Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just a Car

It is, after all, just a car.

My sweet, red 2001 Mazda Protege is no more. It officially has a new owner, sold this morning after some new problems became apparent that were out of our financial and emotional capacity to try and fix. So, in the last 48 hours I went from hoping we'd be able to CPR the "little car that could" once more to mourning the loss of my little car. The "go-cart." The "saki runner." "Betty-Lou." All our nicknames for my very first car that I ever bought. Ten years old and 160,00 miles. And rationally, I do know that it's JUST a car. But in my heart, I miss that little car, and I admit that I shed a few tears over losing it. Because in my heart, it wasn't just a car, but it was full of memories and my life over the last ten years.

It was the first car I ever bought. It had a sunroof, and I loved that sunroof!

Tracy and I drove to Colorado and through the mountains in that car.

Jamie and I drove to the old Busch Stadium for our first date in that car.

I've been stuck in traffic in that car more times than I care to count...once on the interstate between here and my parents' house in Ohio that had me turn off the engine and read a book for awhile!

That was the car that I brought Jamie home from the hospital in after his colon surgery five years ago. It was the car that drove us to tell his dad that Jamie had cancer.

That car took us to the hospital where we had Faith...and back home when we came home without her.

I've replaced the tires, the brakes, even the driver's side window (and many, many more parts) multiple times. There were stains on the seats and on the floormats, most of which I couldn't tell you the source of and a crack in the windshield that's probably been there for seven plus years. The front quarter panel had a dent from a fender bender two years ago. The #3 radio station preset button has been missing for years and the keyless entry on the driver's side door broke some time back.

Nonetheless...I loved that car.

I loved all that it held...the memories, the way the seat fit me just right...the way the car felt like mine and mine alone. I fit in the seat "just so" and was most comfortable zipping around town in that - despite the miles and it's imperfections. It just holds so much of my history and so many memories. Jamie reminds me that we'll have other cars that will hold new memories, and I know he's right. I know it was the right thing to sell that poor little car and let it go. Yet, I can't help feeling like I've lost a good friend - one that was unconditionally there and available, no questions asked, who's seen and done everything with me for most of my adult life. I have laughed in that car, cried in that car, maybe even napped a time or two in that car. My brain knows it was the right thing and truly, the best thing, to do. My heart will get there eventually.

It is, after all, just a car. Or not...


Sunday, December 26, 2010

A morning run

I hope this finds all of you rested from Christmas. For the first time in years, we had a genuine white Christmas. Several inches fell on Christmas Eve and we had a beautiful white layer covering everything when we woke up on Christmas morning. It was, as Jamie said, the "perfect recipe...clean roads, but snow covering everything else!" We spent the day with Jamie's family and enjoyed the cacophony brought by our young niece and nephews who couldn't contain their excitement at Santa's (and grandma's and grandpa's) generosity. It was a pretty perfect way to spend the day. Our house is now a wreck, but it's a nice kind of brought on by plenty of joy and celebration.

Laundry is going and I'm relaxing on the couch, watching an old Disney classic, "Swiss Family Robinson." I awoke at a very early hour this morning to go join in the Frostbite Series - a 5-race series held in Forest Park throughout the winter here in St. Louis. Now, I registered for this about a month ago and thought it sounded like a great way to keep myself motivated at running through the winter months. However, when I woke up this morning before 7:00 a.m. and found that the windchill was 12 degrees, I started rethinking that position. But, I got my butt out of bed and called Tracy, a dear friend who had also signed up for this madness, to make sure she was up and going. We headed out, and I am proud to say that I successfully ran 2 miles and finished the course in 25 minutes!

Now, I know that to some out there, this might be laughable...after all, 2 miles is not all that far and a 12-minute mile is not exactly a record-setting pace. But - for me - I accomplished something I've never done before. I found myself incredibly proud of completing the race at my intended pace and running the whole thing.

I have never been much of a runner. I played soccer when I was younger and through high school, but as I've gotten older, I've found running to be something I didn't think I could really do. My body didn't care for it, it hurt all the "softer" parts of my body that jiggled when I ran, and my feet practically screamed when I tried. Well, with losing weight as a goal in mind and Tracy encouraging me to start small with running 1/4 mile at a time, I have worked my way up to what I accomplished today. (A good pair of well-fitting running shoes has helped, too.) I have found a new respect for my body and a new pride in working my way up to a goal I had set. Turns out, I can run. I don't see myself as a marathoner, but I can see 5Ks in my future.

For now, I'm going to enjoy the rest of this beautiful day on my couch. I see a good Danielle Steele book, a Rams game, and leftovers in our near future. Merry Christmas! Hope you get to enjoy your day, too.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Day

If you are a teacher, you will understand the joy I felt at 5:49 a.m. today when my phone rang...yes, a snow day was called. Except to call it an "ice day" would have been more appropriate. After hardly any precipitation actually falling, but doing so at the perfect temperatures onto already frozen ground, we were treated to our first ice storm of the year. A very thin glaze was left on everything...the sidewalks, the driveways, the roads, the cars. It was treacherous to say the least, and a snow day was very much called for this morning.

So, today I set about using the time. We grocery shopped (so, apparently, did everyone else) at the local store that about once a month has their $10 off $50 offer. We ran back out to get a forgotten ingredient when I started baking snickerdoodle cookies, and I have quite happily spent the last several hours baking and cooking and feeling like I am actually getting something accomplished. It is truly amazing what can get done when I don't have to go to work!

I am just about done wrapping presents...and Jamie is at Walgreens getting more tape so that I can finish. Dinner is cooking, and finishing up some school stuff is last on my list for the day. I feel rested and less stressed than I have in weeks. Now - if only I could figure out how to pick the winning lottery numbers and do this EVERY day! Happy Snow Day to all!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This Time of Year

We've had a very nice weekend...and one that felt very deserved after a hard few weeks recently. We were in Hermann for the weekend at a fundraising event for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society that we attend every year. We wandered through the streets of Hermann yesterday and made it home before the temperature really started to drop. We went out to dinner on Main Street and drove through the beautifully lit trees...and I finally, finally felt like I was okay with Christmas being here.

I have not been myself lately...I don't feel like myself and I just generally feel like I'm in a huge funk. I am short-tempered and snippy with my students at school and with Jamie at home. I feel as though I have absolutely no patience with anyone or anything, and I can literally count on one hand the number of people that have NOT worn my nerves thin recently. I don't want anything to do with anyone...I feel as though I am hanging on by a thread.

Now, "normal" people will remind me that it's December and the holidays can be stressful...particularly when you spend 8 hours a day with 10-year olds. : ) What a joy...but in my mind, I genuinely feel like it's more that just that. I know it in my soul. What I feel isn't "normal"'s my life.

Last weekend, I began crying - seriously crying - out of the clear blue, for no apparent reason. Jamie just stared at me, bewildered, because it was literally brought on by nothing obvious. When I was finally able to blubber out something about, "I don't know what's wrong with me," his response was so wise..."Erica, did you think the wound would ever heal?" Ahh...sigh...

And, duh. What's "wrong" with me isn't actually's our new normal. It's realizing that another holiday is upon us without Faith...that my Christmas tree is without gifts for her and no one is asking me what size clothes she's in this year, (though a couple of friends have remembered her and asked what they could do to honor her, which we greatly appreciate.) It's just the emotion of the time of year, all tied up in one. It's putting ornaments on the tree, knowing full-well that those ornaments on the bottom branches shouldn't be there because we should be trying to figure out how to keep a 16-month old from grabbing onto them and breaking them. It's sadly knowing that everything we have of our daughter fits in a beautiful, hand-made cedar trunk my dad made for us for her birthday. I'm grateful for the trunk and for the few items we have - but I'm still sad that I'm not tripping on toys and wishing that my toddler would just sit still. All the normal things that parents are frustrated by - see...we would give anything for those moments. I would give anything for the smiles, the laughs, even the frustrations that I know are normal. I know we cannot have them with Faith. But there is something about this time of the year that makes it seem ever more emotional and the hole in our hearts just a little bit more raw.

This is not an easy time of year...before Faith, I never really understood why people felt so much stress around the holidays. Yes, there was a lot to get done, but my nice, normal, "Norman Rockwell" family meant that I lived a pretty stress-free life at the holidays. Now, it's different.

