2011, I’m sad to see you go (or, Epilogue part 2)

I found this meme in the winter of 2008 and have done the same meme ever since.  I usually don’t do these but it is my favorite because it’s not completely dumb.  I don’t have to list what’s in my pockets or what I had for supper last Sunday.  I will say that this is the first year that I honestly almost can’t remember anything before July.  It’s been that kind of year in which a select few events completely overshadowed the rest of the year. 

2011, For the Win!

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

I ran a 5 mile race in May.  And I use the term “run” very loosely, of course. 

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Did I make a resolution?  I don’t think I did.  And, if I did, it had something to do with #1.  Which I did.  Loosely.

3.  Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes.  My baby niece Jordyn Rose was born in February.  And then I got to spend 7 weeks with her while my sister finished the school year.  Oh my aching ovaries…

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No.  Thank God.  It’s been several years since I’ve had to dig up all the same old feelings regarding mortality and whatnot but I just have this feeling that my luck is about to run out in that department.

5.  What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

This is a tough one.  2011 was a year full of blessings.  I got just about everything I’ve ever wanted, all in one year.  And, having just moved for the 4th time in seven years, I know I don’t need another THING.  So let’s just say that I’d like to go on a real family vacation.  Colorado…Disney…Michigan U.P.  Somewhere.  Together.

6.  What countries did you visit?

Um, no.  None.

7.  What date in 2011 will remain etched in your memory and why?

July 23.  (See #8 for why)

8.  What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I returned two separate phone calls.  One of them was to a boy.  The other was to my current boss/CEO.  Both have turned into very successful relationships.  This is significant because I have some sort of phone phobia.  I don’t answer my phone unless I know who it is AND have something to say and I almost never return calls.  I know.  I’m working on it.

9.  What was your biggest failure?

Fat Camp.  Okay, it wasn’t a failure and I haven’t gained back a single ounce.  Well, I did but then I lost it again.  But I have moments of great stress that now make me want to find a treadmill and/or a set of free weights.  Not that I act on it.  But I know how it feels to sweat it out.

10.  Did you suffer illness or injury?

Not really.  I got pneumonia last winter/spring.  Twice.  But I’ve been mostly healthy and injury free.

11.  What was the best thing you bought?

I’ve got nothing for this one.  I haven’t really bought anything of importance this year.  A new wardrobe for work?  A sweet cut and color? 

12.  Whose behavior merited celebration?

Again, I’m going to go with the littles.  This fall and winter have brought so many changes to us all.  I’m working full-time.  I’m with a wonderful man who makes me laugh every day and who loves the girls like they were his own.  We moved.  The littles will start at a new school in three days.  And yet, they are still as flexible and understanding and curious as before.  Challenging, yes.  But in a great way.

13.  Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Hmmm…I can’t think of anyone. 

14.  Where did most of your money go?

First half of the year:  Fat Camp, et al.  Second half of the year:  Childcare 

15.  What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Adult conversation, daily.

16.  What song will remind you of 2011?

“Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts

17.  Compared to this time last year are you:

happier or sadder?  Much happier

fatter or thinner?  About the same.  Sadly.  And, oddly enough, happily.

richer or poorer?  Richer?  There’s more money coming in (got a job) but more money going out as well (gas, childcare, meals)

18.  What do you wish you’d done more of?

I wish we would have gone camping this fall when the weather was so great.

19.  What do you wish you’d done less of?

Waiting.

20.  How will you be spending Christmas?

In 2012?  I’m going to go with “snowed in”.  It appeals to my hermit nature.  Barring the storm of the decade, I really want to surprise the girls with a trip to Disney at Christmas.

21.  What would cheer you up today?

Pie. 

22.  Did you fall in love in 2011?

Yes.  Yes I did.  Madly and deeply.

23.  How many one night stands?

Zero.

