Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Vacation or Relocation?

I love a good vacation. Always have. I love the planning and the anticipation and the experience of discovering someplace new. 

Once Miranda came into our lives, I knew I wanted her also to enjoy vacations. So I have made it my mission to make sure we do something special each year.

The first year, we went to the mountains. Some family joined us, and we made a lot of great memories. I got really sick and was in bed for a bit of the week and Miranda was still napping twice a day, and we didn't do much, but we did something. I will always cherish that first trip away and always laugh at how much I had to pack to make the mountain house pretty much a replica of our house at home.

The next year, we went back to the mountains. Different house, but same area. By this time, Miranda was too big for the pack and play so we put her in a twin size bed. We installed a bed rail and hoped for the best, but she crawled out of that bed each and every day and that vacation marked the end of naps for her as well as easy bed times. Two years later and we are still dealing with her crawling out of bed at bedtime and wanting to play. Still, I will always look back on that week with joy as we really had a great time overall.

The next year we went to the beach. Oh, how wonderful that was for us! I decided then and there that we would continue to visit the beach and often as we could and that the ocean was where we were meant to be. We talked about that week all year long.

This past week, we went back to the beach. The salt water, tram cars, Kohr Bros custard, and sandy beaches are what vacation is to me. This year, my mom joined us for the whole week, and that was a real treat for all of us. The weather was wonderful, and we had the best vacation yet. This vacation was the first one that did not feel like a relocation. This vacation felt like an actual, well, vacation!

Now don't get me wrong. There was no sleeping in. There were no naps on the beach. I brought down a fresh new book that never even got opened. I did read the back of several suntan lotion bottles and once, in the bathroom, the first few pages of Entertainment Weekly. And yet, it was still the best week yet.

Sandcastles were built, seashells were collected, suntans were worked on, and boardwalk games were played. Bedtime was a breeze for the most part because Miranda was so exhausted each night. I taught my daughter how to pee in the ocean, and she taught me how to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. We laughed, we shared stories, we made memories and we got some real quality time together.

I am not sure how much Miranda will remember of this age, but I know that I will remember it all. And if in time, the memories just become feelings, that is ok, too. I get a feeling when I walk on the beach - a familiar feeling of all the times I have walked on the beach before. Walking with my dad, walking with my friends during Senior Week after high school, walking with my girlfriends on our annual GWA (Girls Weekend Away), walking with my husband on our honeymoon, walking with my best friend a few weeks after Allie died. And now? Walking with Miranda. The sand remembers, and I count on it to do just that.

I wonder what beach we will go to next year? I can't wait to start planning. For now, though, I want to keep this vacation close to my heart as it really was so wonderful.

I love a good vacation.

Monday, June 5, 2017

What Samantha Forgot

I recently finished watching the mini-series Big Little Lies on HBO. I absolutely adored it. The character development and the plot twists were so creative and intense. Before I knew it, I finished the series and I wanted more. So I found a book by the same author and excitedly began to dig in.

What Alice Forgot was an incredible read. I barely put it down. In my quest to be a better writer, I am trying to experience all sorts of writing. I am a big fan of this sort!

The main character of this book, Alice Love, falls off her spin bike at the gym and when she wakes up, she thinks she is 29 and not 39. She lost the last 10 years of her life, And she can't seem to get them back. I won't spoil the book by explaining any more, but I will illustrate how this book changed my thinking.

What if I woke up today and thought I was 33 and not 43? That means it's 2007. I was working as Marketing Coordinator at Dorman Products and living in my condo in Roxborough. I had just shed a lot of weight on Nutrisystem, and I was scouring the online dating sites like they were a second job.

My life consisted of work, the gym, my kitty cat Zoe, and my friends and family. I went to concerts and spent a lot of time trying to figure out of I liked beer with hops or without. There were also many wine festivals in there, too.

My one brother was married - my other one was not. There were no kids in our family yet, and my mom was constantly reminding me how sad that made her.

