My Dear Groucho

Thankfully I have survived Thanksgiving.  Now just a few more weeks til we bid 2013 adieu and welcome with open arms 2014.

Sadly 2013 claimed another life to shatter my heart and world.

Thanksgiving was a hectic day spent caring for sick family & trying to maintain some sense of tradition without completely breaking down at the empty chair left in Mom’s absence.   Stressed isn’t the word for it all.  The exciting good news was that my nephew now has the very first of his teeth breaking through & I got the news that a dear friend was actually ok after rolling and totaling his truck thanks to a rambling dear.  It was late when I finally got back to Dad’s.  He had retreated from the chaos at my sister’s place earlier.  I’m sure he needed some alone time.  The parrots cages were in a room just off the main hallway & usually Grouch enjoys keeping up with the comings and goings from the post making sure to greet everyone.  If it is dark the greeting is a simple “Night Grouch” letting who ever know they are indeed interrupting his sleep.  I rush by & got about 4 steps when it hit me… I didn’t get the call.

Sadly when I checked he was laying at the bottom of the cage.  He passed on hours before we realized.


Do I even need to say I lost it completely?

My world is so much quieter without him.  Baxter may be my snuggle pug but Grouch was my conversation companion.  No more “Hi Grouch” to greet me at the start of the day or anytime I come through the door.  No more “Night Grouch” telling me to go to bed.  All his phrases have gone silent.

You never realize how much they are a part of your world til they aren’t.

I have found myself a couple of times making kissy sounds and listening for them to be returned… which they aren’t.

Thankfully the new budgie and Barris are completely smitten with each other and doing wonderful but they are so quiet even when they get excited and chirp about who knows what.

Part of adopting an older animal is that your time together is shorter than it could be, and I know that going in, but it doesn’t take the sting away when it happens.  I certainly wasn’t expecting it.  He was 15 when he came to me 4 years ago. Looking back I can see him slowing and being a tad more grouchy than his norm, but I attributed it to my own stress levels, emotions or maybe the change in seasons.  Not sure I could have done anything differently, but I will always wish I had been able to pamper him more and had more time together.

 Captive mustache parakeets have a life expectancy of around 20 to 25 years with good care.  Grouch was well loved his entire life, but in the years before me he certainly wasn’t able to receive the best in care or diet.  It was with love and worry for him that his former owner relinquished him to my care.  Over time he got color back, he learned that food would always be there and got picky & demanding if his favs didn’t appear quick enough.  He developed muscles where he had atrophied from lack of flight his whole life and minimum out of cage time.  While he never was able to fly, he learned to pretend and flap those wings fast as any flighted parrot.  Occasionally he tested his abilities which always scared me & would lead him to stomping around on the floor with a look mixed with confusion and annoyance.   I would lower my palm & he would step right up thankful for the lift up.  His lack of flight enabled me to feel comfortable taking him outside to enjoy sunlight on his beak and watch the world beyond the walls.  Trade off I guess.  The trust he showed allowed him freedom others didn’t get.


The promise I made when he came to me that he would never be rehomed and always be loved has been kept.  Our time together ended but the memories I will always treasure dearly.

Always in my heart Groucho.  There will never be another quiet like you.


Beaker, Barris & bonkers.

I think I must have slipped down a rabbit hole.

Swear it was just the start of November… now it is nearly the end!

Wish I knew where it all went, but the upside is at least we made it this far.

Traveled to my Dad’s place today after watching the Panther’s defeat the Dolphins (GO PANTHERS!).  Soon after I got here and got the crew settled in, yes the pug & all the parrots, Dad was snoozing away in his recliner.

Has been a tough one.  Driving in I thought I was really going to lose it.  All week I have been dreading being here.

 The holidays last year were so different and started Mom’s decline.  Keep remembering how it all was.  How frail she looked as she waited up to see my reaction at my sister’s news that she was pregnant when I arrived here for Thanksgiving last year.  Remember laying in bed beside her watching cheesy holiday movies.  How she used to always spend this week stressing over what to buy when & which fridge to store this or that, planning out what would cook in her oven & what would cook across the street.  So much I want to talk to her about.  Get her opinion on or just to hear her be excited about ideas.  Plotting out who would buy what for who was always our thing.  We were a great team brainstorming, getting & hiding, then wrapping and popping it under the tree.

