Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Suddenly I See

"Her face is a map of the world
Is a map of the world
You can see she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl

And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

Suddenly I see (suddenly I see)
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see (suddenly I see)
Why the hell it means so much to me
Suddenly I see (suddenly I see)
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see (suddenly I see)
Why the hell it means so much to me"
-KT Tunstall

This song came on Pandora this morning while I was in the shower. I have heard it hundreds of times, but when trapped with a head full of conditioner, I actually listened to the words. I liked what I heard.

I feel like this past year has been so eye-opening for me. I feel like I came into my own. I heard that turning 40 makes you more about you and less about how others perceive you. I heard the same about becoming a mother. Well, it took me a little bit longer I suppose, but in my 41st year, I got there.

That is not to say I am where I want to be. I am not sure I will ever be exactly where I want to be as what I want is constantly changing. I think that is good...or at least it's good for me.

I like to go to the movies by myself. I do not like to share my food when I am out to eat as I always worry I will not get enough. I hate my hair in a ponytail. I wish my toes were longer. I think I have man shaped hands. I dislike the bump on my nose. I like Lifetime movies as much as I like Showtime dramas. I like house wine as much as fancy wine. I like to eat with chopsticks but I look so silly doing it that I always worry someone will take them away from me. I wish I felt better about the way I looked in leggings. I started going gray at 19. I always wanted to be a famous actress. I love singing but am pretty awful at it. I worry about failure every. single. day.

It's invigorating to be free and say what I feel!  Here in my safe space, it feels empowering.

Next month, I turn 42. I am starting a new job. I am part of a running team that is aiming to run 2,016 miles in 2016. Once Spring comes, I am sure I will sign up for more races. I want to keep challenging myself and keep striving for more. I want to lose the weight I gained over the past month (no one is immune from egg nog and holiday cookies, folks) and get back to being me.

Can't wait to see "why the hell it means so much to me."

Thanks for taking this journey with me.  See you all next year!







Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"Everything you want's a dream away"

This is a lyric from a new Coldplay song and I just can't get enough of it. 

Can we really dream about what we want and then get it?

I feel like I am living in a dream these days. A crazy, exhausting, exhilarating dream.

I just finished watching the second season of "The Affair" on Showtime. If you have never seen it, I urge you to start now. As in right this second. It's the only show I have ever watched that is like reading a good book. It's a narrative told by four different people. Each person has their own perspective and insight and never do the stories ever match up. It's an interesting story telling device and it always makes me think long after the episode airs.

What would my story be like from the eyes of Gary? What about through the eyes of Miranda? What did my childhood look like through the eyes of my mom? Or my brothers? You know how you have a memory and you are so sure of it and then you compare that memory with someone else and they remember it so completely differently? That's what this show is like. That's what my life is like!

My memories tend to me more positive than negative. When I think of Allie, I think of telling our friends and family that I was pregnant. I think of my baby shower. I think of the tour we took of the maternity ward. I think of the trip to Babies R Us to register and how scared I was because I did not know what to do with any of the items in that store! I think of the kicks she gave me and how she used to move more when I ate fruit or listened to Pink. I remember the 3D ultrasound when we learned she was indeed a she. I do think of the hospital and her delivery and the aftermath of her absence, but not as much anymore. I am not sure if that is because we are approaching five years or if it is how my brain works to protect my heart.

Now what if we told Allie's story from Gary's point of view? What would be the focus? He did not have the physical connection to her, but he certainly had the emotional one. How did the world look through his eyes for those 37 weeks? Would his memories match up with mine?

Three years ago, we were knee deep in adoption paperwork. Literally. Background checks and fingerprinting and reference letters and tax returns. It was cumbersome and time consuming and we do not regret one moment of it. All of it led us to Miranda, our rainbow, our dream.

We wanted her so badly. We knew she was ours before the agency called to say we were placed. She never replaced Allie - that was not her role. She did, however, mend our broken hearts and allowed us to focus on the here and now. She still does that every day.

What will her story be? What perspective will she have? I guess only time will tell. One thing is for sure - she is her own author, director and actor and no matter how her story goes, we will be so happy to watch it unfold. After all, everything she wants is a dream away.

Happy holidays from our family to yours. No matter where they all are or how they came to be a part of your family!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Flux

Flux is defined as, "continuous change, passage, or movement". I believe that it applies mainly to physics or chemistry, but it can also be used to describe a state of mind. And wow, do I feel like I am in a state of flux right now.

