Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dear Mister Irrelevant

As I've probably mentioned before, I love the St. Louis Cardinals.  I have lived in St. Louis since 1995 and have since become a very proud member of Cardinal Nation.  So, last week, the Cardinals played the Washington Nationals in a best-of-5 series.  It was the Nationals' first post-season trip in something like 78 years.  I'll just remind you that the Cardinals are the reigning World Series Champs.  But, I digress...

On the eve of the final game between Washington and St. Louis, some blogger named Mister Irrelevant (well, a guest writer that he hosted on his blog) - wrote a mean-spirited, hateful post titled, "Why St. Louis is a Terrible, No Good Place."  (Read it here) Here is my response...

Dear Mister Irrelevant,
I heard about your post regarding St. Louis recently, and felt the need to respond.  I read it in its entirety, and I won't pretend to be an expert on Washinton, D.C., despite the fact that you seem to have claimed that right for yourself about St. Louis.  You have said you lived here for three years and were "happy to escape back to civilization."  Well, good riddance, considering how you feel about our city.  However, I feel the need to defend my home on a few points. 

1) Crime - I won't pretend that the crime statistics for St. Louis aren't terrible - they are.  For several years, the City of St. Louis has topped the lists for most violent city in the U.S.  No argument here.  But, here's the thing - most of what people consider "St. Louis" is actually outside of the city proper, and very safe.  And if we want to compare city to city, Washington, D.C. is not exactly topping the lists of safest cities in the U.S.  Here are two lists I found that lists D.C. among the 25 most dangerous cities.  The Gawker and Neighborhood Scout.  As for your claim that there are just bad and worse areas, that's just false.  St. Louis, like most big cities, has plenty of areas I wouldn't walk alone through.  It also, however, has many wonderful areas that are beautiful, affluent, and safe.  Tower Grove Park, Forest Park, Lafayette Square, and The Hill are just a few.  My point is, St. Louis is really no different than most big cities.  There are bad areas - areas I will always stay away from, but there are the good areas, too.  It is not one big cesspool, as you'd have your readers believe. 

2) As for your argument about our "insular community," you make some valid points.  Lots of people do live in the suburbs - but just because I choose to live where I can afford to live does not mean I don't value culture.  We are not Manhattan or D.C. - we don't have your population or your tourism draw, so no, we can't compete when we start counting museums or monuments.  But to call us stupid is rude and offensive.  Your damn right I'm going to be defensive - I live in a great city.  We have one of the top-ranked zoos in the country.  And it's free.  To everyone.  Most of our museums - the Art Museum, the History Museum, the Science Center, to name a few, are free.  Are they the Smithsonian?  No - but they're wonderful places, full of culture.  And we're proud of the fact that in St. Louis you don't have to make six figures to be able to take your family to the zoo or to the museum to experience that culture that in most other big cities would set a family of four back well over $100.  Maybe you think only the wealthy deserve to be exposed to culture? 

3) Food - Okay, I agree with you on the pizza.  Can't stand provel on pizza.  But our barbeque?  Some of the best.  You went to one restaurant (a place I've never even heard of, by the way) and judge all barbeque on that?  What about our Italian district  - the Hill?  Italian food, toasted ravioli, Ted Drewe's custard.  St. Louis is more than the stereotypical barbeque, but you failed to mention anything else.  Shame on you.

4) Sports - I am a proud member of Cardinal Nation - we love our baseball.  And in recent years, the Rams have struggled to keep fans interested because, well, they've just played like crap.  And I occasionally watch hockey, but have many friends that are die-hard fans and "bleed Blue."  But so what if the Cardinals are our biggest sports draw?  Why do you care?  So what if we have "Happy Flight," and the Rally Squirrel?  Does it really impact your life if our small, insular, culturally-insignificant hillbilly town has a world champion baseball team that loves its rituals and traditions?  That's right - World Champions.  11 times.  Last fall, I had the privilege of being with friends in a bar near Busch Stadium when we won game 7.  Though I've never seen that many people in one place at one time, it was by far one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  Because that night - the night we won our 11th championship - St. Louis was the best city in the world.  I knew that while everyone celebrated, no one was going to set cars on fire, or trash the bar, or throw trash on the baseball field.  Because Cardinals' fans don't do that.  It's why Sports Illustrated and other sports-related media consistenly call Cardinal fans "the best fans in sports."  As for the calls you claim to have heard to have Mike Matheny fired?  Pretty sure those were all in your own head.