Honestly I feel a little like I am going through the motions this year.  Just trying to stay in the game but knowing I don’t have a chance.  Still hard to grasp in moments like these that she is just gone.  A friend, who also lost his mom to cancer several years ago tried to make me feel better by saying how “they are always with us in the traditions”, but I just feel the empty spaces of where she used to be.  In time they will fill with new memories and family will grow, but tonight in this cold dark house, I just want to imagine that she is still just in the other room napping before I go and wake her to make sure she gets the next dose of whatever is needed.  Almost can still hear her oxygen machine.  It almost feels like she is here, but just out of sight no matter how hard I look one step ahead.  I just can’t connect with her.  Breaks my heart.

I have no idea how Dad is able to sleep here.

BUT… I am trying very hard to focus on the upside of things.  Like that he is still living, and living here.  He got so excited about us all being together again that he spent most of last week setting half the front lawn ablaze in colorful lights you can see half way down the street.  So at least that tradition is still in tact.


I am very thankful I have memories to remember and that my sister and I know the recipes and have done them for years.  We may not be able to run back and check on how to do something, but we were able to learn.  Unbelievably thankful that we still will need the same number of chairs at the table.  We just have to replace her big one for my nephew’s high chair…. which he is starting to use a little!


Also thankful for family, friends and activities to keep me living.  Keep me from going completely psychotic from all the thoughts in my head and all the time to think them.  Grateful for the phone calls, even the late night midbreak down panic ones, the texts that always end up actually making me lol.  The walks and talks – be they beach or by the lake.  I should have worn the good shoes & this blister is brutal.  Hoping it doesn’t keep me from doing ok in the 5k Saturday.  If so thankfully I will have my Dad there to take care of me & help me not be alone in my walk of defeat. (Which will not happen. I am finishing… even if I bleed in my new socks!)  I’m even thankful for the friend who is dealing with so much stress and bad news in his life that he has blown me off a couple of times and just been too busy to make time to get together.  I know he needs to be with someone and talk, because I have been there, but guys do their own ways.  Hate he is dealing with it all, but upside… I see how far I have come in coping.  It shows me that reaching out, tough as it is, is so beneficial and by being the one who is trying to be there for him…. I can appreciate how tough it can be when you are unsure of what to say or topics to avoid.  Hoping he finds his own way to deal.  Not much can be done.  He knows I am here if he needs someone.  We all have our ways of dealing.  I certainly know the push everyone away method well.  Hard to come back from.

But there is hope.  There are friends all around & family… & tomorrow I get to snuggle the nephew and see what new talents he has developed.  Perhaps I will see a replay of his opinion on carrots.  Eat a bit then save the spoonfuls til you have enough to spray them all over your mom’s face, glasses, work scrubs….  sounded hilarious!  Even got a big wad on her cheek.  Talents!  He will make me smile.  He will be the light in this dark time.  For him I will be happy.  He deserves to know happy holidays.

Also I have news on adding a little one to my family.


Somehow I didn’t get the same reaction as my sister did, but then again it isn’t the same.  Feathered babies just don’t count with her.  Mom would have been excited & would have been checking it out before I could get the cage through the door!  Grandbirds made her happy, as do the grand dogs.

The rescue group that I work with got a dream to come true & it is WONDERFUL!  We are now an actual non-profit 501c3 filed with the state & we can take donations that let people get tax credit for making them.  Huge step.  Now we can better get in money that we can feel good about knowing they can get something too.

Best news & the one I squealed in getting to visit is the aviary is set up! The first one anyway!  For Budgies who need a home for whatever the reason.  No bird left behind.


The first residents seems to be in heaven when I visited.  They have a box to sleep in, but they don’t, plenty of perches, heated room and another more open screened area to enjoy the day’s weather and the flow of the breezes.  Plants are being planned to provide more tasty treats, fun to sit around on and a bit of variety.  These birds just moved into the Magic Kingdom for birds!

To get to the box there are a couple of rules for safety.  On being you must be able to fly this high in order to play in the box.  Flash back to when you were too short to ride the coasters.  Thankfully the ones who aren’t ready don’t know what they are missing & seem to be having fun in a big indoor cage together.  Most are there due to wings being clipped to the point where they can’t fly & wouldn’t be able to get to the water dish & food.  So they wait.  Wings grow back & soon they will soar with the others.

Except maybe this one.  The birds come from all places – owners who just don’t know what they were doing and their kid no longer cares, too many babies to keep after their two laid eggs and they were fun watching the babies but don’t want a house full.  Sometimes it is a petstore that knows a bird will not sell.  Enter my playdoh heart.

