Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Sunday, December 4, 2011

As I sit tonight, it has been a rough evening. I spent much of the evening on the phone with my mother. Who, God bless her, was the mother I love...she listened, she sympathized, she didn't try to "fix" what was wrong. Had some good thoughts...and all the while, just let me be. Even better...she even offered money. Who doesn't love that? Just kidding...

Seriously, I feel a bit as though I'm at a crossroads. I have felt like this for some time. Our life has not worked out the way we thought it would...we are not where we expected we would be. Somehow, around every corner we turn there seems to be some new hurdle. Some of those hurdles are small and easy, some are tall and difficult. Yet, they always seem to be there...and I am struggling with a few that seem to keep reappearing. They just will not disappear in my rearview mirror. Perhaps that is a sign that I need to address them in some way.

But, what do you do when it feels as though tackling those hurdles feels more like climbing a mountain? Never in my life have I felt more like climbing the mountain is easier than staying at the bottom, unhappy, unmoving. Never have I felt more like taking a leap of Faith, as scary as it is, might just be worth it...because nothing can be as bad as staying exactly where I am.

Now, I don't need everyone worrying...we are fine. I just feel as though there is this fork in the road...that it's been there staring me down for a long, long time, and it's finally right there, smack in front of me, forcing me to make a choice - this path or that one. In the past, that fork has seemed more the distance, surreal. Tonight it feels like it's right there -right out in the middle of the road. And there's no going around it. So, how do you choose a path. I guess that's where Faith comes in.

Faith in my in my husband, in my family, in my friends, in my own abilities to take a leap that has no net.

I don't know exactly what that will look like...I don't know which path I will take, or what exactly awaits me on either one. But, for the first time in a long time, I feel like we might be able to move down one and tackle those hurdles. And at the very least, like maybe I'm ready for a new set of hurdles...even if I don't know what they look like quite yet. Maybe that's the lesson. Faith is, after all, all about believing in what you cannot see.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011


It seems that when someone experiences loss, people feel the need to say something that equates that loss to something in their own life. "I know how you feel," or "When I lost my (fill in the blank)..." I've had conversations with some people discussing the loss of a baby versus the loss of a grown child. How maybe it was easier for us...or for those with an adult child. Which way is easier? To have only three days of memories, as we did? Or to have 21 years of memories, as my dear friend Kathy did? Which is easier...years of Christmases to remember and be haunted by - or no Christmas pictures, no presents memories to haunt us?

This is, without a doubt, the stupidest conversation I've ever heard.

Even with only three days of memories, we are still haunted. We are haunted by the "what ifs" of our life...what if we'd waited one more month to get pregnant? What if we'd chosen more medical interventions? What if we'd brought her home? What if my sisters had come to town to meet her? What if she was still here? What costume would I have dressed her in for Halloween? Would she have understood Halloween and Christmas this year? What if she had lived?

And my friend, Kathy...whose 21-year old daughter died just eleven weeks after an unpredictable cancer diagnosis. What haunts her? The pictures on her wall? The memories in her heart? The Christmases to come that Allison will never have? The wedding that will never be?

Who's to say which of us suffers more? And frankly, why in the world does it matter? We both grieve...we both mourn...we both love our children...we both think of them daily...and we both find a way to move forward, to find the beauty around us, to keep living the life we were blessed with. We live with more questions than answers. We have days that are good and days that aren't. We have moments that feel amazingly light and blessed...and moments that feel as though our legs have been taken out from underneath us.

We are the same.

My loss is not greater than hers. Hers is not greater than mine. They are not the same, but if there is one thing I have learned it is that no one can, or should, compare loss. It cannot be compared. It is, after all...incomparable. I cannot know her grief...she cannot know mine. I cannot know her ghosts...she cannot know mine. And that is the way that it is.

When we begin to assume that one loss is greater than another, we minimize what it is to that person. No one else can know how it feels to bury their child...unless they have. Even then, everyone's exeriences are their own.

It is a fallacy to believe that one loss is easier than another, especially when those losses are that of a child. I didn't lose Faith...I know right where she is. It's not where I'd choose her to be right now, and it's not where I'd imagined she'd be...but I am at peace with knowing that she's okay and waiting for me and her dad to one day join her. And knowing that there is a lovely young woman named Allison whose mother walks with me on this Earth makes today just a little bit easier...


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cardinal Nation

In 1995, I moved to St. Charles, MO for college. It's a western suburb, about 25 miles west of downtown St. Louis and the famous Arch. We had spent the previous three years living in Cairo, Egypt. Before that, we lived outside of Denver, CO. I had no idea I had just moved to a whole new world...Cardinal Nation.

I grew up watching the Denver Broncos and John Elway in his heyday. I learned about football from my mother. Not my father...he could have cared less about any sports at all. To this day, he would rather do just about anything than watch a football or baseball game. So, as a kid in Denver, I learned about the quarterback, off-sides, touchdowns and the "hail Mary" pass from my mother. To this day, I still really love watching football. However, when we lived in Denver, there was no professional baseball team. We went to one baseball game in Colorado...for the Denver Zephyrs. I still have no idea what a Zephyr actually is. It was a minor league team and I have a vague memory of it.

So, when I moved to St. Charles for college, I knew all about football. Not a whole lot about baseball. But, I was quickly introduced to the game because, little did I realize, I'd moved to a city that has a love affair with their baseball team. No kidding.