So, Mister Irrelevant, I'd say you certainly are.  Because while you're happy to have escaped us, I'm happy to live here.  I wasn't born here or raised here.  I moved here to go to college, got a job, met my husband, and here we stay.  All of those things you seem to hate about it here, I love.  Here are the reasons why St. Louis is a Wonderful, Fabulous Place to Be...
1) Roots - Didn't grow up here, I am a transplant.  Married a local boy who has virtually his entire family within a 2 hour drive.  I have come to love the roots that people plant here because it gives us history and feels like home.  I never had roots anywhere, but here, I've planted some.
2) The cost of living - we do not live in a big house.  But it's a house, with a yard, a garage, and a safe neighborhood.  Our most affluent areas and most expensive homes rarely top $1,000,000.  That's a mansion around here.  With a big lot, in the most sought-after areas.  I think our average house price is somewhere around $250,000.  And that will likely get you a 3 or 4 bedroom house with a basement, 2 car garage, in a great school district.  In D.C., what does that get you?  A 1-bedroom condo?  I'm proud of the fact that my husband and I can afford our home, our car, and our bills and not go into financial freefall to also go out to dinner.
3) The values.  I will take the midwest values over that of your fine, cultural city any day.  I'm sure there are wonderful people in D.C., but since I haven't been there since I was 15, I won't attack your city.  We are a forgiving people, a kind city, and full of old fashioned values that I believe in.  I am proud of that. 

I wasn't born here, but this is home.  Part of that home is those World Champion Cardinals - that, by the way, stomped your Nationals into next season.  See you in 2013, Mister Irrelevant!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bittersweet Birthday

The summer is over...August is here.  I haven't written any posts in ages.  Not much to write about, I guess.  We traveled, I rested, I read, watched movies...ran a zillion miles as I train for a half marathon in October.  Survived the crazy heat.  And now...August is here. 

Tomorrow is Faith's birthday.  She would be 3.  We would have a toddler running through our house, talking, asking questions, becoming a little girl, instead of a baby.  The crib that still sits in her room would be replaced with a bed, and we'd be tripping over the toys and things that a 3-year old bring.  And probably not know just how blessed we really were.  Had she lived. 

Her birthday continues to be bittersweet.  I feel that I have come to a place in grief that allows me to celebrate Faith's birth.  The fact that she was born alive...the fact that she lived for 3 days.  We got to see her eyes, hear her cry, give her a bath, change a diaper, cuddle her, pass her around to family and friends.  All the time knowing it would not last.  All the time, waiting for the eventual end we knew would come.  And it did; that's the bitter part. 

While we celebrate all the blessings we did get to have, we of course mourn the loss.  We think about her everyday...what our life would be like with her.  When we take trips, we talk about how she would be old enough to sit in the boat with us, enjoy learning to fish with her daddy, playing with her cousins on our recent road trip to Georgia.  Everything we do, we do with a little hole.  A little bit of bittersweet persists in every day of our lives. 

The pain is less...the intensity, the feeling of an elephant on my chest, the broken heart, the ache with every breath I take is no more.  Not usually.  There are still moments...often unpredictable ones.  A little girl that passes by and makes me wonder what Faith would look like; a trip to visit friends, with everyone's kids in tow - except ours.  Because she is not here.  The sadness never quite goes away, but it does change. 

I can look upon Faith's birthday tomorrow and be grateful for what we had, and be okay with where we are.  I will also have moments of longing and sadness, and an ache for my daughter.  I want to hold her hand and swing her between me and her dad.  I want to teach her to fish.  I want to take her to dance class, and to the pool with my friend's children.  I want to watch her run with the other children that are in our lives.  I picture her in every crowd, at every event, in every single thing we do.  Where would she be?  How would she fit in here?  How would this be different?  And we wonder if we are the only ones who ponder.  Does anyone else know how much my heart will ache tomorrow?  Does anyone realize how much my mind will be elsewhere for the next several days, no matter what facade I display? 

Some will. 

