Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Margaret's Excellent Adventure-- LA Style, Part 2

Thanks to YOU, and these very sweet people-- Coke and Dick Clark Productions execs-- We were able to go from this:


And my personal fave: But we still had ANOTHER night of adventure ahead of us-- The AMA's themselves!

The afternoon of the show was pouring rain, with flood warnings even, because apparently we like to bring the gray cloud of doom with us wherever we go. The pictures you are about to see were taken in our hotel hallway, before we got soaked to the undies walking to the Nokia Theater sans umbrellas.

Margaret had an adorable navy dress bought for her by her friend K's mom. I wore the black dress I wore to my friend Cynthia's wedding 5 years ago, and Tim wore a snazzy borrowed suit with a new tie.

Despite the rain and cold, we rallied for our stint of celebrity-watching on the red carpet (Joe Jonas! Other people! Those little girls from Ellen who like to rap Nicki Minaj tunes! Lots of skintight, butt-skimming dresses!) and we had a fabulous time.

We had great seats at the concert, even though you couldn't see us on tv. Margaret and I waved pink glowsticks, singing along to the songs we knew. We watched with amusement and alarm as Jennifer Lopez shed more and more clothing. "Naked except for strategically placed bedazzles" is how Margaret and I described it later. Tim and I subtly wept during "Good Life." By the time the Hoff started shaking it in smiley face boxers, we were truly having a blast and were sorry to see it end.

The entire trip was a wonderful respite during a time of intense sadness. We laughed, told stories, and ordered room service sandwiches. We snuggled in beds made by someone else, watching "UP" on our tv while the rest of LA partied. We marveled at how uncrowded LA seemed compared to Northern Virginia. We saw an amazing awards show, got to gawk at some really c-razy outfits, and were able to gratefully accept the kindness shown us by so many people.

And the final kindness? This photo taken by Erin, who has been pulling for Margaret since day one, even having set up the JBLiftMargaret FB page.

The day of the AMA's Erin flew into LAX with her family for Thanksgiving break. She took this picture while driving down the highway toward the city. While Tim, Margaret, and I were people-watching, shivering, and heading into the show, look what was going on right over our heads:

Monday, November 28, 2011

In the Woods

So Tim asked me to go on a walk this morning. I was thinking we'd go on the bike path or out in a neighborhood. Instead, he took me to some parkland in our town consisting of deep woods and a creek. We got further and further into the woods, so far that I figured he either wanted to make out with me or murder me and hide the evidence. Turns out he wanted to walk and talk.

As you may know, the past few days have been rough. Thanksgiving? Oh my goodness. That's really all I can say about that.

The bottom line is that while I KNOW Jack is in a better place, and I believe he wants me to share the TRUTH with you, that life does not end when the body does, I want him alive and well and eating tacos in THIS place. MY place. Right now.

One of the things that has sustained us over these weeks as we drive through our town are the royal blue ribbons on trees, schools, mailboxes, cars, and fence posts telling us that our community cares and has not forgotten Jack. The blue ribbons feel like a hug to me each time I see them.

As we walked deeper into the dense woods today I thought, "I hate this so much! What a freakin' waste! Everyone is going to go on with life and forget about Jack. I wish there was a blue ribbon out here." Less than 2 minutes later, I saw this: a deflated royal blue balloon and a ribbon dangling from a tree, right in front of our faces.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Thank you, God. I needed that sign. That love. That hug. Maybe you, sweet friend, need it too. Because this is all so hard.

Harder still because as we twisted and turned this way and that in the woods, we ended up having to cross over the stupid creek no fewer than 4 times. The creek that somehow connects with our shitty neighborhood creek. I was just not ready for that yet.

In a Mars/Venus situation that would seem comical if there were anything funny about seeing a 42 year old woman sobbing through the brambles and underbrush, the very setting that Tim hoped would be peaceful for us was torture for me. Torture. Each twist and bend in the deep, dry creek bed brought horrible images to my mind. I couldn't quit sobbing.

When we had almost stumbled back to civilization, we found the swing Jack and Margaret used to play on when we would take them geocaching down there. The swing, the spooky tunnel with dirty words written inside, and finally, the bike path were all within reach.

