The Myth of the Strong Silent Type: A Year Later – Part II

I know at one point I said I would never pen memories from those weeks during Mom’s death and the subsequent coping of it; I would let the pain subside and not memorialize it to be reviewed and relived. But there were some things that struck me so strongly and with such importance and significance, and which have remained in the back of my head as Needing To Be Said. Here then, is the first.

The Strong Silent Type

A regular character found in fiction is that of the quiet person who just pushes through whatever pain or worries or stress might be attacking them at the moment, and in that find a strength and stability which “weaker” characters don’t have. I think I always thought myself somewhat in this category. I can power through a lot. No one had any idea at my job that I was going through family tragedy, up until the week when she died and I had to take time off. I still showed up to work with a smile on my face and was the same competent and willing worker I always was. Or when Mother’s Day rolled around and I – not having seen my mother for several weeks due to having a cold she couldn’t be around – with horror realized just how soon the end would come, and I spent the day with my family and was as supportive and cheerful as could be anticipated, and then called in sick to work the next day because I was throwing up from the stress once I got home.

While there is some strength to get through some ups and downs in this manner of deferred coping or just pushing all the emotions inside indefinitely, I found when push really came to shove, when the cards were on the table and when it really mattered for me to be strong – I wasn’t. When Mom was on her death bed, when I needed to be there for her and for my family, I found that there was too much to shove away, and I broke. There was no place deep enough inside me to bury the pain to power through, no ideas or needs strong enough to block out the engulfing heartbreak. In breaking, I found myself having to handle emotions in the moment, and I was ill equipped for this because I had spent my life as the “strong silent type” who didn’t do this. I cried at my Mother’s deathbed and she hugged me for comfort when I should have been supporting her. I sat there and whispered “I love you” only to be overcome and incapable of saying more, just gathering the strength after many long minutes to try and force the words out again. My sister asked for help throughout the night, and I was overcome with exhaustion and was useless.

I have a lot of guilt associated with Mom’s death, and it stems from this. It stems from me being weak and selfish in my grief, from not being the daughter or the sister I should have been, and this comes from going through life trying to rely on a strength which was flawed; the practice of ignoring pain instead of dealing with it.

The Strong Emotional Type

If you’re wondering about the fox costume, it was Halloween and she was rocking it!

Let me, then, talk about my sister. My darling, beautiful sister, doomed to be the emotional, romantic dreamer in a household of pragmatic non-emotional types. She’s the type that actually cries about things and lets herself release that frustration or pain, whereas it often takes me so much time and enough pressure to trigger actually achieving that. She’s the ENFP to my ISTJ, and it’s evident in the way we cope and function that we truly are opposites.

And somehow, even in my broken, helpless grief, I was forcibly struck by the fact that my generally more emotive sister could walk into the room of Mom’s deathbed with a cheery bedside manner, being the support Mom needed, Dad needed, everything she was asked (or didn’t even have to be asked) to be. And it wasn’t because she wasn’t broken and hurt like me. I saw her pain, when she wasn’t asked to be strong. But somehow she could handle the emotions that knocked me out, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s entirely because she isn’t the strong silent type, if maybe it’s because she’s let herself live life with the ups and downs emotions threw at her and coped with them in the moment, not forcing herself to ignore them.

She’s strong, so much stronger than me. And I’ve not been able to forget that since that fateful day.

Postscript: To Jenna

My dearest sister, how many times I’ve thought I need to apologize for failing you in those moments, but haven’t known when or how. You displayed such a glowing and wonderful strength in those dark times that bolstered me and the family, and I hope I can someday achieve such strength. You have taught me to embrace my emotional side and try to work through things instead of shoving them all down inside me, and you have done all that without even knowing your own effect. I love you, and cherish your continual support and friendship and love. You’re an amazing sister, who continues to teach me so much and to be a shinning example of how I can be better than I am. Thank you for everything you are and do.

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On Grief and Other Things: Thoughts A Year Later – Part I

I visited the grave for the first time yesterday. It had always been in the back of my head as something I should eventually do, but which I had not yet felt the compelling pull to face. But with Mother’s Day happening and the anniversary of the day Mom died coming up soon, I found myself needing to feel that release of facing it and crying my feelings out and just letting my grief air and get out of the deep confines of myself where it is usually tucked as inconvenient or ill timed or just as that thing which I prefer not to dwell on.

I did that thing which you see in movies, where you talk to a grave and try to tell that person what you’re feeling, what you miss. I had always thought it a rather silly thing, I think, to find some comfort in talking to someone who is not there to hear. But somehow it is comforting. It creates, however falsely contrived, the feeling of still being connected, of still holding on to that person and who they were and how they impacted and continue to impact your life. You feel for a fleeting minute as if some part of them can still reach forth and give you the comfort or the guidance you seek. Maybe, in a way, you can find all that; in the memories, in the picture of them that you still hold in your head.

Mom and little baby me, so very long ago

Grief is such a multi-faceted thing. There are so many dimensions to the way it is felt, to what triggers it.

There is the grief of the past, of all the memories that have swirled in and out of my head recently of just how sick she was, of the pain and struggles that were horrific to witness and live through. Of the countless days of walking up to the hospital with her and the way she had anticipatory nausea before they even pumped her full of chemo. Of how she slowly lost her strength. Of how she was so strong through it all, so much stronger than a person has any right to be, so strong for all of her family. If I could have half her strength I would be content.

