We will always remember Ellie for her love for others, her creativity, sensitivity, and delight in life! Ellie's light has spread far and wide... may it continue to shine in our hearts.

Monday, March 31, 2008


Have you ever noticed how shocking the word "dead" is? Most people, particularly from generations older than mine, will almost whisper "passed away" or even pause without saying a word at all to describe the departing of the departed one. It's as if an elephant has torn through the walls, leaving debris and destruction littering the floors. This large, grey beast is standing right there swinging it's giant trunk from side to side and all of the people standing around politely avert their eyes and pretend that there is no elephant. Everyone, that is, except children. I love children. Leave it to a child to point and say "oh my goodness, there is an elephant in the middle of the room!"

On Easter, we were able to go to a potluck at John's work. Some of our family was also there, and I got the biggest blessing from Ethan's little cousin, Alec (who is about the same age as Ethan). We were sitting around the table and Alec piped up and asked me "didn't you used to have a little girl too?" Bless his little heart, he stood right up and called the elephant out! His candor touched me so much. There we were - John, Ethan and me - an incomplete family, with gaping wounds in our hearts and someone came forth to acknowledge that something was wrong with this picture.

I have been spending much of the past evenings looking at pictures of Ellie to decide which ones to hang up in the house. It has been a much more complicated process than I ever thought it would be. Like I mentioned before, I want to be aware of the temptation to make our walls into a shrine. But I am finding the temptation much greater than I ever thought possible. I am at the point where I would wallpaper the walls with Ellie's pictures if I could. I love all of the pictures. It's as if the summation of the past year's pictures together form such a whole view of Ellie... like drawn animation. They form a moving, expressive look at who Ellie was. But I resist the temptation because I don't think that it is healthy for our family, particularly Ethan. There will still be plenty of pictures. One will not be able to see any angle of our living room without an imprint of Ellie, but it will be a little more subtle than wallpaper! I will have some of her artwork framed on one wall, my collage will be on another with the vinyl quotes. I will also heavily include Ethan. I want him to be able to see his sister, but also know that he is just as important. I want him to see how the family fit together when Ellie was alive, and then know that we are still a unit without her. But a unit that will never forget our Ellie. I am also going to hang pictures of both kids as babies and toddlers. I have enjoyed going through the old pictures as well. But every so often I would come across a photo of a healthy, vibrant, pre-cancer Ellie and my heart would lurch and I would think "she's DEAD!" I know... it's just... shocking. But I suppose that I'm just childlike enough to want to look that elephant in the eyes sometimes. Every once in a while something comes over me and I want to yell "We are not o.k! She's DEAD, and it's not o.k!" That's all. It doesn't change anything. But sometimes it has to be said... if only to myself.

Yesterday my friend, Jen, and I went shopping for the final pieces to bring the living room together. We had so much fun laughing and shopping. I felt normal for the first time in a long time. And I heard myself saying things like "I have always hated shopping with the kids - even Ellie. She was such a pest when it came to going into stores." All of my memories of Ellie are not special, beautiful, Hallmark moments. It somehow feels good to weave them all into the fabric of my remembrances. It feels... real. Jen took it all in stride. We found some lovely little brushed silver figurines in ballet poses. I wanted one to go next to a picture of Ellie, but the ones I saw were a little off. The hair was in a bun, or the figure was too curvy. Then Jen said "look!" and pulled out this little form that almost looked like a stick figure - no curves with skinny little arms and legs in a ballet pose. My heart almost stopped. And then Jen said "look, she's bald!" You should have seen the two of us in that isle, exclaiming and giggling. It was wonderful. Needless to say, I bought the bald stick-figure!

So... this is my life. Life without Ellie. Grieving, laughing, crying... life. In the words of Ethan: "I'm a power ranger all alone. My sister is dead." Yep. She's dead. It stinks.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

And the saga continues...