I tell you about the ribbon in the middle of the woods to encourage you, just as you have encouraged me by sharing the signs you have seen. The dreams, visions, songs on the radio-- the rainbows and incredible sunsets on numerous Thursday nights at the exact time of the accident.

And we won't feel greedy asking for more signs, more assurance, more comfort will we? No. Because we are sad. And we are slow learners. And God is patient. And so is Jack.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's Gonna Be A Good Life?

Many of you watching the AMA’s with us probably gasped when The Band Perry played, “If I Die Young.” Ouch. That was a hard one, but much harder still for me was “Good Life” by One Republic. All I could think when they sang, “It’s gonna be a good life…” was, "Really? I thought so too, but now I’m not so sure.”

I saw two of my dearest friends the day after the trip. Because they were in town visiting their parents for Thanksgiving, we had the chance to spend significant time together for the first time since Jack’s memorial service. Sitting in a booth at one of our old high school haunts, we looked at each other, eyes filled with tears, shell-shocked and still in disbelief at what has happened. Like other friends, they shared that they wake up each morning and must realize, once again, that Jack is dead.

We discussed the utter improbability that such a thing could have happened to Jack. We went through all of the events that led from having my kids safe and dry in our house, to their looking at a stupid playhouse in a neighbor’s fenced-in backyard, to standing in that yard beside a raging creek. We questioned how Jack, our Jack, was the only child who died in our area during that crazy storm.

Being together, crying together, was draining and wonderful and helpful because these friends, like so many others, love us and realize HOW MUCH we have lost in losing Jack.

These same friends walked beside me many years ago when one minute I had the mom everybody loved and admired, and the next I did not. As they recounted how they found out about Jack’s accident, we were reminded, without saying a word, of those other, dreadful phone calls I made to them when we were all 18 years old.

Over the years, these and other friends have felt the bittersweet tension of sharing life’s joys with me, while at the same time remembering my loss. As they benefited from adult relationships with their mothers-- through college, dating, marriage, babies, baptisms, and birthdays-- they were sometimes unsure of how much to say, knowing that even as I had moved forward and flourished, I would always mourn the loss of what could have been.

I never wanted them to feel uncomfortable or temper their joy, but I appreciated their unspoken acknowledgement-- usually just a caring look-- that showed they knew I was thriving and content despite significant loss. Their news included holiday gatherings, family reunions, multi-generational beach trips, and their children’s special times with grandma. I wanted them to share their news with me even if it hurt, because they were my friends, and I cared.

After my mom died, I was unsure of exactly how to move forward, but I decided early on that a positive life for me would be a testament to her as a mother. I respected myself, made good choices, and tried to live an optimistic, drama-free existence focused on what was important. And, when I was blessed to become Jack and Margaret’s mom, though I keenly missed my mother’s support every step of the way, I knew I would try to parent well, having been so well-parented.

I was sad that my mother and children didn’t get to enjoy each other. And I missed the adult relationship she and I could have had, the one that I saw my cousins and friends experiencing. Even in the poop-riddled, sleep-deprived, whiny throes of parenting babies and toddlers, I already looked forward to being a grandma. Not too soon, as in “My 14 year old just made me a grandma,” but all in good time, to give my adult "kids" the PRESENCE of relationship where I had felt so much absence.

I yearned for the chance to enjoy and support Jack and Margaret in their adulthood, our relationship unfettered by the stress and pressure one experiences while in the trenches of childrearing. I imagined holiday celebrations. Beach trips. Cruises. Enjoying the amazing people my kids had become. Even though Tim and I pinched every penny, I was determined someday to travel with family, as one of my most painful memories is the knowledge that my mom had registered for her first passport in her early forties and never got the chance to use it.

As I sat with these two dear friends Tuesday, I realized that now we had another gulf separating us. A huge, gaping gulf. Not only can they enjoy their dear moms right now, but they will be able to see all (DEAR GOD PLEASE!) of their children reach adulthood. Their children will grow and flourish. Jack will be forever 12. Spunky, spirited Margaret’s young life will be tinged with loss.

My feeble attempt at redeeming early loss by living life well and supporting my children into their adulthood now hangs in tatters.

All those years I tried to put one foot in front of the other and choose JOY because I knew that would honor my mother and God. I smiled. I laughed. I loved. I thrived! And over the years I learned there are many, many things one can and will get through without the help of a mom.

But a child? The precious child who first taught me how to really love?

