JULY 6, 2017 FIFTEEN months old

One important thing I’ve learned in my life so far is that happiness should never depend on a certain condition. I should never put my well-being on hold until a better time comes, never waiting until “this” happens or “that” ends. If I constantly worry about how to get from square a to square b, I’ll miss out on my current chance for happiness.

Writing that immediately makes me think of a quote I once saved in college:

I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Mark Twain

I’ve read books before that have talked about happiness as a now kind of thing, but I never really understood that truth until recently trying to practice it.

I have mistakenly been saying, when my lips heal and I can kiss Chris, I’ll be happy again. Or when my lips heal I won’t feel miserable anymore because I won’t have any problem. When I heal, I’ll be ready for another baby. And by basically putting my life on hold, I’ve been ignoring all the good in my life–like I’ve been half awake living, just going day to day waiting for better to arrive at my doorstep.

When I feel overwhelmed or I don’t have the answers or I want to skip out and onto the next phase of my life, if I simply think of what I currently have, I’m immediately fulfilled. I’ll visually go through my day and say a small prayer of thanks for all the little things that made me feel particularly alive, like on Sunday, when I was in one room laughing with my three siblings dancing to Men in Hat’s Safety Dance.

And I’ve been getting better and better at doing this grateful thoughts stuff, slowly making healthy everyday habits because it feels so good to do so. Sometimes I write an appreciation list in my journal, or think it up mentally while driving in the car.

I know that if I concentrate on the things I already have, more can come into my life. But if I focus on lack and wanting to change because I don’t like where I currently am, I’ll never have enough and I’ll never get to where I truly want to go.

This now seems like a basic principle of my life; it’s taken me the past almost nine years to understand what now feels like such a simple Universal law.

At this morning’s 6AM yoga class, a student was talking about the thirty seventh birthday he just had, and I immediately thought, my mom was thirty-eight. This man doesn’t look old because being in your thirties isn’t old, and just like that–for the first time–I couldn’t believe how absolutely young you were when you died.

I’ve always known you got sick too soon, but my perspective is changing more and more as the people I’m surrounded with are virtually becoming your time frozen age.

If I was to die at the age of thirty-nine in thirteen years, I would make sure to do one thing: have lots of children.

Honestly, I don’t feel there’s anything else more important for me to do: not travel, not go back to school and land a high ranking career, not even writing this book. If I have my children and get the opportunity to raise them in a loving environment, one that they’ll always remember as your kids do, I will be satisfied. If I can teach them to be authentically themselves in a world that is always trying to change them, I will have done my job. And if I maintain a healthy and loving relationship with their father while doing both of those things, in my eyes, I will have led the most lush and thriving and authentic version of my life.

I know the opinion will waver from person to person, but that doesn’t matter to me. I respect my friends who are career driven, or who want to see the world during their twenties. For so long I’ve wanted to throw marriage and children at them like, “What are you waiting for! This is the best ever!” but that’s just not the case for everyone. Instead, let me feel thankful that I’ve followed my path and ended up where I’ve wanted and all the while, give my friends the love and space to do the same.

And since I’m sure on having a big family, and since I’m sure that happiness should never be put aside for things to work themselves out, I am ready for another baby.

Did ya hear me, Mom? I’m finally ready, after all the doubting and questioning and weighing of pros and cons.

The change kind of happened overnight, but the decision feels honest and true and of my gut.

I’ve been solely focusing on what negative things will happen when I get pregnant, like not being able to drink a beer, or feeling tired, or getting a big belly, etc. I’ve been focusing on how hard the change will be and how utterly scary it feels and what my memory of taking care of a newborn remembers.

A few weeks ago at the house, Chris and I had a low key party with twenty or so of our friends. Everett was up for the first hour, loving all the attention and everyone equally loved playing with him. It was nice to hear people say, you’re such a good Mom or you guys have such a nice house, because lately, I’ve been caught up in the wrong side of things.

Being online and seeing these bloggers with beautiful clean homes and expensive hip outfits makes me feel less of a mom because there are people out there with “more” than me. Or in the real world, I am a handful younger than every mom I know, and they’re in different stages of their journey, with more things figured out than me. And again, that makes me feel less.

The worst part? Because I can’t give Everett you, all this time I’ve felt like a step down from other mothers who can provide a grandma for their child. Isn’t that silly thinking?

All of these things have literally made me question if I’m equipped enough to handle another baby.

When our house was packed with friends of our age, it suddenly dawned on me that I did everything I could to get out of that young stage of my life where I still had the freedom and ability to drink until I couldn’t feel my face. It dawned on me that I have something a lot of my girlfriends are wanting and waiting for: a family.

Understanding that makes me feel ahead of the game and exactly where I’m supposed to be. My now is more than enough. And I promise myself that from this moment on, I’ll never feel belittled from other mothers and what they have because there’s a reason the saying the grass is always greener on the other side is a line everyone knows.

Focusing on what I don’t have or the things I can’t buy or what will change when we have another baby, has been shifting my energy to places it cannot possibly be powerful because I’m worrying about problems that don’t exist yet. When I worry, I’m placing myself in a moment that hasn’t happened and probably never really will.

What about thinking of how far I’ve come in the last few years and what I’ve created with Chris? What about thinking of all the clothes I already have in my closet? What about thinking of bringing another life into this world and Everett being a big brother? What about thinking about the health and wealth my family has?

No more lack. No more what ifs. No more wishing I was somewhere else. Because where I am is beautiful and abundant. No more when I heal because I am healing in my own time and I trust that my body knows what to do more than my analyzing mind that keeps trying to find an answer.

I read this at the end of Sunday’s yoga class:

If all you did was just look for things to appreciate, you would live a joyous, spectacular life. If there was nothing else that you came to understand other than just looking for things to appreciate, it’s the only tool you would ever need to predominantly hook up with who you really are. Appreciation is the magic formula you’ve been seeking.

Life feels blooming when I think of what I have first and then dream of what I want. Grasping that concept in the everyday is truly changing my life and making me more happy. And if you were still living, I know without a doubt that I would’ve never dug for these answers to questions I would’ve never had to think of.

One more thing. Everett does have you, and I can give you to him, every time he sees pictures, watches videos, or when I explain where it is that you are. I can give Everett you when I teach him your constant presence and how there is no this place or that place, no death do us part. I’ll teach him how everything is connected, and that you and I and he are all together interlaced in a way that’s so beautifully detailed, there aren’t words to quite make sense of it.

There are times I believe Everett will know you in a more special and profound way than if you were still here to babysit or be in physical person when he blows out his birthday candles each year. And it will always be my responsibility to teach him just that.

I promise you,  I will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUNE 16, 2017

I’ve been wanting to talk to you but never completed the past three or so entires I started to write. And the longer I went without finishing one, the easier it got to forget about how important these conversations with you are and how much better they make me feel.

I feel like recently I’ve been writing as if for an audience, not just to you, because I imagine people will read these words some day. But I have to understand that that time is not yet–for now, the words I write are the intimate dialogues inside my head, the musings of a Mother to her Mother. So I needn’t worry what other people will think.

A few mornings ago I opened the fridge to get an egg for Everett’s breakfast and just stood there, staring at all the food inside. My eyes scanned from one item to another, taking little screen shots as I tried to fight what felt like a breakdown coming to the surface. I crouched down in a little squat on my toes and hid behind the hinged fridge door, covering my face in my hands and trying desperately to drown how overwhelmed I felt.

