Saturday, March 7, 2015

That time I tried to say goodbye...

This last week was the hardest of my entire life.

I would love to blame it on the fact that I witnessed both a raccoon and cat get hit on two separate occasions, or that I went to a bathroom at a rest stop on the way to Indiana from Ohio and a second pair of underwear fell out of my pants, or that the rejections on my latest manuscript are the nicest, most complimentary I've ever had, making this writing thing as heart wrenching as when Aerosmith temporarily broke up. But no.

One week ago today, the woman I lived with off and on throughout the years, the woman who taught me how to be a human, the woman who made me understand what LOVE means, my sweet Gram, passed.

For those of you who follow me on any of my social media hangouts, you know she'd been sick awhile. The beginning of the end was official about a year ago when she moved into the first nursing home. There will be some of you, like me, who will see this news and think "she was old; it's what old people do--they die." Or "what a great grandma she must've been." And it's really difficult to put into words, to explain to those who don't know, who this woman was to me.

She. Was. Every. Thing.

For seven days now, I've awakened in tears, the feeling of her in this world...gone. No matter how much we all braced ourselves, said our goodbyes, nothing could have prepared me for this loss. Nothing. The air has been pulled out of my lungs. She was that necessary, that vital, to my life on this earth. Even miles away, just knowing she was there was enough to help me breathe and that thing, breathing, is hard enough already.

Even right in the middle of writing the obituary and eulogy, of helping pick out the flower arrangement for the top of her casket, of choosing the songs for the service, of transporting all the funeral flowers and writing thank you notes, there's been this one thing I can't seem to grasp:

She's really gone.

One thing you may or may not know about me is, when it comes to death, loss, my development is severely arrested. Try as I might, I can't connect the series of events so they make sense to me, so it hurts less. It's not in my vocabulary or thought process to lose such a valuable piece of me and have any sort of peace with it. If you've read anything about grieving the loss of my absentee biological father some 7 years later, you can imagine how broken I'm feeling right now, losing the most significant person of my lifetime.

The Obituary

Mary "Elsie" Carvin, 87, Jonesboro, went to be with the Lord at 5:54 a.m. on Saturday, February 28, 2015, at Marion Rehab and Assisted Living following an extended illness. Elsie was born in Scottsboro, Alabama, to the late Jasper and Ethel Evans. She married her one true love, James Carvin, of Big Springs, TN, in 1946 and was married to him for 44 years until his passing in 1990.

Elsie retired from Foster Forbes Glass Company after 30 years. She loved being with her family and was known for her delicious biscuits and gravy. She enjoyed watching WWE wrestling, Law & Order, and other crime shows on TV. She also enjoyed reading John Grisham books, doing puzzles with her sister, popping bubble wrap, and laughing all the time at anything. Her vivacious spirit and love of life will be missed immensely by everyone who was fortunate enough to have known her.

Elsie is survived by her two daughters, Sherry (Terry) McCann, Marion, and Kathy (Randy) Craig, New Castle; adopted son, Jimmy (Betty) Brown, Decatur, TN; five grandchildren, Amber (Clint) Callahan, Anderson, Amy Columbus, Jonesboro, Micah McCann, Marion, Candace (Erik) Ganger, Covington, OH, and Jacob (Leigh) Woodard, Wondunna, Queensland, Australia; 13 great-grandchildren, Blake, Brett, Brooke, Jasmine, Amiya, Ivy, Leyton, Preston, Sophia, Lilli, Sullivan, Payton, and Grace; one great-great-grandchild, Skylyn; sister, Margaret Dale Wesling, Marion; brother, Robert E. (Pat) Evans, Plant City; and many nieces, nephews, and friends.

Those also preceding Elsie in death include her brothers, Albert and Jesse Evans; sister, Annie McKinley; and grandson, Joshua McCann.

The family will receive visitors on Thursday, March 5, 2015, from 3-7 p.m. at Needham-Storey-Wampner Funeral Service, Storey Chapel, 400 E. Main St., Gas City, IN.

The Funeral Service will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 6, 2015, at the funeral home with Pastor Eddie Cantrell officiating. Burial will be at Riverside Cemetery in Gas City.

