Grief

I need to write.

Every day it gets easier. Every day it gets harder. I’m slogging through the days, some seem normal, others seem like a surreal half-life.

Grief is like a fog. It clouds you. It comforts you. It brings you to your knees at moments so benign you had no warning.

I thought I turned a corner. Since my father died I have gone from crying all day, to having zero tears left in me, to crying once again. I went weeks without tearing up. Two, maybe three. Almost as if I was refusing to acknowledge the reality of it all, refusing to let it control me.

I guess I’m in the denial stage. If we’re keeping track. Is anger next? I’m not angry yet. I’m too damn sad to be angry. Just when I thought I could simply go back to life, grief reminded me and sat me back down on the couch. Not yet, dear. Not yet.

Next week will mark two months. Two entire months without my father. Countless skating lessons for my daughter that he would have loved. Hundreds of conversations with my son, trading wit and barbs that he would have laughed at. Missed phone calls from me, every day after dropping off my kids at school, that we could have used to talk and talk and talk. I want to talk about the election with him. I want to talk about the Cubs going to the World Series with him. I want to make the eggplant parmesan he loved and make up the guest room, with special stuffed animals and signs from the kids so he can come stay, like he was supposed to.

I almost feel numb and breathless thinking of what should have been. I don’t know how I am supposed to act. Should I be moving on now? Should I be able to do more than sit and think? I can barely put on my clothes let alone move on. If I could stay in my bed all day, I would. Getting moving is challenging. A chore. In fact, everything is a chore.

Life feels broken. Certainly not the same. I almost feel guilty enjoying life. We took the kids to Disney on Friday and when I found myself so thankful and happy for my wonderful family I immediately felt guilty that I was enjoying myself. I assume this feeling will fade as time goes on, but right now it’s like I’m in a limbo of sorts, just trying to find my footing.

In the weeks since, so many people have offered their condolences. Helped pay to replace my bracelet that holds his ashes. Reached out to see how I was doing and to check up on me. For these kind gestures I am eternally grateful. Family, even extended family, has been so amazing I again feel guilty. Should I suffer more? Less? See how haywire my thinking is?

I just needed to write tonight.

Ronald R. Kotecki

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Ronald Richard Kotecki, a native of Detroit who was a U.S. Air Force veteran, marketing director and was devoted to his family, died Friday, September 2, 2016, in Spring Hill, Florida. He was 71.

Ron, a graduate of Pershing High School, joined the U.S. Air Force after high school. An avid sports fan and athlete, Ron also tried out for his hometown Detroit Tigers, and made it through the first callback during tryouts.

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He later became a regional marketing director for such publishing houses as Meredith, Hearst, Luddington News in downtown Detroit and such magazines as Women’s Day and Penthouse.

In addition to his career, and raising a family, Ron played softball, bowled, and until his illness, played in the Old Timer’s hockey league where they are ‘too old to pucker.’ Many of the teams Ron played for were sponsored by local establishments such as Tudges Pub in St. Clair Shores.

He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Nancy (nee Candea); daughter, Erin Elizabeth (Aaron Vest); son, Ronald Gui (Kaprem Proeung); grandson, Jackson Vest; granddaughters, Hala Vest and Kamilla Kotecki; sister Mary Ann (Richard Laimbeer); brothers, Eugene (Diana Dunn) and Richard; Brother-in-law of Jeff Candea (Joan Marzolino), Ric Candea and Barbara Candea (Wayne Kuntz); and Uncle to many nieces and nephews.

Ron was predeceased by parents Helen and Eugene Kotecki; sister, Geraldine; and sister-in-law Karen Candea (Crawford ‘Jim’ Borwick living).

A celebration of his life will take place in Michigan next summer.

In lieu of flowers please make donations to the Lupus Foundation of America, 2121 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20037.

Written by:
Edward Cardenas

“Is the wall here yet?”

Those are the words of a small child, a Latino Kindergartner in Tennessee to be exact, who his teacher says was “told by classmates that he will be deported and trapped behind a wall” —and he asks every day, “Is the wall here yet?”

Think about that for a second.

In other parts of the country “some are using the word Trump as a taunt or as a chant as they gang up on others. Muslim children are being called terrorist or ISIS or bomber.”

This is all from a study done by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They report:

      • More than two-thirds of the teachers reported that students—mainly immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslims—have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election.

