Monday, November 29, 2010


I gave in.

I've tried everything to get myself out of this dark place. I want to be out of this dark place. I don't want to be sad about her anymore. I went to work the day after Thanksgiving. I'm out of vacation days and because the post delivers on that day, the lab is open. I had to use my vacation along side FMLA leave. Now, I can't shop on black Friday. There is something wrong with this system. I have to work Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve too. What the hell?

I arrived at work on time. Early, actually, but I couldn't get my head straight. I left my bench multiple times to cry. I'm so mad she's not here. I'm so mad I had to cook by myself Wednesday night.

After about three hours of this, I gave in. To quote my cousin Jesse, "Give up on being a good daughter, sister, girlfriend, etc.  Just be however you are.  That is enough.  It's always enough."  

So I left work. I drove to Whole Foods, while Justin calmed me (he was shopping with Natalie so he had time to spare). I bought a Tofurkey. I spent the rest of the weekend eating Thanksgiving leftovers and watching three seasons of All Creatures Great & Small. Thank you Bob and Ana for having all the seasons available in your collection. I barely left the sofa and slept like a teenager.

I don't feel totally cured but I feel better. I haven't done any running but I'm happier. I haven't eaten 5 vegetables today but I had carrots and cauliflower at lunch and celery at dinner. One day at a time, right?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Before today, I failed miserably at life. I developed a fever last Monday which has developed into a nasty cough. Over the last 10 days, I picked numerous fights with my partner, Chris. I cried, rather sobbed, at least once almost everyday. I neglected my plans for eating vegan and healthfully, and I can't remember the last time I went running. Finally, I hadn't spoken with any family members for any length of time nor returned phone calls (including you, Aunt Polly!).

Today I my doctor told me I have bronchitis and loaded me up with antibiotics and codeine-laced cough syrup. Today (or last night) Chris and I fleshed out the root causes of our arguments and pin pointed themes. Today I spoke to my psychiatrist about the options available to me. Today, I called my stepdad to settle plans for Thanksgiving and spoke with my sister for almost 45 minutes. Today I am blogging to reach out to my extended family and friends.

I know other people grieve too but I find it virtually impossible to pick up the phone when I most need it. Frankly, I'm embarrassed. I know, it's hokey, but this is my attempt to reach out. Please continue to call, email or text me (whichever is comfortable for you). I miss my mom terribly and she wanted us to continue to love each other. Even if I'm not contacting you, I may need to hear from you. In fact, if I don't pick up, try calling another family member or friend. They may need to hear from you too.

Last, please don't feel guilty if you haven't been available. I'm just letting you know that I want to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010



Today was a hard day. I woke up early and did a short run—not much but something. At work I kept my ear buds in and listened to science and short story podcasts. They are my saving grace at this point, as they keep my conscious mind occupied while I spend 8 hours pretending to care about labeling tubes.

When I came home I finally felt ready to package up your needlework and a few other things to send to the family. I had taken some of your stationary. I know you wouldn’t mind if I used it. The first pack of cards was olive green, 100% recycled and acid free. What does that mean anyway? Acid free? Turning the package in my hand, I notice that it was manufactured in Santa Fe, Minnesota. When were you there? What did you do there? The price sticker has been rubbed off the far right corner. Did your hands do that? Did your fingers nimbly pick at the white sticker until it was gone? I imagine you sitting in a Minnesota airport with a Starbucks coffee at your feet (a venti with two shots). Your legs would be tucked under the seat and your head cocked to the left holding your cell phone between your ear and shoulder. Which sister were you talking to as you peeled away the sticker?

When you were in the hospice, you scared me. Before the marinol and oxycodone had worn away and before you had an adequate amount of rest, you moved your fingers nimbly. You looked at the corner of the room while your lips appeared to move as if speaking in tongues. Did you imagine you were peeling a sticker then as well? When I saw you like this, my heart broke.

Your fingers are no longer moving nimbly. Today I have many pieces of your artwork—all products of your hands. They are beautiful and I will send them to people who will cherish them. I only wish you were here to do this with me.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Hangover

Today, after over indulging in Halloween candy, I feel a bit hung over. Doug bought large candy bars to give out and this year was the first year I have handed out candy to children, what was I supposed to do?

