Monday, November 30, 2015

The Balm

Despite the general sense of calm I've had about this late-in-life pregnancy, I do still wonder about my ability to do it all over again. Not the pregnancy itself, but the parenting and the sacrifice, and of course, 2nd grade math. I don't want to phone it in with this little one, even though after more than 10 years of having kids in school full-time and plenty of very quiet time by myself at work and at home, it will be an adjustment. Am I ready for Hot Wheels and Thomas the Train?

Will I be able to adapt to having a little sidekick again?

And it's such a weird time to be having a baby, when I FINALLY feel I have found my true calling through writing and speaking engagements. Sharing stories and life with others, examining the ideas of loss, resilience, and radical trust are a sweet spot for me, and I've been hoping to do much more of this as Margaret grows more independent. I love speaking to churches, universities, and at conferences.  I feel there may well be another book or two in me. So, after years of NOT knowing what I wanted to do when I grew up, I now KNOW, and it feels right, but I wonder how it will play out with a tiny person to care for.

I haven't mentioned this inner conflict to many people, because I don't want to seem to be taking our baby miracle for granted. But I'm human, and I wonder. It seemed like it was time for me to blossom beyond the four walls of our house by connecting with others and their stories, but being pregnant  seems to steer me right back toward the protective walls of home.

My husband Tim, who is a man of few words, said the kindest thing to me last week. I know I have used this space in the past to share some of his foibles with you-- not full-on husband bashing I
hope--but  anecdotes here and there to illustrate our different takes on...just about everything. And as I told him years and years ago, if he wants to write about me and my annoying habits, he should feel free to start his own darn blog.

Anyway, out of the blue in the kitchen last week he said, "I think what you do is more important than what I do, because you are helping people every day. I want to find a way to help you after the baby comes so that you don't have to quit doing it."

I don't know what he meant, specifically, but I tear up thinking about it.

His job is the one that brings in the vast majority of our income, and it is something that he does well. For him to notice, really notice, that what I do somehow makes a difference made me feel seen and acknowledged. We don't talk much, but in 20+ years he has witnessed that my default mode is to put my desires on the back burner for the family, to push up my sleeves and let the years roll by without considering if something else might also beckon. Now that I've heard such a beckoning louder and more clearly than ever before, I do not want to ignore it, and his words emboldened me to consider that following the call might still be possible, even if the idea overwhelms me. Truly, those words were a balm.

This post is not about making money, or staying home versus working outside of it. It feels different than that. Instead, I think it's about yesterday's patterns not having to dictate tomorrow's. It's about rethinking roles and the way things have always been. Jack's death has taught us that almost everything is subject to change, but even with that unsought-after knowledge, I am still sometimes reluctant to see beyond how I am living right here, right now, and be open-hearted to other possibilities.

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's A Glamorous Life

I had my monthly OB appointment today, and the baby seems fine!

The appointment itself had some ups and downs. I was running late, and got a bit frazzled when faced with a crowded parking garage. By the time I made it to the office, I had to pee, which is great, because that's the very first thing you do at each prenatal check-up-- provide a urine sample.

I sat on the toilet, relieving myself and also feeling relieved to have made it reasonably on-time despite a 30 minute fight with traffic. I looked down at the Dixie cup in my hand. Empty. I had peed all right, but I'd forgotten to pee in the cup.

Now, I am a prolific urinator, pregnant or not. Ask anyone who has been on a car trip with me. Just thinking of a waterfall or a raindrop will make me have to go. So, I sat there visualizing Niagara Falls, the ocean, and a tall glass of water, to no avail. I soon realized I'd have to wait a while before providing a sample.

Back in Reception, I explained my failure to produce and asked if I could please have a glass of water. Not a problem, they said. You might think a pre-natal appointment would be extensive, giving me ample time to work up a good pee, but I wasn't so sure. Because rather than gathering 'round me oohing and ah-ing, treating me like the Advanced Maternal Age Walking Miracle that I find myself to be, the professionals act, well, as if they've seen this kind of thing before, and this isn't the first baby to come around the bend. Thus, early visits are a quick blood pressure and fetal heartbeat check, a smile, and a "See you in a month." This is a blessing, because it means things are going well, but it didn't provide much time for the water to work its way through my system.

No fear! I KNEW I could produce. My bladder was filling by the second.

So, I said good bye to the nurse and headed back into the bathroom. However, I hadn't counted on the time and skill  it would take for me to wrassle myself out of various pregnancy undergarments while clutching a Dixie cup.

First there were the maternity jeans that come up to my chest.
A squeezy support tube top around my middle.
And the piece de resistance-- something that resembles a chastity belt, but that I like to fondly call The Vulva Holster, a utilitarian maze of straps and velcro designed to try to keep one's lady parts from dragging the ground whilst one walks. Mothering often robs us of our dignity, so why not start in utero?

I was doing fine with the wrangling, but I clearly did not expect what happened next.

As a germaphobe, especially around medical offices, I carry a jumbo pump bottle of hand sanitizer in my purse, to be used obsessively throughout my visits. My purse, weighed down by the pump, as well as my fears, jumped from the hook high on the door. Down it came, clocking me on the head and scattering my wallet and all the other contents onto the RESTROOM FLOOR.