24.  What was your favorite tv program?

“Castle” without a doubt.  Wouldn’t miss it for anything.  I also started watching “Weeds” and “Psych”.

25.  Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I’ve said this before but no.  I don’t feel that hating anyone is a good use of my emotional energy. 

26. What was the best book you read?

The “In Death” series by J. D. Robb.  Gets me every time.  I know it’s total fluff but I can’t help myself.

27.  What was your greatest musical discovery?

The live music scene in my very own town.  I also discovered that I was born with a great ear.

28.  What did you want and get?

I get to be the reason that somebody wants to come home every day.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted.  And I got it.

29.  What was your favorite film of this year?

“The Muppets”.  I know that was the last movie I saw so maybe that was my favorite?  I also had a moment going to see the last Harry Potter movie by myself.  It was a decade of committment that came to an end.

30.  What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?

I turned 36.  I don’t think I did anything at all.  Did I?

31.  What one think would have made your year immeasurably more pleasurable?

This is a hard one because it really was the best year I’ve had in a long, long time.  So I’m going to go with “not a damn thing.”

32.  How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

The transition between track pants and corporate America.  It’s been a difficult transition to be sure.

33.  What kept you sane?

Daily conversation and affection from and with an adult.  It changed me forever.

34.  Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Fancy?  Again with the fancy.  Nathan Fillion, hands down. 

35.  What political issue stirred you the most?

The “Occupy” movement.

36.  Whom did you miss?

I still miss my Iowa friends.  They really are the family I chose.  And, even though I am head over heels, I still miss Stephen.  But it’s different now in a way I can’t explain because I haven’t figured it out fully yet.  I miss him but it’s not like it used to be.  I also miss my littles when I’m at work.  Some days.  Not all days but some days.

37.  Who was the best new person you met?

This guy:

38.  Tell us a valuable life lesson learned in 2011?

Be brave.  Return that phone call.  Just keep running and finish what you started. 

39.  Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

God blessed the broken road/That led me straight to you/But now I’m just rolling home into my lover’s arms/This much I know is true/That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.

So there you go, 2011.  All things considered, it was a pretty good year.  You know, as years go.  I have high hopes for 2012 and I’m planning the start of all kinds of new things.  A new blog is in the works.  We are starting new things around our house.  I’m, learning to be a proper doggie mama again.  Maybe there will be a gym membership or…something else fun?  Who knows?  I certainly couldn’t predict a year ago the fun and craziness this year would bring. 

I am hopeful.  I guess that’s a good way to end this.

With hope.

Thank you one and all.

Choose your own adventure.

What if I never had kids?

Don’t misinterpret this as a regret.  It is not.  Definitely not. 

I’m reading this book called “Pictures of You” by Caroline Leavitt.  It just came out and I don’t even know how I knew to reserve it at the library in time to get one of the first available copies.  There are 40 people in line after me so I figured I should read it.  I’m about 100 pages in and I almost cannot bear to go on.  It’s the story of two women who crash into each other on a deserted highway in thick fog.  They are both running from something.  One woman dies and her son sees the crash from the shoulder of the road.  The other lives but is haunted that she caused the death.  The boy refuses to accept that his mother is actually gone.

I turn the page and there is grief.  The husband, suddenly a widower.  The boy, grieving as children often do.  The survivor, overwhelmed and lonely. 

I almost can’t take it.  But, it is well written and I still don’t know where I found the book recommendation; I seldom add a book to my shelf without one.  I will finish it.  Probably in the next 24 hours if things go my way.  So then…it will be 48 hours. 

Do you remember your life before your children?  I do.  I remember being 25 years old in my very own apartment that I shared with nobody except a naughty kitten and some mystery bugs (turned out to be earwigs…gross).  I remember hanging the towel just so.  Dutifully eating leftovers.  Sacked out on the secondhand sofa with a 14 inch tv for company.  I did my laundry, hauled in a giant mesh sack, only about once every 2 weeks.  sidenote: this fueled my need to always have more underwear than I need.  You never know when you might be short on quarters and have to stretch the laundry a bit.  Phone calls to my sister and my friends were lengthy and largely uninterrupted.  I drove a purple Dodge Dakota Sport pickup.  It was a two seat, manual transmission with knobby tires.  I was living the dream.  I could go to work for 80 hours a week and nobody cared, not even that runt cat.

