Aug 13, 2014

Before You Speak About Suicide

The internet has exploded over the last few days about suicide, grief, depression and the death of a beloved public figure and fellow human being. The world awoke again today without another beautiful face. And families around the world like my own, are fighting our own challenges with recurring emotions from having to relive the suicide of loved one(s) as the news and life around us grapple with issues publicly that we've grieved about in silence; some of us for months and some of us for years. I've read prominent public figures spout rhetoric and nothing short of hate speech in regard to mental illness and suicide. I even read today that Zelda Williams closed her social media presence because people were spewing negativity her way! This girl will bury her father soon. And my friends wonder why my little family in Oklahoma went social media silent? No wonder those loved ones who succumb to death by their own hand usually seek so little help.

I am no expert in suicide, mental health or grief. But my family has been acutely intimated with these things not over the last several months. I am not haughty enough to believe that my written voice will contribute anything to the explosion of internet conversation surrounding these issues, but as a family who is intimated with loss these days, I have a few thoughts on person(s) or personalities who feel compelled to speak out about this issue.

So before you publicly speak about suicide or death or grief, here is what one family whose living this nightmare would like for you to know:

1.) Suicide has a horrific stigma. My family buried my baby brother, age 29, on February 15, 2014, one day after Valentine's Day. Ever tried to buy funeral flowers one day after the biggest retail sales day of flowers in the United States? It is the definition of suckage. The florist was more worried about the amount of white roses that couldn't be in my brother's casket spray because of limited supply than she was the fact my sister and I were holding hands with streaming tears our whole visit. His death was not as valued as a fictionalized Hallmark holiday. I wanted to keep a pair of my brother's boots so that when anyone would ever question his struggles or his "choice", I could let them wear them around awhile until they came up with an answer. There is a certain blogger these days who could learn a few things from wearing Guy's or Robin's shoes.

2.)  It's still death. 120days after burying my brother, my dad died of a heart attack. There was no pain differential for me in the death of my brother or father. My two favorite dudes were no longer here and it was now a permanent fact about my life. But how people chose to address us about dad's death was almost laughable as compared to my brother's. Death deals itself to us all and whether it was by my brother's own hand or by God "taking my father home" through a heart attack does not didn't make either loss less tragic and it doesn't remove the void that forever haunts my heart. The empty spaces at our family table are still there.
If you are willing and able to plunge into loving a grieving family dealing with suicide/loss/grief, keep your candy coated Sunday School verbiage in your mouth. "I love you." "I'm here." "I'm sorry." "I'm praying for you." are all appropriate and conveys any message you wish to share. If you cannot keep from spouting off anything other than the suggestions listed above, just shut up entirely.

3.) You are not entitled to specifics. We as a society project so much of our lives onto social media that we feel we have a right to know everything about every body. Saying that someone has passed is not enough for us, we want details. We are voyeuristic in these days. Someone will share with you what they will and what they don't, don't ask. And for the love of sweet baby Jesus, do not be a rumor monger who makes us generalizations or facts up as you go.

4.) Please keep your tyrannical opinions to yourself. I feel this way about most everything in life these days. "The Mommy Wars", "homeschool v. traditional education" but especially suicide; if your statement(s) begin with a universal statement, please know you've already lost me. I am proud to live in a country where you are entitled to have your own opinion. That same freedom doesn't mean I have to endure listening to it, especially if you classify your opinion as applicable to everyone in every situation. Romans 12:9-10 "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love..." Most of what I've seen on social media this week is not sincere or good and I again wrestle with the Jesus I love and the responses of those who claim to love him too.

5.) Be a good listener or have walked through depression/suicide/mental illness or love someone who has. Jason Gray has an amazing song called "Not Right Now." A verse of that song states "While I wait for the smoke to clear, you don't even have to speak just sit with me in the ashes here and together we can pray for peace, to the One acquainted with our grief." The most amazing people who've come along side me during this nightmare are the one who've done nothing more than simply be present, not with words or advice, but simply the ones who simply just show up.

