Monday, December 7, 2009

25 Days of Giveaways--And the hat and mittens go to...


The hat and mittens are excited to start their adventure so, please drop me a line @ and tell me your mailing address.

Thank you all so much for your very thoughtful comments on wisdom and growth and, of course, your compliments on my rather amateurish knitting. I wish I had the time to make mittens and hats for all of you.

As a couple of you noted, the most horrible things can happen to the most wonderful people. The great thing is, that those people (and I mean you) continue to be amazing and thoughtful and generous despite their troubles.

Now, go on over to Malory's place and see how she's honoring Janessa's memory and what's on the block for the next giveaway.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

25 Days of Giveaways - It's Day 10...Welcome to Mommicked

Welcome to Day 10 of Tina's Awesome 25 Days of Giveaways.

I'm so excited that it's finally my turn that I'm posting a little bit early for the states. But, it's December 6th somewhere, right?

Here's a photo of my contribution.

Not sure if every monitor will pick up the detail. Both the hat and the mittens are a chocolate brown and have an owl cable motif. (They're also machine-washable because I'm a practical sort of gal).

I thought this pattern would be apropos for the giveaway because owls are all about wisdom and wisdom abounds in this community. I decided to make mittens because I had never made a pair before. Since R died just over 2 years ago, I've found that learning a new skill or taking on a manageable challenge has helped to rebuild my confidence.

So, in the spirit of growth and sharing wisdom, I'm wondering what you've learned about yourself since losing your baby. Have you grown in any surprising ways? Do you have any new projects planned for the coming year to aid your personal growth?

Leave your comments on wisdom and trying new things below. The random number generator (aka, C) will pull numbers from a hat when I'm good and sure that December 6 is over for every time zone.

A side note for all of the knitters out there. Both patterns are available for free on the internet. The hat is here. The mittens are here. And if you're all et up with owl cables and looking for a project so unbelievably adorable that it will make all of your friends' eyeballs explode...go here and scroll down until you see the picture titled 'owlet.'

25 Days of Giveaways - Day 9

To enter in today's giveaway go visit Brandy @ Forever Elliot's Mommy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

25 Days of Giveaways

Looks like we're into day 6. Donna at "Life without Ellie" has a cornucopia of knitted delights.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 4 Giveaway

It's really early but I wanted to post something about today's giveaway before leaving for work. The giveaway is still a mystery but I'm sure it will be all of the others so far. Go here at a reasonable hour (in North America) to find out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 3 of the Giveaways

I failed to note Jeanette's lovely Day 2 Giveaway. I'm changing my lazy ways today.

Day 3 @ Busy Hands--Karen is working on a lovely knitted wrap and remembering her son, George. Please go over and tell her about special things people have done to help you as you grieve.

Friday, November 27, 2009

One Down, Twenty-Four to Go...

We've officially entered the Holiday Season and the "25 Days of Giveaways," organized by Tina of "Living without Sophia and Ellie"

You can click on the button right over there ---> for more information.

Tina's kicking things off today with some beautiful jewelry and a discussion about remembering our children during the holidays. Click here to go on over and tell her what's on your mind.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


The thing about a good mommickin' is that it's always followed by scavenging. Decks without houses and houses without decks and other parts litter the beach waiting for someone in need . The someones in need gather the parts and, through the sweat of their exhausted yet good-humored brows, wrestle them back into shape.

In the Outer Banks town where I lived for a few years after college, it wasn't unusual to see entire homes composed of storm-washed, found materials—monuments to the durability and versatility of pressure-treated 4 x 4's. These homes (the year-round variety) were squatty and homely, built and re-built for survival rather than for looks.

I spent last weekend in another of my favorite coastal towns with a group of babylost mothers - Angie, Sarah, m, Lani, Tash, Niobe, Julia, Molly, and Laura. It's difficult to wrap my brain around this experience. I met 9 amazing women whom I likely never would have met if my daughter and their children had survived. We ate and knitted and talked and laughed...a lot. The weekend was rejuvenating and transformative but I can't possibly be happy about something like this, can I?

Maybe it's enough to marvel at the terrible beauty of randomness and be thankful that I've washed up on such a welcoming shore.

I remember watching a newscaster bobbing along Bogue Sound in a skiff immediately following Hurricane Ophelia. He gestured to the twisted, malformed houses in the background and spoke of destruction and damage. To me, and anyone else who had lived on the island for any amount of time, the houses looked the same as ever, beautiful in their randomness.

A trailer with a rooftop deck may not look like much to a dit-dotter from off but if you climb on up those rickety stairs you can probably see forever.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Curmudgeon 3 - Home Again

As I mentioned before, my mom is a pessimist. It's a genetic condition, her entire side of the family elevates negativity to a high art. All of the sarcasm and kvetching bugs me. For the most part I'm more of a doer than a talker (and more of a solver than a complainer)--at least that's how I used to be before I started my project.

The last 4 years have taught me that some things just can't be fixed. They can't be fixed by foresight, medical technology, or hard work. They certainly can't be fixed by a positive attitude. Sometimes I wonder if a positive attitude clouds the truth and makes it harder to see the solution. If that's the case, why shouldn't I go negative?

If I just roll around in all of my negative thoughts and let them soak in maybe I can get it all out of the way and feel more like myself again.

No one on my mom's side of the family would ever suggest that I should past this, or move on, or get over it. They'd cheerfully decapitate any outsider who suggested it. They hold strong opinions and epic grudges. They are Titans of 'No Thank You.' I'll grudgingly admit that I admire their fortitude.

Last weekend C and I went to my cousin's birthday party (yup, the one with the revelations about the Osmonds). Watching C run around the yard with her cousins I knew that every single one of my relatives was picturing R trotting along beside her. Most of them probably aimed a criticism at god or fate for taking her away from us.

It was a relief to let someone else carry the water for a few hours.

I guess I'm thanking my family for being un-thankful on my behalf.

So, with the 'Thank You' out of the way, here are three 'No Thank You's'

No Thank You -

A person who is turning the upcoming work Thanksgiving celebration into a spreadsheet-driven nightmare.

The person who thought that I'd want to hear a ten-minute speech about how hard it was for her to say good-bye to her daughter before a 5-week school trip.

The person tailgating me in the 25 mph zone on the way home yesterday. We're all in a hurry but it doesn't mean that we should speed in a residential zone.

Now I'm thinking of all of the things that made me thankful yesterday...I think my experiment isn't gonna take.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Curmudgeon 2

So the problem with setting up an experiment is that you have to tend to it. Not sure if it's a lack of time or organization or some combination of the two that's holding me up but I'm going to try to execute.

Gratitude (and its sly cousin ingratitude) are slippery subjects. Now that R is gone and never coming back I feel like I ought to be grateful for every single second I have in this current existence with her sister and the rest of my family. Every plate scraped, bill paid, toilet scrubbed should be a glorious affirmation of my continued survival.