In general, things are good. REALLY good. We just celebrated Hanukkah with so much joy and fervor that if the holiday was any more than eight days, we would have had to throw in the towel. There were candles and gifts and smiles and happiness and parties and fun! Miranda loved it so much and we loved seeing her discover the holiday. We got to spend some good time with family and it was a great time of year. Christmas is next with Gary's side of the family and I am looking forward to more memories and more laughter.

I ran a few races over the past few weeks and am "retired" from any runs until 2016. They really do not hold any races around here in the winter due to the weather and I am ok with that. I have spent a lot in entrance fees and pictures of myself crossing the finish lines and it feels good to take a break. This morning I went on a run by myself and my time did not matter to anyone but me and it was nice. I was actually faster than I have been in a few weeks!

There are not a lot of freelance jobs out there this time of year, but I am optimistic that will change when we flip the calendars in a few weeks. In the meantime, I am working when I can and enjoying this bit of time to just be me. I feel that everyone should get the chance to do that every once and a while.

I have been reflecting a lot about this past year. 2015 was good for us. I worked hard. I played hard. I smiled more than I frowned. I laughed more than I cried.

Yet, I still feel a heaviness weighing on me. I still feel a cloud of doubt follows me from place to place. I think 2016 will be a year of self-discovery and more self-awareness. A year where I do not worry about losing weight, but keeping it off. A year where I do not worry about every parenting decision but more how to enjoy parenting. Ha! If only.

So much of who I am is a mom. And I want to be the best mom I can be.

I took Miranda to the local zoo yesterday. It was in the 60's and we walked around with coats or anything! We saw the turtles and the snakes and the red pandas. When we walked near the bison, we waved hello. She declared, "Hi bison! I'm Miranda Koellhoffer!" Then she pointed to me and said, "This is Mama Sam!". I almost lost it right then and there. She is hilarious, this kid of ours. We had such a lovely day and I think it is one we will both remember for some time.

I guess when it comes to being in flux, I just need to go with in and see where it leads. I have been viewing it as a negative since I can't quite figure out how or why I feel this way and yet maybe it's a positive thing? Time will tell, I suppose. Time will tell.

 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I know how funny it seems. In the middle of Hanukkah, I chose a Christmas song to title my blog today. But it's true - this is the "most wonderful time of the year"!

I love the lights and the festivities and the fun and the frolic that surround December. Most of it is for a holiday that I do not even celebrate, and yet I still love it. People seem nicer. Sales seem bigger. Smiles seem wider.

This is the first year that Miranda almost sorta kinda understands the holiday season. She can say "Hanukkah" and she can say "menorah" and she has been able to say "presents" for as long as I can remember! Seeing the holiday through her eyes makes it that much more special.

We live in a happy bubble in our house. We read the news and pay attention to the outside world, but for the most part, we really just focus on us. One day the time will come when we will have to teach about tragedy and sorrow and pain, but we are not there yet. And I am not rushing it.

Internally, I have my own battles. Don't we all? Who am I now that I am not really working that much? Am I a stay at home mom? Am I a housewife? Am I still a writer?

Who do I want to be? What can I be?

I feel a mid-life crisis coming on. This past year I got a new tattoo and another piercing in my ear. I am not sure I want to do much else. But I feel this yearning for more.

I always want more. I am always looking ahead. I write about being mindful because I really want to be. And yet my mind races forward.

I feel this need to define myself and yet why? Why do I need a label? Why can't I just be who I am? Why do I make things so much harder for myself?

I can't answer those questions right now. I can be aware of them, though. Acknowledging them means they are real and then I can start to focus on them.

It doesn't matter how old we are - we are always changing and learning and growing.

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

Hanukkah 2015

1st Night

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Past / Present / Future

This time of year stirs up a lot of emotions for many people. There are lots of family functions and celebrations and times to think about the people who used to be there, the people who should be here and the people that just plain simply are not here.

It's far healthier to focus on the people that are here. I am working on that.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to meet up with an old family member. It was great to reminisce about the good times in our past as well as talk about the not-so-good-times. I left with a feeling of gratitude. I was thankful that we were able to share our memories and become stronger because of them. I was proud of the adults we have become and that we took our past and made it as positive as we could.

That same day, Miranda got an itch to play in our basement. It's unfinished and therefore she needs more supervision than normal! A lot of her old toys are there and so every once and a while, we give in and head down.

While she was climbing on her rocking horse, I decided to go through some of my dad's stuff. We packed up his belongings long before he died, when we were moving him into a facility that could take care of him. I have boxes and bins and albums of pictures that he savored. So I started there.