My lips have been continuously peeling for the past three months. It is unbelievably painful and uncomfortable, holding me back from kissing my boys, drinking from a cup, wearing lipstick, and eating normally. I haven’t wanted to tell you about it all because it sounds silly, but I’ve met my wits end, several times now, not knowing what to do after countless creams, two rounds of steroids, two rounds of antibiotics and a lot of false hope from doctors and dermatologists.

know I can get better, even if there is no cure. I know I can. Because my health depends on me believing that. If I continue to wallow and stare in the mirror and feel sorry that I am inhibited in doing so many things, I will never heal.

If I am sick it is temporary, for it is natural that I be well.”

My mantra. It’s been on my vision board since March, but I haven’t really bothered to read it more than once every two weeks or so. Or I’ll read it, start to believe I’ll get better, and then when I don’t see results immediately, I think, why aren’t they healing? what am I doing wrong? why can’t I figure this out? And by those questions, I’m putting my energy and faith only in the negative, a situation where the positive outcome cannot possibly come through to me.

I know I cannot die from this. I know I am still in good health. And yet, it consumes me, placing doubt and fear and frustration behind virtually every thought.

Having this “condition” has left me with one question: how did you handle a stage four breast cancer diagnosis? 

Honestly. How did you handle the fear? How did you trample through the unknown of doctors and opinions and needles and chemo? How did you go on each day, knowing you may not live much longer? How did you wonder what would happen to your four babies if your sickness took over and took you away? Because I feel like I’m losing it and I’m far from having cancer.

What was it like when you lost your long blonde hair? What was it like not being able to fix it anymore, or brush it, or put it up in a ponytail? What was it like when you looked in the mirror and could see your sickness and what it was doing to your body?

I don’t know how you did it. I would guess you didn’t even know how you did it, just that you did.

I wish I could ask you all of these things.

And I often wonder now if you and I would’ve been best friends…if you’d come over to my house and we’d go shopping or out to lunch and hang out like we used to in my teenager years, except this time I wouldn’t be a miserable bundle of misunderstood hormones, causing fights and arguments with you.

It’s painful to think of not only losing a Mother, but a best friend. Probably the best friend of my life.

I’m lucky to have Allison. I cried yesterday at the fact that she lives in Ohio, and probably will remain there for a long, long time. She’s the person I call for no reason, and I’m the person she calls when something is wrong. Having a sister for a best friend is a privilege, and Tatum is no exception. Although we are twelve years apart, she’s my best friend, too. She’s fun and sure of herself, sharing her happily contagious spirit every time I’m with her.

But it is difficult not having “Mom friends,”–people who can understand the overwhelment of being trapped in a small house with a whiny toddler and no one to talk to. I was robbed of the best person to relate with, the best person for advice and comfort and HELP. I can’t stand not having someone to call on a moment’s notice.

There are people who want to be that person for me, or who consistently offer to watch Everett, but it’s not the same. A Mother is the only one you’d call after having a breakdown before breakfast time, hiding behind the fridge door while wondering what the hell is wrong with you.

I texted Grandma the day of my little melt down, and went over to her house for an afternoon visit. Aunt Sara came, too. When her kids walked in and said, “Grandma!” running up to her with expected requited hugs, I felt sucker punched in the stomach. My heart ached, knowing Everett will never run to you like that.

Sara invited me to a little friend dinner that night, and I decided to go. I was the youngest of the group, but I usually am in social situations. All five of us were Mothers, and it was a relief to hear grumbles about their husbands and children. I felt normal. And I felt thankful when Sara would make a reference to when her and I were little, growing up together nine years apart, and telling the group stories about you and our family, saying, “Oh that was so Jen.”

She’s like a big sister and a best friend, someone who understands every question, scenario and complaint when it comes to marriage and children. I’m lucky to have that, and Sara is family, so she’s never going anywhere.

Everett completely skipped his afternoon nap today. He cried for awhile, off and on, and I had the impulse to look at his mouth. Sure enough, there was another little tooth beginning to pop up on his gum’s surface. When I rubbed it gently, he cried even harder, so I gave him some Tylenol and we laid together. When the medicine started working, I could hear him doing his bird chirps and the day seemed to be saved, just with no second nap.

To kill time, I talked on the phone with Jessie, who was making her seven hour drive down to Kentucky. She’s moving down there and starting a life with her boyfriend, something she has wanted for such a long time but school and work and locations have kept them in a long distance relationship. I’m sure she is so relieved the wait is over and I’m happy she’s headed in the direction she wants. Maybe she’ll be my first best friend to turn Mom friend.

I made dinner, we all ate, Everett took his bath, we played together in his room, and then I left the house and drove out to get Tatum. I really wanted to be with her.

We decided to go for ice cream, but beforehand, stopped at the old house to give a proper goodbye. I don’t know if I told you yet, but Dad and Terri have been moved into the new house for a few weeks now. The old house goes on the market soon.

Tatum and I entered through the garage, which was open and bare and empty. But it’s just a garage, so it didn’t necessarily look wrong, just different. The inside of the house, though–it looked so wrong, as if the whole thing might as well been flipped upside down.

As soon as I opened the back door, I made a right turn and walked straight into the dining room, seeing the naked floral carpet and your custom curtains and the chandelier you and I picked out together. I stood there, stared, and burst into tears, the kind of tears that make your mouth curl into a stiff position and force your whole face to go contorted.

I saw us all sitting in that room as a family, having one of our annual Valentine’s Day dinners. I saw us hunting for Easter eggs, tip toeing carefully because that was the fancy untouched room of the house. I saw the spot where you used to keep everything for special occasions, like painted plates, embroidered table cloths and taper candles, kept safely in a cabinet of furniture that was once great Grandma Jenny’s.

And from there I walked into the entryway, seeing the ten foot tall front door you loved, arched at the top and made of solid stained oak. I pictured all the times us kids stood in front of it, taking pictures on the first day of school and waiting for the bus. Or all the times the doorbell rang and Tanner would bark simultaneously at whosever visiting car was in the driveway. It was the entrance to our home, and never again will I walk through or out of it.

The family room was empty of the couches and entertainment set. All that remained was clean carpet with fresh vacuum marks and the brick fireplace. I remembered all the annual December mornings we had in that familiar space, the wood fire crackling as Johnny Cash sang, we’ve got that Christmasy feeling’ again. Wrapping paper would cover every inch of the now bare floor, and we were all full of love and health and the promise that everything would always remain as it was.

I walked upstairs and went into your laundry room. I stood there with my head gently leaned against the door frame, and imagined you still there, in front of the open dryer, folding clothes into neatly assorted piles.

My room looked like a barren box, with no evidence of the sleepovers I shared in there or all the times I danced in front of my dresser mirror singing to my radio, joyous and free as could be. I opened my hinged closet doors, savoring the sound they made as the left and right sides swung open simultaneously, and remembered picking outfits for school from an abundant selection, quadruple the size of what I currently have now.

I saved your room for last. I stood at the doorway and uncontrollably slowly whined the words, “Tatum I can’t,” but she walked in ahead of me so I followed. I saw the spot where the bed once was, where you and I laid so many nights, watching t.v. and drinking tea together; the bed you’d be sleeping in every morning when I’d come in at 6:30 a.m. and kiss you good bye before school; the bed we were all beside when you took your last breath.

I cried in your bathroom and your closet, seeing you with a white towel wrapped around your head, getting ready in front of the vanity mirror. The linen closet door still faintly smelled like your Mary Kay suntan lotion and I literally stood there and sniffed the white wired shelves, trying desperately to bring you back again in some way. I even slammed the two doors together one last time, remembering the sound they made all those times I walked in on you naked, followed by your screaming.

