Friday, December 26, 2014

Didn't we almost have it all?

"...When love was all we had worth giving?"  Whitney Houston

For some reason, that old Whitney Houston song popped into my head this morning.  And I started to think about how it pertained to me.  Until I realized, it didn't.

We DO have it all. Family and friends and love and laughter. A daughter here with us and one that is always looking over us. I am not sure what stage I am in now, 3 and a 1/2 years after saying goodbye to Allie, but I am not angry.  I am not mad. I am not questioning why. I just...am.

Grief is a strange thing. It creeps up on you when you are not looking. It seeps into the crevices of your life. It pops up when you are sure you told it to stay away.  Today, though, I feel like I am in control of my grief. 

Maybe that is because my focus is on the here and now. I am truly living in the moment because as any parent will tell you, there is no other way.  Between meals and clothes and diaper changes and dress up and play time and puzzles and sticker books and tickles and tumbles and all things in-between, there is simply no room for my grief. 

There is plenty of room for my memories, though. I often wear a butterfly charm around my neck and I love feeling my first daughter so close to my heart. I also think often of my pregnancy and how nervous and excited and anxious Gary and I were.  I think a lot of people forget things about their pregnancies because so much comes after, but since we were deprived of the after, I swear I can still feel the kicks and the heartburn and the sheer euphoria of knowing that I was creating a life inside of my body.

Miranda says Allie's name.  She lights up when she says it because she knows it will make us smile. And it always does.

2014 is coming to a close.  I turned 40 this year. I ran a 5k.  I became a freelance writer.  My proudest accomplishment this year, though?  Learning how to be Miranda's mom and making sure that I excel at it.  Our family unit is different than we thought it would be a few years ago, but different is not always bad!  It just...is.

I feel happy more than I feel sad. I feel complete more than I feel empty. I feel good more than I feel bad.  Turns out I do have it all.  

"Loving you makes life worth living..." Whitney Houston




Thursday, December 18, 2014

To You...To Me

To you...it was just a Winter Party.  To me, it was the first time I got to see Miranda in her class environment, playing with friends, eating a mini-cupcake, decorating a cookie and looking up to make sure her dad and I were near by.  We talked to other parents and compared eating habits and behavior quirks and listened to her teachers as they raved about our daughter.

To you...it's just a doll.  To me, it is a Cabbage Patch doll who came named, "Ally".  Now Miranda says her name even more than before, all the while carrying around this dark hair, light eyed, little bit of love.

To you...it's just another day. To me, it's the one year anniversary of the day the judge used his gavel to declare that the adoption was final and that Miranda was ours.

To you...it's just a holiday season. To me, it's a celebration of our life together.

There was a time when I thought the holidays were always going to be difficult.  I imagined a lump in my throat as I watched other children light the candles and open presents.  I could not fathom a day in which there were no tears.  I could not imagine a life that I enjoyed.

And yet somehow, with a lot of hope and compassion and patience and perseverance, here we are. 

To you...to me...to all of us, happy holidays. 




Sunday, December 14, 2014

Generous...to a fault?

If you are a generous person, it is a large part of who you are.  And not just in December, but during all the months of the year.

Gary's company "adopts" about 100 kids each holiday season. There is a list of children, their ages, and what they want.  Any employee can pick any child and buy him or her the toys or clothes or dreams that the child might not have without the generosity of someone else.

This year, Gary picked a little girl who is 3 and a half. Her name starts with an A. He saw it as a sign and has been shopping for her the past month. It brings him such joy to shop for someone Allie's age and he is more than happy to do it.

It's harder for me. I can shop for Miranda and for her cousins and for other little girls and boys with no trouble whatsoever. My credit cards and Paypal account are getting quite a workout this month. I have trouble, though, shopping for a girl that is Allie's age but is not Allie. I think Gary does, too, but he can see the big picture and does it anyway.  And I am glad he does.