Good friends and family will say something...will hug me, will talk about her without guilt.  Because they will be the ones that know that we never forget.  That saying her name brings a smile to my face, even if it brings a tear to my eye. 

I don't know when I will get to hold her again, but I know the day will come.  Until then, I can wish to her in the stars.  Happy birthday, my sweet girl...


Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Lucky Life?

When I was a child, and even into my young adult hood, I always felt like I had lived a blessed life.  Sure, we moved around a lot - more than average - but that was about the worst thing that had ever happened to me.  I had three sisters that I loved and mostly got along with, parents I respected and enjoyed and appreciated, and because of all that moving, some experiences that could never be duplicated.  I went to high school in Egypt, after all, and my graduation ceremony was held at the base of the Giza Pyramids.  No, I'm not kidding.  Who can say that? 

Even after my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 17,  I eventually reclaimed that blessed feeling.  It became that "thing" that happened to my family, once, long ago.  It was our "bad thing."  Everyone has to have one, right?  At that point, I still had all four of my grandparents and had never been to a funeral.  In fact, the first burial I ever went to was after I was married, at the age of 30, for my husband's grandmother.  I'd never really known anyone that had died.  My aunts, uncles, cousins were all alive and well.  They, too, were fairly blessed.  No illnesses, no diseases or afflictions, no real life-issues, at least as far as I knew then.  Like I said, we lived a blessed life. 

In my sophomore year of college, my grandmother was also diagnosed with breast cancer.  At that time, it was bad and it sucked, but knowing my mom had beat cancer two years before, I don't think I expected different from my grandmother.  And for the record, my grandmother is a nearly 16-year breast cancer survivor, still alive and well, and as persnickety as ever at the age of 88.  So is my grandfather.  You can see why I always felt lucky.  And years and years went by with that. 

Oh, there was the occasional blip on the radar...a painful breakup, a minor fender bender, a tornado that came precariously close to my parents' home, tonsillectomy at the age of 23...the mundane things of life.  None of them felt particularly life altering.

Cue the rest of my life. 

Jamie and I met when we were 27.  We have been together 8 years now, and despite the struggles we've had and the painful experiences we've shared, I am so, so grateful for every minute of those 8 years.  But I've also, with each passing year and the tally of "Why us?" moments, begun to lose that lucky feeling.  My dear friend Sarah calls it "the statistical shitstorm."  If there is a statistical anomaly, we will find it.  I have begun to live my life as though we are enjoying peaceful moments between the proverbial shoe drop.  Because if you'd lived our life, you too would feel like there's always going to be another shoe. 

That first moment was a diagnosis of colon cancer for Jamie at the age of 28.  Do you know the odds of that?  It's pratically unheard of, especially considering there was absolutely no family history and Jamie had no diagnosed health problems that might have indicated that likelihood.  Following that, the economy began to falter and Jamie has spent a great deal of time unemployed because of the nature of his job in construction.  He's struggled to reinvent himself, but I give him tons of credit for the fact that he refuses to give up and let others define him.

We had Faith in 2009 and have since I think felt like we are living between those shoe drops more and more.  I won't delve into the list of experiences we've had, but needless to say that most of  the people who know us agree that we've had more than our fair share of bad luck and heartache.  I just told a friend the other night that sometimes I feel like we could inspire soap opera story lines for years and years.  No one could write the life we've had.  Between us and our immediate family, it seems that we are due for some good. 

I can honestly say that I am a very different person than I was a few years ago.  Life experiences change you.  I still feel like I'm a pretty positive person most of the time, able to find the silver lining.  I am choosier about how I spend my time and with whom.  I am not as open as I once was...don't so much wear my heart on my sleeve.  I'm less of a social butterfly and prefer to keep close to home, close to my husband, and surround myself with the friends and family we are closest to.  Social events with lots of new people are more stressful than enjoyable, and I often avoid them unless there are a few people there that I know and can use as a buffer.  See, meeting new people means small talk and small talk means questions like, "How many kids do you have?"  It becomes exhausting to navigate your life when this is your life.  When you look around and ask, "How did this become my life?" 

I haven't been to a baby shower in three years, and I don't have plans on going anytime soon, though I probably would now for the right person in my life.  All of this is a defense mechanism. 

Most days are good days, but every once in awhile, something knocks you off your feet and opens old wounds and once again, you have to pull yourself up by your boot straps. 