Actually, I think the crummy feeling that I have in the pit of my stomach is simply grief. At times it is impossible for me to differentiate emotions. Am I upset that Chris hasn’t messaged me back? Am I really frustrated with my co-worker for saying that? Did I eat too much candy? I’m sure the answer is yes to all three but it gets complicated when everything I do is underscored with the sadness I feel because my mom is gone.

I know it doesn't look like much, but 6-year-old
Abe Lincoln got pretty excited.
I had a nightmare a few nights ago. It wasn’t the kind that forces you out of sleep, where you suddenly find yourself conscious and panting in front of the bathroom mirror. This nightmare haunted me in the passing days. I dreamed I was with the entire family and mom had made massive amounts of chocolate chip cookies. It was my job to ensure it didn’t get destroyed and every part of the cookie dough was to be rolled into balls and stored in the freezer. Because this is such a large task, I kept approaching my mother for advice, and every time I did she would be folding herself into a box at her funeral. Her body morphed, deflated and creased to fit into a medium-sized, square box.

My mom was never a woman to put emphasis on messages delivered in dreams but I can’t help but notice that my subconscious was shouting this message me. I don’t want my mom to be put into a box along with her memories and lessons taught. I was fixated on this thought as I ran errands and decided to tell mom about my fear. It was then I envisioned her fully dressed, colorful, garbed in jewels saying to me, “Maggie, no one is going to put me in a box and forget me. I’m too fabulous!” But instead of fabulous, a hundred superlatives buzzed around my brain.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Treat Yourself Well

The volume of sweaters, jackets, jewels and scarves should not have surprised me but alas, I was in awe of each jam-packed bureau and closet—seven total. What the heck, Mom?

Yesterday Katie and I picked through just about every closet, drawer and cabinet in this house. We started with the cookbooks and made our way through the spa stuff and her jewelry. After a break for dinner, we then carefully eyed every thing in the clothes closet, trying on about every fifth item.

There were silly moments when Katie or I would turn our hands palms-up with a perplexed expression on our faces and wonder why she had the same skirt in three colors when we never saw her wear any of them. We found numerous shirts that were wider than there were long and we’d wonder when our mom began wearing belly shirts, as we had never seen her bear any midriff. The silliest moment was when Katie accidentally doused herself in the bluish-purple glitter of one of mom’s many holiday decorations.

There were sad moments when Katie would put on our mom’s class ring from Temple and start to tear up while saying, “My hand looks like mom’s.” We found the suitcase she took to Pittsburg still holding shampoo, underwear and two sweaters of the same color.

Aside from picking out select pieces of jewelry (Thanks Aunt Susanne!), the most useful items that I will enjoy are her spa products. Every so often, my mom would encourage me to bring a girlfriend to Fort Wayne for a Spa Day. She would prepare yogurt parfaits for breakfast, cucumber sandwiches for lunch and toasted almonds stuffed in dates for dessert. We’d sit on the sofa with soothing pads on our eyes, fresh lotion on our hands and cotton balls between our toes. One of my mom’s most coveted rules was: TREAT YOURSELF WELL.

A few years ago at the end of a trip out east, my mom was enjoying a spa treatment using Susanne’s paraffin wax machine. Within a few hours my mom was to be on an airplane to come back to Indiana. Suddenly, my mom appeared in the kitchen, visibly excited about something, and asked for a spatula. “What for?” my aunt asked. Dismissing her question, my mom rushed back upstairs. Aunt Susanne followed her upstairs to find that my mom had spilled the paraffin all over the bathroom and was desperately trying to scoop it back into the container using the spatula.

