Monday, October 27, 2008

Bake Sale

We have a location for our bake sale!! It will be in Westhaven neighborhood in Franklin on election day, Tuesday November 4th. We will be there from 10-2 and possibly at 5:00 again if we still have goodies. Holly and I had fun shopping in Michaels for some fun boxes and baggies for goodies (and we might have left with some candy corn and birthday candles that weren't necessarily on the list). Holly has been slightly fixated on her birthday, which is still several months away, and we have daily conversations on what the theme will be and what we will eat, etc. So, the birthday candles were for her birthday cake that I won't be making until, oh, February. And come to think of it, I think we also have princess plates that we bought in August, also for her birthday.

We have been having a nice few weeks with lots of visitors. Our friends Margaret and Matthew and Sarah came in for a visit from Atlanta; cousin Will was here, then Deacon; then this last weekend all my family came in town to celebrate my Dad's sixtieth birthday. As Sam put it, we are all thankful for sixty years of Billy Taaffe. I think Joseph inherited my Dad's passion for life and love of people, two things that made Joseph so special. We love you, Daddo!

We have been doing okay...this month last year is etched in my memory because it was the month before everything starting falling apart. I can still remember taking the kids to a pumpkin farm with the Slotkins, our playgroup Halloween party, the nursing home to trick or treat, and just enjoying the fall weather. We have some great pictures and great memories, but it makes this season bittersweet. I guess this is the first "holiday" we will have without him, the first of several in the next few months.

The first time we took Joseph trick-or-treating (he had just turned 2), we started out walking through a neighborhood in a little parade with lots of other children and parents. When the parade finished he thought that was it. But when we starting going up to doors and getting candy, his face had that blissfully shocked look and he could not believe people were just giving him candy. He started racing from door to door. It is the fastest we had ever seen him move. At first, he thought he had to eat each piece as he received it, but we finally got him to put it in his pumpkin and save it for later. The next day, he woke up and wanted to do it again that night. He didn't understand why we couldn't just do this every day. I had fun imagining all of us dressing up and walking around saying "trick or treat!" on a random night in November. I think people might have had pity on us and given us some leftover candy, right?

So, we are still missing him and thinking about him a lot. Last week I was having a really hard week and I realized how powerless I am to make myself feel better or even do the things that usually make me feel better (spending time with God, reading, etc.). I started thinking about how God wants us to come to Him as we are, with all of our pain and hurts, not as we think we ought to be. That is my biggest struggle. I really want to come to God and say "Look, aren't you proud of me?" But I have been feeling so un-proud of myself and just down in the dumps that I really can't do that anyway. So, I am trying to invite God into my pain and painful thoughts. If I start to go down a road that I know will end in me sobbing, I just ask God to redeem this sobbing. To take my tears and somehow make them beautiful or healing. I know that sorrow is not wrong, but I have a feeling that if God is not redeeming it it can easily become bitterness or resentfulness, which I really don't want. It even helps in thinking about some of the more painful times, like in the hospital after surgeries and thinking about times when Joseph just wasn't feeling well. I have been asking God to travel back with me in those thoughts and not let them become a source of guilt or depression. So, if you think of it, please join me in praying that.

I hope you all are getting to enjoy some of this fall weather. There is something so cheerful about a pumpkin. We have two big pumpkins on our front porch and every time I drive up and see them I just smile (thanks, Nana!). Happy Fall, everyone. Drink lots of cocoa and don't forget to come by our bake sale for some yummy desserts next Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Normal Life

I have to confess something to you. I'm a little more uncomfortable with this blog now because all we have to write about is how we are doing, not about how Joseph is doing. It was originally set up to update family and friends on Joseph's condition, but it became a place to write to friends and receive encouragement and support. This blog became our best friend, in a very odd way. But now that Joseph is gone I don't have the comfort of writing about how he is doing, what we are doing together, upcoming appointments, etc. Life seems very bland now, like anything that is going on is not worthy of writing on the blog about. Life is back to "normal," but a very strange normal. It became normal to have to administer medicine several times a day, to be constantly on the alert, to have doctors' appointments schedule more often than we enjoyed. And we felt we were living on borrowed time so every day was a great celebration that we had another day with Joe. Now our normal is still not normal, because we now have only one child in our house, we are all of a sudden in a new city (which somehow I didn't process until now), and we had sorta gotten used to the other crazy normal.
Every day I sort of expect things to be different--like maybe today I won't be as sad, maybe this was all a bad dream and he will come back and things can go back to normal, maybe it won't feel so empty and wrong everywhere I go. Joseph was so much a part of me--he formed me as a mother, and he was always a part of my conversation with others, a part of what made our family "our family." Now it just feels like we are waiting. Hoping that something sudden and happy and exciting will happen, something to make this sadness and awful grief go away. I know it will be with me for a long time, but I feel like I should be acting like a normal person and I should be able to go to the grocery store without tearing up when I see his favorite juice boxes or the toy aisle where we desperately searched for "choo choos." I have this crazy urge to tell random people that I have a son and he died and I'm not just a normal person having a normal day.
I've never experienced missing someone this much, either. Allen and I took a week-long vacation right before he started residency and the grandparents graciously watched Holly and Joseph. It seemed like a great idea, but by the end of the week I missed them so much it hurt. It just didn't seem right to be away from them and I couldn't truly enjoy the trip b/c I wished we had brought them or had made the trip a little shorter or something. It was a wonderful time with hubbie but I think that trip made me realize how much a part of me the children were. It wasn't as easy to "check out" and just leave them behind as I had thought. Anyway, this feeling feels like that times a thousand. All of the knowing that he is in heaven and in a better place doesn't make this feeling go away. It's definitely a comfort and I am thankful he is in the best and happiest place he could be, but like I said earlier I just want to be with him and be his mommy again.
I read this verse today and it reminded me that God can do the impossible:
"and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor."
I am praying that God would make this a reality in our lives and that we wouldn't let the sadness and grief overwhelm us completely. Thanks so much for your faithfulness in caring for our family and for praying for us throughout this whole journey.
Also, THANK YOU to everyone who has emailed me to offer baked goods for the bake sale. I am totally overwhelmed with all the people who have responded with such enthusiasm. I even have two kind women who are shipping goodies from across the country! And our friends over at Veggie Tales are contributing some DVDs of "The Ballad of Little Joe" (which was made a few years ago and is about facing hardship). Still working on a location but will post that once we have it...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cookies for Kids with Cancer

