Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Traditions

Thanksgiving.  One word.  So many meanings.

As a kid, I remember going to the Thanksgiving Parade on the Parkway in Philadelphia and watching all of the floats go by with my grandfather.  My grandparents had an apartment with a beautiful view so I remember watching the parade in person but also from the great big windows of their place.  My brother and I would sleep over the night before and I remember it being so much fun.  I do not remember any other sleepovers there, but I am sure there must have been some. 

As a teen, Thanksgiving lost its luster.  My parents had divorced by then and I guess we were too old to go to my grandparents any more.  So the holiday was split between parents and often times, my siblings and I were split, too.  The day was always ok, but the joy was gone for me.  I was always welcome where I went and my step-family took me in without a second thought, but something was always missing.

As an  adult, Thanksgiving became ok again.  My parents, while still divorced, had become amicable enough for us to spend the holiday together.  By then, my dad had an apartment in New York and we would all go there for the long weekend.  Turkey dinner was just the start - there would be Broadway shows and shopping and pretty much all you can imagine Thanksgiving in New York would be.

Over time, the New York tradition got phased out and we were back to being local.  Our family started to grow.  We started to include others.  Other people hosted us.  But we were always together as much as we could be.

This year is Miranda's first Thanksgiving.  How I have waited for this day!  I remember not too long ago asking if I could bring my boyfriend to Thanksgiving.  He then became my husband.  Then there was the Thanksgiving where I was pregnant and we all laughed at how different the next year would be.  And it was - but not for the reasons we thought.

We contacted the adoption agency in mid-November last year and hoped and prayed that we would be parenting within the year.  Tomorrow, we will have an almost 8 month old sitting beside us at the table.  Just goes to show that you never know what will happen from year to year.

Last year, Ella was at the table at Allie was in our hearts.  This year, Ella is joined by her sister Summer and her cousin Miranda.  And Allie will still be there tucked in our hearts.

I am not sure what traditions Miranda will grow up with on Thanksgiving.  It's funny that her first Thanksgiving is also the first day of Hanukkah.  That's not too confusing, right?  It will not happen again in her lifetime so in a way, it's cool that she can experience it, I guess.  As she gets older, will we take her to a parade?  Will her grandparents?  Will she have memories of her cousins all playing and the smells of delicious food cooking in the air? Will she love apple pie like me or prefer turkey like Gary?  Time will tell, I suppose.

I would be remiss not to mention my dad.  He loved this holiday.  He loved to host.  It was his parents that formed some of my earliest memories.  He is currently in a nursing home and not able to be with us.  He is deteriorating quickly.  Dementia has taken much of his mind.   He is a shell of who he used to be.  

My dad and I have such a splintered past.  But he is my dad and for that, I love him.  And I will tell Miranda all the good things about him and make sure she knows what kind of man he was, when he was a good man.  Most likely, our new family traditions will not include him, but the best of him will always be with us.

I am thankful for that.  For the memories of the past and the hopes of the future.  I am thankful for it all.

Getting ready for Hanukkah!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Giving Thanks + My List

It seems the trend on Facebook this month is to list the things you are thankful for each day and to list a certain amount of fun facts about you that few people know.  I decided to combine them both in a post.

I am thankful for...well, what am I not thankful for?  I am thankful for my life.  Every day of it.   I am thankful for my husband who is the kind of man that goes on a business trip and sends me flowers.  And notes.  Every day a handwritten note to Miranda and me.  I am thankful for Gary's heart and that he let me into it and then also opened it up for both of our girls.

I am thankful for my mom who lives 7 minutes away and who is here when I need her to be and also knows to not be here when I don't.  And I am thankful that she knows the difference. I am thankful for my 2 brothers and their wives and am so glad that we all enjoy each other as much as we do.  And I am so glad we are all there to support each other like we do.  I am thankful for my 3 nieces and 2 nephews that bring me more joy than I could ever explain.  I am thankful for Gary's brother and his wife and know how lucky I am to have them as family and as friends.  I am thankful for the family I married into as they are as much mine as Gary's and have enough compassion and advice to fill any empty space.

I am thankful for my friends.  The ones I text and email at all hours of the day and night who keep me sane.  The ones who hold me up when I need support and who laugh with me when I need the release.  The ones I share my hopes and my dreams with and the ones I share a bottle of wine with...without my friends, I would be lost.

I am thankful for the 37 weeks that I got with my first daughter and am glad that time is not diminishing my love or memory of her.

I am thankful for M for choosing Gary and me to be Miranda's parents.  Can we ever thank her enough?

I am thankful for Miranda.  For her smile when I walk into a room.  For the way she fills my heart.  For the way she makes Gary light up.  And for the thousands of other things she does without even knowing it.

I am thankful for it all.  

Now on to my list (in no particular order):
  1. I used to hate country music but now I kind of dig it
  2. My middle name is Jill
  3. I never thought I was going to be a wife or a mother and now those are my 2 favorite roles
  4. I wish I applied myself more in school (high school and college)
  5. I wish I had better willpower
  6. My favorite color is pink
  7. I don't drink coffee and am still baffled that it is as big an industry as it is
  8. That being said, I love caffeine and Diet Coke is one of the best inventions.  EVER.
  9. I am Jewish and proud of it
  10. Quitting smoking is one of the things I have done that I am most proud of to this day
  11. I love getting mail
  12. I love name brands and feel like I should not care what a label says but still do
  13. I used to bite my nails
  14. I was once hypnotized to lose weight.  I wish I could get a refund
  15. I love to make people laugh.  I hate to see people cry. But I believe in the power of both.
  16. I love all the shows on the Food Network but can't cook at all
  17. I think being a grown up is WAY harder than being a teenager
  18. I was voted "Most Dramatic" in my High School yearbook and wonder where I would be if I had pursued acting as a career
I think that somewhat random list gives some insight into who I am.  

