Disney

Dear Ben, It’s Been Four Years

Dear Ben,

Today marks four years since you left this world. Four years have passed and it is still such a difficult day. I thought that I would go to Central Park to look for the turtles but I have learned not to make a firm plan for the day because I don’t know how I will feel.

I woke up in tears, but got dressed and walked to the park. It was nice that the weather was on the cooler side. I looked down from Belvedere Castle and only saw one little turtle, which was disappointing There were only a few turtles by the Bethesda Fountain, but when I saw them poke their little heads up, it was still a comfort. I don’t know if there was a message in the lack of turtles. Is it that they think I don’t need them? Were they not expecting me because of this anniversary date? What do you think, Ben? I’m sure you were there.

I did bring a lot of change to toss into the fountain. I still like to make wishes. I made wishes for myself and for people I love. I always make the same wishes. Maybe some people would be disheartened, but I still believe they will come true.

On my way home I stopped at the “Imagine” mosaic by Strawberry Fields. Of course, as I strolled, I listened to Beatles music and Disney theme park music just for you. It was a rare time that there was not a line of tourists waiting to take their pictures. All I could think was to imagine a world free from ALS, a world free of all disease, really.

Imagine mosaic at Strawberry Fields, Central Park, NYC

I checked my watch all day remembering the exact moment that we all gathered around you, saw you separated from the vent, and that moment when you left. It was as you wished it, with love and music. We even said our vows. It’s so difficult to think of that day as the day we took our vows and also as the day we said good bye. I feel a combination of devastation and satisfaction that you had such peaceful farewell. It was a lot of work, but it gave me purpose and it touched my heart that everyone came together as they did, even people at the hospital who did not know us well but who quickly came to love you. Sometimes I wonder and worry if you are at peace with all of it. I hope you are.

I came home and sat with Tinker Bell. She didn’t know you, my dad or Disney. She doesn’t understand my sadness. She just watched me, seeming to know that I wasn’t myself. She’s a sweet girl but we don’t share that history. Maybe that’s a good thing. We are creating our own new history and memories. Still, it’s a lonely feeling. Rest assured that I show her your pictures on the throw and we both say good night to you each night.

I decided to watch Disney’s Tinker Bell’s Pixie Hollow Games today. It always made me chuckle to come home and find you watching it. No, you weren’t really so macho before you met me! I loved you for it!

When I plugged in a thumb drive to watch the film, the first video that came up was a video I made to accompany the song One Dance, which has much significance for me at this time of year. I miss being able to dance with you and I remember how that song was the shot of reality that we would never dance, you would never come home, and you really were soon going to leave. I had a good cry and then watched the Tinker Bell movie. It did make me smile to see my Tinker Bell cat sit in front of the television and watch Tinker Bell the fairy. I couldn’t get her picture because she kept watching me as I moved. I know that you think I’m like Boo chasing Sully when it comes to our cats!

I finally crawled into bed and put on one of your absolute favorites, Monsters, Inc., surrounded by your plush Sully toys and the Monsters, Inc. throw. There is a scene where Sully is looking at the one piece he kept from Boo’s door that completed the door and made it possible for him to go back and see her. That scene never fails to make me cry. If only there was that one piece that would allow me to open a door and see you again. Maybe scientists will soon find that piece that will solve the puzzle of ALS and put people back together.

Once again, I have been watching the videos I made and looking at our many photos. There are so many wonderful memories. Even the photos where the ALS progression was obvious are still filled with the joy on your face. We were very lucky to have each other, even in the lousy times.

I still love this video that I made for the first anniversary of this day. It still captures the love and good memories.

I want you to know that you are always with me in my heart. You are with me in my new adventures and I know that you send me messages.

I love you to infinity and beyond and I miss you every day. I hope you’ve been walking, running, eating and playing your music. It would be one of my dreams come true.

Love,

Abby

ALS,Caregiver,ALS Awareness Month,Walt Disney World, Mickey Mouse, It's a Small World

2011- It’s a Small World allows a wheelchair to board the boat, and since that was so easy (and, ok, there are not long lines) we road it frequently! YAY!

Grief And The Things That Turn Me “Inside Out”

Sometimes, the hardest times are the ones when I remember the joy at the same time that I feel the sharp devastation and anger about loss. These are the times that turn me Inside Out. That’s what I have been experiencing this weekend. It’s exhausting.