      • More than half have seen an increase in uncivil political discourse.

      • More than one-third have observed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment.

      • More than 40 percent are hesitant to teach about the election.

What on earth have we done? Have you seen that ad by Hillary Clinton’s campaign? The one about “our children are watching?” You need to:

Have you talked to your own kids about the election? Now that we’re back to school the instances of hate are, if the Southern Poverty Law Center’s study is right, going to rise.

Donald Trump doesn’t have the temperament, judgement, or frankly the class to be President of this great country. How can we possibly go from what has to be one of the classiest President’s in Barack Obama to someone resembling your ranting, drunk, used-car selling uncle at Thanksgiving?

It’s typical to say “think of the children.” But really, when you have to turn off a Trump rally we really need to start thinking of the children.

I’m glad Hillary Clinton has, and I hope you’ll be voting for her in November.

Dear First Lady Michelle Obama

Just before Christmas in December 2006, I reached out to you, hoping you would weigh one more thing as you and your husband decided whether or not he should run for President, and I made you a promise.

I was sympathetic to your history changing decision and excited for 8 years of an Obama White house. And I promised you no matter what happened, we Moms would have your back.

So much has happened since I wrote those words that graced my own blog, the Huffington Post, and the Chicago Sun-Times. First and foremost let me say how incredibly proud I am of this administration and of you, the most amazing and flawless First Lady our country has ever seen. It may not have been your favorite role, but damn if you didn’t nail it.

You launched programs that changed lives. From eating right and exercising to making sure military families had a helping hand, your legacy will live on well after you and the family have moved out of that big house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I know things haven’t been easy, and that you have dealt with more…what’s the right word here…bullshit than any other First Family. You just weren’t under the microscope of the public eye, you were under the microscope of being the first in American history and that history weighed on everyone in the West and East Wings.

You raised two daughters who, by all means, seem to be strong, proud, intelligent young women who will no doubt follow in their parents’ foot steps. I watched as my children grew with yours, passed mile stones and sprouted their wings. Just that accomplishment alone would be enough for praise in this day and age, but you managed to do more, be more, and give more.

You opened the White House to so many families, of all colors and religions and sexual orientations like no First Family has ever done before. Some of my favorite moments of this Presidency are of you and your husband welcoming so many regular citizens into the house of the people and simply chatting.

I hope we Moms have been a source of strength for you. Today, as you embark on the inaugural Women’s Summit at the White House I truly hope my words from 2006 pledging us Moms would have your back has been a tiny source of strength. We’ve been beating back the haters online and off, vigilantly defending the good you do and the good you are.

I want to thank you for making that tough decision way back when, and deciding to take the road to the White House. As a nation we are much better to have had you, and as a mother you have given the rest of us a shining example of what can be if we’re willing to take risks.

Congratulations on two successful and inspiring terms and I hope you find solace and peace in your life after the White House…we Moms will always be here when you need us.

 

Sincerely,

Erin Kotecki Vest

Goodnight

I feel the need to do this. So just let me.

I’m on day 7 in the hospital. This time I have CDiff, fluid in both lungs, an infection of the blood, and paralyzing gastroparesis making eating impossible.

Eating has actually been impossible for several months now. Getting worse and worse as time went on. The doctor had a nurse coming over to give me hydration via my port. Which turned into months of me not eating and only living off the IV in my living room. I’d sleep a lot. I’d pick up the kids, take them where they needed to go. Get some sort of dinner on the table. And fall back on the couch exhausted. When you don’t eat it takes everything in you to just shower.

For some of this time I was on steroids. For the second half of the IV, couch, IV, couch life I was finally weened off the steroids and the weight has begun to drop off. All those years of steroids coming off in a few weeks’ time. I’m down to almost a normal weight for me. A heavy normal, for sure. But it’s still falling off and I can’t imagine it will be long before I’m looking like myself again.

That is if I get much further.

There has been an ominous feeling about this illness and this bout, in particular, looming. I came to the hospital knowing my stomach was bad and the CDiff was probably causing it and finding out my lungs are bad and my blood is sick. Nothing about this stay feels hopeful.

Even the procedure I will have in the morning isn’t hopeful. It’s a stop gap to get some nutrition in my body. I’ll be getting a tube in my stomach so I can be fed like an invalid. My stomach isn’t working and we don’t expect it to work anytime soon. So this is the next step in keeping my organs going.