And then I met Stephen.  He was still married and we were on a double date.  They set me up with a chef friend of theirs who was super sweet but turns out, he was super sweet on someone else and not at all interested in me.  We used to joke, Stephen and I, that our first date was a double date with other dates.  A shade over two years after that double date, we were married.  Shortly after, Will was born and, well, you know the rest (or you can read about it here). 

What if….what if Stephen had gotten cancer before the kids were born?  Or in between Will and Ella?  What if Ella and Amelia were never able to be born?  What if we had waited?  What if we had decided to travel or finish degrees?  What if we had wanted to own a home or pay off the SUV first? 

That’s not the point. 

My point is this:  what if I came home to an empty house?  You know, that fall Sunday morning in 2007…what if all I could do was curl up on the couch and not move?  Not breathe?  Not eat?

I didn’t get that.  I have often said that I didn’t get the chance to really get it all out.  To stew and dwell.  (Yes, yes I know that writing about it over three years later IS dwelling but you know what I mean.)  I was resentful of my responsibilities.  And tired.  I remember being so very, very tired. 

If we had chosen differently…the thought is mind-boggling and, quite honestly, keeping me up tonight. 

What if I had to finish this life really, really alone?

I don’t know that I could have done it.  I don’t know that I would have made it.

Or, would I have been able to move on?  Get it all out and pick myself up and go back to work.  Get another cat.  Get rid of the sensible family vehicle and buy a truck.  Date.  Kiss.  Make it just another memory.

So instead of reliving our days together through the eyes of our little girls, I could chalk it up to a bad experience.

I don’t really know.  I didn’t get to choose; it was a series of seemingly insignificant events, much like a random double date, that added up to one big event.  And three babies.  And two funerals.  

And one quiet mama, crying alone in the dark.

Tribute to 2010.

Well, here we are again on the eve of a new year and, some would say, a new decade (although I am of the camp that 2010 was the first year of the new decade).  The year kind of got away from me and, at the same time, seemed really long.  Not in a multiple life time like other years but in that January 1, 2010 seems forever ago.

The difference between this meme writing and previous years is that it is still daylight while I am writing this one.  Usually this is a right at the stroke of midnight event.  We, for the first time in 10 years, have plans for tonight.  I know.  One for the books. 

I predict this will be less emotional because of the time on the clock.  I get out all the five dollar words after dark.

 

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

Lots, mostly concerning the gym and the assorted adventures there.  Most of all, it’s a year later and I’m still going and still (mostly) enjoying myself.  On an unrelated note, I learned to make cheesecake properly.  Very unrelated.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t have any resolutions.  Seriously.  I think my resolution for next year is that I’m going to go out on a date.  A real date.  And keep myself open to possibilities.

3.  Did anyone close to you give birth?

No and in thinking about it, this was the first year in a very long time that there wasn’t a wee babe around.  2011 is plum full of babies though.  Not for me of course but I get a new niece this winter sometime!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thank God.  Several friends have had huge losses so my prayer goes to them.

5.  What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

Ambition and courage.  I had very little of either in 2010.

6.  What countries did you visit?

Psh.  I barely left the state.  I did make it to Memphis (a whole ‘nother world!) and Tampa so at least I got out a little.

7.  What date in 2010 will remain etched in your memory and why?

Honestly, there wasn’t a single day or date that stands out.  This says something about my year.

8.  What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Running.  And all of the work that led up to it.  I wish I could say that I ran the 5k I was going to but…there’s always 2011.  I’m very, very proud of how far I have come, physically and mentally, since I started at the gym.