There is the actual missing of someone in the moment, of having this wonderful person in your life and suddenly not having them. There are so many things I wish I could tell her still. She was always the best person to call if I was excited about something in my life. She would always be so genuinely supportive and happy for me. When I had an opportunity to do some on-the-side legal work, or when there was a potential for me to visit DC, there was this sad slap of feeling during my excitement  that the first thing I wanted to do was call her up and share it with her and I couldn’t. And there is the knowledge I cannot go to her for advice. If I am worried about something, or if I am struggling in a friendship or have questions about relationships, she’s always the person I want to ask. We used to just snuggle up with our cats on her bed and talk about it, and she’d always be so full of wisdom and guidance or sympathy, or maybe she’d just join me in being ever so frustrated and that was great too. She does not get to meet Alex, and he does not get to meet her. They would have really liked each other. I want to be able to share how amazing they both are with each of them, and cannot.

There is future grief, the knowledge and fear of facing a lot of life without her. The idea of ever trying to plan a wedding if I am to be married and not having her to go dress shopping with me, or if I have kids how she will not be there to support me through the pregnancy or becoming a mom.

There is guilt grief, of all the ways I think I should have been there more, should have supported her better, or have let her down in not watching out for the family as well as I ought.

Someone asked me what my greatest fear is, and I realized it’s losing those I love. I see what I’ve lost with Mom, how it will always effect me and how there will always be a small chunk of my heart that’s missing. And I think of how eventually, I will lose others. Inevitably there will be more chunks of my heart that are ripped away and gape with a loss unfillable. Yet somehow that has pushed me to connect more with those around me, to care for them more, to try and soak in the moments I have while I have them.

I think, I really do, that Mom would be proud of how I’ve grown this year. Of how I’ve not let the struggle hold me back but have let it propel me into being more open and vulnerable with myself and others, of how I’ve worked hard to progress in college and life, of the strides I’ve made in my habits and goals. I know I’ve fallen short in many ways, but I hope someday I can be as strong and graceful and kind and supportive as she was.

It’s been a tough year, and an especially tough couple of weeks. And I fear this post will make people think that I have a lot of hidden struggles constantly that I’m just not sharing, which isn’t really true. I’d genuinely label myself as happy, as living life and deepening the relationships I have with those around me and enjoying the adventures along the way. There will just always be a part of me that wishes I could still do all that with her.

To the very best and most beautiful of mothers. It has been a hard year without you, hard years before that watching you fight so hard in a war with cancer you’d eventually lose, and it will continue to be hard without your guidance, support, opinions, joys, friendship, and love as I try to navigate this life without you. I love you and miss you so very, very much. I’ll always be your ToriBelle

Dating: Learning About Myself

Once upon a time Alex asked what the most unexpected thing about being in a relationship was for me. It was really early in our dating history, and I don’t know that I had much of an answer for him. But as time has continued to pass I’ve found that there has been one very unexpected result.

I’ve learned a lot about myself. Like, a whole freaking lot.

And when I say that I mean not the expected things. It being my first relationship I have expectedly figured things out like what I’m like as a girlfriend or what I appreciate and need in a boyfriend. But there’s little things about me that have always been there but have never come to mind.

An example: Alex and I were talking once about how long distances is weird because you don’t learn the things you’d generally learn about a person. He pointed out he doesn’t know my gait, which is one of those things you pick up on fairly quickly when you get to know someone. I relayed this casually to Dad when we were out for tacos one night. Dad chuckled, and quickly summed up my walking style as “walking with a purpose.” He said I was always walking to get somewhere, and I move in a brisk and not ambling manner. I had never even considered this aspect of myself. Once he said it, I knew it was true and has always been true, but it had never been brought to my attention.

There’s been other things. Perhaps because Alex and his family have been asking me the type of questions a person is not usually asked. What is my greatest insecurity? What are my greatest faults? These are the things one has a general feeling of, but I had never needed to put it into words before and fully realize them in myself (Or maybe that’s just my tendency to not focus on negative things, maybe other people have a more realized view of themselves). Making me specifically define them means that I can actually easily tell you what they are now. It’s been an interesting journey of self discovery, and it’s helped me to know the areas of myself I need to work on.

I’ve also learned because I’ve sat and watched people discuss me, and seen myself through their eyes. As I’ve sat with various friends and family and Alex, and he’s asked questions about what others think I need in a relationship, or what they appreciate about me, or who knows what random question is thrown out there, I’ve seen things I’ve thought insignificant about my character be pointed out as something important or I’ve been told a view of myself that I might not even agree with but which shows me how I might appear to others (one friend tried to describe me in one word as Authentic, saying I’m always just myself. With my tendency to hide my feelings, to take a bit to open up to people sometimes, I don’t entirely see it.)

It has been an entirely fascinating self-study, this dating thing. I’m curious to see what else I find out about myself.

A Saturday of Solo Skiing

Hello, my beautiful Beartooth Mountains

The weekend shone before me bright and unsullied with plans. I knew I wanted to go skiing, but I also knew I couldn’t find anyone to go with me due to everyone’s schedules (I tried). Did I really want to trek the hour and a half drive up to Red Lodge to hang out by myself in below freezing temperatures? I hadn’t made up my mind by Friday morning, knowing it’d be cold, knowing I might totally regret it and hate going by myself. Yet…

I was wearing so much gear this could be a picture of some random stranger on the mountain and you wouldn’t know the difference between them and me. Just take my word for it.

