My Abandoned Garden

When I was first widowed, I searched for advice to proceed along this new journey I had been so unfairly placed upon. I read widow self-help books, what to expect books, articles, and conducted numerous searches. I wanted to know if what I was feeling was “normal,” and if I was doing everything “the right way.” There was a lot of useful information and tips in these resources that helped guide me along: not making any big decisions in the first year, financial advice and cautions, information about grief stages and emotions, and general pick-me-up and keep living encouragements. As helpful as some of these resources were, though, I still found them lacking in grit. It’s as if some subjects were too taboo to be put into written form and distributed widely, and it was often those taboo subjects I found myself most confused about. Here are some things I’ve learned along my 5+ years of widowhood that “they” aren’t likely to tell you in those books. These may not only aid a newly widowed person in handling some of the confusion, but I have hopes that they might also shine some light on what a widowed person is feeling for those who are supporting her or him. 
There have been many times over the years where I’ve been approached by the friends of a new widow asking, “What can I do?” or wondering not only how they can help but how they can better understand and empathize with their friend. Remember in reading these that grief is extremely individualized and what may help one person cope may be the exact opposite of what another needs or wants.

The Ticket That Ruined It - Writing Prompt Wednesday

Hey there, here we are again with another edition of writing prompt Wednesday (except it's on Thursday). Excuse the absence, it was spring break for my little one and therefore I was breaking from life as well.

Today's prompt reminds me of one we did in my creative writing class that I really enjoyed, where we took a family story that had been passed down and changed the perspective of the story teller. Moving your story into someone else is such a fun way to merge nonfiction with fiction, to blend what is real and what you imagine could be real for others. Without further ado...

Prompt: Choose an incident from your past - it could be an ordinary occurrence, such as a family dinner - or a significant event, such as an achievement or a mishap. Write about it from your perspective, then write about it from the perspective of someone else who experienced it with you.

It was sometime before fifth grade. I know that much because Rose moved away in the fifth grade, and she was with us, like she often was - up until fifth grade. She and I were in the back of my parents' car. Was it a van yet? My guess it was a minivan, but I could be wrong. In fact, I can't even remember if my little sister was born yet. I don't recall her being there, so I'm guessing I was probably around six years old. If memory serves, it was the light blue Dodge Caravan my mom had. It was her first minivan. We had gotten ice cream cones, as we often did in the muggy Maryland summers, and as per usual, Rose had painted her face chocolate. We stopped at a gas station. I believe it was one of the "Sunday Drives" that were a fun family outing for us when I was a kid. We would just hop in the car in drive. At each stop sign, someone would yell a direction and on we would go. There were no smart phones or portable GPS systems back in these days. There was a Rand McNally Atlas stored under the mat in the trunk space, but we never needed it. Someway, dad never got lost. I was sure he must have had maps of the whole world stored in his mind. As we drove, dad would tell ridiculous stories starring a character he'd created and named Formaldehyde and Rose and I would laugh and laugh until tears streaked the dirt and chocolate down our adolescent faces and we were doubled over in laughter cramps. We enjoyed our journeys to no where, mom pointing out her dream house along the way (a real fixer upper) and me pointing at horses. So, we stopped at a gas station. Most likely to refuel and stock up on napkins. Somehow, a lottery ticket got involved. Mom or dad bought a scratch off. I wanted it because scratch offs are so neat and so fun to do. I was told no. I was a bratty, spoiled six year old and I didn't like the word no. I threw a fit. Crossed arms over my chest, I pouted and said I was having the worst day ever. Rose tried to cheer me up, but I turned away from her. I was the world and the sun, at that moment, was the lottery ticket, without which I simply could not survive. Rose attempted to get dad to resume the Formaldehyde stories, but the magic of the moment was lost by my grumbling and grievances and the laughter was muted until we arrived back at home.

