May 31, 2015

Joe Biden and Grief

The year after we lost Cale I started to connect with a lot of other loss moms, mostly through blogs. It was (and still is) a really great outlet for me to not only express my grief, but to be able to share it with others and in turn, share in their grief. It's like the saying "misery loves company," but really I think that any intense emotion loves (and needs) company. Because just being able to identify in another the feelings you are experiencing can be really helpful and dare I say even healing, or at the very least reassuring.

When I read the news of Joe Biden's son this morning I got that achy feeling in my chest for him. Because on top of the devastation of losing his son (who has two children of his own), he had already lost his wife and daughter over forty years ago. Another example where enough is enough! How some people can escape life tragedy free and others seem to be hit repeatedly is maddening and mind boggling to me.

When I first started connecting with others, I read a post from my friend Brooke in which she talks about how stillbirth needs to be more talked about and not a shameful secret. She writes:

There has to be a way to let people know that a stillborn baby will break your heart, but it doesn't have to wreck your entire life.

Because that is what people need to know--it's what I still need to be told.

I've said a million times that there is no upside to the loss of a baby, there is no silver lining, there is nothing that will ever make this remotely okay.  But there should be a way to say that this is an event that you can survive.  That this great loss can hollow out your guts and also enrich your life in unexpected ways.  That great sorrow can make room for great joy.  That you will survive this.  That it will change you forever, but not all of those changes will be bad.  That even five months later you will still hurt more than you ever have in your life, but you will also find hope again.  This sort of information should be out there.

And I think that while horrible that Joe Biden and his family have endured another loss, maybe his story will help shed some more light on grief and tragedy and things that we often don't talk about, at least not as frequently as we should. Because take out "stillborn baby" and insert whatever heartache you're enduring and Brooke's words still ring true. Car accidents can break your heart, but don't have to wreck your entire life. Cancer and war and sibling death and violent attacks and on and on and on, all these things can undeniably be horrific events in ones life, but as Brooke said, great sorrow can make room for great joy. Joe Biden himself said that himself, that grief doesn't go away. It just makes room for other things.

We are approaching five years without our boy. Five years in which my grief has changed and moved and made room for other things, but never completely subsided, nor would I want it to. We grieve big because we love big. I suspect the Biden family will need to grieve big for a long time and I hope it's a reminder to the public that doing so is not only ok and healthy and normal, but also a reminder to those also grieving that they are not alone. And if we can all empathize with the Vice President and his family, hopefully we can do that a little more with the people in our every day life as well.

May 27, 2015

260 Miles Later

Over the weekend I completed the Run Across Georgia (RAG) with my team of Stroller Strong Moms. I blogged about this before, and then got really annoying on social media as I solicited donations from family and friends to help raise funds for the House of Heroes, a non profit that does repair work on the homes of elderly and disabled Veterans (fundraising is still open if you're still itching to donate). So I won't go into detail about the background of the race, but rather talk about the experience.

I was all about the thumbs up in these post run pictures.
This was after my final run, so worthy of the double thumbs up apparently.
We started from Fort Stewart, Georgia (right next to Savannah) and our first runner took off at 6am on Saturday morning. From then on we ran through the day, night, and next day, until we finished at 5:36pm Sunday.

Our team captain put a D and an H on the back of our legs for Daren.
We also ran with ribbons on our shirt that had his initials
First Hand-off
Our relay team consisted of eight other women, three who have done RAG before. We each had six legs of the relay with varying mileage on each leg (my longest run was 6.7 miles and my shortest was 3.1). The day runs were hot, but not nearly as bad as it could have been (and has been in years past), and the night runs weren't too bad either thanks to our awesome pit crew who stayed close by. We ran through what felt like the middle of nowhere, along highways, and through quaint little towns.

In one town filled with American flags, they grilled and had free food for all the runners and the local fire department with their one truck sprayed water on inbound runners. It was so very old timey America and absolutely adorable. People would give money and checks along the way to help our cause and the other teams were encouraging and friendly and made the whole thing a really positive experience.

My legs held up far better than I anticpated and only my feet are a little tender and tired two days later. I had a couple blisters along the way, but no show stoppers. There were times when it was hard, and there were hills that felt like they went on forever, but literally running for a cause was so motivating. Not to mention the amount of support I recieved - I have never done a race where I felt so supported and encouraged by friends and family.

Speaking of support - my initial fundraising goal for the House of Heroes was $4,000. Due to a generous builder in Columbus, GA who donated $2,000, I raised my goal to $5,000. As of this point with online donations and checks, I am at $6,673. Just totally insane. I cannot (except that I can) believe how generous and awesome people are and cannot thank you enough if you were part of that effort to raise this money for such a worthwhile cause.

Starting my last run
Miles says I look like the unibomber with my sunglasses/hat combo.
This is the second year that the Stroller Strong Moms took first place in the female category, but the first we we also took first place in the civilian category. The trek itself was memorable and awesome, but winning was definitely icing on the cake.

Alexa, the owner of Stroller Strong Moms

Miles stayed in Savannah with the kids and I came home to a gift certificate for a massage and a house that was cleaned from top to bottom. It was so sweet and wonderful and totally annoying. Because how in the hell did he have time to do that while watching the kids? It's a miracle if I can get the dishes cleaned in a given day. But none-the-less it was a great surprise to come home to after such a memorable and special weekend.