Yet Billings had gotten so much snow it certainly had to be great up in Red Lodge (Red lodge actually hadn’t got all the snow, though it was still good)

And the Palisades lift was open (not guaranteed to happen every year), which gave access to my favorite ski runs.

And dang it, I was craving a bit of adventure and just to go out and to do something random and impulsive and fun sounded dang great.

So with only 5 hours of sleep I pulled myself out of bed at 5:40 (I woke up earlier than that and just kept drifting in and out of dreams of everything going wrong as I gathered my stuff up to go skiing. Such a great start :P). I grabbed my gear, shoved it in my car, and was still kinda surprised when I closed my front door behind me and realized I was really going to head up to the ski mountain by myself. I almost thought my trip was over before it had started, when my car took long, agonizing seconds for the engine to decide to start in the -10 degree weather (All weather reports said that Red Lodge would not be THAT cold. I’m not that crazy).

I got to the top of the ski hill way too early, but enjoyed just watching the skyline light up as the sun got higher in the sky over the mountains as I waited for the ski rental place to open.  It wasn’t too terribly much longer than that before I found myself skiing.  My skills are always so rusty after a year of not being up on the mountain. But thankfully I got them back pretty fast. I’m still not good at pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone, but I am good at working on actually being good within my comfort zone, which is a start.

One of the things I really love about skiing is the people. It was an interesting experience going skiing solo because I was suddenly riding chair lifts with random strangers with nothing to do but to talk for 10 minutes and then disembark and never see each other again. Mostly we talked just about how beautiful it was to be up in Red Lodge that day, the crazy cold weather in Billings, skiing, really general life stuff… Nothing serious, nothing deep. But it was an interesting way to get to know some strangers.

Ultimately I called it a somewhat early day. My lack of sleep had me worn down more than anything. And there was a promise of a really good cup of coffee and an afternoon hanging with Dad, which was sounding better and better as the time went on.

I really enjoyed my solo skiing. It did get a little lonely; not having someone to talk to during lunch or recount stories with on the drive back wasn’t optimal. I don’t know that I would do it often, or even again this year. But on a perfect skiing weekend when no one else is free, when I need an adventure, when I haven’t gone skiing in a while… I think I’ll probably do it again.

The Year was 2017…

I have tried several times to pen some thoughts on the year 2017. I always try to do some reflection at the beginning of the new year, to look back and see the ways I’ve grown, to see what I still want to work on, and just generally ponder how I’ve changed. I like to recall the adventures and the highs, the little things that meant so much, the big things that changed me though I didn’t even realize it at the time.

2017 poses difficulties with that that I’ve not had before. My worst times are wrapped up in 2017. My darkest nights, my deepest struggles, my strongest guilt. And while I’ve got a lot to learn from those times, while I’m still sorting out the changes that losing Mom has wrought in me and my life, I don’t particularly want to sit here and dwell on them. And I feel like I already have done so, quite extensively, as I worked through the pain.

Though I suppose one thing to say is that I did grown through it all. My goal for 2017 was to be more open about my feelings and struggles, to hide them less not only from the world but to try and dredge them up from the depths of myself where I am scarily good at shoving them down and ignoring them; to be more real with myself and with others. I’m far from perfect at that still. But I’m better. And hopefully I’ll continue to get so.

2017 is also a weird year because there are still so many good things that happened. I can look back and smile at some of the memories. I have some dang good memories at the later end of this year. Like some of the best memories. And I know life is always a mix of good and bad, but never have I had a year which holds such extremes. It’s weird to see. Weird to feel. 2017 could never be considered a great year, not even a good year. I’ve lost too much for that.  It was a terrible year, a horrific year. And yet held such good.

It holds the joy of seeing one of my dearest friends married. It holds the realization of how supportive and amazing my friends are, and how I’m truly blessed to have them. It holds a year of really growing closer to Dad and getting to a stage where we can sit and talk about deep, personal issues for hours like we’ve never been able to do before. It holds meeting Alex and our relationship developing into what it is now, to caring deeply for him and finding such joy in being his girlfriend.

Maybe what I’m trying to say, the conclusion I’m trying to reach in my own head, is that while I’ve always known it a truth, I’ve learned a lot about how life is not easy. It can be hard. So, sooo hard. But it can still be beautiful and good. And I’ve grown a lot through that, and I continue to do so.

I don’t know what 2018 holds. It will surely have it’s faults, but I doubt that it’s as rough as 2017. And I haven’t thought of a particular goal for this year like I have in past years. Maybe I just hope that I continue to grow and learn in the lessons I have started to understand this year. Maybe I work at just continue adapting to life without Mom and the person I have to become with that.  Maybe I continue trying to be more open and honest with myself and others.

I like the ways I have grown this year. I think I’m on a good track. I can only hope that I can look back and say the same thing a year from now.

A Relationship?! Me? (Spoiler: Yes)

I have a boyfriend. Gosh, that’s a weird thing to say. Almost but not quite as weird as the idea that I am someone’s girlfriend (Lisa pointed that one out). It’s just so different! And unexpected! And crazy and wonderful and EMOTIONAL (In the best of ways).

So here’s the story.

