Sunday, July 7, 2013

One year later....

I run to escape.

I use to think I should run for a cause; for people who couldn't run; for a healthy lifestyle; for the chance to motivate others to run. Superficially, I run so I can eat more, get "free" shirts at races with my running buddies and wear sweet colored shoes that cost more than any other pair of shoes I own.


Running Buddies
We like to color coordinate :)


Selfishly, I admit though. Over the last year, I realized I run for me.

Sure it's awesome if my family comes to watch a race with their signs saying "My mommy runs faster than yours". I always look forward to seeing old friends and making news ones while warming up for a 5K. And keeping those people who can't run in my heart while I run, sure motivates me during those days my shoes feel like dead weight. But let's be real here - I am not this crazy runner who averages 50 miles a week....we're talking 10-15 on a good week. There are no 20 mile weekend runs for fun on my calendar. The reality is....I won't ever be a spokesperson for the running industry because I basically put on shoes that the local running store suggested, hit my running app and let the Pandora stations fill my head.  No funky gadgets, no concept on pacing, no in depth knowledge besides putting one foot in front of the other. Yet, for 20 to 60+ minutes or more, I escape....

One year ago tomorrow my Aunt Casee passed away.

I miss her.

A colleague told me that when life gets all shook up, it should be my goal to work hard and get back to neutral. It is in those moments of time you'll learn how to make your neutral even better than before - that you will come out with scrapes and bruises but your perspective will be so much greater and your appreciation deeper.

Having someone close die shakes your world. Yet, I believe in death and God and that there is Heaven - so her actual death didn't shake my world.....her not being in my life anymore did. I didn't have a sounding board anymore, I had to find a new one or two. My personal fan club lost its president and since she knew more than anyone that life revolved around me, it clearly impacted my spirit (LOL). Her absence at so many activities seemed awkward, even though everyone has tried so hard not to make it that way. And I'm sure for the rest of my life, when her name is mentioned my heart will drop a little.

So this past fall as I tried to get back to neutral, I struggled. Life became a complicated, stressful mess- like life can be sometimes. So what does Katie do when her plate is already full and stressed to the max.....ohhhh she adds ones more thing to the table.... So I figured why not run a marathon??!

I needed to do this though - to regain some sort of control. After eight years of marriage, two kids, and switching jobs; I lost myself along the way. I had gotten so use to everyone around me just always being there and going along with what they said or suggested I forgot I had my own opinion. I forgot how to challenge thoughts, confidently offer my opinions and aggressively seek what I wanted no matter the objections.

During the 16 week training - while I enjoyed beautiful winter runs, catching up on my favorite shows on the treadmill, watching flowers bloom on spring days and fitting my miles in no matter the arrangement of my schedule - I would drift away from everything and daydream. Sort out reality. Brainstorm a new approach. Think of how life would be this way or that.

#GodsAmazingWork 

And when I came up on mile 24 of the marathon, "Don't You Worry Child" by Swedish Heart Mafia came across my earphones. I just became completely overwhelmed with emotions.....in that moment I felt Casee - like she was running beside me...part of me laughed actually because she never understood why anyone would run unless they were being chased or for ice cream LOL.....but I knew she was there, and as clique as it sounds, it was if she kept her promise of being my fan club president and was cheering me on. Not just to finish the marathon, but to cheer me on to keep moving in this new neutral I had found. It's awkward, complicated, ambitious, challenging, lively....but best of all it's me.

The boys and I at the finish line of the Bayshore Marathon.
Accomplished my goal of under Four Hours -3:51.43.

So tomorrow, I'm not going to dwell on what happened a year ago. I'm not going to be sad that she's gone. ....I'm going to lace up my shoes, embrace my new neutral and escape....

....to dream about what it will be like when I see her again in Heaven.




******************************************************

Special hugs and thoughts to everyone thinking about Casee today, tomorrow and everyday. Over the last year, our family has heard so many wonderful stories about how she impacted so many and how she continues to impact those who are faced with difficult situations. You are amazing and appreciated.









Thursday, January 17, 2013

Aunt Casee's Headstone Unveiling

This past Sunday, as a family we saw Aunt Casee's headstone for the first time. When Uncle Tim asked me to prepare something to say, my heart fell.....I was honored, but you just try to stay busy and not think about how much you miss someone, when they're gone...and since we never went to the cemetery at her funeral, I've never connected her there.....until Sunday and that's just a place - for now - that I refuse to associate her with...nevertheless, reality is she's gone physically. Yet as my family stood together, I couldn't think of a better place for all us to be together honoring her as we saw her beautiful headstone. 