Tomorrow will mark four years since Ben left this world. It’s almost as if I gear up all summer for this day. For the most part, I am proud, relieved and joyful that this has been a very good summer. In fact, it’s been the best I have had since he left. I was better able to balance being myself- my new self- with keeping Ben in my heart wherever I went. I know and accept that I can’t keep sadness in a corner, as Joy tried to do. The sadness and the joy were all part of our relationship, so they have to remain in my memory to keep them real.

I’ve noted it before, but there are triggers of setbacks. I don’t usually get angry at myself for crying. Anyone who knows me knows that I often default to crying. In Inside Out, Sadness says “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.”

This has been a weekend of tears and of letting myself feel the weight of grief, loneliness, alone-ness, anger, frustration, compassion and empathy. I spend a lot of time assessing myself and how well I am navigating my life. Maybe I need this time to slow down and let myself miss Ben and lament what our life could have been and what ALS took from us and is continuing to take from so many other individuals and families.

On Friday, I traveled up to the Berkshires to spend the day wandering around the town of Stockbridge prior to volunteer work on Saturday. I arranged to stay at the luxurious Red Lion Inn. It had been many years since I sat on the famous porch enjoying a glass of wine and I looked forward to being there. I entered my room and immediately thought of how Ben would have loved it. We loved to go to the quaint towns of Vermont, and the Inn and this room were reminiscent of our visits there. As I walked through the little library that led to the elevator, I thought of how Ben would have looked at the wall of books and commented that I would love a room like that, and I would have to agree. I took pictures as I know he would have done. In my room and throughout the building there are many beautiful antique desks. My aunt Ellie loved those desks, and she was the first person to take me to the Berkshires, so thoughts of her were also in my mind. She is the remaining relative to whom I was the closest, but with her Alzheimers disease, although I believe that I remain somewhere in her mind, in most ways, the aunt I knew and loved is gone.

The first shop I visited was Williams & Sons Country Store. Ben and I loved to go to country stores. I love the look and feel of them. We always found fun things at the Vermont Country Store, where we spent hours! It didn’t feel the same being without Ben. Nothing does, of course, but traveling to a place so much like places we would travel to felt so very sad. I wanted him to see the retro Cracker Jacks boxes, wanted to buy them just because he would have loved them. I did buy a little tiny turtle with a bobbing head. It reminded me of him and I knew he would have loved it, too.

I continued my stroll and spoke to lovely shopkeepers. I treated myself to some new clothing and fun jewelry. Retail therapy is always helpful to me, but I could not really shake that feeling of not belonging. I did have a glass of wine on the porch, but I felt like the only person by myself. I don’t always feel that way. Throughout my life I have traveled by myself, so I am often comfortable on my own. I think it was especially hard because Ben would have enjoyed it so much and it would have been a perfect getaway for us.

I was happy to meet Norman, the feline ambassador of the Red Lion Inn. He was very tolerant of my need to follow and pet him. I could hear Ben reminding me that I was like Boo in Monsters, Inc., who was always following Sully calling, “Kitty, kitty!” There was not a thing I did that didn’t make me think of and miss Ben. I think my last straw with myself was going to the pub where there was live music. I thought I would enjoy it, but it was something I really couldn’t do without Ben, so I left quickly. I found Norman, said goodnight, and went to my room to prepare for my volunteer work. This was filled with more reminders of Ben, since I was working with Hope Loves Company, a wonderful organization that serves children who have a family member with ALS.

Hope Loves Company runs 3-day camps in various locations across the country for families whose lives are affected by ALS. It’s a special opportunity for the whole family to get away and participate in an array of fun activities including boating, swimming, sports and crafts. Since all of the campers have ALS in common, they share an understanding of the experience that need not even be spoken. It’s a beautiful thing. During the spring, I had volunteered to do a scrapbooking workshop in New Jersey, and found it so rewarding that I asked to repeat the workshops at the camp in Camp Emerson in Hinsdale, MA. I am grateful that Hope Loves Company embraces my desire to volunteer and welcomed the idea of a scrapbooking project. Scrapbooking is a valuable tool for the children. Some bring photos from home and we also print out photos taken during camp. It is a way to capture and share memories. Older children can write more of a narrative if they wish. I went a little crazy shopping for all kinds of stickers, and it’s fun to see the kids select their favorites. It’s great to watch them interact with their parents as they look at photos together. I brought supplies for embossing, which lured even the coolest older kids. They had fun, were intrigued, and continued to bond with each other, which is such an important aspect of the camp. Maybe scrapbooking will be something that they will pursue. Maybe they will think about the activity as they look for another outlet for their self-expression.

