My sister asked me where the gratitude posts had gone. I had a lot of them planned out and wanted to end them with a bang, but this post was difficult for me to get in the right frame of mind since it can seem like a downer, but in the end it is not.
Today, I am grateful for the book An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. On the cover it says "This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending..." The book is written by Elizabeth McCracken and it details the stillbirth of her first child and the emotions and pain that she went through while grieving. I know that grief. I know that pain. I know that sorrow. I know how it feels to wake up every morning after losing a baby and crying for a month because the pain is right there. I know the anger at pregnant women who look so happy and bursting with life. I know the shock of having a midwife look for a heart beat on a 16 wk gestation pregnancy and while doing an ultrasound that I can see has no heartbeat tell me out loud what I am praying is not true. I know the horror of miscarrying in an ER bathroom that looks like a murder scene when all is said and done. I know the pain of a radiologist telling you during that first ultrasound when all you want to hear is the sex of the baby (and that it was a girl, just what you were dreaming of) and not "I have found an abnormality that I need to tell you about" that is not conducive to life outside the womb. I know the feeling of failure telling my husband that I have failed him some way in not carrying his baby to term. I know the anticipation of seeing the baby's heartbeat at just nine weeks and there is none, just after you have moved far away from all of your family and have no one to comfort you. I know the irrational drive that tells me that I am in the labor and delivery ward of a hospital, yet my baby is dead and I am not leaving this hospital without a baby, so dear husband, please go pick out a baby for us to take home, because I am not leaving here without a baby. So this book spoke to me on so many levels and I want to share a few quotes from the book that really spoke to me.
After she is able to have another baby a year later she says "I can't love and regret him both. He isn't here (referring to the stillborn baby, who they named Pudding), but now someone else is, this thrilling splendiferous second baby, and like any mother, I can't imagine taking the smallest step from the historical path that led me here, to this one, to such a one." I feel this way about the two babies that are now living in heaven between Dillan and Chloe. If either one of them had survived, I wouldn't have Chloe. So despite the extreme pain and sadness and anxiety while I was pregnant with her, I wouldn't change a thing so that I could have her sweet spirit here with me now.
"I do not want him devoted to neverness." It's hard when someone asks me how many children I have. I have four living children here with me now. Do I want to mention those who aren't? Do I want to make whomever asks me a little uncomfortable? So I don't mention them, but they are always in my heart.
"Did they think that by not saying words of consolation aloud, I was doing people a favor? As though to mention sadness I was 'reminding' them of the terrible thing?" I had people who said NOTHING to me after losing a baby. It was as though if it is not mentioned, it didn't exist. The baby did. The sadness and pain certainly did. This was a big lesson to me on how to approach people that are grieving. Some people said that craziest things like "You'll get over it." If I could get just one person to change that thought to "You'll get THROUGH it" that would be so much better.
"You can never guess the complicated history of strangers." Going through this has helped me to be more compassionate and understanding because I DON'T know what has gone on in someone's life, and beyond that I don't know what their perception is or anything for me to make a judgement call on how they should or should not behave.
"Once you have been on the losing side of great odds, you never find statistics comforting again."
"Grief is like a waterfall, and just like that I'm over it, no barrel needed, I am barrel shaped."
Another thing that she said in the book that spoke to me was that she was at a subway terminal, a man handed her a card that said "I am deaf" and you were supposed to give the man money in return. She says how she wished that she had a card that said "My first child was stillborn" that she could pass out. I wished for that too that I didn't have to explain it over and over again why I was so scared at each and every one of my OB appointments when I was pregnant and to people who said "I thought you told me you were pregnant" when I was no longer. That would have been so much easier.