In the early days, my internal dialogue resembled some pathetic version of Pollyanna's famous "Glad Game" - My back is killing me from raking these leaves. But the pain means I'm still alive!

Not surprisingly, I found myself insufferable most days.

Eventually I gave myself permission to gripe about trivial things but I still struggle with achieving a balance.

So, today I'm raising the bar for myself - 2 Thank You's and 2 No Thank You's.

No Thank You -

Demolition contractor, piano mover, and furnace repairman who have all managed to disappear into thin air despite commitments to arrive at various times over the past two weeks. Way to respect the customer, y'all.

To the folks boldly coughing and sneezing into open air on the train. I know that it's hard to get sick leave and this may really be a complaint directed at their employers for forcing them to come to work but, I think everyone can let go of the newspaper long enough to cover a cough. It reminds me of my days in the kindergarten classroom. Maybe I should write a little jingle to help them remember.

Thank You -

To my Aunt J who informed me that my Dad used to refer to Donny Osmond as "No Nuts" Osmond over cake and ice cream at my twelve-year-old cousin's birthday party. (Happy B-day, little cuz).

To the universe for safely delivering healthy baby to these fine people.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No Thank You - An Experiment in Curmudgeonhood

There's been a lot of rumblings in blogland about the relative benefits of positive and negative thinking, inspired by the release of Barbara Ehrenreich's new book, Bright-Sided. I haven't read it yet but I told T to snatch it for me as soon as it arrives at the library (oh, the benefits of being married to a librarian!). In the meantime, I'm going to spout some of my own opinions on the subject. Being ill-informed has never stopped me from clambering up on the soapbox before.

I'm the offspring of an unapologetic pessimist and an unsinkable optimist. As a quick illustrative example, I offer some opinions on organ donation. My mom believes that no one should be an organ donor because doctors let organ donors die. My dad rushed to get his name off of the organ donor list when he was diagnosed with stage IV cancer because he was worried that one of his contaminated parts might accidentally land in an otherwise healthy person. It was sort of like being raised by a suburban version of Dorothy Parker (without the booze) and a manly Bob Cratchit. As you know, only one of them is still alive.

I'm afraid that I lean more toward my Dad's side. I'm not a full Pollyanna but I definitely tend to assume the best about people and situations even when it would be obvious to anyone with a pulse that things are veering off the tracks. A dear friend once called it my 'pioneer spirit.'

But, I am my mother's daughter too and her voice is the one I hear in my head pointing out the various ways that something can go wrong (should Baby A's heart rate be so slow?)--she rarely leads me astray. I'm well aware of the power of pessimism.

In a couple of weeks we'll gather 'round the turkey and give thanks for our blessings. Until then we'll all be bombarded with messages about the holiday spirit and the celebration of plenty as if the economy isn't in the crapper and everything's going well for everyone. The positivity will suck all of the oxygen from the atmosphere and make things unbearable for folks who are struggling.

This year, I'm turning over a new leaf...ok, I'm not inverting it completely...more like flipping up one corner so I can see the dark underneath. I'm going to mix things up by saying an occasional, "no thank you." Turkeys be damned.

I'll start slow with minor issues. I'll also have to use my old teaching trick of cleansing negativity with 3 positive thoughts of equal scale. I present today's "Thank You. No Thank You." (not necessarily in that order).

No Thank You -

SEPTA, for purchasing high-tech parking meters that only accept coins and must be paid with exact change. Dear parking meter, you are shiny and beautiful and have many fancy buttons. Therefore, when you tell me that I can't have my extra nickel, it makes me want to plunge my knitting needles into your cold, mechanical heart. I swear it's like being transported back to the dark ages. GAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Thank You -

Prep School students for enlivening my AM commute with your silly games of grab-ass. Gangly teenage boys with their oversized feet and shorn-sheep haircuts always make me nostalgic for my retreating youth.

John McArthur, Jr., the madman who designed Philadelphia's City Hall. So baroque! So many tacky allegorical statues symbolizing justice! So delightfully decrepit! It's the perfect tribute to the dour Quaker who founded Pennsylvania, William Penn.

WXPN for playing "Let's Go Crazy" during my drive home from the train station. I know that it's not the right song but it reminded me of the closing scene of "Purple Rain" where Prince is scooting around the stage shaking his tiny, little money-maker at incredible speeds. Ah, Prince. Ah, money-makers.

But I still don't forgive you, parking meter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Not a Blogger

Last week I had intended to change direction a bit. I was going to write about the Phillies and my dad and relate it all back to the struggle of terminal illness and the importance of universal health care. It was supposed to be a happy story to balance out all of the woe-is-me.

Unfortunately the Phils lost and the House chickened out on a viable public option allowing the air to escape from my post with a pronounced pffft as it zipped out of the room.

Then my jerry-rigged facade of alrightness fell over during a meeting at work and exposed my pet elephant and his ever-growing pile of shit that I've been meaning to take care of but can't seem to find the time.

Sometimes 'forever' just seems completely unmanageable.

Note to Self: When you get upset at work, cover your face with your coffee cup before your chin starts to quiver and keep it there all day if necessary.


Philosophers will tell you that there's no such thing as 'nothing.' The very act of thinking about nothing gives it a certain somethingness that can't be ignored—nothing is as real as a ham sandwich.

Science gives a similar answer. Even though it may seem that everything is mostly nothing dotted with tiny clumps of stuff, the empty space between the bits of matter behaves in a way that must be categorized as something.


When R died, a little space opened up in my heart. Comfort and concern slid right through the hole with no resistance or reaction. I couldn't find a name for it and it wasn't like anything I had encountered before.

It felt like nothing.

Over time it just became part of me. All of my remaining something rearranged itself and the nothing spread out and made itself at home. The whistling hole was gone but I was somewhat less substantial.

People who had all of their something intact could pass right through me. Only those with a little bit of their own nothing felt solid.

I never really intended to start a blog (or even read one to be absolutely honest). Prior to April of 2009 I was a newspaper reading, dog-walking, knitting Luddite with a neglected FB account. Then dozens of friends and co-workers completed uncomplicated pregnancies and birthed healthy babies in spring of 2009 and I took to the internet in search of anything that could make me feel human again.

One thing led to another and now I'm a Luddite with a poorly maintained, ineffectively semi-anonymous set of grammatically flawed ruminations that I started writing just to seem less like a rubber-necking weirdo when I read other peoples' blogs.

There's not a whole lot of candor and variety here. My husband calls my style 'charmingly old-fashioned.' I describe it as 'Johnny One-Note.' I don't aspire to become a real blogger with a catalog of interesting stories that cover all aspects of my life (though I do appreciate reading real blogs). I just want a little bit of space to try to turn my nothing into something.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Daily Grind

By day I'm a professional haranguer. It's not something I ever aspired to or trained for—it just flowed naturally from a series of non-decisions about my career. I spend my days sending notes, leaving voicemails, and hunting people down for the express purpose of needling them into doing things that they have deemed unimportant.