Told from Rose:
I always looked forward to time with Rachel and her family. Her dad was the funniest guy I knew and her mom was the most caring woman. Rachel was my best friend, and we always had a fun time together. They liked to go for drives in their van, along back roads and scenic routes, pointing out anything that interested them. I was just happy to be out and along with them, one of the gang, part of the family. You could always tell they liked you and considered them one of their own if they picked on you. I might have had a bit of a problem eating. In fact, it might have been a huge problem. My face just seemed to catch the food (especially chocolate ice cream) before my mouth could. We laughed and laughed at how bad I was at eating. Formaldehyde was the true star of the laughter with that family though. The adventures of Formaldehyde and her stinky misfortune were the funniest tales, I often stopped breathing mid-tale, my giggles taking precedence over airflow. While Rachel was my best friend, she could be somewhat of a... well, she had a temper. She really liked getting her way. She could also be bossy. And if things didn't go her way, well, you'd hear about it. After exhausting every napkin in the van (and trust me, there were several), we had to make a pit-stop to get gas and refill on things to catch my mess. Her parents had bought a scratch off ticket that Rachel insisted on being hers. I saw a look exchanged between the lady behind the counter and Rachel's parents. They weren't allowed to buy it for her. I guess Rachel didn't see it, because she continued to insist they give it to her. I bet they would have given it to her had she not asked in front of that lady. Something tells me someone could have gotten in trouble, at least, that's what it felt like. So we get back in the car and Rachel is in one of her moods. With a huff, Rachel plopped in the seat, arms tightly over her chest, crying and howling. It kind of hurt my ears. Even though we'd had a really fun day, Rachel forgot about all the stories and sights we had seen and declared this the "Worst day ever." I couldn't believe she had said that! "Come on, Rachie" I tried to coax her out of her bad mood, attempting to get her laughing again. "What happened next with Formaldehyde?" I asked. Her dad began the story but Rachel kept up with her sounds of disdain and the story was cut short. I ended up having to go home because Rachel couldn't get her act together, and her mom had warned her. I wasn't happy. I was supposed to spend the night that night (and I knew I'd just make it the whole night this time!) and I was having so much fun. That girl had quite a temper, I hate that she let it ruin our day.

Now I suppose it's time to go ask Rose how close I got it ;)

A New Project - Dear Snuggles

Well, I've decided I've neglected my little corner of the internet for long enough. I miss being here and I miss putting my thoughts into words and I miss all of you (is anyone still out there?). So, in order to help myself keep up with writing and visit here much more often, I'm trying a new project.

Every Wednesday (possibly more, but let's just start with one day) I'm going to post a writing prompt and... well... write about it. I know, it's totally different than what you're used to seeing here at Little Pink, but I promise it will be interesting. I'm going to start with a relatively simple one, to ease myself into this new idea.

So without further ado, let's just jump into this, shall we?

PROMPT: Write a love letter to an inanimate object that explores why you appreciate what you're writing about, what its special qualities are.

Dear Snuggles,

My nearest and dearest, the fuzziest, snuggliest non-breathing friend, I write to you with the most sincere appreciation for your life long friendship. As my first toy, you had quite a lot to live up to. How long would you last? Would you end up in the garbage, at a yard sale, passed on to a new child, or quietly ruminating in an adult's bedroom? No one knew then that it would be the latter. No one realized that your soft brown fur and beady eyes would provide one girl comfort for an eternity. No one expected your Steiff tag to be a source of pride for an Army brat born in a cold country she no longer remembers. No one could have possibly known that your plush body would hold the scents of true home, the most comforting aroma to breathe in.

I expect when you arrived with me that you were actually larger than me. As a new babe, you might have been ginormous, unfortunately I can't remember our first meeting. I know with certainty, however, that I was never fearful of you, regardless of how much larger than me you might have been. I know that you accompanied me on a transatlantic flight and I wonder if you helped me feel safe.

As I grew, I could not sleep without you by my side. You traveled with me to many a sleepover parties and handled squealing girls like a champ. I accidentally dropped you in a mud puddle before Rose's birthday party. I really wanted to go, but there was no way I was staying over without you. Thankfully, my mom took you home and washed you and brought you back to me. I wonder if you would have appreciated that night off? Or did you feel as lost without me as I you when we were apart?

I needed surgery in second grade. Tonsils and adenoids, no big deal. I was allowed to bring one "comfort object" but at first the surgical team didn't want to let you come with me because of your glass eyes and metal tag. I assured them you were the only one I wanted, needed rather, by my side and somehow they waiver. Maybe mom took you before I went to surgery but I know you were next to me when I awoke and let out a scream. I bet you remember that scream. Like my mom, you probably wonder how in the world I could scream like that after having surgery on my throat.

I held you during awkward teen years, squeezed you during breakups, confided all my secrets in your ever-listening ears and knew all my fears, pain, anguish, and insanity were safe with you. You followed me to college, and it's probably best that no one else can hear your sweet whispers because oh, the stories you could tell. I'm sorry I subjected you to that.

You accompanied me when I moved and found a spot in our bedroom in North Carolina. You watched my belly swell as new life grew inside me and you probably wondered if you would befriend this new child, as well. You were clutched under my arm as I headed off to the hospital to meet our new friend. In anxious anticipation you watched her enter the world and I'm sure both our hearts grew exponentially.

You probably still wonder if I will someday pass you on to our little friend, but I've selfishly kept you for myself. Maybe one day I will find it within me to surrender you to my most prized person but for now I let her visit while I keep a close eye on your whereabouts.

And when I need you most, I hug you close and inhale deeply, flooded with scents, memories, and feelings of home and comfort.

Words cannot thank you enough, my dear Snuggles, for being the epitome of a "comfort object." You encompass all things a teddy bear should and you are not only an object to me, but my friend.

