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Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Found a website that offered twenty questions to challenge negative thinking.  This one, in particular, rang true for me:

"Are you condemning yourself as a person on the basis of a single event?"

Umm, yes, absolutely.

Also, if 100 people say Cory's death was not my fault, but one person says it was, I latch immediately and fiercely to the one person's opinion.  Outwardly, I am indignant and will verbally refute the remark, but on the inside that no one else sees, my Guilt opens her scrawny, hungry arms and beckons that judgment into the fold.  Guilt must feed.

Pictures of You

Okay, so the video...

completely undid me.

I hadn't watched it since she made it -which was several years ago, and well before the accident.  When you stumble on a picture or a video of your dead child that you didn't realize you had, it can be equal parts beautiful and dark.  The stills are a little more forgiving, as they have captured and thus frozen Cory in a single moment of time.  But the technology of videos...dear God, to watch her move!  Do you understand what that does to a person?

I cued that sucker up in no time, and sat back, my heart a galloping, wild, run away horse.  I was as eager and strangely, sickly, excited as I'd been to go collect Cory's things at the police station.  I was positive I wanted these images, certain they would bring me joy and that for a few moments, we would be reunited.  That is always the promise.  The reality is never quite the same.

I hit play, and there she was.  Every frame was an explosion of life and color.  My eyes clung to her image:  her eyes, her smile, her hands.  I watched the spectrum of facial expressions that I knew all too well.  I focused on her posture, her movements, the tilt of her head.  I felt overstuffed with pride and delight to feast on her antics- her silliness, her creativeness, her comedic timing.  It was all laid out like a sumptuous meal made especially for me.  I took to it like I was starving.  Should I mention that Jake was in the video with her?  My dynamic duo, my heart was laid right out on the screen for the world to see.

All the pleasure signals in my brain were on hit.  Things were firing so rapidly, I could scarcely contain myself.  That was my girl, there, so beautiful and alive!  I wanted to run out into my yard with my laptop and show strangers passing by.  "Isn't she beautiful?  Isn't she funny?  Isn't she ALIVE?"  I'd ask them, cackling madly, and appearing wholly lost to my delusion.
It was an all time high, and a total shock to the system. 

Then it was over.
Immediately following that, I remembered that I would never see her again.

My heart plunged into this black realization.  As a mother, my journey of watching her grow had been cruelly cut short.  As her friend, I crumbled inside to know I would never be in her glorious company again.  It was overwhelming.

Watching the video had involved putting on blinders of a sort- playing pretend that she was still flesh and bones, moving and thinking and feeling.  In much the same way that I submerged myself in that delirious make believe joy, I also closed myself off when the video ended.  I could no longer see any other person, purpose, struggle, or success that the world offered.   My brain pulsed out one repetitive thought:  I want Cory; I want Cory; I want Cory.

I was done for.  I whooped in one giant breath and completely lost myself.  I screwed my eyes up tight and wished for death, wished to be out of this pain once and for all.  It was just too much to bear.  I no longer cared if this happened to other people out there who survived and set good grieving examples for their remaining children or found ways to give the love they carried for their child back to the world at large.  I just wanted OUT.  I opened my eyes on a Cory-less world, and began to have a full scale panic attack.

 Do you know the kind?  You start to think maybe you're having a genuine heart attack.  You struggle to breathe.  You start to feel like the walls are closing in on you.  There is an undeniable sense of DOOM.  Your senses scream DANGER!  DANGER!  DANGER!

What happened next is that Tim comforted me the only way he really knows how:  he administered medication.  And when he stepped out of the room, I may have helped myself to a little bit more of my anxiety medication that was strictly necessary.  What may have happened is that I lost about a day and a half, and scared the absolute shit out of myself.

It was another two days before I could piece together what had happened, and try to figure out what to do about it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Catching Up

Coffee with one of Cory's closest friends since kindergarten goes like this:

It is pure joy to see her, and always a somewhat of a shock to see her looking so beautiful and grown up.  We last saw each other the evening of Cory's birthday, when a group of Cory's friends knocked on my door, ready to laugh and cry while we remembered her together.