One of last week's glamorous tasks involved proofreading a report for adherence to style guidelines. Specifically, I had to bring down the hammer regarding the appropriate way to denote fiscal years in official documents. (I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat so I'll satisfy your curiosity. There must be a space between the FY and the 2010 and that it must be 2010 and not just 10. Oh, and it should be FY 2009 – FY 2010...not FY 2009-FY 2010, etc.)

I get a lot of eye-rolling. My colleagues/targets frequently remind me about priorities and relative importance.

They assume that I don't understand what really matters.

The feeling is sometimes mutual.

Most days I'm stunned that I'm still here, hunkered down in my cube inching the boulder up the hill, the keeper of both the great truths of the universe and the only three-hole punch in the office. You can imagine which gets more overt attention.

I'm glad to have a job, especially one that's 95% satisfying. I can even appreciate the simple beauty of a menial office task...staplers are truly amazing. It's the assumption that my work persona constitutes my entire being that stings my poor battered soul.

In my mind I'm shouting as my body shrugs.

Of course I don't give a crap about whether there's a space between the 'FY' and the '2010.' One of my daughters died and will never walk, run, graduate, get married, feel the sun on her face or hit the space bar at the right time. I should be home teaching my precious surviving daughter how to count to 2,010 instead of standing here listening to you gripe to me about the indignity of meaningless work.


Last Wednesday I received an outstanding on my annual performance review. My Dad's 62nd birthday passed uncelebrated, C learned how to say, “Go away, Mommy,” in context-appropriate situations, and R...well, you know how that goes.

On Friday afternoon I received an invitation to complete a survey for high-performers about motivation. I reviewed the questions (with a straight face) and determined that I could channel my former self well enough to answer them somewhat truthfully.

And then the demographics section asked how many children I have and I was stumped.

It's totally anonymous.

What should I say?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This is C

She's always been a friendly one, my little C, smiling and uninhibited. As the baby on both sides of the family she's grown to expect a certain level of coddling and is happy to reciprocate with a full on dose of sparkly baby charm.

When she meets a new acquaintance she waits for just the right moment to introduce herself--a pause in the action--all eyes on her. She takes one bold step forward, smiles her most ingratiating smile, places both hands on her chest and says, " C."

The pacing is perfect. All of your highest expectations are about to be exceeded. Just wait 'til you see what's in this package. It's almost exactly like that James Earl Jones CNN voiceover...only chirpier and lacking a bit in terms of diction.

Last night she was 'helping' me with the laundry when something caught her eye--her blurry reflection in the side of the washing machine. My heart clenched a little as I watched her approach the not-quite-mirror-image so earnestly to deliver her favorite line.

Some days I'm willing to believe anything.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ms. Mommicked and the Meme

Quite frankly I find this entire thing a little least I did until I realized that the genius, sweetsalty kate, is also a Lady of Lallybroch. Now I feel up to the challenge.

Plus it's for the excellent cause of promoting Kate's book - Dread Crew - Pirates of the Backwoods. I don't exactly have a huge readership but I wanted to get a plug in just in case someone stops by.

1) You are facing an epic journey. You may choose one companion, one tool and one vehicle from any book or film to accompany you. Or just one of the three. It's up to you. What do you choose? I'd have to go with somebody powerful/magical like Gandalf or some similar wizardy type. For a tool I'd take a time-turner and my vehicle would be Falkor the Luckdragon. Everyone should just admit that they've been wanting to ride Falkor since the mid-80's.

2) You can escape to the insides of any book. Where do you go, and why? Way too many options here to pick one--Narnia? Hogwarts? The Kingdom of Florin? Wonka's Chocolate Factory? A party at Gatsby's house? So many places I'd love to see in person.

3) You can bring one literary character into your current life. Who do you choose, and why? Maybe the lead character from All Quiet on the Western Front or Leslie Burke from Bridge to Teribithia. I just can't stand the thought of either one of those characters being dead. Not sure I'd have much to say to either one but at least they'd be safe.

4) Outlander (or any book from the series)is my go-to book. (There. I said it.)I could read that book fifty-seven times in a row without a break for food or a pee and not be remotely bored. In fact I’ve already done that but it wasn’t fifty-seven times. It was sixty-four.

5) Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most enviable? I remember hoping that a tiny white dog would show up and tell me that I was a fairy like the little girl in No Flying in the House. I also wanted to be Jo March though I don't think her life was enviable.

6) Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most frightening? I was truly terrified of the Wicked Witch of the West and all of those flying monkeys...and the Barbie-sized action figure version my parents gave me for Christmas when I was about 5-years-old.

7) Every time I read _________________, I see something in it that I haven’t seen before. I'm not a big repeat-reader (except for Outlander) so I can't really answer this one. I'd imagine that I missed quite a few cool bits in Cryptonomicon the first time around and I've been wanting to read it again.

8) It is imperative that
Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods be made into a movie. Now. I am already picketing Hollywood for this—but if they cast _________________ as _________________, I will not be happy. I will, however, be appeased if they cast _________________. Obviously I haven't read it so I can't comment too much on casting but there's got to be a part in there for Viggo.

9) Outlander is a book that should never be made into a film. NOTE: With all due respect to Kate, I just don't think a live action Jamie could ever meet my expectations. And without the first person narration, how could I pretend to be Claire?

10) After all these years, the big reveal scene in the book/movie Behind the Attic Wall still manages to give me the queebs. Perhaps I'm translating 'queebs' incorrectly but just thinking about this bizarre, twisted YA book will probably have me lying awake in bed tonight wondering if there are creepy mannequins lurking in my attic.

11) After all these years, the barley field scene in the movie Room with a View still manages to give me a thrill.

12) If I could corner the author Dan Brown, here’s what I’d say to them one minute or less about their book, The DaVinci Code: I want my money back.

13) The coolest non-fiction book I’ve read
lately is Knitting Around by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Every time I flip through it, it makes me want to ditch my humdrum life and knit my way to action and adventure. I'm also a sucker for a good field guide.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Taking the Cure

Repeat after me--we are all God's children, we are all God's children, we are all God's children.

Keep going until you find the space in your heart to forgive, even if you don't believe in God. Or is it god then?

Since R died I've been working on regaining patience. Not the kind of patience that allows for peaceful browsing of supermarket tabloids while the little, old lady purchases 20 cans of cat food with pennies, the kind that allows me to meet people where they are.

"A hip replacement? How awful for your 90-year-old grandmother! Such a tragedy."

"A parking ticket. That sucks!"

"She made you revise the whole meeting agenda? What a crappy day!"

"Poor thing. I didn't know cats could get colds."

"Ugh! I can't imagine having two children. My one just wears me out."

The tiny pilot that lives in my head meets all of these minor complaints with a steely, unsympathetic gaze as I work desperately to remember the appropriate response. I can usually find the right words and make them come out of my mouth with the proper inflection but, it's work. It should come naturally.