The St. Louis Cardinals have been in St. Louis for I don't know how many years, dating all the way back to the years of being the St. Louis Browns. When I first began college here, I don't remember caring all that much about baseball. Then Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had their famous Home Run Race, in which McGwire beat out the home run record long held by Roger Maris. I vividly remembe sitting in my dorm room with my roommate, watching the game where he hit number 62. And I, too, fell in love. That was probably the moment I really felt like a resident of Cardinal Nation.

That home run race revived baseball after a strike several years before. And it truly introduced me to the Cardinals and the fact that, as my mother says, "Baseball is genetic...not geographic." My mother, who lives in Cincinnati, still roots for the Cardinals. Her older brother, who has lived in Houston for probably the last 40 years, still roots for and goes to Cardinals' games. Even if the games are in Houston.

Being a Cardinals' fan is inevitable if you live in this town...once it's in your blood, it's there for a lifetime. St. Louis baseball fans are known amongst the sports world as being the best baseball fans around. We have a friendly rivalry with the Chicago Cubs...we'll heckle you in the stands and buy you a beer after the game. Mostly because we know the Cards are a better team. : ) Just kidding. Sortive.

My point is that tonight I'm sitting in my living room with a glass of wine...watching the final game of the regular season. Number 162. As is often par for the course, the Cardinals have kept us watching, kept us biting our nails until the very last moment. In order to make the playoffs, we MUST win this game tonight. And we had to win last night. Which we a lot. 13 to 6. It was fabulous! And tonight, we are leading this game 6 to 0. It's looking good for the St. Louis Cardinals. The other night, I watched the game and listened to all of the chants and cheers of, "Let's go Cardinals!" The applause, the cheers, the hollering, rooting on our Redbirds. The funny thing is, the game was in Houston, not St. Louis. It made me smile as I rememberd that baseball is genetic...not geographic.

For it doesn't matter where you live...once a Cardinal fan, always a Cardinal fan. I love fall...changing colors, falling leaves, cool temperatures. And baseball at its best. And I know that no matter how many addresses I have in my lifetime, I will always count Cardinal Nation among them. Go Cards!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I can't believe I haven't written in over a month. What can I got busy.

August 14th was Faith's birthday. She would have turned 2 years old...she would have been walking, talking, making messes, wreaking havoc, and probably getting into everything under the sun. Instead, our house remains the same. Quiet, free of kids' toys (for the most part), and the cabinet in our kitchen that I cleaned out over two years ago to make room for baby bottles and sippy cups...still sits with one lone bottle I got as a free sample. I'm not sure why I've never put things back in the cabinet. I guess we didn't miss the space, so why move everything around again?

Faith's room is as we set it up. There is still a crib, mostly unused, except by one very special little boy just last weekend. Sarah was so careful when I suggested using it to only use it if we were comfortable doing so. After all, it was supposed to be for Faith, and she didn't want to invade that space. I told her, "It's a piece of furniture." She asked again, "Are you sure?" I assured her we were. It felt a little strange...a little tug on my heart, but it is, after all...just a piece of furniture. Palmer peacefully (for awhile anyway) slept there and it was okay. If it couldn't be for Faith, then it seems appropriate Palmer get to use it first.

We remembered - and celebrated - Faith on her birthday. Jamie's parents, his sister and her family, and Marc, Sarah, and their boys joined us for a barbeque. We enjoyed each other's company and walked to the Catholic church across the street to launch some Chinese Wish Lanterns for Faith. That was definitely one of the coolest things I've done...they took off to the Heavens like nothing I've ever seen. We were all quite impressed, and I felt genuinely happy watching them until they disappeared in the sky. Check out the sidebar for a few pictures of our celebration.

Two years have gone by since my child died. Sometimes that phrase still sounds strange to my it's someone else saying it, living it. But, it's not. It's our life. I have learned how not to be so sad, so overwhelmed by it. I've learned to celebrate the small moments...the family gathered together, the cards we get in the mail, the phone calls, the texts, the flowers placed on her grave by someone other than us. The beautiful August day (not a phrase you often hear this time of year) made possible only by our little angel. So, the next time an August day tops out at 80 degrees with no humidity, and a cool breeze that makes it possible to want to be outside...say thank you to my daughter.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'm Not Blind

Jamie said to me last night..."I'm not blind anymore."

He meant that we don't live in the world that we used to...we don't live blindly, assuming that nothing bad will happen. We live in a different world than many people...which a lot of people don't really understand. I will tell people, "I don't live in your world," and they often look at me like they don't know what I mean.

I mean, that nearly two years later, we miss our daughter every single day. We look at a room unused, a crib never slept in, a house empty of toys and sippy cups and bottles...eyes wide open. We spend time with friends - and their kids - often feeling as though we're left out of a club.

It's no one's one intentionally makes us feel left out. Our life makes us feel a bit left out. After all, how do you contribute to a conversation about when kids walked and talked, and who's potty trained, and what summer camps they're attending...when your child isn't there? It just becomes a painful reminder of all that you are missing out on. How do you contribute to a conversation about preschools and school shopping and day care costs when the only thing you can think of to say is, "I wish I had something to say...I wish I knew."

Sometimes, my frustrations are warranted and listening to a complaining parent who does so without gratitude for what they have been blessed with. Sometimes those frustrations are less rational - mind you, they don't feel less frustrating, but my brain knows that they aren't rational...they're just emotions, and emotions aren't always rational.