Sometime in the Past:

There is a thing my church does called the Fall Ball. It is put on by the marvelous Karen and is a wonderful night of dressing up and English Country Dancing. Such fun. I’ve been doing it for quite a few years now (Like, lost count number of years). A few weeks before this event, I am at her house for lunch and she tells me she might have a young man for me to meet. He’s her son’s brother-in-law, and is coming up from Texas to attend the Ball. I politely say that’s nice, and mentally did’t hold much stock in it. Set ups have not historically been very effective in my life. A random stranger up for a few days was not someone I envisioned sweeping me off my feet. Perhaps I forgot the fact that the Karen and family actually know me and might know the type of person I could get on with well. Perhaps I’d just become a bit cynical after finding not a single man who could hold my interest after a few times of talking to him.

Friday; the 3rd of November

Friday before the dance was dance practice for the trainers (which I have been privileged to be a part of for a few years now). He was there, (Alex is his name, I should probably stop playing the pronoun game and just introduce him) and we were introduced, but we didn’t have any time to talk what with actually trying to remember the dances. I don’t think we even really got to dance together much. But afterwords Karen walks up to me, and we have this exchange:

Her: “What are you up to tonight?”

Me: “Oh, from the sounds of it Christian and I and a few others are going out country swing dancing.”

Her: “That sounds fun! You know, I’m boring, and my husband is boring, and Kayla [her daughter, and mentioned in many former posts] is studying, and I have this young man visiting with nothing to do. Would you take him with you?”

Oh, oh I see how this is going. Now I was expecting an introduction, I was not expecting heavy match making. But why not? A large group was going dancing so it wouldn’t even be that awkward no matter what he turned out to be like, right?

Alex actually ended up not driving over with us, but the party all met at the bar. And we started talking. And I quickly realized that this guy and I actually had a lot in common. He knows literature, and is a deep thinker who has formed opinions on things and likes discussing them. And before I even knew what happened we were those two people sitting on the side lost in our own conversation while everyone else did their own thing.

And there was dancing too, obviously. I danced with Christian some, because we always have a lot of fun doing that. Alex didn’t really know how to country swing dance, but between the few women in our group we were able to show him the basics and he picked them up really quick. Not that Alex doesn’t know how to dance. He knows a bunch of different styles. He told me he knew how to Two-Step. During one of our conversations (because even with the dance breaks we came back to the two of us just shouting over the bar noise) I asked him to teach me.

At this point I imagine Christian’s head twitching over to watch us. He told me he heard, and that’s the moment he realized I was interested in this guy. I certainly don’t ask other men to dance if it’s not Christian or a close friend I know won’t take it weird. Alex didn’t know me well enough to pick up on such clues, but from then on it wasn’t exactly a secret between friends and family.

We eventually did call it a night, and thus ended day one of knowing Alex.

Saturday; the 4th of November

Early the next morning was when the dance trainers taught the dances to the ball attendees. So there’s this dance called The Grand March. It’s basically a giant promenade that’s follow-the-leader. And it’s also the only dance you might actually have time to talk to someone. Not a crazy big deal, but really nice if you get it with someone you want to really talk to. So it’s pleasant when you get who you’re dancing with sorted out the morning of instead of that night. Christian told me Alex was going to reserve it with me. Dang, Christian is always right about such things. Alex did. I would come to find out Alex actually turned down an offer by some other girl prior to asking me on the gamble I’d say yes to him. So adorable.

A group of us grabbed lunch after that. Alex was one of the first people there, and Lisa got there after that so she ended up sitting next to him. No problem, I could sit on the other side of her and still be a part of this conversation. Lisa leaned over to me at this point with a note typed up on her phone, asking if we needed to find an excuse to get up so we could accidentally switch seats (Oh yes, by now friends were in on this whole deal). I laughed at her and told her that would be way too obvious and crazy. Though we realized we should wash our hands before eating at that point, as we had danced with who knows how many people. So we come back to the table and she ACTUALLY FREAKING DOES IT. I’m left to awkwardly squeeze past her and sit between them.  Oh gosh, it was a bit awkward. But I did get to talk to him, so her scheming ways payed off. (He ended up sending her a message a few days later thanking her for being such a good wing man.)

So anyway, the night of the dance is upon us. I’m dressed in a black dress with a white ruffle running down the side; hair down and curled. I quickly find my group of peeps and we work at reserving some dances with each other. Alex asks if I’d like to do the final Posties Jig with him (which happens to be the BEST DANCE EVER), and makes some comment about how that probably fills his limit of two dances with a girl (A general guideline at the ball to keep people mixing and dancing with a bunch of people) I quickly correct him and tell him no one counts The Grand March, and he can therefore ask me for another if he likes. He does, but somehow fails to take that as an obvious sign I’m interested in him. Sest la vie. We have a delightful time during the Grand March.  It’s a great people watching dance, and we had fun talking and commenting on all the people we saw.

During the intermission, when recorded music is played and some people rest and some dance whatever they so choose in the center of the floor, Alex came over and asked if I would like to learn how to waltz (and inadvertently interrupted me talking about him with Liza and Elizabeth). I of course said yes. He’s a fantastic waltzer, even if he was dealing with someone who didn’t know the steps. We were interrupted in the middle of our dance by Lewis and Britta purposefully waltzing into us and disrupting our footsteps. We proceeded to get into a discussion with this couple over who was the better waltzer (I think that’s how it went? It’s all a bit fuzzy now), and before I knew it Alex was dancing with Lewis and Britta and I laughed from the sidelines. It was a wonderfully hysterical moment.

The exact details of most of the night are a blur of fun times. I don’t remember many particular details (Though I do remember Hannah and I sitting on the floor near the end of the night and her giving me advice on potential long distance relationships. I wasn’t sure it was going to lead to that by any means as of yet, but everyone else had a bit more insight, apparently). There was an after party where a group of us just hung out and talked, but I think we were so tired by then that Alex and I didn’t get in much conversation. That was okay, we had plenty of time tomorrow.