After all, each one of us is a tiny little miracle--the journey-work of the stars as Uncle Walt would say.

I watch C defy gravity as she runs across the kitchen smiling my dad's smile and kicking T's too-short legs. A wonder of engineering. A pint-size family reunion. The culmination of generations of survivors.

I can't believe I made her. Cooked her up right inside my own body with nary a thought. Imagine building one (or two) in the garage.

8 billion+ miracles roaming around the planet with their triumphs and woes. That 90-year-old grandmother was once a bouncing baby, the apple of her mother's eye. That sick cat is a killing machine honed through millions of years of evolution. Who am I to feel like my daughters deserve some kind of special consideration?

On the other hand, maybe some of us more miraculous than others.

Last week I visited one of my best friends from college and her husband. They're expecting their first baby in early February and we wanted to pass along some essential equipment and check in.

Most parents-to-be are excited and nervous but mostly excited. These two had a distinct whiff of subdued terror that set off my spidey-sense.

Over the course of the afternoon my friend's husband recounted the hair-raising story of his own birth. I'll share an abridged version here to protect his privacy--rocky pregnancy, IUGR, low Apgar scores, 4 days in the NICU (in 1975), flatline, baptized by a nurse, last rites, full recovery.

A walking, talking miracle, ladies and gentlemen.

How many bona-fide miracles do I encounter every day? Since there's really no way of knowing, I should probably just give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

You don't have to travel far to meet people where they are if we're all in the same place.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Logic: Brought to you by Crazy People

Last June, T and I grabbed C and the dog, retreated from our former lives, and moved back to my hometown in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

At the moment 90% of our worldly possessions are packed into my Mom's garage and C is asleep in my old playroom. There's not anything wrong with this situation. We have plenty of space and C loves her Mom-mom. I just can't quite stomach the thought of being 34 and back in the nest.

Last week, in an effort to regain some or our former glory, we started looking for a new house.

We met with a woman who is trying to sell her own home sans agent.

I felt a certain kinship with this woman. There's the obvious parallel—I just sold a house in this shit economy, she's trying to sell a house in this shit economy.

(After much drama we managed to sell our house without losing our shirts. I know better than to complain about things that aren't really problems so I'm not going to gripe about this too much. I'll just say that if I were offered the choice between repeating the home-selling experience and having a flaming hedgehog forcibly inserted into my rectum every day for a month, I'd have to sleep on it.)

Back to our story.

The seller and I had other things in common. We grew up in the same town and attended the same schools. Our high school sports triumphs were reported in the same local paper. And, it turns out that her life also took an unexpected left turn.

Through the suburban grapevine we learned she bought the house with her fiancee but broke off the engagement when he cheated. She's since met a new fiancee and decided to move in with him after they're married this fall.

I felt a little guilty trailing her through her house and complimenting the built-ins and generously-sized rooms while imagining her crying on the couch and burning old photos in the fireplace. It was almost unbearable to stand in the yard and listen to her talk about her future children never playing there.

Now I feel even more guilty because we have no intention of making an offer.

The house was great but she wanted too much money. Not just more than I'd like to pay--more than it's worth. The asking price is around $50K above the likely appraised value (but only $10K above what she paid for it in 2007).

It's easy to see how real estate bubbles happen. Buyers, eager to strike out onto new adventures, reach for more than they can afford. Sellers, agents, and lenders, under the spell of profit, conjure up waves of optimism to push them along. Pretty soon everyone's underwater and wondering if granite's really that much better than formica.

It probably goes without saying that impending personal tragedy is not on the home inspection checklist.

We discussed the situation with our realtor who told us that he never places much confidence in appraisals. He believes that the value of any home ought to be determined by the buyer and the seller—the sacred truth at the center of a cosmic wiggle.

Forget the freshly refinished hardwood floors, the two full baths, and the double lot then. What's the value of a house that represents a failed former life? How about a house that represents another shot at normalcy and happiness?

If my realtor were correct, the seller would probably end up giving us the house and everything in it once we were through comparing stories. I wonder how he'd feel about that commission.

The fact is that the seller is saddled with an out-sized mortgage and we can't afford to bail her out thanks to our own misadventures in real estate. This business about buyers and sellers negotiating value is romantic but it just doesn't hold true when so many people stand to profit from each transaction—no matter what it represents.


I was listening to BBC World Report the other morning and heard a story about a new action/adventure graphic novel about the life and times of British mathematician Bertrand Russell.

I sat on the edge of the bed and flossed away as the author spoke. At the leisurely hour of 4:30 AM I wasn't entirely sure that my brain was connecting the pieces. Mathematics, comic books, Wittgenstein—WTF?

The author noted that mathematical geniuses, unlike artistic geniuses, tend to be a pretty stable group of folks...except for Russell and pals who specialized in mathematical logic and were all borderline bat-shit crazy.

Logic, math, and insanity hand-in-hand—I have some reading to do.

Maybe I'll pick up an extra copy for my realtor.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


They have lost their third child.

Tonight I lit a candle for Jethro Craig Wilhelm--such a small gesture compared to such a terrible tragedy.

He's just barely on the other side of that thin line. It seems like the right combination of words and deeds could bring him back.

If we could light a fire big enough to reach up into the night and burn a hole through the sky he could tumble back to Earth--back into his body--back to his parents who love him so much.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I went for a walk this morning and stopped by R's playground.

And I saw this.

And these were poking through the fence from a neighboring yard so I left them for R and Georgina.

And I thought of this.

And for the first time in a long time I was thankful for random chance.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 11 or 741

August 25, 2007

They bustle about the tiny room, moving the wires and tubes that now constitute her major biological functions and I feel my body dissolve into static.

There’s information, hushed tones, more information, paperwork, a surprisingly casual atmosphere.

I kiss her little forehead and give an empty assurance that she’ll be ok. She doesn’t turn toward my voice.

The driver stands-up slowly, stretches and yawns. I can't decide if I'm reassured or terrified.

Now they’re gone and I re-enter my body—jerked back to reality by a hand on my shoulder.

“Two years from now, when she’s running around just like any other toddler, you won’t even remember this,” the nurse says and smiles. I stare at her and try unsuccessfully to transport myself to this magical future.


August 25, 2009

I know that I went to work today. I know that I attended one scheduled meeting, two impromptu meetings, and one farewell lunch. I know that I sent out memos, scheduled future meetings, dialed the phone and answered the questions. I know only because my inbox and my calendar tell me so. I can't really remember any of it.

Most things don't even make a dent anymore.

Tomorrow I won't remember what we discussed in the meetings or how I answered the questions or what I agreed to do next. I might remember what I ate at lunch but I probably won't remember what I said.

I'll remember dancing around the living room to showtunes with C.

I'll remember exactly how the sunlight made R's eyelashes sparkle.

I'll remember reading this and thinking, “Maybe that's my problem.”

Friday, August 21, 2009

Looking Back

“I can't know what it's like to feel like my body failed me.”