Wow. So many memories. Pictures of my mom and brothers and me in a time that was all but forgotten. Smiles that were practically bursting off the pages. Fashion choices and hair cuts that made me cringe. My dad in his element with classic cars and vacations and surrounded by people. He loved the be the center of attention and often was.

I have so many emotions swirling around in my head. My childhood was not ideal. There was so much suffering. However, did that suffering make me into who I am now? Would I be the same person if my past was different?  

As a parent now, I see things so differently. I would do anything to protect my child, as my mother did for me. My dad did not have the same instincts, but how much can I continue to blame him for that? I am not even sure he did the best he could. He did what was best for him. Does that make him bad? Not at all. Does that make him a a bad dad? Well, uh, yeah.

How much does our past determine our present? And how much does the here and now determine what is yet to come? I think a lot of it. 

If I never started working at my old company, I would have never met Gary. If I never met Gary, there would be no Allie and no Miranda. I would not be an aunt to 2 fantastic nephews and 1 amazing niece. I probably would not live in my house or drive my exact car. Who knows where I would be personally or professionally. My whole existence would be different.

My past led me to my present which is going to funnel into my future. I guess all I can do is be mindful and aware of the emotions that come up along the way and sit back and enjoy the ride. That is the right thing to do. The healthy thing to do. And after all, it is quite a ride!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hello

Adele released a new album this month and the song, "Hello" has been playing everywhere I go. I was immediately drawn to her voice and that song. Her last album became familiar to me around the time when Allie died so I used to associate her music with a little bit of darkness and despair.

This time around, I found her songs to be different.

She is different now. Now she is a mother. Now she has found fame. I read an article in which she said, "The song (Hello) is about hurting someone's feelings but it's also about trying to stay in touch with myself, which sometimes can be a little bit hard to do."

I absolutely love that. A song to herself! Staying in touch with herself. Isn't that something we all need to do?

I feel like I need to constantly stay in touch with myself. I need to remind myself to be healthy and why it matters so much. I need to remind myself to be good to myself and not to be strict when things do not go my way. I am truly my harshest critic and it's good to remember to be be kind more than be critical.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. This is a holiday that used to remind me of what I had lost. My brothers and I were often separated due to visitation schedule with my dad and I often felt alone, even though I never was. Through the years, the holiday has transformed into something less dramatic and just plain fun. This year, we are adding a high chair for my niece while Miranda is upgraded to a "big girl" chair and I can't help but be excited about spending the day with my loved ones.


I lose touch with myself a lot. I forget to put myself first and I worry too much about others before I worry about me. I vow to be more aware of that moving forward. I am so lucky. I have so much to be thankful for each and every day. I am loved and I love so much back. Not just this week but every week. That's what it's all about, right?
 
"Hello from the other side
I must've called a thousand times
To tell you I'm sorry for everything that I've done
But when I call you never seem to be home"
-Adele

Hello, It's me

Thursday, November 19, 2015

When one door closes...

The day Gary got his start date for his new job, I found out I lost mine. I knew it was coming, and it's not completely lost. Instead of 24 hours a week, it's now "as needed". I love the company I have been freelancing for these past few years and am happy to do the work they still need. The problem is, that is not going to pay the bills.

So what now? Do I go back to work full time? Do we enroll Miranda in school full time? After some thought and consideration and conversation, we have decided no. Not now, anyway.

The thing is, I love my days home with my daughter. Three days a week, she learns and plays and experiences the world as a toddler in a structured program. Two days a week, she watches cartoons and runs errands and has play dates and experiences the world as a toddler with a mom who is home with her. No amount of money is worth changing that. She will not be a toddler forever and I will never get this time back with her.

So I am on the hunt for more work. Who wants to pay me to write? I had a Skype interview with a creative staffing agency. I am applying to all sorts of freelance writing and copy writing and editing jobs. I think I want to try to continue to make a go of this writing thing. I like it and I think I am good at it.

In the meantime, I am actually enjoying this bit of down time. The laundry is getting done in a timely manner. I am prepping dinner most nights. I have been to the grocery store three times this week. My house has been dusted and vacuumed. Not bad, huh?

It's not like me not to panic. It's not like me not to freak out. I think I am changing a bit in my age. I know the right thing will come along at the right time. While I am not a believer in "it was meant to happen this way" or "everything happens for a reason", I am a believer that things will work out the way they are supposed to and worrying and going nuts will only make us all stressed out for no reason. I have learned the hard way that time and persistence and hope will eventually get me to where I need to go.

