Thursday, April 15, 2010

trying to move forward...

After all the intense sadness and anger I've experienced in the last couple of weeks I'm doing my best to pick myself up and keep going. As I mentioned before, I just started culinary school. I've wanted to do this for a long time - I looked into it when Kate and Peter were around the ages of 4 and 2, but realized at that point there was no way I would have time. Now I have all the time in the world.

So here I am. And so far I love it. I can sit through a four hour lecture or a five hour practical class and not wish class would end because I'm so interested in what I'm learning. I can actually go home and use what I'm learning! What a concept.

There are challenges to this whole going back to school thing, however. I'm not just talking about homework - though there's a lot of that. The biggest challenge I'm finding is how to tell people who I am, something that comes up rather often, without making me sad or freaking them out.

The first day of class we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves, explaining why we're in school and what we hope to do when we graduate. Easy enough. "Hi, I'm Amy. I used to be a guidance counselor, then I was a stay-at-home mom. Now I'm looking into getting back into the career world and I love to cook. I'd like to be a personal chef." Clear, concise, doesn't raise any questions.

I'm also taking an online class and our first assignment was to write an autobiography. Seriously.

I figured I'd basically expand on what I said in class but first I read what everyone else posted. For the most part, the posts went like this, "Hi, I'm Happy McHappington. I live in Atlanta with my wonderful husband and my two adorable children. And I'm pregnant with twins. I love cooking and I'm so excited to be taking this class! Life couldn't be better!"

Ok, so I exaggerate a little because I'm jealous and sad. But really, almost everyone in the class was a stay-at-home mom with two or more children. They all shared the names and ages of their kids and how fabulous they are. Why shouldn't they? I was so torn about what to write. I was afraid that if I shared my real story, I might freak everyone out. I wasn't sure that assignment was the right forum for such sad news. On the other hand, I felt that if I didn't talk about my kids I was denying their existence. And that felt even worse.

Fortunately, my good friend Jenny called while I was in mid-internal-debate. She encouraged me to share my story and speak my truth. After all, it is the truth. My kids are every bit as important to me as everyone else's kids are to them. So I did. As clearly and concisely and non-dramatically as possible. one commented on my autobiography. Oh well, I can't blame them.

Now that I'm getting to know my classmates in my real-life classes a little more this issue is coming up more often. We talk about what we did before coming to school, I mention I was a stay-at-home mom and the next question they ask is "How old are your kids?" It's a logical question.

Unfortunately, I find myself minimizing the situation. I find myself saying, "It's really sad, but they died in a car accident last year. It's ok though." WTF? Why do I say this?! It's not fucking ok! I just don't want to deal with the awkwardness everyone feels after I drop this information. But then I feel like a jerk. Ugh.

I've run into this problem all year. When I travel, when I go out - whenever I meet new people. I guess I should be used to it, but I probably never will be. And I know it will never be "ok" so I'm going to stop saying that. Maybe instead I'll say "I'm doing my best to keep going, to move forward, but I miss them everyday". That sounds better and more honest.

On the bright side, I really do LOVE the cooking part of culinary school. I leave there every day feeling energized and like I want to go home and cook some more. So that's a great thing. I am moving forward, but I will never move on.


  1. I agree, this sounds more honest, and if it makes people uncomfortable, oh well, they'll get over it!

  2. Don't feel bad about making other people uncomfortable. Your kids were real, and beautiful, and wonderful, and you have every right in the world to share as much or as little as you want about them. So what if it makes them uncomfortable? Their discomfort is nothing compared to your pain, and I think that you are handling life's battles extremely well. If anything, it will hopefully make them appreciate the people in their own lives more, and it'll give them a perspective of who you are.

  3. First, congratulations on culinary school - it sounds like the perfect place for you. Also, if you feel like sharing, you should. That is your story, and people need to know you - you are a mother - you are a fledgling chef - you are a well-traveled, interesting person - right now, however, you are a grieving mother, moving on with a life. Someday, among all the cooking and talking and getting to know one another, you will be able to talk more freely about your wonderful kids - among other things.

    Good luck with your classes - all sounds very exciting.

  4. When I first met one of my new neighbors, she talked about her three kids. After a while, she mentioned that her oldest was with God now. And, that she worries about him a lot less than her other two since he's with God.

    She's a grandmother, and I still don't know when or how her son died. He was in his 20s, I think, but I don't know how long ago it was.

    It was at a dinner party with the neighbor ladies. And, it really was awkward. I'm a total nincompoop, so I said nothing. I was surprised at the other neighbors, though. I figured they would know what to say.

    Anyhow, my point is, I don't care that her sharing made me feel awkward. That's totally my problem. I care that I didn't have any words of comfort to offer. I'm glad she shared. I'm really, really, really glad she shared. I think people will be glad that you share. I think someone will hug you and someone else will cry. And, I think not saying 'it's OK' is more honest and much better.

    Good luck with school!

  5. Gah, I can't believe no one commented on your autobiography! Especially other mothers.

  6. I remember you telling me after the accident that the hardest situation for you to be in is when people do not know about Kate and Peter, that they don't know you had these two amazing kiddos in your life. That conversation stuck with me....

