thanks and giving 2016

The last two weeks have been terrible. It was a snowball effect – every day got worse but it snuck up on me the way a zit does – the kind you think will easily pop, then you mess with it and it becomes this cystic monster threatening to take over your face. Each day you can take as it is – one day – we can all handle one day. Then, you wake up one morning and realize life is terribly overwhelming and you wonder, what the hell happened? Each day piled on the next is a bit much and this life, this being an adult thing…it’s the freaking worst. With all the terrible no good sadness happening around me, there is respite in focusing on the things that bring me Thanksgiving.

Micky – For every spontaneous dance party, no matter where we are, they’re the best. For watching me do yoga over and over and over and over again. For letting me talk over him because all I need to do is vent, then forgiving me for being incredibly rude and still making me a gin tonic. For being the better half of us in conflict, in trauma, and in our entire social life (which he swears I would not have without him). For letting me be quiet, no matter how long the silence lasts. On the rare occasion I cry – for sitting there and waiting for me to tell him I’m OK, that it’s OK to hug me – I promise not to start swinging. For the times I cannot cry, letting me know that’s OK too, and not discounting my hurt. For never putting himself above another human; for always loving, always caring. For helping me piece myself back together when torn down. For always knowing my heart is never as cold as it seems. For making me laugh day in and day out  – without fail he is the funniest person I know.

My friends – the ones who trust me with their darkness and their light. For letting me share their burdens and for doing their best to help me carry mine. 

Doctors who fight every damn day to cure cancer – who relinquish family and friends to stay in labs testing cells, loving patients, believing in LIFE.

The passionate hearts of those I love fighting for what they believe: whether boots on the ground protecting this great nation; dreamers believing change is possible, it just needs a voice; those who sacrifice time and space to care for the lost; and those who haven’t quite found their purpose but love greatly.

My family that is constant and far reaching.

My late grandma Anna Daisy who taught me to be me, no matter what, and to never, ever let anyone make me feel less than treasured.

A beautiful earth that never ceases to amaze me and a landscape that stirs the peace inside me.

For women who give things like grief and loss a voice far greater than I could hope to have.

Choreographed dances that make me look ridiculous yet bring me joy and the friends who enjoy being equally ridiculous.

A roof over our head, food on our table, blankets to keep us warm and puppy dogs to snuggle.

For Birdie, always, for Birdie.

All the feels

We went back east a couple weeks ago – we walked into all things familiar. My hair instantly frizzed upon exiting the airport, my ears were assaulted by car horns and sirens, and my nostrils filled with bus exhaust. It was oddly comforting. Every face looked and sounded the same and the hugs, although tighter and longer, felt the same. There were a few eerie moments – moments we were reminded that life has moved forward for everyone even if ours stopped back in 2015. It is entirely out of self preservation that we are here, this space of alienation. It has allowed us to function with little emotion and skirt by these last two years without crumbling. I recently read in an amazing [read: FREAKING AMAZING!] book that the first year of grief you walk along numb and unattached [check!]. The second year, all the shit you pushed down down down begins to surface. Not just a twinge here or there – more like bursting into hysterics because you can’t get the ice tray to crack, or screaming at inanimate objects for running into you when in fact they are in the same spot they’ve always been. My heart is colder than most so I’ve stretched it out an additional year. I rarely cry too which means my hysterics involve throwing things [like ice trays], cursing in patterns that make little sense, and kicking dressers that jump out of nowhere. To describe an ache for something, something you never really had is the most difficult thing. The yearning is powerful, it can be a monster dragging you down and around emotions you once thought hidden or absolved.

I once wrote how the dichotomy of death and life existing at once and altogether shared, is…surreal. It’s changing us – it’s changing our world and relationships. Relationships come and go – some run dormant for years only to be picked back up when needed most – it is all part of our story. The pain we experience, the ache of loss whether in relationship or in death – is an ache to explore. We chase moments and memories and seek familiar feelings but in a new reality. Every day is an opportunity to accept a new set of circumstances and be honest with ourselves, honest about the raw feelings, honest about the fear and the what ifs. There is always hope – there is always the idea that someday, even if we’re 80, loss and the reasons why, will finally make sense.

I think these last two years have made us homesick – not for a place but for the people that make a place, home. We realized we are parched – emotionally speaking. The amount of love that rained down on us in Maryland was incredible – we were watered and cared for and every last bit of us, dusted off. We left, our souls filled to the brim. Even the briefest of conversations left their mark and we are so thankful for our friends and family back east. You all know how to make two worn out people feel loved and missed in the most epic ways.

“it’s the tragedy of loving, you can’t love anything more than something you miss.” – Jonathan Safran Foer

home.