My dad and I saw each other but not all that much. He supported me and tried to be interested in my life, but it seemed like it was hard for him to focus on just me when we were out together.

There was a guy at work named Gary that I went to lunch with every once and a while. I am not sure I knew much about him back then.

Around that time, I remember talking to my mom about the idea of me becoming a mom, She pointed out that I could do it myself if I really wanted to. I did not. I wasn't sure I ever wanted to be a mom, and I knew enough from my friends that it was a lot of work and the idea of doing it solo held no appeal.

I was happy back in 2007. My life had meaning, and I was fulfilled by my work and my activities outside of work. I loved my condo and was proud that I owned it. I loved my little VW convertible, too, although I think I sold it a year or two prior.

If I woke up today and saw my wedding ring, would I remember the story behind how I got it and the man who gave it to me?

If I woke up today and felt my c-section scar, would I understand why it was there? Would I forget the agony of delivering a baby that never cried? Would I also forget the joy and elation of carrying her all those months?

If I woke up today and a little blonde haired girl kept calling me "Mommy" and expected me to make her breakfast and play with her, would I know who she was?

If I woke up today in the bed I have slept in for the past eight years, would I know where I was?

Lucky for me, I took one spin class once and felt so faint that I am not likely to try that again. So the odds of me falling off my bike and losing my memory like Alice are very slim.

Which is good, Because I love my life now, Scars and all. The past decade has been an incredible journey for me, and I would not be who I am not if I missed it. Not even close.

Happy in 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

It's a Small World

Miranda goes to school three days a week. Her school is literally down the street from Gary's office, so he normally brings her in and picks her up. Except for Wednesday's. I take those days to drop her off so that he can have a non-rushed morning and I normally head to the YMCA after to get in a workout, so it's a win-win.

Why mention the Y? Well, because yesterday at drop-off, in my sports bra, workout clothes, and frizzy hair splendor, I held the door open for a mom who looked right at me and said, "Are you Samantha?"

I stared directly into her face. I searched my brain for who this person could be. Nothing. Blank. Nada.

"Yes," I replied tentatively. I think I said that word as more of a question than a statement as I had no idea where this conversation was going. I know many of the parents at Miranda's school, but they either know me as "Miranda's mom" or they know my name. Usually, I know theirs as well. I was stumped.

The mom looked at me and smiled. "We were in an Adoptions from the Heart class together."

I then looked down and noticed that she had the most adorable little girl in her car seat carrier and my heart burst inside of my chest.

I love seeing families being made. I especially love seeing families being formed through adoption. 

So we started to chat. Four years ago, we first met. We were in the same course together, with our husbands, talking about our Profile Book. The Profile Book is a tool you use to market yourself to prospective birth parents. She remembered me from all that time ago and said I was so excited about our book and had told our social worker we would have our book done right away.

I must have been super annoying. But I wanted a baby, and nothing was getting in my way!

The new mom and I parted ways after catching up for about 15 minutes. We connected on Facebook and are going to make plans for our girls to play together. We had a short wait to get Miranda. They had a longer wait to get placed. However, it's always nice to connect with people that are on the same journey as you.

What are the odds that our paths would cross? The adoption agency that we used is a good 45 minutes from our house. One day a week for about ten minutes, I am in Miranda's school. That's it! We both must have hit the same traffic patterns and the stars somehow aligned for us to run into each other. There are many many child care facilities in our area, and yet we both chose the same one.

I smiled all day yesterday. I love new connections. Now my daughter will know another friend who is adopted which is super cool to me. Gary and I will have another couple that we can share stories with and even look to or share advice. Open adoption is wonderful for the child, but it can be a bit tricky for both the birth parents and the adoptive parents. It will be nice to have each other.

It really is a small world.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

From Then Till Now...

Six years ago yesterday was my first blog post. From then till now, I have had 94,791 views to my page. That is not including the views I have had to my pieces that have been published. I am still baffled that I get paid to write stories about my life! I have authored 30 pieces so far and my memoir is coming pretty well.

