Monday, November 25, 2013

i know so many last words, but i will never know hers.

"grief is like the ocean: it's deep and dark and bigger than all of us. and pain is like a thief in the night: quiet, persistent, unfair."

some people claim that grief gets easier with time, but i guess i always functioned backwards when it came to that stuff. i remember when my mom died i had no clue what was going on. for years after her death i had no clue what was going on. and then the big stuff started happening and i realized she was never coming back. 

at the hospital right before they told me to say goodbye to her one last time i lost my mind. i sat there and started listing off every single event she would miss. every first day of school. my sweet sixteen. high school graduation. college visits. volleyball games. michigan games. my wedding. my first baby. i couldn't stop making that list. i still haven't stopped. for those first few years i didn't realize what it would be like having to experience these things without her. but now i know. and for the passed nine years i have mentally checked off event after event from that list and died a little more each time i did it. 

and while i always thought that the pain would lessen with time, it's only gotten worse. i'm terrified of the day that comes when i have lived more of my life without my mom than with her. and each year as i forget more and more about her, the sadness gets deeper and deeper and i get so scared of forgetting her that i've begun to have nightmares about it. i remember watching the glee episode "the quarterback" and hearing rachel ask mr. shue if he thought she would ever forget finn's voice and the pain and sorrow that she couldn't hide as she said "because i'm afraid that one day i will" broke my heart. 

because she wasn't just talking about finn, she was talking about cory. and all i could think was that yes, yes she would forget his voice. and the way his hugs felt and the way he smelled and his favorite sayings and what his favorite songs were. because i've already started to forget the way my mom would sit in the kitchen on saturday mornings in her big fluffy robe doing a crossword puzzle and the way she saved the crispy fries for last so we could rate the crunch-factor. sometimes i forget the way she loved to listen to books on tape while making dinner and the way she would sing "i see something you don't see" during our easter egg hunts. i forget what it was like to cuddle with her by the christmas tree while she read her favorite nancy drew books to me and how excited she always was to see me after school. i can't even remember what it was like to have her tuck me in at night. 

but i'll never forget the outfit i wore to her funeral or how the day she died was the only time i have ever seen my brother cry. i'll never forget the dances i had to get ready for without her and the broken hearts i had to mend on my own. i'll never forget how happy football games in the big house made her and the way i cried when i got my university of michigan acceptance letter because that's the one moment in my entire life i would share with her if i could only share one. because she bred me to be a michigan wolverine since the moment i was born and all i've ever wanted was to make her proud.
but most of all i'll never forget that the last words i said to her were "i'll never forget you." because i am forgetting her and i feel like i'm breaking my promise to her. nine years have gone by and nine more will go by and then another nine and i'm terrified that one year i won't remember her at all.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

recut horror trailers

happy halloween! in honor of this horrifying holiday that had me sleeping in my dad's room every year until i was sixteen out of terror that michael myers was going to pop up, i thought i would show you some of the best movies that have been cut into horror trailers. they're pretty legit if i do say so myself.
stay safe tonight and eat lots & lots of candy :)

The Lion King

Mean Girls

Back to the Future

Horrible Bosses

Mary Poppins

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

The Sound of Music

Mrs. Doubtfire

Toy Story 3

and just in case you don't like horror movies, here's Harry Potter as a comedy

xoxo, stephy

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

a memoir

today the cultural club in north quad had this activity where we decorate sugar skulls in honor of the dead, which is a popular mexican tradition. the girl explaining it said they don't mourn the death of a loved one, but instead focus on celebrating their life. while i'm a firm believer that mourning is a large part of death, i decorated one anyway and wrote my mom's name on it in memory of her.
and then i started thinking about the memoirs we wrote in ap lit senior year. we could write about any memory we wanted, and i immediately thought of my favorite memory with my mom. so here's the memoir i wrote. it's called "the summer of happiness".

