Preparing (or not) for the holiday season

I’m having a hard time believing that tomorrow is December 1st. After my sister’s passing at the end of October, November was literally a blur for me and it’s amazing my husband and I were able to get it together enough to get Julian something for his fourth birthday which we celebrated in Michigan last week. Now we have to focus on Christmas — getting a tree (or not), making our own ornaments (or not), decorating the front of the house (or not), buying presents (or not).

After much discussion online last year (was it on my blog or on Facebook?) about the merits of a real Christmas tree versus an artificial tree (lots of good information on the subject here), we’ve decided to ditch the pre-lit artificial tree we acquired on Craigslist a few years ago, and buy our first real tree. I’ve toyed with the idea of buying a tree with a rootball so we can plant it afterwards, but I’m not there yet — maybe if we lived on a few acres.

I have no idea what I’m going to do for presents for the kids this year. I want to keep it simple.

I didn’t partake in Black Friday or Cyber Monday and just don’t feel motivated to do any shopping until I know what I am looking for. Otherwise I feel like I’ll just wander aimlessly around the stores, which really might not be such a bad thing after all.

Tell me what you are buying for your kids this year. Did you score any good deals online or in the stores? I want Christmas this year to be simple, yet I also want it to be magical (I don’t ask for much, do I? *wink*). Do you have any ideas for simple, magical gifts for a 4 and 6 year old? What about a 30-something year old man? ;)

Speaking of gifts, I’m still hoping you all will do me a favor and give the Earth a gift by checking out One Million Acts of Green. We are nowhere reaching the goal of a million acts of green completed in the United States yet. You can Give The Gift of Green by checking out the One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application, which allows you to pledge to complete an act of green like Turning Off Your Computer When Not In Use or Run Your Dishwasher Only When It’s Full or Turn Off Your Lights When Not In Use and posts a cute, humorous e-card to your Facebook friend’s wall.

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean Mom, Green Your Décor and Condo Blues.

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Ups and downs and random thoughts

I was recently in Michigan for another memorial service for my sister Carrie. Michigan is where we were born and raised and I have a lot of family back there. I hadn’t been in MI for more than two years and November wouldn’t have been my first choice weather-wise when to fly back, but there really was no other option. So the skies were gloomy for most of our trip, but we caught some glimpses of sunshine here and there (kind of like life recently).

I’m trying hard to look at the positives that have occurred lately, but I struggle with that. I try to be grateful for the good things that have come from Carrie’s passing, but I just want things back the way they used to be. I want my sister to be here talking to me about politics, laughing with me about silly things, complaining about the injustices in the world, hugging my kids, hugging me.

As fate would have it, the hotel we roomed at for about half of our stay was located right next to one of Carrie’s favorite stores — Walmart. When I say favorite I really mean LEAST favorite. I’m not a big fan of Wallyworld either, but I have been known to stop in there once in a while. Since we stayed there for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, I had the opportunity(?) to observe some of the Black Friday Walmart madness. I am happy to report I didn’t witness any trampling, but I did see a steady stream of people heading to and fro to snatch up the deals.

I find it hard to take fault with anyone who’s trying to save some money, especially considering the current state of Michigan’s economy. I talked with a few friends and relatives while there about the pay cuts, the job loss, etc., and it sounds pretty bleak.

Where am I going with this post? I don’t know. I guess what I’m thinking is we (I) have no right to judge anyone because we have no idea what is truly going on in their life. I can’t judge the people bargain-shopping at Walmart any more than the person at the bank can judge me because my hair is a mess and I haven’t showered today. I don’t know what the Walmart shopper’s financial situation is like and the bank clerk doesn’t know that I just spent time out in the cold and wind at the cemetery talking to my dead sister.

I started writing a haiku about Carrie on the airplane back to Colorado. It’s not finished yet, but I will share it when it is. Writing, even haiku, is therapeutic. I also was inspired to write haiku because my mom had come across a haiku that Carrie wrote while on a plane to MI a few years ago. She wrote the whole thing 7-5-7 until at the end she realized it’s supposed to be 5-7-5 and she swore upon making this realization. That makes me smile.

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Think Before You Buy

I recently mentioned my frustration at the toy advertisements arriving in the mail just in time for the holidays. You’d think with all the buzz about living eco-friendly and green, the big toy makers might catch on and stop making single function, zero imagination toys. But no. The Target catalog is lined with page after page of toys that do just one thing, are made of plastic and generally need batteries. There’s a mysterious absence of toys that encourage creativity.


Dance Star Mickey – He walks, talks and dances (and entertains your kid for about 5 minutes before he’s tossed into a corner)

Why sell toys that kids can use for several different purposes when you can sell one that does X, one that does Y and one that does Z? The more focused the toy, the more toys they can sell and the more money they can make! Nevermind that simple toys are better for children. They can’t be mass produced and where’s the money in that? And who cares about all of the trash the toys that are played with for a week or two until they break or kids tire of them produce?!

I’m not saying “down with all plastic toys.” All I ask is before you shop for toys or presents in general this holiday season, think before you buy. That’s all. Vote with your dollars.