When one door closes, another one opens. I, for one, can't wait to see what is behind the next door!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Princess for a Day

Miranda loves princesses. All of them. Belle. Aurora. Tiana. Ariel (who is more mermaid than princess, but we go with it). We bought her a princess gown for Halloween and then remembered that we had a hand-me-down chicken costume that would only fit her this year and was nice and warm and so the chicken costume won. It was a great costume and served her well.

This morning, while getting Miranda dressed for school, she stumbled upon her princess dress hanging in her closet. She insisted that she was a princess and had to wear the dress. Luckily we were able to get her clothes on underneath the dress, but she still went to school with the gown on over her outfit.

Her teachers were amused. The other parents gave me a knowing look. Apparently, this is the age where Miranda starts to decide what she likes and does not like. As much as it may cause some headaches for us, I kind of like this new independence. For now.

I do not believe that there is anything wrong with our daughter believing in fairy tales and make-believe. I do not have an issue if she wants to twirl around and "be pretty". It makes my heart burst that she is so easily amused and that she is so carefree. 

Miranda picks up on everything we do. She sees the way Gary treats me and vice-versa and I hope she sees how lucky we are.

Gary started a new job today. It's a very exciting time in our house. Change is scary, but also very good. We spent his last day home yesterday by going out and shopping. For me. Who does that? At least he let me treat for lunch.

We are not perfect parents. Who is? We make mistakes along the way and we learn from them. Candy corn for dinner, for example, was not a good idea. Asking her if she wanted a time out? Another poor decision. The journey to figure out what works and what doesn't is exhausting, but also exhilarating.

There will come a time when we have to talk about difficult things. When the battles are about more than clothes or food. I hope that we are setting the stage for a tolerant and loving and compassionate girl who will do her best to handle what comes her way. And if she becomes that girl with a tiara on her head and a wand in her hand, then more power to her!    

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Bye-Bye Baby

Every day, we are becoming more and more aware that our baby is a toddler now. She is starting to use the potty. She is starting to have her own thoughts and opinions and her own unique way to express them. She is no longer sleeping in a crib.

Last week, we dismantled her crib (which had been converted to a toddler bed) and her changing table. A friend of a friend had a new grandchild coming and could use the furniture and we were more than happy to give it to her. We have been given so much that it felt good to be able to give back.

As we started to deconstruct Miranda's nursery, my heart started to skip a little faster. Never again would be be assembling a crib in that room. It made me sad and then it made me glad.

The nursery has always been a power keg of emotions for me. When Gary painted it a pretty green shade back in the Winter of 2011, we carefully picked out the furniture and bedding and pictures and decorations.  I was the happiest I had ever been. A few months later, our friends and family came over and tore everything down and put it all in trash bags in the basement. Out came the crib and in went the old queen bed and the room went back to being a guest room. For the longest time, I would come up the steps and not even look that way. It just hurt too much. I was the saddest I had ever been.

When we decided to adopt and had the home study, we had to show the social worker where the nursery would be. We showed her the guest room and explained that we could fill it when we knew there was a baby on the way. But not too much before. She knew our story and she loved the room and the potential it had.

When we were chosen to be Miranda's parents, we put the nursery back together. At first I wanted to paint it a new color and get all new furniture, but by then, the scar tissue had formed over my open wounds and I liked the idea of Allie's crib and changing table finally being used. I liked that the pretty green shade that we picked for her would now be the color that her sister would see every morning and every night.

For over two and a half years, that furniture kept Miranda safe and sound. She learned how to sleep in that crib. She had her first dreams in that room. We fed her bottles late at night while staring at the walls that her sister was supposed to also see. We read endless books in that room. We laughed. We probably cried. We sang songs. We survived.

That room stopped being sad for me the day that Miranda came home. I still missed Allie, of course. That never changed. Sometimes even more when I saw what she was missing. But the room was Miranda's now and that was easy to accept.

The baby that was supposed to receive the furniture was supposed to be a girl and she was due in about a month. I heard yesterday that he was here, a full month early. You read that right. HE!

So bye-bye old crib and changing table and old memories. Enjoy your new home. A boy will have different dreams and different books and different songs to sing. Cherish each and every one.

In the meantime, we have a lot to do here to prepare for our growing toddler. The time is going by so fast. I think it's fair to say this is the happiest we have all ever been.



