Thursday, March 22, 2018

My twin-less twin

It's been 3 years since I've written! So much time, so much change. Three birthdays, and Holidays with Grady and without  Cullen..  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of him, actually, every time I'm with Grady I think of him. I think of what type of craziness and love they would have brought to our family and how their friendship and bond would get stronger each day. 

Grief sucks. It NEVER ends, it changes. It changes you, how you perceive life, other people and family dynamics.   It makes you gain friends and lose the closest ones you thought loved you. 
Life goes on, even when you're stuck in so many past moments. You never know when the devastation will overcome you as if the death of your child was right NOW.

Grady, my sweet, amazing, smart, kind and sensitive boy believes he killed his brother! He feels the utmost pain DAILY for thinking he wasn't there for him, that he didn't help him survive. These thoughts haunt him. He talks about it when he wakes up, cries on the way to school, mentions Cullen as soon as he gets in the car and all night long, hardly being able to do his homework.  

Grady is a twin-less twin. For some reason, shame on me, I never once thought how he would deal with the loss of Cullen. I guess I figured that since he didn't know him, he wouldn't be curious, he wouldn't be unhappy, he wouldn't be, sad,  devastated, guilty, alone, hurt or suffer. How could I have NOT thought about this?

Grady has survivors guilt. He's on the verge, if not already depressed and actually in need of medication.  

My boy wants to DIE. He wants to be with his brother, his best friend, his twin. 

This road will be the most difficult one for sure. I hope I can handle it. I want to fix it and I can't. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

my friend. forever. goodbye. love you.

I woke up on June 24th and my baby boy was next to me, it was his and Cullen's birthday...they were 4! WOW. Where had the time gone?
Their birthday is always very bittersweet.

A few hours after I woke up I was on Facebook and saw a post and my heart dropped.

"In the end.
It's not the years you have in your life.
It's the life you had in your years.
Vicki, rest in peace sweet friend."

I was INSTANTLY kicked to the floor. That moment in time, the one where you feel life NEVER will be the same...I was in that moment and it hurt SO MUCH...
I couldn't breathe
I was shaking
I felt sick

She couldn't be gone.....

Vicki and I have known each other since 2010, we met on babycenter because her son and Georgia both had terrible reflux and we were searching for answers or just someone else that understood what we were going through. Our two even ended up have sensory processing disorder because of all they went through when they were little.
We emailed often and finally became Facebook friends.
We had a lot in common and many differences.
She was a devote Christian and even though I was the opposite she answered my questions and never got frustrated with me when I played devil's advocate.
I learned a lot and was in awe of her commitment to God.
Vicki was kind, sweet, funny and soon became one of my best friends.

Emails and Facebook soon turned into texting and phone calls. We knew a LOT about each other, we talked about being a mom, being a wife, a sister and daughter in law. We discussed self doubt, depression, feeling alone, and SO much more. Like I said, we had a lot in common. We were there for one another through so many ups and downs. Life, death, sickness, surgeries and more

I thought I knew my sweet friend. 
I found out on Grady and Cullen's birthday, I did not.
Where did I fail her? How could I not know? Sometimes I questioned things in my head but I never questioned her about them. She, like me, was extremely hard on herself. Who am I to judge? She was my friend and I loved her.

Vicki was my rock on so many occasions. SO SO MANY.
I can only hope that I was her rock as well.
I will never have my answer.

Vicki was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, I will never forget the email. For years she fought her fight. She never lost hope in her God. We cried a lot together.

There were times our friendship was quiet, life was moving along with me or her, but we always caught up where we left off. THAT is when you know you are true friends.

When I started my own business she supported me.
When I struggled, she encouraged me.
She always wanted to help.

She supported my family when we raised money for the March of Dimes.
She bought a shirt I designed in Memory of Cullen, and then my sweet friend bought me a twin to twin transfusion syndrome bracelet.  

I couldn’t have asked for a better friend.

Besides her husband, adorable son and God, cancer was the other part of her.

I would send her motivational quotes, cancer quotes, the latest herb treatments and vegan diets for cancer through Pinterest. I sent funny ecards and texts to make her laugh. I wanted to help her as much as a long distance friend could.