We learned recently that some of our generosity in another situation has been taken for granted. It hurt us to the core to think that we were doing something nice and it was not perceived that way.  Are you still generous if others do not see you that way?  I guess it depends on the situation and if the opinion of other people matters to you.  To Gary, it does not. To me, I am trying to get a thicker skin.

I want to raise my daughter in a world where people give with their hearts. Where people share what they can because they want to.  Where people are generous with their time and their love and their energy.  Not just when the lights are up and the stores have special sales, but year-round.  I think they best way to have a world like that is to make sure Gary and I behave like that is how the world works.  So that is what we will do...or continue to do, I should say. 

Miranda is still struggling with her vocabulary, but "thank you" is a phrase that comes out easily and often. At 20 months, we like to think that she understands the concept of giving and generosity. Hey, it could happen! 

That makes us both so very proud.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda

There have been Sex and the City reruns on virtually every channel lately.  They are edited for TV, but I have seen each episode so many times that I can fill in the blanks that the networks put in.

The show ran from 1998-2004.  The premise was, "Four beautiful female New Yorkers gossip about their sex-lives (or lack thereof) and find new ways to deal with being a woman in the 90's."

When I watch the repeats, many of the plots seems even crazier now than they did then.  The outfits and music and styles are all so very dated.  But the general current of the show still draws me in.

The friends that I have mean so much to me.  I do not have "four beautiful female New Yorkers". I have "countless gorgeous male and female supporters" that I could not live without. I am the kind of person who works hard to make friends and then holds on super tight once I have them. I have different friends from different parts of my life and they are all in my life for a reason. I feel so very fortunate.

In a twist even I did not see coming, I am now a writer.  Mostly business writing, except for this good ol' blog. It is an outlet for me just like Carrie's column was for her.

Carrie once asked, "... I got to thinking about days gone by. That carefree time when our schedules were as wide open as our hearts. The time before the baggage and breakups and babies began to weigh us all down. I couldn't help but wonder: Does that sense of adventure still flicker inside of us?"

When I watched that show, I was single, working in an office job 40 hours a week (at least), commuting into Center City Philadelphia and trying to find the "one".  I was not sure if he was out there, but I knew I had to look.  I was carefree and didn't know it.  I had silly outfits and bad hair and thought the smallest thing was the biggest deal.

Now I know better. Yet I still have a sense of adventure in me and looking around, I think most of my friends do, too.  Maybe even more so? We do not see each other as much and our times of gossip and shopping and drinking and laughing has gotten less and less. But we are still there for each other no matter what.  As adults, we have learned to appreciate and respect the journey.

10-15 years ago we were just starting to text.  There was no Facebook. I used email at work but I think with my dial up Internet connection, I really did not use it that much during my free time. In many ways, the technology of today is what allows us all to maintain the friendships we made of yesterday.  I love that.

My friends were by my side when Allie died and then back by my side when Miranda arrived.  They are there for the highs and the lows and all the spaces in between.

How lucky am I?   

 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

In The Best Interest Of The Child

When we were pregnant with Allison, we never gave much thought to making sure that all we did and all we were was in her best interest. It just was. As her birth parents, it was a given.  I can honestly say that we never really thought about her in those terms.

When you adopt a child, there are a lot of elements that you need to think about and rightfully so. I have written about the classes and the meetings and the education that we had to get so that we were well informed and prepared. We talk about race and religion and drugs and alcohol and mental illness and physical wellness. As an adoptive parent, you need to be evaluated, as do all parties involved to make sure that you are fit to raise a child. This stuck me as odd when we went through the process as we had just come through a different process where obviously none of that was taken into consideration. However, we respected the rules and regulations and had no issues with following them. All we had to do was look at the bigger picture and know that we would do anything.

As a biological parents, you make a promise to do what is in the best interest of your child or children.

As an adoptive parent, you make the same promise but it is in writing.

Last night, I got to thinking.  Why do I have that power?  What gives me the right to decide what is best for Miranda?  I certainly do not know everything.  (Shhh...).  Who made me in control?