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

American Greetings

I am a card person. I love a good card. I love when someone takes the time to come up with a card that is perfect for me and then takes the time to get it to me. I have mentioned before how I love getting mail, but I am also a fan of personal delivery. I also like to find and give the right card, too. It's a great feeling.

Now, said card does not have to be $4 or whatever crazy price cards are going for these days. I am just as good with grocery store cards or dollar store cards!

Growing up, there were no cards for step-parents. I remember this vividly because I used to want to get a card for my then step-father for Father's Day, but there were no cards for him. I could not get him one that said "dad" or "father" because I had a dad and he was not it. He also had kids of his own and I never wanted to stand in the way of his relationship with them. I am not sure if they make cards for that relationship now, but I would not be surprised.

I learned 4 years ago that no card company took on the topic of miscarriage or stillbirth. I can't say I blame them. To make any kind of profit out of a loss like that seems just plain wrong. Most of the cards we received were sympathy cards. Or "thinking of you" cards. I did read an article lately that said some organizations are making those kinds of cards available. I guess that is nice. We saved each and every card in Allie's memory box and will one day go through them again. I went though the box a few years back and it was still too hard to sift through. I will know when the time is right to look again.

The last card that I have come to realize does not exist is to birth parents. M's birthday was last week and we had one of our biannual visits this past Sunday. I ran out that morning to get her a card to go with the little gift we got her and I was stumped. How do you say, "Happy Birthday to the woman who gave birth to my baby?" I guess I see now why there is no category for that kind of card. I settled for just a generic and pretty card. She seemed to like it.

M has such a big heart. She was not expecting a present from us and seemed genuinely touched. I got her a little bracelet that I also wear that is supposed to bring awareness to adoption. We also gave her a toy of Miranda's that she used to sleep with when she was little.

The visits are easier than they used to be. I do not feel in competition any more. I just feel so grateful that there is a woman out there who loves our daughter as much as we do. I never heard of any one having too much love, after all.

One day, maybe I will revolutionize the greeting card industry. I already see, "Congrats on your weight loss! I never knew you were that heavy!" or "You ran a 5K? With those boobs?" I am still working out the exact wording.

Perhaps I should just stick to buying and sending cards and let the professionals handle the rest?

Miranda hugging an early Hanukkah gift from M
 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October 20th

I will always remember your birthday. Mainly because it was so important to you and it was drilled into my brain! If it were up to you, we would stop everything and celebrate you. All day long. Bonus if your birthday fell on a weekend and we could celebrate for more than one day.

I am not judging. I am like that, too. Always have been and I suspect, always will be.

Dad, you would have been 74 years old today. It's hard to grasp that you are not here telling us where you want to go for dinner.

When I think of you now, I mainly remember the good. This fact is pretty shocking considering most of it was not good. You were hardly the ideal father. I used to think no one was in the day and age. And then I saw the dads of my friends and realized that no, it was just you.

Did you love us? Absolutely. Did you love yourself more? Absolutely.

Now that I am a parent, I am navigating the waters of what comes first...my child, my family or me. I am learning that if done right, they all come out on top. It's hard, do not get me wrong. Sometimes I even make the wrong choices. But I try to learn and grow from them.

I was at an event a few months ago and had one too many glasses of wine. I called the bartender "young fella". Then I almost choked on my laughter as that was such a "you" thing to say and I had to think that somehow you knew I had said it.

I still look like you. I thought the fact that we were both "big boned" is what made us look alike. Now, all those pounds later, I discovered that no matter what I weigh, I still look like you. I like that.

I am not sure what I believe about the afterlife. I am not sure if you are singing in a Gay Men's Chorus right now and telling your stories to anyone that will listen. I am not sure if you are with your sister or your parents or if you would even want to be if you could. I hope, though, that if you can, you can put Allie first for a little bit and check on her. You should know her right away. She looks like both of us.

I miss you and I wish you the peace in death that you were unable to find in life. 

Happy birthday, Dad. I love you. Always have. Always will.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Once a Day

"...You always think it's gonna happen to another person,
And it's never ever gonna happen to you.
You got your friends, you got your money,
Got your family, got your honey,
You think you got a million days.
But then life comes along
And it knocks you right down to the ground and that's why I say.


Everybody oughta hug somebody, at least once a day.
And everybody oughta kiss somebody, at least once a day.
Everybody's gonna miss somebody, at least once a day.
And everybody gotta love somebody, every day!"
-Michael Franti & Spearhead

I heard these lyrics today and they resonated very loudly in my head. My brother, Dan, really digs this band and has shared many of their songs with me. I have heard the song before, but not like I heard it today. 