I certainly don't pretend parenting is easy, or that I understand the day-to-day grind of it, but I can't stand listening to parents who go on and on about how hard and how miserable things are...or listening to pregnant women that do nothing but complain about being pregnant. I often want to scream at them to count their blessings. And it's only the people who can't see the good through the bad that bother me the most. The average parent, who gets frustrated with their strong-willed 3-year old telling them "no" doesn't phase me, as long as what I see is a parent who loves their child and knows, "This too shall pass." Like Jamie has often pointed out, people just assume that you get pregnant, wait nine months, and get to bring a baby home. When your story doesn't work out like that, it changes everything about cuts deep, it affects every part of your life.

People who know us will probably tell you, if you ask, "They're good...they're fine." And we are. We get up, live our lives, and go forward. We go to work, the bills are paid on time, the lawn gets mowed. We cook dinner, go on vacations, laugh at ridiculous things that happen and cherish our time with the people we love. But, below the surface sits something that isn't visible...something that other people don't see, but something that Jamie and I feel everyday.

So, while we're "fine" most days, there are still those moments that feel a lot harder than they should. Hearing the news of a pregnancy from an acquaintance...sometimes that hits hard, though it often depends on who it is. I don't wish anyone ill, but there is a part of me that so frequently wishes one thing...

I wish so much that someone would truly get this without ever having to truly experience it. I want people to know that while we're "fine," we're not the same. I just never, never, never want anyone we love to truly know what we feel every day of our lives. Because that would mean that they, too, buried their child. And no one should ever have to do that.

Though I wish for this, I have found some friends and family whose sensitivity and compassion has gone far beyond what I ever expected. The friends - a word that can't begin to describe this relationship - that show up for every walk, every anniverary, every remembrance, every event for Faith. Who bring us a plant on Mother's Day, call Jamie on Father's Day, and ask about Faith's birthday before I ever bring it up. Those people that aren't afraid to say her name in conversation, to tell me that they stopped at her grave...those are the people where we don't feel left out, where we feel included in every part of life, despite the fact that they are busy raising two boys. Because, there, with them...we feel like we aren't the only ones who aren't blind. These are the friends that walked our journey with Faith, side by side with us, who held us up in our darkest days.

For us, sometimes the greatest comfort comes in knowing that they, too, don't go through life blind. And as always, simply knowing you're not alone is the greatest comfort of all.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Butterflies and Fireworks

I'm sitting in my living room tonight, drinking the first glass of Chardonnay I've had in over a week. We spent the last week on vacation at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. And, apparently, they don't have Chardonnay. In fact, when I asked for it, they kind of looked at me funny...alas, I survived the week on Corona and taste-testing a variety of other cocktails. Hard life, I know.

I was sitting here, enjoying that glass of wine, feeling very guilty and very unpatriotic...hence the guilt. It is July 4th, and I could honestly care less about watching the fireworks. Our neighbors will shoot off some later tonight (I'm already hearing some booms), but other than maybe peeking out at that, I don't know if I'll even care to do that. I am just fine sitting in my house, drinking my Chardonnay, catching up on recorded shows, and maybe doing a little reading.

I started doing some catch-up reading on some of the blogs that I read regularly, and one of the women was talking about her late son's upcoming birthday...and it crossed my mind that I don't think I care much about July 4th right now because in a way, it was the beginning of our journey with Faith. I remember being at my in-laws that year, enjoying the fireworks and the 4th of July...telling people we had a doctor's appointment on July 7th...expecting nothing more to really come of all the ultrasounds and tests and visits. And then, days later, being so completely wrong, and so utterly devastated. Since that year, this holiday just doesn't feel the same. I can't help that my thoughts go to those dates in my head that we are approaching. It just seems the beginning of a rough time of year for us, leading up to Faith's birthday and the day she left us...followed by her burial. July 7th, July 8th, July 10th, August 14th, August 17th, August 22nd. Forever, those dates are burned into my mind. I don't think I will ever look at those dates on the calendar in the same way...they will forever have those other events inked in. July 7th happens to be our wedding anniversary, and July 9th is my birthday, so there are good moments in there.

Almost as much as her birthday and those few days after, these days in July are difficult, too. I think about the fact that I should be chasing around a 2-year old, making play dates with friends and their kids. We went to Mexico for a week, and more than once while we were there, I thought about how different our life should be. Would we have gone to Mexico? Who would have watched Faith? So many many "what ifs?"

Part of this journey is learning that there are so often no simple answers. For many people I've met, butterflies have a special meaning to them in relation to the loss of their baby. There are some stories about the meanings that butterflies have, and that they carry a spirit with them. When we were in Mexico, there were butterflies everywhere. We drove down one road on our way to a snorkeling spot and there were hundreds of butterflies...I sat and thought about all of the babies that I know whose spirits might be on those wings. It made me feel a little better, thinking that a piece of Faith was with us there.

Now, we're back to reality. Life is still here in St. Louis...and July is still going to pass us by. Those dates will still be in my memory...that will never change. I guess that I'm still struggling with exactly how to weave those dates into a calendar that has other things penciled in.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Money Isn't Real

One of my favorite movies is "Blow." It's a true story of George Jung (played by the fabulous Johnny Depp), who became part of the Pablo Escobar drug cartels and was largely responsible for smuggling cocaine into the U.S. in the 60s and 70s. Now, obviously, this isn't a "feel-good" kind of movie...but it's intriguing and Johnny Depp is at his best.

My very favorite scene in the whole movie is in the opening few minutes when George, as a young boy, is talking to his father, played by the amazing Ray Liota. His father's self-made business has just gone under and they are in a precarious financial position, teetering on bankruptcy. George is expressing concern over the fact that they are out of money and how his prissy, high-maintenance mother will take this news. Without missing a beat, his father looks at him and says, "Money isn't real, George. It just seems like it is."