Now, I struggle with whether or not to send out Christmas cards this year, because I just don't really know what to say. I avoid parties and social things because they require more energy than I have. And when I go, I plan strategically and make sure I have "buffers" (a.k.a. good friends) around so that I don't actually have to mingle with or talk to new people. New people means conversation and questions I just don't have the energy for. Socializing can be exhausting...and frankly, I'd rather spend my time with Jamie or our families and close friends. With the people I don't have to entertain and can just relax and be myself. With people where no explanation is required and pajamas are an acceptable form of dress.

To someone that has not been through this, all of this may sound strange. Not that anyone expects you to get over it, but they do expect you'll be "fine" one day and move forward. They don't understand why going to parties and events is stressful and out of your comfort zone.

I don't want anyone to think we are wallowing around in our grief because we aren't. Work, going to classes, seeing friends and family, laughter - are all a part of our lives. We enjoy being with friends and our nieces and nephews, but it is not the same life...and so my energy is different, my time is different and my priorities are different. We enjoy our life, but is different. It just it what it is.

We think about her everyday...when I see a dress in a size she might be wearing, a toy she might like, or a Christmas ornament that I'm hanging FOR her, instead of WITH her...she is always there.

Take a moment tonight and cherish the toddler that won't sit still, the 3-year old that is trying your patience, the 10-year old that thinks he knows everything. Love them harder tonight...just because you can.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So much...

So much on my mind...I don't even know where to start.

First, I know it's been forever and a day since I've last written. Mostly, I've been incredibly busy...and secondly, I haven't felt very inspired. I write here when my heart leads me to do so...and lately, I just haven't gotten that inspiration...that feeling of having something that I want to share.

Oh, I have lots on my mind - just not a lot that I can or want to share.

I was watching one of my very favorite shows, "Glee" last week titled "Furt." For those of you that watch, you know the one...for those that don't - well, you should watch it and find out. Essentially, there was a wedding between two characters' parents. Kurt's dad said to the guests that one of the things adults don't tell kids is that "life can be sad." And it struck a chord with me.

I grew up incredibly, blissfully blessed and mostly unaware of the awful things that can happen in this world. I had TWO great-grandmothers alive until I was a senior in high school (they both died in their late 90's.) My dad's mom died when I was in college; his dad died just a few years ago at the age of 87. My mom's parents are both still alive and well and closing in on celebrating birthday number 87. They live 15 minutes from me and Jamie, we see them often, and I enjoy the closest relationship with them that I've ever had in my life. I have never had a friend die; the first funeral I attended was for Jamie's grandmother in 2007. I had been to many, many visitations and wakes but never to a burial until Mable died the fall after we were married. Jamie and I had SIX of our grandparents at our wedding...and we were 30 when we got married! The second ever funeral I went to? For Faith. Like I said, I have lived an incredibly blessed life. So, when I watched "Glee" last week and that line was said, it struck is so true that adults never tell kids how sad life can really be.

Life can be so sad. I know many people that have suffered so much grief and angst in their life...and I certainly have felt like maybe my adult life is making up for my angst-free childhood. I know that I am lucky for not having to endure so much grief and sadness when I was young, and I certainly am thankful for the fact that my friends and family are alive and healthy, but I often wonder if I was naive. I remember my mom telling me once that when she was a child, going to funerals was "normal" and a way to see family you didn't see otherwise. It taught them that death was a part of life, while in our childhood, we never really lived through that. Did we inadvertently miss out on a life lesson because we were lucky?

I started out here tonight saying that I haven't recently felt all that inspired. Work has been stressful and feels...different. Jamie and I continue to find our way through this new "normal." Most days I think we feel like we have it figured out, but then something comes happens and I am again reminded that this new "normal" is anything but. The holidays, under the best of circumstances, can be stressful. Add the ever-present grief to that recipe and it ends up feeling like you're back at the beginning of the journey in so many ways. This is not an easy path...just when I feel like we have it figured out, I am humbled and reminded that I do not. I am reminded that all of the control I wish I could have is not mine at all. I read several blogs and I have been reminded lately that when my own strength fails me, God's strength will never fail me. When I feel at my weakest, crabbiest and most stressed out, God's grace and strength will be enough. He is enough and though I have recently felt like I am all over the place, I have been reminded that I need to relax and let God take care of me because He will. I need to have some serenity...that I can only do what I can and leave the rest up to the God that I know will carry me through. I hope that whatever you believe, you find this strength, too.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What is Romance?

I was listening to the radio on my way to work yesterday and the DJ asked, "In 2010, what is romantic?" Now, my first thought was, "Why does it matter that it's 2010? Has what's romantic really changed?"

Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear all of the answers that people called in with, but it did get me thinking...has it changed? Has our idea of romance really changed just because we are in the 21st century? Is romance really so different from 1946 when my grandparents got married?

Certainly, technology has changed many facets of our lives...the way we communicate, the way we find information, the way I teach and the way my students learn. But romance? Really? As I thought about all the things I consider romantic, I realized that most of them center around one single idea; romance is all about making one person feel like the most important person. How that is done varies, I suppose, but thinking that Jamie is romantic isn't usually about big, expensive gestures. It's about the single red rose he brought me early on when we were dating; it's the lunch he makes for me to take to work and the note he always writes for me on a paper towel that he stashes in my lunchbox; it's opening a door for me, or putting an arm around me; romance is about reminding me how much he loves me. That's what I think of as romantic...none of those things would be different in 1946 - and none of them require technology, which is good, because Jamie is anti-technology all the way! So, I ask you - what is romantic? Does it matter that it's 2010? Has romance changed?


Friday, October 22, 2010

Without Me...

Jamie just walked in from his "man cave" (a.k.a. "the garage") and said, "You don't have a blog without me, and I don't have a blog without you." Now, this is from the man that still doesn't have an independent email address and claims that computers will only change his life when, "it starts packing lumber into a house." So, he was speaking metaphorically. However, I knew what he meant. We are a team. In everything we do, we are a team.

He is right that without him, I probably wouldn't have a blog. I've always said that Jamie is a better storyteller than I am - he has a more creative voice and way of saying things. Just ask him about the exploding propane tank sometime...

I write a great scholarly paper, which is my strength, though this blog has given me a new voice and helped me discover an inner storyteller. But I know that without my teammate, I wouldn't write in the same way. Not because he literally writes the words, but because he inspires the ideas, the thoughts, the emotion that I find words for. And I know that for him, I take his ideas and help organize them into scholarly words and grammatically correct research papers. So together, we do write this blog; just like together, we live life.

Now, Jamie and I are, by far, very different in many, many ways. He is an introvert and I am the extrovert...he likes to tease me by saying that I have a "daily word minimum of 5,000 words a day" or I don't fuction well. And to some degree he is right. I am the extrovert. I feel energized when I am with friends and talking and having a great discussion. I do, however, find myself less of an extrovert than I have been in the past. I think grief does that - it has the power to change your very personality. I still love to sit and have a glass of wine and chat with close friends, but I don't get the same surge of energy from being in a group of people that I used to. In fact, I kind of dread it because it will mean questions I don't like answering and conversations I'd just rather avoid because they are emotionally exhausting. I'd much prefer the company of a few close friends, with whom no explanation is needed. I never knew just how much grief can change the fabric of who you are until I lived through it.

I know that I am okay with who I am now - I still have moments where I miss the "old" me, mostly because I have moments where I miss the "ignorant bliss" of that life. And after Faith died, I went through a very angry period. I was extraordinarily angry at feeling so changed and different because I liked the person that I was and I knew that this new person was someone different, and someone I never wanted to be. But, now I have found acceptance of this new person. This new person that prefers a bike ride with my husband and an evening at home over a big party; this new woman that would rather get a $25 pedicure with Sarah, followed by a barbeque at their house than go shopping at the mall during Christmas season (kill me now) and a lunch out at a busy restaurant; I actually like this person that enjoys time alone, in my own thoughts, just with myself. I didn't think that would ever happen, but I have realized something...