Tatum went downstairs without saying anything, and I sat in the middle of your empty bedroom, knees bent with my arms wrapped around my shins. I cried continually and when I could, simply said, “I love you Mom.” I felt fine after that, like my peace had been made and my goodbye had been said. That space was yet another reminder of you I’ve had to part with, like your clothes and your car and the fading memory of your face, but relief flooded my veins once I got it over with and walked out of your room.

It felt like the last thing crossed of “the list of letting go.”

I met Tatum in the basement, where I caught her with bright red eyes and water welled up inside them. She was in the au pair room, reminded of the five girls who helped raise her after you were gone. That girl has had to say more goodbyes than any thirteen year old should know, but she’s so strong because of it.

Once she was ready to head upstairs, we locked the house and left, taking a walk down by the creek to see it one last time.

We got a picture together in front of the house, our eyes red and puffy but our hearts content after the chance of one last farewell in remembrance.

Dairy Queen was fun. We ate our ice cream while sitting in the car and it started to rain. We got back to the new house and I snuggled in her bed while she turned on her decorative twinkle lights and lit a candle. She loves her new room. We watched the movie Red Eye until I got so tired I had to drive home.

When her and I were up in the attic of the old house, I found a stack of folded papers I had hidden up there when it became my finished bedroom. Some of them were pages to a romance book I started to write in ninth grade, and the other is a set of poems, which I figured had to be from after you died. They were assignments from school, but I cannot remember writing them.

I can soak up your presence in the wind

As the trees sing in unison with the breeze,

I know you’re watching over me.

I can feel your comforting arms around holding me,

Reassuring problems that only seem to be.

I will overcome the void that has been left

In my heart, memories I know will be kept.

I know it’s cheesy, but when I read through the little bits and pieces such as the one above, I’m reminded at how hard I tried to make sense of your sickness. After you died, I wrote so much. I read so much. I journaled so much. I tried many physical activities. I studied certain subjects. I did “safe” drugs. I moved across the ocean for half a year, and it was all in search of you.

I did everything I possibly could to bring you closer to me, and I’m thankful I had the healthy journey to where I am now. All the books I read, all the journal entires I wrote, all the yoga I’ve done and the runs I once ran, all the places I’ve traveled, all the philosophy assignments, all the fun mind altering experiences, all the people I’ve loved: it has all been a part of you. You’ve been a piece of everything, in a way I cannot possibly explain with a keyboard.

You were the force behind all of my so called “soul searching,” and instead of going off the deep end when things got difficult, I turned to you, my own personal guiding God.

And that’s more than having you as a best friend to call when things get hard. It’s something that makes me more aware of my life, as if you can see what I see and relay to me the beauty I should be noticing and appreciating. You’re my stable reassurance that all is always okay, even if my lips are peeling off my frickin’ face, because you allow for perspective: It’s not cancer. I still have my hair. I still have my health.

I honestly don’t know if I would change it all, Mom. I’ve come to depend on you in the form you’re in now, just as much as I once depended on you when you were physically here. If you were to magically come back to life again, I’d have to go through an entirely new adjustment period, realizing that, yes I could call you, but my all-knowing angel would forever be gone.

I can let go of everything, including the house, but not the permanent protector and guide you’ve become in my life.

 

JUNE 1, 2017 (almost) FOURTEEN months old

Chris and I celebrated our two year wedding anniversary last week and my best friend Kati got married. I was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, and the night was so fun and an absolute success. It was nostalgic being with my childhood best friends and their families, all dancing to I wanna put on, my my my my my boggie shoes, in-between spilled sips of beer and wine on the hot and crowded dance floor.

I loved seeing parents from my past but still present friendships, and telling them about my husband and baby boy. And when Kati and her husband danced together on the dance floor during the last song of the night, all encircled by family and friends watching them with that new hope in their eyes, I silently wished my best friend all the joy and good change the two of them could ever hope for.

Mr. Summers was so calm, clear and deliberate in his words during the Father of the Bride speech. And it got me thinking about Dad’s speech at my wedding. And our father/daughter dance together, to John Mayer’s Daughters, and how the three minutes of our waltz seemed to sum up all our past problems and discomforts and grudges and erase them.

Somewhere in our sorrow, him and I fell away from each other for a long time, filling our distance with fights and misunderstandings of each other’s lives. I tried so desperately to hold onto you, while he tried just as desperately to let go.

I resented him for moving on so quickly. I was mad if he would’t talk about you. I hated him for not asking about my plans, where I was going, when I’d be home–the things you would’ve been on my case about. And I couldn’t stand that he was so angry all the time.

When he danced with me that night, I was reminded for the first time since we lost you, that I was his little girl and he loved me and always would.

Hayley,

I hope that you and Chirs had a lot of fun in Maine on your honeymoon. I wanted to write you a letter that you could open when you got back with some of my feelings and emotions.

I wanted to tell you again how proud I was when I turned the corner and saw my beautiful and amazing daughter standing on the front sidewalk waiting for me. While I was walking you down through the yard and the song you chose was playing, I had a rush of memories from when you were a little girl flashing in my head. Like I said in my text message, it was a magical experience. Everything I had done as a parent was all for that one moment.

The entire wedding was perfect from start to finish. If it were half the amount of people it would not have been the same. If it was at a venue, it would not have been the same. It was meant to be what it was and where it was. It was your vision manifested.

While I was emotional at times, I was not sad. I know this sounds strange but I felt like there was a dome of happiness and love over us. I know your Mom’s energy was there running through everyone. She wants us to be happy and to love and that is the best way to respect what she gave us all.

When Pinja and Cole were announced into the tent together with the bridal party, that was an emotional moment. I thought about after the the tragedy we all faced and how hard it was, and that now I was able to beam with pride because it all worked out and the au pair I chose for help became your close friend. I was emotional walking Terri to her seat, thinking how profound she has been in my life and how she and Nana are so close or the fact that I may have self-destructed years ago if I didn’t have her love and support. 

When “Dreams” played right after the ceremony was over, I thought of you as a little girl on my lap listening to the Cranberries. Also how when we danced together to John Mayer, you looked up at me and said, “I feel like I’m floating.” 

So many people were happy, laughing and dancing and having a great time. A number of them said it was the most fun they ever had at a wedding. All of the vendors were wonderful, and Veronica asked how she could marry into our family.

It was all worth it.

Have fun creating your life with Chris now. It’s not easy but everything worth anything never is.

I love you,

Dad.

The day Chris and I got back from our honeymoon, I got that letter in a mailed envelope from Dad. It was the first thing I ever saw written with my new married name.

Both the wedding and the letter changed a lot between Dad and I. It unified that we felt the same way; we both loved one another, and our past relationship could finally be put behind. And the wedding validated to him, me and everyone else who was there, that you were still with us all. Like he said, you could feel it. 

Chris and I have been together for six years now, two of them married. That seems like a long time loving only one man. What do the people who make it to their fiftieth anniversary feel like?

Earlier today I read through the journal I kept from the fall of 2011, when he and I were in full swing of our dating.

October 23, 2011

The time that Chris and I have had so far, in this little space of a few months, has been wonderful. I can’t complain about one thing. I used to say he didn’t show enough emotion, but he does–the perfect amount of it. I think he just had to get warmed up to me. And I still haven’t gotten over attracted I am to him. He’s embarrassed he has a hairy chest, but guess what? I always liked a hairy man–it’s manly.

He’s made a few jokes/slight hints about being married and when I really imagine it, I can see him being the kind of man I want as a husband. Especially when I think of his Dad and mine and the kind of men they are.

