The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

Today is a big day for us, opening night of Annie.

Last year Abigail wanted to tryout for Narnia at Theater in the Grove so Tom took her up to audition and upon their return he declared that he could see himself being in the play too. Thus beginning our journey of becoming a “theater family”. Tom landed the role of Mr. Beaver and Abigail one of the White Witch’s creatures. I helped with make-up with Anna in tow.

The experience was so positive for us that we said we would make it a tradition to be a part of the winter production as a family each year. Abigail, Anna and Tom would try out and I would help out behind the scenes…I’m not much of an actor. Come to find out Anna really had no desire to audition for a play either. She said she would be in it but there was no way she would get up on stage by herself and audition. I understood where she was coming from…we would both help out at some capacity behind the scenes. It was going to be so much fun.

Annie auditions were a huge success for Abigail, landing a role as one of the orphans. She was so excited and we were so excited for her. Unfortunately we came into some unexpected “house issues” and made the decision that Tom would spend the time working on those while Abigail was at rehearsal every night. He didn’t try out as planned even though they were in need of guys for the ensemble. Anna and I would help out where needed but overall this was going to be Abigail’s experience and we were going to support her in every way possible. Like I said, she was excited.

Oct. 20th was her first rehearsal. Tom and the girls stopped up at the theater after rehearsal to check in with me, I was volunteering for Young Frankenstein and I was very happy to see my family. Abigail was smiles from ear to ear. Anna was also having a wonderful day with her Tom and excited that Abigail was done with rehearsal, they were going to play spies.

About week after the girls went to Heaven Tom and I laid in bed one morning and talked about connecting with the director and seeing if there was still space for us to be involved. We knew that being in the play would occupy a big chunk of our time and at that point we felt desperate to fill our day. We had no idea how we were going to make it, our lives were all about our girls and now they were gone.

I sent out an email and Darren, the director and now dear friend, accepted us with open arms. He also told us that he was dedicating the run of the show to our girls; he was just getting to know Abigail and had already seen that she was not only talented but an amazing kid.

Tom would be a part of the ensemble, having 4 different parts and I would assist Darren and help wherever needed. We would have rehearsal Monday-Thursday from 6:30-9:30 and on Sundays from 1-6; we had a plan and it felt right.

For the past month and half the theater has been a safe place for us. We go there every night and spend time with the most amazing people. The orphans remind me so much of my girls and they are all so sweet. The cast and crew are not only talented and hard working, they are now people we consider to be good friends. Parker, the dog that plays Sandy, is not only an actor but a therapy dog. He is definitely good at what he does and his little brother Reser will follow in his paw steps in becoming a comfort to many. He doesn’t know it yet but he’s already a therapy dog.

I feel an extra special connection with one woman in the ensemble. She has truly lead an amazing life. Being a foster mom for newborn infants she has given so much to so many. Truly a role model for me. She is currently waiting for a kidney due to having kidney disease. She is on the other side of organ donation. We pray for her daily as I know she is praying for us too. I am hopeful her call will come. Last night she told me she recently had a dream that she got the call during the run of the show and I had to be her understudy. I should probably start practicing her lines. I pray that it happens soon for her.

We are so proud to be part of this production in honor of our girls. Abigail’s sweater, the same one she wore for auditions, is hanging in the orphanage. Molly, one of the orphans, snuggles up to one Anna’s stuffed animals. My girls are there every night and will continue to be there. I know that if they could they would thank everyone involved for creating this loving space for us. I know, through God’s Grace, the Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow!

Deck the Halls

Tom is making a fire in our wood stove and I’m sitting with a cup of coffee in front of the computer. It’s going to get real cozy here in about 10 min. It’s pretty cold right now.

We decided this past weekend to put up some decorations for Christmas. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to but after a little “sign” from Anna we decided that it was important to do what we would do if the girls were here. We LOVE Christmas and decorating was definitely a favorite. When we decorated for Halloween this year they already were talking about which Christmas decorations they each got to put up. They may have been fighting about it actually.

Joey Francisco is even making appearances each morning. Joey is our elf and for the past 2 years has been one of the highlights of the holiday season. Last year he would bring the girls holiday tasks to do; making cookies, writing letters to our sponsored kids in Africa, caroling with friends and watching favorite holiday movies just to name a few. Tom and I are finding great joy in sending Joey’s new location to Jacob and Michael, two friends of the girls. The other morning this is how we found him.