This has become my new favorite one liner..."Money isn't real." Because, it isn't.

Coincidentally, Jamie and I just recently watched the newly released HBO film, "Too Big to Fail," about the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing bailout of AIG by the federal government. It was fascinating how our government and our society placed so much blind faith in Wall Street. CEOs that were taking home millions of dollars in bonuses each year and even just the "peons" that were bringing home six figure salaries. Listening to the numbers they were throwing out was mind boggling...and frightening. As Jamie said, "There is no one on this planet, no job, that is worth tens of millions of dollars a year." Agreed. And how sad is it that our financial "gurus" make exponentially more than our congressmen, senators, and even our president? Or our soldiers? Or the police and firefighters that risk their lives to protect us? What is wrong with our society that this is how we prioritize? No matter what you think of the government, it says something about how we value these roles when the President of our country makes significantly less than the president of a bank.

Watching the movie, there was a human part of me that had a small amount of compassion for these people who were watching their entire lives crumble beneath them. But, the bigger part of me that looked at Jamie and said, "Money isn't real."

I watched the story of these CEOs and bank higher-ups whose lives collapsed under their feet, I kind of thought it was a good lesson. Their whole lives were built upon a falsehood that having millions of dollars, multiple homes, fancy cars, and expensive clothes bought them security and made them infallible...that they were better than the rest of us because they could buy things the rest of us can't even imagine being able to afford.

Now, I will readily admit that having money certainly makes life a little easier and less stressful. But, I can't even imagine what it would be like to be able to buy whatever we want whenever we want, without thinking about how we'll pay for it. And though I would love to win the lottery, I don't want to lose the values that we have now...the values that make us think about what we're purchasing, how we're going to pay for it, and where the money is coming from. Those values have taught us that we have to work for and earn the things we have...and that we aren't immune from the ups and downs of life. We save money so that we don't have to worry about "what if?" We've had times where we were more flush and had a lot more discretionary income, and we've had times where we're squeaking by, paycheck to paycheck. And guess what I've discovered?

Money isn't just seems like it is.

Because no matter how much or how little money we've had in our lives - and even going back to my childhood - I don't think about the "richer" times as the "happier" times. The happiest times have been almost the opposite in a way...camping trips in the mountains as a kid, fishing trips as an adult with my husband. Sitting in a whirlpool tub in a cheap bed and breakfast, drinking a $10 bottle of wine, bike riding in our neighborhood parks, watching fireworks on the 4th of July at my in-laws, drinking cheap wine on the patio at Marc and Sarah's. None of this required a big house, or a big boat, or shoes that cost more than my house payment. Nor should they...what IS real are relationships and the values you carry in this life.

And none of the thing that matter can be bought...and none will collapse with the failure of Wall Street.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Last Day

So, we have finally finished another year of school. 12 years of "last days" are behind me...and a lot more are in front of me. I feel more like a veteran teacher than a young teacher, as I was so reminded tonight by a young man working at the restaurant where some teachers and I were enjoying happy hour.

"Hi, Miss Ezell. How are you?"

I turned my head, responding to my maiden name, to see a very nice looking young man in glasses. After what I hope was a discreet look at his nametag, I made the connection...he was a former student. And for the record, the second I knew his name, I knew him. Now, a high school graduate, getting ready to attend college in the fall and bussing table in the meantime. We chatted for a few minutes, and then I proceeded to walk back to the other end of our table and announce, "I feel old."

I remember this young man well. He was sweet, quiet, well behaved and hard working. On our fifth grade camp overnight that year, he was amongst a group of students who wandered away from their counselor and spent a few very scary minutes "lost" in the woods where we were camping. Upon being found and finally sitting to eat breakfast, he was one of the kids that sat at the breakfast table, relieved to be "found" - and promptly burst into tears. He had been terrified and it showed. I remember hugging him and trying to reassure him that he was okay. At 10 years old, he was very much a little boy that morning.

Today, it was not a little boy in front of me, but a young man who clearly stayed on the path he'd always been on - with a future in mind. It was a beautiful way to end this 12th year of teaching - to be reminded of the past. To have a student remember you and talk to you so many years later has a way of reminding you what you teach for. Some days we really need that reminder.

And so, another year is behind me. I remember a good friend years ago telling me that one of her favorite parts of teaching was knowing that, at the end of every year and the beginning of another, was a chance at a "do-over." In teaching, we have a unique opportunity to correct our mistakes and do a better job than we did before. Sometimes you feel like all you are doing is making mistakes, so seeing a student almost a decade later can serve as a great reminder that not everything is worthy of a do-over. Sometimes, just once in awhile, we get it right on the first try.


Saturday, May 28, 2011


I am sitting tonight, finally watching the Oprah finale. Not the big surprise after surprise shows...but the final show that was her "love letter" to her fans. And the moment that has me in tears is the final moment when they are rolling the credits and Oprah is walking out of the studio. She stops to kiss Stedman and walks out of the studio to her staff applauding her throughout her building. And I teared up...because, love her or hate her, Oprah forever changed television.

I never watched Oprah religiously. I tuned in when I could, or if I knew something particularly interesting was going to be on, I'd record it. It was always on at a time that I was at work...well, I have realized that "always" isn't exactly true because since Oprah has been on the air for 25 years, that is roughly 75% of my life. Meaning, when Oprah first aired, I was 8 years old. I watched Dakota Fanning on the finale show the other day talk about being an "Oprah baby." They were a group of young women who had literally not lived in a world unknown to Oprah Winfrey and her show. Now, I'm not quite in that category, but in terms of my memory, I don't really recall a world in which Oprah didn't exist. That's really saying something. Like many out there, I remember the hideous hairstyles, the 80s fashion we all wish we could forget, and shows that stick out in my mind.