Him and I went on a date last night to Burgatory and in the morning, cuddled after I slept through my alarm to take a yoga class. Then we met in the afternoon to see Tatum at cheerleading, and we sat with Dad, Terri, Grandma and Papap. On the drive home, I cried right before the Squirel Hill tunnel, singing to the song Sweet Disposition. I was so incredibly happy and the turning trees overtook me with beauty and promising change. I wondered how everything in my life could be so wonderful, because it really and truly is.

Coincidentally, the song I was singing in my car was Sweet Disposition, the song Dad walked me through the yard, or “down the aisle,” to. I’ve always gotten good goosebumps when I hear it.

I read journal entries like the one above and am able to be taken back to when we were “kids.”  I know you probably think, you still are kids, but we aren’t.

We are adults, with a house, a dog and a baby and a thriving life.

I’ve come to just expect this thriving life because every woman in our family, including you, has stayed at home with children and been married to a good, kind and successful man. That wonderful family dynamic is all I’ve known (which is a priviledge in itself), so the fact that I have it, doesn’t seem so unusual or special until I take the time to appreciate it all.

Like staying at home. I know I’ve told you many times already, but I love being with Everett all day. I honor it. And what a privilege to get to do so because of a husband who works so hard. A husband who has learned to keep his work and his family life separate, and loves us all with the softest parts of his big manly heart.

I am so lucky. I am so thankful. I am where I am supposed to be.

Life has been good and the days seem to be blending together. I have to check my calendar when writing the date because I can’t keep track. And recently, I haven’t been thinking about you much, like I’m so concentrated in Everett, I don’t even have time to miss you. He is into everything. I must say “no” two hundred times a day, and I know anyone whose ever had children knows exactly what I mean.

Little Everett is loving his fourteenth month of life. He’s happy and free and funny and oh so loved.

I always go into his room at night, right before he falls asleep. He lays on his belly while I rub his back and talk to him, thanking him for being a good boy that day and telling him how much I love him. While he lays there and listens, he looks up at me from the side of his face like I’m the best person ever–like I’m his entire world. And when I look back at him, I get sucked into an oblivion of loving my child and feel proud that he’s mine.

When he laughs, it’s so full and pure, like the most untainted form of joy, for he still only knows love, not a thing of hate or pain or loss. His laughing is my best medicine; those deep little buddha belly chuckles are contagious.

Chris taught him how to “pound it”, a little fist pump in the air. When you ask Everett to do it, his eyes light up and when he successfully contacts your fist, you would think he conquered learning how to fly. He’s so proud to make us proud.

I keep bringing it up to you a lot, and I’m sorry if I seem to be overthinking it, but I cannot stop thinking about a second pregnancy and when. 

I constantly question: when’s the best time? Should we spread kids out or get them “done” with? How old do I want to be when I get pregnant again? How old do I want to be when we have our last child? What kind of age gap do I want between Everett and the next baby? How far apart are Allison and I? How did Mom know she was ready for a second?

I bring up a second baby often in conversations, subconsciously hoping to find my answer through someone else’s experience or opinion, as if they have the ability to persuade me into pregnancy. But I know ultimately it’s no one’s decision besides mine.

I was a $200 deposit away from buying a puppy this past weekend. For an entire month, I’ve been convincing myself that another dog would be the answer to my boredom. I think I wanted to prove that I could take on more work and responsibility, just not in the form of a baby. That is obviously very stupid thinking.

So instead of a puppy purchase, we ordered a king mattress. Chris slyly worked his ways, successfully convincing me another animal was a bad idea for many reasons, and that a new bed was the more logical option. I know he’s right, but I hate when he is.

Cheers to that man for always keeping me upright and sane. Happy two years to us.

 

MAY 18, 2017

This morning, Everett woke up before Chris’ alarm for work, and when it came time for his first nap around 8:30, he wasn’t having any part of it. He didn’t cry when I laid him down, but for almost entire hour, made what sounded like bird calls and bounced up and down on the mattress with his stubby little legs propelling him upward, over and over. I could see him on the monitor.

He managed to get the lid off his bottle of water, soaking his sheets (luckily this time it wasn’t milk or juice). I tried covering the spot with a towel, but that obviously didn’t work, so I put the sheets in the dryer, and set out for a quick walk with him in his beloved backpack strapped to me. Just fifteen minutes outside was enough to make him tired.

So now he’s napping, after I doused lavender all over his dry sheets in the hapless hope of inducing him into some calm slumber. I think it may have worked.

I haven’t wanted to do anything lately. No yoga this week, and I canceled plans with a neighbor yesterday. I hate when I get like this, but if I allow myself to do just feel it out, it doesn’t last too long. It’s just my hormones.

Last week, I watched five movies over a four day period. One of them I watched three times. It was so good, I ordered the book it was based off of on Amazon, and just started reading it this morning.

Staying home is such a privilege. All the time is ours, and I’m so grateful to share that with my first born. I can plan my day around any way I’d like (well in-between Everett’s naps) and if I don’t want to do anything but watch movies, my chores and plans can wait or be cancelled.

I’m a lucky woman to live that kind of life, and I’m trying to be even more aware of that fact, more often.

I wrote a list in my journal a few days ago, for the little things I was thankful for so far in the day:

bacon and baked eggs

E trying a waffle with butter and syrup

grocery shopping

planting basil 

my new garden

feeding Bunny

catching up on e-mails and fb

strawberries

my new hoop earrings 

texting Sara

Clifford laying with me

watching E sip grapefruit juice 

his new toy from Nacny and Alan

Chris calling me while at work

Chris watering the garden before he left

hearing an acoustic version of “Dreams” by the Cranberries while driving 

watching E play with Bunny

a mini nap on my back in bed

I tried to really feel thankful as I wrote, and it put me in an awesome mood doing so. I felt elevated in some way and full of everything I needed.

Little good things kept happening all evening, like Nana stopping by surprise and a package I had been waiting for being delivered. And I know it was all because I took a few minutes to appreciate what I have…coincidences kept spiraling onward effortlessly.

I just get lost sometimes and caught up and forget that I need to take a moment, take a second, take a breath–and feel grateful down to my toes that my life is what it is. That I have the home, husband, child and even dog of my dreams.

Oh my life is changing everyday
In every possible way

And oh my dreams
It’s never quite as it seems,
Never quite as it seems

I want more, impossible to ignore
Impossible to ignore
And they’ll come true
Impossible not to do

Those are the lyrics to my favorite song on earth, Dreams. It reminds me of my childhood and Dad, playing the song on his guitar and singing with all the emotion he could possibly muster, while Allison and I sat on his lap in our pajamas, unaware of our messy weekend morning hair.

But my life is changing everyday, and most definitely in every possible way. And even though I have all the dreams I’ve ever wanted, I still want more…someday. I want our property, I want the house we vision. I want a huge garden and I want chickens and fresh eggs in the morning. I want another dog to be running around with Clifford. I want the natural smell of woods and grass and clean air to be what surrounds my family’s home and life. My children will play in the earth, digging worms and run about the paths of forest surrounding us. I’ll have a whole corner of the house’s landscape planted with your lilies, and explain to the kids how special they were to Mommy’s Mom.

That is my dream, along with writing this book to you. And all those things are indeed impossible to ignore, like a little rhythm in my head, constantly daydreaming the little details into life, like what kind of tile I’ll have in my powder room or what our chickens’ names will be or what my book cover will look like.

It feels healthy to have dreams and desires so big, and to understand that there is no reason none of that can be ours if we just believe in it. I know someone reading will think, well how much money would all that cost and gee that sounds nice, chickens and lilies? But as I’m learning to appreciate what I have now, the things that can feel so unobtainable at times–like being published or owning property–are slowly becoming more of a reality and less of a dream.