Now I get up every day and choose LIFE in an attempt to honor this wise, deep-thinking, brown-eyed boy who loved us, loved God, and whose physical absence is like a cannon blast through our little world.

But in the getting up, in the living, sometimes I have to ask, “How much, oh God, how much?”

And Jack’s passport? Sits upstairs in Tim’s office. Not a frickin’ stamp in it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Margaret's Excellent Adventure: LA Style

I meant to write yesterday about our big trip, but jet lag and work got in the way. And then there were my crying jags, grumpy stares, and Tim "accidentally" dropping my $800 mouth guard in the toilet.

But today is a new day, and here we go...

Margaret's Excellent Adventure!

We had an incredible time. Your prayers were answered, and Margaret's wish came true!

Meg, who shared our story with her sister's best friend from Coca Cola, dropped off this embroidered "Bieber Bound" backpack Thursday night. I wish I had met her to give her a huge hug!

When we checked in at Dulles, the ticket agent said, apropos of nothing, "Oh, I thought there'd be four of you." Tim and I exchanged glances. So did we, lady, so did we.

The flights were easy, and Margaret even did her homework on the plane. That is one conscientious girl.

Our gorgeous hotel was in the LA Live Complex, right next to the Nokia Theater and Staples Center. Looking out our window was a little like being in Times Square, with the flashing billboards. We felt snazzy and very cool!
Friday night we got to meet our angels from Coca Cola, Jed and Melanie. They had been working on the Margaret/Bieber thing for weeks and treated Margaret like their number one priority, even though they were corporate big-wigs here to put on a major event. They arranged for our free flights, the hotel room, and tickets to the AMA's. Their generosity amazed us.

Saturday, after waking up at 4:30 due to the time change, we met with Melanie again and she got us into two rehearsals: Kelly Clarkson's and Daughtry's. It was interesting being behind the scenes. Kelly's new song was super catchy, and she was down to earth and friendly with her band. Daughtry's drummer was a little too intense for our ears. Oww.

After this, we met a few more people from Coke and Dick Clark Productions. Lynda, DCP's PR maven, knew our story and was also working the Bieber angle... hard. No one could make any promises, because so much depended on what kind of day Justin was having, how his rehearsal went, etc. Phrases like, "We can't be sure" and "We need to manage expectations" were bandied about. Seriously, we need to pray for that boy. I can not not imagine being 17 and dealing with the kind of fame, pressure and demands he faces each day.

We saw the guys from LMFAO, Lance Bass, Sarah Hyland from "Modern Family," and the curly headed dude from several Disney tv shows:

Then the waiting began. Justin's rehearsal was deemed closed, but we still hoped to get to meet him somehow. We stood with 4 Coke execs and Lynda, from Dick Clark Productions, in a hallway outside the rehearsal space.

Not once did these angels act like it was a burden on their busy lives to try to make Margaret's wish come true. They took it as seriously as if it were an important part of their livelihoods. They were warm, loving, and solicitous toward us. Cell phones rang and texts shot around, as the moment of truth approached. These were pros on a mission.

Margaret stood wide-eyed, as she looked down the hall. Justin's bodyguard and guitarist appeared, easily recognizable to her from his movie. A few more people, then Justin and Selena Gomez themselves! They all tucked into a green room nearby. What would happen next? Would we go in for a formal visitation, like with the Pope?

Nope, the entourage soon walked by us and entered the theater. More waiting. Then Lynda turned to us, and said, "You're coming in." She got us permission to be at the closed rehearsal! Two other young girls were there (the producer's daughter and Lynda's niece) as well as production people and Justin's entourage.

We laid low, not making eye contact with anyone as Justin rehearsed "Mistletoe." Five rows in front of us sat Justin's girlfriend, Selena Gomez. Between one of the takes, he snuggled up in the front row with her. He was such a cutie, and he reminded so much of another adorable full-lipped, brown-eyed boy that I know, I had to keep my mom-self from shouting "You're going to lose your pants, Justin, if you don't wear a belt."

Justin's guitarist came up to Margaret and the other girls and gave them guitar pics!

After the final take, JB and SG walked the short distance up the aisle past us to talk to the producer and see video footage of the rehearsal. Margaret was standing in the aisle at this point and JB brushed past her. I even saw her ponytail bob with the contact! Selena sat on his lap as they looked at the video. Ahh, to be 17 again!