If I wished to be the old person that I was, I wouldn't know my daughter and have had that experience. And as painful as that has been, I wouldn't trade what we have gotten out of it. Iknow that the man - the teammate - at my side, always has my back. He'll block any tackle, catch any play, and go down in my defense - no questions asked. I believe he knows that I'd do the same for him. I am blessed to have him as my teammate in all that I do...I couldn't ask for a better reason to keep playing this game.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Five Years Later

This morning I sat in a waiting room...I sat, waiting for a nurse to come and tell me "it" was all over. I read a book, watched "The Today Show," and flipped through a miriad of magazines - all the while waiting for that moment. An hour later, the nurse appeared, led me to Jamie and pronounced, "He's doing well. You can go home soon." Sigh of relief...and memories of years past when today felt a million miles away.

Five years ago - September, 2005 - I sat in a different waiting room and a different nurse came to get me. Doctors then greeted us with very different news regarding Jamie's health - "You have a mass in your colon and it's cancer." Just like that - direct, to the point, not great bedside manner. Just like that, our world shifted and for the first time in our relationship, we faced news that would forever alter our lives. At 28 years old, with no previous conditions or family history, Jamie was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.

After months of complaining about feeling sick, I had told him to either go to the doctor or quit complaining. So, he went. And a few tests later, we ended up sitting in a curtained off room hearing those words, "You have cancer." We were stunned and left that doctor's office to tell Jamie's parents and make some phone calls. He had a colonoscopy that led to a diagnosis on Tuesday that week. Wednesday we met with a surgeon; Friday he had surgery to remove 18 inches of his colon. In the midst of that, we met with an oncologist and a month later he had a surgery to place a port in his chest wall for "easy" access during the next six months of chemotheraphy. I remember when he was diagnosed, my mom told me, "In a few years this will feel like a blip on the radar." In so many ways, she is right. Jamie responded well to treatment, goes to his follow-up visits with the oncologist, gets his annual tests and screenings, and has - God bless - now been cancer free for five years.

So, this morning - after five years of being cancer free - Jamie had that same port removed that they'd placed there all those years ago. We have become somewhat used to this routine - the early morning arrivals and procedures, the waiting rooms, the curtained exam rooms. And even though my brain knew this was a minor procedure and everything would go fine, I couldn't help feeling a little anxious as I sat in that room and relived some of those moments from all those years ago. Not to mention that we now live in a world where things don't always go the way they "should," I was very relieved to see that nurse's face, calling, "Erica?" And I walked back to that room, where my fuzzy-faced husband sat eating pretzels and sipping apple juice.

As we drove home a while later, I was reflecting on these last five years. We'd been dating one year when Jamie was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, we have endured so much and our relationship is stronger than it ever has been. I know that our experiences have shaped us and strenthened us. I know that some of these experiences are ones we would not chosen if given the choice. But, we weren't given a choice. So we have dealt with life as it has happened. Though some experiences will never feel like a "blip on the radar," it is nice to be reminded that time heals. Time mends. You never forget, but you move forward and let the experience become a part of you.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It Takes a Village


I have to write about something tonight that is close to my heart. And that is on my last nerve...bad combination.

I am a teacher. I think I'm a pretty good teacher, by all accounts. Positive administrative reviews, students that learn and seem to like me, and good working relationships with my colleagues. I'm a pretty good teacher - but I'm not perfect. Every single day there are things that I wish I was doing better. I wish I was more patient with a child; I wish I was more organized with a lesson; I wish I was more confident with a particular topic or subject. Even though I've been teaching for 12 years (yes, mom, that's right) and have become a solid veteran teacher, I always believe that there is something for me to learn to do better...because I believe that's what a good teacher does. Good teachers are constantly changing and adapting our craft to better meet the needs of our students. So - here's my issue...two words -

Education. Nation.

That is the NBC News sponsored summit that was in New York earlier this week to address the crisis of public education in this country. All of this ties in to recent press about a new movie being released called "Waiting for 'Superman'" that profiles in a documentary the state of public education in this country - which most of us will agree needs some serious help. I agree with that. But here's where I get a little bit annoyed - everyone is busy BLAMING someone else for the state of our failing schools and our failing system. And the people catching the vast majority of that blame are the teachers and the administrators. Everywhere I turn this week I'm hearing about "bad and ineffective teachers" and "failing schools" and "accountability." Let me be very, very clear about something...

I have no problem with teacher accountability. And, by the way, good teachers want the bad teachers gone, too. They make me look bad and make my job harder. Of course I should be accountable - to my students, their parents, my colleagues, my administrators, and myself. But my accountability and success as a teacher SHOULD NOT and CANNOT be limited to one state standardized test. Test scores go up - I must have done well; test scores go down - I must be a bad teacher. Huh? When did 180 days and 2000 hours of work come down to ONE DAY of testing? Who else in the world is assessed on their job performance based on one day? And since when are the teachers and the schools the ONLY ones responsible for the way a student learns? I thought that it takes a village...

Here's my problem with all of this conversation about failing schools, bad teachers, and a crisis in education. No one is talking about the parts of a student's life that are outside of school - like parents.

Don't misunderstand me - I am not "blaming" parents. What I am saying is that if I am held responsible for what I do during the time I'm with them, why aren't parents held responsible for the time they are with their children? For helping their child learn and be a part of their child's education? I know from 12 years of experience that great, involved parents will make a world of difference for a child.

All of the press about Education Nation and "Waiting for 'Superman'" are talking to parents who clearly care and are highly involved in their child's education. No one is talking to the parents who let their children fend for themselves and aren't around - and we all know they exist. What about those children? A child needs support outside of the four walls of a school - and without it, success is immeasurably more difficult.

It has been said that "It takes a village to raise a child." Well, I'm a part of the village. But so are the children, the parents, the bus drivers, the principals, the coaches. A child spends 7 or 8 hours a day at school - and then they leave my world and go home to theirs. Some don't eat again until they come to school the next morning for breakfast. Some go home to care for younger siblings so their single parent can work three jobs to keep food on the table. Some are living in a 1 bedroom apartment with 10 people. Some don't have heat and electricity because the bill hasn't been paid. Some have no adult supervision and run the streets until they decide to go to bed at midnight. Some are watching drug abuse and violence as though it's normal. Yet I am held accountable for ALL of this when they show up and, understandably, can't focus on learning.

If it takes a village, then the village is failing. Children who truly have a whole village around them - good teachers, good administrators, involved and caring parents - will undoubtedly succeed. What do YOU think happens to the children who live in a village where the chief is absent and the medicine men are ineffective?

That's what I thought.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mom's Night Out

When I was a kid, my mom was a stay at home mom. She left the workforce when I was born and didn't return for 12 years, when Di was entering kindergarten. We moved a lot, so my parents didn't get a lot of "date nights." It wasn't until we lived in Aurora, CO that they found people that they were willing to leave us with for a night or a weekend. While we lived there, my mom joined a "Mom's Night Out" group. As a kid, I simply knew that once a month (I think on a Monday night), my mom left us in my dad's capable hands so that she could go out with her friends for an evening and have dinner. I accepted that - dad managed fine - and that was that. As I got older, mom used to tell me that her "Mom's Night Out" was cheaper than a psychiatrist. I'm not sure I got that when I was 12, but I do now.

Fast forward 20 years and here I am.

Tonight I went to my version of "Mom's Night Out." Coincidentally, we all are mothers. More importantly, I find such joy and laughter with this group of friends. We all know each other in the group through someone else in the group. We're like the real life version of "Six Degrees of Separation." It's kind of what we are - friends connected by one other person in the group. We meet once a month to talk about a book for a "Book Club." At least, we call it a "book club."

Truthfully - we talk about the book for 10 or 15 minutes and then gab about life and drink wine/ beer for the rest of the evening. We cackle over the funny things that have happened in our life, we listen to the frustrations, and we enjoy each other's company.

I am not close with everyone there, but I am friendly with them all. Some are friendships that are connected through another person, and though I enjoy their company, they aren't all independent friendships. But here's the interesting thing - when our "book club" was out of commission for a few months and we didn't meet - I truly missed them. All of them. I talked to a few of them independently, but found I missed the group together, because together our dynamic is truly...well...heart - lifting. I sat tonight, in the very pleasant fall evening, on this restaurant's patio having a glass of wine and felt lifted. Lifted up. Tracy sat next to me and cackled like only Tracy can. The conversation ranged from the book to sex to a husband's obnoxious behavior to a new baby to potty training to school/work and everything in between. And as I sat I realized what my mom meant all those years ago: this really is cheaper than a psychiatrist.