After myself, Uncle Tim and my cousin Wyatt said some words, we let balloons go, like we did at her funeral. My son Gunner has always looked at my Facebok cover photo and asked  how the balloons got in the sky and why he didn't get to send a balloon to Aunt Casee. So I was thankful we did this again at her headstone unveiling from age two to my Grandpa's age -  we sent them as a family.


I have always loved this phrase...
and what an amazing reminder when the boys come visit.

What I shared on Sunday....

The last six months I feel like I've been in a fog - trying to figure out this idea of a new normal without Aunt Casee. I've found myself questioning why her - why did she have to go through all of that and leave us, what I feel was way too soon. I've sat in my car and cried wishing to talk to her one more time to help me process a difficult situation. My heart has ached when I couldn't celebrate something awesome with her. And yet at the most unpredictable times, a song has come on the radio. Someone has said something out of the blue that just makes me know she had a part of it. There's these little moments that I hear her voice and just feel peace. And I hope we all feel more and more of those reminders as we start finding our new normal.

What I have been shown over the last six months is that God is in charge and we totally have no say in the plans He has. Which sounds like we have a conceited God that only thinks of Himself, but I believe we have a God that knows far more than we could fathom and we have to trust Him in His plans.

Just doesn't seem like long enough.
Though His plan for Casee was not what our's would have been, I trust His plan to have her in our lives, as brief as we think it was, was perfectly thought out  Planned to show us how strong we are as individuals, but even stronger as a family. I know that as we get busy with our crazy day to day lives, her spirit will nudge us to send a text, write a card or stop in to just say hi. Her willingness to help others will inspire us to help others more. Her competitive drive will keep us fighting no matter what we come against.

So I think we will be okay. Actually I know we will be okay. Because I can hear Aunt Casee saying...."We were never normal people... why should we start trying to find normal now?"







From my all time favorite movie, Hope Floats - "beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will... "


Monday, August 27, 2012

It Gets Easier

If by easier you mean you've cried so much, your tears are no longer visible? Then yes, it gets easier. If you mean your body aches so much you're numb, then yes it gets easier. When easier means you hold on to some one's embrace while your body shakes with emotion and you just hope that if you squeeze them tight enough she'll appear for one last talk then yes, by all means it gets easier.

The reality is, it's harder. The week after her death, I actually did okay. We were all still actively including Casee in conversations as things were sorted out. I didn't talk to Casee, but it was kind of like we were on a long vacation and didn't have a chance to text or chat.

Then another week or two went by, and we started to find "normal" again....one night I sent a text to Matthew, Colton and Caleb asking if they wished we could send texts to Heaven....they're pretty strong those three and I'm thankful for close cousins. I know we all talked to her about life happenings and in July we all had big things going on... if we could have had one more text, one more chat at night things would have felt more complete, more finished after sharing with her.

And I think the farther away we get from her death, the more real it becomes. Her photo is tacked by our wall calendar. I see it everyday. She watches the boys play on the floor and listens to dinner conversations. I caught her face tonight, at dinner and it took sooo much strength to not fall to pieces.

Because the first week or two it's okay to have break downs, but crying uncontrollable in the parking lot of Meijer's - to people passing by might seem slightly odd. To call her phone just to hear her voice, may be a little out there, but thankfully I can do that in private (because if she answered the phone I'd probably not want to be in public at that moment - I need a laugh here :)!)..... Answering "doing awesome" with a smile when someone asks how's life, knowing full well it's a lie  And driving by her old home in Winn, with no toys scattered, no boys playing ball and no gold trailblazer outside leaves my heart empty - I want to bop in there, sit down on her couch and just be in her presence....just be with her....it would make everything easier.

I believe in God. I understand we die, it's part of life. And if death doesn't at least make you look into what God has going on, then I'm not sure what will - because without Him I think this would be even harder. Yet, I'm still a very broken human - like everyone else and I still ask why. Why did you do this to us? Why did it have to be her? What are we suppose to do now? And how the hell do we find a new normal? What if I don't want to accept this new normal?  Did you not think of us God? What are we suppose to do?? What were you trying to teach us? I pray for all kinds of great things, good things, wonderful things and this.... this is what you decide? You take my aunt away? Because of some stupid disease that for some reason we can't figure out how to cure? WTH God...WTH....if Heaven could receive texts that's what I'd send....ironic, sarcastic....but a darn good question.
.......

I've sat here for a half an hour...staring at the screen - re-reading the post... it's now midnight and I should be sleeping, but I haven't been able to sleep....thoughts keep running through my mind and as much as I try to think of something else, I find myself back to so many questions.....and now I have no idea how to settle my brain and wrap this post up.....because I guess at this time I have no answers, I have no fool proof plan to take the hurt away....and the reality is I probably never will....so this post ends unfinished, just like so many things left unsaid, undone, untied after we lose someone we love so much.