Ok, deep breaths. This meet-and-greet was going to be now or never. They walked back down the aisle, really only a few feet, and JB stopped and said hi to Margaret!

He kissed her hand.

This hand:
He asked her how old she was (10), what grade she was in (5th), and where she was from (VA).

Then he asked if she enjoyed the performance ("Yeah. You were really good. It was amazing!") and if she was excited to go to the AMA's tomorrow ("Yeah, I'm really excited.") Margaret was calm, cool, and collected. He then shook Tim's and my hands.

Next, he put his arm around her and a Dick Clark photographer took pictures.
Oh good gracious. Mission accomplished!

Margaret got her "private concert" from the Biebs, AND she got to meet him. He was soft spoken and sweet with her.

The movers and the shakers moved and shook and got it done. All for a little girl they knew just from your Tweets, Facebook, friends of friends and this blog. There was no mention of the accident or of Margaret's loss. This moment was for her, and it was pure, sparkly enjoyment. The Coke and Dick Clark execs smiled and went on their way, off to produce and run a major awards show and a red carpet concert.

We could have gone to a bowling event with celebs that night, but instead tucked ourselves in bed at around 8:30, pulling the curtains on the flashing lights, savoring the day.

More later...

Soggy red carpet, why isn't LA crowded, and what were those things on Nicki Minij's rear?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Time after Time

When a baby is born, you count his age in moments. You can’t believe that in such a short time, life could change so dramatically. You wonder how just a few hours before, life had seemed one way, but now you recognize a permanent, monumental shift. You had always know what love was, but now you experience a CAPACITY to love that makes what came before seem tepid and two dimensional.

At first you count your baby’s age in hours, then days. Eventually, just as you counted your pregnancy in weeks, you shift to weeks. It feels precise. 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks old. It mirrors your baby books about what milestones to expect. This eventually grows impractical and unwieldy, and you switch to months. You can hardly believe that one day, sooner than you think, you’ll be thinking in terms of YEARS in relation to this child’s age. In fact, one day, you’ll probably take his age and use it to figure out how old YOU are.

With a child’s death, this sense of timing, of pace, feels similar. How could Jack have been alive and well mere seconds before I reached the water’s edge? They have been looking for him for hours. Jack has been gone a day! It has been one week since our world fell apart. Two weeks. Three. Could it be a month? Do we switch to months now? But his clothes are still here. His new school shoes he never got to wear sit by the door to his room. He still gets mail for goodness sake!

When we remember in weeks, we think of a Thursday, at 6 pm. When we think in terms of months, we will think of the 8th. Double whammy of pain. Will there really come a time when we mark the passage of time solely in terms of YEARS? What about decades? I believe so. And Jack won’t age, but we will. He will forever be not quite 12 ½.

When your child was young you marked milestones, and although you wished the particularly challenging days away, you somehow hoped to slow the years down, to savor his childhood. And now, with the death of a child, you grieve as the gap between the before/after of your family's history grows ever wider, but at the same time you beg for the years to speed up, because decades without him seem like too, too much.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jack-ed Up Phone

I was planning to write yet another post about my "Jack-ed Up" cellphone and title it "Jack's Thrift Store Playlist," because a few weeks ago, inside my purse at the thrift store, the phone started playing music again. I just let it go and kept track of the songs as they played in random order. This is music my husband put on my phone when I got it last year, but I do not listen to because to me my phone is...a phone.

This is what I heard in the thrift store:
1. Nobody Loves Me Like You
2. The Solace of You
3. We Live
4. Don’t You Know I’ve Always Loved You
5. Good Thing
6. Life is a Highway
7. Just the Way I Am
8. Let us Pray
9. Angel’s Heap
10. Don’t Stop Believing
11. Fields of Grace
12. This Day
13. Baba O’Reilly
14. Come Monday
15. Rock the Casbah
16. The Lost Get Found
17. All Star

I searched for meaning in the songs as I wandered the aisles of a place that once provided me with so much pleasure, but now felt empty and annoying. Many meant something to me, especially "Nobody Knows Me Like You," "Don't You Know I've Always Loved You?" and "Just the Way I Am." These songs are about God, but I imagined them as a conversation with Jack.