A couple glasses of wine and a couple of hours with friends later I feel like a much less stressed version of myself. Some of us are teachers, some of us are not - some of us have a long history together, and some of us are more recent. But it is incredibly relaxing to just be with a group of friends that make you feel better - and don't charge a $30 copay! I hope you all are as lucky as I am.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Walking on Crutches

I am getting a bit of a slow start this morning. Sarah and I have our "date" to get pedicures and then we're going to go pick up the shirts for the SHARE Walk for Remembrance and Hope that is October 2. We will be walking to remember Faith and all of the other babies lost too soon. But as I said, I'm getting a bit of a slow start on this day.

Last night, I crashed a bachelor party. Okay - not really. But I did show up to one to pick up my lovely husband so he did not have to drive home. And it was not the gaggle of debauchery that you might imagine. They were at a casino being boys, so my presence was not all that cumbersome. I actually ended up staying for awhile with Jamie and we learned to play Roulette - and actually walked away with a whopping $16 more than we started with. All in all, a good night. And I learned that when you know what you're doing at a gambling table, it's actually pretty good entertainment! So we had a very late night - later than I can think of in recent memory - and now I'm trying to caffeinate myself into being productive today and making my date with Sarah.

As part of my groggy "join the land of the living" process this morning, I began checking some of the blogs I follow and was thrilled to see that Angie Smith had posted something new! (See the "Bring the Rain" link on the sidebar.) I love her voice in her writing and I almost always take something away from what she has to say. Her blog was the first one that I found and began reading when we received Faith's diagnosis, so it holds a special place in my heart. Angie Smith simultaneously makes me laugh and cry and think, all while simply talking about her life and her struggle to live wholeheartedly and joyfully, even after losing their infant daughter in 2008. She is a Christian woman married to a man that is a member of a Christian band, so her faith and spirituality are common in her writing. Today she talked about the story of Lot, which is essentially about listening to God's plan for moving forward and not looking back (or at least, that's what I took from her message.) I am, by no means, an expert at Biblical stories.

It's about trusting that you have to look ahead and leave behind you what is behind you. It's not about forgetting it, but it is about trusting that there is something in front of you that is worth moving forward for and that trusting God means leaving behind you what you must. Sometimes this is incredibly difficult to do and to believe. I even expressed to Jamie the other night that sometimes I feel guilty if I'm having an "okay" day and feeling pretty good. I worry that it means I'm forgetting or "moving on," even when I know that forgetting is an impossibility and "moving on" is a phrase that has a whole new meaning. He wryly laughed and assured me that would not happen - and I know that it won't. I know that to us, "moving on" simply means that we keep going. It means we find a way to weave Faith into the life we have without her because we believe that there is something else awaiting us. So, we talk about her and do things to remember her, like the walk in October - all the while doing it with a hole inside our hearts.

I've heard it said that when you have a child it's as though a piece of your heart is walking around outside your body. What a profound sentiment - and very true. Jamie and I feel that everyday - that a piece of our hearts is missing because it belongs to Faith. It is with her and will always be. To us, no matter what else this life brings, no matter how much good we have - we will always be doing it with a missing piece. Our family pictures will always have a hole in them; they will always feel incomplete to us. So, how do we trust that we must keep walking forward? I'm not sure I have this one figured out yet - I just know that some days we do this with a skip, and other days we do it as though we're walking on crutches. But, we trust and so we do - and we do it with the spirit of Faith in our hearts. Because now that's where she resides - in our hearts and in our dreams and in our memories.

Despite my groggy start to the day, I feel like today I might walk a little lighter. No hobbling today - today I will skip because I choose to.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Being brave

I have been called strong. I know that - but not for the reasons people think. Yes, surviving the loss of our daughter has strengthened me. But I knew I was strong even before that. A friend told me last year, in the midst of some stress and frustrations at work, "You are fearless." This was in response to the fact that I had, again, opened my mouth and expressed my opinion about something. I know - that will shock those that know me.

Yeah, not so much.

So, I told someone what I thought, expressed my opinion (which, by the way, many people shared but few were saying) and went about my merry way. I was polite and professional. Another skill I apparently possess - the ability to say what I think without being rude. Well, most of the time. It's called tact, people. Many people, both personally and professionally, have shared that they often are afraid to say what they think for fear of what someone else will say or do in return. I have never possessed that fear.

You can blame my parents.

See, not once in 33 years has it EVER occured to me that someone wouldn't want to hear what I have to say.

I'm only half-kidding.

First, I was raised by parents (who my sisters and I affectionately call "fringe" people) who, shockingly, listened to what we had to say as though it was valuable and worth their time. Even when we were barely able to put together a sentence. Hmmm...what a concept. Not to be confused with always doing what we wanted or agreeing with us or even "giving in" to our demands; rather, they taught us that our opinion was important and worth listening to, even if we didn't get what we wanted in the end. They demonstrated to us that what we had to say had worth - no matter what decision was made, we were raised to believe that we were important enough to be listened to. So, that's what I've always believed.

Then I graduated from college and got hired as a new teacher, where, I had a principal that had the same philosophy. She truly had an open-door policy and always listened to what we had to say - no matter what decision she ultimately made I always felt like I'd been taken seriously and that my voice had worth. I also had an assigned mentor that was so much like my mother it was eerie - and she continued to train me well to say exactly what I thought - in a tactful and professional way - no matter who the audience that was listening.

You can see that getting me to sit back and be quiet has been a challenge for those around me. Thankfully, not many have tried. In fact, I'd like to believe that most people who know me love me for this quality. They always know where they stand.

All of this goes back to the idea that my friend shared with me, "You are fearless." Well, I never thought about myself like that. She was referring to the fact that I so "bravely" expressed my opinion. My reply to her was, "I'm fearless - not wreckless." Like many, I need my job. Like most, we can't afford for me to lose my job. I know my boundaries, my limits - and more importantly, I truly do know when to stop talking. Really - I do. And so, sometimes, I do.

More importantly, I know what's important. I have learned this lesson - in ways that are hard and painful. I have learned, because of my beautiful daughter, that I'm not going to waste my time on things that ultimately do not matter. I know what my priorities are and I continue to learn how to balance when to be "fearless" and when to stop. I have been given the opportunity to see through a different lense - that life is more than what I wish for. Jamie and I haven't stopped wishing and hoping - but I think that when we are at our best, strongest and most fearless, is when we take in what is immediately in front of us. When we stop longing for what "should" be and missing the life we "should" have, we find that we appreciate more wholeheartedly the life we DO have - right now. Today. Because despite the sadness and the hardship we could dwell on - and we have had more than our share - we also have a lot of good. We have become fearless through what life has given us. I do not wish our path on anyone - but I wish the lessons we have learned on all of you. They are the lessons that life is about - and they are the lessons that make life worth living for. May you all be so blessed.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Word Nerd

I am a word nerd. That is the term that my husband coined some years ago as we were beginning to date. He realized that I like things like crossword puzzles and reading and using big words. I am "that person" who realizes when store signs are misspelled and can pick out a grammatical mistake in a professional print job a mile away, which, by the way, I find highly annoying. Seriously, hire an editor...preferably one who can spell and knows the difference between "there, their, and they're." As I was saying - my husband began calling me (affectionately) a "word nerd." It fits - so I use it and call myself that now. And I am - proudly.

I was reminded again tonight of the fact that I am a word nerd. I went to dinner with two old friends - two women I went to college with. We meet as often as we can (though I'm embarrassed how long it had been since the last time) and have a beer and eat dinner and catch up. One is my old college roommate - Lisa. We were randomly assigned to be roommates for our freshman year, and we clicked. We lived together for the next four years and graduated together. Jana lived in the same dorm, and we have been friends since. We have all kept up with each other and though we don't necessarily see each other as often as I'd like, there is something comforting about a friend that has known you since you were 18. Someone that has known you through a lot of life: when you were single, when you were brokenhearted, when you were hurt or sick, when you got engaged, when you jumped at a cockroach on the dorm room floor (alerting the ENTIRE floor to the escapade, by the way), when you got married, had a baby, buried your parent or your child. To sit down to dinner with those friends is like sitting down around a campfire - it warms you from the inside out. Tonight was such a fabulous reminder of that friendship - and of the fact that I am, undoubtedly, a word nerd.