When I first started to blog, it was because my friend Estelle had sent me an article that explained that there was a whole community of women who bonded over the loss of their babies by writing. I am not sure if I even knew what a blog was before then.

I always wanted to be a writer, but I never knew how to get started. I was also never sure if anyone would be interested in what I had to say.

Turns out that many of you are interested and have stuck with me all this time. I am not sure how I would have survived the empty and still house that I was forced to recover in had it not been for my laptop. I am not sure how I would have survived the wait for our social worker to call and tell us that a birth mother had picked us to be parents if it were not for the kind words and positive feedback I received from this blog.

I am the mom that I am because I am able to express myself in this space. It's impossible to put into words how grateful I am for that.

There is not much I do not write about - from depression and anxiety and loss and bereavement to happiness and rainbows and family and vacations. My writing is very much a reflection of my life. The good and the bad all mushed together with a pretty image or quote to make it that much better.

I received this note just last night, "I happened across your blog on Kveller... just wanted to reach out and let you know that your posts resonated." A complete stranger was moved enough to send me a note and let me know how my words made a difference to her. She is about to celebrate her son's third birthday of when he was born still and she was pleased to see she was not alone in her quest to honor her child that is not here with her.

It's such a fine line between wanting to grieve and be sad forever and also wanting to be free of the grief and live life. Knowing there are others out there is key. At least for me.

I am one of the lucky ones. My family and friends all remember our loss. I have to remember that they all lost someone, too.

We have been teaching Miranda about honesty and respect. She is just barely old enough to understand. It's so important to believe in those traits and to abide by them for yourself and for others.

I hope that my words continue to heal me...and maybe you, too. 94,791 views sure leads me to believe that they are! 

Future Writer!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Nothing and Everything

Earlier this year, I took advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures and went to the local zoo with my young daughter.  My sister-in-law and two nieces joined us there. I could not stop smiling.

To the outside world, we looked like just a couple of moms, taking our kids on a little adventure, passing the time with laughter smiles.  Many of the exhibits were closed since it was off-season, but the playground was open and there were just enough animals in their habitats that the kids were pleased.

It was nothing and everything at the same time.

There was a time that I did not think we were going to be able to raise our children together. I worried that I would never parent a living child. I thought my arms would be empty forever.

My sister-in-law and I were pregnant for the first time at the same time. We had our baby showers within weeks of each other. We were both expecting girls. We were excited and scared and happy and so very blessed.

Her daughter arrived first. It was just a matter of weeks until it was my turn. I held her daughter on my swollen pregnant belly as she napped the sleep of a newborn. I could barely wait till it was my turn.

Twelve days later, we learned my daughter's heart had stopped beating. Just like that. One day she was kicking me so hard that it took my breath away and the next day, I noticed little movement. I felt silly calling the doctor as I was sure I was being dramatic. It turned out that my intuition was right.  She died in my womb and the next day, I had to deliver her still.

That was a little over six years ago. There were so many feelings of guilt and sadness and loss and disappointment. I realized early on that my husband and I were not the only ones who lost a child. Our family lost a cousin, granddaughter, niece, and friend.

Now fast forward to two years later. My sister-in-law was pregnant again. By then, my husband and I decided to grow our family through adoption. It was surprisingly seamless for us, and the moment we held our daughter in our arms, we knew she was ours.

Now there are three girls between us. They are the best of friends. They can’t wait to play together, and no matter how much time we give them, it’s never enough.

One child will always be missing. I think of her every day, and I suspect that others do as well. But what that missing child has taught me is that you have to live each day to its fullest. Live without regrets. Live with intention.

If that means going to the zoo on a warm winter day, then go. Enjoy the sights and sounds. Enjoy the peals of laughter and the smiles on the faces of the ones you love. Enjoy it all.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Please tell me that did not just happen...

It was a beautiful Easter day. Although not my holiday, it is a day I happily celebrate with my in-laws and we always have a terrific time. There is food galore, a frenzied and exciting Easter egg hunt, lots of laughter and more love than can fit in the house.

