What a friend we have in cheeses

As with most humans, I love cheese.  Love. Cheese.  All dairy, really.  Cold milk?  yum. Sour cream?  Yes, please.  Yogurt?  I think I will.

For my birthday last year, a friend of mine (the mother of my God son) got me an array of fancy cheese.  I work on my night cheese.  I never (ever) turn down cheese.

Over the last 3 or 4 years, I’ve developed lactose intolerance.  I knew it made me gassy, so I just limited myself.  Then the gassy uncomfortable suddenly and abruptly crossed a line.

A week and a half ago I had to call in sick to work because I’d eaten too much cheese the night before.  This past Friday, I couldn’t tolerate the little bit of cheese on my pizza.  Tonight, I had a small glass of Irish Cream and I am writing this post with a terrible stomach ache and cold sweats and I will probably have to throw up soon.

I am certainly trading in my old lactose intolerance for a brand new dairy allergy.

Why have you forsaken me, cheeses?

Normally, a lactose intolerance and sudden (serious) milk issue would be really hard for me to take.  But I would have bucked-up and understood that eating the sweet-sweet semi-soft gift to humans was going to be horrible for my body.

These are not normal times and I am taking this personally.  It’s not an evolution of age,  It’s a personal affront to me and everything I love.

Next year, I’ll probably have to move on from gin, whiskey, and wine too.  And then the year after that I’ll for sure have a sudden cotton allergy.

Probably I’ll always be able to tolerate cleaning products.  Because this is my life now.


Actually, I’m only half joking around about how I feel the universe and all of it’s limitless possibilities are stacked against me.  I kind of am taking this personally.  I really did cry a little when the realization hit that I legit can’t eat any dairy anymore without cold sweats and ripped apart guts.

I am not equating dairy allergy to the loss of my husband or my child.  I am equating dairy allergy to just one more thing, another stone in my shoe, one more joy that I can’t have.  The cheese issue, in and of itself, isn’t comparatively that much of game changer.  The loss of cheese is the emotional straw that I just can’t add to my load right now.

I’m sitting here without cheese and my real question isn’t about dairy.  I really want to know when this will end.  When will the pendulum swing back towards me?  Because I really do need it to come back.   I’m not sure when I will lose my balance, but eventually I will.

Crying about cheese is ridiculous.  0 stars.  Would not recommend.





I’m in that peculiar space where I’ve disassociated (?) my day-to-day life from Z’s passing.  I sometimes forget I am a bereaved parent as though the entire concept is unfamiliar to my life.

Not that I’ve forgotten Z, or that I’ve forgotten that she’s gone – it’s just I’ve boxed that part of my life away from the other parts of my life.  I can’t have all that pain leaking all over everything.  I wouldn’t be able to function if I didn’t.

It’s insulation with an impressive R factor.

I know lots of bereaved parents now.  I mean not lots, but more than people should know.  They kind of start appearing in your life when you lose a child.  It’s not something that is part of idle conversation, so these intimate details don’t get shared until it becomes pertinent.

Most of the time when I talk with someone about their child’s passing my immediate internal reaction is almost always “Oh my goodness… that’s horrible.  I can’t even imagine what they are going through.  Ugh.  This is awful.”

For all of us that have lost children, we have lost them in completely unique ways.   Naturally, the circumstances of death are just as unique and individual as our children.

I ache for the parents of the lost children as though I haven’t lost my own child.   My pain is all neatly boxed up in my heart and in my life; My empathy for their loss isn’t.  It’s just all out there, running amok in space and time and if I catch part of it, my emotions get smeared all over the place.

Analogies are weird, so I’m not even going to try taking one for a spin here.  It’s way too tricky.

Of late, there have been a lot of children’s funerals noted on the news – my heart breaks for their families individually and my thoughts always lob back into the place where I can’t imagine what the parents are going through.

Except I can.  I buried my own child not that long ago.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.