Because of timing, traffic, and a miscommunication, Lisa and I were drinking a beer and waiting for Jana a full two hours before she arrived. It was really more than okay, because it had been so long since we'd seen each other that we just chatted and reminisced. During the conversation, I used the word, "apoplectic." Anyone (other than my Jeopardy-smart mother) actually know what this word means? Yeah - neither did I until she explained it awhile back, though I had a good idea from context. And when I used the word this evening, Lisa looked at me the same way she always has when I've used a big word. "Huh?" It is a long-running joke between us - me using big words, her asking what it means, me explaining, and her excited over a new vocabulary word she gets to use. Her favorite for a long time was "facetious." And we do all of this mid-conversation, picking right back up where we left off. Tonight was no different and it was the same as it has been since we were 18. One year for Christmas, I bought Lisa a thesaurus as a joke - I think she might still have it. Please don't misunderstand - Lisa is an intelligent person. Math and numbers were her thing; words were, and still are, mine.

See, I like words. Words make sense to me. Words are beautiful to me - they sing and are like poetry. They put into a concrete form what is rambling around in my brain. I like breaking words down and figuring out what they could mean from prefixes and suffixes. I like being able to picture what is written on a page in front of me. And writing has been incredibly cathartic for me in the last year - I get to say what is in my heart. Others' words have been of so much comfort to me that I rediscovered the power of the written word with this blog. I came home this evening, thanks to two very good friends, appreciating them, as well as the fact that I am a "word nerd." I guess you could also call me a cruciverbalist. And if you can tell me what THAT means, I'll give you a Jolly Rancher. At least, that's what works with my fourth graders!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Happy Birthday

I promised I would post some pictures of how we celebrated Faith's birthday. Despite the sadness, yes - we celebrate her birthday. When we received the diagnosis of Trisomy 18, we did not know if Faith would even be born alive, so getting three days felt like a miracle to us.

My parents offered to be here for her actual birthday, but Jamie and I did not know how we wanted to handle that day, so we asked them to come the following weekend and remember Faith with us then. We spent that morning with our family and close friends having brunch at our house. I have to share the peach pie that my mother-in-law made for the day.

I do love my mother-in-law. She has been truly amazing through all of this...if she doesn't know what to do or say, she simply says, "I don't know what to do, but I love you both." I cannot tell you how refreshing that is. Sometimes in-laws get a bad rap, but I have to say I've been pretty lucky. The peach pie is evidence of this, as far as I'm concerned.

We had so many people that remembered Faith's birthday...again, I was touched by so many of you. We got phone calls and text messages and cards from everyone that truly mattered. It made my heart sing to know that we were not the only ones who remembered her on that day. To have our friends and family show up to celebrate her with us meant a great deal to us - more than I can say.

We left our house and went to the Angel Statue, where there is a brick laid in Faith's memory (you can see it on the side of the page.) Our friends bought it for us when I got back to work last fall...again, we have amazing people in our life. The Angel Statue is there for bereaved parents who have lost a child...there are over 100 in the country in various parks. In each, you can have a brick laid in memory of your child. We can see her name in print there, we can feel close to her there. So, that is where we went with our closest family and friends. As is the tradition, we laid white flowers on the angel statue. Then we did a balloon release...kinda. It was incredibly hot and even though the balloons were filled with helium, they needed some "encouragement" to fly away. Most eventually made it out of the park, but it took a little effort. We have some different ideas for years in the future that may prove more successful. Nonetheless, everyone let a balloon go in memory of Faith - and some of my favorite pictures are below:

The thing I enjoyed the most from the day was watching our nieces and nephews and our friend's children chase down the balloons that were stuck. Most of them are so young, that we simply tell them that Faith is in heaven and they are sending her a balloon to Heaven. I watch them now and sincerely hope that Faith is someone that they know in their life, even if all they know is her spirit.
So, happy birthday to my dear girl...may your birthdays in Heaven be glorious and filled with joy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Full Plate

So, school has begun. Faith's birthday has passed. Her angel day has come and gone. And life marches on.

The title of my blog today reflects my feelings - about everything, lately. It is also a reference that only my dearest teaching friends will truly understand. : ) As I was plate is full.

Today I sat through a meeting about insurance costs...ugh. I won't bore you with the hideously cost-prohibitive details, but needless to say I will definitely need the insurance soon because it's going to give me an ulcer paying for it. Enough said.

It is difficult to explain to someone what this life is like. This life where my life doesn't actually feel like MY life...if I could tell you how many times a day I think, "I can't believe this is my life..." I was talking about Jamie's cancer this afternoon (the lovely and expensive pre-existing condition that it is) with the insurance lady and when I said he'd been cancer free for nearly five years, my dear friend sitting with me said, "'s been that long?" Yes, it has...five years, almost, since we heard those dreaded words: "You have cancer."

Jamie was 28 years old when he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer - a disease that occurs 90% of the time in people over the age of 50. He was 28. Yes, you read that correctly - 28. It was not a typo. No family history - just a fluke of nature. Kind of like Trisomy rhyme or reason or cause...just a fluke of nature. We're getting really tired of hitting these odds in this life. We can't hit the Mega Millions or the Powerball, but give us crappy odds and we'll hit them every time. Without fail. Every. Single. Time. Can I tell you how little, "Well, the odds are against it..." mean to us? Really....

I have thought a lot of Faith recently, for obvious reasons. Her birthday was August 14. She would have turned 1 year old. We should have been planning how to cram too many people into our tiny house and taking pictures of her frosting-covered fingers and hair. Instead, we visited her grave that Saturday. And we went out to dinner that night - just Jamie and I. And as we sat there waiting for our dinner to be delivered to our table, the staff broke out in "Happy Birthday" - at the table directly next to ours. Jamie and I shared a wry smile - because to us, clearly, the angels were singing Happy Birthday to our sweet girl. We left dinner and went to Marc and Sarah's house and shared the apple pie I'd made for Faith's birthday. And we ate pink cupcakes that Mason and Sarah made for her birthday. So, while I didn't get any pictures of Faith eating her birthday cake, I did get pictures of Mason eating cupcakes for her. With Sarah's permission, here are a few pictures...

I hope to post some pictures soon of our family celebration and balloon release that we shared just last weekend. My plate's a little full right now, though, so you will have to wait a few more days!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010


It is almost the end of July. I got the "Wyland Letter" in the mail yesterday...the signal that school really is going to start again soon. It's the letter that welcomes the staff back for the start of the new year and tells us when and where we have to show up. It actually included a couple of nice surprises; 1) late start on the two teacher days - I don't have to show up to work until 9:30 (insert cheer here!) It will be the only time until next June. 2) Lots of teacher time in our classroom and a cancelled annual "rah, rah" meeting that no one really appreciates. That is a positive side of budget cuts, I guess. : ) The letter spurred me into action - something I have definitely been lacking this summer. I actually pulled out the "school stuff" that I haven't touched since I brought it home in June. Plowed through it, started working on a website for my classroom and began to try and think about going back. Next week I'll actually have to show my face in the building and begin trying to put my room together for the year. Next week I'll have to face change again...Kathleen really, truly won't be there. She'll be in another building. Yes, she'll still be my friend, but she won't be down the hall and that's a tough thing to absorb. So for most of the time since we got that bit of news I've kind of been living in denial. I'll have to face it soon enough. Like many things in my life...

Faith's birthday is in a few weeks. August 14 will mark the day we should be planning for a birthday cake and too many pictures and grandparents arriving and stuffing too many people into our house for a first birthday party. Instead, Jamie and I are struggling to figure out how to celebrate a day that feels rather hollow. We will likely go visit her grave; maybe we'll release some balloons. I'm working on a photo book that I hope to have finished for us by then. I know it's not what we always envisioned, but it's what we have. I might make a pie. Neither Jamie or I are big cake eaters, but I want us to do something that will become a tradition to mark Faith's birthday. We'd eat an apple pie...