Perfect? Is any human perfect? no why should the birds be. So when I saw the infant with the displaced wing,  my heart just dripped.  I certainly can relate to having a visible body part that isn’t quite right & doesn’t work the way it was supposed to.  Still it was headed to paradise, I didn’t want to stop that.  When concern came up about if they others would pick on it or if it would ever be able to get food with all the others around….. then it was decided.  IF anything like that happened, I would be called to take it in happily.  Couple hours later I left with the new baby budgie.  Just felt right.  It seemed a very curious lil one coming to check me out at the cage when others backed up.  It deserved a shot at a home life.  All else fails I can get it flying as much as it can to see if it can be in the box later.


So… I got Barris a buddie.  So far he is estatic!  Still the strangest bird I have ever been around in keeping to him self & quiet but he has taken this one under his wing & already they are inseparable!

Since the new baby is so young, we won’t be able to confirm the gender for a few more months. Has to go through the first molt and the cere will change.  Then we know he or she.


For now…. Beaker.  Not sure why that name seemed to fit.  I had a name picked when I planned on getting my parrotlet & could have use that one, but it didn’t seem the same.

Beaker is one of my favorite muppets & lovable as can be, there is something a lil off.  Seemed to fit.  Beaker it is.  A bit different but totally loyal and lovable.

A bit different.  Totally loyal.  and lovable.  – Things I forget I am sometimes, but grateful for family & friends who remind me when I do.

There is an Elephant in my Room!


Last week was my parents’ wedding anniversary.  The first one Dad celebrated solo.  The plan was for my sister & I to be around him as much of the day as possible to try to make it a little easier.  Since it fell on a Monday, and I have class Monday nights this semester, the best I could do was stay for the weekend then head back home after lunch on the anniversary date.  Distractions worked.  Evidently better than we thought because he didn’t realize it was July 1st til after I left.  It may have been months, but we are all still adjusting to losing Mom.

Bright spot in the day for me was learning that I had won a contest on Facebook!


Not just any contest but one from Lower Cape Fear Hospice and LifeCare Center’s  Begin The Conversation program. Talk about life’s interesting timing! Not sure there is room on the internet for me to say enough good stuff about hospice.  We really would not have been able to deal with losing Mom in any way near as well as we have without them.  Locally, I was extremely thankful for the grief programs offered.  There was a great comfort knowing that even though I was home, I could still have support resources to help.  The program I went through was focused on adults who have lost parents and the specific focus of the group really did help.

Know what else has helped? Having had “The Conversation” – Which is the focus of the Begin The Conversation program.  Knowledge really is power.

What is Begin The Conversation?

Their mission states is better than I ever could:


The objectives of Begin the Conversation include: 1) the understanding of possible healthcare choices, including timely hospice and palliative care services; 2) the knowledge about ways to record decisions, using advance care planning forms, legal documents, toolkits, and other resources; 3) encouragement to have end-of-life conversations with loved ones, family members, clergy, and physicians.

Basically, knowing what your loved one would want IF anything did happen is ideal for everyone.  They have the comfort of knowing that their wishes are carried out, or more likely that their loved ones aren’t going to be stressed out trying to plan or do everything, and we who lose someone have some guidelines in place to allow us to do what we think should be done while we also try to deal with adjusting to losing someone.
Key is understanding the options available.  After understanding the choices, put them in writing.  For some cases having them spelled out will help in legal situations.  Other times it helps to be a reminder of what they want.
I remember the first few times coming to my parents to see the big orange DNR posted on the fridge.  Was the first thing you’d see walking in the door.  It hurt.  BIG TIME.  But after a while I got used to seeing it and it hurt less.  Even when the sight of it grew less startling, I knew what it meant.  Do Not Resuscitate.  If something started going wrong with Mom, they were not to take extreme actions.  Very hard to grasp emotionally, but learning to get used to that sign, helped me get used to the fact that she was at the point where things were not going to get better and we had to learn to let go – for her.
Her coming to terms with passing in a lot of ways felt like giving up.  We as a family wanted to inspire her to fight on, even when the odds were not in our favor.  There comes a point where you just can not keep putting up the fight but there is beauty in the grace of letting go.  Looking back, finding peace with her decision probably prolonged the process and certainly it took away some of the stress of constantly searching for a long term plan.  Instead of planning the next round of attacks, we enjoyed as much as we had left together.  Turned out we had more time than we could have imagined and it went by quicker than we wanted.
Honestly.  In writing this post, I have tears in my eyes.  It still hurts.  But the pain is from missing her.  Not from wondering if we could have done anything differently.  Which truly is a gift.
Truth is we all will lose someone.  It will always hurt and we will never be quite as ready as we want to be.  Still there are things that help greatly.  Discussion, tough as it is, really does help.  Doesn’t need to be done at the end or after someone is diagnosed, but that certainly should be done then.  Every adult should think about what they would want IF something happens (which it will at some point).
Get it out of the way.  Think about it.  Talk about it. Then live knowing you are prepared.
Sure it is a bit scary and tough to think about.  Doesn’t get any easier the longer you put it off.  I promise it can make it all a lot easier when the time comes, which I sincerely hope is a long, long way off.