I did.  When I became her mother.  Until she is old enough to think for herself, she will have to settle for her dad and me.  For us to know what is best. What is right versus what is wrong. What is safe and healthy.

It is terrifying and scary and exhilarating all at once. I do not think we can afford to make mistakes and yet I feel mistakes are a great way to learn. 

Everything I do has Miranda's best interest at heart. I hope that is enough.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanks...and all that

It's just a date on a calendar.  And yet it is more than that.

Thanksgiving has always been a loaded holiday for me. With divorced parents, we were used to being separated but it always seemed harder on the day we were giving thanks to look up at the table and see the faces that were not there.  

I always had a place to go and I was always with family, but it was not always the way I pictured it to be.

Fast forward a few decades and now we all have families of our own.  So we are separated again since there are so many that we call family. It would be impossible to celebrate with everyone on one day.  So we will have a few celebrations and be thankful for even longer.

Last year was Miranda's first Thanksgiving and it fell over Hanukkah. I am glad she will not remember it as it was confusing even to the grown ups! This year, she will probably not remember, either, but at least she will get two distinct holidays!  I am excited for her to try the organic turkey that Uncle Jeff and Aunt Neda are preparing. I am looking forward to her first bite of apple pie.  I can't wait to see her in her booster seat at the table and smiling from ear to ear. To say I am thankful for her is not enough. There are no words to express how thankful we are for her. They simply do not exist.

I feel like I should be angry that Allie is not with us.  That I am not shopping for the perfect outfit for her.  That I will not get to see her eat or play or smile or laugh.  But I am not angry. I am just sad.  We are starting to use her name more around the house.  Miranda can say Allie. She smiles every time.  Is that just because she is mirroring us? I am not sure.

My family is everything to me. My family by blood, my family by law, my family by adoption, my family by choice. My family that are my friends. I am so lucky and and so thankful - not just tomorrow but everyday.

There will always be faces that are not there. To that, I say look harder.  Look in your heart. There they are.There they will always be.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Below are just some of the reasons that I am giving thanks this year!




























Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Plain Old Mom

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” —Sophia Loren

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.”Oprah Winfrey

“Being a mom has made me so tired. And so happy.” Tina Fey

“Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.”Robert Browning

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.”Maya Angelou

This past Saturday, we had a visit with Miranda's birth mom.

It was a good visit.  It really was.

I believe very strongly in open adoption.  I do not hide the fact that Miranda was adopted. I speak openly and freely about adoption.  And yet I dread these visits like you would not believe.

There is no handbook for how to handle these situations. There is no way to know how to behave.  So you have to trust that you will just do the right thing.

We always give M several dates from which to pick.  We give her a range of times and ask her to choose what works best  We ask her to decide where we should go. We want her to feel in control of the visit because we feel that will make it easier for her.

The fact of the matter is, though, there is nothing easy about these visits. They are a little bit awkward and little bit uncomfortable. Miranda is the common thread between us and yet we can't really rely on her to carry the conversation!

After the initial greeting, we all usually loosen up.  Miranda goes to M and gets her hold her and make a big deal out of her. She lets herself get smothered in attention and love and handles it all very well. Then there is play time. Then there is catch up time. We all relax some more and find our rhythm.

In every visit to date, there are always tears.  I am not sure if they are tears of joy that M knows she made the right choice for the child she created?  I am not sure if they are tears of sadness for all that she is missing in Miranda's life?  I am not sure if it is a combination of all of those elements, plus more. I just know it always breaks my heart.

We parted with the promise to send pictures from the day and to set up our next Skype call around the holidays. We all gave hugs and said our goodbyes.

I feel fiercely protective of Miranda all the time and I worry about how we are going to explain all of the intricacies of her life as she gets older. I worry about Miranda having two moms.  A birth mom and a what?  Real mom?  Practical mom? Everyday mom?  Or just plain old mom?  You know what?  I do not need a title.  Plain old mom sounds good to me.  Very good, in fact.