9.  What was your biggest failure?

 I think I would have to say that ill-fated job cooking for Amelia’s preschool/day care was a fail.  I only lasted 6 weeks and hated just about every minute of it.  It also ruined by opinion of day care centers in general.  On a lesser note, the job derailed my gym schedule and class and I don’t know that I have ever gotten completely back into the swing of things.

10.  Did you suffer illness or injury?

In September I had that girly fibroid thing that knocked me out for almost 6 weeks and made me anemic.  Didn’t see that coming.

11.  What was the best thing you bought?

My heart rate monitor. It was a game changer.  Also, the Wii so we could stream Netflix.  We may never have to leave home.

12.  Whose behavior merited celebration?

Once again, I am so proud of my girls.  Ella in particular had a rocky start to the year but with a wonderful teacher, some pharmaceutical assistance and great friends, we have made a ton of progress in her behavior and school performance.  But really, my girls are so good.  We can travel with no problems, sleep over, sit in church, eat at a restaurant without counter service, attend live theatre, meet elderly relatives and have new babysitters all with no problems at all.  I am so fortunate.

13.  Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Mostly, my own.

14.  Where did most of your money go?

Lifetime Fitness, et al.

15.  What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Running a mile.  I was more excited than I had any right to be.  That and getting close to being able to do a decent pull up.

16.  What song will remind you of 2010?

“My Life Would Suck Without You”.  Not the Kelly Clarkson, the Glee Cast version.  I loved the moment in the show and then downloaded the song that night.  It’s a great song when I run, 144 bpm which translates to 6.0 mph on the treadmill.  I can’t keep it up for more than 2 minutes but that song will always remind me of the year that I got stronger and faster.  And, it will always remind me of Molly, my trainer, who influenced me more this year than anyone has in a long time.

17.  Compared to this time last year are you:

happier or sadder?  Sadder.  I wish I could explain but I won’t.  Can’t.  I got off the anti-depressant as of March (due to the gym thing for sure) and my emotions are back full force.  I forgot that even commercials can make me cry and always have.  It’s just intense now.  Also, I find myself choking up at moments (concerning the littles…like going to the musical and school programs and fireworks) that Stephen should have been around to see and experience with us.  It’s killing me.

fatter or thinner?  Thinner!!!  Not a lot thinner but my body has changed for the better.  Again, for the money I spent and the time I had put in you’d think that I would break a few barriers that might mean having to buy new clothes but that’s okay.  I’m healthier and so much stronger, physically and mentally.  You can’t measure that on a scale.

richer or poorer?  Poorer.  By a lot.  Must remedy that situation.

18.  What do you wish you’d done more of?

Take advantage of really nice days.  I also wished I could have saved enough to get a really good camera.  Or, at least better than a point and shoot.  I think I’d be good taking pictures as a hobby.  Speaking of hobbies, I wish I would have spent more time in my sewing room.  I like it when I’m there…I just don’t make a habit of it anymore.  Also, we should have gone back to Iowa more often to see our friends.  We are so happy when we’re there.  I don’t know why we don’t do it regularly.

19.  What do you wish you’d done less of?

Waiting for my next moment alone and just do more with the ones that I got.  Being alone, mostly, makes me want to take a nap.

20.  How will you be spending Christmas?

In 2011?  Hard to say.  I can’t imagine it will be much different from this year.  I hope we go back to being snowed it.  2009 Christmas was the best ever…just us.

21.  What would cheer you up today?

It would take a lot to cheer me up today.  I could use some pampering.  A foot rub.  A head rub.  Something that’s just for me.  Barring that, a windfall of some sort would ease the tension a bit.

22.  Did you fall in love in 2010?

Yes.  With our new baby kitty Priscilla.  We adopted her from the humane society in September.  She’s my buddy.