“What does a fox say?” We think he says, “Get this elf off me.”IMAG1011

When Anna was little, we would go to a tree farm and hike up into the woods, just the two of us. It was so much fun and we felt empowered, or at least I felt empowered. We were the best team, my girl and I. Although being a single parent is tough at times I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. Anna and I have a bond like no other. We had so much fun on our adventures together even when there was a creepy Santa involved.

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The past three years, our family established traditions that I will cherish forever. We would go on a Christmas tree hunt and then come home, decorate and drink hot chocolate or tea (Anna didn’t like hot chocolate). Finding the perfect tree that all of us agreed upon was tricky at times but we did it. We laughed a lot, I can still hear those laughs!

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We plan on keeping our traditions and honoring the girls in new ways as we move through the holidays. It will be hard and I’m sure there will be many times I will feel like I can’t move forward.

Our girls are with Jesus now and this year we will pray more, give more and celebrate his birth to the fullest. We are so grateful for his Grace!

“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “  Luke 2: 9-11

Listening

I am feeling the prayers and I appreciate every single one of them. I decided last night, after an emotional day, that I’m not ready to make the next step. I’ve decided that going back to work moves me into a space that I’m not ready for. I’m not ready to start new routines without my girls; I’m not ready to move on. So, I’m going to spend a couple of weeks being still and I will intentionally listen. Listen to what God has planned for me and for my family. I know that one day I will wake up and say “today is the day I go to work”, and I will go;today is not that day. Once again I feel the prayers of those near and far and I am so thankful.

I do miss my students. I walked into a school yesterday and one of my kiddos ran over to me and said, “Teacher Susan I have not seen you in such a long time, I miss you.” Fighting back tears I gave him a giant hug. My students are going to be fine and are in really good hands. I do miss them though but I know when it’s time to go back we will pick up right where we left off; playing in the gym, jumping rope, yoga poses and lots of high fives. They will also give me hugs and I will take every one of those hugs and know that I am blessed to have each and every one of them in my life.

While I was at Dilley yesterday I popped my head into Anna’s class. Her friends are so amazing and I love that when I walk in the room they all say with excitement, “It’s Anna’s mom!” Anna’s teacher, Mrs. Wilson, has created such a loving space for her friends. I brought in a teddy bear that is all decked out in one of Anna’s favorite Hello Kitty t-shirts and it sits in her cubby. With the bear is Anna’s school picture in a little frame. Mrs. Wilson has created this space for kids to connect with Anna if they want. I can usually find a couple of notes and drawings tucked in from students. I love that they continue to write her notes. I love that when I’m in that room I feel Anna. She loved being at Dilley and loved her classmates.

Both my girls had so many friends. I worry about them and I pray daily for their little hearts that are broken. I want to forever connect with these kids and be present in their lives. In doing so I will see my girls grow up. There will be so much that I miss, but if I watch Grace dance in her recital I will see Abigail dancing next to her. If I see McKenna swinging at recess I will see Anna swinging next to her. If I go to Girl Scout meetings I will hear Abigail’s voice in all the wonderful things they plan to do for other people. If I go to Rowan and Reese’s birthday parties I will hear Anna sing Happy Birthday to her friends.  If I hear Paige laugh I will hear Abigail laugh. If I play lava monster with Jacob and Michael I will see both my girls running away trying not to be tagged. I can go on and on listing the countless friends and experiences I want to have with them.

I wish my time wasn’t cut short. I wish I didn’t have to use my imagination.

I will say though that I feel my girls daily and I hear and feel God’s love. So here I sit, writing, and this afternoon I’m going to rock out to Taylor Swift because that is what feels right.

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First Day Back

I’m going back to work today, I’m going to try at least.

I remember how nervous Anna was about starting school this year out at Dilley. She was very excited to be with McKenna, her best friend, but she was scared about starting someplace new. Everyday before school she asked if I would be teaching at Dilley that day, if so would find her and give her a hug and a kiss? Of course I would, this was going to be my new routine. I was so excited to finally be able to see her and be part of her school experience. I had been part of so many kids schooling and now I get to be part of Anna’s.

I remember feeling the same way about seeing Abigail everyday when she was at Joseph Gale. I loved that she would come see me at lunch or would jump out of line and give me a huge hug when I walked by her class. Being able to see my kids in school was the best. I love my job and having them be part of my day was wonderful.

At 10:45 today I will get to Dilley. When I get there I’ll park in the back parking lot and the kids will be at recess. This was our routine; I would park in the back parking lot and Anna would be waiting for me on the swings. I couldn’t wait for that hug and kiss, she was so proud to have her mom at school with her…I know this because she would hug me a hundred times while at recess with not a care in the world of who saw her. The whistle would blow and she would give me one last hug and whisper in my ear, “please don’t be late picking me up.” I was late one time by maybe one minute and she was never going to let me forget it. She would then get in line and I would walk into the building, always turning around at the door to see her giving me the I Love You sign and I would give it back. It was our thing.