There is so much in life that we cannot control. We act like we can control it all, but we simply cannot. This song was a good reminder that no matter what happens, be happy for what you have and don't take any of it for granted. "Life comes along and it knocks you right down..."  Wow.

Gary and I ran a 5K together on Saturday. We pretty much matched our strides which is hard to do since he is so much taller than me, but we were together the whole time. The race was like a living metaphor for me. We started together, we kept up with each other, we encouraged each other, and we finished together. It was the best race I have had yet. We have another one in 10 days and I can't wait.

Tomorrow is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. We will head out to a Balloon Release as soon as Miranda is done with school for the day. We will surround ourselves with other families like ours. Families who have babies that only we can see and feel. Then we will come home and light a candle at 7pm as a part of the "Wave of Light". It's a neat tradition and we do it every year.

This year, I suspect Miranda will have some questions. We will do our best to answer them. Little does she know that we still have questions, too.

At the end of the day, we will certainly hug somebody. And kiss somebody. And miss somebody. And love somebody. And then we will do it all again the next day, too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Name

"I think about you all the time
But I don't need the same
It's lonely where you are
Come back down
And I won't tell 'em your name"
-Goo Goo Dolls 

I do not know Allie's name like I know Miranda's name. Miranda's name gets spoken very frequently. We use it when we address her. We use it when we talk about her. We insert it into songs in music class and books and stories of make-believe. We utter it over and over and over.

Allie's name is more like a whisper. We do not get to use it nearly as much. Once and a while, Gary and I say her name when we have a memory that we are trying to hold onto or a story we are recalling. It's very different.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. For this month, I wear a special bracelet. I
change my profile picture on Facebook. I make plans to attend a balloon release with my family. I try to say Allie's name even more.

Then what happens? November rolls in and everything goes back to the way it was? Not for us. Never.

It's such a tangled web to grieve four years after a loss. Thankfully, the emotions are not nearly as raw or sharp, but that means they are also easier to tuck away. 

I am starting to think about how we will tell Miranda about Allie. We mention her now, but not in a way that she understands and I think that is deliberate. When we went to pick out our pumpkins this year, I wanted Miranda to get two. I did not specifically say why, though. I always want things in pairs - for both our girls - but that is hard when one is not here. 

When the time is right, I know we will know. Just like we will know how to talk about adoption. And religion. And politics. Ok, we probably have time for politics!

I guess I just miss Allie. I miss what she would have been. I miss what she could have been. I miss the sound of her name. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pop-Up Support Group

Pop-Up Restaurants, also called supper clubs, are temporary restaurants. These restaurants often operate from a private home, former factory or similar space, and during festivals.

Pop-Up Support Groups are more rare. In fact, I know of only one. And I was honored enough to be a part of it.

A member of my former support group heard of a mom in need. This mom lost her daughter at 38 weeks this past May. She and her husband and their living son are beside themselves with grief. They did not know where to turn.

This former member, my friend, texted and emailed and supported this mom the best she could. But the grieving mom needed more. So my friend called in back up.

This past Saturday, we met up at a local park. We did not bring snacks and we did not dress up. It was unlike any other kind of meeting I have attended. We sat around a picnic table and just told our stories. We talked about our babies that were also born still. We hugged and cried and told the newest member of our circle that she is not alone. Unfortunately, there are many parents like us.

"There is no before, but we are here to show you there is an after." I said this and immediately knew I had to write it down. I was explaining to our new member that life as she knew it before her loss was over. Done. Gone. But there is life after loss, and a good life at that. In order to experience it, though, you have to let yourself grieve.

It's so easy to get caught up in the anger and frustration, but you can't live a good life with those feeling ruling your life. I think you need to find a place for them so that you can exist with them in you, but not consuming you.

Our support group lost our local charter so we do not meet anymore. But these moms and I decided that there are still parents out there that need us. So we are forming our own Pop-Up group. It will not take away from the formal group that still has many chapters and does great work. This is an more intimate group that will meet as needed, wherever we can find the space, to sit and talk and help.

It was nice to talk about Allie. It was hard to share her story, but once I started talking, my throat was dry from all I had to say. With Miranda, I have new stories to share every single day. With Allie, I had 38 weeks and 1 day to make and remember stories. I am so glad that I wrote so many of them down and that people want to hear them still. 