6.) You see the problems, we just miss the person. When you say death or grief or suicide, I just see two of my favorite men and so does anybody else who's dealing with the loss of someone they love. So while the entirety of social media erupts in a medical/religious/philosophical debate, I'll crawl back in my hole with tissues and pictures of my dudes.

My 2 my wedding.  

Jun 1, 2014

Obsessed With Growing

I've fallen in love with gardening over the last several years. 
Flowers, veggies, putting on gloves and digging in the dirt make my eyes light up.
On weekends where there are  no soccer tournaments or family events, 
we head to several farmer's markets, hardware stores and gardening centers
where I spend hours buying local produce, gardening soil, seeds and plants. 

My kids are sick and tired of hearing me say 
"What if we just bought a farm, moved to the country and acted like pioneers?"

To say the least, I am married to and raising city folk.


If gardening was fun four months ago, losing my little brother has turned planting things 
into a full blown passion.

The Hero tells me all the time that I am obsessed with growing things. 

I balked at this statement for a few weeks. 
But after several hours outside yesterday, I looked around to notice I have indeed become
somewhat determined to overflow bare dirt with things that grow. 

Empty pots, flower beds, vases, and bare ground better beware around the Andrews Casa lately.
It's the best therapy for grief I know. 

I am definitely a battle wounded warrior, as are so many others who have lost someone they love.

Living here, fulfilling purpose is about growing, not only ourselves but those around us so that there can be something beautiful, here on Earth and one day in heaven. 

So yes, perhaps I am obsessed with growing things. 

Not only in the ground, but in the hearts and lives of whom I come into contact.

So go grow something today. 

May 21, 2014

Dear Kids: Before We Can Get to Summer

Dear Kids,

I understand that you have received a memo that summer is upon us and school is about to release for well earned break. As we hurl ourselves toward the final days of discipline and books, this worn and weary mother needs to cover a few things before we are crammed together in our home for three months of primeval torture  summer wonderment. So before we can get to summer, Mommy has a list of rule changes from now until the last day of class.

1.) There are still days on the school calendar left to muddle through. I appreciate that you have spent the last week with parties and testing and book reading marathons, but the school district in which we live still requires your butt to be in a chair for a few more required days. Therefore, you may stop asking me EVERY. SINGLE. Morning "We aren't really doing anything today, do I HAAAAAVE to go to school?"

The answer is yes. I am clinging to these last few days as well. As quickly as you are hoping they pass, the unstructured chaos of summer makes this Type A mama woozy. Only a few more quiet mornings of tea by myself before you all re-invade our home like a band of traveling monkeys playing the cymbals.

2.) Since you have been depositing your backpacks, lunch bags and sports equipment sporadically throughout the house as if this is the Great Year End Scavenger Hunt, I have now instituted the following rule: You Can't Find An Item, I'll Cry A Little Tear For You. However, I will not engage in your effort to help me lose my mind by searching for hours for something you "need" when had you let me go through your backpack, lunch bag, sports equipment in the first place we wouldn't have this problem.

3.) I cannot be fully responsible for the confines of what you bring to lunch during these last few school days. If you refuse to clean out your lunch bag, as is your daily chore, I will chunk your lovingly wrapped PBnJ on top of whatever refuse you continue to harbor inside. My mama didn't raise no fool. If you are afraid to clean it out, it means there is something living inside that I also will refuse to touch.

4.) Any request for homemade snacks, teacher's gifts, or special request for anything other than a PBnJ for lunch not received with twenty-four hour notice will be denied. I appreciate that you are probably seeing your beloved teacher receive drool-worthy Pinterest-praised gifts. Trust me, she'll drool the same over a gift card from Target. A special request for lunch not received within the required notice period will be handled by either A) A PBnJ sandwich or B) a pre-packaged something or other from the gas station.