So, why, of all things - would I write about Oprah?

She is an her or hate her, sad to see her go or screaming from the rafters, "It's about time!" - you can't deny her impact on television, pop culture, even politics. She affected the books we read, the topics we discussed, the music we listened to. While I find it a strange thought that I have no idea what will air on my local NBC station from 4-5 p.m. every Monday through Friday, I am no sad. 25 years is an amazing run...and it's iconic. She literally changed the face of television in this country.

While I can't really say what it is about Oprah that struck people, it seems to be attached to her genuine personality. She made fun of herself, she laughed at herself, she talked about her demons and let us see her foibles and fallacies. She was never afraid to appear imperfect if it met she could make a connection with a person.

Oprah has said she always wanted to be a teacher, and I have to say, she probably would have made a good one. She allowed us into her world everyday for 25 years. Most of us haven't known our closest friend that long! While she was doing many things for the purpose of television, to all of us watching, it felt like she had appeared in our living room and was chatting with us, even if she had to be stern and give us a dose of "tough love." While compassionate, her ability to set boundaries and be firm when called for seemed to make her the thing we liked about her. As she became a self-made billionaire, she also remained what so many wealthy people fail to do...she remained human. That is why Oprah succeeded. Because at her roots, she remained a person that was grateful for what life had bestowed on her and never forgot where she came from.

As I'm not sure what I'll watch on weekday afternoons, I do know that Oprah has much left to do. I am interested to see what that turns out to be...


Monday, April 25, 2011

Tragedy is not a Tourist Attraction

Several years ago - actually, probably 10 or 12 years ago now - my parents' neighborhood was hit by a tornado. They live outside of Cincinnati, Ohio and though their home was unscathed, the path of destruction was within a mile of their house. As the residents were busy cleaning up the scattered ruins of their lives, gawkers came to stare. Imagine for a minute that your life is in pieces around your feet, and someone shows up to take a tour of your closed-off street and snap a few photos. Eventually, the people in the neighborhood resorted to posting a sign that said, "Tragedy is not a Tourist Attraction." How sad that people couldn't figure out -on their own - that maybe their presence was not needed, unless they were there to help.

Fast forward to 2011. We live in a western suburb of St. Louis, about 10 miles from where the recent EF4 tornado just ripped apart a several mile path. Our airport took a direct hit, shattering windows and ripping a hole in the roof, closing the only international airport for 200 miles for over 24 hours. Even though our own home and neighborhood dodged a bullet, I have been stunned by the damage we have seen. Because of where I work, I drive right past the airport, as well as Bridgeton, one of the hardest hit areas. Even from the highway, the devastation is obvious and heart-wrenching. I personally know several people whose homes are now uninhabitable because of the tornado and ensuing damage. The neighboring school district was hard hit and was closed today, just a couple of miles from where I teach and where my students come each and every day. It is absolutely mind boggling to see how a tornado can completely uproot an enormous tree, rip a hole in the side of a warehouse, completely demolish a house, and leave the fence in the yard completely untouched. One side of the highway was virtually untouched while the other side literally looked like a bomb had gone off. My drive home took nearly twice as long because of all of the drivers taking in all of the damage and staring as we trudged along in the rain. All I thought about was my friends who lost their homes. How desperately I wanted to be able to help, donate something, even take a day off of work in order to help sort through the mess. I know enough to know that I need to just stay out of the way, but it is a terribly helpless feeling to know how close we came to sharing in their tragedy and knowing friends that have been so impacted, with so little we can do to help.

So, we'll donate money and time and food...whatever our friends, acquaintances and neighbors need. As for the gawkers out there...this is not an amusement park. A violent storm ripped apart someone's home....their child's toys are gone, their clothes are strewn about the street, their cars overturned. They cannot live in their homes and can't go back to retrieve the most precious items they have. Pictures are soaked and probably destroyed. Please, please, please...stay out of the way. Do not go for a drive to see what you can not take a walking tour and snap some photographs. Though miraculously no one was killed, or even seriously hurt, there is a tremendous amount of heartache out there, and it is not there for your entertainment. If you want to do something, make it something useful. Here are some ways to get involved:
- Go to and donate.
- Call the United Way. '
- "Like" the group on Facebook called "Pattonville Provides" that will help that affected school district.

Say a thankful prayer tonight that it is not you, and that the worst complaint you probably have is that it's rained too much in the last few weeks. Don't let someone else's tragedy become a tourist attraction.


Friday, March 11, 2011

A Big Mouth

I have a big mouth. I know it...most people around me know it. It has been known to get me into trouble once in awhile. When I was in kindergarten my teacher informed my parents, "You know you have no secrets, right?" Because, alas, I had a big mouth even then. Thanks to a lot of life lessons, I have learned how to harness that big mouth and use it diplomatically...most of the time. I get my point across, but usually in a way that isn't hurtful or abrasive. My husband tells me I have mastered the art of telling someone to "buzz off" (insert expletive here), only to leave them wondering, "Did she just tell me that?" Usually, I consider this an asset, and most people tend to agree. However, I have found that my ability to harness my big mouth and be diplomatic is not as in tune as it used to be. I tend to have much less patience and am much quicker to just say whatever is in my mind, regardless of who is listening or what environment I'm in. My filter is much less refined than it used to be.

