Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tis the Season

I am Jewish but my husband is not. When we got married, he asked me if I wanted him to convert to Judaism. I, in turn, asked him if he wanted to be Jewish. He said not particularly. We left it at that. The only condition was that I wanted to raise our family Jewish. He was (and is) totally on board with that.

There are many perks of an interfaith household. While within the walls of our house, we celebrate the Jewish holidays only. However, on days like Christmas, Easter, First Communions and Baptisms, we get to join in the fun, too.

This year, Hanukkah fell on Christmas Eve. We went out for Chinese food as is my family’s tradition and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. Then we came home and lit the menorah and exchanged presents. The next day, we woke up and headed to NJ to visit our in-laws to celebrate Christmas. It was a glorious day filled with laughter and love and a few more presents.

My daughter is three years old. She will be four in the spring. I was worried that she would ask why Santa does not come to our house or why her cousins say grace before the meal and we do not. Instead, she embraces it all and takes it all in and gets to enjoy all the nuances of all the days. I think that is pretty amazing.

I have learned in my life that there is no right or wrong. There is no my way or no way. Part of being alive and enjoying life is embracing what you know and love and letting others share their beliefs and traditions with you as well. What I worried was going to confuse my daughter is going to end up making her a very well rounded person. At least I hope.

As my daughter nears her next birthday, I am excited that she may be able to take part in the Passover Seder this year. Still too young for the Four Questions, she may be able to at least point out the elements on the Seder plate or open the door for Elijah. I also look forward to the Easter egg hunt she will have at my mother-in-law's house. She will run around with her cousins and squeal with excitement as the snow thaws and the eggs are discovered.

Is that the “right” way to raise a Jewish kid? I don’t know, really, But what I do know is that it’s not wrong. Not for my family.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rainbows and Unicorns

Allie was our sun. She was literally the brightness in our days. From her conception until her death, she was such a positive force.

At the fundraiser we held to raise money for our adoption fees, Gary and I sang, "Here Comes the Sun" (karaoke style) and there were not a lot of dry eyes in the fire hall. I still hear that song and think of my first baby and the joy that she brought us for the short time she was here.

When Miranda was born, she became our rainbow. That was not a name we came up with on our own. Any baby born after a loss is a rainbow. They are the colorful reward at the end of a storm. Since she was adopted and not born to me, I was not sure if she could still be considered a rainbow. I worried for nothing. She was and she is and now, almost four years later, she still loves rainbows and says that "every color of the rainbow" is her favorite color. Even on our worst, angst-ridden, sassy, trying days, she is the best thing that has happened to us.

I have met a lot of women (and some men) who have quite literally walked the same path as Gary and me. These parents all faced the excitement and anticipation of a new life only to learn that their child was not meant to live in this world. Some of us lost our children before they were born, some as they were being born and some shortly after they were born.

Most of the moms that I know personally have been able to welcome a rainbow baby after their loss. We have been very lucky.

One such mom welcomed two rainbows. Her second rainbow, just six months old, has a very rare genetic disorder and is not expected to live to her first birthday.

This beautiful baby is a unicorn.  Quite simply, she is too beautiful and too unique for this world. Her parents and living sister have spent the last several months in the hospital with her, tending to her every need. They have put their lives on hold for her and have not thought twice about it. Why would they?

How to I accept what is happening to them? I am physically not close enough to do anything to help (they live in Canada) and we only talk via Facebook. There is one thing, though.

The mom wants pictures of her fellow moms with unicorns. A bunch of us have ordered little stuffed animals that we can take with us and take pictures to pretend that this little baby is getting to experience all that we experience. I am going to take a picture of my unicorn lighting the menorah on Saturday night and I may even bring her to the Chinese buffet. I will then bring my unicorn to Christmas dinner at my in-laws the next day. My unicorn is very well rounded and multi-cultural!

When the time comes and our real-life unicorn is not here on earth anymore, I will send my unicorn to Toronto to live with her new family and offer some solace. 

This was not my idea but I love it. If you like it, too, take a picture when and if you can and send it to me. I will make sure it gets where it needs to go.