The legacy of an 18 year old

When Joe passed, there wasn’t a rush to fill his void with something.  Mostly it was because he left behind his daughter Lilly.  She is his legacy.  She carries into the world what he couldn’t.

Lilly is Joe’s echo back into the universe.   That’s one of the jobs of our collective children.  They keep our DNA and our spirt chugging along even after we’re gone.   When we sit around campfires reminiscing our lives and general circumstance, we bring back our grandparents and their legacy lives in family stories and our personalities and all sorts of childhood legend.

Z left and her legacy is a little more fragile.   The natural progression through generations is gone.  She doesn’t have the advantage of long life and progeny that would keep stories of life and love alive 100+ years down the road.

I think that realization is starting to bear down on those of us she left behind.  There is a mad scramble to make sure that everyone knows who she was and what she did in our lives.

This past Saturday I wen to the first annual Izzy shoot.  It was coordinated by her archery coach and is part of the St. Mary invitational tournament.  It’s a fun shoot.  The Izzy shoot doesn’t weigh into team standings or personal stats.   Three members of each represented school shoot from each invited team, best score of a possible 120 points wins.

I sat in the bleachers watching these kids move their way through 12 mixed range targets and felt an overwhelming sense of legacy.  I was called out of the stands to give the award to a boy from Hartland, MI.  He didn’t understand the gravity of the situation for me or the St. Mary archery coaches or even the Hartland coach.

The St. Mary kids understood.  They have new uniforms this year.  Z’s name is at the top of the back of each shirt.

Z’s life will be etched into a little piece bronze colored plastic and put into the home of the best shooter at the St. Mary archery invitational for a very (very) long time.

Joe and I have both Lilly and Alex to keep our legacy moving forward.  We’re doing okay – I’m sure the girls will do a fine job understanding what we did as parents and reflecting his spirit (and eventually mine) in the good and proper focus.

I am overwhelmed with what she will continue to leave behind.  Being the winner of an official archery contest isn’t a flash in the pan.  It lasts forever.

The Izzy shoot is 5 stars.   Would recommend everyone attend next year.


Vegetable Beef Soup

When the girls and I were first on our own after I lost Joe, I was working hard to make life as normal as possible. I didn’t feel normal, but my game plan was to act it out for them and life would creep into me.

Everyone knows the key: Fake it ’til you make it.

I’d purchased a new crock pot and found a super easy vegetable beef soup that was actually really delicious*. The girls loved it and I made it pretty frequently.

After we moved from the apartment into the house, I quit making it. Not for any particular reason. I just rotated it out for the spring and forgot to bring it back in. And they never asked for it again. I don’t know why all three of us developed soup amnesia, we just did.

At work, we like a good pot-luck. During the fall and winter we have one every six weeks or so. It’s fun and we all get to try new things. The theme for today’s pot-luck was “Soup and Bread”. My soup recipe barged back into my brain and I had a planned pot for the communal luck. That’s how pot-lucks work; lots of pots, lots of luck.

I got up early this morning to put it together and I was suddenly rushed back to the last time I made it. We were in the apartment and I was trying my best for the girls and the three of us would get home in the winter and eat soup and watch TV and commiserate about homework and the struggles of middle school.

I don’t get sentimental for that part of my life. It wasn’t a great time. It wasn’t even a good time. I’d left everything and everyone I knew and loved in Detroit to move to Grand Rapids. I disliked living in an apartment (even thought it was a snazzy apartment). Life was so… claustrophobic (?). Nothing was where it was supposed to be. I felt it in all of my being.

When we moved to the house, things were looking up. I’d found a different job I really loved, I was stepping into a sort of clarity, I’d purchased the new house all by myself for my family that had been through so much in their short lives. I was starting to accept my role as head-of-household just as the IRS was redefining me as just that.

Maybe we left vegetable beef soup behind accidentally. Maybe my id left it behind because I was moving forward.