I guess the rest we will figure out along the way.  When we get it wrong, we will learn.  When we get it right, well how sweet that will be!




Monday, November 10, 2014

Party On!

I can't tell you how many children's birthday parties I have been to over the years.  They are usually all fun - either because I know the other adults there or because I have a close connection with the child or they serve wine...or all of the above!

After Allie died, parties of any kind were hard.  We still went to any that we were invited to, but they were much more difficult.  Either I was missing that my daughter was not there or I was reminded of a stage or age that she would never be or see.  The ache was strong and the pain was  so raw.

Years later, I do not look at other children that are the age that Allie would have been and wonder "what if" anymore.  It just was unproductive to me and hurt so much.  Once and a very rare while, I allow myself to think like that, but then I try to get back to the present as quickly as I can.

Parenting Miranda has helped me with that.  I simply do not have the time or energy to dwell or sulk.  I mean, I could make the time when she naps or is playing, but I really try to be as positive as I can be.  And good thing, too, because we are raising a party girl.

We have had 3 birthday parties in the past few weeks and let me tell you, this child loves a good time.  From the toys that she finds to play with to the icing that she gets to eat from my fork, she loves it all.  From the other kids that she gets to play with to the socializing she gets to do, it's all fun for her.  The noisier and more chaotic, the better.  The more kids, the more she tries to keep up.

I feel badly that Miranda will grow up without any other kids to play with in her house.  So we make sure that she is always stimulated and around other kids.  It's easy to do since she is (for the most part) so much fun to be around!  We have play dates at least twice a week and daycare continues to be a very good outlet and learning experience for her.  She can point to her nose and her ears and her belly and squeals with delight when we applaud her genius.  

I feel like as an adult, we all say that our parents screwed us up in one way or another.  I am sure there are things that I am doing wrong, but you know what?  There is a lot that I am doing right, too. If necessary, I will remind her of that when she is older, just like my mom did (does?!) to me!

In the meantime, I can't wait for our next party!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My "thing"

When I was younger, I desperately wanted to find the thing or talent that was unique to me.  Both of my brothers were involved in sports.  Soccer and little league practices were a constant.  I did gymnastics and took tap and ballet lessons but both were when I was really young.  I played the flute and then the saxophone but never stuck with either.  I had a brief relationship with the piano, but we broke up after I learned the opening to, "Greatest Love of All" and was tired of playing, "I believe the children are our future" over and over and over.

By junior high and high school, I realized that theater was my thing.  I loved performing and transforming myself into someone else.  I loved rehearsals and practice and costumes and stage makeup. I loved the spotlight.

Decades later, I still love being the center of attention.  

So what is my thing now?  Well, it turns out I have several things.  I am the face of child loss.  I am the face of adoption.  I am the face of loss and I am the face of hope.

No one nominated me to be these things.  Life just happened and I felt it was my role to make sure that none of what happened was in vain.

Gary and I ran into someone last week who lost his nephew to SIDS.  I immediately asked if he would go to a support group and started to think of ways to help this virtual stranger.  If there is one thing I learned, it's that you do not have to suffer alone.

November is National Adoption Month.  I feel compelled to share Miranda's story of how we came to be her parents and how lucky we are that she is in our life.  She is the sunshine and light that makes each day bright.  I know how cliche that sounds.  I know!  But that doesn't make it any less true.

2 years ago this very month, we went to our first adoption meeting.  4 months later, we brought our daughter home.  I still can't believe she is ours sometimes.

I find it interesting that years of searching for my passion and in the end, it's my 2 daughters that supply me with what I was looking for all those years.  

Funny how life works out, huh?

Searching for her own "thing" by constantly running away from us!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shiva

The term "sitting Shiva" refers to a seven day period of mourning after a close relative of a Jewish person has passed away. A person sits Shiva after the death of one of his parents, brothers/sisters, children, husband or wife. Sitting Shiva has two important purposes: honoring the dead, and helping the mourner deal with his or her loss.