Good news... the couch is in!! It took some blood, sweat and tears, but the deed is done. Mike and Loretta helped me while John was at work. We had to take doors off hinges and move the fridge and perform some gymnastics in the kitchen to flip the whole couch over (because we put it into the kitchen backwards). The three of us and the sofa literally filled up the entire kitchen. It was a sight to behold. There was a point when Loretta and I were holding the couch up in the air and partially balanced on the counter while Mike let go to shove the stove further into a corner. I was stunned when the thing actually made it into the living room. There was only a minor scrape on one wall and a small dent in a door frame. That, I do believe, is a miracle! So thank you to anyone who was praying. I really think I would have cried if it didn't work.

In other news, my dear sweet husband voluntarily relinquished the job of hanging the curtain rods! (And no, I did not beg or plead. I didn't even mention it again - other than on the blog. He just told me that I could do it!) I have not done them yet, but I've started measuring and figuring. I intend to get my mind right and think like a perfectionist. I will do the math and check it twice, and I WILL use a level. Don't think I'll mess with the stud finder. It's just not necessary (but don't tell John).

I'm hoping to be finished with the room by the middle of next week, and then I will post pictures. I need John to do some things before it's totally done, and there's a little bit of last minute shopping to do, pictures to hang...

Thanks for checking in and being so interested in our lives. We appreciate you all.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Only mostly dead

Painting's done. So sore... can't move... muscles hurt that I never knew I had.

Newest obstacle: the couch is not fitting through the doors. It is already in our bedroom, but needs to be moved into the room next to the bedroom. The large doors are configured in such a way that the couch can only go outside, but not into the second room. Hard to explain - there's a mudroom that makes it complicated. Our next move is to try going through the small door into the kitchen and then through another small door. This means taking doors off hinges and moving the fridge. And just MAYBE it will fit. And maybe not. If that doesn't work, then we will look into dis-mantling the couch. And if that doesn't work... I guess it's time for a new couch. (Note to self: when buying a couch, gigantic is not always the best size.) Good grief, nothing's simple.

I will definitely get pictures out once there is something there besides just painted walls.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Confessions of a toolbelt diva

I've been painting!! Can you see my smile from there? I'm giddy with delight... or would be were it not for the pain in my neck, back, shoulders, legs, arms... Ugh. I am by no means finished, but it's starting to look beautiful. Think walls of coffee ice cream with one wall that looks like pure milk chocolate. Yum. It was like painting with chocolate fondue. Had there not been a paint smell, I would have been so tempted to lick it! I had such a blast today. I was singing along with the radio while I painted. Even the Stephen Curtis Chapman song "Cinderella" didn't completely take me down. (The chorus says "So I will dance with Cinderella, while she is here in my arms 'cause I know something the prince never knew. Oh I will dance with Cinderella, I don't want to miss even one song, 'cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight and she'll be gone.") I sang along and thought about Ellie. I also remembered the day Ellie died. John and I promised her that we would be o.k. This was a good day for me. A day of being o.k. Ellie wanted to move into this house so much. Even the day before she died, she would talk about what it would be like to have a "normal" life again and how she wanted her room decorated. That has caused me some pain to know that she never got her wish. But I know that she would be so happy for us. I had the thought that maybe God could pull back the curtain of Heaven a little and let my girl have a peek at my paint choices. But then I thought that He would need to give her a second look once it's finished because I couldn't bear it for her to see it unfinished.

So a wonderful thing happened today. I found my cordless drill! I almost cried when I thought it had been sold in Florida. I love that crazy drill. It's perfect - lightweight with an easily removable chuck. I can be balanced at the top of the ladder and do a one-handed switch between the drill bit and the screwdriver. Anyway... I found it today and called John, all excited. His response? "Oh, good." Such enthusiasm. Maybe it's because he has the mack-daddy heavy duty upgraded drill (the reason I inherited my little treasure) and couldn't fully appreciate my joy. That's alright. I did my own little happy dance and continued painting.