Donations may be made to the funeral home for funeral expenses.

Online condolences may be made at www.nswcares.com.


The Eulogy

Most of you know me, but for those who don’t, I’m Kathy’s daughter, Elsie’s granddaughter, Candace. I’ve been writing most of my life, both personally and professionally, but, aside from the obituary, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever written because my Gram was literally, loved by everyone who met her, and there’s no way I can even get this close to right. But I’ll try.

1998 was the first time I said goodbye to her. I slept in the ICU waiting room while we prayed for her to pull through but little did I know how much fight she had, or how many times I’d frantically drive to hospitals many, many, MANY more times to say goodbye, over the years. She lived all nine of her cat lives and often said “you can’t kill a hillbilly.” But even through her pain, she never complained while caring for and thinking about others around her. She was the epitome of compassion and empathy.

What I’ll miss the most, though, is her sense of humor and ability to laugh at every situation, no matter how frustrating, confusing, or painful. A good example of this, was this past Monday. While funeral planning shouldn’t be a time of happiness, those hours spent pouring over every detail of Gram’s final send-off felt more like an episode of Seinfeld than a grief-support group. Maybe that’s not normal but it was the first I’d laughed, or maybe even smiled, since the news of her passing. And this, I know, would make her so proud of us because she wouldn’t want us wasting tears over her.

Some of my favorite memories are the simplest. I still very clearly feel her slipping on my shoes those early mornings before school. Or the smell of her as she hugged me. Or the way her hand felt on mine when she’d pat pat pat. Or the days she’d bring me waffles in bed and Grandpa would say “you’ve got her spoiled,” and Gram would reply with “well, it’s little,” followed by a kiss on the forehead and another pat pat pat on my hand. Those days were my favorite days in life and I so wish I could have more of them.

Going to her house meant there’d always be Coke in the fridge and bubble wrap on her bed. It meant Law and Order marathons at night—the ones with Jerry Orbach—and pizza on Sundays. It meant the best fudge on Christmas and the good luck meal on New Year’s Day (which I never ate). It meant feeling safe, secure, and loved, no matter what the world thought of me. It meant she’d be there through job loss and my first, second, and third broken hearts. It meant when the world was crumbling down around me, she’d be there with her arms wide open. No questions asked.

In elementary, she’d let me play in her makeup and curl her hair. In middle school, she’d pick me up and take me to Fazoli’s, where we’d share breadsticks and gossip about what’s happening in Star magazine, which she referred to as “the paper.” In high school, she’d find an old guitar of Grandpa’s that I’d get re-strung, so I could learn the Law and Order theme song. Just for her. She gave me self-confidence, believed in me, and made me think I could do or be anything.

In my adulthood, even after moving to another state, I couldn’t see her as much as I wanted, but there’s never been a moment she wasn’t with me in some way—mostly when I’m driving because I’m really just grateful I’m still alive after all those years of riding in a car she was driving. The state of Indiana thanks whoever finally took her keys.

Last May, when things started going downhill again, I went to see my hero on Mother’s Day. In all the fights she’d fought and won victoriously, I’d never seen her so weathered. I knew then, all those months ago, she’d surrendered and couldn’t fight another war. And I’ll never forget, as she looked at me with those long, thick lashes and said “I’m ready to go. I just want you to be okay.” I remember feeling choked up, doing everything possible not to cry in front of her. So I smiled and said “I will be.”

I lied. Because we all know a world without Gram is not okay at all.

I wrote something before all this happened where a fictional character, kind of inspired by Gram, says “the heart breaks harder than bones,” and though losing her is the very essence of this sentiment, I also know what she’d do in this situation—she’d comfort everybody else. In fact, I looked back on her Facebook timeline, which was like losing her all over again, and found this post she’d put on my wall after a surgery I’d had. Though, I know at the time, she was sick, herself. She said:

“Candace, honey, I can imagine what you are going through . I feel so bad for you. If it helps a teeny little bit, I love you and am praying for some relief from pain.”