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. To me, every month is an awareness month. But I will play along. I will bring even more awareness than I usually do. I will do it for Allie and for her friends in the clouds. I will do it all the women that delivered their babies to silent delivery rooms. I will do it for all the men that will always wonder if their babies would have looked like them one day. And I will do it as a way to support all of us who have loved and lost and hopefully, learned to love again.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Time to Atone

Yom Kippur, also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.

I have not fasted in years. While Judaism is very important to me and such a part of who I am, I have played it fast and loose with some of the traditions these past few years.

I feel a shift this year and have decided only recently that I will fast tomorrow. I knew I was not going to work and I knew I was going to spend the day reflecting, but I was not sure if it was going to end there or not. 

I do not believe that I will be a better or a worse Jew by sundown tomorrow if I fast or don't fast. That's not what it's about. I know as many Jews who fast as who don't. I know many that keep kosher and many that eat scallops wrapped in bacon at every formal function they attend. No one seems to care, as far as I can tell. It's such a personal thing. Whatever degree of tradition or religion you celebrate or embrace is entirely up to you. 

When my uncle passed away in his 40's when I was a child, I first questioned my religion. Then again when my parents divorced. Then again when other loved ones died for reasons that I could never begin to understand. I felt myself falling away from my faith, but knowing that it would be there for me when I was ready.

It was very important for me to get married by a rabbi and we found a great one. It was very important to me that my family be raised Jewish and luckily, Gary was (and is) so supportive of that. Allie was considered Jewish and she had an English name and a Hebrew name. I know we used a Jewish funeral home to help us honor her and that was very important to me.

Miranda was converted to Judaism as soon as her adoption was final and she was also named at our synagogue. At both events, I felt choked up with emotion as I was introducing her to a world that, although not always clear to me, was such a part of me.

I am so grateful that Gary has embraced Judaism and what it means to me and what it will someday mean to our daughter.

In the meantime, I feel myself coming back. I am not sure to what extent just yet. I just know that from sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow, I will be fasting. I will be atoning. I will be trying to figure out what kind of Jewish role model I want to be for my daughter. The way I look at it, that is a very good way to spend my time.



Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Struggle is Real

Look at me! I just lost 7 pounds!  Woo hoo!

No, this is not an old blog. It's a very current one. If I am going to document my weight loss journey, then I must show all sides.

There was the losing side. The pictures of me in various dressing rooms as I went down size after size after size. The excitement. The pride. The skinny jeans.

There was the stabilization side. The reintroduction of certain foods back into my diet. The pizza. The ice cream. The wine.

Now there is the maintenance side. The realization that I have not conquered my weight. I did not "fix" myself because in truth, I was not broken. What I was, though, was someone who made bad choices and when left to my own devices, turns out, will sometimes make them again.

But not so fast.

Now I know to step on the scale if I am not eating well to see the damage. Now I know to lace up my sneakers even if I am tired. Now I know that I am not the kind of person who can eat whenever or wherever I want. I need to plan. I need to prepare. I need to not forget all that I learned about myself and my body and I need to make sure I always remember why I wanted to lose the weight in the first place.

I want to be around for the long haul. I want to be able to play with my daughter without being winded. I want her to be proud of me. I want me to be proud of me.

I am. And one day, she will be. Not because I am "thin" or a size 10, but because I took the steps necessary to put myself first and take care of myself.

The numbers on the scale do not define me. The numbers on the tags do not own me. It is up to me to make smart choices and if it is a struggle, then so be it. After all, isn't what we struggle for the most sometimes what we also appreciate the most?



Thursday, September 10, 2015

#tbt

Throwback Thursday is a trend among social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook wherein users post or repost older photographs (often from their childhood) with the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT.

I love participating in this trend. I have posted old pictures of myself, my family, and my friends. I think it is so cool to see, in living color, the different phases of my life.

I have been having a lot of dreams lately about my pregnancy. Sometimes in my dreams, the pregnancy is current and not years ago. But the baby is always Allie.

As I have written so many times before, without Allie, there would be no Miranda. So, I cannot allow myself to think too much about a world in which Allie was here because that would mean that we would have never adopted and we would never have Miranda. Sometimes, though, I like to "throwback" to when I was first pregnant and everything was ahead of us and we did not know if the baby was a boy or a girl and the biggest hardship was figuring out what car seat to buy and what color to paint the nursery.

We were so naive. And that was so ok.

I miss the naivety. I miss the innocence.

For such a long time after Allie died, it was too hard to look back at all we shared with her. It hurt too much. Now that time has passed and our hearts have mended, it's not only easier, but it's cathartic. To be reminded of the love we shared, the excitement we had, the way the world was ours to conquer...it's pretty great.