At 2:45 I will look at my phone. This is the time Abigail would call me to let me know she was home from school. She never forgot, she always checked in. I would ask her about her day and she would give me the run down…good day, learned lots and would then ask if she could make a smoothie. I would say yes but remember a smoothie doesn’t involve ice cream, that’s a milkshake. I would tell her to make sure to do her reading and then the conversation always ended with I love you, I love you too!

There will be new routines today but I will never forget the old ones. I miss my girls.

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Swimming

DSC_0698It’s Monday…just another day of many in my future that I will wake up missing my girls. I can’t really explain the ache in my heart other than that it hurts. I remember the first time Anna went and spent a long weekend with her dad; she was 2. I remember wondering if I was going to get through it. I knew she was in good hands and that she needed that time but as one day turned into two I remember the ache coming on. I remember trying to explain to someone but couldn’t. All I could say was that after a couple of days I just hurt.

Over time I got used to it. There were lots of long weekends and a week in the summer and a week at Christmas. This summer she spent 10 days in Hawaii and although I did miss her terribly (and was a little jealous) I knew that she was having a blast with extended family, swimming with dolphins and having an amazing adventure with her dad. She came home with lots of great stories and a hug that warmed every part of me. She didn’t want to leave my side for a couple of days and I can say the same about not wanting to leave hers.

I would feel the same way with Abigail. Whenever she would leave for a weekend or for an extended time with her mom I would miss her terribly. Abigail loved to call us. We would get nightly check ins and texts from her, text that I cherish now. I loved our Sunday reunions. We would all cuddle up on the couch for a movie and pizza. It was one of our families traditions, one I loved.

This missing, the ache in my heart, will always be there. I can’t imagine it ever going away. I just have to figure out how to navigate through life with it. I look at it like a giant pool of water that is really deep in the center. Some days I walk to the edge and get my feet wet, some days I go up to my knees. I can honestly say that is where I’ve stopped. I’m afraid to go any deeper, to feel the deep sorrow rush over my entire being. I’m afraid of that pain.

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This does not mean I don’t hurt in every ounce of my being. It means I haven’t fully felt the impact of never seeing my girls again here on earth.  I really can’t imagine my life without them. I find ways to be with them now. Looking through countless pictures, watching videos, telling stories, writing about them in this space, sitting in their rooms, looking for and finding treasures, spending time with their friends, cuddling up with Anna’s favorite blanket and lighting two candles every night at the memorial. Doing these things helps me get through each day.

I know I will have to go swimming one day in that pool of water. I also know that I have God and I know that he won’t let me sink even if I wanted. I trust the people that God has placed in my life will be there. I trust that he will give them the words, the actions and the ability to pull me out when I have had enough. I trust that he is taking care of my girls and will take care of me. I trust that the peace I feel in regards to where they are could possibly be the same peace I feel one day when I think of that pool of water.

In time I will be ready but for now I’m going to hold on to Anna’s blanket and go find some more treasure.DSC_0697

On the hunt for glasses…

Friday morning I found some treasure in Anna’s room. I’ve been looking for her glasses ever since the accident. I have no idea where they could possibly be. She was always so good at putting them in their case on my dresser…the case and the glasses are no where to be found. In the attempt to find them I decided to search the countless bags, purses and small containers that she loved to fill with everything but the kitchen sink. When she was playing babies, which she did daily, she would carry these bags around with her and stuff them with lots of randomness. Going through them now is very healing because I can only imagine what she was thinking as she filled these bags during her play. I am finding everything but the glasses.

While on this search I found her camera, the one she took pictures and video with. Yes, as seen on Facebook last week, she loved to hijack my phone and take videos of her friends and sister; but this little camera was with her all the time. She took pictures and videos of her friends and her siblings. The camera has a feature where you can add things to the pictures or distort the images. Some of them are really funny, Anna’s perfect little face with really big teeth or my face with a giant nose. I remember laughing at all the images she created while on our trip to Orcas Island this summer. 100_0171

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She would also take it to bed with her, sneaking it under the covers until I went downstairs, and then would take video of herself lying in bed singing. This is the real treasure because I had no idea she was doing this. Sometimes it was dark, so all you can see is a little outline of her perfect little nose. I am so thankful for finding it, for being able to download it to my computer and for having these little glimpses of her life when I was not around. I miss my girls so much.
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