Sunday; the 5th of November

We went to church, and thankfully he sat with Kayla’s family so I had the excuse of running up to give her a hug after church to be close enough to start a conversation with him. We talked generalities for a few minutes, at which point I realized I had to get going soon because I had to go to work for part of the day. He asks if he can talk to me for a second, and then says something along the beautiful lines of “I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know you these past few days, and it would be remiss of me not to ask you for your number.” REMISS! Oh gosh, that vocabulary though. Instantly melted my heart. I did not at all hang on those words for most of the day (lies, I did). He tells me now he lost words after that and cut the conversation short. I didn’t notice. We exchanged phone numbers.

We saw each other that afternoon, since Elizabeth and her hubby were looking at a house and wanted a few people’s opinion on it. It was a delightful house, but did not offer any space for a conversation. Kayla, however, is a schemer (the real moral of this story is all my friends are schemers and in no way subtle). She realized something must be done to get Alex and I to spend some quality time together. She suggests a movie night at her house, to which I drag Liza because I had actually had plans to chill with Liza at my own place, and she was awesome and allowed my interest in this young gent to rearrange all that.

So I get to Kayla’s house at about 6 O’Clock, and we all just hang out in the kitchen and talk. And then before I know it Kayla and Liza have disappeared, and it’s just Alex and I. We got to talk for a solid two hours, I bet, with some minimal interruption from peeps walking into the kitchen who weren’t in on the fact Alex and I were being left alone on purpose. He said that if we had time after the movie he’d like to take me to coffee. I said I’d like that. He was trying to be polite and not interrupt movie plans by just leaving the others, not realizing any movie plans were just a facade for my friend’s match making. We ended up not having time for coffee, and do finally watch the movie. We all snuggled  down on the couch, and he fell asleep leaning on me. He never woke up to say goodbye. I was sad, but shrugged it off since my feelings hadn’t quite sunk in yet anyway and I had no idea where he was with his either.

That’s technically the last time I have seen Alex. Dang it, that’s so hard to believe.

Liza and I walked out to our cars and we talked a bit about how the night went. Kayla watched with jealousy from the kitchen window, wanting to be in on the conversation, but it was cold outside and only lasted a minute anyway.

Monday; the 6th of November

I texted Alex that morning, wishing him safe travels home. We texted a bit throughout the day. That evening Kayla and Liza came over to join Kathy and I for some girl talk. I was at this point at a full on crush. I was emotional and happy and excited and utterly beyond knowing what to do with any of that. I snuggled down against my girls on a pile of blankets on the floor and hid my face in my hoodie from sheer shyness at feeling all of that at once and tried to just not go crazy from it all. It was wonderful. Kayla filled me in on Alex’s side of things, since they talked some, enough for me to get a clear picture that this young man might really like me too.

Alex sent me a text, saying he’d like to read a book with me. We talked about potential topics and ended up deciding to read a book called Learning to Love the Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey.  He said he’ll send me a copy. I politely mentioned that I can buy one off Amazon and he really didn’t have to go to all that trouble. He insisted.

Throughout the Following Month

Here was a month that sped by. I was busy with life and no doubt he was too, but we managed to talk at least a little every day (And sometimes a lot). Texts turned to phone calls, and eventually to video chats (I had suggested video chatting during our first study of the Psalms, as a way to be able to manage flipping from various books at one time, and because I really wanted to see him). I almost regretted that suggestion because I spent most of the first time doing so trying to hide the fact I was smiling like an idiot from sheer happiness.

I quickly found out a lot about this young man. I found out that he was very considerate (he wanted very much not to distract me with texting when I was spending time with family; he wanted me to prioritize the people I was with. I distinctly remember him that first week mentioning that his self imposed rules were very hard to follow because he wanted to talk to me. Awww) I found in him a very deep thinker, but someone who still had an amazing sense of humor and could make me laugh hysterically. I found a man solidly grounded in his faith in Christ, who loved his family, who was loyal and caring and… well, everything. Everything I can say I ever wanted in a man.

He informed me at some point that Kayla’s family had invited him out for Christmas to go to their cabin, so he planed on being in Montana for that. My invitation to join in on the cabin adventures came a little while later (My friends scheming again). We now had a time when we knew we would see each other again.

He asked me out on a FaceTime date, but wouldn’t tell me the details.

Friday; the 1st of December

Date night. My goodness, I was nervous. I don’t know why, I had video chatted and talked with him before. But this was different. This was a DATE.

I got home from work and there was a box on my front step from him, with a giant warning not to open it until instructed to do so. So I set it on my bed and enjoyed the sheer mystery of everything while getting ready. I let my hair down and figured out what to wear and just tried to kill time before 6:30 when he was going to call me.

6:30 comes, and he tells me I can open the mystery box. Inside is a bottle of Pomegranate Italian Soda, some candles (each individually packaged in little boxes decorated with owls), and some matches, and another thing which I shall get to in a sec. I lit the candles, and at about that time there is a knock on my door. At the door was Kayla, dressed in a charming waitress uniform, with food from Ciao Mambo’s (Only the best Italian restaurant in Billings). There’s garlic bread and some amazing linguine with a white mushroom sauce on it (I presume alfredo?) and bacon. Also tiramisu, one of my absolute favorite desserts.