The last time we connected was a month ago. I had  been so wrapped up and depressed about Cullen, the fact that Grady asked about him all the time, my own surgery coming up….I shut her out. She knew why I was in my own world, but I WISH I KEPT HER UP TO DATE.

MAYBE, just maybe she would have told me her story, the pain that she was carrying around. MAYBE, she would have told me the truth? Maybe she would have asked for help from me?

Maybe I always questioned her story? See, cancer took over her life but she often dismissed it with me. She didn’t ever want to talk about it unless I grilled her, my life and what was going on with me was more important than her cancer.  

Vicki would miraculously have defeated cancer and then it would come back with a vengeance. I always wanted to know what they were doing for her, the medicines she was on...I search for answers like she did.

She never asked for anything ever except for people to pray for her. She truly believed in God’s will. I on the other hand do not believe. I found her inspiring most of the time. Sometimes I was worried she herself wasn’t doing enough besides praying. But, being 850 miles away, I just took her word.

Vicki finally was near the end of her fight, the breast cancer had metastasized to her lungs. There wasn’t anything that was working. She learned of a trial but there was a heavy cost. She finally asked for help, started a gofundme page and that was that.

Throughout her years with cancer she would tell me there would people who would doubt her. I, just listened. She was my friend. She was sensitive, extremely hard on herself and like any mom, doubted herself in so many ways. My job, was love her.

With this gofundme page I believe once again she was accused of not having cancer and a sheriff was mentioned. 
 I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t up to date since my mind was so preoccupied.

So now we are up to date.

I sadly found out that one of my best friends on this earth took her life. I heard she in fact did not have cancer.


I’ve been living in a fog. I’m sick to my stomach. I don’t know what is reality.

What I do know, and after reading Vicki’s blog, texts, messages and emails….I know I loved her. I still love her. I know she loved me. Our friendship was REAL. Yes, I have a LOT of questions. Some things are making more sense. I know she was surprised years ago when she told me she was said to have a personality disorder. I find my friend in many parts of her blog…not the cancer Vicki, but the one I knew and loved. I feel she tried to reach out for help but didn’t know how. When you find yourself in such a deep lie and can’t imagine how lonely it is, I’m sure you want it to end but don’t know how.

“However, while I'm doing that, I'm falling apart inside. Like really falling apart. More than I care to admit. I'm scared and frustrated and worried and I feel the weight of this three and a half year battle on my shoulders. I feel incredibly alone, although I know I've pretty much done that to myself. People don't see the "scared" me, so how do they know I need help? I pretty much never say it. So, I just hold it all in until I break down; kind of like a volcano.”

“Now, I wish I could tell you that I will stop criticizing my body and be totally content with how I look. I wish I could say that I will snap my fingers and change the way I think. I won't pretend it's that easy. But next time the "hot moms" come to the pool, maybe I'll stay a bit longer, knowing that my little guy close by thinks I'm a hot mom too.”

“So, just remember, the people that we meet may be important for one of three reasons: they may be there to help us, they may be there to be helped BY us or it might just be a little bit of both. And each set is equally important. It's just figuring out which it is than can be the rough part. Luckily God made this one pretty clear.”

“We've been going through some challenges and I find myself doing the same thing. Saying I want him to be proud of me, that I want him to think I'm tough. And I get the same strange look each time I say it. And as I write this, I see how that need is sapping my energy to actually fight the fight. Because I put up such a front, one that's impossible to carry for long and I inadvertently end up falling apart. Probably worse than if I had just stopped pretending. Well, not probably...definitely.

So, what's the lesson from all this? That I shouldn't care so much about how people view me during a struggle. I should worry more about the actual struggle. That I need to take the mental energy I'm wasting and put it towards the important things. And by making this change, I'll end up having fewer "lows" in this roller coaster called life. Now let's see if I can just actually make that change. Fingers and toes crossed.”

What were all these directed at? Cancer, asking for help? Regardless. My FRIEND, my dear sweet friend really was AMAZING. I’m sure there are others who caught her in the lie that do not think highly of her. I on the other hand see an amazing, caring generous woman who was ill. She loved. She had a HUGE heart. She made a mistake….on purpose, to deceive….I don’t know. But I will not judge her.

