Walking through grief


Walking through grief

In the last year, the puzzle we call our family has lost 2 pieces.

One expected and one out of the blue, neither easy. Both heart wrenching.

My brother Tommy, my sister Nancy…. Both gone within months of each other.

I have lost others in the past but this has been grief on another level.

I now more fully understand the phrase “grief stricken”.

We, as a family have been trying to navigate in a black hole, trying to find our way out, our balance, our new normal.

There are no adequate words for loss, when it hits you, nothing sounds like you feel.

There are the stages of grief. There are platitudes. There are phrases meant to be helpful, but what there is not, is something to make it different… and that is what you really want… you want the death to not be death. You want them to come back.

For months, every morning when I woke up there was this briefest second that I forgot,  and then the pain hit..again and again, every morning for a very long time.

What I learned over the last year. My 12 steps of walking through grief.

  1. I am stronger than I thought I could be.

Not every day, but there are getting to be more strong days than days I feel like I couldn’t fight my way out a  wet paper bag.

  1. Sometimes eating a doughnut (or 4) really does help.
  2. Self-help books can help.

There are tons of self-help/ grieving books, not all of them good (most of them are not).

If you can find one that resonates with you, it is like a life line that can take your mind from “yes, I am crazy” to “I am not the only one feeling this way”, because you feel like you are the only one, that you are in a desert of grief that is so vast and so wide you cannot see your way though.

  1. I have to ask for what I need, because no one knows what lies in my heart, unless I tell them.

I have to forgive people for not knowing how to read my mind, or acting, or acknowledging my grief the way I wanted them to. People are people and just because I would act, do or say something different if they were in my shoes, I cannot hold anyone responsible for not being me, to me.

  1. The little gestures mean the world to someone who is sad… never think anything is too small.
  1. Death is hard; death hurts the deepest parts of you.
  1. Grief is a very demanding companion. Be kind to yourself.
  2. Life does go on… even though you did not think it would.
  3. Love the ones your with, every day. Hug a little harder, laugh a little louder, enjoy the moments, and make memories.
  4. Appreciate the craziness that is your family.
  5. Take pictures, lots of pictures. You will treasure them. It is amazing how much comfort you can get from pictures.

The two our family lost, were bigger than life, family gatherings will be different, the upcoming holidays will be different, everyday is different… still on the search for our new normal.

Tom, Nancy, I miss you .


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Carpe Diem!


Tom and Jory

Tommy & Jory

Driving home from work tonight, I deviated from my planned “to do” list and on the spur of the moment dropped in to see my brother.

Nothing special was planned; no agenda, just a quick visit, a fast hello, and then I would be on my way.

I soon threw my scheduled evening out the window… this evening wasn’t about my list.

While I was sitting with him, talking to him and listening to what made his day a good day all of the things I “had”to do became unimportant.

One thing lead to another, and pretty soon we were in the kitchen together- him cooking, me watching.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that I stayed… it wasn’t about the food, it wasn’t even about the conversation, it was about being in the kitchen with my brother, and watching him cook a steak the same way my dad used to.  It was about listening to him give cooking advice to his grandson. It was about listening to him and Mary laugh.

It was about being present. It was about the magic in the moment on an ordinary Monday.

There are many things being part of a big family is,  and some things being part of a big family isn’t, as in, it isn’t always convenient to be, do, listen, be present, and take advantage of the small moments.

In this crazy busy world where everything has a deadline, time has a way of slipping away for many reasons.

So, just for a minute, stop for a bit, unplug, take a look around, notice the little things,  un-plan your plan, you will be surprised what can happen on an ordinary Monday.

I love you Tommy, thank you for a great evening!

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And we’re back! 2016!

YES, it really has been 3 years since our last blog post!

What can I say except that “life” complicates life.

In the last 3 years we have done much, loved much and added to our ever growing family!

In looking back over past posts, I have re-loved every minute of my families togetherness and craziness in equal portion and realized how much I missed keeping a record of all things family!

March, not exactly a timely New Year’s Resolution, but a resolution none the less.

We’ve changed a lot in the last 3 years, we are now 20 for “intimate” family gatherings!

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What hasn’t changed is how amazing my family is, how much we love each other and how much fun we have together!

Onward and upward… on to togetherness, traditions and fun!

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Happy Fall!! It’s time for pumpkins!!!

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Ah, Fall… It’s my favorite time of year.

At the first hint of crispness in the air, I am ready… for pumpkins, candy corn, turkey and pie. For leaves turning to splendid hues of red and gold, and a settling back into family centered holidays.

“Home for the Holidays”… Some of the sweetest words ever!! Yes, for me, it starts in Oct! My “Fall Splendor Holiday Season” starts with Halloween… you all know I love a good Halloween party!!

This year the weather was spectacular, the crowd was in Halloween finery, the day was picture perfect, and as I was sitting back and taking it all in, it hit me… the reason the “parties” of the seasons are so important to me, the tradition and gathering of the season…  Friends and Family… the reconnection… the taking a few hours out of this hectic crazy thing we call life to just play… to enjoy being silly and be entertained and to let loose and laugh out loud!