Another way to make a difference this holiday season is by participating in Give The Gift of Green through One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application. There are several cute e-cards with various Acts of Green on them that you send to your friends on Facebook. I just sent one to Lisa from Retro Housewife Goes Green pledging to turn off my computer when I’m not using it. The card adds, “That’s only 14 minutes per day, but it’s a start.” Ain’t that the truth?! It takes just a minute and helps spread the green message. It’s fun, easy and for a good cause. :)

If you haven’t yet checked out One Million Acts of Green, I encourage you to read my intro post and learn more about how you can start logging and sharing your Acts of Green.

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

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The grief roller coaster

I’ve been wanting to write a post about toys and consumerism — especially in light of the ads that keep appearing in our mailbox and the upcoming holidays –but I can’t organize my thoughts very well just yet. That post will come in time.

Today was a bit of a roller coaster for me. I had to stop by the funeral home — a place I’ve come to loathe just for the nature of what it represents — to pick up some things (including a laminated copy which included a picture of this beautiful tribute a friend of Carrie’s wrote in the local paper).

After that I stopped at the cemetery to visit Carrie. I think she and I are going to have a standing Monday morning date. It’s the only day both kids are in school and I like visiting her alone, talking to her, crying. It’s been very therapeutic. The past several days I haven’t done much crying at all, but when I go to the cemetery and and see her name on the temporary headstone, it feels real. Her death hits me right in the gut and that’s when the tears fall as I talk to her. It’s kind of weird how it feels natural to talk to her there, but I like that. I like that I still feel like I can talk to her and I feel like she is listening too.

Later today, as I was driving around, I was stopped at a light when two firetrucks and an ambulance with their lights and sirens blaring turned in front of me heading to an accident I could see in the distance down the street. And, again, I lost it. I just started bawling in my car thinking about how someone else could have lost their life, but even moreso about how someone else could have lost someone they loved. My mind wandered to the emergency crew who responded to Carrie’s accident. How they must have driven through the mountains with their lights and sirens on to reach her, but there was nothing they could do for her. She was gone the moment the accident happened.

It was a sobering day.

I’ve been reading a book about grief — the funeral home gave it to my parents and me. It’s weird to think people would need a book to handle something natural like death, but I’m finding it helpful. I’ve never been through this with someone close to me before and it helps to know if what I’m experiencing is normal or not. I’ve also really appreciated the emails I’ve received from others who have lost an adult sibling. It sucks that we have to go through this, but it helps a little bit to know I’m not alone.

One of Carrie’s favorite books was The Little Prince. She had actually given my daughter Ava the book (which she had written an inscription in) a year or two ago. I think that will be the next book that I read. :)

And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Grieving the loss of my sister Carrie

Thank you all so much for your condolences regarding the loss of my sister. It helps a lot to know so many people are thinking of and praying for me and my family during this difficult time. Love, Amy

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A sister is a gift to the heart,
a friend to the spirit,
a golden thread to the meaning of life.
— Isadora James

Living a Nightmare

It’s been two weeks since I received the devastating news in the middle of the night that my sister died in a car accident. As the coroner said the words over the phone, I felt like I was living a nightmare. Through the seemingly never-ending river of tears that night I had to ask my husband Jody, “Is this really happening?

I waited about two hours before calling my parents in Michigan. I wanted them to get as much sleep as they could before I uttered the words that would turn their world upside-down.

That was the worst night of my life.

Some days I still think that this all must be a horrible, awful dream and I pray that I will wake up. Yet I don’t. I am already awake.

The Reality

It doesn’t seem possible that my little sister Carrie Scislowicz — my only sister — could be taken from this world at the age of 31. She was just really getting comfortable with who she was and she was making a difference in the world.

The truth is she’d been making a difference in the world for years. Carrie entered into Narcotics Anonymous at the age of 19. Throughout the years, she’d overcome many obstacles in her life and inspired those who met her. Narcotics Anonymous became her second family and she was instrumental in so many people’s recoveries.

My sister — who earned her law degree three years ago — had been working as an advocate for people with developmental disabilities and she was great at her job. She not only advocated for the people who were her clients, but she also helped friends and friends of friends to get the assistance they needed for themselves or their loved ones.

She was compassionate, silly, intelligent, passionate, fun, witty, sarcastic, daring and loving. She was so amazing.

Emotional Rollercoaster

In the past two weeks I’ve gone through the gamut of emotions — sadness, anger, rage, confusion, disbelief, guilt. I expect this to go on for a while. It still feels so surreal. Although I’ve seen her totaled car, read the accident report, talked to the coroner, planned her memorial service, delivered her eulogy, buried her cremated remains, and packed up and moved her belongings from her apartment to my garage, I am still having a hard time accepting this is real.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

The Broken Puzzle

I spent some time at the cemetery this morning talking to Carrie. It felt so foreign to sit there in the grass, talking to the ground while the tears poured down, down, down.

I’m trying to make sense of it all, but it doesn’t make sense. It’s like trying to put together a puzzle with pieces belonging to several different puzzles. They just don’t fit.

A Long, Winding Road

In less than two weeks there will be another service to remember Carrie, this time in Michigan. Until that is complete, I don’t feel like I can truly begin to heal. I can only process so much at one time.

The sadness washes over me in waves. I grieve until it hurts so much that my mind must turn it off for a while. I take a break. I try to do normal things. Today I played in the leaves with the kids. And that was good.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I am thankful for the so many yesterdays I got to share with Carrie throughout the years. She was so much more than a sister to me. She was my best friend.

She won’t be forgotten.


Carrie, Ava, Julian and me – Halloween 2009

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