Vicki taught me a lot about her love for God. She respected the way I felt. But because of HER I will start to pray….to her, to Cullen, to the Universe. I saw how it made her feel. That, I do not think was a lie.

Vicki had a mental illness
She was also a BEAUTIFUL friend. And THAT is how I will ALWAYS remember her.

I will never stop thinking about her, Matt, Alex and the rest of her family and friends. 
I would LOVE to know more about her.

I lost my son 4 years ago, my father to Cancer 6 months ago and now one of my best friends to suicide. I’m one to research to find out as many facts as possible. This, losing Vicki, has got to be one of the most painful because SO much of it is unknown.

Quotes from my friend <3

“But when things looked really bleak and my mind would wander to "what do I want on my
tombstone?", it was the basics: 'Loved wife, mother and friend'. And since I'm already those three things, maybe it's as simple as being the best wife, mother and friend I can be. And let THAT be my greatness. Let those things be how I'm remembered when I do finally leave this earth. And until (or if) The Lord shows me something else He wants me to be doing, I will just perform those roles to the best of my ability. And it helps that I already know how to handle those I just need to take each day as it comes and be the best ME I can be. Maybe it truly is THAT simple.”

To me, you presented yourself as just this “Loved wife, mother and friend” and I know you did everything to make it as the BEST wife, mother and friend.

I’m afraid to end this, because it means this is it. But, YOU my sweet loving friend, will ALWAYS be the voice in my head….How can I be kinder, more loving, more understanding?

Thank you for making me a better me.

To end, I will quote her sweet Alex:

"Look Mommy, it's Jesus behind the clouds. I can finally see Heaven. I've always wanted to see Heaven. Now I know it's real."

Friday, June 19, 2015

Falling apart after so much excitement

I should be excited. I should be jumping out of my skin. Steeped Tea conference 2015 is over and done, and it was AMAZING. As a tea bestie said "We laughed, we cried, we laughed until we cried, we danced, we explored, we became life long friends, we became the family that we didn't realize we needed. We left inspired, motivated, refreshed and exhausted."
This year was SO much more special, I had girls from MY team with me. I got to share this with those amazing women I only know because of Steeped Tea. The raw feelings inside me of gratitude are overwhelming. 

That being said, this has been one of my most depressing weeks in a VERY long time. The depression is so overwhelming, I just feel so unhappy inside. Not ungrateful because depression has nothing to do with that....I'm just so sad. 

Motivation has always been something I struggle with, and embarrassingly, I can't even write down what I experienced in an email to my amazing team. And I'm letting them down. 

What I have realized in the past week and coming week.....Last year my dad was visiting....the last time my children saw him...he died in January. My Time Hop and Facebook keep giving me what I was doing this time last year, 2 years ago and beyond. The memories of the boys' birthdays...the weeks leading up to giving birth to them, I was sick and in so much pain. Then the pain continued with each passing birthday. 

In 5 days my boys will be 4. FOUR!!!! He is  asking SO MANY QUESTIONS and statements about Cullen. 

"where is he?" 

"can I see him?"
 "how do I get there?" 
"I'm sad"
"he's my brother"
"I miss him"
"my heart hurts"

This HURTS SOOOOOO DANG MUCH!!!! I hate seeing my children in pain, but THIS....THIS IS UNREAL.

I feel once again the fog has settled down over my eyes and I can't see before me. I feel like I'm standing in cement and can't move forward. I feel this time, there is no light at the end. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

To carry.

Once again, it’s midnight and I’m feeling the need to write.

I have SO much on my mind, so much I’ve been carrying around.

I just came back from the most AMAZING Steeped Tea Leader Retreat ever, I learned so much and can’t wait to implement the strategies for my awesome team. I’ve been with Steeped Tea for 2 years, it’s been the craziest, coolest most unbelievable experience ever. Never did I think I could do what I am doing. I’m still learning, and I, in no such way feel or know I’ve got it all together, but it’s such a challenge for myself, one I don’t take lightly and one I am SO hard on myself for.  Never did I see myself as a Leader...never mind a Senior Director in such an AWESOME UPCOMING company.  That is heavy….that I am pushing myself to such uncomfortable places….Coming out of my comfort zone is very scary. I still struggle with the small things….picking up that darn phone and asking people how they are doing and enjoying their tea….how hard is that? Well, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Steeped Tea and my wonderful team have given me the opportunity to FINALLY take care of ME. As a mom, you don’t ever take care of you….well, I decided that since finding Steeped Tea was a gift from Cullen, I was going to honor him and start doing this.  I bought myself 18 personal training sessions with the best trainer in town….he’s also been said to be in the top 100 in the country. It is SO weird doing something for me...I’ve also bought Stella 18 sessions to help with her overall strength and conditioning for running...although she thinks it’s all fun and games and soon Jimmy will start going too.