I have always loved bake sales. From the time I was a wee one, just the sight of a pretty table filled with all kinds of sweet sugary goodness set my heart a-flutter. In fact, one of the only pictures we have of me as a toddler (I am the third of five children--need I explain?) is one where I am standing in front a table of goodies (at a wedding, maybe?) with my finger reaching for some icing or treat.
So, when I was asked if I'd be interested in hosting a bake sale for "cookies for kids cancer" I was very eager to help out. Not only will we be raising money to support childhood cancer research, but we will all get to enjoy a treat on election day. So, the bake sale will be on November 4, election day, and the location is yet to be determined. Here is the website where you can read some really interesting statistics and learn more about this great organization:
I'm going to need some help filling our table with cakes, pies, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, and Joseph's absolute favorite--brownies!!, so if anyone out there would like to bake something to contribute to the sale, please email me. I'm very excited about this, and I know Joseph would be too. I think he and I were tied on how much we liked sweets.
Once we know where we are going to be able to have the bake sale, I'd like to invite all of you to come by and sample some goodies while we participate in electing our new president.
On a much sadder note, there is another little boy who has been battling a brain tumor for just over two years. He is such a sweet, brave boy named Aidan, and he will likely be going home to meet his Savior and play with Joseph in the next week or so. We are really saddened by this as we have grown to love him as we've kept up with his blog. Please pray for his family or sign their guestbook to let them know you care:
All of your notes and comments were so encouraging to us in those final days with Joseph and I know they would appreciate an encouraging note. Thank you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A good trip

We had a really nice time at the beach. We are so thankful the Moessners agreed to come with us, as we loved the company and Holly loved having little friends to play with. There were moments of sadness for me, but overall I just enjoyed the beautiful weather, gorgeous sunsets, and having the beach practically all to ourselves. We also played my favorite game "Boggle" almost every night and stayed really late like we were in college again. What a blessing to have good friends!

The unexpected hard part for me has been coming home. It was really emotional for me coming back into the house, because the last time we all returned from a trip was our last trip to Memphis, the day Joseph died. All those emotions just rushed back and in some strange way I feel like I'm experiencing those first days all over again.

I've been reading a couple of books on grief, and both of them talk about not being able to focus on anything and feeling tired all the time from expending so much emotional energy, which I could totally relate to. I feel it takes all my energy when I cry or am just feeling sad, but also to try to take a deep breath and move on with the day. Normal tasks are no longer easy and normal.

One man also talked about a real physical sensation of having cement blocks on your shoulders. I couldn't quite articulate that to myself or anyone else, but that is exactly how I feel. He also said he felt like he was constantly breathing very shallowly, and I also feel that, and find myself taking deep breaths every now and then after I realize I haven't been breathing normally. I never knew grief could affect you so much physically.

Holly is doing well and continues to tell us she is fine and doesn't miss Joe P. We know she does, but this is her typical answer. The one manifestation of her grief I see is that she has become very attached to me, which is fine. She started gymnastics class yesterday and absolutely loved it. I was so proud of her as she jumped on the trampoline and did her "bear walk" along the parallel bars. I think her favorite part was playing with the parachute at the end and getting to run underneath it.

Oh, and I mentioned in the previous post that it would be hard to see all the places at the beach where Joseph used to have fun. One of those places was the little fountain near all the restaurants in the village; Joseph used to jump around in it while we waited for our table to be ready. Well, as we walked past it last week I noticed that it was broken in the three places and there was an orange cone on top, which seemed very appropriate to me. If Joe P. can't play in it, then it should just be broken (so selfless of me, I know :)).

So, overall I think we are doing okay. Allen has been writing lots of beautiful songs out of his grief, which helps ease my sorrow too. I feel like God has been meeting me in nature--through being outdoors and just seeing his creation and beauty. In some situations words just are not enough, but I do feel He speaks very loudly through creation. In the song "Shout to the Lord" there is a verse that says "Mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Your Name." The Bible also personifies nature a lot, and I have never felt that nature truly does glorify and worship God as much as I do know. It is a very non-intrusive and gentle way that God is reminding me that He is here and that He loves me.