I went to a Shiva last night for a family friend.  I had not done this ritual in a long time - maybe since I was a kid.  Often I attend the funeral or the burial but do not always make it back to the house to pay my respects, too.

Several things stood out to me.  

1. We did not sit Shiva for my dad.  While he was Jewish through and through, it was not something we felt he would have wanted and we were able to delay the funeral enough that most of the out-of-towners could get here for the funeral.

2. Sitting shiva is really comforting.  You the mourner are not comfortable - there are all kinds of rituals to make sure that you are not comfortable actually - but the warmth and the compassion and the love you get from those that come to pay their respects in your home is really quite lovely.  It's different than at a funeral home or cemetery.

3. We never got to sit Shiva for Allie.  Well, we did not even have a funeral for her.  That would have just been to much to handle for Gary and for me.  We barely had come to terms with the fact that she had died and to have a service with all our loved ones would have just been so so hard.  So we mourned with each other and in private.  Technically, you can not sit shiva for an infant under 30 days old anyway.  Jewish law does not permit it.  I did some research, though, and it looks like that is changing a bit.  Depends on what you believe and how you chose to interpret it.  Truth be told, although  we did not officially sit shiva for Allie, we certainly did have a mourning period for her (and it lasted way longer than 7 days which is the standard).

4. Hebrew prayers and chanting are some of the most wonderful sounds that exist to me.  I grew up very involved in our synagogue and in fact last night, was met by 2 close friends that I have known since we were in United Synagogue Youth together.  I had a prayer book in my hand but I did not need it as all the prayers came back to me with their melodies as well.  It was sad.  It was solemn.  It was beautiful.

5. Death and dying sucks.  No matter how old - no matter how sick - saying goodbye is really hard.  I never like seeing my friends and family cry and when they do/are and there is nothing I can do about it...well, it just sucks.

I found this little tidbit via my friend, Google.  "Attending a Shiva is a mitzvah (commandment). The mitzvah is to go to a house of mourning, to comfort the bereaved, and to assure that there will be a minyan of ten people to recite the Kaddish memorial prayer. Performing this mitzvah is one of the highest honors a person can do for another in our community. It is not necessary that you know the deceased or the mourner for your presence to help in comforting the mourners as they grieve and heal."

I felt comforted that my presence may have been comforting last night.  Not a bad way to spend an evening, if you ask me.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tomorrow

"Tomorrow, tomorrow I love you tomorrow
You're always a day away ..."

Tomorrow marks the 6 year anniversary of my first date with Gary.  I can't believe it.  It seems like yesterday and it seems like decades ago all at the same time.

Had you told me 6 years ago today that my life was about the change the very next day, I would not have believed you.  Gary from work, my friend Beth and I all met up for drinks.  Beth left shortly after the hummus tray was devoured as she seemed to catch on long before us that something special was happening.

In 6 years, we have gotten married 3 times.  We have experienced so very much.  We have traveled around the country and to Mexico.  We have seen countless movies.  We have played Rock Band and Scattergories and Words With Friends.  We have spent hours and hours with our families.  Gary has run several Tough Mudder's and other assorted races and now I can say I have run a 5k, too.  We turned 40 together.  
 
We jumped up and down with wild abandon when we got pregnant and we clung to each other like there was no one else in the world when we were told there was no fetal heartbeat.  We held our first daughter in our arms together.  We mourned together.  We started to heal together.

We did research together.  We found an adoption agency together.  We had a home study.  We went to meetings upon meetings, all while going to grief counseling.  We hosted a fundraiser. We got chosen.  We loaded the car and went to Delaware.  We met our second daughter.

Our journey has been high and it has been low.  But through it all, we have been side-by-side because that is how we work.

Not everyone celebrates the anniversary of their first date.  We call it our "First Date-A-Versary".  But we are not everyone.  We believe in celebrating all the good things, no matter how big or small.

I plan to raise Miranda with that same spirit, too. 

Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling so lucky.  Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling so happy.  I only know luck and happiness, though, from being without either or both.  