    Thinking of you....

  7. Good for you for keeping it real, Amy. My guess is that although no one commented in that forum, their heart ached for you upon learning the circumstances of your return to school. Furthermore, I would imagine that most have added you to their prayers and are watching you slowly move forward with the utmost awe and respect.--JWB

  8. Just say it sister. They can take it. And if they can't, well then that's kinda just too bad for them, isn't it?

  9. Keep it real. Absolutely OK to say that Kate and Peter died in the accident. Don't minimize for others. People get funky about death - really what they should say is "I'm really sorry." and leave it at that. I actually omit how my dad died (suicide) as that's a *really* awkward moment for most people - I actually say he had a heart attack because somehow that's better?! I'm sorry no one commented - but as you are learning people just don't know what to say or they say the WRONG thing.

    I'm so glad you're enjoying culinary school. I hope that you are going to take some photos/show what you're working on occasionally. I know that Kate and Peter would be very proud of you - what's cooler than a mom who's a chef?

  10. I am not surprised that people did not comment on your autobiography. It is hard to know what to say in that situation, and since these people don't know you, they may be afraid of saying the "wrong" thing.

    You are so open and honest that I think most of us feel we can be the same way back. I am sure in time some of these people will be able to talk with you about it. But in the meantime, I like what you are considering saying instead. You should not have to worry about making others uncomfortable, as long as you are okay saying it.

  11. Nobody commented on your autobiography? Geeze people! That is really suprising. I don't know how anyone can overlook your story and the strength and courage that you bring to it. I hope that culinary school allows your creative juices to flow and becomes a good outlet. I know that when I'm in the kitchen, my mind clears. It's almost therapy for me. Plus, on bad days, you can chop things up and let your anger out!

  12. First: I like that you tagged this "swimming." Keep swimming, Amy. You're doing great.

    Second: "Happy McHappington": That made me laugh. Thanks for that :) You're funny!

    Third: Screw worrying about making other people
    "feel uncomfortable/awkward." The conversation's going to come up sooner or later, and I think it's okay to talk about what happened and to admit that, no, everything is not "ok." It's reality. Maybe it's not "Happy McHappington's" reality, but it's yours, and it's okay to admit that. Who knows? You might find some really great friends through culinary school, and how much MORE awkward would it be to bring something like this up later on down the road, when you've already begun cultivating a friendship?! Especially since friendships can blossom before we even know what's happening.

    Fourth: Kate and Peter probably think you're the coolest ever for going to culinary school and pursuing your passion.

    Fifth: Can you make me something awesome for dinner? Please? :)


  13. Amy, Don't ever hold back talking about your amazing little angels.If people are uncomfortable too bad.It is your life and there is nothing to feel awkward about.People will understand.Your an amazing person who is trying to deal with life after the accident. Just like you said when you started your blog"it may not be pretty but it is honest."Many people myself included could not do what your doing and I commend you for that. It would be so much easier to give in to the grief but your doing everything and anything to try to move on.You don't feel amazing I'm sure but to everyone who follows you thinks you are.You will be an amazing chef as well.You deserve the best and happiness until you are reunited with your angels.Now that will most definately be the best day of your life but for now continue to do whatever is getting you through each day.You are in everyones thoughts and prayers.We all are rooting for you to breeze through culinary school and someday eat at your restaurante.And myself for one can't wait for that day.I know it is going to happen because you deserve nothing but love and happiness on this journey and your angels are watching over you every step of the way.They have the best mother in the world and are very proud of you too!

  14. I feel the same way, Lady. I'm honestly not going to my med school reunion because I don't feel like dealing with the repetition of others' reactions. I don't mind telling people (because I love talking about Kate & Peter), but it is really difficult to do when you expect to have to say it to so many people at once.
    Thinking of you (I'm sure our little chef, Kate, is helping you. Peter just wants the cookies).

  15. That was good advice from your friend; I'm glad you shared Kate and Peter in your online introduction (even if no one commented). I will be praying that among your culinary classmates are some potential friends who aren't afraid of the truth and can encourage you in this endeavor.

  16. Amy, I am so, so sorry.... It is just unfair, for one, that you lost your kids to begin with. But even more so that you have to contend with the questions every day. It sounds like you handle those questions well - but don't ever feel embarrassed or self-conscious about sharing the truth. I know how hard it is, I really do... but just say the truth - if people can't handle it, then they suck.

    Just wondering, are you going to PICA (Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts)? My one sister went there and graduated back in about 1995, I believe. She went on to be a very successful chef, only getting out of the field because of the time demands after she had her two kids. It is a wonderful school, and you will learn SO MUCH there!

    I am so glad that you are working towards something you are so passionate about!

  17. Amy, There is a wonderful article on NPR today about The Compassionate Friends conference coming up in July. The piece is called "Where Bereaved Parents Don't Feel So Alone." You might want to check it out. Blessings to you.

  18. This post stuck with me since you wrote it. I can't believe no one commented on your bio. People boggle my mind sometimes. And I can see the reflexive "but it's okay" comment - it's just a reflex, I think - but you shouldn't feel awkward. This is your life and what happened to you. I don't know - I just have been thinking about you and this post. Take good care.