It is a warm summer day. The sun is shining and there is a gentle breeze in the air.
            “Stephy! Lunch is here!” I hear my mom call to me. I swim to the edge of the pool and lift myself up and out of the water. I look around at my surroundings. I see the familiar setting of the Country Club Pool, my second home in the summer. I scramble over to our seats in the shade and grab a big fluffy towel that smells of countless summer memories.
            My mom is setting out my favorite lunch as I dry off: chicken fingers, fries, extra ketchup, and a blue-raspberry slushy. We make small talk but mostly just enjoy each other’s company as we eat our scrumptious meals.
This is how I have always remembered spending my summers. Almost everyday consists of swimming at the place I consider my own. All of the lifeguards let me sit with them while on duty and the entire wait staff knows me by name. The world did not need to be bigger than that fenced in pool area; I had all of the happiness a girl could ask for right here.
I look at my mom sitting across from me as she holds her latest novel in one hand and a french fry in the other. She’s wearing a big sun hat and a protective cover up, even though we’re seated in the shade. This is one of the changes I’ve noticed in my mother lately. The sun is her worst enemy and sunscreen her best friend. She never explains to me why our new favorite section has suddenly moved to the area shaded by the big Oak tree, but I just accept the changes and don’t think much of it.
My mom looks up at me now and notices me watching her. She smiles and puts her book down She asks me how my food is, but already knows the answer.
“Yummy!” I tell her as I eat the last of the fries.
I yawn widely and realize how tired I have become. I walk over to her and sit in her lap, resting my head on her shoulder. She lies down on the pool chair and I snuggle up in her arms.
“Mommy, will you tell me a story?” I ask her, already feeling the calm tiredness coming over me.
So she begins my favorite fairytale, the one about a special little princess with beautiful long hair who meets her perfect prince and achieves all of her dreams. I drift off to sleep as her voice fills my mind and the tranquility of the moment takes over. I could lay like that forever, a daughter in her mother’s arms.

I awake on that same chair eleven years later on a dreary summer day with the same long hair, except I am no longer in my mother’s arms. It seems her darling little princess lost her protector to a demon called cancer and those magical summers disappeared. I sit up and look around. I am laying in our normal spot in the shade but there is no laughter to fills my ears and no companion by my side. I lay back down and close my eyes, desperate to see her face again, to feel her warmth, to recognize her love. But the images are gone, washed away by the sadness that fills my mind. With a heavy heart I realize that my memories are all I have left of my mother and the summers we shared can only be relived in my dreams. 

xoxo, stephy

Friday, October 25, 2013


sometimes it feels as if the world is crashing in around me and i'm suffocating from simply having to take another breath.

i don't know why life is so easy for some and a living nightmare for others. i'll never understand why my brother received all of the brains and i received all of the sadness. or why my mom had to die before she taught me everything a mother should teach a daughter. or why my best never seems to be quite good enough for others.

but i do know that there is nothing more painful than loving someone who will never love you back and nothing sadder than watching pink roses wilt and die. i know that once second best, always second best. i know that i could sleep for three days straight and still be tired. and i know that this world will never be as beautiful to the 20 year old mind as it is to the six year old soul.

people constantly try to get me to open up. "share the feels" as they say. but they forget that i am the girl who patiently sat in mr. lauwers' office for four years in complete silence. he once told me he would give anything in the world to be able to read my mind. but isn't that the beauty of insanity? isn't that the best kept secret of life?
"it's all in your head, alice."
we lose our minds but nobody knows it except our aching souls that are forced to feel it deep in our core at four in the morning when the city is sleeping but our minds are awake with chaos. and sometimes those feels make me so exhausted that there's no use in telling people about them, because they'll never understand. the human race will never be able to take someone's pain and put it in themselves. no one will ever be able to physically feel someone's sadness or anger or despair. and if no one will ever truly understand what it feels like, then what's the point of setting the demons free? they're never going to disappear.

"we stop looking for monsters under the bed when we realize they're inside of us."

Friday, October 4, 2013

stephy in wonderland

one of my all-time favorite stories is alice in wonderland, and for my birthday lauren got me the most incredible and beautiful version of it. i stayed up until 4:30 reading it and it made me feel so incredibly at home, it was surreal. you know at the beginning when she's falling down the rabbit hole and she's trying to recall all of these facts but she keeps mixing them up and she can't understand why she can't think properly?
i feel like that everyday. i'm surrounded by people who are so extremely intelligent and anytime i open my mouth, i wish i would have just closed it instead of speaking because the things i say never compare. everyone always seems so much more talented and so freaking self-assured. i'm so tired of trying to prove myself, and especially trying to prove my worth. i'm so tired tired tired tired tired. i'm so tired and all i can do is be tired. and even being tired makes me tired. i wake up tired and i go to bed tired and sleeping makes me tired and all throughout the day i'm so tired i could collapse.
i love alice in wonderland so much because wonderland is a place where being crazy is celebrated. you don't have to prove that you can solve the hardest math equations or be able to speak fluently in french because nothing makes sense in wonderland. i want to live in a place where everyone is just as messed up and out of their mind as i am. i want a place that's so magical and so far away from reality that i would never have to worry about this silly life and all of the complications it throws my way. i want a place where i can fall so far down the rabbit hole that no one would ever be able to find me.

"if i had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. and contrary wise, what it is, it wouldn't be. and what it wouldn't be, it would. you see?"

