Last Night Everything Died

I woke up at 5:53 this morning in tears and in Todd’s arms. My sobbing apparently woke him which led him to wake me from the nightmare of all nightmares!

It started with my brother, he was dead and I was devastated. It was unclear what happened, there were no answers, he was just gone. As I was grappling with the grief of this reality suddenly it was my Mother, she was dead too. She and my brother gone, just like that. I felt my chest start to rip open, I didn’t know how to process this new piece of information. I was with my Dad and we were both pacing around and he was trying to explain something to me, to some how make me understand what I could not possibly understand, that they were gone. Then it happened, Todd was dead. The dream went black, I was numb, everything was dead.

The next thing I remember from the dream was my poor bereaved Father trying to console me. My thoughts were racing, I knew it couldn’t be true. They all died in a car accident, of all things, my biggest fear in the world, a car accident. I was robbed of my Mother and I knew no one could possibly console that loss but Todd. But he was stolen from me as well and I knew the only person that could soothe the pain of that loss was my Mother. Then there was nothing, just darkness and grief that shot through the dark like lightening, lightening that hit its mark every single time leaving me jolted with waves upon waves of unending despair. I was drowning.

The last thing I remember before Todd shook me awake was seeing his ghost. I was hugging his lifeless body and his ghost appeared. He told me I had to let go but I couldn’t, I couldn’t loosen my hold because I knew once I did he would be gone forever. I pleaded with him not to make me and then I was awake. I was awake and balling hysterically, completely enveloped in his embrace. Once I caught my breathe I pulled away, I needed to see him. I needed to look in his eyes and know he was here, alive, this is real not the dream.

After a few minutes of nearly hyperventilating I calmed down enough to tell him what happened, I didn’t stop crying though. I couldn’t. He had been taken from me forever and suddenly I got him back. I was completely distraught over the loss of my Mother and brother still as well. Even though rationally I knew it was all just a terrible dream my heart was in no state to hear logic, all I had were these feelings of loss and relief swirling together in a kind of mania.

After a few more minutes I still wasn’t breathing quite right but I had calmed down enough to get up and wash my face. At this point it was 6:15 and I knew there was no chance I was going back to sleep so we turned on the news. the first story was of a derailed train and the body count so far, I started crying again. We then muted the news. Lucy jumped up in bed to see what the commotion was about so we all cuddled together for the next 15 minutes until Todd had to get ready for work.

I have had a hard time shaking the dream today. All morning I felt uneasy, I couldn’t hug Todd hard enough when he left for work, I didn’t want him to go. I called my Mom once I knew she was off work and made plans for the afternoon, I spoke to my brother too, just to make sure he was there.

I have had bad dreams before but never like this. This was brutal. Something that has been bothering me as I recover from the nightmare is knowing that for someone out there, multiple someones I am sure, this nightmare might be their reality. People experience these kinds of losses daily. This is not some impossible thing that could never happen, this is reality. I am definitely going into the day with a grateful heart for what I have, who I have more specifically. It was a devastating reminder of what is important.

The Day I Kicked Discouragement’s Ass

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Today was AMAZING. And to think I had to start the day with a pep talk from Todd because I was feeling discouraged. My awesome day kicked discouragement’s ass.

I was not dreading the actual items on my To-Do list today, I was just dreading the amount of energy I knew it would take for me to complete all of the items. I was actually looking forward to each individual item, I just wish I hadn’t scheduled them all for the same day, an oversight on my part (this is why I do not agree to plans or meetings without my schedule in front of me) but one that was not correctable so I had to buckle down and prepare myself for an exhausting day.

Good news though, it only got better. As I checked each item off my list the day got better and better.