The day I journaled, after I put Everett to bed, I took the dog for a walk on a whim, just the two of us. And I ended up running into my neighbor Hilary, strolling around with her three year old and five week old little boy I had yet to meet. We walked together for so long that Chris later told me he came out looking for me, saw me, and ran away home before I caught a glimpse of him.

But when I saw her beautiful baby, I felt scared, like if I were to have a newborn right now, I wouldn’t know how to take care of it. Which is crazy because I got this far with Everett, but all of a sudden I was frantic. Why?

And coincidentally, my period is late and it never is. The app on my phone keeps reminding me that it’s due.

I joked with Chris this morning that I might be pregnant (of which I’m not) and of course, he lit up with a grin the size of China.

I am in such a good place in my life, Mom. I think that’s why the thought of any kind of change makes me uneasy. But what is life without change?

I’m excited for this summer and a walking baby, ready to explore the outdoors together. I’m so beyond in love with that little boy, and selfishly enjoying my time alone with him; there are no distractions or worries to qualm my Mothering.

He’s loving all the “real” food, like quesadillas and even pizza. He has the cutest waddle walk, and is strong and determined to get where he wants. He still likes throwing his toys (especially his books) out his sometimes slightly opened bedroom window, and loves playing a tug-of-war game with the dog over their now shared stuffed animals.

Everett is always waking up from his afternoon nap when Chris gets home from work, and Chris calls for him downstairs saying, “Snuggies! Snuggernaut!” and Everett grins, squinting his little eyes like he just can’t handle the excitement.

Chris plays with him every day, as soon as he walks in the door. He drops his book bag on the kitchen table, takes his shoes off in the middle of the room, and throws Everett and spins him and kisses him until they’re both out of breath from laughing. I constantly yell at Chris because his bag is on the table, his car keys aren’t hung up, etc–but the other day when I looked at the two of them playing, with the dog trying desperately to be included in their twosome forte, I thought, screw it. Be thankful for a man like this because not every Father comes home, unloads his work load, and plays with his kid. 

I don’t even think Dad played after work, or at least I don’t remember it. He had his time on the weekends with us kids, though, and like I said, every time I hear The Cranberries, I’m reminded at how fun he once could be, before the glitter in his life left.

Everett and I have been going to lunch here and there, and it’s nice to be able to feed him something off a menu, not having to remember his food and bottles. I don’t even carry a diaper bag anymore, just my purse with a diaper in it. It’s grand.

Chris is in a really good place at his “new” job, too. He has friends there now, and comes home with stories to share and a smile on his face, like he’s a little boy telling his Mother what he did in school that day. It’s so cute and I love it.

I feel like this is the best stage we’ve ever been in since Everett was born. Everything feels known, relaxed and easy. Chris and I have every night together, from 6/6:30 (Everett’s bedtime) until we go to bed. We watch movies and eat snacks and get to be us.

I am so thankful for where we are as a family, but even more thankful for what I know is yet to come. For more babies (whenever that might be), my own lily patch, this summer with Everett and whatever else we decide to dream up together, big or small.

And just as I’m closing this entry, I could’ve sworn I heard my song on a commercial, playing quietly on the unattended T.V. downstairs. I ran down the steps to listen and guess what? It was Dreams.

 

 

 

 

MAY 4, 2017 THIRTEEN months old

Everett is walking now! He hasn’t completely committed to two feet, but he’s been successfully taking steps and strides across the room. I’d say in a month, he’ll be running around the yard, chasing after Clifford.

Everyone keeps saying, “Good luck once he’s walking!” but I’m glad he’s so close. I honestly cannot carry him everywhere anymore. My back is riddled with knots from heaving around my cute twenty seven pound ball of chunk.

We’ve been playing outside on our porch a lot. Chris just painted the wood floor, and we purchased an outdoor table–I even bought a special candle for it that I still have yet to light. Maybe tonight we’ll eat dinner out there, call it a romantic date. We’re having pork and ceasar salad, tossed with Fodder’s dressing recipe. I love making it and thinking of your Dad, the two of you together, wherever you are now.

Now that Everett’s getting older–thirteen months as of two days ago–I’m having more and more fun with him. Every time he learns something new or makes a new face or tries a new sound, it’s exciting. I know and understand why Mothers get upset thinking of their babies growing up, but they’re supposed to evolve forward. For some reason, Everett growing just makes me proud, not sad. If he was my last, I think I’d feel differently, but the plan is that there will be several more children to follow…eventually.

I always used to say I wanted four kids. If someone asked me, I’d say “four,” without question or hesitation. And that was probably because you had four and I wanted to do everything just like you did.

But when Everett was a newborn, I remember complaining on the phone with Aunt Sara, saying I wasn’t cut out to stay at home with babies and kids. I felt like two children would be plenty, which felt frightening because my whole “plan” was being rocked off its center. I questioned who I was supposed to be, if not a Mother with no career outside of her home and beyond her children.

As I sit here a year later, I’m confident I want a lot of kids again. Everett’s “fun” stage is making it easier and easier to look forward to another pregnancy and baby. Grandma has told me before that you never liked the newborn phase–you enjoyed when you were able to talk and play with your kids. I always feel so much relief hearing that, like thank god I’m not the only one. But who knows, maybe the second time around will be different and I’ll adore the months of no sleep and being clueless.

Anyways. Yesterday, Everett and I spent the day out at Nana’s house. She took us to a local greenhouse and we picked out perennials. She bought me a lavender plant and another little one called a “creeping jenny.” I had to have it because of my middle name, and it’s now snuggled in the spring dirt outside my house, ready to creep, I guess.

We then went to Home Goods and shopped for crap we didn’t need, but I enjoyed browsing the store while Everett chilled in the cart, snacking on crackers and making eye contact with everyone who passed–he loves going places, observing and interacting.

When we returned home, Chris was already here and able to watch Everett while I went to yoga. I was so grateful to go–I hadn’t practiced for two weeks. I don’t know how or why I allowed that much time to come between me and my mat, but sometimes, life just happens.

When I walked into the studio, there were lily of the valley flowers on the desk, in a little dixie cup. I’ve been seeing them a lot lately, and of course, they make me think of you–they’re your flower.

Right now is the only time of the year that their little white bells are in bloom and they seem to be abundantly everywhere: a patch of them grow below a stop sign in my neighborhood; I found a wild bunch the other day on a walk, picking just one flower and taking it home with me; Nana gave me one from her garden with the roots still attached, in hopes that it will grow successfully in my yard; I passed a lady on the street today carrying some in a tiny bouquet.

I know they’re just a flower, but on my drive to yoga last night, I asked you if you’d be there in class with me…I asked for some kind of connection, some kind of awareness of your presence. Because sometimes, during the end in final relaxation, when we lay on our backs and both my mind and body are still, I feel you. I swear to god sometimes I even hear you, like this flowing voice coming through me, without hesitation or pause and you completely fill me up.

When I saw those lilies on the desk, I immediately “heard” you say, Now how much more obvious do I have to be? 

Someone reading this will think it’s all my mind tricking me into thinking I can feel you or that you’re “with” me, but it’s not. I’m not gullible. I’m not naive. I’m not entirely faithless. I know it was you.

I ration it this way: If my body could conceive and grow and birth a human, why is it so hard to believe that on some level, I can connect with your energy?

Before becoming a Mother, I had limits as to what I believed to be possible. If I thought I felt you in yoga after seventy five minutes of moving meditation, I would dismiss it and think, that’s just my brain trying desperately to believe you were real for a moment.

But my child is the perfect proof I’ve always needed to have a little more faith in the unknown–to have a little more trust in what I feel, rather than in what I read in books, in what other people tell me, or in what I’ve always been taught.