Friday, September 6, 2013

beautiful words

nothing is as comforting to me as the written language. life's tough, it really, really is. but to me the most beautiful thing in the world is a broken soul. i admire the people who can take their hardships and feelings and create masterpieces out of a few simple letters.
here are some of my favorites. i hope you find as much beauty in the words as i do.

Monday, September 2, 2013

the summer of fears

“How was your summer?”
I’m pretty sure I’ve been asked that question at least 78 times since I arrived back at school.
“It was okay.” My standard response.
It wasn’t okay, though. It was the worst summer of my life.

Facing your fears is not an easy thing to do. They’re called fears for a reason; they’re fucking scary. Just thinking about the things I’m about to talk about is making my heart race and my stomach drop and my eyes tear up. Fears are no joke.

One time I wrote this poem (here) about my fears and how my biggest one is saying them out loud. It scares the absolute shit out of me. I’ve always been like that. But I guess sometimes you don’t have to say anything. Your nightmares will eventually catch up to you, whether you’re ready or not.

On June 24th, my dad woke me up at 9:30 in the morning. Except he wasn't his normal self. He was slurring and stumbling and couldn't turn his head to look at me.
On June 24th, 2013 at 9:30 in the morning I woke up to my biggest fear: my dad dying right in front of my eyes.

“911: What’s your emergency?”
It’s always taught that when you call 911 you should try to remain as calm as possible. But I. flipped. shit. I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t talk in complete sentences. I was so frantic I’m surprised I didn’t pass out right on the spot. I could never be a 911 operator. I could never listen to person after terrified person as they call in desperation for help. I could never sit at a desk and listen as people’s lives crash around them and crumble to shambles.

An ambulance, fire truck, and rescue squad showed up at my house. They took my dad to our local hospital and the EMTs had me ride with them in the ambulance. I remember that drive so clearly and how the only thing I could think about was if this was exactly how my dad felt as they rushed my mom to the hospital the day she died. And I couldn’t help but wonder if the next time I returned home, I would be doing so as an orphan.

I think by that point the terror was so overwhelming that nothing anyone said to me would calm me down. I paced up and down in the ER having an anxiety attack while a million things went on around me: paperwork, nurse, questions, nurse, doctor, more paperwork, MRI, nurse, major stroke confirmed, too late for reversal medicine, University of Michigan life flight called, emergency procedure needed, more doctors, more panic, panic, panic.

The University of Michigan Health System commercials are my absolute favorite. I cry just from hearing their song. I lived on north campus last year and I secretly loved having to take the bus because the route goes right passed the hospital. I love U of M’s hospital, especially at night. The big illuminated M’s on top of the building have always been so beautiful to me, standing so strong and mighty; the hospital an invincible fortress protecting everyone inside.

I never thought I would spend a week sitting in a room right next to one of those M’s. I never thought I would meet the life flight from the commercial or the doctors and nurses who truly are the leaders and best.

I spent a week sitting by my dad’s side in the stroke ward. I stared out his window almost all day, counting the minutes one Blue Bus at a time. I could see the bell tower from north campus and I’m pretty sure being so close to the place I consider home is the only thing that got me through the week without full-on freaking out. Everyone there was so genuine and encouraging, and my family was so supportive; coming up everyday, making sure my brother and I were never alone while my dad continued to make an incredible recovery.

I remember the day before it happened so clearly, my dad seemed so normal. My best friend and roommate Lauren was over at my house and we were planning out the layout of our dorm room for this year. I remember how my biggest concern that night was how I told my friend that I liked him and he clearly did not feel the same way, and how for those few hours it seemed like the world was crashing down, before it really did. But what I remember the most is that I was awake right before my dad had the stroke. I went to bed at 5:30 that morning. I heard him get up to go to the bathroom. I was slowly drifting off to sleep as the stroke began to wake my dad into a nightmare.

My dad has recovered a lot since then, but he still has a long way to go. He is almost always tired, and he gets confused without realizing it. His mind isn’t all there, and I worry constantly now that I’m gone. For those two months before I moved back to school, I was a full-time caregiver. I did absolutely everything around the house while trying to take care of my dad at the same time. And while he can do a lot of those things now, I still worry that he’ll forget to pay a bill or his mind will drift while he’s driving or he’ll get confused and won’t remember what day it is or what he’s supposed to be doing or where I am.

Which leads to fear #2: driving.
My dad only got permission to drive about a month ago, which means that I had to get my license so I could take my dad to therapy and do errands and such.
I. hate. driving.
I have avoided getting my drivers license for almost four years. Car accidents are so terrifying to me. You hold so much responsibility when you get behind the wheel, and I wasn’t ready to face that obstacle yet.
Well, lucky me. I didn’t have a choice.