The first thing on my schedule for the day was my volunteer shift at Hospice. I start my shift around 8:15, I like to arrive early to settle in and get caught up on any changes from the week before. A half hour into my shift the director of bereavement walked over looking for me, she needed help on some things that are backlogged for them so I agreed to help. It took my entire shift but I completed the task for her and apparently took a sizable burden off her shoulders, I hadn’t realized how behind they had gotten. Half way through my shift my main contact at the bereavement center walked over and we talked for a bit. Apparently the bereavement department has a colleague out for an undetermined amount of time and the intern who has been working there is finished as of this Friday. They need help. I offered to start coming on Wednesdays to assist in anyway I can, they immediately took me up on the offer. Next Wednesday I will go through training and when I am done I will be responsible for making the 1 year follow up bereavement phone calls. I am excited for the new opportunity to learn and grow.

My shift ended at 1 and I went straight into a meeting with one of the Hospice social workers. I mentioned recently how I made a connection with this social worker while working one of my volunteer shifts and in doing so we agreed to meet and talk today so as to get to know one another better. As I did not know her role in the organization I just saw this as another opportunity to network and looked forward to speaking with her. When I got into our meeting today I realized this was maybe a bit more than networking.

The social worker mentioned when we first started talking a few weeks ago that she had been wanting to meet me and learn more about me, I didn’t think anything of those comments because I had been wanting to meet her and get to know her as well as a contact for the future possibly. Apparently she a supervisor at Hospice and she supervises teams of social workers who work in the field (as well as those who work in the IPU I think). Anyway, she is a bit higher up on the ladder than I realized and she explained that she had been hearing good things about me and had taken notice of me. Wow. People are talking about me. That was something for me to take in. I guess it makes sense but I had never thought about it.

She complimented me multiple times on my attitude and professionalism. She said I seemed very wise for my age and how impressed she was by me. And we even talked about me possibly having a future with Hospice when I finish school completely. I walked out of that meeting feeling stunned and elated. I had no idea I had made such an impression at Hospice, I am so thankful for that. I also had no idea that she even knew who I was or was keeping tabs on my work with the company. It was a very validating 45 minutes and I am overjoyed that it came about in the first place. It goes back to what I was saying about organic networking, good things happen when you allow things to happen naturally.

So after my meeting with the social worker I had to scramble out of there and over to campus where I had a meeting with a classmate and a professor to discuss next steps in the community work my classmate and I are doing together. My classmate and I met last week at the cafe located on the hospital property near my house to discuss what we think our next steps should be, today was just to bring our professor up to speed and get much needed expert advice about our plan of attack.

We were relieved to discover that all the suggestions the professor had for us about next steps were exactly what we had discussed together last week. We are clearly on the right path (thank goodness). While in our professor’s office the head of the entire social work program at UCF walked by and our professor brought her in to introduce us. Our professor explained why we were meeting and the work we planned to do along with explaining what work we had already done. The director then asked to e provided with a copy of our original paper for her review and so she can give us notes for our continued work. We (my classmate and I) were thrilled and also a bit terrified. Thrilled because WOW, Yes please! Terrified because someone really important wants to critique our work, do we really think this paper is up to par? The plan is to revise the document one last time to make sure we are not going to embarrass ourselves sharing it with her and then meet with her to drop it off and discuss everything. How exciting!!

As the meeting continued after the directors departure our professor started talking to us about the possibility of publishing our findings down the road. I think we both looked at her like deer in the headlights. Publish? Scary. Again I started thinking will anything we come back with be good enough to publish? Our professor stopped us in our self-deprecating tracks though. She not only thinks we should consider publishing our work and findings but that we both need to be thinking seriously about doctoral degrees. That was a holy shit moment for me.

A lot of the things that were discussed today in my multiple meetings were not even on my radar. Working for Hospice in the future, publishing my work, becoming a doctoral student. I am just sitting here in undergrad trying to make the grade and make a difference. And I am doing both of those things rather well I guess. The idea that there is more though and I am capable of it frightens and excites the hell out of me. If you had told me two years ago when I was entering back into college that I would be here now doing these things, standing on the precipice of something that could be bigger than my dreams even initially allowed.. I wouldn’t know what to say accept Wow, I never knew what I was capable of.

Sunday Morning Music

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Sunday is one of Todd and I’s favorite days of the week. Unofficially it is introvert day in our home. It is the one day we allow ourselves to wake up without an alarm and get up at our own speed. Maybe we will watch Sunday morning news, maybe we will read, sometimes we sit quietly eating breakfast not talking for the first hour or so of being awake. It is divine.