On this day, she looks so much like her mother that I feel a catch in my throat.  I want to say it to her, but it's exactly what Cory used to hear, and I can't bring myself to say the words.  No matter; she knows.

As we gossip and chatter over the next hour or so, I keep looking and at her, trying to figure out how the cute red-haired little girl from elementary school grew into a bona fide adult with adult problems and dilemmas, and I can't quite make the leap.  Across the table she sits comfortably, leaning forward in her eagerness to relay a story and I try to picture Cory sitting in a third chair at the table.  What would it be like to hear Cory contemplating careers, husbands, and children?  Sigh.  Wistful doesn't begin to cover it. 

Before we part ways, she tells me she watched an old you tube video the other night that Cory had made.  Instantly, I know the one she means, and I am so excited I am bouncing in my seat.  I beg her to send me the link the minute she gets home, and she agrees.  I am barely in my own car, before it pops up on my phone.  I stab at the link, disappointed to find out it won't play on a mobile device.  Eagerly, I put the car into drive and wheel out of the parking lot- just ten minutes to home, and I'll see my girl.

--to be continued

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I was tidying up in the dining room today, deliberately ignoring the bright pink purse on the bench.  But suddenly, I wanted to touch anything of hers, and especially to rifle through her "locker" as the the little bench had become during the years she was taking courses at home.  I needed to see her handwriting.  I needed to see her exclusive mark on the world, and run my fingers over the letters.

Somewhere under the pile of school folders- color-coded to help her organize- I came upon a little purple owl agenda I'd gotten her one day during one of our many pilgrimages to Barnes and Nobles.  A little sound of recognition, joy tinged with misery, escaped my throat.  I excitedly began to leaf through it, not finding a lot, as some pages had been removed from the spiral binder:  her cousin, Blakie's cell number, her Aunt Kim and Uncle Bud's home number. and some random notes.  As I flipped through, I found a page with the makings of a grocery list, and recognized it as the planning for our Big Non-Turkey Thanksgiving Feast:  roast chicken, roast beef, garlic shrimp, sweet potato casserole, garlic roasted mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, green bean casserole, sautéed mushrooms, asparagus, and stuffing.  Desserts:  pumpkin pie, chocolate chip cookies? 

I cannot tell you how special this single piece of paper is to me.

I found a second journal further down in the bench.  It has a little girl writing a letter on the cover.  I already knew what was inside.  Cory's therapist had suggested journal writing to work out her feelings about her biological father.  With a deep sense of sadness, I read her entries- conflicting, raw, emotional, full of a yearning love and bitter resentments.  I marveled at how Cory, so young and vulnerable, beset with a mental illness was still able to find a healthy way to cope with the pain.  Drugs and alcohol were not her mistakes to make.  She'd gotten a good, hard look down the path others had taken, and wanted nothing to do with it. 

My father is the best man I know.  I am by definition a "daddy's girl".  I will never forget being put in my place by a mentor of mine about Cory's conflicting feelings about her father.  My mentor told me to remember that I  had a father, a good father, a positive role model, an anchor.  Cory, since birth, had not had that particular type of relationship, and would always crave it.  I must try to put myself in Cory's place, walking the tightrope of protecting herself while reaching out with the possibility of being turned away once again.  It was, by way of reading Cory's words, one of the most difficult paths to walk, but she did it with strength and self-preservation.  I admire her so much for that.  She was much stronger at her age than I ever was. 

Accepting the truth when you want it to be anything else is something I still struggle with to this day.

Strong, Cory, you were strong, strong, strong.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

For the Love of Paper

I think it all started at G.L. Perry Variety Store in the Urbandale Plaza.  My father not only instilled a love for reading on those payday trips to pore over the latest Trixie Belden or Nancy Drew in stock, he also helped foster a love for writing.  I think a lot of times those two particular loves go hand in hand.  It's pretty much par for the course that the more you read, the more your writing will improve. 