As usual, I’m going to jump around because that is how my brain works.

Do you ever have SO much going on in one weekend you want to burst at the seams….well, that is THIS weekend, really Saturday. Stella has a race at 9, I am holding a tea tasting at 11 (hoping people show up), Georgia has a birthday party at noon, Grady a party at 4 and Jimmy works from  4 to midnight. Just thinking about this makes me panic.

It’s nearing the end of the month, my most stressful time. I’m watching how my team is doing, helping them with orders and trying to come up with my minimum at the same time.  I was really hoping this month and last month I would be booked with parties since I am donating my commission to the March of Dimes in memory of Cullen, BUT I wasn’t booked and  I’m struggling.
I’ve been having some health issues that I’ve had for years come to a point where they are starting to interfere with my days. When I was pregnant with Stella the doctors found a tiny hemangioma on my liver, in time it has grown and now larger than a golf ball and causing pain, irritation and of course, a LOT of worry.  I’m going back to see my surgeon, who needed to “consult a few other people” before figuring out what I needed, this coming week. I know, after all my research (because that is what I do, did in college and LOVE,) there isn't anything really they can do. The hemangioma is in the posterior part of my liver, near my right kidney, inferior vena cava and spine. I have pain when I inhale, a fullness when I drink and eat, am uncomfortable when I lay on my stomach,  and feel a burning inside me. Oh and I can’t seem to get enough sleep.

The March of Dimes walk is Sunday….I’m so embarrassed to say I’ve not even raised $100 (minus my commission.)  Normally we raise at least $1000. I don’t even know if I have the strength to take part in it.

I’ve been missing Cullen A LOT. I see Grady play with his friends at school and all I think of is his best friend and twin should be with him. They both should be driving me crazy, cuddling with me, playing super heroes and so so much more.  That emptiness, is ALWAYS there. The feeling of breaking down: ALWAYS there. I even started to cry while walking on the treadmill today from the overwhelming life I’m leading and the pain I carry.

My girls…..oh they too worry me. Stella doesn't talk about how she feels until she just breaks down and even then I can’t figure out what the problem is (she’s just like me.) Georgia….oh my sweet Georgia….We still struggle with her anxiety, sensory issues and so much more. Being a parent can really SUCK sometimes when you can’t FIX things and the their pain and struggles are so heavy to carry as well.

I’m so unorganized, in my brain with my kids, with my house….Where do you start when you are holding the emotions and chaos in your brain. Maybe writing all this will help some.

Being overwhelmed is not fun. I’m getting to the place where I’m fading to black, but fighting to stay in the clear. I have a painting I’m looking at, one I made  a year and a half after the boys were born….after coming home from my stay in the hospital. It is mostly black and grey but fades to white...not a clear perfect while, but still, white. I feel the chaos I’m spinning in is the grey pulling me back. I know I have so much to be thankful for, but when the darkness takes over, there isn’t much you can do. Yes, my job is amazing, yes my children are wonderful and healthy and I couldn’t have a better more loving husband. But I think people forget that you can be grateful and sad and dark all at the same time.

When they say “The struggle is REAL” really is for me. Each day can be a battle. It’s not everyday, but it’s there, underneath my hectic life. The weight I carry….

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Grady. PopPop, Papa, Grandpa, Papa, Cullen

I was laying in bed with Grady tonight as he was  “falling asleep,” and by that I mean, him asking me question after question...Can I hold your hand, Why do you put your leg out of the covers, Are you happy?  Can I go to new Grandma’s house for breakfast? I told him no, but maybe for snack tomorrow. He happily said YAY! “Are my toys at Grandma’s house? Why? Where is new Grandma’s old house?” I often get confused between which Grandma he’s talking about. Jimmy’s mom moved here about 5 months ago. He’s confused. My mom visits a few times a year.