I also received these flowers yesterday from a friend whose husband was medically retired from the Army due to a traumatic brain injury. Her note read, "thank you for running for those who cannot" and brought tears to my eyes and reminded me that those 260 miles were worth every single step.

To be honest, I'm kinda sad that it's done. I may still just be on the runner's high from it all, but it's something I would absolutely do again and could only hope to be surrounded with a group as supportive and inspiring as this group was.

Why didn't I take my sunglasses off?!

May 19, 2015

Butt Wiping and Other Milestones

*For a little over a week, Finn has been wiping his own butt and more importantly, doing a pretty good job at it! Hallelujah!

*Mary took a few steps the day before Mother's Day. Then this past weekend she took several more. More yesterday, more today, and so on. She's not preferring walking as her mode of transportation yet, but she's getting there. She had an OT assessment last week since she is a little slow to the walking game, but she scored in the normal range of all areas assessed and didn't qualify for services. It's always nice to be reassured there are no red flags.

*Mary turned 17 months old this past weekend. She still nurses about 2-3 times a day and while I'm so glad we have made it to this point, we are taking it day by day. I don't think I have much milk left, and when I do the Run Across Georgia this weekend I will be away from her for two days. My body doesn't respond to the pump anymore, so I'm afraid two days off may close up shop. We'll see.

*Speaking of the Run Across Georgia, I met my original fundraising goal (largely thanks to a builder in Columbus, GA who wanted to sponsor us and dropped 2k in my fundraising account!) but also because of my amazingly generous friends and family. I upped my goal to $5,000 and am ALMOST there! If you're reading this and have donated, thank you so, so much! And if you'd still like to donate, you can here. The run is this weekend.

*I can tell that the run is close because I had a toenail fall off last night. I have three nails that took a beating from a half marathon I did in March, then the training for RAG hasn't helped matters any. At any rate, it will be a loooong time before I get another pedicure. Losing a toenail isn't really a milestone, but whatever.

*Speaking of losing things, Finn was talking about Mary getting a tooth and I told him how he would start to lose his teeth in a few years. He paused, then said, "that doesn't sound good."

*Finn's fourth birthday is in a few weeks (what the what?!) and I think we are going to have a little beach get together. I may make it a "beach construction" theme, as he is requesting a digger on his birthday cake yet again. The other day he said he wanted a digger with tracks (last year the digger had wheels - my bad). Though there probably won't be much theme related stuff other than a cake (or cupcakes) and a bunch of construction toys for digging in the sand.

*Cale's fifth birthday is at the end of June (even harder to believe than it is Finn turning four) and I don't know what I want to do that day. Five seems so big. It is so big. I know we will continue the tradition we started last year of a family picnic somewhere and of course some birthday treat, but it doesn't seem like enough for five.

*Mary has a speech therapy assessment next week (the program evaluating her for any potential delays does assessments in all areas) and while I wish her language included more frequent "Mama" and "Dada" usage, she is starting to say "bra-bur" (brother) which is pretty much the cutest thing ever.


May 11, 2015

Reflections on Mother's Day

I gave very little thought to Mother's Day this year. Such little thought that my card for my own mother has yet to be mailed. Honestly I prefer for it to mostly be just a normal day. Well, that's a lie - I mean, I'm more than willing to take advantage of Mile's offer for me to partake in some solo shopping, and am more than fine relinquishing all diaper changing for the day, but for the most part I don't like to make a big deal of the day. Everything I wrote last year still holds true. Every day I think of Cale. But that ache is a little more acute on Mother's Day, the emotions a little closer to the surface.

I still had a lovely day with my family - we went to church and then indulged in a breakfast and a half at our favorite breakfast joint (I ordered huevos avocados and we split the banana pecan french toast) and then I ditched the family for a trip to the outlets and grocery shopping (because going without kids actually is a treat).

One thing that stood out to me this year was the tenderness in which people seemed to handle the day. I think there is more of a socially acceptable acknowledgement of what Mother's Day means to different people. I'm glad the day is handled with such empathy, via social media or news outlets, and I hope it makes people feel a little less alone. I hope it makes people feel a little less afraid to share the grief that can be associated with Mother's Day. As Glennon Melton with Momastery said:

 You can’t fix a friend's grief, but that’s okay because grief isn’t supposed to be fixed. It’s not something we need to grab from each other. Grief is holy. Your friend doesn’t want it taken away from her. Sometimes a mama’s boundless grief is the only proof she has that she loved boundlessly. Great grief is the price of great love. So forget about making it better. Just call, or email and say: I am thinking of you. And of your baby. And I love you. And I’m so sorry. You are not alone.
That’s all, That’s all we can do. We don’t have to make it better. We just have to remember.

It's good advice to remember on Mother's Day, but great advice to remember always and I'm so grateful to those who remembered with me this year and hope that the day was as gentle as possible for those with some aching in their hearts.

May 5, 2015

Cinco de Mary-o

My sister got Mary this cute little dress and I'm so glad I was still able to (just barely) get it over her noggin so I could subject her to these pictures. Man, did she make me work for them though. Also, she was standing like a boss!

shake, shake, shake
Ok, so don't shake this thing that rattles and is designed to be shaken? Right. . .
Oh look, Roscoe is here. I'll smile at him, not at you.
Yeah, seriously I wasn't kidding - are you still taking pictures?
Ok ok, I'll give you one goofy smile.
You thinking changing things up will get me to smile more?
Well ok, but only if I can blow you a kiss.
When's dinner?
Over it, Ma. Give it a rest.