Contrary to what many people think, I am actually a very knowledgeable and good driver. I took segment one of driver’s ed and passed it no problem. I spend so much time analyzing what other people are doing wrong, that I know what to do and not do. I stop slowly as opposed to slamming on the brakes and make my turns cautiously. Before the written test, I read the driver’s manual twice and took 5 full practice tests. I got 100% on the written. It was the actual driving test that caused me problems. I practiced with the cones and made sure I knew the answers to the questions the instructor would ask during the test. I made my dad stand outside the car while I tested each light and blinker numerous times before leaving the house. When I practiced, I never went over the speed limit and made sure I stopped at every yellow light. But none of that mattered because
I didn’t even get passed the parking segment. The guy left me sitting between the parallel cones while he went in to talk to my aunt Carla for half an hour. I called my best friend sarah sobbing because who the hell fails their driving test at age 19? Apparently I do.

Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW I’m a good driver. Carla argued with that old man for 30 minutes straight about how I deserve another chance. The guy didn’t give a shit. I knew he wouldn’t. I read the reviews for MG Driving. I had heard about all the people he failed. I just never thought I would become one of them.

Long story short, I waited a couple weeks, practiced my butt off with parking, retook the test, and came one (yes ONE) point away from failing parking again. But I made it.
I, Stephanie Alexandra Wineland, passed the driving test. And while I still don’t like driving, and I still get extremely nervous behind the wheel (and in the passenger’s seat), I faced yet another one of my fears.

Which leads me to my last extreme fear of the summer: the haircut.
The last time I cut my hair was 6 (YES THAT IS A SIX) years ago. Before this summer, I had only cut my hair about five times. I hate hair cuts. No, not hate. Despise. Those scissors are so menacing and final. You can’t cut and paste hair. Once you chop, there is no going back.

But alas, in the wake of my dad’s stroke, he thought it would be a good idea for me to finally get my hair cut. A treat, I believe he called it. And most girls (and guys) jump at the chance to go and get “pampered” at the salon. Many people look at it as a fresh start. After all, Coco Chanel once said “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”

I think I’ve had enough change already this summer, thanks.
But I went. And along with me went five precious inches of my hair.
“But stephy, it’ll grow back!”
That is probably my most hated phrase that anyone has ever said to me. And trust me, I have heard it plenty of times. Because, no, actually, you cannot confirm that it will grow back. And while that seems ridiculous to say, I know it’s true. Because do you know whose hair did not grow back? My mother’s.

My mom died from a cancerous tumor. She went through chemotherapy and treatment right at U of M hospital. Sometimes I would go with her and draw her encouraging pictures in the waiting room while she got treatment. She had cancer for years, but no one ever told me. I was only 11 when she died, even younger when she first started going for chemo. Before she got really sick, to the point where she couldn’t get out of bed, there was only one indication that something was wrong.

And that was that she started to lose her hair. She never went completely bald, but I remember when it started to thin. I remember how she started to wear this hair piece on top where it was starting to fall out. It scared the absolute shit out of me.
I would freak out when I watched her get ready for work, because she was no longer the mother I recognized. I remember my entire family going up north one summer and standing outside of the master bathroom while listening to my mom and her sisters and brother sob while she started losing the first chunks of hair.

And the day before she died, you know what she did? One of the last things that she ever did? She got a haircut. My friend Alexa’s mom was the one who cut it. I remember my mom coming home and saying that she saw the mother of one of the girls in my class and how they were talking about all of the places that had lost power from the weather that day. I remember the haircut being so completely different from the way she normally cutt it and telling her how she didn’t look like herself anymore. I remember going to my room and crying because all I wanted was the mom that I knew, who never missed a recital because she couldn’t get out of bed, who slept with me when I was afraid the monsters would get me, and was always up for a happy meal on a gloomy day.

When people ask me why I’m afraid of getting a haircut, I’ve never really given them an answer. “I just am,” I respond. But the real reason is because I’m afraid my hair won’t grow back, just like my mom’s.

My friends are always telling me to not worry, but I think once you experience fear on a large scale, even if it happened years ago, you can’t help but become fearful of life. After losing one parent, the thought of losing the other one multiplies to a level that is impossible to explain. I’m suddenly having nightmares every night, watching my dad suffer and slowly die over and over again.
I feel like I'm reliving my childhood fears. I’ve started sleeping with my light on again, because once my dad had a stroke I suddenly became afraid of monsters under my bed again. I have never been so fearful of life because I’ve seen how fragile it is. I’m constantly panicky and I don’t like turning my phone off, for fear that my dad will call needing me and I won’t be able to save him.

This life stopped becoming a wonderland and turned into living nightmare the moment I woke up on June 24th. Sometimes fears are harder to conquer than one might think.

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”