Holy Week 2019

Sooooo how’s Lent been? Good? Ok. Well, for me it began fairly good. My husband was home from Iraq, we got news that we are getting to keep our house and all the bills were paid. It all seemed hashtag blessed.

And then it all went right down the tube because Lent is LONG ya’ll. Some stuff went down with my stepsons that I can’t really share on the blog but it was rough and then my husband went back to the sandbox so that sucked plus tax day was yesterday. Also, grief is weird. It sneaks up on you. Tomorrow will be the third anniversary of my Tio Roy’s death and it is the one that is taking a toll on me this year.

Monday I watched like everyone else as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris went up in flames and I lost it. I have not been to Mass in three weeks. I was sick, depressed and then one of the Sundays I didn’t go because I had not been to confession and at that point I felt so defeated that I didn’t think there was any use in going. I know I need to go to confession because I am starting to hate everyone. As I watched that beautiful Church burn what I saw was a vision of my faith since Anthony died. That day everything that I thought was real went up in flames. Up until that moment I really thought I was a solid Catholic. I knew my faith, I knew answers to difficult theological questions, I believed that if you served God, He would protect you and your family and I thought my goal in life was to be a speaker who told everyone about all the wonderful things God had done for me. I really thought that I was living the happily ever after fairy tale, sure there was suffering but suffering was a part of the deal and I would say stupid shit like “I fear NOT suffering”. And then Anthony took his own life and poof, it was up in smoke. I often look at my Facebook memories and see the fake piety I displayed and want to punch past Leticia in the face.

I cried in a coffee shop as the pictures of the fire flooded my feed. On Tuesday the picture of the inside began to go viral and there in the middle of destruction stood the Pieta. The Blessed Mother holding the body of her son Jesus. Me and that sculpture go way back to 2010 in Rome when I saw the original at St. Peter’s. I stood there staring at it wondering how it could be so beautiful when it was every mother’s greatest fear. Looking back on it now I can see that even then, seven years before the death of my son, I sensed something that connected me to that statue of the Mother of all mothers. And after the fire that was watched around the world, there she was again. I am also here holding the memory of my son in the middle of a Faith that has been charred by grief.

Then today I watched the Beyonce special on Netflix. It is her Homecoming performance at Coachella last year and it was an experience. She talks about the way her body changed after giving birth to twins and the challenge of being a mother, wife and Beyonce while creating something from nothing and the freedom that comes from having an amazing team part of which is her husband. You would think that a 42 year old grandmother of two, mother of four, grieving mother of one and a wife in the suburbs of Austin Texas would not get much out of the struggle that Beyonce has, but I do. Because it is all of our struggle. The struggle of motherhood is universal. The struggle to stand after a fire rages through our family. In her special Beyonce said that her family is her sanctuary. Just like Notre Dame had a fire rip through her sanctuary, so did I when Anthony died.

I have been hiding from all things Catholic this week, which is kind of difficult when it is Holy Week, but when you are bat shit crazy like me, you do things like that. God is so good and so amazing that He knew I was spiritually putting a hoodie over my head with shades on so He spoke to me the one way He knew would get to me, through a work of art like Beyonce’s concert. The entire thing was God saying He loves me and has always been by my side.

That’s how my Holy Week is going so far. I also read an entire book since I’m off social media. Which can be considered a miracle honestly. We will see what the rest of the week has in store for us all.

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Getting My Shit Together 2019

One reason that I have been avoiding writing this blog post is that I already know what is going to happen. I am going to write it all out and people will be so proud of me and offer encouragement or say something like “I wish I could do that” and then my life will fall apart. This has happened over and over as a blogger. I think it is because God likes to entertain Himself by torturing bloggers/writers/authors/speakers.

But here I go anyway.

Part of this need to get my shit together comes from the fact that I have been living in the black hole known as Grief for the last two years and the fog is finally lifting. Several things happened to snap me out of it. The biggest one was probably when my husband moved out in September. That is very complicated and involves things that are not mine to speak on, but I can say that when I no longer had such a close target for my anger or someone taking care of my every need, I had to really come back to being some kind of presence in my life again instead of just being on autopilot.