This year I came to appreciate it all in a whole new way!

During so much of the year, it’s all too easy to get caught up in our busy lives. Whether that means we’re working, crafting, going to school, parenting, doing laundry, obsessing over Pintrest, or a sport of choice, or  reading the latest bestseller, making lists… well, we tend to lose ourselves in the day-to-day jumble. So when the opportunity comes, and we’re able to find a slice (yes, a pie joke for fall) of time to catch up with family and friends we haven’t seen in a while, we realize it’s nice to be with those who have been there all along, but get far too little of our attention. There’s a certain satisfaction — not to mention comfort — in spending time close to your roots.

So, Happy Fall to one and all!! …

A Special THANK YOU to all my helpers… with a bum knee this year I couldn’t have pulled it off without you!! You helped make the magic of a spook-tacular day happen!!  Hugs!!!!

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And then there were two….

Surprise (noun): 7lbs 6oz, 21 inches of pure joy named Griffin John McAfee.

Mine and Chris’s baby girl, Lilybelle was five-months-old when I stared down at the double blue lines of a positive pregnancy test. Chris had gotten me a three pack of tests a few weeks before, giving them to me out of the blue and in such a defensive manner as to look like he’d waken a hibernating bear. I thought the notion of being pregnant at that point ridiculous. I was on birth control, I was breastfeeding, Lily took a year of concerted trying and the female mechanisms that need to be in place to conceive had yet to return after having Lily.

After weeks of Chris’s persistence, I finally decided to take a test as I got ready for work, and there they were, two perfectly formed blue lines shining up out of that plastic window. All that registered in my brain was a faint buzzing as I sat down on the side of the tub and called Chris’s name. I don’t really remember how I told him or if I showed him, but I am pretty sure shock was the permeating emotion in the room. He was the one to give me the tests so I don’t know why he registered the same shock I felt and I still have no idea why he thought to get the tests in the first place, at least that he will admit to, but I have my guesses. I have a very colorful personality that becomes almost blinding when I am pregnant. I imagine he was prompted to get the tests as a result of my extra sweetness; however, he has yet to confirm or deny this suspicion. Regardless of the reasoning, he had some inkling that that test wouldn’t be negative. After the initial shock, my heart ran the gamut of emotion, but one clear feeling was present through it all, MINE. This baby was already mine, I could not imagine life without him as soon as those lines appeared and the buzzing abated. As shock was shared by my husband and me in equal measure, so was this feeling of protective ownership as well.

So, with bewildered thoughts, I headed in to work, albeit a bit late, wondering with a panicked chuckle, how on earth was I going to tell my boss I was pregnant again. That evening, I unpacked the maternity clothes I had packed away literally the day before, made the requisite appointments and stared down the calendar at the reality of another pregnancy.

As the months and the morning sickness passed, our world view shifted. Instead of imagining just Lily doing this or that next year, we imagined what her and her little brother would be doing together the next year. His existence became an inexplicable reality completely intertwined with our own. We looked at the nursery and thanked our lucky stars that we had chosen a neutral wall motif. We planned and purchased. We studied and researched. We compared and marveled. We worried and wondered. We had a few pre-term labor scares and a broken foot. We had pumpkin patches, Christmas festivities and Lily’s first birthday. As all of this was going on, I couldn’t help looking at my little baby girl and feeling guilt that I was taking something from her. Chris would always assure me that I was giving her one of the greatest gifts possible; I was giving her a little brother and oh how right Chris ended up being.

In the very early morning of April 16, 2013, I busied my nine month pregnant self in the kitchen with Lily making blueberry muffins for Chris’s birthday. We were having such a good time with presents, candles, the birthday song and kisses. I had my suspicions that today might be the day we would get to meet our little guy, but I was still surprised when my water suddenly broke and our lazy early morning turned into a giddy, about to have a baby rush to the hospital.

I cried as Lily was buckled into Aunt Kelly’s car and I was headed into the hospital to have a baby. I felt guilt and joy and guilt at feeling joy and guilt at feeling guilt over the joy. Never try to understand the emotions of a pregnant woman, particularly a pregnant woman who is in labor, and especially a pregnant woman who is in labor watching their other baby being taken away for days only to return to you with their world totally changed and no understanding of why. It is a safe assumption to make that I was a basket case.

As Chris and I headed up to labor and delivery, I was anxious, excited, terrified and a bit off my rocker crazy. This time was different. I knew what was coming and I was so excited to meet my little guy. My little boy, who I had felt kick and watched flip and worried constantly over during the nine months of ups and downs pregnancy. Griffin came into this world at 4:54pm on April 16, 2013. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, but he did just fine and I was holding my baby. I was holding my little surprise in my arms. I couldn’t believe it in my head by my heart felt calm and so very happy. I stared at him with curious wonder. Hello stranger! What a sweet little surprise you are. So so sweet and miraculous and amazing and perfect and so worth everything and anything. And I wasn’t the only one to think the world of this sweet little spirit.