One of my favorite photos...I miss her smile.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

One Hundred Grand!

$100,000....One hundred grand....wouldn't it be nice to go out to your mail box and open an envelope with a check for $100,000 (with no disclaimers of having to sit through a presentation on a time share or bring in a key to see if you're the lucky winner!)

Yesterday, I posted the question on my Eisenberger Insurance Agency Facebook page, "What would you do if I gave you $100,000?" LOVED the answers...pay off the mortgage, take a vacation, donate to a worthy cause, support your child's education, take another vacation...you can do so much with $100,000.

Danielle Cole - You're the winner of the $25 Meijer Gift Card!!!



Yet, what if I gave that money to your family after you passed away? Stick with me here.....death isn't fun, but it's real and always better to be prepared than not....so would you change your answers?  Some of you may not change anything - the hundred grand could pay off debt so the family doesn't have to worry about it, or be put towards college educations for children. Others may say, well that's not enough if they don't have my income as well.

 
Whatever your answer, the point is.....if you were told today you have a terminal illness would your family be prepared? If you stopped at the same stop sign you've stopped at everyday since you started driving, but didn't see the car coming when you pulled out, would your family be prepared?

As I sorted through photos of my Aunt Casee to help make her slide show, I smiled when I saw photos of her at age 10 with big orange curly hair, "stylish" sunglasses and her huge smile as she posed for the camera. She didn't know then at a week shy of her 41st birthday, she'd leave behind two boys and a husband. I remember one photo she looked miserable...she was pregnant at Wyatt's birthday and just ready to have what I thought was a watermelon, later it would become Rayce....but she was at the point where she didn't care how it happened, she just wanted him out. (Mommas will understand what I mean here :)!) I still smile though, because what an awesome time in her life....the new little person that would be brought into this world for her to love. She didn't know she'd never see him graduate or marry. 

Now, I don't know if Casee had life insurance or how much, though I'm sure she was prepared with all the means possible to give her two boys the most amazing life, even if she couldn't be there to watch them herself. And wouldn't you? If you couldn't walk your daughter down the aisle to marry the man of her dreams, wouldn't you want her to buy the most beautiful dress possible. If you couldn't be there to watch your son graduate, wouldn't you want to have left behind enough so he could go to college without stressing about how he was going to pay?

Maybe you're not married or don't have kids....but are you healthy? Isn't that something worth insuring too?
I read somewhere how good health provides you with freedoms you take for granted until your good health has turned poor. When you're healthy and young, getting sick and preparing for death is the absolute last thing on your mind. You'd rather spend time and money on fun things to do with the people you love. You're also busy just keeping up with day to day decisions and tasks....but once you're told you have a terminal illness, it's too late. Which is ironic, because we all know we're going to die - it's a fact of life....so the question isn't are you going to die? It's...when and will you be prepared?

I'm working on a series of blog posts to help us all work through life insurance and be prepared no matter what happens tomorrow. My husband and I have various life insurance policies (you can read about how we decided on what coverage to have here). We are also in the process of finishing up our wills, my friend has shared with me her "If I Die" document - all that important information someone needs to know,  and I've started thinking about what I want my funeral to look like.

Death is too real to me at the moment. When your world is rocked and you realize you're not immortal (pretty close to perfect, but not immortal LOL!), you start looking at what's important - showing and sharing love to your family, providing them safety and necessities, setting them up for the best possible future no matter what happens along their journey.....

I hope you follow the posts, comment, start discussion, add your thoughts and insights - it's how we learn, how we grow and how we heal....thank you for letting me use this blog to heal....




Post production note :) --- I was having a hard time Monday night, everything kinda just came down on my heart...it was the first time I could actually just let go and grieve.... I sent my cousins a text, "Anyone else wish you could text up to heaven?" My cousin Matthew responded saying she motivates him to keep studying for his HUGE dentist exam. He then sent me a text later saying, "You know as soon as I sent you the text "My Wish" came on the radio (the song played with her slide show at the funeral) and then as soon as I got out of the car I saw Dylan at the library (one of our other cousins). She's for sure looking out for us." I responded "If a margarita machine shows up at my front door I'm gonna freak :)!)"  Margarita machines welcome :)


Thursday, July 12, 2012

What A Beautiful Day

Several years ago, my dad and I were driving through Shepherd on a dark, dreary day. There was a funeral in progress, I turned to my dad and said "Crappy day for a funeral." Without missing a beat he said...."well not too sure there is ever a good day for a funeral." Point taken :)....