I got a job and being out in the world reminded me that I love people. I love talking to people and hearing their stories. I love seeing people grow. I also remembered how many people have no clue what the purpose of their lives are and that God loves them so much He thought the world needed them in it to make it better. I also remembered how much I hate waiting tables and how much I love writing. So I quit because I could once my husband and I reconciled.

Step 1 of Getting my Shit Together:

is to write full time. To focus on it and to begin freelance writing and pitching agents for my memoir. I was waiting tables out of the need to pay my bills and also fear. Fear was honestly the biggest factor. When the need to pay my bills was gone, fear was all that was left. I had to make the choice to jump even if I was scared to death. I still am, but now is the time.

Step 2 of #GMST2019 (we are just gonna go modern now and go with this hashtag)

This might actually be #1 depending on how you look at it. Or it might be the pre-requisite. Anyway, it is going back to therapy. Going to therapy and dealing with hard things. You would think that the trauma of losing a son to suicide is the hard thing but the truth is that I had given up on therapy because I blamed myself for his suicide. Somewhere in my mind, I had already failed the most I could fail so there was no reason to even keep healing from anything that happened before Anthony died. Also, I had taken on the punishment of life without therapy as a punishment for Anthony’s suicide. Going back has helped me see that and get my emotional life in order. I do not want to keep on letting anger lead me by the hand. I also am not about to be fake or let people walk all over me so I need therapy to help me balance those two things out.

Step 3 #GMST2019 (see how I keep making this shorter?)

A budget. You guys. There are just somethings that I do not understand the concept of when people say them. Like “dress in layers” or “surrender to God’s plan for your life” or “just budget your money”. First of all, I hardly have ever had money and second I do not know what those words even mean. But I have a friend who does know what a budget is and how to make one so I asked her for help. She explained.things to me over coffee and we talked about other things so it was also time with a friend. I left that coffee date with a new understanding of how to manage money. I have been using the YNAB (You Need a Budget) app and it has changed my life. I have all my bills and expenses covered and my choices on what to spend my money on are more intentional. I am also so grateful that I understand how to manage money instead of feeling like money is in control of my life. No, I still do not have endless amounts of money so I have to make choices, but I am making them, they are not just happening to me.

Step 4 #GMST2019

A daily schedule. Time is like money. It has to be managed. We only have so much of it and the things we have to do take time. I took the things I learned about a budget and applied them to time. I busted out my Blessed is She planner and started budgeting my time. Putting it all down helped me to see what my priorities are and make them happen and also to see what I can and can’t say yes to during the week and why. This daily schedule helped me to see goals in their context rather than just being things on a random list somewhere that I expect to just happen. That is not how things materialize in our lives. If we want something, we have to work towards it. A daily schedule telling me what space in my day is going to be to focus on this specific goal is how I will get there.

Step 5 #GMST 2019

My priorities. Prayer, myself, family, school, gym time and daily Mass. I had to sit down and set my priorities and put them in my life. For so long these things are just concepts that either get attention or they don’t. Sometimes they even compete for attention. Using my budget and daily schedule I can put them in their place in my daily life rather than just think about them. I had to stop feeling bad that self-care comes right after God for me because I am codependent and have no boundaries so that is what works in my life to make me the best version of myself. Then I had to put myself on my schedule. That meant putting “bubble bath” on my weekly schedule. Or putting “gym” time in my daily schedule. Once I set my priorities and put them in my weekly schedule I could see how it was possible and could stop feeling guilty about taking care of myself. I can also see how taking care of myself helps me to care for everyone else. I can also see how much time somethings are taking out of my day and out of my other priorities. Like social media. And I can adjust or adapt accordingly. This means taking Saturdays to write and schedule blog posts, learning how to schedule social media posts and limiting myself to an hour a day on social media.