I look at Everett and still cannot comprehend that he was once never here. I cannot understand how he started as a little wiggly tadpole in my stomach, who grew to full baby size and then came out and literally through me, into this world. I have no words for it, but he’s simply my evidence of an unexplained miracle. Sure there’s science behind conception and birth but come on, really–how does that all happen and evolve and come to be?

So I know you and I can reach each other. And it’s usually only in yoga, only after Dominique’s class. She was my original teacher, the one I learned the bulk of my practice from. And I just called her on the phone now–she’s the one who put those lilies on the studio’s desk, picked fresh from her front yard.

I wrote the following entry in my journal a few months ago, but was “afraid” to share it with you because I thought I sounded crazy. But I’m not afraid anymore, and I don’t think I was crazy.

March 13, 2017

I went to Dominique’s class last night. At the end, I laid on my back with my arms draped up and over my head, physically exhausted. My eyes were closed, my mind was off, my entire body was limp and there wasn’t an ounce of energy left inside of me.

I was all love and nothing negative or sad could puncture the balloon of bliss I was in. It was incredible. And I started remembering myself as a little girl, sitting on the coffee table at the old house while watching The Lion King. Mom was sweeping the white carpet, the extra cord wrapped around her forearm. 

In the movie, Simba had just found his Dad after the stampede, and as I lifted my legs for Mom to run the sweeper under, I looked up at her, trying to imagine what would ever happen to me if she died, like Simba’s Dad had. Somehow in that one small moment as a six year old child, I knew I’d lose her one day. I just knew, and didn’t question it.

And I felt all this all over again in real time, as I laid there in that yoga room. I was feeling that knowing, but this time it felt good–it felt understood. Everything came full circle.

I found a new kind of peace, full of a welcoming acceptance towards Mom’s death. It no longer felt like me or Dad or the kids were cheated by her loss. It no longer felt like she was cheated. It just felt like she was all through me, without an ounce of separation, and I realized that “losing” Mom was just a part of our lives being intertwined together. I still chose her to be my Mother, even though she’d have to “leave” me someday. And I’d still choose her over and over again.

Somehow, on some level, I’ve always known Mom would physically leave and I know this because of the way I felt in that class. 

May this entry be my reminder the next time I ever doubt why she left or where she is.

I know I sound strange. And I can’t put everything into perfectly explained words for it all to make sense, but whatever happened to me in that yoga class was incredible. I know in my heart that it was real. If I’m crazy, so be it–at least I feel closer to you than ever in my life…at least I feel like I finally somewhat understand your death.

I’m sure there are some people who read my words and think I haven’t healed or moved on since you died. Because even after all this time, I still talk about your death so much and about missing you, and wondering where you are. Maybe a few people even worry if I’m doing “okay.” And I get it, I understand their possible concern.

But since Everett came into my life, I’ve managed to miss you and need you in an entire different capacity, for entire different reasons than before becoming a Mother. What kind of daughter would I be if I just accepted your death one way and one way only, never to think or ponder or question or strive to find more answers that continually bring peace to my heart? I may never stop all the wondering, all the searching for you. But I don’t care, because I’ve learned so much along the way, not only about you, but myself.

Losing you has shaped me into a relatively spiritual being. Losing you has proven my faith in the unknown. Losing you has given me some sort of magic to hold on to–a constant awareness of your boundless presence.

Yoga has helped me find you again in some way, but it’s only in those moments of calm and surrendering and letting everything just be that you come through to me. So I’d like to get myself in that state as much as possible–it’s where amazing things happen. And since I know I can’t make it to the studio every night, maybe starting a little meditation practice of my own, along with a new morning affirmation prayer, is a start.

It will be hard to hold myself accountable, but I think I deserve ten or fifteen minutes at some point in the day, to sit, breathe, create intentions and be thankful for all the beauty in my life. And maybe…just maybe, feel you there with me, too.

 

April 27, 2017

Sometimes I can’t believe I haven’t seen you for over eight years. EIGHT years, Mom.

What would you think of me now? I’m different…obviously. Even just from my physical appearance. I’m more relaxed since you last saw me–in the way my hair looks, how I dress, how I act and talk.

What would you think of the way I Mother my son? Would you correct me when I did something a certain way that wasn’t “yours?” Would you love and adore being a grandmother?

Do you approve of my husband? You never met him. That, almost above all else, breaks my heart the most, you know. Chris would have loved you. You would’ve loved Chris.

He would have thought your dumb jokes and the way you teased and laughed were hysterical. He would’ve compared the two of us–the things we say, our facial expressions, saying to me, you and your mom are so alike. 

Honestly though–can I tell you something? Eight years is a long time–yes, but in the one year since I’ve become a Mother, I have never felt more close to you as ever in my life; even from when you were still alive.

I think of you constantly. And it’s not usually in a sad way–it’s in the my mother is here, kind of way. I swear you are with my always. It’s not like you’re my angel staring down on me from heaven, either–because what I feel is much more than that; it’s that you’re here. 

I don’t know what better word to use, but here.

When I think of your face and your hair and your lipsticks and the way you smelled after you applied suntan lotion–my heart aches. It makes me mourn to see you in person.

Your physicality is what’s completely gone, and it always will be. That’s a hard pill to swallow; never again will I see that face I knew and loved so well.

But what’s not gone is your soul…your spirit…your energy…your life-force–whatever anyone wants to call it. I prefer energy for some reason. It’s all the same thing, though. Energy is what we were before we came into our bodies, and it’s what we are when we leave them. It’s what you are now.

And your energy, Mom, can be everywhere–all at once. You can be with all your kids. You can be with all your family. You can be intertwined and weaved through everything, existing in nothing but love.

So that’s where I find you: in the love I have in my life right now. I find you in the love and appreciation I have for my husband. I find you in the bond between Everett and I. I find you when I see my siblings. I find you when Dad and I say something kind to each other.

I find your energy–your spirit–in all the positive things in my life.

Because in your current form, you don’t know negativity. You don’t know the absence of love. You don’t know disease. You don’t know hatred. You don’t know not believing in the magic of our world, because you are experiencing its wonders, all the time.

That’s what I believe.

And I also believe that you would like who I’ve become. You would think I was a good Mother. You would think I married a solid man. And of course you’d love being a grandmother–who would I be kidding to ever doubt that, just because I can’t see you hold Everett? You were the queen of babies and children.

You know me much more now than you ever did or ever would’ve, had you never “left.”

This is a truth I feel in my heart, as pure as anything.

Before I go–

Tatum just called me about our plans–her and Cole have been coming over on Thursday nights, and I absolutely love it. But she had one “request”–that if we sit around and talk, we do it outside because her legs are really pale and they need some sun.

I cracked up because she’s actually being serious, and because she’s so still your daughter. Your presence obviously remains in Tatum, even though she only knew you for four years.

See? Eight years, four years, a hundred years–you are with us, always.

 

April 19, 2017

A close family friend of the Pearlman’s lost her mother last week–she lived to be ninety years old. What a celebration of life, and she didn’t suffer when she left this world.

I was looking at her obituary online, and on an impulse, searched for yours.