Grateful for the T shirt too which I hope sparks conversations as I wear it proudly.  Also couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that I won elephant related gifts!  Truly is the year of becoming an ElephAUNT.  Will have to let my nephew try out the stress elephant next time I visit.  Which thankfully will be soon.

#52Lists Style Icons and teardrops

style icons 52 Lists

Style icons? Can’t really say I have thought much about that topic but there it is.  This week’s topic for the 52 Lists.

& a refreshing break for my mind.
Focus has been on preparing for this baby shower.  When I’m not thinking about how everything has changed since Mom died.  Has been a tough week.  Missing her more and more each day.  Hard to fathom how much things change.  Little stuff.  Roles lost.  Duties undone.  Several things got me thinking about how different life is when you take people out.  The way relationships change.  The more I try not to think, the harder it is to stop thinking.
No matter how much I wish I could change the past, I can’t.  Yet I can’t help but think about how things would and should be different.
Not sure what good it does but I can’t stop.
Music comes on the radio, I cry.  TV shows and movies to distract, some how it relates & I cry.  Keep telling myself you feel to heal. But I’m tire of crying.  I’m tired of being sad.  I’m tired of missing Mom.  I’m tired of worrying about everyone else and what will happen. I’m tired.
Thankfully I have plenty of time to sleep.
Another 24 down.

Stitched in Time

Lately I have spent a lot of time distracting myself.


We talked my Dad into going with his friends this weekend to shoot their cannon at a demonstration.  They camped out for the weekend & it had been a long time since he had been able to join them.  Most trips, he needed to stay home with Mom.


With him away I knew I needed to find a way to spend the day without just sitting around the quiet house.  Saturday was a month since the funeral.


Thankfully a friend agreed to join me on an adventure.  What never fails to cheer a girl up? Being around animals.  So to Lazy 5 ranch it was to pet as many furry beast as I could.  Something about connecting with them puts me at ease.  They trust so easily, without judgment or condition.  Much like a mother does.


Also had a lot of time planning for the baby shower & working on a few gifts for the new little one.  Aunt prep.  Felt close to Mom being in her stash of fabrics.  So many bright squares of various sizes cut, bolts of fabric waiting to be changed into something beautiful.  After many years of spending more than her share of hours teaching & dealing with the administrative details connected with it, she found joy in quilting.  That was one gift cancer gave her.  Time to do something for herself.  She ended up quilting for others, but that is just her.  Always trying to make a kid’s life better.  If we even knew how many quilts she had sewn and donated to Project Linus, Quilts of Valor and other organizations.  It was leftover blocks that were intended for one of those quilts that I made a couple of things for the baby… at her machine.  The bobbins filled by her.

Actually had a moment of panic when I ended up running out of thread on a bobbin.  Half way through the project, I knew I needed to fill the bobbin again & go on.  I froze.  Completely froze.  Got to thinking about how many hours she had spent at the machine.  How many bobbins filled & emptied.  My heart sank.  The weight of it all just hit me.  I got scared I would mess it all up.  Worried that I didn’t know enough to do it all right.  Like I might disappoint her in some way.  Felt so alone in that moment.

At one point I felt my stomach surge & thought for sure I was going to throw up all over the machine, fabric & anything else.  I didn’t, but I did realize I had sat there staring blankly for about an hour.  Paralyzed.

Contacted a couple friends and popped a klonapin and sat down still shaking.  Had a good long cry and googled how to fill the bobbin case for the machine.  I didn’t trust myself.  I sat outside and watched birds feed at the feeders placed all around the yard.  Listened to the doves coo from the trees above.  Snuggled the pug and cried.  For a moment she really felt gone.

I had heard of grief attacks being brutal, but that was surreal.  Time just slipped away.  Blurred.

Thought about just giving up.  Leaving it as is.  Try to preserve it as she left it all as much as I could.  She would never have wanted that.