I laughed when I got to Angel's Heap because the title sounded so spiritual at first, but I think it's about having sex in a car. I turned the music off after the 17th song because, well, should I have just let it go until my battery died? What if only the first few songs meant anything, if any of them meant anything at all?

Anyway, this past Friday morning I walked down to the Bridge for only the second time since the accident. It's just too hard seeing how very, very far the bridge where they found Jack is from where he fell in the water in our neighborhood. I mean really, really far. It's too outrageous seeing a mere trickle of water, even after days of rain, in the shitty little creek bed, yet to know that on that one horrible night it was a raging wall of water that reached over the banks, the bridge, the road.

I took a picture of the cross that friends erected on the roadside. I wanted it for myself, and to share with you on the "Jack's Thrift Store Playlist" post.

So that night, on our way to pack shoe boxes in Jack's memory for Operation Christmas Child, Tim, Margaret and I ducked into a pizza place to get Margaret a slice. It was loud and crowded. I felt trapped. I was angry at all the families having a care-free Friday night.

I went to stand outside on the stoop and heard music coming from my coat pocket. Again? It was one of the very songs that had popped up in the thrift shop weeks earlier.

Which one? Check it out. Believe me, it's worth it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Isn't it Ironic?

...that Jack always wanted us to have a neighborhood Bible Study, but I blew it off. I figured that with the kid dynamics in our ‘hood everyone would end up fighting and that would be most unpleasant for the parents. The whole thing just seemed so…tiring.

But now, as a result of Jack’s death, a group of neighborhood dads is getting together every week with a pastor friend to talk about major life and faith issues?

…that we wouldn’t let Jack play violent video games or watch anything as racy as “Dancing With the Stars” on TV.

Yet, as a result of his death, we’ll be taking his 10 year old little sister to CA to the AMA’s? I have an inkling that some of the outfits and the lyrics will be a tad racier than DWTS. Any inside scoop on what Lady Gaga will be wearing this year?

…that even though I grew up in a family bed kind of household, I can count on one hand how many nights each kid got to spend in our bed over the past few years.

Yet now the three of us say our prayers, end with, “Jack, we love you. We miss you. We’ll never forget you” and tuck ourselves into one queen-sized bed?

…that when Jack was alive we severely limited our kids’ tv and computer use.

Yet in his absence Margaret is turning more and more to the TV to try to kill time in a house with no playmate and we are letting it slide?

…that a little over 2 months ago if you had asked me what I wanted, I would have said: “1)lose weight 2) less laundry 3) less running around”

And how I got all three of these things? But they suck. They really, really suck.

…that Jack never wanted to meet a celebrity because he thought it would be too awkward,

And now we are about to be wined and dined (or Coked!) by celebs thanks to the lavish generosity of Coca Cola, blog readers, and friends and strangers around the globe…possibly even getting to meet Margaret’s idol, Justin Bieber!?

And speaking of the Biebs….

[Don’t even get me started on the irony that our beloved squeaky clean celeb is embroiled in a Baby Daddy scandal (Innocent! Innocent!) right when we are heading out to see him.]

Isn’t it ironic:

…that this summer, two weeks before his death, when Jack walked by Margaret and me ooohing and ahhing over the sweetness of JB as we watched “Never Say Never,” Jack's response was, “Come on! You could show cute baby pictures of anybody and people would fall in love with him and say he was wonderful!"

And now, because of an impossible, improbable, senseless accident people all around the globe have seen you in your bee costume, Jack, and may have fallen a little bit in love with you too? Oh my goodness.

So Jack, what was up is down what was in is out. Our lives are weird and ill-fitting and and off-kilter and strange. You were a wise and observant boy, so I know the irony of all of this is not lost on you.

I guess I’ll close this post with a gratuitous baby picture of you, with love for your cuteness and oh so much more.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

non-Monumental Issues

One of Margaret’s shoes is missing. They are just thrift store flats, but they're cute, comfy, and they go with her dress for the big night.

The prime suspect is our dog Shadow, because although she does not chew shoes, she does have a weird habit of carrying a shoe in her mouth each time she goes out to pee. The leaves have fallen and the chances of finding a little shoe in the yard are nil, so I hope it’s in the house somewhere. Now you may wonder why I’m concerned that Margaret have this particular shoe for her adventure. Let’s just say you do not want her to be unhappy with her footwear or to get a blister on the big trip. Nope.

