothing about the last two weeks makes sense.

Dad went out into the field one morning and he never came back, and my heart and my head can't seem to put together that he's not going to come back. I'm four states away and I still wait for someone to tell me it was all a mistake, his truck is in the driveway, come back up to welcome him home.

People tell me "you seem to be doing so well with this" and what they really mean is "you are not a hysterical teary mess, so that's good" and I kind of want to laugh and tell them, I'm not doing so well at all, but thanks for not seeing through the act. I'm doing everything I can not to make other people uncomfortable.

We don't really allow people to be a mess after losing someone they love. You're not supposed to talk too much about it because it makes other people nervous and awkward. I don't come from a family prone to dramatics - I'm the dramatic one, and even I have had people tell me how stoic I am being.

Sackcloth and ashes have gone out of style. Midwesterners don't wail and rend their clothing, and I can't be reassured by knowing I can go into deep mourning for six months and everyone will understand. I'm not really one to wear all black anyway, but I look back sort of wistfully on a time when if you wore all black on the street, people only needed to look at you to know that you had lost someone, handle with care.

Everyone wants you to get back on the horse, get back into routine, go back to doing exactly what you were doing before. While work and routine is a great distraction, distracting me is all it's really doing. I still have to deal with my brain in quiet moments, and those are the worst. The grief doesn't go away with hard work or keeping busy or talking to people - it just waits, patiently, for the next time I sit still.

So I try not to sit still.

Yesterday I went back to work and sat down to work at 6:45 am and left at 4 pm, came home and picked Audra up from daycare, worked on dinner, picked up here and there and just basically went in circles. I would say to Jason, "Okay, now I'm going to sit down and be still," and then in five minutes I'd be up and moving again.

He would offer to help and I would shake my head or not even answer and just keep going. If he helps, you see, I am less busy. If I am less busy, I have to sit around remembering that my dad is dead.

If I keep busy, he's just out in the field.

It's only when I let my brain stop going in circles that I have to remember that's not true.

I know that I'm lucky to have Audra here, a toddler cyclone who needs constant attention lest she try to use my cell phone to call Thailand or happily smack at the cat. True quiet would only make things worse, in the moment. Long-term, though, I wonder if I'm just going to keep being angry for that much longer.

If I need to be a mess and just don't have the time, what does that mean for mourning?

Does the mess and the anger just wait for me to stop spinning, even if that's six months or a year from now?

One of my coworkers also lost her father, a few years ago. She took me out to lunch yesterday and I told her that an old high school friend (whose dad died recently of much the same thing as my own) had told me that everyone will tell you it gets better, but it doesn't. "It's kind of a relief," I said, "to have someone just outright tell me it's not going to be okay and it's not going to get better."

"She's right," my coworker said. "It doesn't really get better, not like that."

Yesterday, Audra waved and said "bah-bye" to her daycare ladies after her first day back. She had a great day, they told me. When I came in to get her she was in the process of slyly trying to steal a pacifier from another baby while none of the adults was looking. When I walked in and she heard my voice, she dropped her hand and turned around to give me her most innocent I'd-never-take-anything-that's-not-mine expression.

One of the daycare ladies told me how sorry she was to hear about my dad, but that I seemed to be holding up very well.

I'm not holding up at all, I wanted to reply. I'm just being propped up by motherhood because Audra needs me more than my grief does. Grief can wait and my baby can't. I'm a mess and I wish someone would let me be a mess outside as well as in, but there isn't any time and I would just be uncomfortable and close myself off anyway. My family isn't good at being emotional in public and it doesn't help anyway. I want people to ask but I want them to never ever ever bring it up. I want to talk but I also don't want to talk about it at all, and which I feel depends on who I'm around and whether or not they are Mom, my sister or my brother or Jason... or if they're the other group, which is Everyone Else in the Entire World who I want nothing more than to ignore me. I want all those things at the same time. I'm not holding up at all.

"Thanks," I said out loud, with what I'm pretty sure was a smile, and went home to make myself think about dinner instead.