At this point my internet decides it doesn’t want to work, and I spend 5 minutes troubleshooting that. It would decide to die right then.

I did eventually get my technical difficulties under control, and Alex and I talked while we ate, and just had so much fun enjoying each other’s company. At this point he gets to the last item in the package, a burlap sack full of Legos. He tells me that he has stolen the instructions and any identifying marks from the Lego set, and if I am willing he’ll walk me through building whatever the heck it actually is. Let me tell you, this activity was much more difficult that I thought it’d be, but also amazingly fun. We got it figured out, and it ended up being the skyline of Venice.

All in all we talked for 5 hours that night, and if it hadn’t been way super late we’d have probably talked for more.

Sunday; the 3rd of December

We have at this point succumbed to outright flirting. That evening Alex asks if he can call me. He “accidentally” FaceTimed me instead. He admitted not ten minutes later it was no accident. He wanted to talk face to face. And he said that the two of us together is something he wanted to pursue, except he said something adorably quaint like “going steady” because he’s from Texas. I told him it would be weird for me to be in a relationship with a man who’s never even met my Dad, and Alex was amazing enough to offer to give Dad a call. I warned Dad it was coming, and they talked on Monday. Dad wasn’t going to grill him, he just wanted a conversation to see who in the world had so easily found his way into my affections. I knew he wouldn’t have any problem with things becoming official

Alex called me that night. And we started our relationship. And just like that I’m dating an amazing guy who seems so beyond anything I’ve ever thought realistically possible. It’s hard to imagine. It just all happened so so fast and yet never felt rushed or wrong.

Here’s to waiting for Christmas when I actually get to see my boyfriend (It’s taken me several days to write this post… I am still not over the fact I have an amazing boyfriend. I’m like a giddy schoolgirl over here).

Happy Birthday, Mom

img_2798-1My Facebook memories to look back on today brought a smile to my face. Dang, was I very blessed to have her for as long as I was allowed. It was especially touching as today would have been her birthday (Is her birthday now in past tense or still current? Tenses are hard sometimes).

Crazy how time seems to have stretched forever since I last saw her yet also no time has gone by at all. I wondered if her birthday would be super emotional for me; it hasn’t been, particularly.  I’ve kept myself busy, I think, to keep a lot of the deeper emotions at bay. But it’s certainly been more on my mind. My calendar still had it marked as an event and I’ve watched as I’ve slowly crossed the days off getting closer to it.

I don’t know what I want to say with this post, I just thought I should say something, you know? I guess what I need to say is that I still miss you Mom. We’re doing Okay and we’re holding together tightly as a family. You’d be proud to see us, I think. Proud to see how we all have surrounded ourselves with the love and support we need, how we’re there for each other, how we’re all more open and vulnerable together, how we haven’t become lost in our grief and sorrow but forged the paths we’ve needed to to stay strong and stay moving forward. I think we’re all a little afraid of the holidays without you but I know we will get through it somehow, one day at a time. I think our memories of you have slid away from those last painful months to when you were much more you, and I’m glad of that. Dad and I reminisced the other day late into the night. I thought it was sweet and beautiful partly because that’s what you and I used to do, once upon a time. He told me all about your first few dates, about the important moments in your life together. It was so amazing to really sit and talk of you, and as you were before cancer tarnished our life.

I still haven’t visited your grave. I think I tell myself it wouldn’t do much for me, I know you aren’t there and you’re in a much better place. But I think a part of me just doesn’t want to face it. Someday though. When I have time to really sit and talk to you. I’m afraid I’ll bawl my eyes out, in the middle of a public place where people might actually see me cry! I guess I’m really just afraid it might tear open this tender wound inside of me without really putting salve on it to heal. It might really hit me in the gut over and over that you’re not coming back. I shouldn’t worry about that, I feel that way anyway, sometimes. But you know me, it’s hard to put myself in that position.

There’s so much I wish you were here to talk about with me. I have a winter coat which I think is the coolest and you’d really like. I always meant to tell you how you convinced Elizabeth to always check the back seat of her vehicle to make sure no one was hiding in it before she got in, and how even Lisa started doing it because we talked about it so much. I always forgot when I saw you. It bugs me I never said it. Like that thing you are always trying to remember to do but forget, but I can never do it now to get it out of my system. There was the cutest cat video I saw the other day that I wanted to share with you…

…I’m talking to a young man. He’s just the most amazingly, nicest person I have ever met. I wish I could talk to you about him, wish you could meet him. I think you’d like him. But even if it doesn’t go anywhere and I don’t speak to him ever again it reminds me you will never meet whatever young man comes into my life, and that breaks me just a little bit.

I was so, soo blessed to have you as my mother. And not just because you understood my Steampunk obsession and would thrift shop with me, but because you were there for every little part of my life. It’s hard not having you for every little part now.

Love and miss you soo, soo much. Happy Birthday.

Your Tori Belle

Small Gestures

So tonight I grabbed coffee with Dad. He had some time to kill and I was thankful to talk life stuff with him for a little while. He dropped me off at my apartment afterward, and I hopped out after declaring my thanks and love and whatnot.

He hopped out too, just to give me a hug goodbye. I don’t know why it surprised me. Maybe because I usually see him at least once a week and it’s not like I won’t see him within a few days. It was just a kind, impromptu gesture that really warmed my soul. It made me feel special, and loved, and it meant a lot to me even though it wasn’t anything really that significant.