Sometimes I think back to the 25-year old who lived such a blessed life.  And I wonder who she would be now.  Because she isn't me.  I am truly blessed in so many ways.  Maybe all of this is just what life is, and I just got really lucky for the first part of my life.  And I'm well aware that there are many, many people with much worse situations than us and that we are very fortunate.  We have friends and family and an amazing network of loved ones.  I have the love of my life, and could not get through each and every day without him (though sometimes he makes me nuts.)  So, maybe this is what this part of life is about...discovering the fact that life exists between shoe drops.  And to enjoy them while you can, while they happen and never, ever take them for granted.  Because the next shoe that drops might forever change the life you know. 


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Suck it, Cancer

"Sit down." 

Ever notice how two words like that can send a tremor of fear right through you?  So, a couple of weeks ago when I came home from a nice evening out getting a pedicure with Sarah, and Jamie greeted my arrival with, "Sit down," I was unprepared, to say the least. 

And in my brain were things like the following: one of my grandparents died...then Jamie said, "Your mom called and your sister..." and my brain went to things like: my sister died, my sister was in a horrible car accident, wait...which sister are we talking about here...

...and he finished with, "...has Hodgkin's Lymphoma."  Oh.

Wait, what?  No one died? 

Okay, that's the good news.  But my sister has cancer...well, that just sucks.  Seriously...that was my first thought.  That sucks (how very educated and mature of me, but sometimes there just aren't better words).  And no kidding, my very next set of thoughts went to something like, "So, cancer bites the big one and I really wish my sister didn't have cancer, but in this family we've got cancer covered.  We're GOOD at cancer, so cancer...BRING. IT. ON. because you are soooo going to lose." 

Now, I don't mean to minimize cancer or the diagnosis of all.  The "C" monster as my sister has started to refer to it is scary and life-altering and sometimes deadly.  But, I wasn't kidding when I really did think of it as something that was manageable and treatable and with an attitude of, " what?"  I didn't freak out (other sister did, but that's okay, too) because, like my oh-so-wise sister has pointed out, our experience with cancer has been one of SURVIVAL.  Let me list the ways...

Mom - Breast cancer survivor, 17+ years
Grandma - Breast cancer survivor, 15 years
Jamie - Colon cancer survivor, 6+ years
Cheryl - Leukemia survivor, 12+ years
Gina - Breast cancer survivor, 4+ years
Susan - Multiple myeloma survivor, 6+ years

So, while cancer is a scary word and treatment is a long, arduous journey, I don't live in a world where cancer has won very often.  I live in a world where you do the next thing, take the next step and fight the battle in front of you because there is no alternative.  Cancer is terrible for the patient, and not too fun for those of us that love the patient because the overwhelming feeling is one of helplessness.  What can you do?  What do you do?  For some, they worry and stew.  I just come from a family where we just say..."Suck it, cancer." 

And then we move on. 

So, to my baby sister...just keep doing the next thing.  Know we love you mightily and ferociously... and remember that you always have a tribe in your corner.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

10 Things

I was recently perusing on Pinterest (, which if you haven't discovered is GREAT! I can pretend that I actually have a decor gene - which I do NOT - because I am incredibly capable of following directions for someone else's great idea! I have successfully made numerous recipes, with mostly favorable reviews, and even knocked out some cleaning tips, decorating ideas and crafty things. Very proud of myself! So, as I was perusing tonight, I came across someone else's blog and it listed "30 Questions To Ask Each Other." And I began reading the list...and realized that it would be fun to answer some of them here. So, it is my goal to do some more frequent posting and use some of these questions as insipration...

Here's today's question: List 10 things you would tell your 16-year old self if you could.

Okay, I'm not sure I can come up with 10, but we'll see...

#1) It will all turn out okay - because at 16, who isn't worrying about the future? Who isn't freaked out about leaving home and going to college and just growing up.

#2) Trust yourself - I think I've been pretty good at this, but I wish I could have known that my own mind was good enough and staying true to myself will get me far in life.

#3) Take care of your health - Probably my single greatest wish for a "do-over!" It is SO much harder to create a healthy, fitness-minded lifestyle at 30-something than it would have been to just maintain it as a teenager and into adulthoood. Maybe not terribly realistic, but so. much. easier.