NORRIS JENIFER ANN (SOPHER)
Age 39 of Murrysville died peacefully at her home surrounded by her loving family on Thursday, August 14, 2008 after a courageous battle with cancer. She was born April 10, 1969 in Pittsburgh a daughter of Cynthia (Jenny) Sopher of North Hills and the late Joseph Sopher. Jenifer is survived by her beloved husband of 17 years Jason Norris, four children Hayley, Allison, Cole and Tatum Norris; devoted sister Jessica Davis and her husband Todd of Lancaster County, VA, grandfather Joseph Sopher of Pittsburgh, aunts and uncles Jim Sopher and his wife Marcia, Terry Sopher and his wife Kathy, Bill Jenny and his wife Joanne, Sue Channer and her husband Brian, Ryan Norris and his wife Katie, Sara Kamerer and her husband Jared and Adam Norris; father and mother in-law Wayne and Jackie Norris, Grandmother in-law Algie Norris. Also survived by several nieces, nephews and cousins. Preceded in death by maternal grandparents Carl and Dorothy Jenny, paternal grandmother Virginia Sopher and grandfather in-law J.M. “Buster” Norris. Friends will be received Sunday from 2-9 p.m. at the WOLFE-von GEIS FUNERAL HOME, INC where services will be held Monday at 10:00 a.m. 

How. How?

I’ve had a heavy bugging feeling lately, as if there’s a brick just sitting in the pit of my stomach, weighing everything down. This usually happens around my menstrual cycle–I know I’ve told you all about my hormone shifts before, but they just feel so real. 

I never used to get this “bugging” feeling before you died. I never really knew what that weighted feeling in my gut felt like, until that August 14th night.

I’ll always remember laying with you, in your bed with Allison right beside me and Dad kneeling beside you. Your eyes were closed and your breathing was slowing with every breath; you tried so hard, for so long to just keep breathing until finally, your body stopped and you were no longer in it.

We sobbed. Papap looked like he had just witnessed the biggest tragedy of his life. I’ve never seen him emotional, and the way his face looked is imprinted in my mind, still.

I don’t remember what Dad did. I don’t remember what me or Allison did. I don’t remember who else was in your bedroom when it happened. I don’t remember leaving your side, but know at one point, I did.

The next thing I remember is being downstairs in the family room, talking with Grandma and Allison. There were paramedics walking through the kitchen and up the stairs with a stretcher. I said aloud, I feel like all of my insides have been scooped out. And to some degree, I swear to god that feeling has never left.

Most days I forget it’s there. Most days I feel used to that one tiny thing in the back of my mind that always feels like it’s just missing. And when I say your name or tell a story about you out loud, it disappears for a few seconds.

But on days like these, it’s the only thing I can think about; the weight is so heavy, and it anchors me down in the feeling of your absolute absence. It feels so shitty.

Grief is a terrible thing.

It comes, it goes. It hides, it seeks. It goes up, it goes down. It leaves, it returns. It weakens, it strengthens. It destroys, it teaches.

Once you’ve gone down to the depths of it, you’re forever changed. And you must overcome it, in your own way and in your own time, or else it will destroy–not teach.

I know that I have “overcome” your death. What I don’t know is, will the random days of random crying, (like in the middle of brushing my teeth) because I miss you ever leave?

Because that’s what happened this morning. I was in front of the bathroom sink and mirror, scrubbing away at my teeth, and when I leaned over to spit out toothpaste, I thought of you and lost control. I just started to cry and kept crying, hunched over and helpless.

I put Everett down for his nap, and came to sit on my computer, where I found your obituary and then everything spiraled, bringing me here to write to you.

I know that it’s healthy to feel this way sometimes. This isn’t like in the years before, when I would get stuck in this feeling. I know that today will pass, and I’ll be fine tomorrow or even this afternoon when Everett and I go out and do our errands.

I’m just extra sensitive right now. And my body remembers what it feels like to grieve you–it will never forget. So when I’m weak or on an extra rainy day, the grief creeps inward, into that one spot in my gut, reminding me of what I went through, what I overcame, and where I am now.

 

 

APRIL 15, 2017

The other day Everett and I were playing in his little room before bedtime; it’s his favorite place in the house, complete with toys and a window he loves to look out of. He’ll stand on his highest tippy toes, saying “whassat?” (what’s that), when he gets tall enough to see the blooming trees outside.

There was this small moment–it only lasted a few seconds–when Everett and I looked at one another, and I couldn’t believe how old he was. It all of a sudden hit me.

I thought of the six month old baby I’d put in the stroller every day in the summer for walks, dressing him in a simple three button onesie. I thought about the mother I was then, still so marveled in the newness of motherhood. I’d push his stroller with a pride I had never felt before, feeling so accomplished to finally have my baby.

And as he continued to play, I started to cry.

I cried because he’s not that baby anymore. I cried because I’m not that mother anymore.

The butterflies feel like they’ve fluttered away. Is this normal, Mom? Or am I just a cold person now?  Should I still feel giddy to be pushing a stroller or to have Everett in the grocery cart?

I don’t know.

I feel used to being a Mom now. And I don’t mean that I take it for granted. I don’t mean that I don’t love Everett any less. I don’t mean that I’m not happy being a mother. The thrills aren’t completely gone–I still light up when strangers comment on his curly hair or sweet disposition. I still get giddy when he tries to share his cracker with me (it’s SO cute). But something just feels different.

What I mean is that I’m comfortable now–I’m used to loving Everett.

And this sudden shift in my thinking has happened recently, I guess since he turned one years old.

When Chris and I first started dating, there was all that magic and newness and learning about one another. And then our relationship hit the stage where you could fart in the same bed or sit in silence in the car without any awkwardness. Even though some of the beginning sparks were gone, we had established something much more real and concrete.

When Everett was first born, I was so absolutely overwhelmed with love. It was exhilarating to love in such a way, and I can compare it to when Chris and I were in that “honeymoon” stage while dating.

But Everett’s love is different from what I share with my husband. I can’t really explain how, but I know that you and every other mother out there understands the difference.

I choose to love Chris. I choose to love him after our little arguments, I choose to love him when he makes me frustrated or continually leaves cups all over the house, with an inch of milk left in them. And by choosing him over and over, I am constantly reaffirming my commitment to him–the commitment I made at our wedding, under your willow tree and in front of our families.

I don’t choose to love Everett. My love just is, and it feels like the most natural thing in the entire universe.

But with the thrill and newness of my first baby’s first year over, am I normal to feel comfortable and established in the way that I love him? Should there always be those butterflies or is it okay for the routine of our every days to blend it all together? Will I feel all those same beginning delights with the next pregnancy?

Again, I don’t know. These are things I wish I could ask you.

I’ll leave you with this, a quote I saw and saved when Everett was just a newborn.

I say to you my child, I will explain as much of life as I can, but you must remember that there is a part of life for which you are the explanation.”

Everett is still the answer for multiple parts of my life, if not just about everything. So I know that even though my love is shifting and changing and rearranging into a more realistic and steady phase, how I feel for my baby has not diminished, and it never will.

 

 

 

APRIL 11, 2017

Yesterday, you would’ve been forty eight years old.

I was driving into my driveway, coming home from Trader Joe’s, when I thought of you–how you’d look today, how you’d act, and what our family would do to celebrate your special birthday. My eyes welled up with tears, but before I could really sink into that feeling of missing you, my car was parked, and it was time to unload the groceries.

So instead of going to a birthday dinner or some kind of gathering, to remember you, Chris, Everett and I went to the cemetery. We sat on the grass, right above your plot, and watched the ducks in the pond straight out ahead. Everett snacked on his dinner; it was kind of like a weird picnic. But it was so beautiful outside. The temperature was in the low 70’s, and the grass and sky were vibrant in their colors.

It is the one place in this world where I can just sit and…forget about it all.

I couldn’t believe how close Everett felt to you. I know it’s just your body down under that spot of earth, but still. When I saw him sway his feet in the grass, feeling the texture of it on his toes, I thought of my favorite book, Leaves of Grass and the part where Whitman writes:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again, look for me under your boot soles.

I read that book in college and kept it on my nightstand for years. Those lines always spoke to me: you are now a part of that grass–you are now a part of everything, all knowing and everywhere at once.