It sounded so strange spoken right out in the open--opinion converted into fact. He didn't come up with this idea on his own. He was paraphrasing me. But, hearing the words come out of T's mouth, I suddenly realized that they aren't true. I don't feel like my body failed me.

I wish I could blame it on my body—on some physiological quirk beyond my control.

I feel like my judgment failed me.

So pleased was I with the valiant effort I had made to rescue my girls, I paused right in the middle of the tracks to admire my reward. C--feisty enough to defeat a malfunctioning umbilical cord. R--patient and strong—willing to suffer to save her sister. And the tiny diapers and pajamas—I guess the train that smacked into us wasn't as taken with them as I was.

I should have asked for another week. I should have stayed at her bedside for every minute of those twelve days. I should have held her when she took her final unassisted breath. I should have stopped them from cutting her open for that pointless surgery.

My body was perfectly capable.

I didn't think that it would go this way.

I didn't think it could happen to us.

I didn't think.

And now I can't forget.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Looking at it now it's so obvious--the truth that we were too hopeful to see and that the doctors and nurses were to polite to share.

The instinct to test my mettle is irresistible--like putting weight on a sprained ankle or running your tongue over a sore tooth.

So it sits on my desk.

It kills me a little bit every time I look at it but it keeps her alive.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Happy Birthday(s)

I don't even have to look at the photo because the image is burned into the movie screen inside my head. The only picture of my girls together. Moments after birth, bundled up in their comically large hats in the OR, both of them looking a little less than healthy and a little less than happy but still alive by some miracle.

This image was in my head for the weeks I spent willing them to grow and thrive while they were still inside my body and I doubt it will ever leave me.

Today, on the 2nd anniversary of their birth I think of the two of them, linked forever in my mind and my heart.

Today marks two years since we charged up the hill together unaware of the sheer drop waiting at the top.

Today marks two years of trying to hold on and learning to let go.

Happy Birthdays to my precious girls.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I'm going to add this blog to the Glow in the Woods blogroll this week to commemorate C and R's second birthday. This means that someone else (other than me and my ever-supportive spouse) might actually read it...yikes!

A few notes for anyone who may be reading--

1) I'm a grammar disaster. I probably shouldn't even use the word 'grammar' to modify 'disaster' but there you have it. I fling commas and fragments around like confetti and can't figure out the difference between a dependent and independent clause. My inner thoughts and feelings spilled out in electronic form for all to problem. My poor grasp of the English language--shameful. (yes, it is my native tongue)

2) It's been almost two years since R died. My condition, therefore, is downgraded from distraught madwoman to shower-crier. If I had attempted to write about any of the events surrounding C and R's birth in real-time it would have been a train-wreck--piles upon piles of rage and contempt--not helpful for anyone. I'm amazed by folks who have the presence of mind to write thoughtfully as the flames are licking at their heels--amazed.

3) I'm not really like Ms. Mommicked in my everyday life. I come here to vent the less-than-happy thoughts rolling around in my head. Remarkably I've gotten to a place where I think about things other than R's death and C's safety/welfare/mortality during the course of the day. Yesterday I injured my foot while dancing to this. Someday I may progress enough that I'll remember to warm up first.

So, what's a lousy writer with waning grief issues doing writing a blog?

We have to support each other.

I may not be the most eloquent writer. You may not agree with my opinions. At some point I'll run out of things to say and dust bunnies will collect in my corner of the internets. I may, however, have traveled the same path that you're on right now.

You're not alone--even if you're stuck with a blowhard who can't use a semi-colon properly and lets her precious, surviving child watch frenetic TV programs.

You're not alone.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


She is a super-dense form of matter—a star burst from the center of my body.

I pick her up and toss her around amazed that I can lift something with such impressive gravity.

Her awesome mass bends time--a colicky night feels like a decade but two years pass in a blink.

Her screams and giggles set the planets in motion.

Entire galaxies explode into being on her every breath.

With the laws of physics reduced to rubble at her feet it seems like it would be nothing to reach into some other dimension and retrieve what was lost.

Everything starts as a handful of dust.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Reality, Departures from

Every July, like all good Philadelphians, my family members gather for a week long vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey. We’ve been vacationing “down the shore” for almost a century and my family’s history, both good and bad, is tied up in the place.

My mother still tells stories about the summer she spent in Ocean City between her junior and senior years of college. I celebrated both my first and thirty-first birthdays (and many in between) in rented apartments blocks from the boardwalk. My brother and I played on the beach together as children and got tattoos in a neighboring town as young adults. After his first chemo treatment my Dad scored 7 holes-in-one at Tee Time mini-golf.

I had my first emergency room visit at Shore Memorial Hospital. After the final surgery to scrape all of the cancer cells from his skin, Dad shuffled along the boardwalk and contemplated his foreshortened future. When bedrest precluded my visit two years ago my Mom made the trip for me and returned with a tub of caramel corn to hold back the mounting dread in my hospital room.

When R got sick I chased death away with a vision of her on the beach, chubby and sand-covered—a happy, healthy one-year-old.

In Ocean City, reality is just a vague notion. Old-fashioned candy stores occupy nineteenth century buildings. The boardwalk restores the spring to aging knees during a morning jog. Laughing children fly through the air on ancient carnival rides. Everything is enveloped in the heavenly aroma of fried delicacies and salt air and there is no such thing as a “bikini-body”. It’s paradise…New Jersey-style.

This year marked C’s first visit as a fully-functioning human and I was excited for her initiation into the wonders of the shore. On our first morning I anxiously prepared her for the beach—thick coat of SPF 60+, wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved bathing suit, toys, and all of the requisite equipment. We loaded up the wagon and trekked across the burning sand to a perfect spot near the lifeguard stand. My brother set up the chairs and umbrellas while my mother, sister-in-law, and I wrangled the kids. By the time we were ready to hit the water I was almost as anxious as C and the Dynamic Duo.

Then I turned around and saw them. Chubby, sand-covered twin boys frolicking on a blanket with their beaming grandfather.

The sight of twin toddlers feels more like an exceptionally painful stubbed toe these days than a shotgun blast to the chest. Happy grandfathers barely register anymore. Still, I felt a jolt of envy and anger.

My mind leapt into action, fighting to hold on to my mellow vacation mentality. Within moments the poor parents of these beautiful boys had faced numerous miscarriages prior to the miraculous arrival of their babies. Grandpa became a great uncle, standing in for a father tragically killed in Vietnam and Grandma a victim of early onset Alzheimer’s.

For me this is the most miserable side effect of loss—feeling bad feels good. Some drown their sorrows with alcohol or turn to drugs for relief, I self-medicate with sad stories. Normally the universe (or at least the internet) is happy to oblige with real tragedy. Occasionally I have to cook something up from scratch to get my fix.