Or maybe it was. Maybe it was a symbol of good talks and appreciation and a thousand big things. Who knows. Maybe that’s why small gestures mean a lot in the first place.

Either way, here’s to great little acts of love that make my world feel right. ♥

Germany – A Year Later

Disclaimer: Dear family of mine. I know some of you read my blog. I hope you know I don’t care (am even flattered) and you are welcome to read whatever you stumble across here. That being said, this post which was meant to be happy memories kinda turned into me venting some emotions, and please don’t feel obligated to read it if it is going to bring you more pain than you desire. Or do, I trust you. Love you – Tori.

Hard to think Germany was over a year ago now. Such fond memories. It was fun, and adventurous and exciting. More than that it was a time of hope and positivity. Hard to think a year ago I hiked up a steep hillside and Mom kept up the pace. Hard to think of our late night talks in the dorm-like bedroom when Mom calmly talked me through all my worries about being jobless and what I could do.  I knew nothing was guaranteed but I never would have guessed it all would have crumbled as fast as it did after those blissful two weeks. It was essentially the last time she was healthy. The last time she was herself. She was so wonderful.

I didn’t mean for this post to spiral emotionally like it already has. I guess I should have known it would. I’m not going to apologize though. I just cried for the first time in a couple of months. I’ve wanted to cry so badly during that time and it just hasn’t come, like a pressure behind my eyes that wasn’t released. I don’t know why writing lets me cry. I’m so weird.

There is a question, which I think people have wondered but been too polite to ask, which my whole family has no doubt asked themselves. Was going to Germany worth it? It obviously didn’t save her. Maybe it didn’t even prolong her life.

Yes, yes it was worth it even still.

While I was in Germany, I, and many besides myself, felt God had put us there. He had moved all the pieces, from the suggestion to the planning. He had supplied in so many ways, and we were loved and supported both financially and emotionally by so many people and it just felt so right. It felt like maybe we had found an answer. Now I never studied and still don’t know the medical side of what happened there very well, so that’s not me saying that medically the treatments should have worked. Just me saying I thought maybe it was all going to be okay.

Course, I’ve realized just how full of denial I was over the course of her death, so that’s not saying much.

Regardless, for many reasons I think it was still the right choice. For one, we simply had to try. You can try and fail and you can never try and never know, and be eaten up by the not knowing. It was a good option, because we aren’t plagued by the “What if?” (that one, at least). Secondly, it gave us all hope. We were all fighting, and fighting together. We, though most importantly Mom, could have despaired in those extra 6 months we were planning and were in Germany for. But we didn’t. We were fighting. And those memories I have of Mom. Of stopping to take a million pictures of fat, lazy bumblebees, of running around the Knights Templar Museum when the boys had tired out already, even though we couldn’t read a single sign to tell us what everything was. Of having to talk her down from running past obvious “Don’t Cross This Point” signs because she wanted to see into the top of the tower…

Oh damn it all! I can never have those types of adventures again. Those talks. And I hate it, and it hurts like hell and I can never get it back and I can’t even clearly remember the details I wish I knew by heart.

She had been sick for so long and hadn’t been herself so much in the last four years, that those memories I cherish so so much. I’m so glad to have a bright, clung to spot that I can point to and say “Look what we did together! Look at these memories!” The memories I’ll share with my children someday when they ask about her and the memories I cling to when I try to remember who she was when she wasn’t being defined by cancer.

She never wanted to be defined by cancer.

I wish in my memories she wasn’t. Maybe with time.

And I know a lot of that probably doesn’t seem as important to people who poured their hard earned money into letting my Mom seek treatment in Germany. And it’s certainly not the only reason I’m thankful, as I’ve said.

I know Mom isn’t the only one who was at the clinic who’s passed on. But I know of at least one who’s remained healthy and strong. And I am so thankful for her. I wish it could also have been Mom as well. The point was it did help some people, and it was so worth it try because there was a chance it could have, and I thank from the bottom of my heart everyone who helped us. So maybe it didn’t heal her, but I think God still led us there. I think He still used it, in numerous ways that I haven’t mentioned or probably even fully know.

Well, this post was intended to just share some previously unshared photos that I loved. Guess I’ll finally get to that. These are photos I actually pulled off of Mom’s phone when she died. I wanted to save them for myself, and to have them in a place where I could always look back on them.

This first set is from the Bad Mergentheim museum on Teutonic Knights (the one we walked through the courtyard of every day to get coffee. A beautiful castle. One of my fondest memories of the trip was wandering around it with Mom, on a time crunch no less, so kinda rushing, but fascinated by all the things and the dragons on the ceiling and the beautiful history we couldn’t even read about.

Some food photos, because we all know I spent a lot of time in Germany eating.

Our boys. Now my boys. Still our boys.

Thoroughly enjoying classic Germany fare

Some random snapshots

Lastly, I wasn’t even there for these photos, these are after we went home and Dad came back.

So there’s those, finally. And there’s life, in all it’s shattered beauty.

Is Summer Over Already? (An Overview of Previously Undocumented Adventures)

Hello, Autumn. I love Fall. Love love love Fall. It is by far my favorite season. The season of hot cups of tea and cozy sweaters and spices and sweet calm contemplation. It’s crazy to look back on the time that’s passed and everything that’s happened these last few months. I am surprised to say it’s actually been a pretty good Summer. I’ve been up to a lot of random mini adventures throughout, and due to time or whatnot haven’t yet charted them here. As a fair-thee-well to the season I thought I’d share the photos and the fun that I’ve had.​

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Tailgating while figuring out what the plan for the evening was. We went dancing.