Sunday is our day to do chores as well. We both like this set up because it makes us less disgruntled about cleaning and maintenance of the house. We do it together, which is a big part of why it is enjoyable. We also listen to music, which often leads to dancing, and I am never in a bad mood when dancing.

Once done with our chores we might read or play Bananagrams (one of my personal favorites) or go for a bike ride, whatever we want. It is a laid back no fuss day and I look forward to it every week.

One of my favorite parts of Sunday is the music. It makes chores go by painlessly and it is just a nice way to wake up. Sunday morning music is different than what we listen to other days/times of the week, not every song/band can make the cut. At the Drive In might be alright for driving to school on a Thursday morning but Cedric just doesn’t fit the bill on Sundays. Sunday morning music is softer, soothing, something familiar and comfortable.

This morning our play list included

Willie Nelson- Stardust
The Head and the Heart- Lost in my Mind
Elliot Smith- Angeles
The Milk Carton Kids- Michigan
City and Colour- The Hurry and the Harm
Pinback- Good to Sea You
Elliot Smith- Everything Reminds Me of Her
Bright Eyes- Old Soul Song for the New World Order
James Taylor- Carolina in My Mind
City and Colour- We Found Each Other in the Dark
Death Cab for Cutie- Scientist Studies
Bon Iver- Blood Bank
Simon and Garfunkel- The Sound of Silence
Nouvelle Vague- Love Will Tear Us Apart

It was the perfect soundtrack for waking up, being productive while still relaxing and serene. I sang along with Willie Nelson as I folded towels and found myself dancing in Todd’s arms through the living room to City and Colour. Sunday is the official start of a new week and I could not think of a more peaceful way welcome in the week ahead. I love Sundays and our Sunday morning music.

Baking isn’t so Bad

Blackberries were on sale this weekend at the grocery so we stocked up. I love blackberries, definitely one of my favorite berries but they can be expensive so it is a treat when we get them. To celebrate the delicious berry being on sale I decided I needed to do some baking this weekend that highlighted the berry.

Yesterday we spent the day with my parents at their house. They had all four kids as my brother and sister-in-law were off celebrating their anniversary so Todd and I went over to help and celebrate Mother’s day early. How better to celebrate Mother’s day then to spend the day in the kitchen learning from Mom? That is exactly what I did. Me, Mom and Maddie made cookies together when I got there. While the cookies were baking I taught Maddie a new clapping game. Last summer I taught her Miss Mary Mack, yesterday I taught her Wada Lee Acha, I remember learning that one from my Aunt and Uncle when I was her age.

A little while later Mom and I started dinner. She taught me her recipe for curry raisin chicken, So Good! While the chicken, veggies and raisins were simmering we taught Maddie and Isaac the Name Game (or as we knew it growing up, the Banana Fanana song). Isaac loved it! Once he understood how it worked he was running around the house adding everyone’s name to the song, all you heard was Banana Fanana Fo Fodd. I loved that song when I his age too.

Dinner was amazing, then it was time to make desert. My Mom has an outstanding cobbler recipe passed down through her family. It was my great-great-grandmother’s recipe and she used to make it for my Mom when my Mom was a girl. My Mom calls the recipe Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa because it calls for a cup of three different ingredients and it’s ready to go. So simple and good. So I brought my blackberries and some fresh peaches and we made Peach Blackberry Cobbler. It was gorgeous when I pulled it out of the oven, all brown and bubbly with warm peaches and blackberries that were so plump they were ready to burst. I was so pleased with myself.

This morning Todd and I had special breakfast, which we almost never do. I am not a breakfast person. I usually skip it, so bad I know, or at most I might have a granola bar or a piece of fruit with some grapefruit juice or hot tea. I just do not wake up hungry, I am not normally hungry until lunch time. But today since we had these sweet blackberries we decided to make special breakfast. Todd made some turkey bacon and I made cinnamon spiced pancakes with blackberries and boysenberry syrup. It was a bit decadent for my usual taste but it was good.