Is this behavior normal? Probably. I doubt my little brain has come up with some previously unknown way to grieve. Is it healthy? Probably not but it helps me function. (By the way, the boys escaped unscathed. I haven’t sunk so low that I have to construct calamities for children to float my decrepit ship of hope)

Anxious to get some distance from the poor family being decimated by my overactive imagination I walked C down to the water. I helped her jump over the waves--a time-honored family tradition. We dug in the sand and I showed her how to make a drippy sand castle--just like my Dad taught me so many years before. Gradually my anxiety drifted away, lifted on a warm current of fabricated sympathy and nostalgia and carried out across the water by C’s screams of delight.

Ocean City is the perfect place to escape reality. Developers build high-rise condos on shifting sands. Entire families bathe nearly naked in UV radiation. Diesel-powered carnival rides spew fumes into crowds of children with developing lungs. People chow down on artery clogging funnel-cake and frozen custard for dinner.

But look at them smiling.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


For several years one of our best friends, S, has been inviting us to join her family on their annual vacation. We’ve declined the invite in years past for various (obvious) reasons. This year, despite many scheduling conflicts, we decided to go ahead and join them for a week at S’s grandmother’s house in the Casco Bay region of Maine.

I spent the drive from PA in a mild state of panic over spending an entire week in the company of S, her family and the other, unknown guests.

T and I first met S when we bought the house we lived in ‘before.’ She and her husband, K, had purchased the house across the street a few months prior and were eager to meet the new neighbors. Soon after that first introduction we were pulled into their orbit and joined an assortment of friends and family members that attended S’s elaborate dinner parties and various holiday celebrations. S’s easy sociability and complete lack of self-consciousness was the perfect antidote to my surly, homebody ways. As neighbors we shared countless meals, discussed numerous home renovation projects, debated issues, lamented the sorry state of our crumbling inner-ring suburb neighborhood, and generally shared our lives. They kept an eye on our house when my father’s death required an extended stay in PA. They were among the first people to know we were having twins and then, later, among the first to know that we had lost R.

We started to drift apart somewhat ‘after’. First S stayed away because she was afraid that her daughter might pass a communicable disease to C. Then we decided to move back to my hometown when C was just under a year old. We’ve stayed in touch via email, facebook, and occasional visits but it’s been a while since things have felt easy and comfortable. The fact that they’ve been more fortunate with their childbearing has played no small part in this distancing. They’ve had two perfectly planned pregnancies and two successful homebirths and are now the proud parents of two healthy girls--just like we would have been if things had gone differently. Although they have been nothing but caring and supportive over the past two years envy is poison to friendship.

Upon arriving in Maine my anxiety dissipated somewhat, eclipsed by our new surroundings. The weathered cottage sat atop a rocky hillside overlooking the ocean-- roughly a century old and wearing its age like an eccentric dowager. The stair treads worn with use, the plaster cracked by a settling foundation, and the mismatched dishes chipped by generations of vacationers, yet it all came together somehow in a quirkily elegant way. The view over the water brought to mind a piece of moth-eaten lace—water dotted with land fragmented by seismic activity, the scrape of ancient glaciers, and the harshness of wind and water. The enthusiastic welcome from S and the other guests and an offer of ice cream sundaes mitigated the stress of an eight-hour car trip. We settled in for a relaxing evening and an excellent night’s sleep.

On the first morning of our visit I went for a walk on a path running between the cottage and the water. The rocks, which had looked sturdy and uniform from the house, gave a completely different impression from this closer vantage point. Huge chunks had been flipped end over end and broken into pieces by the awesome forces at work in the Earth’s crust. Striations created by sedimentation marked the rocks as siblings but the lines met at crazy, vertigo-inducing angles, a testament to the power of tectonic collisions. Far below, waves crashed against the rocks continuing the tortured process of transformation. Venturing even closer I could see yet another landscape among the tumbled boulders. Water had collected in the spaces between and within these tiny pools, sheltered from the surf by the upended rocks, plants and animals had made their homes—a nursery formed by violence, balance brought about through chaos.

During our week together, watching C run around the yard with S and K’s older daughter and play peek-a-boo with their baby, I started to feel a resurgence of comfort and ease. Though our friendship may lack the bright shine of the days when we were full of optimism about the future and plans for our unborn children it’s taken on the patina of something old and valuable. Though our peaceful lives were set awry by loss and tragedy they will eventually return to a state of rest. The jutting edges of disaster and grief will be worn smooth by the caress of friendship. The dips and gullies that have opened between us will nurture a new kind of understanding. A relationship begun in shared experience will grow richer through difference. And I will learn to make the most of what is rather than long for what could have been.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sock and Soul

Just as Summer Solstice passes I always get the urge to knit. After all, we’re now on the downslope of the journey towards the shortest day of the year and the accompanying cold weather. In just a few weeks the leaves will start to change and there will be just the faintest snap of fall in the air.

Right around the time I returned to work after maternity leave I decided to learn how to knit socks so that I’d have something productive to do on the train. Since my earliest adventures in knitting I had been intrigued by socks. They seemed like the ideal craft for a commute—small enough to be portable, complex enough to hold my attention, but able to be knitted during brief bursts of activity.

In summer of 2008 I knitted my first pair and I was hooked. The work was interesting and fun and socks turned out to be the only knitted garment with universal appeal for my family members. T rarely wears the hat I made for him, refuses to even consider a scarf, and I don’t have time for a sweater but, he loves his woolly socks. Socks, when paired with sturdy toddler-proof shoes, are seemingly the only clothes we can keep on C who, like all two-year-olds, is a pint-sized nudist.

Now I’m in the process of converting my entire stash over to sock projects. Gone are the sweaters, hats, bags, and baby blankets I had planned—my mind’s eye now sees an army of socks, all different colors and sizes (but hopefully the same general shape) marching out toward the horizon.

Normally when I take on a new craft I devote a significant amount of effort to understanding the mechanics and the meaning behind the steps rather than just blindly following the instructions. With socks, however, I just haven’t taken the time to demystify the process. Instead I watch in wonder as my very own hands transform a tangled length of previously unconnected fibers into something recognizable and useful. Amazingly, adherence to the cryptic instructions yields a functional sock every time.

Each completed pair still strikes me as tiny little miracle—proof that real magic is found not in the unexpected but rather in the endeavor that goes exactly according to plan.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Brute Squad

This was intended to be a Father's Day post as a tribute to T but I'm a few days late.

Over the past few days I've read several eloquent posts on other blogs reflecting on the particular challenges to babylost fathers. It's no surprise that the common theme among these bloggers is the lack of space granted grieving men. While mama deals with the particular physiological, hormonal, and emotional effects of birth and loss, dad is frequently left to handle administrative tasks with a stiff upper lip. This makes sense at first. After all, life does go on and someone needs to keep things together. Over time the division seems less practical but dads are still expected to be somehow less heartbroken than moms.