All of these things have helped me gain some control over my life over the things I can control. I know there is plenty that I cannot control, but that does not mean just letting life punch you in the face all the time. That will happen anyway, even if you have a budget and schedule and goals. But having my shit together might make them easier to handle when they come along. I don’t know, I might end up saying this is all too much and going back to binge-watching Netflix and eating McDonald’s for dinner. I will let you know.

What are some things in your Get Your Shit Together Plan?



One Step At a Time

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Grief is different for everyone and each loss is also different. There is no worse grief or easier grief, it is just different. Some people seem to be “fine” but they are really in denial. Their brain will not allow them to think about or face the loss of their loved one. They are not choosing to ignore the fact that their loved one is dead as they go on with life, as usual, it is a defense mechanism. Some people dive into work to distract themselves and they do really well at whatever they put all that energy into, some people have brain fog and forget to make sure the slow cooker is plugged in. I am the latter.

My grief is very specific. It is suicide loss of a child who took his own life in my home with a side of the trauma of leaving him in my house and finding his body hours later. Not to mention that I was already riddled from the trauma of being sexually abused as a child, verbal abuse and being bullied most of my childhood. Anthony’s suicide was trauma on top of a mountain of trauma. I remember the exact moment that I saw my husband in the kitchen screaming and I knew that he had found Anthony and that Anthony was dead by suicide. The information all just came into my brain like it was being uploaded onto a computer. I told my husband to get himself together and then it was like a switch went off in my brain that turned me into a robot. I instantly started making a list of things that had to get done: I needed to get dog crates, secure the dogs, call 911, call our priests and then when I was sure that Anthony was dead I had to call into work to tell them that he, his brother and I would not be in the next day. We all worked together, and I had to call in for us.

I had to call in dead for Anthony, which is so crazy and whoever thinks they will have to do that? But my point is that I did it and I did it all calmly and matter of factly. I asked the paramedic if Anthony was really dead and when he said “Yes Ma’am, he is”, I just took a deep breath and went into the kitchen to wash the dishes. This was not an action that I choose to do, my brain decided for me that accepting the fact that my son was dead in my garage was too hard to face so we were going to do something else. I didn’t finish the dishes because the police had questions for us and I was rerouted after that to my mission to have our priests bless Anthony’s body. It was on the list of things that had to be done. Then I had to drive to my mother’s and check on her and Anthony’s little family. All of it was on a list in my mind that is still going to this day twenty-two months later. My brain and daily routine have been forever changed by that switch that flipped the moment that I realized what was happening.

I finished the dishes the next day. In the sink was the plate that still had the food Anthony had not finished at dinner less than 48 hours before. He was dead but there I was washing the plate with food that he had served himself on it. Again, my brain flipped a switch because that fact was too difficult to look at and feel. Typing it makes my heart race and I can feel the switch flipping.

This was the second year that I and my family celebrated the Holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s since Anthony’s suicide. The first year we all tried so hard to pretend like it was ok and to keep his memory alive in our celebrations. This year we did not try to do anything. We all knew that Thanksgiving was missing the crazy person who would click his fork on his giant teeth at the table until one of us told him to knock it off. It was so quiet and that was more depressing than anything, so we decided that Christmas was going to be very low key. We were going to lean into the depression. And we did. We went to eat Chinese Buffet for Christmas dinner, we laid around and watched our favorite family movies like Nacho Libre, Shaun of the Dead and the Big Lebowski. My daughter and I also watched Birdbox which was so good but a bit triggering.

Losing my amazing son Anthony to suicide has been the hardest thing I have ever lived through. I look back on the past twenty-two months and I do not know how I made it. I see so much love from people, I see a lot of meltdowns, I see moments when I could not think or breath, but I also see that I made it. Somehow, I am not sure how I have made it from that day when I was figuring out how to call into work because Anthony was dead to today. One breath, one prayer, one moment, one word of encouragement from a friend, one hug, one mass and one step at a time.