Life is not what I thought it would be. I have lived an incredibly blessed life, for the most part. I have my family, including my two 86-year old grandparents that live 15 minutes away. I have a husband that I love dearly (even when it's difficult) and who loves me and adores me. I am healthy and have friends that are the definition of incredible. I love my job, as jobs go, and work with a group of people that have made the last year possible. Life may not be turning out how I pictured, but I still think I'm pretty lucky. That says something.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A week in my life

So, this has been a difficult week. I can hear my mother now, "Why?" And frankly, there is no particular reason. It just has been...a difficult week.

Maybe because we are getting ready to go out of town for the weekend. We are going to Denver for a friend's wedding. And among my friends, Brett is one of the longest-standing relationships I have. I have known him and been friends with him since 1991. Yikes - that's a long time. Almost twenty years. I have known all of his girlfriends and I know many of his secrets. And I definitely have some amazing blackmail pictures. : ) You wouldn't think that planning a trip to see an amazing friend to see a place that I love would cause stress. But for anyone that's walked this path, well, you know...and for those that don't know - I hope you never know. Anxiety comes as part of the "normal" life I have now. See, I started packing and getting ready to go out of town this week, and this is how it went...

1) I immediately thought, "We were supposed to be going to Denver this weekend with a 10-month old in tow...finding good friends to baby-sit; complaining about how to have a 10-month old in tow on this trip." Instead, it's just us.
2) That led to a few-too-many glasses of wine and watching a DVD of our beautiful baby...and a lot of tears.
3) That led to "I want to visit Faith." So yesteray, we took a drive to Vandalia and visited Faith's grave...and J.R.'s grave...and Grandma Mable's grave...and Uncle Earl's grave. The Largents are all buried near each other. So, we took flowers and spread them out. We also visited the Carlson's grave...the parents of a friend that I admire greatly, who coincidentally is buried just a few short steps from Faith and the rest of the Largent clan.
4) Now, I'm recovering. I'm packing a couple of suitcases, checking us in online, and writing this. I just read a new blog...from a woman who goes by Gitzen Girl. ( ) (By the way - I can't figure out how to shorten this, so here it is.)
She lives with an autoimmune disease that leaves her homebound, living in physical pain more often than not. Yet, from her writing, it is clear that she has chosen JOY. I read one of her more recent posts, coming just after her father unexpectedly passed away. Healthy as a horse, he had an unknown anaphylactic shock to an insect sting...and died. She writes about what "should" be...and how, essentially, we are given no guarantees in this life.

It touched me.

Though we do not know each other's stories, we are both living lives we never envisioned. This is not the life I thought I'd be living at the age of 33. Or at any age, for that matter. No one "should" ever have to live this...but when people look at us and tell us, "I don't know how you have survived," I guess it's because we've chosen to. With intention. We do not know what tomorrow will bring...and because of that I know that we have made the decision to live life now - right now. So - we do what we can to find joy in the moments we are given. Because we don't know if we will get anymore moments. That's not to say life isn't hard and we don't have sad moments full of sorrow. We do. It simply means that we aren't going to let sorrow and sadness lead us - we are choosing, instead, to have hope. And we are going to let that lead us.


Monday, July 12, 2010


Summer is half over - which is very hard to believe. I've done virtually nothing to get ready for the school year - which isn't so hard to believe. I know that the time will come to do that, but right now, I'm enjoying the time off. In fact, I've decided that if we win the lottery, I could definitely enjoy that life. I would, of course, have to find some way to be a little more productive, but I would manage.

July has been a bit difficult. It is the month when everything changed last year - the beginning of the roller coaster that our life has become. Last year, on July 7 (our anniversary), we went in for a follow-up ultrasound, knowing some things were wrong. I had sensed from the beginning of the pregnancy that something was "off," but I was a first-time mom and had nothing to compare it to, so I just wrote it off as that. So, we sat with the perinatologist as we looked at our baby on the screen and he said, "I see a hole in the baby's heart. I want you to see a pediatric cardiologist to confirm it." I laid on the ultrasound table and proceeded to burst into tears. We were shuffled to the cardiologist's office, who confirmed that our baby had a ventricular septal defect (VSD) and went through all it could mean. Then we shuffled back to talk to a genetic counselor who recommended an amnio, which we set up for the next day. We went home and cried and prayed our baby didn't have Down's Syndrome, the likely problem all the doctors thought we could be dealing with. We decided that July 7, 2009 will be the worst anniversary we ever have.

July 8 we had an amnio. Jamie sat and held my hand and the doctor told us, "If you come back positive for a chromosomal abnormality, you will be the first I've ever seen that has that and had normal bloodwork." We left that day with a little bit of hope. I'm pretty sure that we're written up in some medical journal somewhere.

July 9 is my birthday, and last year I went to work and had a normal day trying to wait out the longest days of my life.

July 10 I went to work again. I came home from work and had barely walked in the house when our phone rang. Jamie was working at a friend's house about 40 minutes away. The genetic counselor said, "It's postivie for Trisomy 18." I literally fell to my couch as she asked if we knew anything about it. I told her, "We've been told babies with it don't survive." She said, "Yes. That is usually the case. I am so sorry." I fell apart and I think I hung up on her. Then I paced my living room, hysterically trying to figure out what to do next. I called Jamie and simply told him I needed him to come home - right now. Which, of course, he did - knowing something was wrong. And then I called my poor parents, who live six hours away in Ohio. I didn't want to tell anyone before I told Jamie, so I called them. Catatonic, hysterical, barely able to speak, my dad answered the phone, got my mom - he called my best friend, Sarah, that lives a few miles away. She swooped up their 2-year old and was in my house in a matter of moments. Together, we cried and cried and she simply held me in her lap until Jamie got home. And then I told him.

We made a few phone calls - to Jamie's parents and older sister, all of whom arrived to spend the evening with us. My parents dropped everything and drove into town, where they stayed for the next week. Mom went to the doctor with us the next time to discuss what happened next.

July was not a fun month for us last year. This year, our anniversary was better. We spent it floating the Jacks Fork river in southern Missouri with family and actually enjoyed ourselves. My thoughts this week have been filled with reliving moments, as I'm sure the next month or so will be. It is not easy to do, but it is what life is about.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Jamie's dad...that's always been an interesting phrase. It certainly doesn't seem like it should be, but it is. Let me explain.

Jamie's dad - the man that has raised him, put a roof over his head and been there - is Tom. He's the one that raised Jamie into a man of value and substance. He taught Jamie how to build a house, how to fix a car, how to do just about anything requiring tools. He's the one that was at our wedding. And he was at the hospital with us when Faith was born. He has been an amazing father to Jamie, particularly considering that Jamie (as most children) didn't come with an instruction manual. Jamie and his older sister, Gina, came as part of a "pre-fab family" (Jamie's phrase) when Tom married their mom, Dorothy. See, Jamie's dad - his natural one (hence the confusion), died before Jamie was even born. Long before. About 8 1/2 months before. I write about this today because Jamie's mom pointed out to him yesterday that it was the anniversary of his dad's death. She told him, "Your dad died today."

Of course, when he came home and told me that, it took me a second to realize that they were talking about J.R. - his natural dad. For just a brief second, I did look at Jamie in shock and say, "WHAT?!" I heard "dad" and thought, "Tom." I have learned over the years that context is an important part of interpreting which dad we are talking about! Anyway...

June 26, 1976 - James Richard (J.R.) Largent died. Jamie (yes, James Richard Largent II) was born March 2, 1977 - you do the math. Gina was about 4 years old and remembers snippets of life with J.R. and when he died. I thank God everyday that my mother-in-law had the strength and courage to continue carrying her precious baby when she discoverd that she was pregnant - probably just weeks after her husband was killed. There she was - 20 years old, widowed, a 4-year old to raise, and newly pregnant. Having been pregnant and being married to the love of my life - I cannot imagine how she did that. Except that from my own experience I have learned that in the throes of grief, you just do the next thing. So, I thank my mother-in-law for being stronger than she has ever believed she is. Thanks to her, I have my husband. And because of her, he feels a connection to two fathers - including the one he never knew.