Took a couple of tries.  Her machine is much nicer than mine & I haven’t exactly sewn in a long time.  Can’t help but wonder if she guided me in some way.  Finished the project.  Started a couple more.  Hoping that she can be proud.  Realized that I remember my Grams sewing stuff for us as kids… then my Mom got into quilting.  So maybe this is my way of continuing the tradition.  Certainly made me feel closer to her, even if not in that moment of sadness.  Some of the best memories we shared together was in designing quilts and giving feedback on fabric choices she made in her latest project.

Can’t post any real pictures for now… still a surprise gift, but I hope that in some way it can be from Mom & I.  Bring a bit of her into the now.

#52Lists – Good Things To Have For Breakfast

I’m trying to get back to blogging.  I promise.  Life is just tough lately.  Spending more time with family & extremely thankful for the chance.  We lost Mom one month ago today, so this weekend has been emotional for us all.  Hasn’t really helped that the weekdays & calendar dates have lined up the exact same this month as last.  Still very surreal that I can’t just call her to talk about how Dad is handling things or how I wish I could get her advice on this or that.  Guess it is just one of those things you learn to get used to even if you never really get it.

BUT.  It is also Tuesday, so on to the lists!


I know there are a million other things I get in the habit of for breakfasts, but at the moment that is all I could come up with.  We are going to head over to the grave site then to lunch.  Dad goes daily still.  I just don’t have much of a connection there.  I feel her more here, at home.  The pictures, the bed, her quilts… all those remind me of her so much more than the lump of land with flowers.  Still we all deal differently & if it helps him, so be it.  I can be side kick as many times as needed.

Simple It Is Not

This weekend has turned into a tougher one than we expected.

Some things you expect will hit hard (anniversaries, holidays, traditions), some just seem to come out of no where for a sucker punch.

Friday I rode along with my Dad to the attorney’s office, which happens to also be a relative.  Of course I’m not going to pass up a chance to see where I hope to work one day!  Well not THAT office, but with a legal team.  We picked up a folder with some of the estate paperwork.  Since I just wrapped up a course on wills last semester, I turned to Mom’s will & reread it.  She had plenty of time, so she had a basic one drawn up back in August 2011.  Everything of course goes to Dad.  No dramatic surprises there, but what did kind of hit me was seeing the Death Certificate in the folder right behind it.  Just surreal to see the term Death & all my Mom’s information on it.  Still really just feels like she is away somewhere visiting family or something.

Wish this was the one I saw...

Wish this was the one I saw…

After the initial shock, I read over it and found the cause of death.  “Complications from salivary cancer”, one of those four words I didn’t expect.  Salivary? Not really.  I mean it started there back in 2000 (or 1999 depending on who you talk to), but as of her last round of tests where she made the decision to stop testing, it was areas in her lungs and brain causing the problems.  Salivary just makes it sound so simple.  So small.  Her illness and death were anything but simple.

Even from the beginning diagnosis of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma we knew it was anything but simple.  Even learning the name was an issue.  Try being asked what type of cancer your mom has & having people expecting to hear breast or lung and you respond with adenoid cystic carcinoma.  The most common reply is “What?” & a strange “are you making this up” look.  It wasn’t a common cancer.  Mom was always a rare gem.  It was not that simple.  Clearly they messed up.  Checking up online, it seems that ACC is considered a salivary cancer.  So I guess technically it is true.  Just strange to see it all reduced to 4 words.

Just all feels so diminished.

Like life some how just wants to make it all go quietly away.  The vacant gap left from her exit sealing up as if it never happened.  Not in my world.  Her presence is missed dearly.  Watching my Dad deal just hurts.  Wishing now more than ever I could pick up my phone & call to talk about it.  I may not have always agreed or taken her advice, but it was always there when I wanted to listen to it.  And thankfully she cared even those times where I went my own way.

The other hit came in the mail.  A normal unassuming envelope brought THE CHECK.  Life insurance payment to my Dad.  Honestly I don’t really remember seeing a check like that, but it couldn’t begin to cover what she means.  No number replaces her.  While it is helpful that the insurance policy is there, it again just seems to put it in a single dimensional black and white world instead of the vivid legacy I feel it should be.

So many times I wanted to ask her questions this weekend.  So many memories I fear losing.  Just feels empty.

Grateful for the time with family right now.  Tomorrow I head home, back to classes.  Means the world to look forward to coming back here to grieve with Dad & the family. Even if the surprises pop up it feels better to be with others who miss her instead of alone in a world that seems to forget she was a person at all rather than a string of numbers.