I stood in the kitchen this morning making soup for work. I’m back where I was all those years ago in the apartment. I’m starting a new life from scratch. Again. Maybe that’s where the soup belongs in my life and I just didn’t realize it. It took a pot-luck to bring it back.

Hopefully there are healing properties in this soup.

Soup as emotional usher is weird. 0 stars. Would not recommend.

*the secret: don’t use all beef broth. Half beef, half vegetable broth. It cuts the salt and gives the base a complexity that doesn’t quite have a place. Add powdered mustard and suddenly it’s a flavor powerhouse.

8 years/6 months/62 blogs/0 stars

In spring 2016 Z had an endocrinology appointment in Traverse City. She drove over and I drove up. We went to the appointment, charts were reviewed, meds were adjusted, there was the reminder of the importance of maintaining healthy thyroid levels and we were off. It was rather typical.

We had the afternoon to spend together and I suggested a movie. We went to see the Ben Hur remake.

Z and I have seen biblical movies before. We saw the 2014 disaster of a movie “Noah”. It was so, so bad. I’ve never actually (viscerally) hated a movie like I hate that one. Contemporary major studio bible movies don’t have a track record of being good but we decided to brave it anyway. I paid and we went in.

Neither of us had been to that theater before; As an entertainment megaplex, it was pretty cushy. The seats were great. Popcorn and pop featured free refills. They served alcohol and something that resembled “food”. We really liked the theater. The movie itself? Bad. It really was bad. Not as bad as Noah, but still really bad.

As we were walking to the parking lot Z and I stared talking about the badness level of the movie. She made the proclamation that lives forever.

“The Theater: 5 stars. Would recommend. The Movie: 0 stars. Would not recommend”

I laughed and we were on our way to get actual food.

Today is the 6 month anniversary of this soundly 0 star situation. I like making numbers work, so my plan was to land my 60th blog post on the 6th month anniversary of her passing but a couple of things happened that spurred me to write when I hadn’t planned and now we’re at the 62nd post in six months. Goal overshot.

I have so many feels and emotions today. The first being that it went much better than I anticipated. Which, looking back, is pretty standard. The days that I expected to be bad (her birthday, Christmas) were okay. I made it through those days. It’s those “day after” days that are the sneaky bits of sorrow (my birthday, the day after Christmas). On the plus side, I don’t think 6 months plus 1 day will be a big deal.

That being said, I’ve been wrong before. For example, I thought losing Joe would be the low point in my life.

I’ve determined 6 month milestones, for the foreseeable future anyway, are a good time marker. Much like recovering addicts concentrate on one day at a time, I can move through the balance of my life in six month increments.

Six months after Joe passed, I was a disaster. I’d moved twice, started a job I hated (and still keep off my resume), hated my new city, missed my friends, missed my old job, missed everything that was comfortable. The second six months were just as anguishing and soul-crushing. The third six months started to ease up on my fragile state.

Six months is not as daunting as a year. And far more meaty (?) than a month or a quarter. Six months is my default measure of survival and forward progress.

Six months is my witness mark.

Eventually, 6 months will give into years. And my milestones will reflect as such.

It’s been 8 years since Joe has passed.

It’s been 6 months and 62 blog posts since Z has passed.

0 stars. Would not recommend.

The Team

Toward the end of her 9th grade, Z transferred to a very (very) small school in Gaylord. St. Mary Cathedral School. She was in love. Maybe not on her first day, but for sure by the end of the year. She went from a class of nearly 400 to a class of 17. She was in her element. She immediately picked up friends, got involved in everything, challenged all of the rules she thought she could get away with breaking, and generally spent her time being loud, fun, assertive, and happy. She was so happy there.

As soon as she started, she dropped herself into the archery team. She competed on the team for 4 years and proved to be a steady aim and straight shooter. She consistently did well and loved all of it. Even if she did occasionally insert high school drama into her narrative.

We are not an athletic people. Z had tried sports before. In 8th grade she was on the girls track team and performed so poorly that one time the next race was set up while she was still running the previous race. But Archery? She took to that like peanut butter to jelly. We never knew why it clicked, but it did.