With much love and adoration,
Rachel



What I've Learned About Parenting in the Last 5 Years


In a couple of hours, my little baby girl will be officially 5 years old. Every year, each number feels like such a big leap. Last year she was 4 and I was all like OMG MY BABY IS 4! Now she’s turning 5 and, well… it’s the oldest she’s ever been!

I look back at the photos and the memories of the last 5 years with this little stinker by my side and I am filled with so many feelings. Ones of the smiling kind, ones of the crying kind, and even ones of the steam coming out your ears kind.

So many lessons have been taught along the way. Lessons in how to clean a poop explosion from a high chair in hyper speed because we had a date in 10 minutes. Lessons about how to say “No,” and mean it. Lessons concerning feeding myself and someone else simultaneously. Lessons on the greatest love a human can have coupled with the greatest frustration.

In honor of her 5 years, I’m going with 5 of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over these years. Fasten your carseats.

5. How to clean and when to clean
Poop explosions are no joke. Neither is projectile vomit, glitter glue, or milk spilled under the seat that starts to sour. I’m naturally a messy person but the level of mess infused by a tiny permanent house guest quadruples any mess I could be capable of on my own. I’ve learned how to disinfect toys and sheets and that sometimes it’s okay to cry over spilled anything. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s okay to say screw it. Sometimes, there will be dishes piled high and that’s okay. Never try to clean in the middle of a craft because you’ll just be doing double duty. And there’s always the “right before company comes” quick clean to save from looking like a total animal.

4. I’m still amazed by all of this tiny person
Everything she does and is amazes me. It amazes me how funny she can be and how loud she can scream. How smart she is and how stubborn. Every time she spells a new word or counts to a higher number, I am blown away. Her big brown eyes still amaze me how much they resemble her dad’s. The hair that reaches down to her butt amazes me considering she was such a bald baby. The things she says that remind her so much of me. I am in constant awe of this person and I doubt that will ever end.

3. Getting to re-do kid stuff is super fun
One of the biggest perks of parenting is getting to play again. Going to bounce houses, playing the games at Chuck E Cheese, seeing the animals at a petting zoo, riding rides at carnivals and theme parks. Not only do I get to do it all again (except for the stuff I’m too tall for and to that I say – LAME) I get to see her enjoyment in it. There is nothing more fun than seeing your kid have fun at something you used to have fun at and getting to have fun with them. Fun, fun, fun, fun!
2. No one can make me angrier
Having a little miniature version of myself (in personality if not in looks) can be exhausting. I’m a whole lot of person with a huge personality. My kid, like her momma, has a huge personality. She knows exactly which buttons to press and how to press them. She knows just what sets me off. I have a feeling this will only get worse as she gets older. Oh boy, what a ride we’re in for. Even when she’s making me mad though, sometimes it’s hard not to laugh. She was sitting on the floor eating cereal from the box not too long ago. I told her not to eat anymore, she was done. She holds up one piece of cereal. “It’s just one,” she declared. I knew it was just one and that really what could one more do BUT I had said no more and I reminded her that. She looked at me, looked at the cereal, and reminded me it was just one. No. Pop, in the cereal goes into her mouth. What a little turd! I couldn’t help but turn away laughing. She had won this one. Just a few nights ago she asked if she could spend the next night at grandma’s. I told her I wasn’t sure, that we’d have to see, but probably not. Not even ten minutes later her sentence began, “On our way to grandma’s tomorrow…” I said, “Wait, why are we going to grandma’s tomorrow?” “Because. I’m spending the night there.” Wait. What?! With a stubborn streak and a mind all her own, this child can be infuriating and entertaining all at once. This was another time I couldn’t help but laugh. For someone who knows how to get to me, I sure do love her a lot, which brings me to…

1. I never expected to love a person this much
I knew that motherhood would change me. The physical changes were immediate. I am still blaming “baby weight” even on the eve of her fifth birthday, she’s stretched my hoo a thousand times it’s size and made me forget about it, and there’s nothing like the tiger stripes to declare my motherhood, but the biggest changes were inside. I loved her father with all I was and all I had. Until she came along. The love a mother has for her child is indescribable. The pride, the joy, the fear all of it encapsulating this love for a person you literally created that just continues to grow. Feeling any injustice served to her times at least a hundred (WHY isn’t she getting the same attention in gymnastics class?! What do you mean that kid took your swing at the playground?!) while trying to reign it in to teach her to be a strong and independent person. Creeping in her room at night just to watch her sleep, a look of complete peace on her face, her long eyelashes resting on her cheeks. Constantly thinking of her, no matter what I'm doing. Hearing, “I just want to get super close to you. Because you’re my favorite,” and being able to only reply, “You’re my favorite, too,” while choking back a sob. I never expected any of this.


Happy birthday my precious girl. I hope I am enough mom for you, that you always know how much you mean to me and the love I have for you is endless and unconditional. May we learn many, many more lessons together and may you one day learn these beautiful lessons from your own children.
 

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