23.  How many one night stands?

This question again?  None.  I’m way to chickenshit for that.  I had the chance once but didn’t take it which turned out to be a very good thing.

24.  What was your favorite tv program?

Glee!  Again.  Love, love, love that show.  Also, The Biggest Loser has new meaning for me.  I can’t stand the fat people crying thing (they all have some sort of issue that I suppose makes for good tv) but what I really want to see is more of the in-gym training.  I have seen or have done all of what they do and I have a new respect for really how hard it is.

25.  Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I’ve said this before but no.  I don’t feel that hating anyone is a good use of my emotional energy. 

26. What was the best book you read?

This is an easy one:  The “Vampire Academy” series by Richelle Mead.  Actually, she’s my new favorite author.  She has three different series and I love them all.  (yes, I know they are written for young adults but I can’t help myself…much like Glee!)

27.  What was your greatest musical discovery?

That Ella loves Tayor Swift.   And Dolly Parton.  And Madonna.  I’m so glad to be over the Children’s music genre.

28.  What did you want and get?

A nook e-reader.  I found my love of reading again.  Also, Amelia got out of my bed so my nights are my own again.

29.  What was your favorite film of this year?

“Toy Story 3” and “Eclipse”

30.  What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?

I turned 35.  My very good friends took me out to Dave and Buster’s where we ate yummy food, had multiple fruity drinks and played lots of games.  And laughed.  A lot.  It was a really great birthday.

31.  What one think would have made your year immeasurably more pleasurable?

Not having to worry so much. 

32.  How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

I’m getting braver with the cleavage.  If you’ve got it, flaunt it right?  It helps that I have a visible clavicle now.

33.  What kept you sane?

Sweating and stretching and running and pushing myself.  By working so hard that all I could think about was the task at hand and not all the other junk going on and being able to focus.  That, and escaping into books again. 

34.  Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Fancy?  Again with the fancy.  Matthew Morrison and that wolf boy from the Twilight movies. 

35.  What political issue stirred you the most?

It angers me that internet comments on ANY news story are written by people obsessed with blaming every worldly wrong on our president.  Dude’s doing the best he can. 

36.  Whom did you miss?

I still miss Stephen but time has changed the ache somewhat.  Oddly, I miss him more as a father than as a husband.  I feel like time wouldn’t have changed us but the girls are changing every day and he is missing it.  And they are missing him.

37.  Who was the best new person you met?

Hands down, Molly.  Completely changed my life and I’m not sure that she knows it.

38.  Tell us a valuable life lesson learned in 2010?

No matter what is asked of you, you can do it.  And more.  Maybe not for very long but just the effort will prove that you can.

39.  Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

“We belong together now/Forever united here somehow/You got a piece of me/ And honestly/ My life would suck without you” 

Here’s the thing:  It’s not just about Molly or the gym but it’s about all the people who came into or returned to or stayed in my life.  A huge part of who we are is who we choose to surround ourselves with.  I am a better person because of all of those people.

So there it is: 2010.  I definitely feel more than 2009.  Like I said last year, 2009 was very much “meh”.  This year brought new things and new friends and some new experiences but mostly we just made our ground a little more solid in places and broke new in others.  I have much to be grateful.

Significance.

I really hate it that autumn is my very favorite season.  Of course, I say that with the change of every season except that whole spring into summer thing.  (Big girls don’t like heat.) 

But autumn, with its crisp, painfully blue mornings, warm afternoons and chilly nights is my absolute favorite.  I love the colors, the smells, the food, the football and the clothes.  There isn’t anything more sublime than a Sweat Pants Sunday complete with a nap during the Chiefs game (they haven’t had an exciting game in years, I tell you) and a thick bowl of chili.  We eat cinnamon rolls with our chili in this part of the country.  I could never get used to the peanut butter on Wonder bread/chili combo back in Iowa.  It seemed wrong somehow.