Reminds me of our trip to the Washington Monument this past August. I suggested Margaret wear sneakers and socks, an idea that was met with much scorn. She wore flip flops. After a pleasant trip to the top of the monument, Tim had the audacity to think that at ages 10 and 12, our kids (or I) could handle more than one landmark per DC outing. Silly man.

Against my better judgment, we started walking to the World War II Memorial which was right down the hill, and Margaret started freaking out about the heat, her aching legs, her feet, her… BLISTER! I got pissed, not at her, but at Tim for breaking my “one landmark” rule, and because I’d promised all of us Rocket Popsicles, which were clearly in the opposite direction.

Tim’s neck started to bulge and he yelled at Margaret and me, “Aaaargh! You’re both such... such…” The kids, wide-eyed, implored him to tell them what the next word was going to be, but Tim did not divulge. We were pretty sure it wasn’t a good one.

We hobbled to the memorial, the women-folk definitely not showing the reverence it was due, unless glaring and whining were proper protocol. Tim and Jack ended up walking all the way back to the car on the other side of the mall and picking us up, after Margaret and I had cooled off by the water’s edge.

Tim later told me Jack was great at talking him off the ledge on their long walk to the car. It was a good bonding experience for them as they commiserated, whether with or without words, about the lunacy of their female counterparts. Now lest the boys get off scot-free, I could mention Jack's "My coke is too small mania" in Jamestown last year or Tim's "You are such...such..." outburst in Washington, D.C. Oh yeah, I already did.

Margaret's problem that day was a blister on her foot. My issues are usually the heat, the cold, the humidity level, my bladder, or perhaps blood sugar. Margaret and I liked to think we were doing our part to help prepare Jack for the world of women. The car pulled up, we got in, and all was right in the world. Sans the Rocket Pops, of course. Good times.

Man, I really hope we find that shoe.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

My sister and her kids drove 5 hours each way to see us for less than 24 hours this weekend. It’s just so wonderful and terrible to see them. Seeing her son, just 9 months older than Jack, is heartbreaking. I love my nephew; I need him; I am so sad for him; I am jealous my sister has him to hold.

Weekends are the worst around here. Too much tv. Too much computer. Too much time. Too much quiet. Margaret doesn’t want to do anything we used to do together like hiking or geocaching. Which leaves us with more tv, or shopping. I’ve been to the mall more in the last 2 months than in the past several years. I don't blame Margaret. I don't want to do anything I used to want to do either.

When my sis and the cousins usually visit, we sit in the kitchen talking, or engaging in parallel play while reading magazines and sipping tea. We leave the kids to their own devices. Outings? Meh. Not usually. The kids would be having too much fun to want to go anywhere.

But this time we needed an activity, so we worked on our Operation Christmas Child boxes for Samaritan’s Purse. This was one of Jack and Margaret’s favorite charitable activities because packing a shoebox full of toys and goodies to enable a child somewhere in the world to experience Christmas is a tangible way to spread God’s love as well as count your own blessings.

Last year we packed 10 boxes, but Jack said “Next year we’ve gotta do 20!” Margaret and I started shopping for items in the spring and summer as we would see things on sale. After Jack died, we asked people to contribute to Samaritan’s Purse in Jack’s name. Many, many people did, and we are grateful that through our loss, children are receiving Christmas gifts all over the world.

We were joined on our shopping trip by my sister, her kids, and Jack and Margaret's favorite babysitter from when they were younger. This week Margaret, Tim, and I will lead the 5th/6th grade youth group at our church as they pack boxes. Next week we’ll join Tim’s colleagues as they do the same. We already know my car will hold dressers and chairs and junk off of the street. I am excited to see how many stuffed shoeboxes will fit in it.

If you are interested in making shoeboxes with your family, here is the information about what to put in them. You will also find drop off locations listed. Many Chick-Fil-A restaurants give out free shoeboxes and are drop-off spots. My blog friend Ellen is doing shoe boxes with her students in honor of Jack and they are including things Jack would have liked such as Legos, Puzzles, Hot Wheels Cars, balls, and brain teasers.

Box collection takes place next week, Nov 14-21.