But back then, I didn't know that.  What I knew is that I was a student, and my job was to learn.  Every fall Dad would take me to G.L. Perry's and outfit me with school supplies.  He said you had to have the right tools.  I'm not sure to this day if it was that time with my dad poring over pencils, pens, paper, and binders that pushed me into the love of paper, or if it was that feeling of starting over, a year full of possibilities.  A brand new 64 pack of Crayola's with sharpened tips certainly made me swoon.  Throughout the school year, the weekly trips to G.L. Perry's continued.  Dad made have spoiled me a little, the last little chick in the next.  He had a difficult time denying me a book or paper product.  At the time, I covered his cheek with kisses, and clutched my Critter Sitter folders and paper to my chest.  When I got home, I would spread out all my school supplies and just gloat over them.  I was a paper hoarder in the making.

Fast forward thirty years, and not a lot has changed.  I sit here writing at the coffeeshop with my Filofax nestled safely beside me on the table, stuffed to the brim with cute post it notes.  I have to grin.  The more things change, the more they stay the same?

A few months before the accident, the kids and I were out and about on a Saturday.  We'd just dropped Tim off at work, and Cory mentioned wanting to get back into journaling.  Have I told this story already?  We spent at least an hour in Staples, and eighty dollars later, we walked out with all sort of goodies for both of the kids.  Cory was going to make a smash journal, while Jake had decided to take a stab at making his own comic book.  I could not resist their creative ambitions.  The smile on my face couldn't have been wider as I swiped that debit card.  I was passing something onto to them that my dad had passed to me.  What else is life really about?


I wished for a lot of different things during the years that Cory was being stabilized.  I wished for God to take the illness away.  I wished for the meds to work faster. I wished I could make her better.   I wished I had a partner in the household to help me keep things together.  I wished for sleep.  I wished for someone to take care of me when I felt absolutely worn out.

I seldom wished for Cory to be more cooperative.  It's only by seeing others in similar situations who remain stuck in denial, to their own detriment, that I  realize just what an amazing young woman Cory really was.  She was able to accept that she had an illness, in the first place.  That's not an easy thing to do, especially with the stigma that mental illness brings with it.

She learned about her illness, and built relationships with the people who could help her.  She took her meds, even though they never came without a price.  She struggled, sure. She took her time deciding who to tell, and how much.  But she was honest.  She was not ashamed of her illness.  She knew it was something that she had, not who she was.  She also knew she wanted to control her illness, rather than having it control her.

She didn't enjoy hurting herself or others, even if only with careless words.  She wanted to get better, and she was doing just that.

I am so proud of my girl, and so incredibly blessed that her hand was mine to hold.  I wouldn't have traded her for the world. Not a single moment.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Filofax Therapy

It's been almost two weeks, and I have to say using a Filofax planner has been a huge help.  I have been a little less anxious, and have gotten a lot more accomplished.  Here's how:

We use Conscious Discipline, a social emotional curriculum, with the birth- 5 year old children in my Head Start program.  A huge premise behind the logic is that adults often have to "lend" their frontal lobe problem solving abilities to children who may not be able to access their own at any given time.  My Filofax is my frontal lobe to borrow against.  Being a grieving mother, I am often stuck relentlessly in the emotional state of my brain.   What do you accomplish when stuck in this state?  Not a hell of a lot.

I think of my daughter, gone now nearly two years, all the time.  It makes it difficult to concentrate at times, or remember things that need to be done.  There have been days I am barely functioning.  My Filofax reminds me of what I need to do and when, even how.

Using a planner has helped in a couple different ways.  One, it has lowered my anxiety.  My Filofax is a place I can write down my obligations, and also dump out all my worries.  They are safe, captured on paper, and I am free to think about other things.

Secondly, my Filofax encourages me to keep trying every day.  If I don't complete everything on my to do list on a given day, my planner holds no judgment for me to transpose them to the next day, and give it another shot.  I can keep trying every day to have a good day, and stay healthy.  I often note down a happy moment which when read over the end of a week that has gone by helps me to feel a little more positive about life in general.

I keep my daughter's picture in my planner, and carry her with me everywhere.  She is a tremendous inspiration to me to  never, ever, ever give up.  I also keep pictures of everyday moments of joy, so when my negative thinking says life isn't worth living without my girl, I can calmly flip to the section of my Filofax that houses concrete proof to the contrary.

I so wish I would've had one of these for Cory, in fluorescent Barbie pink; she'd have loved it!