I feel kind of bi-polar both loving and dreading the fall.  So many reasons to love it and so many more reasons to wish for November.

Today marks seven years since my Will died.  Seven.

He would have been a second grader this fall. 

He also had profound and permanent disabilities and delays already apparent in his 11 short months on this earth.

Seven years.  Really? 

I’ve been thinking a lot about Will lately and mostly because of Amelia. 

Amelia is in preschool at our church.  I was pleased that she got a spot in the 3 day a week class.  She will not go to kindergarten next year because she misses the cutoff by 9 days.  I could petition to send her but knowing what I know about this district and its expectations, I will wait and send her in two years. 

But being in a church preschool, the children talk about God and Heaven and who is in heaven and when do we get to go to heaven and all assorted things that four-year olds think about.  And my Amelia never misses a moment to mention to whichever poor and unsuspecting teacher is assigned that day “My daddy and my baby brother are in Heaven.”

Imagine you are that teacher.  I love teaching four-year olds for the very reason that they are always thinking and making new connections and they will tell anybody anything.  At any time.  Imagine you are that teacher and this beautiful curly-haired child just announces something that even adults have a hard time understanding.

“My daddy and my baby brother are in heaven.”

And then I have to explain.  I feel that I must. 

There are two things that I keep thinking about when I think about Will and try not to judge too much on this first one. 

I am not sad that he died.

There.  I said it.

He was sick practically his whole life.  Blind.  Hearing impaired.  Thyroid issues.  Feeding problems.  Brain surgeries.  Never slept more than 2 hours at a time ever.  Never, ever.  He had night terrors.  Not to mention the endless barrage of needle sticks and unfamiliar hands.  Who wants to live like that?

I certainly didn’t choose or want to let him go but maybe it really was for the best.  Horrible?

The date I really mourn is October 28, 2002.  The day he got sick.  That’s the day I wish had never happened, not ever.  I mourn that I only got 13 days with him as a whole baby boy.  I got 13 days of wonder and joy and bliss.  That’s it.  I know, I know…some mamas never even get that with their babies.  (I complain about having no shoes when somebody has no feet…I get it.)  But this is my blog and my memories so that’s how I feel.

Maybe it’s just because it has been seven whole years.  A different decade, different president, different state, different house and car.  I am, however, still wearing the same sweat pants but that’s nobody’s fault but mine.

The second thing that I can’t get out of my head is Stephen.  I remember standing outside the Emergency Room, a half hour or so after he had passed.  Dawn hadn’t broken yet.  The night was crisp and cold but I was still shaking and sweating all at the same time.  I remember Stephen kissing me so many times that our tears blended together and I couldn’t tell if it was even me that was crying anymore.

All I can remember was his shirt.

Stephen wore the same shirt that night that he wore the night he died.

I don’t know why that was significant.  It isn’t really.  It was his favorite and most worn shirt.  Old blue.  Navy blue fraternity shirt, circa 1995.  Washed a gillion times and soft as satin. 

I guess it’s significant to me and that’s what counts.

Seven years later.  I get asked (more often than you would think) if it gets any easier.  My answer is almost always “Yes, of course it does.”  I’m not lying.  Time fuzzes the edges.  The smells and sounds fade.  But so do voices and cries and the good with the bad.  I don’t really know. 

All I know is that the anniversary of my baby’s death marks the beginning of an awful spiral that ends right about Halloween. 

And it’s a shame.  Because I really do adore autumn.

Letter to my oldest child on her 6th birthday.

Dear Ella,

It is very nearly midnight and your sixth birthday is coming to a close.  You are still awake and laying in my bed.  That’s not where you started but I heard you taking advantage of the empty pillow since your little sister is at Grammy’s for the night. 

Listen here Missy, you are not too big for me to carry you back to bed.  In fact, you are quite small for a (new) six-year-old at 43″ tall and 45 pounds.  A peanut really.  You didn’t start out that way, of course.  You have only now doubled in weight from your first birthday!