Sometime later, John stopped in to check on my progress and we had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: Honey, would you mind if I hang the curtain rods while you are at work this week?
Him: Yes.
Me: Yes, I can or yes you mind? (Because one could hope that he misunderstood the question.)
Him: Yes, I mind. (Drat.)
Me: Oh. Really? You really want to do it yourself?
Him: Yes. Whenever you want - I'll do it. I want to find the studs.
Me: It really doesn't matter where the studs are. The rods will need to be hung in a certain place whether there's a stud there or not.
Him: I know. But I can use my new stud finder to figure out whether we need to use an anchor or not. (Ahhh. So now we have come to the root of the issue. It's his nice, new, fancy stud finder against my oh-so-perfect drill.)
Me: Well, I just drill a tiny hole where I want the screw to go. If there's wood there, I screw into it. If not, I use an anchor. (I have learned this the hard way. I have left behind a trail of gaping wounds in walls all over the state of Florida, that have been cleverly hidden by pictures or other decorations.)
Him: But I have a really cool stud finder. (Said with all of the wisdom and confidence of a man who knows his wife is not a perfectionist. Also a man who has probably stumbled accross a few of his wife's hidden wall "boo-boos".)

Score one for the stud finder.

That's o.k. I can guarantee you that someday John will return home to find that something in the house has been fixed or hung by me and my drill. I may even pay attention during the curtain rod installation so that I can use his stud finder too! I must find an excuse to don my tool belt. Oh yes, I have my own tool belt. (A very sweet and optimistic gift from the man to his non-perfectionist wife! A gift that said wife chooses to believe has nothing to do with husband's fear of missing or mangled tools in his own pristine tool belt.)

Progress reports will be forthcoming.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My Redeemer

"I know that my Redeemer liveth,
And on the Earth again shall stand;
I know eternal life He giveth,
That grace and power are in His hand."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Contrasts and Comparisons

Thank you all for your well-wishes. We had a wonderful date last night! We have pictures, and I had the idea of comparing our last three anniversaries - since they were each in a different state. Unfortunately I have no pictures of our anniversary in 2006. I only have a scenery picture from Florida.

The views from our homes... I am sure that opinions abound as to which view is the most beautiful, but I have to tell you - we just love each of them. Each location is gorgeous to us, all for different reasons. We have wonderful memories in each place.

Florida: 2006

New York: 2007

Montana: 2008

The Restaurants:

New York - The view was onto the Ice Rink in the Rockefeller Plaza
March 19, 2007


Montana - the view was over the Whitefish Lake
March 19, 2008


John and Sarah Skees:

March 19, 2007

March 19, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Today is our 14th. wedding anniversary! We are planning to go out for a nice dinner tonight. It is good to look back sometimes... take a trip down memory lane. We have had many wonderful years, but some (such as the past one) have been harder than others. Loretta just came in and told us about a sermon she was listening to, about how hurricanes can really clean things up. Dead branches fall out of trees and even the air has been washed clean. Unfortunately, along with the dirt and deadness, very precious things can also become casualties. That sort of rings true in our life. We may be dealing with loss and devastation, but there is also a sense of focus and simplicity - a knowledge that what is left behind could not be touched by the winds and downpour. What remains is not only extremely solid, but sacred. It is, or at least feels... untouchable.

Today is also the 13-week anniversary of Ellie's death. Every Wednesday night John's cell phone alarms at 7:43 p.m. It always surprises me, because I don't think about it the same way - I don't mark the weeks so precisely. When the alarm goes off, I am startled into the realization that another week has gone by and at that exact time, on a Wednesday not too long ago, we were watching Ellie take her last breath. I have always found it sad and wondered why John would torture himself so. But last week John was outside at 7:43 p.m. when his abandoned cell phone alarmed next to me. I opened it up to turn the alarm off and read the words "Ellie's Freedom". Somehow, with that one little phrase, my thinking has changed. I find John's compulsive remembrance touching and meaningful, and much more complicated than just mournful.

For me, the past few days have been full of tears. I have cried both violent "I-can't-breathe" kind of tears, as well as the gentle, aching, sorrowful tears of a broken heart. It is, I suppose, another kind of washing of the air.