There is so much we cannot control in this world. We do not have all the time we want. We do not have all the time we need. We can, though, celebrate life and love and friendships and family and of course, rainbows and unicorns. Celebrate away. Celebrate now. Before it's too late.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Mother Vs. Mom

Yesterday, Miranda and I went to the movies. She was so incredible. The previews were a bit too long and loud, but she sat through without complaining until the Disney logo filled the screen.

As the music started to play and we both began to get lost in the story, I looked over at my not-so-much-a-baby-anymore and found myself grinning from ear to ear. I am a mom. This is my daughter.  I am happy. She is happy.

I often wonder what my life would have been like if Allie was still here. Way different than it is now, for sure. Lately, I have been thinking how Allie made me a mother. Absolutely no question about that. Miranda is the child, though, that made me a mom.

A mother, to me, does everything she can to make sure her child is safe. She loves unconditionally and gives completely.

A mom, to me, does the hard work. The feedings, the bath time, the bedtime routine. A mom knows the emergency number to the pediatrician with having to look it up. A mom knows what food her kid will pick if given an option. A mom knows what her kid is up to, often before the kid knows.

I missed out on being a mom to Allie and I wonder if that is why I try so hard to make sure I am a great mom to Miranda?

Maybe it has nothing to do with death and loss and grief. Maybe I just see this gift of child and know that she deserves it all, until the time when she can get it all and do it all for herself.

I do not want to overcompensate for what Miranda will never have. I do not want to shower her with gifts (some may argue this ship has sailed!) or try to pretend that life would be the same if her sister was here with us. I just want her to grow up strong and loved and confident and fierce. 

I love being Allie's mother. I love being Miranda's mom. I do not have to pick just one title or the other. Today I feel like I am both. From my experience, both is better than none any day! 

Lastly, I think that if I forget, a certain sassy little lady of mine, the one who told me I was hogging the popcorn yesterday, will remind me!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Seize The Day

"No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world."

" You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are going to find it at all."

There are are many topics that I write about often. Stillbirth, adoption, motherhood, to name a few. I also have written about Dead Poets Society more than once. It was a movie that I saw as a teenager and it stuck with me. The poetry, the message, the passion...I loved it all.

This past weekend, I got the opportunity to see Dead Poets Society in New York City. When I first started getting my writing published, Gary was so proud of me for "seizing the day" that he wanted to do something extraordinary for me. And he succeeded.

Gary got a subscription to the theater which consisted of six tickets. This allowed us to be flexible with when we wanted to go. Getting childcare for nine kids, arranging transportation, figuring out where to is not for the faint of heart. We did it, though, and it was worth every second of planning. And then some.

Driving up to New York reminded me so much the time with my dad. He loved that city more than any other and some of my best memories are of him sitting in the opera or at a show. I can still picture him sitting on his balcony, eating bagels and lox from Zabars and laughing with his head thrown back with wild abandon. I had not been back to New York since he died.

We all met up at the theater. Two of my best friends since what seems like the beginning of time and two of my family members that are family by marriage but friends by choice. And Gary and me.

The show was amazing. Jason Sudeikis starred as the Robin Williams character and he was mesmerizing. It was a small venue - I do not think there were more than 200 seats. We felt like we were in the production.

One hour and forty minutes passed at the blink of an eye. A standing ovation and lots of "woo hoo's" (mainly from me) and it was over. I felt the universe shift somehow while I was there and knew that I was going to leave the show slightly different than how I came.

The rest of the evening was spent with wine, whisky, calamari, Italian food, more wine and then some beer. Our last stop was at a bar where we were trying to dance and realized that we were a good fifteen to twenty years older than anyone there. We did not care. We danced anyway.

We eventually said our goodbyes and promised to meet up again. We were tired from laughing and dancing and drinking.

It is so easy to get bogged down in our day to day routines. I urge you all, if you are able, take a day to escape it all. Gather some people to help you celebrate. It will become less about you and more about the collective experience. An experience that none of you will soon forget. My dad was an expert at making time for him. I am slowly learning how to make that happen for me, too. But I could not do it alone. Nor do I want to.

Carpe Diem!

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