A virtual friend asked me to describe what home means to me. I quickly rattled off a generic, yet truthful answer. As I’ve had more time to ponder the idea, I worry my response was only covering the surface. I believe it rounded out an idea of comfort, laughter, family and friends – all honest ideals and things for which we strive. However, what gets lost is why those things matter; the reasons and richness of their existence…and our need for it. Our constant and indefinite state of healing not only thrives on comfort, laughter, family and friends – it requires it. Our home has been a safe haven and at times a retreat from overwhelming situations/feelings/memories. We at times make a conscious choice to shut out the world, its inhabitants, its pain and our weakness to function within it, but we also welcome joy inside its walls. We crave gut busting laughter, interpretive dance parties, gin tastings, dinners where it doesn’t matter if the table is set and comfy pants are the required attire – these are the things that make a house a home. Yes, I want it to be lovely and cozy, a cohesive unique design, walls littered with photographs and art, a working kitchen, enough storage space…but honestly, I just want to hear laughter echoing against the walls, warm bodies occupying the space, no matter how imperfect it may be.
** you should check out said virtual friend if you love home design, DIY, puppy dawgs, and an overdose of adorable.

take me to Tofino

Four+ months ago Mick and I had an honest conversation about how we wanted to spend Birdie’s week of life. The main things on which we agreed – somewhere far, somewhere isolated, somewhere healing. Over the years we have ventured out of the box for vacations and not once been disappointed. Even when feverish in Mexico, someone (Mick) nursing an injured knee (most of you know this story), we would go again. The best healing retreat we encountered was with our dear Lois in Idaho – her hospitality and serene location pushed us over the edge and started our adventure to move – we still seek healing there. All of these, randomly found on the internet, out of the ordinary and perfect in every way. Virgins to Air BnB – I scoured countries, towns, hot spots relying on my gut to show me where to go. The pictures of Cedarwood Cove sucked me in, but it was the owner’s description that sold us. As a nutrition nerd who spent a year hands on healing with a nutritionist and greatly benefiting – Michelle’s words about food, the earth and living life resonated. I researched their island gem and after showing it to Mick, we paid in full.

We both know a lot can happen in four months but we held out hope we’d make this happen. When rough days or weeks came our way – we looked at the pictures, we reread Michelle’s words and we repeated, “take me to Tofino!” The photos speak for themselves – Beauty is everywhere. Eagles soaring directly above, the sounds of migrating birds mixed with the powerful ocean rumble. It is a community of less than 2,000 people but holy geez, do they have it figured out. A surf town in the middle of a rain forest, surrounded by jagged tree-covered mountains. The ocean on one side, the sound on the other – it truly has everything to offer. It’s part of the Pacific Rim National preserve, the drive across Vancouver Island has many a jaw dropping moment. Between Mick and I we have seen quite a few astounding places, but there’s something about this place – it warms your soul. The way of life, the food, the culture and the smiles on everyone’s face – it is one of a kind. We are thankful for people like Michelle and Alan – their desire to enjoy life – to make it rich and rewarding is something we all need. Even if we only have eight days of anonymity.

I haven’t used my real camera in a long time and there was a learning curve for sure…but I picked it back up slowly. Below are some shots – very few edits because it takes too much time, I mean, seriously. (Click on image for slideshow)

365

I never wanted kids. I do not get excited about new babies. I am horrible at interacting with children. I find it difficult to come down to their level and I get bored playing pretend. If they are girls I am even worse at princess things. I grew up playing “war” in the woods, boxing with my brother and dad, and when I played Barbies she was on her third marriage, and Skipper spent every other weekend with her pretentious step-mother and her bob haircut. When Mick and I discussed a future we talked about how it was not a goal for either of us but agreed we wouldn’t rule it out. We voiced simplistic generalities about how our kid would be adorable, and athletic and all things that seem ridiculous now. We sounded self righteous using grand statements of never, or three years from now, or before I am 35. We were ignorant to assume we had any say in eternal things.

When we found out Miss Birdie was coming – I had a very difficult time. My introspection was working overtime. I was convinced I would be a horrible mother – cold and mean. About halfway through my pregnancy I began singing to her. I sang in the car, in the shower, resting on the couch – music was always playing and Mick and I would do our best to squeak out harmonies. One afternoon in the hospital we had to make an incredibly difficult decision – our energy was sorrowful and Birdie could sense it. Her comfort level was plummeting and she was maxed out on morphine. I began humming scales – simple C scales up and down, over and over. Immediately Birdie’s oxygen levels began to rise, her heart rate leveled and she squeezed my finger. If I stopped humming her numbers would plummet. I hummed and hummed and when I couldn’t do it, Mick took my place. We hummed together, we made up songs, we sang to her about Buddy and her grandparents, her aunts and uncles and whatever we could think of. When our tears took our voices our sweet nurse turned on music. Other than the moment they finally placed her in my arms, she was never that calm. As I unraveled under the weight of it all, Mick looked at me and said, “honey, you are a natural at this…only her mom would know she needed that.” 

Although we do not have the stories and the photos of a one year old, we are parents, and in that moment, I was a mom. 365 days have passed, and the days are easier yet it still steals our breath. We miss our precious bird.