Thank you for considering this service project for your family.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Margaret's Excellent Adventure

I bet you would love to hear about Margaret’s Excellent Adventure, made possible by… YOU!

The fruit of your tweeting, Facebooking, emails, blogging, calling, begging, and of course praying really started bubbling up a few days ago. Friends of friends (and a sorority sister!) who work for People Magazine in NY woke up before dawn on Halloween, dressed as Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice to try to win tickets for Margaret. Oh yes they did. Hats and all! They got plucked out of the audience and got to go back stage to plead Margaret’s case to anyone who would listen. Incredible!

Others reached out to a friend, an amazing woman and exec at NBC, who generously gave Margaret 2 VIP tickets for the Nov 23 Bieber Today show concert!

We even had phone messages from our local news station wanting to know what was up with all of those tweets! Your campaign certainly got noticed.

So while I was processing this exciting info, and LOVING how you were loving on my little girl, I got another call. The best friend of the sister of a woman who lived in our town until a year ago (are you following?) and who grew up a few streets away from our house, spent the weekend arranging THIS:

Tickets for the 3 of us to attend the American Music Awards in LA where Justin Bieber will be performing! Oh yes. Airfare and hotel, too! And if possible, a meet and greet —all courtesy of Coca-Cola, who puts on the show. Wow.

So I went from “Will I shower before work today?” to having the words: “Today Show, People Magazine, Dick Clark, AMA’s and Justin Bieber” spinning in my head. Oh my.

I decided it was time to clue Margaret in on all of this, for I do not believe that a complete surprise is the right approach given the shock she has endured losing Jack so suddenly.

She, of course, was THRILLED THRILLED THRILLED, and when I told her the two awesome opportunities-- the Today Show and the AMA's-- she said, “Can I do both?” Yeah, it took her about a millisecond to get used the idea of traveling the country and seeing Justin, her main man, perform not once but twice! However, we made her choose and she chose the AMA’s because she’s never been to CA before. In fact, she hasn’t been on a plane since she was 3 years old.

YOU did this.

Your phone calls, your tweets, your prayers, your willingness to reach out on Facebook and through your blogs to a family you may only have heard about in the “virtual” world…every little bit made a difference. Whether or not your phone call or email was the one that secured these awesome opportunities, you extended yourself to try to bring some excitement, some distraction, and some pleasure at a time of deep mourning.

And you know what? Margaret was not surprised. Sure, she was VERY surprised that her heartfelt shopping list would lead to her getting to hear JB perform. But when I told her everything YOU had done to make it happen, she was happy, but not surprised. Living in a world where people care about and help each other did not surprise her one bit, and for that I am even more grateful. YOU did that.

It was a generous outpouring of love from people who, to a large extent, have probably felt pretty helpless in regards to our little family, especially since no one can give us what we truly want and need-- Jack back here with us. I will never be able to know every detail of what each person has done for us or be able to thank you adequately, but please know what you have done has touched us deeply.

When I’m going through hell, and unfortunately that it what it feels like most days, I’m so glad you are on my side.


So in a few weeks, look for us on the red carpet! I’ll be the dazed one with gray roots on my head and gratefulness in my heart for people I may or may not ever meet. Margaret will be the one flashing her tin grin, with purple braces for JB, of course.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Risky Business

I think the shock of what happened is starting to wear off. I tell myself that perhaps this is one of the longest crazy-ass dreams ever, and I’ll still be able to wake up from it. When I awake, it will be September 8th, the second day of school. I’ll be worrying about how to fit all the baseball and soccer practices onto the family calendar and wondering when sweater weather is going to start.

Jack will still be alive and well.

I think one of the biggest hindrances to getting me to stop rowing down the river of DENIAL is the fact that Jack was not a big risk-taker. He was not a real rough and tumble kind of guy. Jack was more comfortable building with Legos or sitting around on his friend David's back porch while they cracked each other up than being all that adventurous.

When I worried about Jack, which was often, it was that someone would DO SOMETHING TO HIM, not that he would be in an accident. My fears centered around bullying and sexual abuse since Jack was small for his age, quirky, and on the quiet side.

That's why we were careful about Internet use and choosing a summer camp, and were extremely selective and prayerful about sleepovers. I knew the statistics, and they weren’t encouraging. Tim and I were considered too overprotective by some.

So we did worry. But about an accident like this? So sudden? So violent?