Today is our usual get-things-done day so I will busy myself dusting and doing laundry etc while Todd mows the grass and does dishes. Later though, when we are finished with our chores, Todd agreed to bake muffins with me. I am going to make my blueberry bran muffins again but this time I am going to substitute blueberries for dried cherries and walnuts. I hope they turn out as good as the first batch.

I have never really enjoyed baking before but as I learn more I am beginning to have some fun. There is a bit of joy that comes from making something amazing and sharing it with the people you love.

Finishing What We Started

I have mentioned a few times the macro work I did last semester in a local community for a group assignment at school. Last week we presented our findings to the class, the week before that we turned in our 39 page report and over the weekend we got our grade, 100. It felt really good to see that grade, like all our hard work paid off. The feeling was fleeting though because I knew there was more work to be done.

When the project was first assigned a few of the people in my class, myself included, raised concerns about the assignment. What is done with this information we will be collecting? Will the community benefit from it? The assignment was to do a needs assessment, to engage with the community on all levels and report our findings. That’s it. I went to office hours the week after the assignment was given to discuss my concerns in further detail with my professor. It didn’t feel right to go into someone else’s community, gather information from community members about there needs and then do nothing to help meet those needs.

Something that we learned after speaking to multiple people in the community is that there have been a lot of empty promises made to this community by politicians over the years. I don’t want to be one more person adding to a problem, keeping the information we gathered and not sharing makes me feel like I would be part of a problem not a solution.

I don’t have any delusions about what my role is going forward. What we are working against is bigger than us and it will take more than two undergrad social work students to “fix” it. I do know that we have information that could help though and we are in a position to be able to share that information with people who have more power than we do. Whether anything is done with the information we share or not is kind of out of our hands but that won’t stop us from sharing it and doing our part.

During the project I shared a lead role with another group member and that is who I will be working with going forward now. We have enlisted our professor who originally assigned the project to guide us in our next steps, she has a background in lobbying and working with communities. The plan right now is to meet up (my classmate and myself) and discuss next steps. I have already started brainstorming and I think she has too so now we need to share our thoughts and get on the same page. Our end goal is to meet with the local Senator, the Dean of our school (our college is building a satellite campus in the community so we feel this information will be relevant) and possibly the mayor.

It’s hard to see the end of the road on our work right now because we are just getting started. We agree we need to go back into the community and gather more information first. I think we will more than likely have to take our original document and completely rework it so it is relevant for the person we are meeting with later on down the line. I think my classmate and I are both hoping that we will be able to get the majority of the work done this summer and have time to schedule some of these meetings because time will be scarce when fall term rolls around. We both have the time now so hopefully we are able to put it to good use.

I am glad we have a professor who is willing to review our work and guide us as we do this work. Neither of us have any real experience with communities, this is foreign territory. It is a good learning experience though and hopefully at the end of all of this some good will come.

What’s in a Name?

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Next week I will officially be known by a different name. My name change has been a process, a very involved process and will continue to be for the next few months as I change everything over.

Todd and I started talking about my name change not long after we became engaged two years ago, I felt very conflicted about the whole idea. I do not feel strong attachment to my father’s last name, it is often mispronounced and when pronounced correctly I have always thought it sounds rather silly. My last name is pronounced Peeper. Growing up I was often teased about it and it has been a long running joke in my family that the girls (my female cousins and myself) look forward to getting married if for no other reason than to change our name. I don’t agree with the joke but it’s true that I am not overly sentimental about my last name either.

The thought of changing my last name didn’t feel quite right either though. I like Todd’s last name, it’s easy to spell and pronounce which would be a welcome change but something just didn’t feel right. For one I didn’t like the way my name sounded with it, it is so plain, very “Jane Doe”. Plus I felt conflicted about taking my husband’s name in general. My mother picked my middle name, my father gave me my last name (they chose my first name together) and now my husband gives me a new last name.. What about me? Do I have any say? What name do I get to give myself?? Jillian.