But on a day like yesterday, I could’ve used you in one place at one time, and that would be here with your family.

After the three of us sat for awhile, we went to feed the swans under the gazebo. Oddly enough, you and Nana used to take me there when I was a little girl. I can honestly remember throwing white Wonder bread into the water and watching the swans swim in circles, fighting to get a piece.

How beautifully and utterly unaware that small girl must’ve been, of what that place would represent in her adult years.

The one swan kept trying to bite Chris’ feet and we had a good laugh. I know he was trying to lighten the mood for me, and I appreciated his efforts–repeatedly sticking his tennis shoes out so the swan would snap at it, saying, “Look Pum!”

Everett hasn’t been feeling too good, so once he had enough, we left.

As I opened the car door, I looked back down the hill at your spot by the willow tree and pond and said I love you Mom. I hope you heard me.

 

 

 

 

APRIL 2, 2017 ONE years old

Well, my baby turned one years old.

Chris and I woke up at 7:30 (Everett slept in!) and the sun was sneaking into our room through the curtains–everything looked so beautiful in the morning light. I stretched out under the covers, looked at my husband and said, “Hug me,” in my cutest voice. It’s the one Chris loves. And we cuddled for a few moments, until he said, “It’s snuggy boo’s birthday! Come on!”

We went into Everett’s room, the video camera in Chris’s hand, and switched on the lights, saying happy birthday baby boy! in somewhat of a unison. Everett had a confused look on his face, but once his eyes adjusted to the light, he stood up holding his blanket, smiling ear to ear–his Mama and Dada were there to see him, and he couldn’t have been happier.

After breakfast, we opened his presents from last night’s party. I don’t know if I told you anything about what we were doing for it, but Rich and Judy had the family over their house, catered by a local gyro place we like to frequent.

The food was excellent, the company was comfortable and Everett was the center of all the love and attention he could stand.

How wonderful it is to know your child is so loved, by so many people.

He got a tee pee from Dad and Terri. Grandma and Papap and Uncle Jared and Aunt Sara got him a zoo pass for the year. Saus and Wes got him a play lawn mower that blows bubbles–he can cut the grass this summer with Chris (how cute).

From Chris’ side of the family he got some cool new toys and a few outfits. Nana and Aunt Jessica provided him a mini shopping spree at Old Navy a few weeks ago, too–so the little dude is set!

He has been taking steps. The most he’s done is four. You would think he was walking on water for how proud he gets–it is the cutest thing ever, watching him try and then succeed, looking up at me like, Mama did you see that!? 

I melt. The first time he tried to walk to me, I balled. I couldn’t help it. I was so proud.

I let him play in his room now, alone–well, with Clifford, too. The dog just sits there and watches Everett, wishing he could eat all those fun stuffed animals and cardboard baby books. I can’t even tell you how many toys have been lost to the dog.

But when I shower, if I peek outside the curtain, I can see right into his room while he’s playing. I put a gate on the door to close off his little play space, and do my thing from twenty feet away. It’s fantastic. I mean, it doesn’t last too long, but just enough time to allow me that enjoyment in the mornings. When I get that “alone” time, I think this will be impossible when a second baby comes along, making me certain I’m not ready yet for another one.

Speaking of–I had a dream last night that Chris and I were at this huge outdoor party. I don’t know what people were doing there, but we were outside this big house, on the grass, with lots and lots of people. Like an outdoor concert or something. And somehow I ended up holding this little boy, about two years old.

Apparently no one wanted him and I said I would adopt him?

Hours later in this dream (which was realistically really just two seconds) I was calling for you, saying, “Mom…Mom…Mom..has anyone seen my mother?” Like the little bird in that book I read to Everett, who leaves his nest too early.

And I could feel that bit of frantic panic, not knowing where you were. You were still alive in the dream, but the party was just too big, and I couldn’t find you.

I wanted to tell you that I wasn’t ready to take this little boy–that I still wanted it to be just Everett and I. But I felt guilty not taking him because no one would.

A hippy couple somehow came along and said they’d love to take the boy, and I felt relief–both in the dream and for real as I slept. Like, thank god—not yet, not yet. 

That dream is weird for two reasons.

One: the whole thing about not wanting another kid just yet and the guilt I felt. I know that dream was telling me something, almost confirming that my “plan” to wait for the second baby is a good one–that I’m not doing anything wrong because I’m not ready. Sometimes I feel that way, and I don’t know why.

Two: not being able to find you was troubling. The lost panic in my body felt so terrible and so desperate. I was scared.

And sometimes I still feel scared about where you are. Sometimes I want to ask people, hey, do you know where Jenifer Norris went? She was that beautiful blonde with four kids–yea, that one–the one who died of breast cancer at age thirty-nine. 

But I know that no one knows. Everyone has theories, everyone has beliefs. No one truly knows. And that is frustrating as shit. Sorry for the language, but it is.

There are days when I feel where you are. And I believe in these beautiful books and words I read, feeling connected and peaceful about your constant presence.

There are days when I think all of it is a bunch of nonsense, and that you really are just gone, unable to help me, unable to know Everett, unable to reach me and the rest of your kids.

There are more days that I know you’re with me, though, versus the ones that I feel sad and lonely and utterly helpless without you. And that’s a good thing.

I really missed you at Everett’s party.

That’s when I remember you your happiest–during the holidays, family get togethers, and for birthday parties. When our family was all under one roof, you glowed.

I feel that same family happiness now, too. Chris always teases me before a family event like, “Pum are you so excited!” in his high pitched cheesy voice. He knows I get the jitters when I’m going to Nana’s for a party or over to Grandma’s for a day visit.

I just love my family beyond anything else in this world. And when I looked around yesterday at the party, I saw Everett…I saw my family, and thought, I am finally contributing to these family birthdays now–we are all in the same room because of MY baby. That felt good and wholesome and filling to realize.

It made me feel proud.

Everyone keeps asking me, “Can you believe you have a one year old?” and I say, yes…I can. I don’t mean it in a negative way–a year just does feel like it’s passed. So much has happened, so much has been accomplished, so much has been learned, so much has been proven and changed.

I’m satisfied and proud of what the past twelve months have brought me and my family. I look at Everett when he does something new and can’t believe I’ve raised a human whose learning to walk. I’ve kept that little boy fed and clean and loved and safe and everything else for an entire year. As dumb as it sounds, I’m proud of Chris and I too, for getting this far with so much success. I think we are great parents and we make an even better team together.

You were such a proud Mom, too.

I keep this note in a little keepsake box in my nightstand:

Hayley,

I know you think it’s silly for me to

congratulate you for making cheer squad

since we all knew they’d be crazy not to

take you. However, I am so proud of how

amazing you are at cheerleading. What a

great feeling for a mother to not have to

worry about her daughter because she is

so good at everything she tries.

I couldn’t be prouder of you for all you are

and all I know you will become.

The proudest mom ever,

Mom xoxo

You always made me feel like I could do anything. You made me learn how to be independent. You made me feel capable and strong and want to aspire to be just how you were.

You were an amazing mother, Mom. I honestly don’t know if I ever told you that. If you were here now, I’d sit down and thank you for everything.

I’d thank you for being so fierce and fun and funny–so honest and comfortable in your skin. I’d thank you for believing in me and never letting me go easy. I’d thank you for all the times you made me feel special, whether it was because I made cheer squad or you said my hair looked pretty. I’d thank you for taking care of me when I was a baby, for giving me a happy childhood, for setting boundaries when I was a teenager, and for teaching me how to be a woman, wife and mother.

Do you really know how much I love you?