As a toddler, Jack would walk to the very end of our little driveway and his toes would not cross an imaginary line there. When my friends found out I wasn’t a spanker, they would ask, “Yeah, but what if Jack ran into the street? Would you spank him then?” “Uh, well, I’m not thinking that’s going to happen,” was my reply. Na├»ve, perhaps, but he was just so cautious.

When he was in second grade, I did have to yell at him to be more careful on his bike in our cul de sac, but in general I spent more time trying to get him to be more adventurous than to be more careful.

“Jack, do you want to ride this roller coaster?” No way.

“Skateboard?” Not really.

“Go in the ocean?” No. 10 years of beach trips, and the sand suited him just fine.

“Shoot a rifle off of Uncle John’s back porch?” No thanks.

“Ride your bike outside our cul-de-sac?” Uh-Uh.

“Walk to a friend’s house in another neighborhood?” Nope.

"Go on a dirt bike?” Are you kidding?

This is the kid who, thankfully, was alarmed when his neighborhood friends played with matches and ran home to tell me immediately. “MOM, there was even lighter fluid nearby!”

After Jack completed the slowest time imaginable on the dinky go-kart track during a beach trip, his friend Nathan said, “Sorry you lost, Jack.” Jack was like “Huh?” The snail’s pace had felt plenty fast for him.

Jack carried his car booster seat with him on outings until he was a rising 5th grader, and even as a 12 year old felt the safety of the back seat suited him just fine, thank you.

He chose to attend the one-week session of his beloved summer camp rather than the two that most kids his age did, because the longer sessions had "high adventure" activities and he was worried he’d be pressured to do something he wasn’t comfortable with.

How different is childhood today from our childhoods of being outside all day long, our parents not having a clue where we were. Night sledding. Being dropped off at the mall. Getting rides home from goodness knows who. Going to the pool by ourselves all day, every day. Riding bikes to the 7-11 or into Washington, D.C., with nothing more than a dime in our pockets for a pay phone call.

Jack did love the outdoors, and the increasing freedom that growing older allowed. Unless, of course, there were bees around, which would send him running. He loved to geocache, hike, go caving and climbing. He and his friends climbed onto the neighbor’s (low) carport roof from a stone wall. He liked to climb trees and rocks. He loved to ski with his dad.

So he wasn’t a couch potato, but he was not a big risk-taker either.

I find it strange that in all my Mama-worrying, and I did my share, I was focused on social and sexual risks, but an accident like Jack's never crossed my mind. I still don't understand why neither I nor the other parents who let their kids play outside in our neighborhood that day recognized the risks, even those who knew the kids going to the creek.

So here I am, exactly 8 weeks after the accident, and I still find it so hard to believe that that Jack is the one who is gone.

I keep saying,



I just never would have guessed that.

Here's hoping I blog in my sleep and this is all just a very bad dream.

P.S. Roller blading was something Jack wasn’t sure he wanted to try. Look at these pictures of Margaret helping him out at a birthday party in December. Blurry but so sweet And that's not a miniskirt he's wearing; it's a long t-shirt.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oh Shirt.

As I wrote before, Jack’s sheets had been changed the morning of the accident. His dirty sheets were downstairs by the washer and accidentally got washed by friends before I had the mental capacity to consider saving them. All of his clothes were clean and folded.

So, for weeks one of my best friends has been praying fervently that we would find something, anything that smelled like Jack. A week ago I went into his room and spotted a gray long-sleeved Ski Utah tee crumpled on the floor. I hadn’t seen it there before. I picked it up, nervous yet hopeful.

It smelled like Jack.

Margaret and I shoved our faces in it, inhaling deeply. Thank you God, for this gift!

So yesterday I was folding laundry and picked up… a Ski Utah shirt.

Crap. I’d washed it.

I'm a Belieber, Part 3: Facebook Status Style

You are AMAZING! Your outpouring of love in the form of tweets, blogs, calling in favors, dressing up in costume, FB posts, phone calls and of course prayers MADE SOMETHING HAPPEN! No details for you yet, but our little family will be taking a trip in NOV to see JB perform. Seriously! Faith in humanity restored yet? Sure hope so. You should be proud!

Thanks and XO, Anna

P.S. K-Mom, if you are reading this, I would love the pictures of the sky one week after Jack's accident.