Jamie has relationships with extended family from every side of his family. He is especially close with aunts and uncles from the Largent family - J.R.'s family. He has one cousin that I have seriously mistaken for Jamie in photos because they look so eerily alike. And I have learned about J.R. I have seen photos and see the red hair that Jamie inherited. (Okay, Jamie won't admit he has any red hair, but take one look at his beard.) I look at Jamie with the Largents and it's easy to see whose genes he inherited. At 6'3" Jamie isn't even the tallest of the Largent cousins. I look at Gina's children and see how strong that Largent gene is. I even look at pictures of our precious Faith and can see in her features pieces of her dad. I am constantly amazed at the connection that Jamie has with a father he never knew.

Jamie has talked over the years about J.R.'s presence in his life. How he knew his dad was watching over him because it's the only explanation he has for escaping serious trouble or harm over the years. All of this has become more important to me since Faith was born. We have struggled a bit with how to include her in our life and how to include her as the "big sister" when we have more children. Jamie has demonstrated that clearly a physical presence isn't necessary to feel connected to someone that is a part of you. I have learned a lot from a relationship that doesn't actually physically exist. I have my husband to thank for that. And I have an amazing mother-in-law to thank. She has not had an easy way in this life, but she is an incredible person who has never stopped fighting her demons, determined to beat them back into submission each and every time. Maybe I don't tell her enough, but I admire her tenacity and her strength.

I also have to thank Jamie's dad for these lessons. Not J.R. - but the father I wrote about first. Tom. Without Tom, Jamie's life would have been very different. Don't get me wrong - the relationsip Jamie has with his parents is very different now than it was when he was growing up. Jamie wasn't easy and Tom came in to a situation he was unprepared for, taking on the job of dad to two young children with no instruction manual, no training. He just loved Dorothy and Gina and Jamie came with the deal, so he did an amazing thing. Despite the struggles over the years, he figured it out. And he is every bit a father to Jamie and Gina, no matter what biology says. Jamie's admiration and respect for his dad is immense. So, when Jamie talks about his dad, I usually have to pause to get the context and figure out which dad we're talking about. But no matter who the discussion is about, I know that he is talking about a man he loves and admires.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I know I haven't blogged in awhile - mostly because I know that no one is actually reading this yet! But, maybe one day.

School is out for the summer! And, for the first time in five years, I am not teaching summer school. What a nice break! : ) Though I'd like to say I've been all sorts of productive, that would be a lie. What have I done this summer?

1) Cleaned the house and mopped the kitchen floor. Sounds small, but it feels good to have a clean house.

2) Read. Finished The Girl Who Played with Fire. Currently working on The Lace Reader and The Battle of the Labyrinth.

3) Cross-stiched my fingers to the bone for a secret project. Sshh....

4) Met my sister in Chicago for a sister weekend.

5) Went to Montauk State Park with my husband and Josh (Jamie's cousin) for a trout fishing trip. Josh was far more successful than Jamie and I were!

6) Planned our trip to Denver.

So, haven't done much, but I'm enjoying myself. I'm loving the fact that I have no schedule and can do pretty much whatever I want, whenver I want. To add icing to the cake, Jamie has finally gotten back to work! In just a few weeks, he has made as much as I would have made teaching summer school, so it has worked out quite well. We have officially paid off the second mortgage on the house that had a piddly amount sitting on a low-interest credit card! That is an awesome feeling...we have one measley credit card left to pay off and...voila! We will owe no one for anything except the house and the car! Who can say that? After a lot of hardship, we are beginning to feel like maybe we are turning a corner. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope on the horizon after all.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Wisdom of a Child

I am a fourth grade teacher and work with what has to be the most amazing staff on the planet. I also work with pretty great kids. I have been at the school I teach at for 11 years - sometimes that is very hard to believe that it's been that long! It is the end of May...the weather is warming up (today it's supposed to be 90 degrees - yikes!) and everything is as green as can be. The sun is finally out after a very long stretch of rain. All of this means that summer is almost school days left and another year will be gone. An old friend once told me that the nice part of teaching is that we get a "do-over" every August. All of the things about our jobs we mess up or don't do very well...we get the chance to change and do better once a year when we get a new class. I love this time of year - everyone is just a little more relaxed and smiles are a little easier to come by. Last night was our school carnival. Worried that we might have to move it inside because of predicted rain, we did not. The rain came in the morning and by the afternoon when the carnival started, it was a cool and pleasant evening. For the last part of the carnival I was supervising the bounce house. I just wanted to share a story that happened with a student.

He is a fifth grader that I taught last year when I was the science teacher. When we lost Faith this year, we had the classroom teachers in fifth grade tell their students (all of whom I'd taught in fourth grade) about what happened. We kept it in "kid" language - that our baby was very sick and died. They were also reminded not to ask me a bunch of questions or bring it up with me when I get back because it makes me very sad. My current class of fourth graders were also told. I have to say that the kids have been amazing about it. We had one session where I let them ask questions, but they have been very respectful, which is a huge relief.

So, last night at the carnival, one of the students I had last year says, "Can I ask you a question?" I said he could, but he hesitated and finally said, "Never mind. I think it might hurt your feelings." I sensed he wanted to ask about Faith, so I said, "It's okay. You can ask me a question." He replied that he wouldn't ask the question yet, but would tell me what it's about. I motioned for him to whisper it in my ear. He whispered, "It's about your baby."

I gently pulled him out of line off to the side and told him to ask. He asked, "How old was she?"
"She was three days old," I replied.

He looked at me with the confused face of an 11-year old who lives in a world where babies don't die. "Three days?!" he confirmed, confused. I nodded.

After a moment of silence and as much profound thought an 11-year old can have, he looked up at me and said, "That doesn't make sense."

I smiled wryly at him and told him and said, "You're right. It doesn't make sense to me either."

I went on to confirm what I knew he was thinking and said, "Babies aren't supposed to die, are they?" He shook his head and I thanked him for being brave enough to say something to me and to do it in such a polite and mature way. The conversation was winding down.

He looked at me again, and said, "Can I ask another question?" I said, "Yes." He looked up and said, "Can I have my spot back in line?"

I cackled and laughed and laughed, put his face in my hands and told him, "Yes, you can have your spot back in line." And off he went, back to the line at the bounce house. 11-year olds can bring such joy if you let them.

The whole conversation probably lasted a minute or two, but I was so touched by his ability to articulate that he wanted to say something but didn't want to hurt me. See, most adults don't usually do this much. Adults think they understand grief and pain and hurt better than children and somewhere in our society, we think if we just say nothing to a grief-stricken person than they won't think about their loved one. In our world, if we say something, we will remind them of their pain.

I have news for you... won't remind me of something that I don't already think about 24 hours a day. Especially when you lose a child, your world is forever altered. You are never, ever the same. Your very soul is so changed that there are moments you don't even recognize yourself. You begin to understand this and weave this great chasm of loss into the new person that you are. That is how we survive. I had to accept that the Erica I was before I had my daughter is no more - I am this Erica now, the one whose daughter sits on the lap of Jesus instead of mine and her daddy's. Some days are filled with sadness, but most days now just are...and joy and hope are part of our life again. Last night, an 11-year old reminded me of my daughter and it brought a smile to my face. I'd like to leave you with this poem I found last fall...

The mention of my child's name may bring tears to my eyes,
But it never fails to bring music to my ears.
If you are really my friend,
let me hear the music of her name.
It soothes my broken heart and sings to my soul!
~Author Unknown


Monday, April 26, 2010

An introduction

I told Jamie that I wanted to start a blog...if you know Jamie, you know that he is not what most of us would call "tech savvy." I think he knew what I least, in his world, it meant that I had an outlet for my 5,000 words a day - all of you. So, here I am. You'll notice that I've named our blog (after much thinking and contemplating) "Walking with Faith." I feel like we have walked 10,000 miles in the last year or so - with faith keeping us up, with faith keeping us whole, and with Faith in our hearts - each and everyday. If you know us, then you know our story. If you don't know us, then let me fill you in. I promise, this probably won't be brief...

We have been married for almost three years and have been together for nearly six. My husband is, without a doubt, my best friend. He is my rock, my center, and my other half. We are pretty traditional in many ways...I do most of the inside housework and he does most of the outdoor/mowing the lawn stuff. We have been through more in the years of our relationship than many people will go through in a lifetime together. And yet, we are strong. I have learned that - we are stronger than I ever knew. We have been tested, repeatedly, and we are still here, hopeful. We often joke, "We've had the worse, the sicker, and the poorer. We are ready for the best, the health, and the richer!" By far, our greatest test has been the last year and surviving the loss of our beautiful daughter, Faith.