This situation was exaggerated in our case because T tends to operate on high alert even under perfectly ordinary circumstances. During any type of emergency he's like a thoroughbred twitching and thrashing in the starting gate while I'm more of a fat, shaggy pony merrily grazing the infield. When R died, T made the phone calls, answered the questions, and handled the necessary arrangements. I snuggled C and forgot my ATM PIN number...repeatedly. Confronted with a challenge he batted it down with alarming expediency and dragged me forward through the muck. Woe to anyone who got in his way or said anything unpleasant to me. March of Dimes telethon operators, insurance company customer service representatives, MaryPIRG canvassers--all bobbed in his wake as he went about the business of surviving.

A week after C was discharged from the hospital T went back to work and I was left to face the world of a new parent without my bodyguard.

Most new parents come home with the baby, spend a couple of days entertaining guests and then get down to the business of learning how to be parents. Visitors offer advice, share stories of their own children, demonstrate techniques for swaddling, bouncing, burping—in short all of the things that new parents need to master. When the proceedings also involve mourning the loss of a baby things are less clear-cut.

C was easily the tiniest baby most of our friends and family had ever seen and her size alone filled up hours of potentially awkward silence. Her immature digestive system was a veritable symphony of whooshes, squeaks, and grumbles—a tiny one-woman gas-powered band. Baby farts, however, can only do so much to mitigate the pain and permanence of death.

I have a vague recollection of carrying on many intensely cheery, primarily one-sided conversations with surprise guests. Talking incessantly seemed to be the best way to keep my panic at bay—panic about the microbes they carried into C’s sanctuary, panic that they wouldn’t leave in time for my next pumping session, panic that they’d start asking questions and T wouldn't be there to provide his steady answers. Determined to seem like the same old me and stubbornly convinced that crying would just make visitors linger I charged ahead like a demented cruise ship director sharing priceless conversational gems --“Have you seen R’s urn yet? We thought pink would be nice for a girl.” “One healthy baby is more than some people get.” “It’s probably better this way, she was very sick.” “Maybe it’s so that my Dad could have a grandchild too.” These statements sound completely insane to me now but, at the time it was better to hear them coming out of my own mouth than risk hearing them come out of somebody else’s.

Without T there to help me maintain my equilibrium I felt drained and exhausted by even the briefest visit. I wanted nothing more than to hand the burden over to him for a while so that I could rest.

Recently I got to thinking that there has to be a better way for couples to navigate this type of loss and grief and I came up with the notion of a babylost Brute Squad.

If the hospital had sent us home with a Brute, T wouldn't have had to take on any unpleasant tasks. The Brute would have sent canvassers packing, the Brute would have answered the phone and taken messages, the Brute would have dispatched the priest who was a little too happy that our daughter had gone to meet Jesus. In short, the Brute would have made it possible for T to grieve beside me instead of dashing ahead to remove any obstacles from my path.

Sometimes I imagine quitting my current job and starting a Brute-for-hire service with T--surely the MacArthur Foundation would give me a grant. We could offer a couple of different packages. The Basic – we camp out on your porch and function like bouncers. The Premium – we follow you around like bodyguards and terminate any conversations that veer into undesirable territory The Deluxe – we masquerade as you and pretend to be perfectly calm, ‘brave’ people for the benefit of your friends and family.

Any takers?

Sunday, June 14, 2009


People are strange. We’re terrified of high-intensity deaths—lightning strikes, terrorist attacks, plane crashes--and cavalier about commonplace dangers—car wrecks, lousy air quality, obesity via high-fructose corn syrup. Everyday perfectly logical, high-functioning people engage in notably risky activities (left-hand turn on yellow, anyone?) with barely a thought while the slightest mention of the swine flu practically incites a riot.

When someone is killed in a rare but incredibly sensational event we’re completely flummoxed and left running about like ants confronting a sudden break in the line. “Why?” we cry, pleading to the heavens, “Why did this happen?” Then we run to the water cooler and recount the details for anyone who will listen as if repeating them a couple times will make the whole thing more plausible.

It’s the unexpected and horrific that activates the fear centers in our little monkey brains—as if people who die spectacularly are somehow more dead than those who go out with a whimper. We want explanations, assurances that it isn’t going to happen to us and we will be spared the insult of a ‘bad death.’

Last night, scrolling through FB, I noticed that a friend posted about the tragic death of a baby. My friend didn’t know the baby but she was horrified by the circumstances--baked in a hot car in a parking lot near my friend’s home after his father forgot to drop him off at daycare.

This particular scenario is one of my waking nightmares and I echoed her sentiment in my mind. What those poor parents must be going through. My heart clenched in my chest and I prepared to type a sympathetic reply.

Then I scrolled down a little further and saw that she believes everything happens for a reason…but not this.

A memory percolated about in my mind before rising to the surface and I clicked open my email. I scrolled back through time in search of my quarry. There it was—a message from this very same friend assuring me that there was a reason for R’s death.

The monitor disappeared behind a red fog. How dare she mourn the death of some stranger’s baby and dismiss my baby’s death with some tired bromide about reasons.

Both babies suffered horribly. Both babies died. There is no difference. There is no explanation. There is no reason.

My immediate response was to send the message back with a self-serving, officious reply—something that emphasized my hard-won dead-baby wisdom (as if it’s some sort of treasure) and scoffed at her naivete—something that would allow me to pass the burden to someone else for a while.

I didn’t send the message. I didn’t comment on her post.

Her reaction is perfectly reasonable.

In order to spare ‘them’ the agony T and I frequently downplay the terrifying, graphic details of R’s death. Pruned down to the trunk and essential branches, the narrative is nothing more than an unfortunate but clean series of medical mishaps. R’s final hours sound almost pleasant—surrounded by people trying to save her--soothed to sleep in a quiet, dim-lit room in her father’s arms.

I’m glad my friend still has her strangeness. I’m glad she can still be horrified and search for reasons. I wish I didn’t know the truth.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Looking Ahead

Today I drove past "R's Playground" and saw a girl, maybe 13 or 14 years old, playing alone on the swings.

When we donated the playground equipment in R's memory our idea was that we would be able to see happy children doing all of the fun things that R couldn't. Seeing this girl, just on the cusp of her teenage years, reminded me of the milestones that R would miss and that C would have to meet alone.

During my pregnancy I was thrilled to be having twin girls. Growing up I had always thought that a twin would make life easier. Pathologically shy and introverted, I longed for a partner who could see me and accept me exactly as I was. I pictured my daughters lying in bed at night sharing secrets in the dark or sharing clothes or supporting each other through the challenges that were sure to come.

For all I know the girl on the playground could have been waiting for her friends or just enjoying some alone time in the sunshine but I can't help thinking that she was lonely.

And I worry that C will be lonely without her sister.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


When I was younger and considerably more carefree my friends and I would make up words that we felt were missing from the English language. These creations corresponded to the challenges and trivialities of our days and then found their way into our everyday use.