Did you know that you have been alive longer than Daddy and I were married?  That’s crazy to think about but it’s been in my head all day.  That, and the first time I got to see your wide eyes looking into mine and how alert you were.  But mostly, I think about Daddy.

I think about the time that you had with him and how you never knew anything but pure adoration from him.  He worked and worked and worked so that I could stay home with you and so that you wouldn’t have to go to daycare.  It was very important to him that you and I could stay so connected.  You see, he always knew what I needed.  What we both needed.

And because his time with you was shorter, he made the most of it.  He gave you your first taste of ice cream.  And made your first waffle.  He helped you with your first crayon drawings by holding the crayon in your pudgy hand with you and making those first scribbles.  He assembled the Radioflyer wagon the night before your first Christmas and then sat you in it!  You were barely 5 months old and could hardly see over the sides.

He was the one that insisted that we bring you into our bed with us.  He couldn’t bear the thought of being apart from you.  He knew what was best for all of us.

You are your father’s daughter in so many ways.  Your eyes.  Your smile.  Your feet and your body shape.  Your taste for yellow mustard was definitely his because I can’t stand the stuff.  And, like you, he was able to carry on with a complete stranger about a random story that they probably don’t know and don’t care about.  He could talk to anyone about anything at any time.

Ella, I named you the day we found out that you were growing inside me.  I just knew.  Eleanor means “light”.  You started growing only a few months after your big brother died.  At the time, it was very sad for me and there wasn’t much to look forward to.  You changed all that. 

You saved me.  You were my light.

I know.  That’s a ton of pressure to put on a little baby but it’s true.  You and the thought of you and the planning for you and the dreaming about you…that’s what got me through that first year. 

You are still my light, did you know that?  You make me laugh every day.  You are the one who blazes the path for all of us; the driving force in this little family.  If it were up to me, I would have frozen us all sometime in 2007 and you would still be 3 years old and Melia would be 1 and we would just live over and over again a winter’s day and eventually, maybe, get it all right. 

It doesn’t work that way, of course.  But you are the one who keeps us moving forward.  You are the one who keeps growing and changing and adding new challenges and plowing through life.  Amelia and I just follow your lead.

I wish I could give you more.  I wish that we didn’t have to go through this life without your daddy. 

And then you smile at me.  Or laugh at something ridiculous.  And leave your balled up socks all over the living room and drop napkins on the dining room floor.  You touch every person you love.  When you watch TV with me, you scratch my back and I don’t think you even know you’re doing it.

Ella, I love you so much.  You are my “light”, truly.  I am proud of the young lady you are becoming and I am blessed to be with you every single day.

Happy 6th birthday, sweetheart.

Love,

Mama

Two Questions from a Kindergarten Graduate.

Question 1:  “Mama…what’s a tumor?”

Fantastic.  I think it was Einstein who said that if you can’t explain something to a six-year-old, you don’t really understand it.  I’m not sure that Einstein had to explain a tumor.

Question 2:  “Dinosaurs are extinct.  So that means that Daddy is extinct.  Why is my daddy extinct?  Is Will extinct?”

Oh man.

And why does she always ask in the van?  In rush hour traffic?

Because I’d really like to look her in the eye and answer her questions with all my heart.  And get to the heart of what she’s asking.

“I am sad about daddy.  I really miss him.”

My answer?  What do you remember about your dad?  Do you miss your dad or do you miss having a dad?

Nice job, Jennifer.  Way to be compassionate and get to the heart of the matter.  But I can’t think that she remembers all that much.  This is Ella we are talking about.  She puts elephants to shame with her memory.

But does she really remember?  Or is she creating memories out of snapshots and anecdotes retold in her presence?

Because I can’t remember his voice anymore. 

His touch?  Yes.  His smell?  Yes.  Can I remember the texture of his hair and the softness of his hands?  Yes.