Lastly, I am thankful that I discovered writing as a way to connect my heart and my head.  And I am thankful that anyone bothers to read my ramblings at all!  I am thankful for the chance to be thankful.

Miranda with her 2 boy cousins

Miranda and my mom (aka Gram)

Cousin Ella helping Miranda with her puffs

Aunt Neda, Uncle Jeff and Miranda

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I Remember

Most days, I remember.  I remember that Miranda is our rainbow.  Our hopes, our dreams...our beauty at the end of the storm.  Sometimes, in the middle of the night, when she is up for a reason that is only known to her, I forget she is my rainbow.  I get frustrated.  Upset.  Annoyed even.  The guilt that washes over me then is like a tidal wave for how can I forget even for a MOMENT that raising her is a gift?  Each laughter, each giggle, each tear even - a true gift.

My day to day life is to take care of our gift.  We schedule our days around bottles and food and (with any luck) naps.  We go for walks and we meet friends for lunch and we pass the days with laughs and smiles and joy.   It's hard work - way harder than I ever knew.  It's also so rewarding - way more than I ever knew.

On Wednesday afternoon, late in the day, I got word that there were 2 new families attending the UNITE meeting that evening.  I had not been in a year.  I wanted to stay home and just relax.  It had been a long day and I wanted the down time.  

Then I realized how selfish I was being.  What if, on the night of my first meeting, someone was too tired to go?  Would I have had the same experience?  The same support? So I threw on some old jeans, texted my mom that I was going to go (she was planning to go regardless as she has now had some training to help facilitate the group when needed) and off we went.

For 2 hours that night, I got to remember Allie with a group of people who "get it".  I had not been there since Miranda.  In a way, I did not know how to honor and remember one baby while raising another.  Turns out there is enough room in my heart to do both.  But the best part...the part that makes my heart swell even now as I write about it...that was being there for the new people.  Sharing my story and being able to be supportive.  Letting them know that they are not alone.  My baby died, too.  I survived.

We remember our babies while sitting in a circle in the basement of a church.  It's drafty and the lighting is bad and yet it's one of the warmest places I have ever been.  I told Allie's story and it felt good.  I love hearing her name.  I love that others know her name.  I love talking about her.  And at the end of the meeting, I loved going home to my other daughter.

I will never forget Allie.  Those that love Gary and me will never, either.  Miranda will grow up knowing she had a sister.  I want to make sure I honor Allie's memory and I think that I do.  I also want to make sure I never forget that Miranda is our "rainbow".  The burst of color at the end of a ravaging storm.  For both of my babies...I remember.

 What's so amazing
That keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
Someday we'll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me 
- The Muppets 

We love taking "selfies"

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Only The Good Die Young

They say there's a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it's better but I say it ain't
I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
Sinners are much more fun...
You know that only the good die young
 -Billy Joel

My uncle died at 42.  It was the first time I remember seeing my mom cry.  We were all very close and I remember even as a 9 year old wondering how my cousins (who were roughly the same age as me) would ever survive without their dad.  How do you go on when someone who is a part of you is gone?

As I got older, death became a more common "thing".  My favorite grandfather was first.  He was sick and in the hospital and I remember sitting on the bus coming home from 8th grade and picturing my mom saying to me, "Pop Pop died today" so that I would be prepared.  It did not work.  When the news came, we were all devastated.  Then death went to the other side of my family.  My aunt died of suicide at way too young of an age when I was in high school.  Then my mother's mother when I was in college.  In time, both my father's parents.  Some of the deaths were easier to accept.  Some took away the suffering or allowed for another to be with a spouse who has since passed.  In Judaism, we are taught that there is no heaven or hell.  And yet I always felt like when people die, they are reunited with those that have passed before them.

I like the "dance" of the funeral.  In Catholicism as well as Judaism, there is a prayer and a song and then a reading or a eulogy.  A well choreographed way to say goodbye.  It's soothing to hear a familiar hymn or song.  Often times the emotions get the best of you and you are standing there mourning not just the person who recently died, but the people that have died before him or her.  

We did not have a funeral for Allie and I do not regret that.  Gary and I needed a private way to say goodbye to the baby we had, in fact, just said hello to.  I remember thinking that a funeral is for the living and in that moment in time, I did not care about the living.  I only cared about her dad and me and how we were going to say goodbye.  

Yesterday, I went to another funeral.  The uncle of one of my very closest friends.  I grew up with this friend and her family is like my family.  Her uncle was too young to die.  He had such a kind heart and a gentle soul and a smile that felt like he saved it just for you.  

It seems to be like the extra good people - the ones with the big hearts and the big souls - the ones with so much life left in them are often the first to go.  Ours is not to know why but I think we can question it (and we do!).  Why do the good die young?  What is the reasoning?  What is the logic?

So for my uncle who never got to see his kids grow and create families of their own or to my aunt who never got to see me graduate college or to the mother of one of my college roommates who never got to walk her daughter down the aisle, I ask why?  For all the babies that are loved more than the heart can handle, only to be born with no cries.  Why? 

I am not sure we will ever know.  So we have to accept their fate.  We have to wipe away our tears and tell stories about them and keep their memories alive.  We have to do the living they cannot.  For only the good die young.

Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation.  For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.  ~Albert Einstein

Adoption In My Heart

Today was the Adoptions From The Heart Annual Picnic . We love this event. It is close to our house, it is early enough in the summer that i...