In the midst of the chaos and excitement and heat-wave that was Easter 2017, I excused myself to the go the bathroom. The window was open and I sat there for a moment, enjoying the sounds of the kids squealing outside. Then I picked up my phone and checked to see if I had any messages. I may have also scrolled through Facebook.

I stood up, washed my hands, checked my lip gloss and promptly dropped my phone in the toilet.


I have never moved so fast in my life. I retrieved my device, dried it as best as I could, ran outside to tell everyone and promptly put my rose gold beauty in rice (at the suggestion of almost everyone there).  

And then I was to wait 24 hours to check my phone.

After about 15 minutes, I started to sweat. And it had nothing to do with the temperature. I am so attached to my phone that not being able to look at it when I wanted to was actually giving me a panic attack. My hands were clammy and my mind was distracted. Even though there was nothing I needed my phone for right then, I was immobilized with fear as to what I would do if my phone was soon going to just be used for parts. 

Several hours later when we got home, I was able to check my iPad for urgent issues. Other than that, I had to wait.

Life without my phone was calmer. Life without my phone was less distracting. Life without my phone was scary! All I wanted to go was look up "What in the world am I supposed to do without my phone?!?!?!"

About an hour ago, I held my breath and powered up my electronic friend. The screen came to life. Everything seemed fine. There were a few rice kernels wedged into places where they did not belong, but with a thumbtack and patience, I got them out. All seems fine.

And now? Now I am writing about the experience while it is fresh in my mind. My daughter is in the room with me waiting for me to play with her. And my phone? It's sitting on the desk next to me safe and dry. There it will stay when I hit "publish" and go play with Miranda. There it can stay for the rest of the day. There are a lot more important things in this world than my phone.

Six years ago on Easter weekend, we lost Allie. Four years ago on Easter weekend, we found Miranda. This time of year is supercharged and I do not need to add to it with my reliance on my phone. I get it, universe. Lesson learned. Either leave the phone where it is or for crying out loud, make sure the toilet lid is closed!

Monday, April 3, 2017

On Death and Dying

Miranda turned 4 on Friday and virtually overnight, she has changed. While always interested in the world around her, in the past week, she has become more perceptive and more inquisitive. She no longer accepts my reply of "just because" or "because I said so". Suddenly she wants more.

She has always confused butterflies with her sister...she thinks they are one and the same. I have tried to explain that Allie was a person, a baby, and that we use butterflies as a way to remember her and honor her. She always nodded but I knew she did not get it. I never pushed the issue because I also knew she was too young.

Last night, right before bedtime, she asked about Allie the butterfly and wanted to know why she was in heaven. I explained that she was there because she died. I am not sure I ever used the word death before, but I sensed it was time.

Her eyes opened really wide and she said she didn't want her to die. Then she was worried that she might die.

With a tear rolling down my cheek,  I tried to explain that all living things die eventually. That the birds and the trees all around us are alive now but that one day they will die, too. I reminded her that our cat Zoe was once alive and now she only lives on in our hearts. I reminded her that my dad, Pop Pop Jim had also died and so did her Great Aunt E who loved her very much.

She understood it more than I thought she could. Within a few minutes, we were back to brushing teeth like nothing had happened at all. And maybe that is how it is supposed to be. Maybe I am not supposed to make a big deal out of it. Death is just another part of life, after all.

I worry so that my daughter is going to have her share of difficult conversations. But maybe what is difficult for me is not so tough for a 4-year-old. Maybe if we start the conversations now, they will be less severe than if it waited until she was older.

"I will explain it to you when you are older" was a phrase I heard so often growing up. Maybe keeping the truth from me did not do me any favors. Or maybe it did and that is why I am who I am today. I am not sure there is a way to know.

So I will continue to be as honest as I can with Miranda until she asks too much of me or asks me something I simply do not think her little brain can handle. Until then, I guess I will just do my best. I think that is fair!

Vacation or Relocation?

I love a good vacation. Always have. I love the planning and the anticipation and the experience of discovering someplace new.  Once ...