Several of them were developed at the outdoor education center where I worked immediately following college and are fittingly British schoolboy humor-ish. Spluff – when the tide is rising and comes to just-barely crotch level. Lunx – time between two events that is empty but too short to be filled with anything other than ass-sitting. Congweff – doing something (ahem) 4 times in a 24 hour period. I met my husband around this time and he brought a word of his own to the conversation—tamardiggan – finishing a long and arduous task, normally shouted triumphantly.

These were the words of my youth--the language that was needed to capture and codify our exuberance.

Since R died I’ve felt the need to create more new words, maybe even a whole language, to capture the new reality.

Out here in the grieving parent blogosphere the wordsmiths are hard at work, twisting our surprisingly optimistic modern English to fit these new purposes (since when does awesome only apply to things that are overwhelmingly good?) A lot of work has been done on new adjectives to harness knowing rage – craptastic, suckitude, fucktacular. I use all of them frequently but haven’t been able to make any of my own contributions. Compared to most of the folks writing on the subject of loss and misery I’m quite the hack but, I don’t think that’s entirely the problem. Our situation is fairly unique, even in these circles--thus, the lack of words to describe it.

What do you say to someone simultaneously having the most amazing and most horrid day of their life?

What is the name for a twinless twin?

What is the word for missing someone whom you never really met?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

And the hits just keep on coming...

One of the things that sustained me through bedrest, premature delivery, the NICU, and my high stress maternity leave was the supportive group of folks back at the office. My colleagues, and more specifically, my supervisor, ran interference on administrative tasks, helped with errands, sent concerned emails, and just generally 'got it.'

When I returned to work after a seven month absence (most of it courtesy of leave donations) I felt comfortable in my newfound semi-catatonic state. People were patient with my shiny new lousy temper and my complete lack of short-term memory.

When I decided to leave, my supervisor, W, did everything he could to help my transition to the new job. It wasn't exactly the most polite thing to do--take an extra 3 months of leave and then split within weeks of returning to the office but W understood and supported my decision.

I found out today that W's wife is severely ill. The prognosis isn’t good but the illness is treatable and they are surrounded by a supportive group of friends and family who have already mobilized.

W and his wife are the very able and loving parents of two young children and just overall stellar people.

If you happen to swing by here and read this, please direct a prayer or a positive thought toward them tonight.

I'm constantly reminded as I wade through my 'after' that families all over the world are just departing their 'before' and I wish I could do more to help.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The New World

Somewhere in my mind I've decided that I have until C's 2nd birthday to finish constructing my new world. If I'm being generous with myself I'll add in the 12 extra days and make it the 2nd anniversary of R's death. The point is, however, that grief will likely be my constant companion for the rest of my life and I should figure out how to wear it comfortably.

I'm starting to think that the only way to cope with the memories I carry and revisit daily is to deposit them somewhere outside of myself. Chances are this blog will basically be an echo-chamber for my private musings but there's always the chance that someone will stop by--maybe someone who's just lost a parent or a child and needs to know that they aren't alone.

Grieving, remembering, moving all takes a tremendous amount of energy. The question is do you just let the heat build up inside until it's unbearable or do you direct the force outward and put it to work?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

How do you get to the angels?

Even two years after the fact (and almost 4 years since my Dad's death) I'm occasionally blindsided by a rogue wave of crushing grief.

Tonight I'm helping my Mom babysit my nieces, aka The Dynamic Duo. They're 4 and 6-years-old and open to new experience and information in the way that only young children can be.

Out of the blue the 4-year-old turned to me and said, "How did Pop-pop get to the angels?"

"He got sick and then he went to sleep and didn't wake up," I replied as the tiny pilot who steers me through these moments sprang into action.

"But how do you get to the angels? Where are they?" the 6-year-old pressed.

"I don't know. It's complicated."

"You disappear?" asked the 4-year-old.

"Sort of."

"M's Uncle Cookie died yesterday. Maybe he'll be friends with Pop-pop."

And after holding it together through job interviews, follow-up NICU visits, memorial services, baby showers, and so many other challenging events and conversations, the pilot was finally outmaneuvered by the storm.

I left before they could see me crying for R, Dad--for poor Uncle Cookie, struck down by leukemia in his early 30's. Uncle Cookie who called R's death a tragedy when he knew his own days were numbered.

Why do my beautiful, innocent nieces even have to think about the mechanics of reaching heaven? Why can't their sad excuse for an aunt believe that heaven exists?

Friday, May 29, 2009

What Happened?

I don't spend much time talking about the girls. For the most part, the people who need to know have already heard the details. As a courtesy to anyone who happens by, however, I'll fill in the backstory.

R and C were spontaneous monochorionic, diamniotic twins. In other, words, identical. We have no idea why our little zygote split into two separate beings (though I may share some theories later on). It's not genetic, we did not employ any fertility treatments or mysterious rituals.

The pregnancy progressed smoothly until around 28 weeks when C (then known as Baby B) developed a condition called no-end diastolic flow which led to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). We found out later that these problems were a result of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). Without getting overly technical, identical twins typically share a placenta and frequently develop malformed blood vessels that result in unequal distribution of blood flow and resources. Simply put, C was starving and R was getting overfed.

I was hospitalized during the 29th week of my pregnancy and spent 11 days with 24-hour fetal heart monitoring. Although C showed some progress during the next couple of weeks, she was still in danger and the doctors suggested that we opt for a planned c-section at 32 weeks. My husband, T, and I reviewed the information they provided about premature birth and decided that the benefits of an early delivery outweighed the risks. The doctors scheduled the appointment and the girls were delivered during an uneventful surgery on August 14 and moved into adjoining rooms in the NICU.

We had two days of relative relaxation with our perfect, tiny girls. Two days of believing that we pulled the wool over death's eyes. And then lightning struck.

I have a vague recollection of the cardiologist appearing in R's room and explaining critical pulmonary valve stenosis and balloon catheterization. The there was something about a fortunate case of PDA keeping R's blood flowing and a prostoglandin drip and a race to reach 5 pounds so that the doctors could operate. Then a whole bunch of tubes, wires, alarms, and updates.

On the morning of August 24 I arrived at the NICU to find C sleeping peacefully while R tossed about. The nurse suspected infection and my heart sank. The cultures wouldn't be ready for 48 hours but they suspected necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

I don't need to explain NEC here--there are plenty of descriptions on the internet and each one will make your blood run cold.

Within hours we were on our way to another hospital, miles from C, R on a vent in an ambulance.

Two days later it was over. Exploratory surgery confirmed the doctors' worst suspicions. NEC had completely destroyed R's intestines and stomach.

We unhooked the vent around 4PM on August 26th and waited for her tiny heart to stop beating. The nurse cried. The surgeon apologized. We told R she could finally rest.

Then we signed the necessary papers, collected our memory box, and dashed back to little C, terrified of what might happen next.

One week later we hugged all of our nurses and doctors good-bye, packed the 3.5 pound C into her carseat and headed home to figure out how to live with sorrow and joy.