 

six years

Many years ago I was driving through Georgia; I pulled off 95 South to use the restroom and grab sustenance. I was not in the most populated area, but it did not seem like I was entering the plot of a horror movie either. [A common rule to determine ones safety.] I entered the “ladies” room and immediately noticed the strong stench of bleach. My initial thought was, awesome, I found the one gas station bathroom they actually clean! I noticed the sink was shiny, the mirror sparkling – SCORE! As I walked toward the stall, the smell grew stronger, except now it was mixed with another smell…something horrible. I entered the stall, as I turned toward the toilet I realized I was in a horror movie, my nightmare. A brown liquid substance covered the stall walls, filled the mini trash can and splattered all porcelain surfaces. As I fumbled for the lock, I did my best to not bring any additional damage to this restroom. If this was Georgia’s idea of a “ladies” room, I needed to vomit elsewhere.

Once I was back on the freeway I consulted my phone list. I had made a check list of people to call to keep me awake or entertained as I drove seventeen hours south. Someone I only recently met was next on the list, some guy named Micky. Welp, this is as good a time as any to break the ice. I dialed his number and began the conversation with my recent introduction to Georgia bathrooms. I do not want to put words his mouth, but I am pretty sure this is when he fell in love with me.

As Micky and I embark on our seventh year together, I look back at our humble beginnings. Even before we met – we had both been through so much change and hopeless moments. Together we have now faced tragedy, but it never feels difficult to love him; it is the most natural thing in the world. If I only knew at fifteen, eighteen, twenty, twenty-four – this is what I should strive to achieve, this is love. Love and marriage do not mean finding someone who can provide financial security. Love is not meant to be out of control and dysfunctional – those highs and lows – although seemingly romantic at times – will not get you through the dredges life inevitably throws. Love is courage, it means fighting for something despite our insecurities. You can love someone, and with everything inside yourself know they are your soul mate, but if you’re a coward, it is likely you will lose them. If your insecurities rule you, how much can you offer another person. Love is sacrifice, it means letting go of self, pride, expectation, and giving yourself in every way to someone else. It is honest, sharing even the ugly parts, because if you’re fighting the same fight, those ugly parts will become beautiful. No one does it perfectly, every one of us is flawed, but when you have someone with whom you are courageous, sacrificial and honest –  exceptional things await. Remember, my first adult conversation with my now husband was about explosive diarrhea…I clearly know what I’m talking about.

Birdie Anna

Our sweet and precious girl has made her entrance. She did so with some serious sass, and as expected, pomp and circumstance. I won’t go into the detail of labor, but say, it was long and drawn out and then almost instantaneous. We had the most amazing nurses, one in particular stole our hearts and stuck with us through it all. We had her for two of her 12 hour shifts and she specifically asked to follow our care to post delivery; she has even called us to check in after going home. She worked so hard and did it with such love and care, we were astounded.

Once our lil bird arrived she had some serious Oxygen issues – her levels we’re befuddling to the doctors. One of our amazing cardiologists who had already checked on us each step of labor, happened to be on call when Birdie was born. He also happens to be the catheter specialist which is the exact thing she needed. They ran a fetal echo on her and he saw quite a few vein abnormalities that were not evident in the fetal echoes in utero. There is also a duct that was open 3 weeks ago, has since closed unexpectedly. They worked effortlessly to stabilize her all while diagnosing the problem. After a few hours they came up with a plan and she went into emergency surgery. After four hours her doctor felt he accomplished what he needed, with the least amount of risk to her tiny body. He has placed three stents to strengthen veins and redirect some very backwards blood flow. He was not able to open the duct as it is incredibly risky – the part of her heart where it lies is the size of a peanut. They will discuss Tuesday how to not only proceed with that portion of her heart, but also her prescheduled surgery on the 30th.

She is recovering very well at the moment – she has gone from requiring 100% oxygen support, to 45%! He was worried her kidneys were stunned due to various complications that occurred, but so far her urine is looking good and urine means kidney function. We love that! There is always a delicate balance in recovery – serious ups and downs and we are doing our best to go step by step and not get our hopes up. She is a fighter, she is bigger than they expected and right now that is solely to her benefit.

We have been able to see her, albeit briefly, but she squeezed our fingers and her blood pressure reacts to our voices. Mick was able to swab her mouth with some breast milk as well. Her NICU nurses are fantastic and her cardio team has already surpassed our expectations. We are doing our best to rest up, especially Misie as her body went through quite a bit – and by a bit I mean, 39 hours of serious work and some serious craziness near the end. We are unsure when Misie will be discharged, either Monday morning or Tuesday if the OB fellow pulled some strings.

We cannot express our humility and thankfulness – the prayers, prayer chains, good vibes, positive thoughts and loving messages have been truly special to us. We are so touched and blessed by everyone’s support and feel all of it and see it in action. Right now we are trying to hit the most people with information in the most efficient ways. If a message or question is left unanswered,it is not personal, we are just surviving.

Love to you all!