Is it possible that my (almost) kindergarten graduate really does remember that her father’s hands were the first that she felt in this life?  Does she remember watching FoodTv with him when he was supposed to put her to bed? 

Does Ella remember his voice?

Fat camp, day 26.

When does the walking without pain end?  Is that too much to hope for?  Should I hope to be able to put myself in a chair without searing hamstrings?

Is it supposed to hurt this much?  Every time?

Maybe I’m being a little (over) dramatic.  Just a little.  Okay, not at all.

I’m still in quite a bit of agony from Tuesday.  Damn DOMS. (That would be, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) (Aren’t I just a fountain of information?)

Because I’m wrecked…I’m going to cut to the chase.

Torture device du jour:  the south lawn.

Let’s imagine a cool, spring night.  Let’s imagine a south-facing 80 x 60 piece of turf.  Not grass…turf.  So it is unnaturally green for the northern plains in March. 

Now imagine 12 mildly overweight to obese Fat Camp participants and their perfect postured trainer all in a line, walking out to the turf. 

I would be the one, near the back, bitching about having to go outside and get my “inside only” shoes a little scuffed. 

Turns out, all my fat camp nightmares came true.

The perimeter of the turf has an 8 foot wrought iron fence.  There is a steep drop off to the street below so it appears that we are on an island.  Or on a stage.  Let’s call it a stage.

We walk.  In a line.  With hand weights, curling.  And pressing.  And stretching.  Walking close to the fence.  Nearly marching.  We start to spread out.  I complain (loudly) about the cool breeze and my lack of proper clothing.  (In my defense, I was in a tank top and shorts.  It’s like the rain forest in that cardio room at night.)

My stride, if you have ever walked next to me, is short.  I call it the curse of the stubby legs.  It’s genetic, I’m just sure of it.  But even when I am gaining some good ground, it’s because I am moving my legs faster and not stepping out further.  If that makes any sense.  I can barely get one size 8 in front of the other size 8.

Part of me is blaming my sore quads but part of me is absolutely positive that I just walk slow. 

I am behind.  Way behind.  At least a lap behind.  I’m on par with a post menopausal woman who has a bad hip and a chronically low heart rate. 

After a half-dozen laps, Molly sets up line sprints.  She makes the turf look roughly like a football field.  We start at one end, run to the first line and do 10 push ups.  Then run back to start.  Run to the second line and do 10 push ups.  Repeat.  8 times.

Again, with the last one done.

Look, I’m not all THAT out of shape.  But this kind of oneness with nature (sort of…it is turf after all) does nothing for my self-esteem.  At least on the treadmill, I can make the appearance of keeping up. 

But here’s the real problem:  I am twelve years old again.  And Mr. Sass, the PE teacher in 7th grade is timing us for the one mile portion of our physical testing.  So we do laps around the city park which is where the “Hoods” went to smoke and fight after school.  And before school.  (Sidenote:  I was neither “prep” nor “hood”.  I was, by and large, invisible.)  Four laps equalled one mile.  And the far side of the park was far enough to not hear him bellowing about running and not walking.  And we all know that running melts Aqua Net.

My short stride and my giant (even for 7th grade) boobs have kept me from being a competitor.  Ever.  I am the mouthy fat kid who crosses the finish line after everyone else has had a drink and is on to something else.

Except, back then, I wasn’t fat.  I thought I was fat.  But I most definitely was not.  I see pictures of me as a 12-year-old and I want to take myself for a slow walk and tell myself that I was beautiful and able and that running will never melt Aqua net.  Nothing does.

So, yeah, I half assed it.  I am tired.  And sore.  And cranky because I am 35 today.  And I got tons of birthday wishes and texts and calls.  And I don’t want for anything other than a night of sleep.  Or two.

It would be nice, too, if I didn’t come in dead ass last.  It wasn’t a race.  But being outside, for me, was nothing to be proud of.