Since our short time with Faith, and our experience around that part of our life, I find that my emotions rest so incredibly close to the surface. All the time...even now, a year and a half later, emotions are not as easily squelched as they were before. Last year when I first returned to work, I often chose one of two paths - 1) confront something head on, say what I think (abrasively at times), emotions high, "damn the consequences" or 2) try to avoid high-stress situations where I knew I couldn't handle the emotional stress and stay in the background. I have found myself feeling stronger this year and have more readily accepted situations where the stress is high, believing I had the emotional strength to withstand it without falling apart at the seams or taking anyone out in my wake.

God has recently reminded me that this may not be the case. God has again sent me a little message...a sign...that I may need to readjust my lens. I fear that I may have unintentionally hurt someone with my words recently. While much of the words I said were from the heart and very much something I meant, I should have said them differently and addressed the situation without letting my emotions get the better of me. Because though I meant what I said, I did not mean the how it was said.

Grief is organic. It is a living, breathing thing, ever-changing in its manifestation. Only someone that has never grieved a loved one will doubt this. But I can tell you that I have again been reminded that while the intensity of grief is far less than a year ago, it is never gone. And occasionally, when I take on too much I am reminded with a wallop that I am not the person I used to be. I have lost a little bit of that piece of me that could keep everything emotionally organized and speak from a place of diplomacy whenever necessary. Because my emotions aren't so organized. And though they are much, much more together than in the immediate aftermath of losing Faith, I think I'm beginning to accept that I will never again be quite as "together" as I once was. I do okay 95% of the time and have found a way to "check out" when necessary. I've remembered how to keep my mouth shut when necessary (really, I have) and take a breath before I open my mouth...most of the time.

But, once in awhile, God must remind me that I am not the person I was. It is an often humbling message and one that is not lost on me. None of this is to say that I am incapable of being the strong, vocal advocate I have been known for being. I think it just means that I need to listen to the message. I need to listen to my heart and understand that I do have my limits, and even more now than ever, I must respect them so that my big mouth remains my asset and not my detriment.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

I am a Teacher

I will apologize up front for some of this post (necessarily) being a bit cryptic...I am involved in something at work right now that requires me to keep details confidential. And I will honor that. However, I do want to write something that will speak to all the people out there who know me, know what I am currently doing, or anyone who knows a teacher.

Being a teacher, for most teachers anyway, is truly more than a job. It sounds cliched, but in a way, I guess it is more of a calling. All good teachers I know have gone through moments of, "I don't know if I want to teach forever." And most of them decide that, yes, teaching will be forever. We all struggle with difficult students, difficult parents, difficult colleagues, and too-often overwhelming demands. Then we watch the news and see that teachers are being attacked all over this country. I don't know when being a teacher went from something that was highly respected to something that is barely noticed (unless you're doing something wrong.) It seems though, that this is what's happening in this country right now. Despite all this, many people would ask, "Why do you continue to teach?" Well, because...

I am a teacher. That's all I can really say. I didn't go into teaching because I wanted to be rich. I didn't go into teaching because I believed it was easy. I didn't go into teaching because I "get to work for six hours a day and have my summers off." I became a teacher because I had (and continue to have) a desire to help children succeed. That moment when a child looks up at you and the "lightbulb" has gone off is like no other...and to know that I made that difference for that child at that moment is the best kind of high. It is its own reward. I love teaching...I love the kids I teach (yes, even the difficult ones). Because of some recent work, I was out of my classroom for several days. Upon my return, several of my students saw me and yelled out, "Mrs. Largent! You're here!" Their excitement at seeing me, instead of a sub, was the highlight of my week. So, to see teachers being torn down, disrespected, degraded, and stripped of their rights (can anyone say Wisconsin?) is, to say the least, heartbreaking.

There are so many myths about teaching...Myth #1: That I only work six or seven hours a day. Untrue...most teachers I know work far beyond their required hours...I probably average about 50 hours a week, both in school and on my own time. I do get some of my summer we take out those weeks and average about 40 weeks of work in a year times those 50 hours...hmmm, about 2000 hours a year. Which, is what the average full-time employee works during their calendar year. If an average employee works 40 hours a week and has two weeks of vacation, they work 50 weeks a that would be 2000 hours, right? That's what I thought. And yes, I know there are exceptions to everything...I'm just speaking in generalities and averages here.

I get my summers off...yep. Can't argue that. It's a perk of my job. The perk of a corporate job? You can take a vacation anytime of the year. I can't. I have to take my vacations in June or July. There are ups and downs to every job.

Myth #2: Tenured teachers can't be fired...untrue. This is probably the biggest myth there is. Tenure doesn't guarantee a simply guarantees due process. If a tenured teacher is fired, they have a right to know why and to challenge that termination. Non-tenured teachers can be fired for no reason at all, and often aren't given one and have no recourse.

I could go on and on about the myths that some believe define teachers. It is an unfortunate turn of events in this country that teachers are merely seen by some as "glorified babysitters." I have had the opportunity to be in a unique position lately, defending teachers, their professionalism and integrity...and then to see so many of them standing by in support. To see and hear that support has meant so much; to come into their fray amidst cheers and applause is more uplifting that I can possibly say. It brought some to be reminded that we are among the honored and the special group of people that call themselves teachers. It is a privilege to teach a child, to watch them learn, to help build them into people of substance. And to know that my dear friends and colleagues will be waiting to stand behind a small group of us that are working for them, is the best gift I've had in some time. It's also one of the many reasons that I find myself, once again, proud to say...

I am a teacher.