I strive to be that kind of person. To live the kind of life filled with so much love and so little regret. To give more than I receive to laugh more than I cry. Because those are the all the little things that were the sum of the greatest woman I’ve ever known.

After a lot of tears and scrolling, time froze and for a moment, it felt like she was still here. And then I finally reached the end of her Facebook timeline, and found the exact message I want to leave you with, from Gram, herself. From April 2011 she said:

“I miss my sister, Annie Lee, and I miss my beloved husband, Jim. He will be gone 21 yrs. April 26th. Sometimes it’s like they went outside and will be back soon.”

So, friends and family, when the days feel hard, like right now, just tell yourself she went outside and will be back soon.



Thank you to all who've reached out. The truth is, no, I'm not okay. Not even a little. I feel her absence as much as I felt her life. This will take some time (like forever).

If you find it in your heart, please consider donating towards her funeral expenses directly to the funeral home. Being sick took everything from this generous woman and we struggled to give her a proper send-off. And even though we couldn't afford much, she deserved the world.

Now to get this m-effing book agented and sold so I can help pay off the funeral expenses and celebrate my Gram through the character I've based on her. I can hear her now: "I'm proud of you, babe. Be sweet." To which I would reply "no way," and she'd laugh...the rascal.

I love you, Gram.

<3

Candyland. OUT.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Because Catz Will Be Catz

In case you live under a rock: READ ME + SHARE ME!

Happy Wednesday, friends!

What's the weirdest thing you've done with/for a pet?

<3

Candyland. OUT.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pimped OUT

Hey, all.

So, fast forward to life now. What have you been doing with your free time? I've been [redacted], and [redacted] and [unintelligible]. So, whew! As you can see, YIKES! But today I'm here for an announcement of two kinds. I almost wrote "kids" and that would have been weird.

NUMERO UNO: My dear, friend Sharon has just launched her new website and not only is she super talented, crazy sweet, and thoughtful, but also amazeballs at editing, critiquing, and basically any kind of polishing per your manuscripts and such. She is so awesome, in fact, that she is giving away your choice here:

  • A critique/line edits for the 1st 250 words of a picture book
  • Critique/line edits for the 1st seven pages of a novel
  • OR...
  • A query critique/line edits
She's so generous with her time and talent, all I'm asking you to do for an entry is to leave a comment telling me what the H-E-Double Hockey Stick you've been up to since last we spoke/wrote/mimed. That's it. 

Also, you can check check chiggity check out her site HERE and actually hire and pay her and stuff.

Oh, and announcement #2: I've launched the same kind of site but with a few tweaks. It's not a competing site, as it's all the same goodies I've been working on for ten years. But now...NOW (!!!)...I have a real website to go with it. I still endorse Sharon and all she does and maybe we can even tag team with my ghostwriting + her line editing or something of the sort and offer a combo discount (wink wink).

But if you're looking for more of the writing end, check me out, yo. I'll offer a free query critique for anyone who shares this post and brags to me about it (so I can keep track), via email. If ya don't know it, leave the link in the comments. I'm not sure how many of you even need either of these services anymore as it seems the vast majority of you have gotten agents and sold books, but, ya know, pass it on.


Yay! Because we're all in this together, right? 

<3

Candyland. OUT.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Smells Like Child Spirit

I don't know if it's a game day or not, but who cares. Team spirit is a 24/7 hustle, yo.


Go, Baggles. You are loved by one cool unique 8yo in OH 
(even though we've never seen a single Baggle game, like ever).

Wishing you a spirited week.

<3 C.Land.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When You or a Loved One Loses Your/His/Her Sh!t (Free Printable)

Have you or a loved one lost your/his/her sh!t lately?

No, I'm not talking about keys or wallets or phones (hint: if you have kids, look in the trash, freezer, and toilet...things I know from experience). I'm talking about the real stuff. The stuff that's hard to talk about because maybe you don't know how or maybe you don't want to because it's, you know, EFFING HARD.