#4) You will find "the one." - Because in my mid-20s, as I went to wedding after wedding, and served as bridesmaid in SIX weddings, I was beginning to doubt this one. Wouldn't have traded the experiences I had along the way, but just knowing it was going to happen might have eased my mind.

#5) Making the effort to maintain relationships is worth it! - Because little did I know, but the best friends I had at 16 are still among the besties I have now. Distance or not, we've always remained a part of each other's lives. And I'm so, so glad.

#6) Live more and take more risks...within reason - Never a daredevil have I been, but I sincerely wish I wouldn't have been such a darn chicken about so many things. Following rules is fine, but it gets a little boring sometime to always be the one that's the "adult" in the room - even when we were 21. Another of my greatest wishes for a "do-over." Live a little more spontaneously...

#7) Life will sometimes suck...and you will be okay - Enough said.

#8) You will get to know your grandparents better - We always lived far away from my grandparents growing states away. When I came to college 10 minutes from them, I got to have a relationship with them for the first time in my life. We grew up without Skype, cell phones or even e-mail, so I did not really know my grandparents well until I was an adult living near them. Even though my dad's parents have sinced passed away, I got to know my grandfather well and am grateful every day for the fact that my 88-year maternal grandparents are still alive, well, and living just minutes from me.

#9) Technology will change the way you live your life - Not sure this is such a good thing, but I don't think at 16 I had any comprehension of what technology was to come. Email, cell phones, the Internet, DVRs, Skype, SmartBoards, iPods, laptops, Facebook...the list is endless.

#10) Follow your heart - Because at the heart of it all, no one can make your decisions for you. At the end of the day, we all have to make our own decisions, own them and live with them. Ultimately, I have to sleep with myself at night and the choices I make. I never want to regret my path in life, so I think this is the most important one.

Well, I guess I could think of 10!


Sunday, January 29, 2012


Over the weekend, Jamie and I drove about 45 minutes north to a small community on the Mississippi River to participate in Eagle Days. Eagle Days is an effort by the Department of Conservation to educate people about the bald eagles that roost and nest along the rivers in the winter. We watched a movie about the bald eagle's near extinction, saw a live eagle program put on by the Wild Bird Sanctuary and watched the eagles fly over the river, hunting for fish. It was cold, but bearable, sunny and an almost-perfect way to spend a winter's day. And then Jamie's phone rang...

His cousin's son, only 21-years young, died unexpectedly in his sleep Friday night. No reason, no explanation, no discernible cause. Conversations of autopsies and 911 calls and the heartbreak of two parents...and innumerable aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, siblings, friends...

We were shocked. Tried to go about our day, keeping this young man and his family in our thoughts and prayers. We'd be talking about eagles one minute, exclaiming over the majestic sight it is to see them soaring above...and our conversation would suddenly shift, to conversation of Jesse, a life gone too quickly. It's safe to say that our thoughts were preoccupied by Jesse's death and the heartbreak of his parents. Because though we cannot know their pain or their circumstance, we know the pain of walking this earth when your child does not.

And so, many times throughout the day and into the evening, I found myself overcome with tears. Sad for a life cut short...sad for parents that will never be the same, that will miss their child until the day they die...sad at our own individual pain that never quite goes away.

Jesse...Kayla...Leah...Allison...Faith. Lives lost too soon, at various ages and stages, all leaving behind parents that are forced to figure out how to move forward when it feels as though the world around you has stopped moving. I know now that I will think about my child every day of my life. For the rest of my life. I have figured out how to move to honor her and remember her and how to be happy more than sad.

But, on days like these, those sad moments creep in because it so immediately puts you right back into that place of your own pain. Knowing how heart-wrenching it is to walk this path and continue on. It is a reminder of memories that haunt and hurt. And memories that bring smiles.

Though we did not know Jesse well, I will use this as a reminder to live life to the fullest because once again, the reminder exists that life has no guarantees. So if there is something you want to do, do it. If there is somewhere you want to go, go there. If there is someone you want to know, meet them. If there is something you want to be, be it. For life is short, without a guarantee and all too often, we are reminded of that too late for someone's son or daughter.