Pregnant people used to make me so jealous. Then they made me so worried. Now they just make me cautiously optimistic that a healthy baby will someday be born.

I have no interest in getting pregnant again. I have no desire to adopt again. I am happy with our life as it is now. Miranda is our joy and pride and hope and the three of us work well together. The older she gets, the more we can do and the more we can share. We can provide for her and love her and enjoy her. 

A family from our adoption agency contacted us last week to ask for a referral. We gladly gave them one. A friend from my support group reached out to a bunch of us to ask when we can get together with a family who just lost their child.  I sadly said any time. That is my life now. Assisting others with bringing a baby home or helping others deal with the grief and the emptiness of not bringing one home.

Allie is woven into the fabric of our family. Miranda knows that butterflies are extra special. One day, we will explain why.

I tried to take a social media break earlier this week. I lasted three days. The fact of the matter is, I just enjoy sharing my life and experiences with my friends and family too much to stop. And not just on Thursday's. Pretty much every day! It's just as much a part of me as anything else. And I am ok with that.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Back to School

It seems that everyone is going back to school. I adore looking at the pics of all the kids, dressed in their finest, some grinning, some not, all heading back to school. Some are new schools with new friends, some are old schools with old friends. All have new memories just waiting to be made.

I wonder about the kids that will never get to meet a little girl named Allie. She will never get to pose for her back to school pic. She will never get to do so many things. That makes me sad.

I wonder about the kids that will one day get to meet a little girl named Miranda. She is bubbly and determined and funny and bright. She will get to do whatever her heart desires. That makes me happy.

I am stuck in a land of missing what will never happen and the land of being excited for what will happen. 

The very first thing I did this morning was send our monthly e-mail to Miranda's birth mother. We send it the first of the month and I like to send it first thing. I recap the last month and send pictures. I do not resent those e-mails. I see them as a way to keep M informed and I still think it is the least we can do for her as she gave us the most amazing gift in the world.

I start writing the e-mail in my head a few days before. I reflect on what we have done and how she has grown. I almost always wonder how much of Miranda is us and how much of her is her birth parents. Her humor is from me (I like to think!). Her love of animals is from Gary (we both think!). There are some traits that I think she was born with. She has no fear and she is is adventurous. I think those came with her. And I do not resent them, either. If anything, I am grateful for them. They are part of what makes her so amazing.

There is no question that Miranda is ours. Sometimes I worry that she might not always see it that way. The older she gets, the more questions she will have. Will we be ready?

Yesterday, we went to the beach. Miranda squealed with delight as her toes touched the sand and the waves rolled up around her. We built castles and picked seashells and ran with carefree abandon. We walked the boardwalk and ate frozen custard. It was the perfect day. 

I cherish those perfect days so very much. It wasn't that long ago that I doubted I would ever have them. Remembering that, helps me live in the present and not in the past. Here's to spending more time in the land of what will happen...


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Gift

“Happiness doesn't result from what we get, but from what we give.”
― Ben Carson
 
I love a good gift. Always have. I love the anticipation of a gift. I love the thinking behind what the gift could be. I love when I am surprised by a gift. There is nothing about a gift that I do not like.

Gifts to me used to only come in packages. They were as I described them above. And while I still love those kinds of gifts, I have come to realize that there are even better gifts out there.

The gift of love. The gift of companionship. The gift of friendship. The gift of family. The gift of a child.

So much of my life as a parent is taking care of this little person who can't really take care of herself just yet. Sometimes she rewards me with smiles and giggles and in the long run, the ability to learn how to do many of those things herself. Sometimes we are paid back with tears and tantrums. No matter what the reward, we still keep giving.

What is interesting to me is that we give and give with very little expectation of getting anything in return. Not when they are babies. Not even when they are toddlers.  And then, before you know it, your child learns out to say "thank you" and "please" and "I am so proud of you, Mama" and you know that you are doing the right thing. Your gift is giving back.

Miranda is really starting to comprehend her world around her. She loves animals and ice cream and books. She loves swimming and running and playing outside. She knows when she is "good" and likes to think that she is never "bad". The truth is, she is often both at the same time!

Within the next week, she will be transitioning to a new class at daycare. She will be in "Get Set"  which is the class that will "get her set" for preschool. She will learn to use a real cup and not a sippy cup. She will learn to use the potty. She will learn how to be more independent.

Our little "gift" is learning each day and in return, teaching us more and more each day. 

As far as I am concerned, that is the best gift of all.

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 ...