However, there will be a time when you run into someone who has recently lost her sh!t (aka me), and you do one of four things:

a) Avoid me. Yes, this happened. A-holes.

b) Say hello, insert awkward silence, then leave.

c) Pretend you haven't read anything that's happened. GUYS. I track my stats, quite thoroughly, actually. I KNOW WHO READS MY POSTS. I know when, where, how, and who, down to what you're wearing when you're reading via the creepy cameras I've planted in your laptop. Not really that, but for all you paranoid types, just have to stir the pot. It is true I track my stats, though. So, if you want to read, pretend like you didn't, and avoid me or never mention any of the content, it's cool. Just know I'll probably create a blog post about you + devote a chapter or three to you in my next book.

d) You are overly concerned with how I am doing to the point of it making me feel even crazier. No, I am not going to kill myself. Beat Bobby Flay is on tonight. No, I will not break down and cry if you ask how things are going. That's what group therapy is for. No, I will not "go postal on your ass" if one little thing triggers an emotional tsunami from the depths of my soul. I'm way too tired + passive aggressive for that. Point is, I'm on my way to "okay." Yes, it's a hard time right now, but I'm not a plague and I can still catch a That's what she said moment faster than you.

Let me tell you, in the last three weeks, I've learned a lot about not only myself, but you. The general concensus seems to be that...drum roll, please...

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO REACT TO PEOPLE WHO LOSE THEIR SH!T!

And you know something? It's okay. "But, Candyland," you'll say. "Is it really okay or will you secretly hold onto this forever + smile to my face but stick push pins in a doll that looks like me before bed every night?"

Hmm...does that really work? No, really. IT'S OKAY. If you don't know what to do or say or react to someone like me, this delicate flower, raw, vulnerable, ready to snap (<---this is not an accurate representation of my current character, FYI), I get it. And because of the misconceptions I think most of you carry, Imma break it down. Printable conversation cards are below. USE THEM.

Fact #1: Crazy people are still people. Treat them as such.

Fact #2: Don't label crazy people crazy. We hate that.

Fact #3: Not everyone who has a breakdown is ready to fall a part with every interaction thereafter.

Fact #4: Working through the pain is exhausting + may make us grumpy. It's not about you.

Fact #5: If a crazy person is having a good day, don't assume everything is all better. But let them have that good day.

Fact #6: Likewise, if a crazy person is having a bad day, don't assume they are suicidal. This reinforces the crazy.

Fact #7: We do like hugs. But we like space, too. We are complicated right now.

Fact #8: When in doubt, do the truffle shuffle.

The bottom line: Lighten up. More of us in this world have lost our sh!t than you think, while less of us have said sh!t together. Be a sh!t advocate and be there for people who have lost theirs. It's not complicated, unless you make it.

Still feeling stuck? Free, printable conversation cards for those times you need them, below.

PRINTABLE LOST SH!T CONVERSATION CARDS

<3

Candyland. OUT.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Crazy Diaries: Count Your Blessings + Your Lattes

Eight lamps.

Who needs this much light in the middle of the day when a big, bay window is glaring between us? One lamp, one of the bigger, gaudier lamps, is dressed in gold spun silk that shimmers against the bulb's florescent rays, dimming the room just enough to make me feel "calm."

I don't feel calm.

She makes solid eye contact, urging me to hear her words, to let them sink into me like melted butter. She's afraid I don't hear her, makes me repeat things back, asks me to sign things saying I understand the words.

I understand.

But I'm stuck on this room.

Seven crosses hang on the wall. Five chairs, one couch surround us. Twenty-two board games are stacked on the wooden bookshelf along the back wall. Nine plants, real and fake, are strategically placed and where they are not, pictures of plants and crosses are. The irony stings.

She takes exactly seven minutes to read through the file from the last visit. The sound of flapping papers echo, blowing a gentle breeze in my direction. She spends the next forty-six minutes explaining how crazy I am (crazier than I thought, actually), what my treatment plan will be, and how completely and utterly exhausting it will be.

I already know this.

Tired of this level hasn't happened since my oldest was a newborn. The kind of tired that dictates the day's schedule, tells me how miserable I'll be, makes me count down the hours until bedtime (too many). I guzzle another latte because instead of taking a drag or chugging a 40 oz., this is what heals me, or ails me, maybe. What's the difference anymore?