Some of the scrapbooking stickers. Hope Loves Company camp at Camp Emerson, Hinsdale, MA

I enjoy meeting the families at the camp. For some, I suppose I am the sad reminder that, at least for now, ALS always wins the battle. But, I hope that they also see that I am here, I reshaped my life and I want to be supportive and do something positive to help in the battle against this disease.

The bus ride back to New York gave me five long hours to think about how much my life changed as a result of ALS. It certainly altered the course of my relationship with Ben. Although I had already been my dad’s caregiver, being Ben’s caregiver was a different experience. I don’t want to wash my hands of ALS. I want to support people who are impacted by the disease. It gave me joy to know that people in the Berkshires who recognized me from the NJ camp valued that I traveled to be with them and do a project with the children. Caregivers need to feel that kind of love and caring. For me, volunteering is a way to channel the negative experience into positive, into a way to help others. It’s something that I want to do with my life. I am thrilled that my blog helps others, but I want to expand that to more hands-on experiences, and the workshops allow me to do that. I guess that although the timing was difficult, and it turned me Inside Out, the volunteer work being on this particular weekend is a perfect tribute to tomorrow’s anniversary of Ben’s departure. I find comfort in knowing and affirming that our life, our relationship and our experience with ALS will be a part of my life and goals as I move forward.

These are excerpts from my own scrapbook, which I show to the kids so they can see my own experience with ALS and some ideas for scrapbooking.

             

A favorite page- Ben’s proposal at Walt Disney World!

Ohana Means Family- Who is Yours?

At this time of year, when I think about the upcoming anniversary of the day that Ben left this world, the notion of family comes strongly into focus and reminds me of how my definition of family has changed over the years. Although I love the film, Lilo and Stitch and its messages about family, love, acceptance and grief, I used to be troubled by its very famous quote, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind-or forgotten.” Unfortunately, to a large degree, this has not been my experience and that makes me sad. For various reasons, and sometimes on the grounds of religion, there has been conflict in my family, and caregiving for my grandmother magnified our issues after my mom died. I learned the difficult lesson that, with rare exception, aside from my dad, I could not depend on the love of my family to provide the support that was needed. When I lost my dad, I lost the sense of family that I always thought of as my anchor. Family frequently let Ben down, too, and usually, it was not something that I could prevent, though I could support him through it. I was someone who always said that family was important- it was also what I was taught- but I didn’t feel the unbreakable bonds that I believed should exist. In addition to grief over the loss of my dad and Ben, I was grieving an overarching sense of family. As with all grief, I learned to co-exist with it despite reminders that still do make me feel sad and alone. However, reflection has lead to new perspective, and the Pollyanna in me has enabled me to expand my view of Ohana. (Click here for Pollyanna’s instructions on how to play The Glad Game.)

Ben and I were Ohana, with or without a marriage certificate. When Ben was diagnosed with ALS, we were not legally married but, of course, there was no question that I would be his caregiver. I had friends and relatives who told me to leave him because we were not married, which was absurd to me, because I loved him and Ohana means nobody gets left behind. His family members were certainly upset by his diagnosis, and there were many promises made of visiting and helping him. For the most part, those promises did not materialize into actual visits or even regular expressions of concern about how he was doing. He reached out to people and then they usually responded, with what became to him empty proclamations of love and caring, but they rarely took the initiative to reach out to him. It hurt him and frankly, angered and shocked me. Ben witnessed my devotion to my dad–he listened to our countless daily phone calls, watched me cook and shop for him, visit him on weekends, accompany him to his doctor visits, make follow-up calls to doctors and companies treating his cancer, just as I did for Ben. That was not happening for Ben with his family, with rare exception. There was, however, a lot of drama that was unnecessary, ridiculous, and selfish.