Tomorrow night we will go back to the scene of our first date.  We will have an adult night out that might even include a movie if we can stay awake!  A little bit different from 2008, but so much sweeter now with all the memories between us and the knowledge that we will be together for whatever comes next!
October 2008




November 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Run!

Years ago, I decided I wanted to be a runner.  I bought new sneakers, I trained for a bit and then life got in the way. 

A few months ago, I got the bug again.  This time, I downloaded an app for my phone and made myself promise that 2 days a week when Miranda went to daycare, I would run.  And I did.  I also picked 1 day on the weekend and ran then.  Finally, once my training was complete, I signed up for my first race.

The race was this past Saturday.  It was cold.  It was wet.  It was nasty.

So we changed our plan.  Instead of Gary and Miranda and my mom cheering me on, we dropped Miranda off at my mom's house and Gary decided to run the race with me.  No sense waiting by the finish line when he could just as easily be by my side.

There were also a lot of runners from my old job there as well.  That company had helped sponsor the race.  It was nice to see the familiar faces and the vibe overall was very positive.

I did not get to warm up the way I wanted and before I knew it, it was time to go.  I ran over the starting line and let out a "WOO HOO!" and we were off.

Probably about 2 minutes later, I lost my enthusiasm.  Rain was mixing with sweat and I was soaked to the bone.  I felt heavy and winded and wondered why I had even bothered.

And then I remembered.  I bothered because I want to be healthy.  I bothered because I want to be around for a long time to come.  I bothered because it was good to set a goal and go after it.

Do I love running?  HA!  No.  I wish I could say that I did.  Do I love the feeling I get from running?  Absolutely.

I tried to channel Allie during my run but I came up with nothing.  I tried to focus on Miranda but that did not help.  I tried to think of the things my family can and will do if I am around for a long time to come and that is what kept me going.  I need to be here to do those things and I need to be here to keep the memories safe.

Eventually we neared the finish line.  I was still going!!!  

There was a crowd cheering me on as we neared the end.  There was my biggest supporter right behind me (who was gracious enough to let me "beat" him).  I took my  headphones out so I could really experience the moment. And I did.

Will I run another one?  Maybe.  I am not sure yet. What I do know is that I woke up this morning, laced up my sneakers and went for a run.  Got my best time yet.  So you just never know.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

My "Why"

When I first got interested in selling Rodan + Fields, I was told to craft my "why".  Have a reason in my mind that will give me the courage to reach out, make me remember why I got involved in the first place and have something to focus on, aside from the products themselves.

I did not have to think long.  My family is my "why".

3 days a week, I lace up my sneakers, pull my hair into a ponytail, squeeze my body into clothes that are not flattering and I run.  I run to feel better.  I run to get in shape. I run to set an example for my daughter.  I run to make sure I am around for a long time to come.

I am a freelance writer.  2 days a week from home and 1 day a week from an office of my very own.  I write about training classes and blog about human resource practices and I do it so that I can be home with Miranda the rest of the week and so that I can keep my mind sharp so that I can play with her and teach her all the things that she will need to know.  I also do it so that I can afford to buy her whatever her (and my) heart desires.

I never assumed that I was going to be a wife and I certainly never thought I was going to be a mother.  Now that I am both, I can't imagine it any other way.  

Allie is my why, even though she is not here.  You can't see her, but she is here.  I know it.


Miranda is my why and she brings more light and laughter to all those around her than I ever would have thought possible.


Gary is my why - for without him, I would be so lost.


My brothers, my sisters-in-law, my mom, my in-laws...all part of my why.  For them I want to be strong and healthy and happy.

Lastly, I am my own why.  I deserve all of these things.  It took me most of my life to see that, but lately it has become so clear to me.  

Do you know your why?  Take a moment and make sure you do.  You won't regret it.

A Letter to My First Daughter

My Dearest Allie, It’s been a while since I have written to you. I find it easier to write about you than it is to write to you. ...