I re-focus to her. She's pointing her pen at me. Repeat things back, sign the things she wants me to sign, and let the words sink into me like butter. Her eye contact breaks me, forces me to count something else. The drawings taped to the wall. Three. The rings on her finger. Two. The books on the table. Eight.

I'm listening, I swear.

She notices my hands clawing at each other, something I do when anxious, and hands me a worry stone. Five minutes and I've rubbed the skin on my thumb raw. She says it's better than skin on skin, to break me of my habits. I agree, though, I don't know what better means and honestly, I'm stuck on the phrase skin on skin and refrain from my usual kind of joke. This is only one of my many issues.

She leaves to print more forms, the grey ones with the detailed plans, and as her heels clank down the hall, I calculate how much crazy costs in my head. Forget that offspring numero uno needs a trip to the dentist before her teeth rot and fall out. She can get dentures. Forget that I need to replace my scratched glasses lenses so I can, you know, see. Who needs sight? Forget that the car is long overdue for an oil change. I can run.

Forget that we're operating on a near poverty level just to keep our heads above water while I go through this period of my life known as "Candyland is Ruining Everything." Forget all of those variables and let me just break it down to the basics. No math needed because I realize now, the numbers are bigger than I can count.

Counseling Sessions: 2-5 visits/week through February!
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for PTSD 1-2 visits/week!
Grief Support Group once a week!
Gas money!
Missed work pay!
Ridiculous latte addiction, through the roof (a girl's gotta "eat")!
Lost friends who don't know how to talk to me anymore!
Avoiding people + public spaces as much as possible!
Stray cats keep finding me (this cannot be a coincidence)!

I added exclamation points to make things sound happier, more exciting, less expensive. But the truth is, holy 2nd and 3rd jobs, Batman. Being insane costs more than we make in a year. Might I mention, when all of this first happened, the place I wanted to go, needed to go in the immediate, was an inpatient facility. One of the few around. But my insurance isn't covered by them, meaning a 3-5 day stay, at a place I should have been at, at a time I really needed it, would have costed somewhere around $10,000, out of pocket.

The moral? Don't have a breakdown unless you can afford to. 

She marches back into the office, this lady whose name I still don't remember, and plants down in the chair that spins, swiveling around to the laptop that rests on a stand-up food tray. She punches things into the computer, things about me, and spins around with that hard glare again. My attention, you've got it. I'm paying you, remember?

"The good news is," she says, "there is hope."
My eyes perk up and I straighten my posture. "If I didn't already have hope, I wouldn't be here."
She smiles. "Then you're already on your way."

Seven minutes left in my hour, "time's up," she says, and with a long sigh, I agree. The hard work hasn't happened yet. I have not been cleansed. And yet, as the rain pours on my drive home, cleansing the car, I can't help but see the light through the clouds. Between the dark spaces where the light pours through, however small and insignificant it may be.

It's there.

Just like me.

<3

Candyland. OUT.

P.S. Want to catch up? Read HERE + HERE.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Unless Your Name Is Lenny, Today Is Not For You

Ohmygosh. I didn't forget to do this, I just forgot WHAT DAY IT IS.

My marbles went somewhere but I haven't seen them in a hot minute. Anyway, sweet, baby Bert, it's someone special's 15th birthday and words can't even begin to describe how grateful I am to have met him.

Pop quiz, hotshots.

The birthday boy is:

a) Who I named my son after
b) The reason I became a bone marrow donor
c) One of the only people I will talk to on the phone

If you guessed a, you are correct. Sullivan Matthew Leonard Ganger.
If you guessed b, you are correct. If you need it, I gots it, if we's a match.
If you guessed c, you are correct. He's that special.
If you guessed d, you have more issues than me.

In case don't know by now, it's Lenny Lee's birthday and man...I miss this kid SO. MUCH.

Stop by his blog and wish him a happy birthday because as most of you know, he has ALL so another year is definitely another reason to celebrate.


Love bubbles and hearts, Lenny.

4-Eva.

<3

CandylovesLenny. OUT.


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