Monday, February 21, 2011

An Anthem

For weeks, this has been sitting in my heart...this post that's been forming in my head and words finding their way together until I could sit and write them down. The last few weeks have been hectic...Jamie has wisely observed that I've over-committed myself and am likely going to wear myself out. He may be right, but all of these commitments are important to me. I find myself having to take time to take a breath, no matter the chaos, so that I keep my mind clear and focused and so that the emotion that is always close to the surface doesn't spill over. But, for weeks now, there has been something sitting in my heart...something I think I can finally put words to.

There is a song out on the radio right now by a band called "The Script." The song is called "For the First Time." You have likely heard it if you listen to any radio station that plays current Top 40 hits...but you may not have listened to it. Because if you have listened to it, you would likely have heard what I've heard. Hope. An anthem for today.

The lyrics go something like this:
"Trying to make it work but man these times are hard,

She needs me now but I can't seem to find a time,
I've got a new job now on the unemployment line,

And we don't know how,
How we got into this mess
is it God's test,
Someone help us 'cause we're doing our best,

Trying to make it work but man these times are hard

But we're gonna start by
Drinking old cheap bottles of wine,
Sit talking up all night,
Saying things we haven't for a while,
A while ya
We're smiling but we're close to tears,
Even after all these years,
We just now got the feeling that we're meeting for the first time."

This is basically the chorus of the song. But here's why this songs speaks to me...I think of me and Jamie, and I think about his sister, Gina, and her family. Not because any of us are destitute. We've all been pretty smart about making financial decisions and are holding our own, despite the worst economy since my grandparents were small children. But, man, does it sometimes feel incredibly hard to keep believing that this will get better. And not just the economy, but the overall feeling that this society that we live in is going in the wrong direction. I'm almost relieved to see all of the protesters in Wisconsin because it gives me a little bit of hope that people aren't willing to just continually be steamrolled by the decision-makers around them.

I didn't write this to make it political...I wrote it because the lyrics make me hopeful, despite all of the darkness and the sorrow and the struggle. Gina, Jamie, Dave (Gina's husband) and I have had occasion recently to just sit and talk a couple of times...late into the night, helped out by "cheap bottles of wine" (and beer). And we've talked about life...about all the things we hope for and all of those thoughts and wishes that get discussed, often late at night after four kids are settled into bed (for Gina and Dave) or late at night after everyone is home from work or class (for me and Jamie). Those late nights when life, ever rushing ahead, finally for a moment seems to slow down long enough where you look at each other and your disaster of a house around you and realize, "I have enough." Every single time I hear this song, I think about Gina and Dave and I think about my own life, and I think about my parents 30 years ago - finding time in the midst of life - to re-evaluate. Ultimately, what that song is saying and what I have realized is "I have enough."

Outside of winning the lottery, I don't think any of us will EVER feel like we have enough money. Bills will always come, loans will always be due, food will always have to be bought. Dishes will still pile up in the sink, we'll always be behind on laundry and we'll probably always feel like our house is too small. The car will still break down, the house will still need work, and we will forever have piles of mail and paperwork cluttering our house. But...I look across the room at Jamie, and I know in my heart that I have enough because I have what matters. What matters is never going to change, no matter what society says or how it goes in the legislature this week...regardless of what bills get passed or what budget gets approved, we are going to be okay. And from talking to Gina, I know that she and Dave have shared some of the same sentiments...times are very hard right now. Economically, most of us are struggling in some way or another...and many of us are questioning how we got here.

"For the First Time" feels to me like an anthem...a reminder that what matters is about who's sitting across the table from me sharing that cheap bottle of wine. Some of my favorite moments recently have been sitting with my husband, sister-in-law and her husband, laughing, playing with Transformers, eating cheese and crackers that we dug out of the refrigerator, and drinking a cheap bottle of wine. Because at the end of the day, those moments, that conversation, those heartfelt emotions that come are worth more than any paycheck. The moment that my nephew launched himself off my lap to grab a snack...the picture my niece drew, the smile my nephew gave us, the new babies friends and family have welcomed...those are the things that we will cherish in 30 years. Money will come and go...sometimes we'll have more and sometimes we'll have less. But this has reminded me that sometimes when times are hard, it serves a purpose. It makes us sit down, look at each other, take stock, and remember that no matter how hard it gets, it will be okay because tonight I'm sharing a cheap bottle of wine - with "you."

Here's to you and those that matter most...


Monday, January 24, 2011


I was just sitting down at our home computer to print something off for Jamie...a Groupon (love Groupon!) for a nearby shoe store so that he can buy himself a new pair of Birkenstocks and not spend an arm and a leg. My husband has a bit of a love-affair with Birkenstocks...he owns four pairs of shoes...dress shoes, work boots, tennis shoes, and Birkenstocks. And he wears those Birks ALL the time...anywhere, any weather. We got nine inches of snow last weekend and he wore the Birks! While I was digging around for something that would keep snow out of my shoes and off my already freezing feet, he slipped on his Birkenstocks. Admittedly, they are incredibly comfortable. In fact, after wearing heeled boots today, my Birks will be the shoe of choice tomorrow...and I will arrange my outfit around getting to wear those Birks.

I digress...I sat down to print this Groupon off for Jamie - and the printer crapped out. Full-on, 100% beyond fixable, I'm fairly certain. I flipped through the manual and found the error message this piece of technology was giving me and discovered...I needed to call the company. Which I then discovered they only want you to do if your printer is still under warranty, which I know this one is not. Finally, fed up, I went to Wal-Mart's website where I found several printers that we can afford and will do what we need...cheaper than probably fixing the one we own. And probably a lot faster. And wireless. Decision printer it is. Trip to Wal-Mart on the errand list for this week. Check...