See, we did things consciously...we dated, we got married, we planned to have a baby and waited until we were ready, despite the fact that we were among the last of our friends to have children. So, off the pill I went, expecting at 30 for it to maybe take a few months. It did not. There are no fertility issues here...the first month we weren't actively preventing it - boom - I was pregnant. Thank you mom for your genes. : ) I was the pregnant person that everyone envied - never sick a day of the pregnancy. Other than exhausted during my first trimester, I enjoyed being pregnant and so along we went. We painted a nursery and with the help of my dearest friend in the world, Sarah, began planning a baby shower. The 20-week ultrasound came and we had decided not to find out if the baby was a boy or a girl. The doctor did tell us that they found something on the scan that was abnormal. Called a choroid plexus cyst, they occur in about 1% of pregnancies - of those, 99% turn out to be nothing and occur in otherwise normal pregnancies. When that little blip came up, the doctor recommended that we do the bloodwork we'd previously not done because, according to the doctor, we were as low risk as could be. Okay, bloodwork done - and all came back normal as could be. No increased risk of anything. At a level 2 ultrasound, the doctor declared, "Everything looks good. You have a greater risk of a compliation from an amnio than you do that there is something wrong with this baby." Whew - sigh of relief breathed. "We're going to watch you on ultrasound - just in case."

Eight weeks and a couple of ultrasounds later, we were back for another one. There the ultrasound tech said we needed to see the doctor and have an additional scan...our baby's stomach looked small, her growth had slowed down, I had too much amniotic fluid...major alarm bells were going off. So, off we went to the doctor, where the perinatologist included the discovery of a heart defect called a ventricular septal defect (VSD). We were shuffled between a couple more doctors, leaving with an amnio scheduled for the following day. By the way, this was all on our 2nd wedding anniversary. It better be the worst one we ever have.

The doctor that performed the amnio said, "In all the years I've been doing this, if there is a problem with this baby, you will be the first incident I've ever seen of a patient with normal bloodwork and no risk on the screens come back positive for a choromosomal abnormality." By the way, this doctor no longer attends deliveries because he's closing in on retirment. You do the math - I'm pretty sure we've been written up in medical journals. By the time I had the amnio done, I was 31 weeks pregnant. It was July 8, 2009. Two agonizingly long days later, we got the phone call "...negative for Down's Syndrome...negative for Trisomy 13...negative for any problems with the sex chromosomes." Whew - wait, she wasn't finished talking yet, and I heard a "but" coming. "...but I'm afraid the amnio was positive for Trisomy 18." Dead silence. Me, sitting on the couch. My husband working 40 minutes away. "Do you know anything about this condition?" I told her what we knew, "We've been told babies with trisomy 18 don't survive." She replied, "That's right...I'm so sorry." I think I hung up on her then. Not on purpose, but I was in shock.

The next few minutes are a bit of a blur. I truly didn't know what to do next. I called my husband, sobbing, and simply told him he needed to come home, which he of course did. Then I paced and walked in circles in my living room. I didn't want to tell anyone before I told Jamie, but I couldn't stay there by myself until he got home, a likely 30 or 40 minutes. So, I called my parents - in Ohio and tried to incoherently explain the phone call. My poor dad answered the phone - he has a bad track record of answering the phone to a sobbing daughter. He woke my mom and she was able to talk me down a little. My dad got on the other phone and called Sarah, who will forever now be known not as my friend, but as my lifeline. She whisked up their 2-year old and was on my doorstep in 10 minutes. And together we sobbed on the couch. She held me and I cried and cried. And she cried with me. Soon, Jamie came home and I told him. Right behind him was Marc - Sarah's husband and Jamie's cousin - and Jamie's lifeline.

Over the next several hours, people were called and gathered. My parents drove in from Cincinnati. Jamie's parents arrived for the evening, along with his older sister and her husband. Their company was invaluable that night. Sarah and Marc stayed, too.

The next several weeks were filled with visits to the doctor, horrible conversations about what our daughter's birth would likely mean, and other horrible moments that no ne should ever, ever have to endure. While pregnant with my child, we sat at a funeral home and picked out a casket for her to be buried in. One of my lowest moments, I assure you.

For many reasons, I was induced on August 14. At 9:27 pm, Faith Elizabeth was born in an uncomplicated, normal delivery. She came out and I heard the sweetest words I will ever know, "She has a heartbeat." We didn't know if she'd be born alive, so it was our miracle to know that she was with us. Laid on my chest, she was pale and not breathing well, but her eyes were open and she was there - and she was beatiful. Wavy, dark hair and perfect little features. 3 lbs. 12 oz. and 15 3/4 inches long. One day I will tell you about the weekend we had with her - the people she got to meet and the joy she brough to us. As far as we are concerned, we got our miracle. We got three amazing days with Faith. She fought to be with us and never gave up. We got to meet her and hold her and love her in the most uncomplicated and perfect way. And in the end, she was in my arms when she peacefully left this Earth. I brought her into this world and am privileged to know that I held her when she left it three days later on August 17.

The last almost nine months have been a roller coaster. We have been surprised by people - in good ways and in bad. We have seen the ways that Faith touched us and people in our lives. We have discovered that though she didn't weigh much, Faith had weight in this world.

So, that's us...and now, why I'm writing this blog...

I have been reading a lot of blogs lately (you can see the list of the ones I follow on the page.) Most of them are moms that are writing about losing a baby - to a variety of causes and reasons. One is a family that lost a son to Trisomy 18, the same condition that took Faith from us. One is a mom that has lost two sons to a genetic microcephaly. The others are mothers whose babies died due to a collection of bizarre anomalies. All of these particular blogs are written by mothers who knew prior to the birth that something was very, very wrong with their child and that their precious baby would likely not live. They all had that terrible moment when the words "incompatible with life" were spoken - and their worlds were never the same. This is the moment when their faith was tested - and when their true spirit was revealed. I tell you all of this to tell you why I am starting this blog - because it is my hope that my words and our experience will do for someone else what these women did for me.

I hope you enjoy our walk with Faith.


Sunday, April 18, 2010


So, I am suprised. Just after we lost Faith, I met a couple at a support meeting. The father told me, "People will surprise both good ways and bad." And they have. Mostly in good ways. Some people are not as lucky as we are...but we have a tremendous amount of support from family and friends. There are places and people with whom I know that I can talk about Faith all night long and they will not tire of it. But, I have been surprised by some people. Someone I work with, someone I would really only describe as a colleague, asked to form a team in honor of Faith for the March of Dimes March for Babies. So we are. This Saturday we will join other people and a team made up of our family and friends to remember her and to celebrate her; to know that though she didn't weigh very much, she had weight in this world. We will march so that other families do not have to endure what we have. We will march, rain or shine, so that someone else will get to bring home a healthy baby. And one day, Jamie and I will bring home Faith's siblings to this small house, to a house that is a home. We don't have much space, but we don't need much. We have each other and we have what life has given us; we have joy and we have hope and we have God.

People have said to me, "I don't know how you do are so brave." The truth is, I don't feel brave. There are many days that I feel as though I am being held together simply because falling apart isn't really an option. And then something happens...change, that is ever present in life, appears again and rocks my world. My dearest friend, the one I have counted on for almost a decade, to always be present in my "work world"...well, she won't be there next year. Kathleen is being moved to another building. And it rocked my world. It surprised me...and it made me sad. Like my mother has said, "Kathleen is a friend that will transcend work." She is right...we will still gossip about Grey's Anatomy on Thursday nights and she will still be my most amazing friend. But the first thing I thought was, "Kathleen won't be there on what would be Faith's first birthday." I always knew Kathleen would remember it...and now, she won't be there, physically present for what I suspect will be a very hard few days. I know she's always there...

So, we are preparing to have a houseful of people in a house that really can't hold that many people. But, they are my friends and I am so looking forward to including them in one day of the year that is about Faith...a day to honor her and to remember her. All because someone surprised me, in the best of all possible ways. So, thank you, Christina. You may never know, but you have surprised me in ways no one else has. And I so appreciate it.