5.) Your clothing options: You are on your own! As you refuse to put away your laundry or to retrieve the stank pile of clothes hiding under your bed since April, I have announced martial law over the laundry room. Whatever you can wear that is clean, kudos! I no longer care if your classmates smell the socks you've refused to change since Monday. Have their mama call me. We can lament which one of you is the stinkiest over glasses of merlot tomorrow while you are both in school.

Hopefully, these rules will allow us to relax and ease into the upcoming months of freedom  screaming, yelling, fighting and daily whimpering of "I'm bored."



May 20, 2014

An Honest Answer

I've been prepping clients to testify for litigation for over ten years now. This can be a lawyer's worst trial nightmare if your client is a talker and can't bring themselves to believe that things like "I don't know", "I don't remember" or "Can you ask that again?" are all legitimate answers. When you force yourself to create answer when you really aren't sure can be dangerous ground.

I think it is something inherent in our DNA as people that when we are asked a question, we feel forced to give an answer. In this day of quick "Hi. How are yous?", I don't want to give a  long drawn out answer and the person hearing the response doesn't really want to listen to a dissertation about my problems either. We have settled for frosting covered niceness. Civility without the depth. I use to be a huge abuser of this trait. I would ask "How are you?" and hardly wait for the answer. I find this almost impossible to do anymore.
So I've started taking my own advice.

When I see someone in real life that I haven't seen since I lost my brother and they ask me "How are you?", I say the only thing I know how to say and be truthful:

"I don't know."

It is not a false statement. I really don't know how I am most days. Many mornings are blasted with the humdrum of soccer practice, dirty dishes, laundry, work and the daily functions that keep our little family in a rhythm. My kids need a steady beat of rhythm in normal circumstances. But these days, we all need even more than usual.

Some days are a fight to get out of bed. I want to lay down and cry and scream and break every piece of glass I can get my hands on. There are moments of sheer delight watching my kids throw themselves headlong into summer's glory and yet there are moments when I struggle to be around so much merriment. Moments some days are filled with thanksgiving for small gifts, like a sunrise or a new flower growing and some moments when I list my things for which I am grateful, I stare a blank paper.

The truth is that there is a void in my life. A void that can only be filled by a six foot tall,  gorgeously blue-eyed little brother who use to text me that I needed to cut back on the Twinkies because my butt was bigger than the last time he saw me. I've never wanted to be called fat so badly in all my life.
It is always going to hurt. There will always be a missing piece to my heart and family events will forever be a touch of sweet and sour.

My soul knows all the appropriate things to say to someone going through grief like me.

"He's in a better place."

"You will see him again."

"This life isn't forever."

And there are days that I can give myself a pep talk long enough that it works.

But for the days that I can't stop crying at ridiculous country songs or seeing his things in my house, I've given myself the grace to say "I don't know" how I am today and to believe that it is an honest answer. 

May 11, 2014

No Greeting Cards For This...A Gift For You This Mother's Day

I stood in the greeting card aisle this morning with all my fellow procrastinators, 
wondering if Hallmark writers had better words to say for my mother, for myself and 
the mom friends I know who are struggling on this celebratory day for mothers.

As I flipped through card after card of dripping sweet sentiments, 
I realized one thing about holidays and Hallmark?

They both really suck when you're struggling.

There is a mom's brunch today.
With some of my favorite moms in this life. 
But the thought of going is like a weight around my neck.
I'm afraid tears will come too easily and I won't be able to cover up my grief.
I'm worried my loss will overshadow the beauty of roses and tea and togetherness.

 Life and holidays and greeting cards continue even though you may be struggling to get out of bed.
Every one's version of grief and struggle and pain are different. 
And you will find no judgement on that here.

Maybe you lost someone this year like me and another holiday without them seems unbearable.

Perhaps your mom has been gone for years but the loss of not having her aches through your soul. 
And days like today that ache burns even harder so. 

Or you're a mom in your heart only who the dream of giggles and squishy toes is being attacked by infertility.