When I was discussing all this with Todd he said what about Jillian? I was confused at first, what do you mean? Then it all made sense. He explained, You have always said you wished your parents had named you Jillian instead of just Jill so you would have an option on which you preferred to be called, here is your chance, what about Jillian?

Yes. Jillian. A name I can give myself. My parents gave me middle name, my husband will give me my last name but Jillian, Jillian is me, it is mine to give myself. I don’t belong to my parents or to Todd, I belong wholly to myself first but I like that the people I love most are represented in my name as well, we each have a place.

After this conversation ended I thought about it for a few weeks, I still wasn’t sure at first but the more I thought about it the more I loved it. My next step was talking to my best friend, is this a ridiculous idea? She loved it too. She understood my wanting to have a say in my name and loved that I would now be Jillian. That’s when I went back to Todd and told him I was going to do it, he was happy for me. He never put pressure about taking his last name, he just wanted me to find an option that felt true to me and this does.

Telling my parents was a bit scary. I knew my Dad would be supportive but I was afraid my decision would hurt my mother in some way. I waited over a year. It was the summer before the wedding before I finally came out with it. They were over for dinner and I shared my plan with them. My Dad was supportive and said my new name sounds lovely. My Mom was taken aback at first but I think it had more to do with my delivery of the news than the new name. I told them that I had decided that when I change my last name I would be changing my first name also. My Mom admitted that when I said that she thought I meant to Theresa or some other name all together, when she found out it was Jillian she was actually relieved. They understood why I wanted to do it and gave me their blessing which I didn’t need but I was grateful to have,

Todd and I started the process of my name change in January, like I said it is a PROCESS. Changing your first name is not as easy as changing your last name, not that changing your last name is a walk in the park either. Changing your first name involves appointments at the courthouse and background checks and a court hearing in front of a judge. I have to be granted permission by a judge to change my first name, it is called “a court appointed name change”. The nice thing is it takes care of changing my last name at the same time so there is no extra paperwork for that.

My court date to appear before the judge is next week and then it will be official. From there I will have to do the normal name change rigmarole, social security office, DMV, bank accounts, medical, school etc.

I know that I will still be Jill to all my friends and family, I may only end up using Jillian in my professional life but it’s just knowing that I got to have a say, that part of this was me, my decision, my very own name that I gave myself. That is important to me.

A few months ago Todd, my Mom and I were talking about future baby names, specifically girl names. Todd and I are in complete agreement over the boy name we like but we cannot seem to see eye to eye on girl names. My Mom made a joke to Todd that he should just let me name a girl what I want because 30 years later she will just go to the court and change it anyway. I know she was teasing but I thought to myself, that would be fine with me. I hope to raise a strong little girl into a strong woman who understands how important it is to belong to yourself first.

Summer Break

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Summer break officially starts for me today, I took my last final was yesterday. I cheated and started my summer break activities on Sunday as this photo Todd took of Lucy and I shows.

I have two weeks off before the summer term starts and I am grateful for the free time. I plan to get back to organizing the house, a project Todd and I started a few months ago and did not quite finish. We got the three bedrooms done, along with the closets in each room, it is really the garage that needs some attention now.

I’m already half way through my new book so I think a trip to the book store might be in my future as well. This book I started is one of three and I am enjoying it so much I know I will want to pick up the next one as soon as I finish. It reminds me very much of Watership Down (one of my all time favorites) or the Red Wall series, where all the animals talk and the woods is enchanted. It is a wonderful escape and something I realized after my first day of reading is the author is also the lead singer from The Decemberists. That made me love it that much more. Although I have only listened to one of the albums it was enough to know they are good. They have a Paul Simon/Bon Iver/Iron and Wine quality, it’s good Sunday morning music if that means anything to anyone but me.

This week includes a day trip to the beach, a girls night and possibly a baseball game. Today will find me tidying up, reading and baking cherry nut bran muffins. I have been planning to make these muffins for weeks but as I do not enjoy baking that much I have to wait until I am really feeling inspired to do it, today is the day.