I am grateful that while Ben was in the hospital, one of his daughters frequently visited him. She was also with him at the end. She and I had a lot of time to talk in those weeks. We were close for a time, but that seems to have disintegrated, which is, for me, yet another disappointment in the experience of family and not really unexpected. I try to focus on the few nice surprises that occurred along the way, in the form of the few family members that expressed genuine caring and concern. We shared a love of Ben and respect for each other that continues today.

I found in caregiving that the people who are least involved have the most opinions and make the most judgments. I will admit that it was, at times, difficult to put aside the drama and just focus on Ben’s needs. Family came to the hospital and talked to him about his going home, getting his hopes up without asking any questions or having realistic information, but with plenty of judgment, especially of me. A friend of his visited and tried to dissuade him from separating from the vent on religious grounds after giving me a hard time about the issue. While visits can be a good time for a caregiver to take a break, I could not leave people alone with him because communication itself was challenging and discussions were often inappropriate and inaccurate. Mostly, they were not much of a comfort to him. This is not the way I want to define Ohana.

Just as I have found ways to reshape my life, I have also reshaped my perspective on family. As I have said before, I am eternally grateful for an incredible group of friends. Though they do have families of their own, these supportive and loving people embrace me and are my Ohana.

Summer is now become a time when I travel to visit some of my friends. I’m beginning to see it as the time I travel to see my family. A few weeks ago, I visited my friend Dorie, which came with wonderful revelations (click here for that post.) Last week, I visited my college friend Monica and her family in Chicago. She’s got two absolutely fabulous daughters, one of whom is my namesake! I love them all. We did fun things like go to a Cubs game (Cubs won!), visit a zoo and discuss the plans for our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World, which will be a tribute and celebration of Ben and my cat, Disney. For me, the best part of the visit was just sitting around on the sofa and talking or watching videos. It’s a beautiful thing to feel like I am part of the lives of these children and to feel like family, accepted, understood and even appreciated for all my quirkiness. I could continue to lament Ben’s and my lack of caring relatives, but I am no longer under that cloud of grief. Instead, I am so very proud and fortunate to be surrounded by people who have been more family than family.

Monica, my namesake, Abby and I getting splashed at the dolphin show at the Brookfield Zoo.

With Monica at Wrigley Field- Cubs win! August 2019

In caregiving, if the people whom you’ve defined as family are not supportive, of course it is hard not to dwell on it. As someone who is emotional, I won’t suggest that you ignore your feelings. So, what can you do? If you’re a primary caregiver, as long as you keep family informed, express needs and set boundaries for what and when you will dispense updates, you will have some level of control of, and grasp of, your caregiving responsibilities and scenario. Family members will have to live with their decisions and you will be able to plan accordingly. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be disappointed or saddened, but you will have a keener understanding of your circumstances and interpersonal relations. This is likely to allow you to detach a little bit as family interactions happen, or don’t, drawing attention to the positive aspects of visits (or not) on your caree.

For your own self-expression and reflection, things you might consider are: keeping a journal, seeing a therapist, venting to friends who are good listeners, attending a support group or, if it is difficult to arrange to leave home, there are online and phone support groups. But, please don’t lose focus on the important, loving and invaluable work that you are doing for your caree.  As I have sorted through the many memories surrounding Ben’s care, I have learned to let go of (or at least work hard to fight) anger and resentment, and I have begun to recall incidents more as a matter of fact and sequence than with emotional attachment to the people who let us down. I can look back and feel grateful that I was able to show Ben so much love, though I also wish with all my heart that we never had to go through the experience.

If you are a family member of a caree, please be honest with yourself about the relationship that you have had with this person and the caregiver. Be realistic about what you can and are willing to do. If you want to help, ask questions about how you can help and also before judging. Remember that this is not about anyone but the caree, and that the primary caregiver does have the greatest perspective, knowledge of and responsibility to the caree.

As you move through caregiving, grief, and life, it is so important to have a clear understanding of the people in your life who are reliable and truly devoted. This does not necessarily mean cutting people off from your life, but rather knowing who will be there to have your back. Lip service is irrelevant. Ben and I learned that we could not rely on his family. Fortunately, we did have friends who stepped in and helped without needing to be asked. I have indulged in and expanded my family of friends. Maybe they are not the traditional definition of family. Yet, they are. Like Stitch, I am grateful to have them in my life. Know who your Ohana really is because they will not leave you behind. That is truly something to celebrate.