And yet, even as I cry and remember the sadness and pain that I went through during those childbearing years, I would not have it any other way. I have learned so much and I believe that it has helped me to remember to love my children more and to be extra grateful for them that I may not feel if they had come easier without any problems from me.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Like most everyone else, I have been so extremely saddened by the horrific tragedy in Sandy Hook and all of the children that were killed in their innocence and those that were trying to protect them from harm. I cried when I heard President Obama speak. Dillan came home from school and I told him I needed a hug, which I can't believe that he complied, and then I told him what happened, and I got another hug from him. I cried at church when we sang Silent Night. I cried when President Obama spoke at the memorial service and read each child's name. I knew that I needed to say something to Olivia, since I knew that she may hear about it at school on Monday, but I wasn't quite sure what I could say to her to not scare her and know that she would be protected. So in my final cry of the weekend, she asked me why I was so sad. I told her that a very bad man had done something awful in a school to a lot of children and their teachers were there trying to protect them. Through tears and sobbing, I told her that she would be safe and that this was not something that had ever happened before, but I told her she always needs to listen to her teachers direction, but more importantly than that, was that she always needed to listen to the Spirit. If she listened to the Spirit it would keep her safe from harm better than anyone else could. I also asked her to remember to pray for that every day. Fortunately, the whole family was around when I was telling Olivia this, so hopefully they absorbed some of this as well if they were feeling scared about what had happened as well. I am so grateful that i have that knowledge of the gospel and the Comforter that can help not only me, but my children in times of danger.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Today I am grateful for Thanksgiving. Really this means that I am grateful for family gatherings not the enormous amount of food or football, although both are very enjoyable. Thanksgiving dinner was always held at my parents home, except for the one Thanksgiving that my mom was very pregnant with Kellie and we went to my Aunt Merilyn's. I remember the smell of waking up at my parents and the warmth of the cooking, listening to my grandpa snoring in the other room, and my mom banging pots and pans. Then there was the hustle and bustle to get everything ready, tables set up, chairs around the table, places set. I know that I didn't appreciate it like I do now. All of my mom's sisters and brothers and their families would come to my mom's house and eat, catch up, play games, watch football, and sleep. I remember the year that we were each supposed to write down what we were grateful for and then it was shared with everyone. Then there was the year that my Aunt Merilyn brought her guitar and we sang Thanksgiving songs ("Hang down your head, Tom Turkey" and "Oh a Turkey Tom and a Turkey Mom go gobble, gobble, gobble all the day"). Then there was the time that all the cousins were playing with a ball and it busted, so of course we needed to get a new one, so a lot of us piled into my cousin,Paige's Supra and went to the grocery store to get a ball. That was a highlight for me because I was accepted as a "big kid" although they may have just thought I was a pest. And of course, the food. It was tough to wait for a warm roll from Grandma. I look back on all of those family gatherings with fond memories. I am so grateful that my parents and their siblings and parents worked hard to coordinate these events and mostly keep the peace. I did miss a raucous event a few years ago and quickly booked my trip for the next year only to have no sparks fly. I am so grateful that I am able to keep in contact with aunts, uncles, and cousins even though I am so far away. But, I'll be back.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Today I am grateful for my heritage. I have great parents and super great grandparents. I recently read the book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell and he writes in there about how previous generations and the choices that they have made and what they are exposed to and how they interact with other people affects future generations. Which is interesting to me and I reflect back on what I picture my grandparents may have gone through when they were my age and the challenges that they may have had. I think about my grandmas giving birth during the Depression or World War II years and what that must have been like. I think about my grandpas and what they did to earn money for their families and the struggles that they had during those times. Then I think about what they were like when I knew them. My Grandma Reese called me her Black Eyed Pickle Pie, which I believe that this is the reason why I give children nicknames as well. She was a spunky grandma and was always hiding treats. I do this too. I think of her when I use her green mixing bowl. I think about her making bread and her famous rolls. My sisters said they knew who got the Grandma Reese gene (no pun intended since her first name was Gene) when I stopped to chat with the Ranger at the Grand Canyon pay station. She read from the encyclopedia every day, and tat reminds me of my insatiable need to read. My Grandma Gillette I didn't know well since she died when I was eight, but I became a nurse because of her, so that caring gene must have come down from her. She always sent us a card for each holiday and I still have some of the cards that she sent me. But mostly, I am grateful that they were all faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They all have strong testimonies of the church. I don't know how difficult it was for them to be faithful members nor do I know if they understood how their faithfulness would affect generations living now and those still to come.
Today I am grateful that our violin teacher, Shari Parris, kept teaching my children after Chloe threw up on me at the first lesson we took with her. Now a little explanation. Dillan started taking violin lessons when he was about seven from a teacher that we called "Tsunami". This was not a reflection on her playing style or personal hygiene, but her name was Hisami, so it rhymed and we went with it. If anything, it was the antithesis of her personality, which I would call reserved at best. Whenever Dillan had his lesson, it didn't matter if he rocked the Twinkles or messed up, her response was the same. We had to drive twenty minutes and Olivia was a baby, so I started shopping for a teacher closer to us. My friend, Laura, who may or may not be better than me, told me about the teacher the Sophia went to, Miss Shari. I called her and knew instantly that I loved her because she sang a response to me on the phone. A kindred spirit. I figured since Dillan was starting, why not Chloe too? The first lesson was directly after the first swim team practice of the summer. Chloe had been telling me that her stomach was upset, but this was nothing new for her, so we went to the violin lesson. Dillan was up first and Miss Shari was a JOY. She is a born teacher. She came up with the ways to teach each of her students to master their abilities. So Chloe's turn was up. She stood there with a pained look on her face and I was unsympathetic. That is until she turned to me and said one last time "Mom, I don't feel......BLECH" and proceeded to throw up on me as I sat on Miss Shari's couch. Miss Shari took it all in stride and helped us clean up and get us out the door, since the lesson was almost over anyway. She never mentioned it again to Chloe, which was a good thing since Chloe was horrified about this and would not let us talk about it for a very long time. Chloe did not keep up the violin like Dillan did, which was a good thing, since she had a pained look on her face when she played. Dillan has continued his career and is still in the high school orchestra playing sixth chair, he tells me. Miss Shari also taught Olivia in a music class and taught her violin for a few months, but that proved to be a waste of money since Olivia is destined for the stage, but not behind a fiddle. All of my children have benefited from Miss Shari's vivacious, infectious personality. We always looked forward to our lessons, even more so when there was consistent practice. One of my children almost poked her eye out with their bow. She saw me "blossom" with Blake. She knew that I always wanted to shout "That's my baby!" at a violin recital, but since they were held in a church I had to refrain (but I did think it in my head and said it at lessons). I hope that she will still be teaching when I get ready to put Blake in violin lessons in a couple of years. I am so grateful that she has shared her gift with our family.