I sat down to write about what is in my heart (and then, summarily, was distracted by the printer debacle.) I had a day today...and day I had to consciously begin by reminding myself not to take my frazzled, disorganized, sleep-deprived self out on the 10-year olds around me. My students walk in my door at 8:40 a.m. I arrived to school at approximately 8:33 a.m. Just enough time to pee, put my lunch away, run to my mailbox and take a breath. And then the day began...twenty-something little people that needed something. Twenty-something little people that haven't been in school since last Wednesday, thanks to those previously mentioned 9-inches of snow! Twenty-something little people that simply need to be loved and taught and embraced...and today, it was hard at moments. I am stressed about work, stressed about upcoming work issues, and stressed about life. When did my life - our life - become so abnormal?

I remember telling my doctor once, at an annual exam, that I was "normal, boring, and average...always have been." I soon ate my words...I got pregnant with Faith and we went from "normal, boring, and average" to anything but. And it's not like we're new to being the anomaly...after all, Jamie had colon cancer at 28-years old. We have seriously spent a great deal of time looking at each other, asking, "What did we do? What have we done? When is it our turn?"

I have recently discovered an author by the name of Terri Blackstock. She is a Christian author that writes mystery/suspense novels. These books have done more to fill my mind with questions and wonder and thought than any in a very long time. They are wonderful stories, suspenseful and with wonderful characters, and she uses Christian principles and scripture as part of the story. I have cried through some of the stories and wept at my own heartache that weaves in her stories (really - on one occasion I had to stop reading and go back later because I was crying so hard I couldn't read the words on the page.) One of the things I've most taken away from these books is that sometimes the world around us, the failures we see and live through, are impossible to understand. She doesn't wax poetic about living a Godly life...she doesn't write characters that live without question or live perfectly. They just keep trying. She writes stories in which terrible things happen...and the people around it must cope and try to live a human life when they have a greater belief. I have taken so much from those characters...that being Christian and believing in God doesn't mean doing so perfectly or without question.

I will never understand why my child had to die...or why my husband had to have cancer...or shy my mother had breast cancer...or why Alzheimer's robs so many...or why so many deserving people struggle to have children...while others want for nothing. I don't pretend not to struggle with my own beliefs sometimes or question the "why" and wait for an answer I know that I will not get in this lifetime. My brain knows I won't get an answer that will satisfy me...because there isn't one that will. My brain understands this. My heart has a much more difficult time because, after all, I am human. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a mother, a wife, a reader, a writer, an aunt. I exhausted and imperfect human being. I am, like most out there, trying to understand things I cannot possibly grasp. I won't pretend that I'm going to stop...because I won't. I will still search for answers and for the reasons, even when I know I won't find them. Maybe that's insanity...but I also believe that as long as I keep on trying, I just may find out something I didn't know before. Like a treasure hunt, I'm discovering that one clue leads to another clue, that leads to another clue...and so on. It is life...up and down, hard at times. I just pray that I can keep finding a way to start going up the next hill...each and every time I see a new one.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Yesterday I was out, running errands, standing in line at the grocery store when a voice called my name. I looked up to see an old friend...a friend I went to college with and had not seen since I was pregnant with Faith. We ran into each other at the grocery store, then, too. Thanks to the technology of Facebook, she knew much of our story with Faith, but she didn't know all the details.

So there, in the checkout line at Schnucks, she said to me, "How are you? I think about you all the time and I always mean to call you or write you, but I'm terrible at communicating. I want to know what happened with Faith...I've only caught pieces...will you tell me? Will you talk to me?" Well...that was the gist of it.

Now, maybe this sounds as though she was being a busybody, but I didn't feel that way. Admittedly, I was caught a little off guard, as I stood reading "Soap Opera Digest," waiting to buy coffee and bananas. But, once I got by bearings, I was glad she asked. She quickly said, "It's okay if you don't want to talk...I just think of you so often and just want to know how you are." I assured her it was okay with me to talk, but asked, "Can I get out of line first?" We both laughed, I paid for my groceries, and we took a seat on a bench at the end of the checkout line.

For the next hour (no, I'm not kidding), we caught up. I'm sure the cashiers and baggers thought we were crazy...after all, who sits on a bench in the grocery store for over an hour, chatting like two long-lost friends, while our groceries sat in the cart in front of us? I talked about Faith...I told our story. We shared notes on some common experiences we've had and laughed about common frustrations. We giggled over our husbands who seem to have a lot in common, including their "survivalist/prepare for anything" ways - we laughed at some of the supplies we have in our house for just such an occurence. And as I sat with this old friend, I remembered why we'd been such good friends at one time in our lives. I'm not really sure why we didn't stay in, I guess. She went her way, I went got busy and it just happened. But, it was fun to see her again and talk. She hasn't changed...she still talks a mile a minute, but it was kind of nostalgic to sit with her. It made me want to keep up with her a little more frequently.

So, to this friend...I hope that we can make time to see each other more than just an occasional occurrence at the grocery store. Thank you for asking about Faith...thank you for being you and not worrying that what you might say could be awkward (a problem, I assure you, she never had)...thank you for being direct and compassionate and letting me talk about my beautiful daughter. Thanks for sharing stories of the crazies...for laughing and letting me ramble on a bit too long at times. Thank you for reminding me why we were friends, and why I'd like to be better about keeping in touch from now on.

Who knew a trip for coffee and bananas could end up reminding me of a great friend?