I’m not feeling good about going under in the morning. And for all of these reasons and more I want you all to know I love you. Yup, even you, reading this because you heard something happened and you wanted to see what I had to say.

Take care of my babies. Take care of my husband. They will need it. Keep my family in your thoughts but more important make sure they are all doing what they should be doing. Aaron needs to be rocking out and making the pretty pictures on the big screen. Jack needs to be inventing and finding himself during this confusing time. He’s a mamma’s boy. Remind him to dream big and flamboyantly. To his embarrassment. Because it’s what I would do. Make sure Hala keeps her strength but allows herself to break down. She doesn’t have to be so strong. She knows who she is, like I did at that age, and she’s sure of herself. Remind her. They are the loves of my life and I will haunt them forever to be there. I refuse to miss a thing.

Make my Mom travel and my Dad be the Gramps he needs to be. Make Ronnie change diapers and not wiggle out of it. And when he gets to that Dad point scratching his head, tell him I told him so.

Wrap my friends in words. The ones I was close to. The ones I wanted to be close to. The ones I spent more time with in digital form. The old friends I still think about and love and the new friends I’ve welcomed into the fold. Be bold in your words and in your life. Don’t be afraid to debate that Republican and stand up for those who need it more than you.

To those I pissed off with my words I don’t take a single one back, and you love me for it. To those I inspired with my words know that was an accident but I’ll take it.

I’m so tired of being sick. I’m so tired of living this half life where people take care of me and I try and fail to take care of a household. I hope what is there is memories of love and snuggles and fierce independence.

I’m sure this will pass and I’ll float on to the next half life in this illness. Fighting. God, I’m always fighting. I’m so tired.

Fight for me and mine now. Get Erin angry and move a mountain. I’ve moved plenty. Now it’s your turn.

xoxoxoxox

Assignment #3: Chipotle Social

Look anywhere today and you can’t shake a stick without hitting a company on social media. It has become part of the corporate normal if you want to do business in today’s day and age.

One of the most revered brands “doing” social is Chipotle Mexican Grill who tells me via Twitter they’ve been on the ‘big’ platforms since 2009:

Just before chatting with me the Chipotle account was using the platform, where they have 760,0000 followers, to spread their humor and engage with customers:

Chipotle can also, as they told us via twitter, be found on Facebook and various other platforms. If you take a look at their Facebook page you can see their many millions of ‘friends’ not to mention advertisement for their latest ‘bowls’ and engagement with fans.

Over on Instagram, Chipotle’s account has 312,000 followers and bright, bold photos of their food. The photos also have comments from customers and engagement with staff.

With over 37-thousand people subscribed to their youtube channel you can check out the latest in the Chipotle kitchen or simply watch the food be made.

If you’re looking for mentions of Chipotle, you can find them all over social media. Even the popular FailBlog has a tag dedicated to the chain.

You can also check out their corporate blog for the more official word. You can find food pairings and contests, among other things.

“Whether you want to sample some of the best craft brews in the city or treat your palate with top quality sustainable wines, we’ve got you covered.

Available only at our Minneapolis Cultivate Festival, be sure to try the Cultivate Farmhouse Ale by Surly Brewing.”

Chipotle has become well known for it’s social media presence and engagement, earning it a mention in Mashable for “Cultivating a Better World:”

“Specifically, Chipotle wants people to start considering where their food comes from. The company supports family farms over industrial farm factories and makes it a point to source ingredients from local farms that exhibit positive behaviors toward animals and the environment. From Facebook to Twitter to YouTube, Chipotle’s social media activity remains fiercely loyal to this ethos.”

However their social hasn’t been all roses and accolades. In March of 2016 the chain lost a suit in which they fired an employee for making a disparaging remark about the company. According to ABC News a judge stated that Chipotle’s social media policy violated labor laws and ordered the restaurant chain to post signs explaining that these policies, as well as some others, were illegal. Chipotle was also ordered to rehire the fired employee.

According to a 2011 Nation’s Restaurant News study, it was found that Chipotle responds to 83% of Facebook posts — more than any other quick-service restaurant. Almost 90% of the company’s activity on Twitter is responding to customers through @-mentions.