Chris and I often joke that Griffin and Lily had this planned. That they didn’t want to be without each other for long and as each day passes I find myself wondering if our joke wasn’t in fact their reality. From the minute Lily wakes up to her last words as she goes to sleep she is wondering about her brother. The hugs and kisses and hand holding are constant. You’d think these lovies would be one-sided since Griffin is so young, but he adores his big sister. Every single time Lily hugs him, kisses him, holds his hand or heaven help us she drags him across the room by his onsie, Griffin is grinning up at her. He hugs and kisses back to the best of his ability. No matter what his mood, when he and Lily are “playing,” he is smiling ear to ear. They are brother and sister soul mates and I couldn’t be luckier than to get to be a part of it with Chris. Griffin is such a happy little big man. With every bright eyed smile he says surprise and indeed we are surprised. Surprised and awed by how unbelievably blessed and lucky we are to have him.

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Family Campout!

When our kids were young, we would head to the great outdoors with Steve’s family on a pretty regular basis, but when they all hit high school we really didn’t go much.  One thing leads to another, life complicates life, and pretty soon you realize it’s been way too many years since you have actually gone anywhere that required a sleeping bag!

On the July 24th holiday we headed out to rectify the error of our camping ways. Steve and I  loaded up some of the grandkids and Kelly, met up with Mick and June and headed to the McAfee Family Trabin; trailer transformed over the years to a cabin = Trabin

Once we arrived I was quickly reminded of the things that I loved about camping with my family… hearing the kids run though trees laughing and playing.. using only imagination and sticks to fuel their adventures, the smell of a campfire and the calm it brings at the end of the day, the incredible amounts of food that 3 boys eat when they have played hard all day, how amazing a hot dog roasted over an open fire tastes,  the closeness your family can feel when you unplug and just “be” with your “peeps”.

Why it took me so long to come to this ah-ha moment I will never know!

Un-plug, reconnect, relax, breathe and just enjoy being….. ahhhhhhh … GREAT weekend!

It definitely will not be years before we do this again!


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Dear family and friends,  

I know I have been a bit … O.K. a lotta bit behind on our family blog.

It seems like things just got away from me after our big D-Land adventure.  

Knee surgery


New baby!! Griffin John McAfee 4/16/13

More birthdays

New baby on the way!! Jen is due 8/14/13

Quilting- yes it’s an obsession!


Soccer games- Go Real!… Steve’s obsession!

Grandma adventure days… Love the littles!!!

Summer… awwww, sunshine!

 Time for writing is the only thing I have lacked the last few months!

 Our family is well and happy and growing…. WE are very blessed!

More posts to come about our last few months… hopefully very soon!

Until then enjoy where you are and the moment you’re in!

Always loving you,


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Disney Magic

Where can you find magical wishes, pixy dust, endless smiles and dreams come true? Why, Disneyland, of course!

During the second week of February most of the family headed to California for what I hope is the first of many trips with the grandkids to the magical land of Disney! (The original plan was for the entire McAfee gang to go, but due to some unforseen circumstances, we were  left with a somewhat smaller traveling party)

When my kids were little , going to Disneyland was fun, but seeing Disneyland through the eyes of my grandkids is something else! It was total Grandma Nirvana!

The week was pure magic! Smiles and giggles in abundance, 24 hour grandma time, Disneyland, the beach, hanging out at the pool, it all added up to vacation perfection!!

Thanks to Jen’s D-Land pre trip research and planning, we made the most of every minute!

I really could go on and on about the fun we had, but as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words”


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Thanksgiving Fun! A.K.A. – the post that was lost…. LOL

O.K. …. I know it’s March and Thanksgiving was 4 months ago, but I ran across this post that got lost in the cyber space-time continueum…. even though it’s a bit late, I wanted to share it with you!….. Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving at our house this year was full of good food, great company and lots of laughter and love!

The last couple of years have for me, been an adjustment in trying to find a new turkey day groove without my having my mom around.

This year I think I finally found it! Mixing some long established traditions and recipies with some new, this year really “felt” like Thanksgiving to me.

I love having my family around the table laughing and enjoying each other’s company.

This year was Milly and Lily’s first Thanksgiving and also a first “McAfee Turkey-day” for  Tyler, T.J and Caeden.

We are all so very blessed!

Love, family, tradition…. it makes my heart happy!

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Holiday Fun!

What??? It’s over?? What do you mean it’s January??

Once again the holiday whirlwind has blown thru our house… leaving stray tinsel, a few leftover treats and remnants of wrapping paper in odd places.

The stockings were hung, the chimes were played, the feasting was plentiful, and the laughter was contagious, as well as the flu! Steve and Chris were the only ones that stayed healthy.

We enjoyed many of our long standing holiday traditions with our immediate and extended family and we mixed in a few new activities that I hope we will repeat in years to come. Zoo lights was a huge hit! Freezing but super fun! (sorry no photos- Jens camera broke)

Hoping the holidays found you well and happy and that your 2013 will be plentiful and prosperous!

Christmas Celebrations

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Holiday Lights!

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New Years Eve!


Book Day! Happy 2013!



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