Or you're an adoptive mom who the weight of these new kids and issues are so much harder than you imagined, but you feel ungrateful if you confide the truth in anyone. 

Maybe this day in May is impossible to fully enjoy, as you are filling the role of both parents because the other one is absent. 

Maybe you're a widow a facing your first year or you fiftieth year without your love.

Maybe you've lost your job, are going through a painful divorce or are estranged from your
 family because of years of abuse. 

Or perhaps you are like every other mom in this tiny globe and you are exhausted, overworked and wondering at the end of each day:

"Did I do it right today?"

Here are my flowers for you today. 

Because you ARE doing it right today. 
Doing this motherhood gig at all is doing it right.
And YES, I do count you as a mother if you are battling infertility or completing an adoption.

Doing life messy and with ragged, exhausted breaths is doing it great.

If I could give each of you something for mother's day it would be a card that says only three words.

It would be in your favorite color and made out of crayons, because that's all we mothers can seem to find to write with when the necessary time comes.

I'd pour glue over the letters  and cover it with glitter so that it would be so shiny you can see it hanging on your fridge, visible across your laundry filled, back pack laden, toy museum of a living room. 
Or hanging over the crib of the baby your heart aches for; or over the place where you grieve; whether it be a closet or a couch.
And on days when you are struggling to exhale without someone screaming your name or your house is so silent you feel mad from the lack of noise, you can look up and be reminded that this day, 


There is no handbook for grief. 
They make no cards for loss or pain or for the struggle of a single parent's schedule. 
 I've looked.

Just know that I understand today can be a hard day. 
Because today is another day in life and some of us just want the world to stop for a moment.
Whether it is for a period of years to let us grieve, or even for just a few more hours of precious sleep.

No matter what the world knows of your life from the outside. 
No body has lived it from the inside like you. 
But from one worn out battle wounded woman to you, this is encouragement to keep going.
Even if "going" looks like a snail's pace crawl. 

I'm cheering you on today. 

Happy Mother's Day all. 

May 5, 2014

Musical Monday: If Heaven Weren't So Far Away

My little brother loved country music. The station in his truck is still set to his favorite country station.
I don't have the heart to change it. 
I may never. 

This song came on the radio today and I just lost it. 

If only heaven weren't so far away.

I would take a day trip all by myself. 

I'd want him to introduce me to Jesus personally.

And we'd spend the entire day with my baby bro telling me exactly how to live the rest 
of my life on earth with out him. 

I'd let Nannie lecture me one more time on how to be a good person. 
And to always remember to trust my gut instinct about all else.

Papa would hug me and say he'd leave a pot of coffee on for me. 

And I would cry all the way home.

At least it would be seeing them all in person.

And not only in my dreams. 

Apr 29, 2014

Needing To Break

One of the many reasons why my husband is so good for me is he balances the crazy.
I come to him with ridiculous ideas and he never tells me "No" flat out.
Most times he just redirects my crazy into something productive.
Some thing safer than my original version. 

Grief has been doing a number on me. 

Most days I don't have any tears, 
until I feel them rolling down my face.

Some mornings I want to eat a box of Twinkies for breakfast, 
only to clock five miles on the treadmill in the afternoon.

Screaming, crying, writing, eating and drinking all in excess haven't eased any part of my broken heart.

So I told The Hero last week that I wanted to start breaking things.
I wanted to watch glass hit and shatter and come apart.
Seeing beautifully decorated tables in magazines, leaves me wondering what all that pottery would look like broken on the floor. 

I told him that perhaps watching something else coming undone would help me feel.
Feel what I wasn't sure.
But I told him I needed to break.

In his perfectly, amazing way he came home a few days later with a giant bag of whole pecans.
"It's not plates or dishes, but I thought this would help."
I laughed.

On nights where I struggle most, I release my grip on doing dinner dishes,
grab my bag and bowl and head out to the porch.

A few nights ago, The Hero found me and asked if cracking pecans was any bit of a release for me.

I nodded. 

And then suggested he go by me my own pecan tree.