Stitch gave Ben some extra love! July 2014

Halloween with my buddy in 2010. Ben could still take photos at this point, which makes this picture especially sentimental.

 

The Rainbow Connection- The Lovers, The Dreamers, Kermit and Me


Writers: Paul Williams, Kenny Ascher
Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Walt Disney Music Company, Universal Music Publishing Group

Yesterday, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see a special theatrical screening of The Muppet Movie in honor or its 40th anniversary. How fun to visit with my lovable friends on the big screen and remember the fun of that film! Watching the film felt like traveling back to a whole different era- a more innocent time. What seems technically so simplistic compared to some of the CGI effects we see today, for me tells a strong story that truly invokes our imaginations. Disney has retained this in much of its animation, and it’s precisely this whimsy that allows me to get lost in reflection, fantasy and dreaming.

There are so many silly and funny parts of The Muppet Movie, but the part that has touched my heart for all these years is Kermit strumming his banjo and singing The Rainbow Connection. I love the song, and frequently listen to Kenny Loggins’ version. For me, it’s a song of hope that allowed me to see past the bad times and encouraged me to stay a dreamer and keep wishing on stars. It’s the song that validates my firm belief in Disney magic and pixie dust.

I guess that I relate a lot to Kermit in his innocence. I think back to my difficult times, particularly during caregiving and grief, when I felt so vulnerable, and struggled with sadness and anger, but, like my mom, I could at least get lost in child-like delights like a Disney film. I unabashedly admit that I like the idea of fairies and a Fairy Godmother and wishing on stars and rainbows, regardless of whether or not they are tangibly realistic. As the song says, we never know if our wishes will be heard or answered, but it’s a comfort and joy to me to believe and to have that faith. It’s the reason that Ben and I tossed coins into the Wishing Well at Cinderella’s Castle each time we visited Walt Disney World after his ALS diagnosis.

Some people have told me that I am silly in my whimsy and talk of Disney, and they feel compelled to give me what they would deem reality checks, but to talk of rainbow connections and dreams come true is not a matter of being somehow ungrounded. I’ve dealt with the harshness of real life. I still relive some of those experiences and I know that they have changed me. However, they never made me bitter or led me to lose my sense of wonder and ability to smile at rainbows and the dreams that they hold and may fulfill. For me, finding the rainbow connection is like listening to Peter Pan and knowing that “faith, trust and pixie dust” will make things okay. It is the ability to tap my inner child and put the bad things in perspective, balanced with the possibility of dreams come true. It lets me enjoy my memories and wish for more. It lets me know beyond a doubt that Ben is free from the constraints of ALS, eating, walking and playing musical instruments. It allows me to see the messages that I believe are sent by Ben, my parents and my grandma. I may always cry easily and have setbacks of sadness, and I know that all of my days will not be sunny, but you can’t get a rainbow without the rain, and I have made the choice that I always want to be on team Kermit with the lovers and dreamers.

The Rainbow Connection

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side
Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide

So we’ve been told
And some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Some day we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it’s done so far

What’s so amazing
That keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

All of us under its spell, we know that it’s probably magic

Have you been half asleep?
And have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound
That called the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

La da da di da da dum da duh da da dum di da ohhh

What Mary Poppins, Bert, Walt and Merlin Knew About Life’s Ups and Downs

Disney, Mary Poppins, Grief, ALS

“Mary Poppins”
Disney and Cameron Mackintosh Musical Based on the Film

This is a time of year that I simultaneously eagerly anticipate and dread, and I find that am more reflective about my past, my present and my future. As a teacher, who doesn’t love time off from work!? However, this is also the time of year filled with memories of time spent in the hospital with Ben as he succumbed to ALS. Mary Poppins and Bert said, “Open different doors.  You may find a you there that you never knew before. Anything can happen.”  I see that I am the ever-evolving product of all the good and bad experiences, and although it took me a few years to get to this point, I have been following their advice, opening new doors, doing new things, rediscovering myself and considering new paths.