At the conclusion of her first season she made me purchase a new competition bow since she’d been borrowing a team bow. She picked out bright pink. She never shot it. Even once. She ended up in love with the team bow and used that for the next three years.

For as little time as she spent actually practicing, she was remarkably good. She wasn’t amazing. There were most likely no Olympics in her future, but she was good enough that she was on the “A” team that always finished national competitions ranking extriemly high. Especially considering most of the competing schools had archery teams as big as the entire student body of her school.

She’d found an archery club in Detroit so she wouldn’t have to give it up when she started college. She loved to shoot.

When she was shooting, she was with her people.

The archery team wore their uniform shirts to her funeral.

Tonight her coach sent me a picture. There was an adjustment made to the archery records board in the school gym. Obviously, my allergies kicked in.

St. Mary Archery / In memory of Isabella “Izzy” Williams. She is permanently with her people.


I’ve mentioned before that Z passed away on my late husband’s birthday.

August 16th is also her coach’s birthday.

Being part of the perfect team is 5 stars. Would recommend every time.


I was widowed at 33. That’s stupid young.

I met Joe in 2004. We married in 2006. In 2008 he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. In 2010 we said goodby and I watched him slip into the early hours of his favorite holiday. The 4th of July.

I wouldn’t trade my years with him for anything. As incredibly painful and unfair the end to our relationship was, the 6 years we did have together were pretty perfect. I mean, up until the tragic ending. That wasn’t really perfect at all.

The end of our marriage was a long goodbye. We struggled (and partied) for a solid two years. There was one 10 hour surgery, a couple of minor procedures, several trips to emergency. There was many, many rounds of chemo and radiation. We rounded our rodeo out with a transition to home hospice care.

When involved in a long goodbye, there is the opportunity to start mourning for loss before it happens. And it’s really helpful. I visited funeral homes and planned music and flowers before he passed away. I was able to get these chores done with a clear(er) head. Lots of people had the opportunity to say goodbye.

I felt his loss before he was actually gone. I’d sit in our bathroom and cry and bereave the life I’d wanted for us while he was in the bed on the other side of the door.

I faced his actual death all warmed up. I expected it. I walked into life head on.

As conversely as one can imagine, Z was gone in a flash. No lingering sickness, no preparation, no warning. She was just swallowed up by the universe and that was it.

In the nearly 6 months since she’s been gone I’ve weighed (to no end) the differences in their respective denouement.

Which is better? No. Which is easier? No. Which is preferred? Nope. And stop asking these questions.

I’m not sure I could have watched my child struggle for years on end. That would have damaged me in a much different way than I am damaged now. Conversely, if Joe had passed without any warning, I wouldn’t have been able to cope with no job and no home and two small children in my charge.

It is hard for me to articulate what or how I objectively feel about their deaths. Since I’m not an unfeeling troll I can’t come out and say one way was better than the other. Not even as part of my late-night internal monologue. But since I’ve lived through both of these experiences, it’s hard not to compare and contrast the differences and think about what would have happened had it gone any other way.

Clearly, ideally, my life is void of tragedy and everyone is fine, thanks for asking.

I will, for a very long time, have to think about their escapes from this mortal realm and wonder if it’s better to rip-it-off-all-at-once like a bandage or if it’s better to have the long goodbye.

Maybe the speed at which these two lives concluded was the easier way for those left behind. I don’t know. I can’t say because I’m still too pissed off about it. I definitely for sure feel like any untimely end is unjust and unwarranted. I also feel like I should acknowledge the fact that since I had to do this, maybe I got something a little easier for me in that time and place? Did I tragically luck out?

I think these things and then I also feel as though I need to acknowledge everyone that’s lost someone and their emotional places and ends and my circle starts over. It will never end. Because that’s how circles work.

This is sticky. 0 stars. Would not recommend.