What was she doing trying to move the machine anyway? When I asked Aunt Susanne this question, she explained that my mom was trying to put the machine back on the floor, where it was normally stored, to help her stay organized. She was, in fact, trying to treat her sister well.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Holiday Grand Plan

To my mom, the first of September signified more than my birthday. On this day, she would sit down at the dining room table and begin planning for the holidays using The Holiday Grand Plan. I'm not sure if this was a Martha project or from one of her many holiday celebration books or from a random website. In fact, it may have been a collaborative effort with the Hoosier Stitchers. Either way, it was a crummy way for a teenager to celebrate her birthday.

Of course, the Grand Plan began at the entrances of the house. She scrubbed the foyer fervently with hopes of celebrating the most wonderful Holidays. She would request wish lists for Christmas weeks in advance, and naturally, my mom would begin finding and fine-tuning recipes for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Last weekend as I perused my mom's vast supply of old and new recipes, I found last year's Thanksgiving menu. In her funny way, my mom always wrote in all caps to emphasize formality.












I won't be making any grand plans in the next few weeks, and I don’t know what this year’s Thanksgiving will entail. Frankly, I'm worried that our glue is gone. She synced our schedules and prepared the most delicious foods. It is sad to recognize that none of us will be able to match her enthusiasm, although she'd love to know we are celebrating. For the time being, I will be focusing on staying sane and continuing to stay in contact with my family.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Life Leaves No Time for Organization

At this point, I’d like to say that I’ve thumbed through all of my mom’s recipes, although I would not be surprised if more lurked somewhere in this house. Without cracking any of the 70 cookbooks, I spent 2 hours perusing the shiny box and a large leather folder. Afterwards, I decided to stretch my legs and found a bin harboring more recipes—almost two reams of paper and magazine clippings. This is cathartic, right?

I have to admire my mom’s desire to organize. In the shiny box there were numerous newspaper clippings, handwritten note cards and computer-printed recipes. Through all of the browsing, the majority of oldies but goodies were hidden in the shiny box: Emeril’s Wedgie Salad, Monkey Bread, Pasta a la Puttanesca, Country Breakfast Casserole, Peanut Brittle, and Everything Cookies. Regarding her organizational skills, however, I found a pretty stack of divider cards—which weren’t dividing anything.

In the leather folder, I discovered more recent and healthier recipes: Cauliflower and Roasted Garlic Soup, Dr. Oz’s Energy Balls, Quinoa Veggie Burgers, and Maple-Glazed Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes.

Luckily, the large bin had multiple copies of the same recipe so there was less work to do. I can’t imagine why she made multiple copies for everything but I can speculate. Possibly, she wanted to protect her stash just in case one lot was destroyed. My mom was like a squirrel preparing for winter, hiding food in multiple locations. There are other clues, however. For Martha’s Macaroni & Cheese 101, there were six copies and six pairs of names at the top of each: Mary/Will, Kathy/Bruce, John/Susan, Polly/Mike, Frank/Linda, and Susanne/Matt. For other cherished recipes, there were three copies: Justin, Katie, and Maggie. She had copies of instructions for putting together and sending care packages.

I am constantly surprised she isn’t here. She would be delighted to know that I’m looking at her recipes. I want to tease her about having multiple copies of the same recipe hidden in numerous locations. She’d roll her eyes at her misuse of the divider cards and say, “I just get so excited to cook for you that when I find what I need, I never put anything back!” Then she’d race into the kitchen, recipe in hand, and shriek about how she was going to whipping up something delicious.

The Shiny Box

I opened the cabinet of cookbooks and browsed old favorites of my mother’s: Moosewood, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Betty's Crocker's Cooky Book. Overwhelming large, The Joy of Cooking sat on the bottom shelf. In fact, the cabinet itself was tremendous. More than 70 cookbooks stared menacingly at me.

Martha’s blue colored every third or fourth book. The bottom right corner housed a large silver box, squatting in the middle. Easing the box out between and underneath the books, I admired the ornate M (for Martha, of course) carved on the top.

My mom and I shared an odd fondness for boxes, and naturally, I would be drawn to this one. As a child I stored thread and paperclips in Tic Tac boxes while my mother spent hours meticulously fixing a stitched dragonfly to a stamp box. This box, which held handwritten and computer-printed recipes, would be my starting point. 

I sat down at the dining room table and embarked.