Yet, on Sunday, July 8th it was a beautiful day....a tealish, blue sky was filled with white comfy clouds...the sun was bright but at times hidden and a slight breeze made the summer heat warm but bearable. It was the best day I would ever hope for to celebrate my amazing Aunt Casee...the day she passed away.

I said in my last post, that on Sundays the entire family would come over and have dinner at Grandpa and Grandma's...it was just what we did. My grandparents would get up early and fix amazing food....and if you didn't eat Grandpa would ask you if you were sick because there was just something wrong about not eating two helpings of his homemade noodles, baked beans and freezer corn. And thankfully, we weren't to the point of running the roads to practices or games, because our bellies were so full we wouldn't have been very productive. Sunday's were days to just be with each other, reconnect and focus for the week ahead.

How fitting for our family - a Sunday - of all days....a Sunday where the entire family was at Grandpa and Grandmas with no place to run off to, but to just be with each other, reconnect and focus for the week ahead. This Sunday though, not much was said, not much needed to be....

And as we watched the food start filling the refrigerator and counter area, our family started to see how many other people also share their love through food. :) ... At one point, my Uncle Tim and I laughed because we were asked about five or six times if we had ate anything for lunch - at about the eighth time, I looked at him and told him - "please just eat a damn sandwich" :)...but so many took time out of their busy lives to pick up food, water, paper products, munchies and then did it again for the funeral dinner...

And on Wednesday, July 11th it was a beautiful day....a tealish, blue sky was filled with white comfy clouds...the sun was bright but at times hidden and a slight breeze made the summer heat warm but bearable. It was the best day I would ever hope for to celebrate my amazing Aunt Casee...the day we said our final good byes.

A week ago, I wrote a blog after we found out she had two weeks to a month to live....it was a blog from my heart, a blog many would read....one I would read at her funeral, one I'll carry with me to read over and over again....I honestly don't know if Casee ever read it or had it read to her - I couldn't do it myself, but I know she knows how I feel about her.

And now I know how so many others feel about her. I still haven't been able to make it through all her friends' Facebook posts on her wall because I just start crying. Listening to the stories bounce off the walls at the funeral home and while sorting photos for her slide show - oh so much laughter, so many memories to write down and have forever.

Yet, I feel like the funeral was the easy part - we were able to laugh and cry and be together with so many for four days straight...but what about now? When we go back to work, head to the grocery store, sit at a baseball game, celebrate her birthday this Sunday, the list goes on....I feel like there are a lot of dark and dreary days ahead....

But then my five year old Gunner gives me a fresh perspective...After trying to figure out how to tell him what was happening, I told him the truth, that Aunt Casee had died and she was going to meet God....his eyes got so big and he had a huge smile come across his face. Without missing a beat he said "That is so cool Mom."....... It took all I had at that moment to hold back tears and just give him a big hug while saying... "Yeah, buddy it is."  Point taken.


I'm going to miss you so much - Sending you my love.
A balloon send off on a beautiful day.

Monday, July 2, 2012

My Aunt...

One of my favorite photos :)
My aunt has two weeks to live….at best a month…If my Aunt Casee was 89 and had watched her third grader and seventh grader develop into successful, loving men with lives a mother could be proud of then it makes the next month a little easier. Yet, Casee is only ten years older than me and at 40 it seems to be cut way too short.
She has battled cancer….not just battled but kicked it’s ass time and time again….she’s done it because of her will power and some would say her stubbornness….but cancer seems to never back down….it’s hid for a while, making life manageable and at times close to normal, but the last six months it’s come back to a point that draws her earthly presence to a close.
Ms. Josie and her momma...a fine companion.
As the favorite niece (she would chime in here…”Honey, for 29 years you were the only niece so I didn’t have many options.”) and not being that much older than me….Aunt Casee serves as the go-between …..She is the adult, young and cool enough, whom I needed to help explain my mother’s good intentions. I think I speak for my cousins and brother on this…you can always call her, text her, instant message her, email her, or stop in and just chat with her for a good conversation and discussion about important life decisions without feeling parented, but accepted and loved just as much as our parents do. You have no idea how much I'm going to miss that. 
The annual Christmas family photos
will never look the same.
She also was the aunt at every baseball game. Rain or shine, sick or healthy, hundreds of miles away or out the backdoor of Grandpa Bums she had her lawn chair, pop and respective school shirt on. She knew every kid on every team, she cheered them on, laughed with parents, high fived coaches and joked with umps. She was the smile you needed after a bad play or the loudest cheer you heard after one of the boys struck someone out. Talk about having a number one fan…she was it and then some. And no matter what happens within our family regarding baseball whether there will be a major league game in our future or while her boys play catch outside Grandpa Bum’s backyard  – I know she’ll have the best seat in the house.