As reported in the Mashable article: Structurally, Chipotle employs a three-person social media team to staff its main platforms: Rusty Partch, Myra Ryder and (Joe) Stupp. On Twitter and Facebook, each team member signs his or her name at the end of a tweet/post, allowing community members to get to know the different voices on the team in a personal way. “It’s more interesting for us and for customers to get to know individuals,” says Stupp. “Rusty doesn’t have the same voice as me — and I don’t want him to.”

Blazing the way in brand to consumer social media engagement, Chipotle Mexican Grill is a great example of how some companies are leading the way in this brave, new, digital world.

Spring

Both of my babies were born in the Spring. Putting me on the same cycle as Mother Nature with all her renewal and birth and other hippie dippy prose.

The season always gives me hope, usually when I start anew in our garden and plant. It’s a physical activity, one I haven’t been able to do for too many years due to my illness.

That changed this year. With some help from my son, I planted this year’s garden nearly all on my own. Tearing out last year’s weeks, mixing new soil, sowing seeds. I did it. I. ME.

God I can’t even explain how good it felt.

Of course I then got sick and ended up seeing all my doctor’s. But it was so worth it. So very, very worth it.

My next project is my bedroom. Clothes in every size from 6 to 26 have piled up because I’ve refused to get rid of old clothing, swearing I’ll soon be ‘back to normal’ and in my old clothes. I have to face the reality those ‘old’ clothes are six years old. My illness going on year seven.

Seven years of pain.

Seven years of helplessness.

Seven years of guilt.

Seven years of healing.

Year one of hope in the Spring.

The Tale of the Mommyblogger Who Is No Longer a Mommy

I’ve started and stopped this post about a dozen times over the past 8 months. Not from writer’s block…no, that hasn’t been the issue. Not because of my health or needing time to really concentrate.

I’m a mommyblogger that is no longer a mommy. The kids, they call me Mom now. Usually with an eyeroll, a groan, or a shoulder shrug and sigh.

When they called me mommy I was enveloped by little arms and sticky hands for a hug that would last and last. They would last so long I carried them and rarely put them down.

I’m a mommyblogger who is no longer a mommy and it hurts.

Now when I write about the kids, I ask their permission first and they get final review with a clear cut ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when it comes to hitting the publish button. Having lived their entire lives in front of my audience, they remain used to me sharing so they rarely say no. But that doesn’t stop the guilt. If they do say yes I still pepper them with questions to make sure they are cool with what I’m posting. This is their life. They deserve a say. They deserve to have their voice be heard in my piece and they deserve total control over what I do or do not disclose to the public.

We’ve entered the next phase of Mommyblogging where our kids now have blogs or vlogs of their own. They have joined online communities in Minecraft and Roblox and Animal Jam. Some of their in world homes rival the castle I once inhabited in Second Life. We had fun in SL, throwing dance parties and changing our avatars’ skins and hair and clothing. So you can imagine how it feels to watch your daughter decorate her den in Animal Jam, change her avatar to a wolf and proceed to shop for new boots and sunglasses. She then invited her other Animal Jam buddies over for a dance party.

How quickly things change, yet oddly stay the same.

I’m trying to work out where I fit in the Mommyblogging 2.0 world. I left to tackle politics yet kept most of my writing parent centric. I got sick and blogged about my health. And somewhere between all of that my kids went from blog fodder to bloggers themselves.

I still want to write about life. Our family’s life. I’m picking topics and ditching topics because I wonder what my kids will think. What if I write something, feel I really need to publish, and they ask me not to?

I know I’m not alone. Many in my community of Mombloggers have changed their focus in the past few years. Some starting businesses that began on their blogs, others continuing their writing yet taking more review gigs for income.

Me? I just want to write. I want to write like I always have written. If my daughter is consuming my thoughts on any given day I want to type. If my son has me thinking well into the night I want to type.

When I first began blogging I didn’t have two people over my shoulder, I had two in my lap nursing and playing while I typed.

If I can’t be my authentic self to you, I can’t do this anymore. I believe I can still be that authentic blogger you once knew, but she’s finding her way back slowly. With some new rules. With some new boundaries.

Thanks for sticking around for so many years to hear about my life, my family, my passions.

I hope you will continue to come on over and read as I start this new journey. Maybe it is more like an old journey that’s story isn’t quite done yet.

-Erin