Thursday, October 16, 2014


All my life, there have been two things that have always held the place of utmost importance in my life. Those two things are faith and family. Family has always jockeyed for the lead and the choices I've made in my life reflect that.

Growing up, grandparents weren't always a part of life, frankly they meant clothes we'd never have chosen (and didn't always fit) at Christmas and a card with money on birthdays. It always puzzled me when people talked about cousins with fondness and closeness. Extended family was a nebulous concept- I had it but didn't know them because they didn't live in the same state. I had all the family I needed, overbearing older sisters, an older brother, too many younger brothers and finally a younger sister. For those people, those eight siblings, two parents, they were my life. For them, I made sacrifice after sacrifice, putting their needs ahead of my future and my personal goals. I stayed long after my other siblings left, I made my family my primary relationship when everybody else was dating and getting married. I took care of my mother as her health failed. I cooked and cleaned and did laundry. I wasn't perfect for doing this, I wasn't always happy about it, but the thing is, I did it. When I could have chosen to focus on one person, myself, I didn't. My family came first.

When the unthinkable happened, when my mother died, it was horrible. I can't speak for everybody, but I felt that we pulled together a little tighter in the aftermath. Our father, never the active parent, made an effort. But the unthinkable happened again, our dad died a year and a half after our mom. Maybe you understand what it's like, maybe you don't. Maybe your parents were crappy. But to realize that no one in the world will ever look at you and say "That's *my* daughter" because no one else is your mom, your dad, it's an indescribable pain and loss. Even before it hits you that they won't be there for life's big moments, that they won't be there at your wedding, they'll never hold your first child, there's no one to call and say "hey, you have gone through buying a car/house/jetski, what's your advice?" Even if you have a surrogate, no one looks at you and says "She's mine, my daughter, my flesh and blood. I gave you life." You're orphaned.

After the loss of both parents, the bond between my siblings was fragile and splintered terribly. To make a long story short, it was a hot mess. The best example I can give you is that of a brutally messy divorce with kids involved. We split and it was anything but amicable.

After an entire life spent devoted to family I suddenly found myself without any. I finally had a life where my only concern was myself. I was miserable and lonely without family, I didn't know what to do with myself. That's when my extended family came into the picture. My father's two brothers reached out to the whole family and let me tell you, I reached back. I visited my aunt, uncle and cousins after living alone for six months. Have you ever been absolutely freezing cold and had a warm blanket wrapped around you? It was like that, like coming in from the cold. I left my heart there and moved in with them as soon as the lease on my apartment ended.

There's something that I experience, now that I am orphaned. It's parent envy. There are times I want to slap people for speaking badly about their parents. It was (and to an extent, still is) hard being around people and their parents because the pain and jealousy can be overwhelming. I've recently learned that there's also brother and sister envy. There still are enormous holes in my life that used to be occupied by five brothers and two sisters and a mom and dad. I feel the absence of those people keenly. Huge chunks of my identity are gone. Huge chunks of my history are gone.

Who am I without my family? Who am I, by myself? Who is Hannah? This is my odyssey.

Someone else's words

"Objects are crafted from varied material. From wood and stone, glass, metal and fiber, they are carved, constructed and etched, molded and woven. Families and lives, too, are formed from disparate matter. We create from sinews and blood, muscles and bone, of course, but as well from a wellspring of hope and love and dreams and the annealing strength of disappointment, loss and pain.

It was from these we knit our family."

knitting a family by Anne D. LeClaire

Monday, January 27, 2014


I moved to Virginia because it felt like home.

My visit to Virginia in October 2012, everything I encountered in Virginia was better. The history, the scenery, heck, even the gas stations were superior. The unofficial state slogan "Virginia is for Lovers" rang my chimes to the extent that I bought a sweatshirt that says so. For four months after I returned to my home state, I trudged through the days waiting until I went back. I felt like I was in two pieces, my body in Colorado, my heart in Virginia. February 2013 I made my move, 1700 miles from point A to point B.

Once in Virginia it didn't take forever to realize that Colorado had a few points on Virginia in some columns. I had better coffee in Colorado but in Virginia my coffee is made daily with love and I don't have to take a single step out my front door to get it. Would I move back to Colorado for the coffee? No. (They invented mail order years ago.)

Five months after uprooting and going to Virginia without looking back, I made an unscheduled return visit to Colorado. It was surreal being surrounded by a landscape that I had 27 years of familiarity with and have no sensation of having gone home. I felt no doubt that I had made the right decision in moving.

I knew when I moved that geography wasn't what made Virginia home. No, what makes Virginia home is the people here.