Now, most people know how close our family is…to a point a little scary J…but growing up, we’d spend Sunday afternoons having dinner at Grandpa Bum’s house. Casee still lived at home when I was little. She’d come downstairs, just rolling out of bed at noon to have lunch and be teased by the uncles about the previous night’s festivities. I also remember going with my mom to take pictures of her at her senior prom, watching her in the band, talking about boyfriends and even once bringing a boy to Christmas…poor guy never stood a chance J See it takes something special to make it in our family – you either need to be able to give it right back when crap is given to you or loud enough so people will hear you. You stand the best chance if you’re both– it seems we all have pretty loud voices and are a tad sarcastic with an odd humor. But together, we get each other. Our family calendar this year has the slogan. “We may not have it all together, but together we have it all”
We often tease each other about having friends that aren’t family…”You what? You’re going shopping with someone you’re not related to? Are you okay??” – see a tad sarcastic and oddly humorous J Yet, thanks to Facebook – we, as a family, can see how blessed Casee’s life and journey has been with the many hundreds of Facebook messages and posts and how much impact she’s had on so many friends inside and outside our family.

Casee with Uncle Trent and Wyatt
during the Cancer Survivor Walk

And as we celebrate Casee, please continue to pray for her that the next two weeks or however long she has is peaceful and filled with love. Pray for her two boys Wyatt and Rayce who will need reminders throughout their life that God never makes life fair, He just makes it worth it so I pray they always find peace, love and kindness and that they show others how to do the same just as their Mommy did. And pray for my Uncle Tim as he moves forward to be the mom and dad of these two little guys. Give him the strength and patience of two people and show him the love he needs through this all. Also say prayers for my family – my Grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my mom and dad and all my cousins and my brother…. this is the first loss we’ve had within our immediate Loomis family and just thinking about not having someone there seems so foreign….I’ll miss her Hamburger Helper dish to pass and not being able to draw her name for Christmas gifts or sharing the latest gossip… I’m just gonna miss her so much.
At times like this I hear people say, "don’t let this test your faith or this really makes one question their relationship with God"….well that’s far from the truth. The reality is we all die, death does not test faith – it just provides us with another reason to grow and trust in God. The crappy part about being human though, is that God doesn’t usually tell us when our time to join Him is coming.  And there could be discussion on if you’d really want God to tell you or not.
For some, like Casee, He’s shown a little peak of His timeline and we all know it’s close….and what an amazing opportunity for so many to celebrate the awesome aunt, mom, sister, daughter, cousin, wife, friend that she is, while she’s still here and can read Facebook posts and texts, while she can see you at the lake and hold your hand, while she can watch her sons run around and smile knowing they will be surrounded not only by God’s hands, but by a whole community who will see to it that as she looks down, sitting next to God’s side, she can watch them grow and develop into successful, loving men with lives a mother will always be proud of.

A family photo to cherish forever.









Thursday, June 7, 2012

Career Closet

The cool thing about my job is that I get to work with amazing organizations and businesses providing a one-of-a-kind, needed service to the community.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to work with the Women's Resource Center of Mid Michigan - a group of women who strive to change women's lives....pretty powerful statement. A statement I know they live up to through a project called the Career Closet.

The Career Closet provides professional clothing for women returning to the workforce or advancing in their careers. Women are able to select gently used business clothes at no cost. Items include suits, dresses, slacks, blouses, skirts, shoes, purses, etc.

Open for Donations and Clothing Selection\
Tuesdays from 5:30 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. &
Thursdays from 12:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m. 


I stepped into the Career Closet, housed at Drs. Wassenaar, Frutiger, Wassenaar,and Moeggenborg, directly across the street from the post office in Alma, and was overwhelmed by the amount of suits and scrubs available for this community. And let me talk about the shoe ROOM - ROOM...and entire room of SHOES...I could have stayed in that room forever. 

But what really impressed me was that everything was donated - from the clothing to the clothing racks and from the office supplies to the actual room itself. What was a dream a couple years ago, is now a full service, one stop shop for woman returning or advancing in their careers - for free - right here in our community!

And then I find out that every person "working" the Career Closet is a volunteer - giving of their time to organize, sort through, coordinate outfits, rotate seasons, help women find an outfit that boosts their confidence and self esteem....How awesome is that!?!? Just an amazing service.

If you have been spring cleaning and find yourself with a pile of nice business clothes to donate somewhere, please consider bringing them to the Career Closet. You can feel good knowing that a local woman is benefiting from your generosity.