Friday, January 6, 2012

What I've Learned

As we begin a new year, I am reflecting on the past and looking to the future. I could wax poetic here about all the profound things I've learned. And truly, there are many...but that is a post for a different evening. Tonight, it's mostly about what my family has taught me.

What 2011 taught me...
1) Family matters - Forgive the cliche, but we spent New Year's weekend in Cincinnati with my family. We have grown to include my mom and dad, myself and the hubby, two sisters and their hubbies, another sister and her SO (significant other, since a man of 40 can't be called a "boyfriend" without cringing), and one adorable, gifted, and highly intelligent (I might be biased) niece and nephew. Seriously though, my almost-3-year old nephew has to be the most adorable, smartest child. Ever. Really.

What I so enjoyed about the weekend was the ebb and flow of it all. There were no schedules...nothing we "had" to do. We celebrated a belated Christmas together and opened presents. There was hysterical laughter over gifts of Orange Slices (I think you had to be there) that led to veiled threats and secretly swiped pieces of candy for the next several hours.

The weekend included good natured ribbing from the previously mentioned SO, who is a SERIOUS sports fan, to my hubby, who likes to get as much as he gives. So, the SO wore a jersey of a team he loves that my hubby detests, coincidentally with our last name. It had the desired effect...laughter.

Wine was drunk (drank?)...anywhooo...lots of wine, and beer, and champagne. Pretty sure that the trash and recycling company for my parents are convinced that a bunch of drunks were spending the weekend there. Games were played. Puzzles were put together.

"Apples to Apples" was the game of choice for the weekend. If you've never played, a brief summary is to say that you basically predict what someone else will say. It's a fun, funny, ridiculous game. The best part is that as the game is played, the discussions over answers turns into a sort of courtroom drama! Everyone begins to defend their answers, and you hear the most ridiculous things. Examples include...

"The potato is an undervalued vegetable."
"Whipped cream is more creative than DaVinci?!"
"Spiders are more arrogant than lawyers."

These are seriously some of the conversations that were had...and we got hours and hours of laughter out of them. They will give us stories for years to come.

I got to watch the hubby and the SO bond over a puzzle...yes, sir. A nearly 35-year old and a 40-year old chatting over a puzzle, bonding, and frequently celebrating the sheer joy of finding that "just right" piece that fit in that incessantly difficult spot! I heard "Shanananaaaa..." in celebration more times that I can count.

2) Breaking tradition can be fun...We arrived in OH coincidentally on my parents' 39th wedding anniversary. So, breaking with tradition, my parents invited us (and one sister that lives in town) to join them for dinner in celebration. The other sisters weren't in town yet, but we got to enjoy a lovely dinner with my parents. My favorite part was asking my parents about 39 years of marriage. "What was your best decision?" "What was the decision you were most unsure of that turned out okay?" "What have you learned?" It was cool, invaluable, and reaffirming.

3) Time flies. I looked around at my family this weekend and saw a changed dynamic. My "baby" sister that used to go by "mini-me" because she looked so much like me now goes by a different title - Mommy. She is a mother to 2 beautiful children. An amazing mother - and married to a man that is a wonderful father. It is difficult to realize just how grown-up she is because to me, she will always be "mini-me." Also, realizing how grown-up she is just reminds me how old I am! : )

4) My sisters (and me) have chosen incredible life partners. I love all of the men that have walked into my life through my sisters. I enjoy their company, their values, their humor, their wit, and their patience. Patience, because coming into this family has to be a bit like walking into a den of wolves. We are fiercely close and we love loudly and without reservation. I think it took these men some time to adjust to our chaos. The noise is deafening sometimes...but so sweet. It was the noise of four sisters living in a house where "interrupting" was not really in our vocabulary. I often joke that if you didn't learn to just keep talking, you never got heard. It has changed from that sound to one of a different kind of family - different politics, different viewpoints, conservatives and liberals, sports fans and hunters, women - and men. Laughter, the clink of glasses, the cheers over a puzzle and the arguments over the creativity of whipped cream (you really had to be there) makes us a new family. One I I cherish. So, to my family...I know that traveling and coordinating to be together is not always easy, but I am again reminded of how important it is. Because I know that when I'm 90, I will still remember days like the ones we just shared. And I'll still be able to tell you why a potato is an undervalued vegetable.