One of the biggest changes this season being of course that I’ve found a new home and a new roommate. Kathy has proven to be super awesome to live with (As I knew she would). We’ve had such fun. Our first week we had no furniture and sat crossed legged on the floor, using her Christmas tree box as a table. I have a screenshot of a Snapchat with her, Lisa, and myself having a pizza party after a day of unpacking. It’s a special little look into our first week that I really love.

Not long after we moved in, I ended up house sitting  for a good friend for two weeks. (I have a habit of disappearing on new roommates. When I moved in with Elizabeth I immediately got a second part time job and was NEVER home for the next six months). I was thinking two weeks by myself in the house would be quite lonely, but it ended up being quite fun. I had permission to have friends over and to use the hot tub and whatnot. The first weekend I was there Kathy came out and we decided to make sugar cookies, and finding ourselves out of dairy to make icing we substituted Baileys Irish Cream and Rumchata. Best. Icing. Ever. Highly recommend you try it in the future.

Another night she came over and we watched Pitch Perfect, because she found out I hadn’t seen it. Or we tried to. Half way through the movie two GIANT hobo spiders simultaneously flanked us. Kathy is a braver soul than I and trapped them under two whisky glasses. But it’s quite hard to watch a movie while spiders are trying their hardest to get out and eat you. We didn’t want to take care of them right away because if they escaped that’s worse, right? After the movie she carefully trapped them and disposed of them, while I cowered on top of an ottoman. It was quite hysterical, in retrospect. Favorite quote of the night was certainly her saying “I need to see it but I also need it to not eat my face.”

We had been quite tired, but spiders will wake you up quite fast. We wanted to stay up late and watch the meteor shower that was supposed to happen anyway, though, and at 2 we went and laid out on the front walkway and tried to spy some meteors. We saw 2 in an hour. Not sure I couldn’t find two on a regular night. But it was delightfully fun.

There were other nights of friends coming over. Elizabeth and Jenna and Kayla and Lisa… other fun nights were I just got to relax and hang out with some of my favorite people on the planet.

Montana Fair happens every August. I always go with my siblings, enjoy a warm night of delicious bad-for-you food and running into people I don’t often see. Highlight of the night is Christian and I found Chuck Wagon Soda, which was dishing out amazing Ice Cream Floats. We got ours with Sarsaparilla soda, and they were amazing. The soda was all old fashioned style and delicious. And the let us sample every last kind (and by sample, I mean like half a mug). Such a fun family to get to talk to and I will be searching for them again next year.

Another Summer adventure with the Broskovich is that we decided to check out Burn the Point street dance in front of Montana Brewing Company. This entailed watching the end of the car show parade, which had everything from classics to modern sports cars. The concert was okay, the music was good but no one was actually doing much dancing, so we went to Daisy Dukes, a bar that happens to have one of the few actual dance floors in town. I’m happy to say Christian and I are becoming fairly decent Country Swing dancers. Someday I’ll get a video of it for future’s sake. A night out dancing is always a good night.

THERE IS A NEW ESCAPE ROOM IN BILLINGS!!! And I am obviously quite excited. And of course it had to be checked out. Happy to say Billings Escape Room is epic, and a must do adventure for anyone finding themselves in Billings. We did the Prison Break room, and they did a great job at developing the ambiance of the room. There are flickering lights and you can’t see very well and… I don’t want to spoil it for any would-be adventurers, but go check it out! I found it harder than the other escape rooms I’ve done, and was glad to have an experienced team by my side. We escaped! (But we also used like 6 hints… but shhh, no one needs to know). I can’t wait to go back.

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Of course THE WEDDING happened this Summer. I’ve already detailed that. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the right words to say for my speech, and was happy for some coffee to get me through. Moav downtown is a… hipster in a good way? Yeah, hipster in a good way coffee shop that serves amazing coffee. I love the modern industrial decor, particularly. It gave me a great spot to try and focus on the speech.

There were also some great food discoveries this Summer. For our last family get together I made brownies. I was thinking I would grab ice cream for them, but stumbled across raw cookie dough to eat. And the idea came to me… oh sweet idea! Frost the brownies with the cookie dough! I added a little milk to the dough to make it spreadable, and they were super rich but super super fantastic. It needs to become a thing. I also tried Pina Coladas for the first time this Summer at a girls night in. I don’t know how I’ve missed it up until this point. I generally am not a huge fan of pineapple, but mmm coconut. And Captain Morgan Loconut rum! All together it is a blissful cocktail. Also, I have been working on trying to replicate the German Doner Kababs. I haven’t made it happen yet, but it’s a delicious pursuit.

I’ve got to spend a lot of time with family and friends. I’m so happy for everyone who’s been there, for all the adventures. For the little moments that have gotten me through what could have been a terrible Summer. Thank you.

One last camera roll share. I’ve kinda been into documenting things recently. I want to be able to remember, when life changes and people move on, the little things that bring me so much joy. The moments that make me who I am, that build relationships, that you maybe don’t remember specifically after a while even though they impact you. Here’s a short little video of the best Dad ever, as we sip morning coffee, and the familiar sounds of him strumming his guitar. He’s a great guitarist, was motivated enough to teach himself, and the sounds of the melodies and the skritch of his fingers moving up the guitar strings always brings me such joy, as they have throughout all my life. Love you, Dad.