Then I started to think about when I was small, around Stella’s age, 10. I had my Grandma and Grandpa and Nana and Papa in England. Grady is 3.5 he really won’t remember PopPop, my father in law, he died last year when he was 2.5. He still does mention he misses him. And now, there is my dad; 2 months and 2 days ago my dad died. The last time I blogged was the anniversary of Al’s death and right before my final trip to be with my dad.
Grady talks about Papa, says he misses him. I’ve never actually said the words to him that he died. It breaks my heart he will eventually forget, because he is so young.

My grandpa was always going places. He always went to 10 stores with coupons for the best deals. He drove slow and always arrived super early. I remember in elementary school looking out into the parking lot and seeing him waiting….I still would have 30 minutes of school left. He was always around to see my sister and me swim through high school, saw me go off to college. He died when I was a Junior in College. The laugh my grandpa  (my moms dad) had was infectious. He was the perfect grandfather. My sister and I were his everything….until the BOYS, Michael and Andrew, my  “little”  cousins came along.….Grandpa got the BIGGEST kick out them and all their baseball this and that.  Then, came Stacey and baby Amy….Mind you, these little ones are now in their later teens and later 20’s! Grandpa was so proud of all of us. He watched swim meets, baseball games and watched his youngest granddaughters grow up while living only 25 yards away.

My children will not have those memories.

I don’t remember much of my Papa, my dad’s dad.  My Papa, died when I was a junior in high school. He was in England, and I never saw much of him. But what I do remember, like in the pictures of him when he was younger (I was very small) was HIS smile...My DAD had his smile. A beautiful smile. My children may not remember such a smile. The last time my dad was here he was thin, walked with a cane had just been diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer and was on the verge of a broken hip which we didn’t know. I am SO thankful for those 14 days my children got to spend with their Papa.

I wish I talked to him more the last 2 weeks of his life. It all happened so fast, the days become intertwined. I spoke to him Christmas afternoon. He only spent about 10 minutes on the phone with me because talking made him so tired. I believe it was the next day he had fluid extracted (ascites) from his growing abdomen. At some point, maybe Saturday he fell and was taken to the hospital because he was so weak.   I think Sunday or Monday they did a liver biopsy because of his crazy levels. They also took MORE fluid out from him. I spoke to him Tuesday because he wanted me on the phone when the oncologist came in. He could barely speak, he had such difficulty.  The doctor came in and told us his fate. The skin cancer was in his liver. There was nothing they could do. It was time for hospice. I spoke to him one more time, maybe on Wednesday for a few minutes. Erin and my mom flew in January 1st, Erin said he mumbled a few things, HOME, was one of them. I flew into Washington and was brought to him at 9:30 at night. NOTHING and I mean NOTHING can prepare you for what cancer does to a person’s body. He looked like he was 100 years old. He couldn't speak or open his eyes or move much. The cancer was taking him.
Hospice was set up at his home.
I road in the transport vehicle at 1:30 in the afternoon on January 3rd; I told him we were going home.
I told him that when He left, he had to take care of my Cullen and to tell him his mommy loves him and misses him. I had been debating when to ask him or tell him what I needed.  I didn't know the right time to say it….But I did it. He never mentioned Cullen to me the whole time Grady has been alive. But when I said it, I swear he mumbled “Cullen.”

1:45 my dad was wheeled into his home and his EYES, his EYES OPENED….He knew. He fought so hard to get HOME.

We settled him in the bed so he could see his beautiful landscaping and so he could hear his waterfall. He mumbled ‘water,’ so I gave him a few drops. I asked him to blink a few minutes later and he didn’t. I sat down, Erin, my mom and the Hospice coordinator came over, rubbed his chest told him to breathe…. he did, twice….and was gone, 2:20pm.

My dad was STRONG. He lived with leukemia for over 18 years, fought pulmonary fibrosis caused by a chemotherapy drug, fought squamous cell carcinoma for YEARS. Who knows how long it had been in his bones...then his liver. He fought. He was STUBBORN...He died, the way he wanted. In his HOME with those that loved him. My dad was a fighter, like my son...