Last weekend, I visited my good friend, Dorie, whom I have known since high school. We had lost touch for a while, but the magic of Facebook brought us back together. For the past few summers, I have gone to visit her upstate and she and her husband have come to NYC to visit me and enjoy some theater. Last weekend, we went to a place called Animal Adventure Park. I love animals, and here you can pet and feed most of them, which is great fun for me.

I have always loved animals. Ben became enamored with them after enough time with me. We shared a love of penguins, and he became very attached to my cat Tiffany (she was not so attached to him!) and to our cat, Disney. It was on a whim last summer that I followed a dream to visit the Georgia Aquarium and participate in special encounter programs with sea otters, penguins and dolphins. During those sessions, I realized how much I truly love being around animals and I feel a tremendous sense of fulfillment when I interact with them. I admit that it broke my heart that Ben could not be at the Aquarium and meet the penguins with me. Still, the animals were a huge source of comfort, joy and inspiration to me.

When I researched the Animal Adventure Park after Dorie mentioned it, I discovered that they have a sloth encounter, in which you learn about, feed and pet them. Sloths are among the animals I have been so eager to meet, and fortunately, Dorie and her husband were also enthusiastic about it. I then discovered that they have a river otter encounter. I am kind of obsessed with otters- river and sea otters. I could not resist the opportunity to shake paws with an otter and thankfully, Dorie was willing to accompany me!

The encounters did not disappoint! They were both wonderful. The animals each have their own personalities and preferences, which is fascinating and delightful. I was in heaven. I knew that Ben would have enjoyed it and I felt good about acknowledging him. This time, I didn’t feel angry or guilty about enjoying it without him, I was proud and happy to keep him with me in my heart and thoughts. I felt the closest to myself that I have felt in such a long time. I was with people I care about doing things that I absolutely love.

Afterwards, I posted photos on Facebook- after all, a large portion of my news feed is dedicated to otters and sloths, and now I’ve actually met them! Several friends commented that I looked so happy and that my smile was huge. I feel grateful to have friends who are always cheering me on and who want to see me thrive. I had to smile and laugh just seeing how positively gleeful I was. Looking at myself in those pictures, I saw that I have once again truly found my smile. I even fantasized about possibilities of working with animals in the future.

Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” As usual, Walt was right. I am a shy person by nature, yet I am also friendly, reflective and interested in so many things. After I lost Ben, I had to reinvent and reshape a social life. Of course, as I have always said, I am so grateful to have incredible friends and to have friends that go back to my childhood. Still, I had to take a more active role in socializing. When Ben was ill, I got very used to doing things on my own. I am comfortable on my own, which is a good thing in many ways, though it can be lonely and isolating. I have opened doors and done things like taking the opportunity to reconnect with friends like Dorie. Next week, I will head to Chicago to see my college friend Monica and her family, which has become a favorite annual tradition. Although I am a huge klutz and do not generally follow sports, I have become a devoted Cubs fan and love going with Monica to Wrigley Field- another new side of myself! I am also heading back to the Georgia Aquarium. It simply gives me so much joy to be with the animals in that absolutely spectacular place. This time, in addition to the sea otters, I will meet sea lions and even get into the water with beluga whales! Donning a wet suit is something I wouldn’t have imagined doing, but curiosity has taken me there! I have also opened new doors to build new friendships. It hasn’t been easy, but I have indeed met many lovely people and learned new things about myself in the process.

In Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, Merlin explains to young Arthur that, For every to, there is a fro. For every stop there is a go, and that’s what makes the world go round. In life, there are ups and downs. In grief, there has been progress but there have also been setbacks. I have discovered that I am a person who wants and needs to open doors, but I have to do it in my own time. I feel like I have established a more consistent balance of keeping Ben in my heart while delving back into my life. I still do things that I know he would like in order to experience them through his eyes, and for him, but I also allow myself to venture forth on my own terms, being less of an observer and more of an active participant in my life. I know there will be tos and fros and stops and gos, and I am getting better at letting myself feel them all without getting angry at myself or judging myself harshly. I would not have expected that summer would be a time that I would find my smile, but I do believe in pixie dust, so maybe it’s Disney magic that’s clearing my path.

It was a dream come true to hold a little otter’s paw!

 

I found my smile!