We are making preparations to move into our little "cabin". Loretta is moving over to the big house this week and then I have a little painting to do before we can move over. I am planning to incorporate many special touches to bring Ellie's presence into our home. I am trying not to build a "shrine" but to find ways to honor Ellie with pictures and with words - some way to acknowledge Ellie in our home other than through her painful absence. I bought some vinyl quotes to stick on the wall. They say: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... it's learning to dance in the rain." "Because someone we love is in Heaven, we feel Heaven in our home." and "Some people come into our lives, leave footprints in our hearts, and we are never the same." I think that Ellie would approve!

I will be sure to put out pictures of our home. We will be finishing it off slowly - one room at a time. My hope is to complete the living room first. I miss my sofa so much. For most women, the kitchen is the heart of their home, but the living room (particularly the sofa) has always been mine. I can't wait to have a home again, and at least it will have it's heart back - even if it is still broken.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Well... life goes on... I still spend most of my days in a state of exhaustion, with very little will to get moving, go anywhere, or do anything. I could happily spend days on end not speaking to another human being. I mostly still feel, as I did before, that there are simply no words. The only real spark that I feel is in being creative. For the moment, it is the only link that I can find to my former self. The best thing that I have noticed is that I am living in a state of grace, similar to that which I experienced after giving birth to Ellie - only more somber. After Ellie was born I was able to sit in an easy chair all day long, holding my new baby while my mom took care of all of the details of life - cooking, cleaning, laundry and such. I can only describe it as a time of grace - a sort of surreal period where I only had to worry about taking care of myself and snuggling a very tiny baby. I knew that it would not last forever, but it was a guilt-free season of rest. And that is exactly what I am experiencing now. I feel so decadent and lazy, but I have been once again given the opportunity to rest. Mike and Reni are even entertaining Ethan so that all I have to do is spend time snuggling him. Some of my most precious times with Ethan have been rocking him to sleep when he's had trouble sleeping.

In the past few days I have had two completely different and yet incredibly special experiences. A couple of days ago I was so happy... for absolutely no reason. Loretta and I giggled and joked and out-right guffawed - for no reason. We were positively giddy. It took me almost the whole day to realize that I was just... happy. There was an unbelievable feeling of lightness in my whole being. The feeling did pass, unfortunately, but the fact that it was there at all was a marvel! And then just tonight, I was sitting across from John while we were eating and I caught sight of a picture of Ellie on the computer monitor just over John's shoulder. I spontaneously burst into tears. I'm not sure who was more surprised - Loretta (who immediately began crying as well) John, or me! I was completely caught off guard. But I have to tell you, the wonder of it all is that the tears felt every bit as great as the happiness had.

So... I have nothing earth-shattering for you... just reflections of life thus far. I am trying to come to grips with the fact that I will never be the same person that I was before. But I am so glad to see signs that I will not always be the person that I am now.

Monday, March 03, 2008

And the dance lives on...

Ethan has been missing Ellie a lot over the past couple of days. Yesterday he and La were talking about what they do when they miss Ellie. Ethan said "I cry a little and look at the stars. I also get angry and want to hurt people sometimes when I miss Ellie." I hope he never loses that ability to be completely honest! Ethan got so excited last night because he got ready for bed all by himself and while he was jumping for joy he asked "can Ellie see me right now?" Then we went out to the garage to tell Loretta (who was working out there sorting boxes) that he had gotten himself dressed. She was listening to music and Ethan broke into a spontaneous dance! Tell me if you recognise any moves (despite the decidedly higher energy level)...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Art Therapy

So this time I have been away because I've been spending very little time on the computer and a lot of time doing ART! We are still not in our home, so I've been driving myself crazy thinking of ideas that I cannot implement. I finally got tired of thinking and decided to make something. It has been so much fun! The end result is a 30"x40" canvas to hang in our home. The fun part about this project is that I didn't use paint. It is a collage of pictures and words that I tore out of magazines as well as some photographs. I will first show you the finished picture, and then some close-ups of different parts.