Today I am grateful that not all of my children are teenagers at the same time, nor toddlers. When I had just Dillan and Chloe, I was talking with a woman about how I loved him as a 3 year old with all the funny things that he said and Chloe as a baby that I got to dress up as my living doll, and how I loved these ages and dreaded when they were teenagers. She said that she loved her children at all stages of their lives, even when they were teenagers. I looked at her incredulously because I remembered what I was like as a teenager and we don't need to call my parents or siblings to confirm that I was a HUGE pain as a teenager. I picture my parents singing songs of joy when they dropped me off at college. I couldn't believe that any sane person would enjoy a teenager. Now, truth be told, this woman that I was talking to is not a sane person, I don't mean that she has been diagnosed with any mental disorder, but she does punch my husband in the arm every time she sees him and calls him a jerk, and Kevin has seen her puppy climb down her dress and come out the bottom, so her opinion is not completely balanced, but I do understand her point. As my children have grown, I can appreciate them at each stage in their lives. I love babies and their smell and the funny faces that they make when they sleep. I love toddlers and their curiosity. I love preschoolers and their perspective of the world. I love school age when they are able to play and have fun. I love teenagers WHEN I can talk to them and discuss what is going on (NOTE: I did put WHEN in caps on purpose. I believe I am getting a taste of my own medicine with this one. I used to tell my mom to stop looking at me and I would not converse as a mature individual. I was a stinker.). And I look forward to when my children become parents and then I get to be the grandma. And I will tell their children all about their parents silliness. But, boy, am I grateful that I'm not Nadya Sulemon (aka "Octomom"), and not just because she has fourteen children, eight of which are the same age. I can't even wrap my brain around having more than one person in each stage. I'm glad that I get to appreciate each one of them as they go through each phase.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Today, I am grateful for the wonderful neighborhood we live in. I love our neighborhood and the wonderful neighbors that we have. When Kevin and I were looking for a home in Phoenix thirteen years ago, we did not really have much of a clue as to what we were looking for besides the kind of house that we wanted, which for me, included a bathtub, since the house that we had in the Avenues in Salt Lake did not have a bathtub, but only a small shower. I knew that I wanted a pool as well. And grass. A lot of homes in the desert southwest have "kitty litter" front yards, which is rocks that are low maintenance and don't require water, but you do need to rake the rocks regularly for your yard to look nice. We found our house after Kevin was working here and looking while I was still living in Salt Lake, and we had to move quickly since it was a sellers market at the time. We had Dillan as our only child at the time, and he was 1 1/2, so we were not thinking about schools at all. But we found the perfect location for some great schools. We are equidistant to the elementary school, middle school, and high school, which are all in walking distance. The ward that we live in is amazing, but that really is for a different post. What makes our neighborhood so great is the community that we have here. A lot of neighborhoods in this day and age have people that come and go through their garages and do not see each other. But here, we know all of our neighbors (and we are very glad that we have new neighbors next door), and every spring there is an Easter Egg Hunt with a golden egg as the major prize and a brunch, and then in the fall there is another gathering sometimes with a hay ride, and there has even been a band. It was so fun to go trick or treating in our neighborhood and find more people that we don't see regularly. One evening when we were out at a swim meet this summer, we came home to find our driveway flooded. Neither Kevin or I could figure out what had happened. As I was scooping the water out with a bucket onto the lawn (you don't waste water here, so I put it to good use to water the lawn) and as I was doing so, a car pulled up and a man came out that I hadn't met before that said that he had come by and seen the flooding, so he turned off the main water valve. Who knows how much more water would have been wasted if not for our kind neighbor? Our neighbor just to the north of us had a blood clot and was whisked away in a ambulance and we were glad to know them and be able to keeps tabs on them and Chloe and her friend made a get well poster for our neighbor that she loved and put in her hospital room until she returned. And even though I apologize to them when our children get extra wild and crazy in the backyard, they tell me that they love hearing the sound of kids playing. I know that Heavenly Father was guiding us to our home when we were searching for a new home.