At this point, the precious drops of liquid gold I'd worked so hard to produce over the last half hour did burst forth, not into the Dixie cup, but into the multitude of undergarments with which I struggled.


I wanted to seize my personal items from the floor, hoping that the faster I did it, the less germy they would become, but I was here to give a urine sample, and I wasn't leaving until I did. So I lunged back over the pot and managed to secure the remaining pee in the Dixie cup.


Since I couldn't celebrate this small triumph with a glass of wine or even a McDonald's iced tea because of the caffeine, I treated myself to some quick thrift store shopping, where I scored some new-to-me maternity clothes.

And I only had to stop to use the bathroom twice.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Third

When the kids were around 5 and 3, and my baby fever was in overdrive, I asked Jack what he would think of having another sibling.

"Can a baby play with me?" he asked.
"Well, not for a good while," I said. "But eventually."
"Then, no." he said.

He changed his tune a few years later:

"Mom, when are you having another baby?" By that time, I felt as if the window had closed. "You and Margaret are at an easy age now, but babies are HARD."

"You're only 36," he said.

Then, "You're only 37. You know if you had had one when you were 36, the baby would already be one by now."


Margaret was less pushy about the baby thing, but after I told her about China's one child policy, she figured that adoption was the best way. She wouldn't just get another sibling, she would get a SISTER!

She wrote on a piece of paper in Sharpie, "ADOPT GIRL FROM CINA" and stuck it on the fridge. It was spelled wrong, but the meaning was clear. Jack added his 2 cents to the bottom in pencil, "no."

I'm not sure whether this meant Jack was anti-adoption, anti-CINA, or whether he was holding out hope for a brother, but the years just continued to add up and our indecision became a decision.

Same conversation every year.


Jack said, "Have another baby, you're only 41!" just two weeks before the accident. I told him about my old eggs, but he wasn't buying it.

So, I'm guessing he's pleased with how things are unfolding, even though he would be 17 years older than this baby. He won't be here to play with him, drive him places, and help his mom out. But I do think he will be watching over all of us. And Margaret won't get the sister she always wanted. But there will finally be three of them: Jack, Margaret, and, Baby Brother.

It's interesting to think of those conversations over the years. Was Jack's unrelenting pressure because he wanted another playmate, or was it because deep down the tug of the universe was letting him know he didn't want Margaret to be left alone? 

It's a mystery.

And I'm adding it to my list of questions for when I get to heaven.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


I was in Target a few months ago, repeating the much-needed mantra, "You do not need new throw pillows. You do not need new throw pillows." I was there for groceries and toilet paper, but of course I had to check out the fall home decor section they were in the process of setting up.

As I pushed my cart past the cozy plaid blankets and metallic gourds, something caught my eye-- a throw pillow of course. It was off white with one word written on it in lovely gold script:


I didn't buy it, but I did notice what I was feeling as I read the word. A rush of gratitude for all that I'd been given in life. Gratitude for life itself. There was no asterisk in my thoughts, no bitter coda, and that, in itself seemed notable to me.

It was NOT:

Grateful, except for the part where my mom dies far too young.

Grateful, except for the loss of an amazing son whom the world needed, and I still NEED.

Grateful, except for big and small disappointments, disillusionments, slights and betrayals.

Grateful, except for a sense that I want to do more to follow God's call on my life, yet I feel lazy and stuck.

Just grateful.

This would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

I remember the horrible first Thanksgiving just a few tortured weeks after Jack's death. When I passed our striped Thankfulness Notebook around the table, I wondered what the hell I would put in it. My sister looked similarly lost. She finally settled on being thankful for modern transportation so that we could be together during hard times.

These years later, I don't want to put on a false smile and act as if everything is okay. I don't want to imply that I don't feel sad often and bitter sometimes. Jack is dead, I'm 46 and pregnant, pretty much everything irritates me on some level, my body and my heart hurt, and this is not the life I wanted.

But oh, the GRATITUDE!

It seeps in unbidden. It travels on memories of a brother and sister playing together in their own little world. Of friends who chose the hard path and kept showing up. Of a God who paints the leaves the most brilliant yellows and reds. Of a looking outward at others who may need an infusion of HOPE. Of new life growing inside of me. Of day lilies ready to be planted today to surprise us anew next summer.

I don't want anyone telling me to be grateful, and I'm guessing you don't either. But oh how wonderful it feels when gratitude comes!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wonky Looking Blog

Hi Dears! I'm sorry my blog has these wonky looking error messages all over it. I have contacted the blog designer and I hope she'll have a remedy soon. I miss my sweet little bird designs, so I hope we can get them back! :)


Quick Trip and an Organizational Tip

We just got back from a quick trip to Orlando, Florida.

Despite some illness, we had a very good time, and it helped solidify for us that we aren't really an amusement park family. Tim does not do well with crowds, I wilt in the heat, and Margaret does not like thrill rides. We went to two excellent theme parks and used the "quit while we're ahead" philosophy to get maximum enjoyment with minimal angst. Instead of thinking about HOW MUCH MONEY WE SPENT on tickets and trying to suck the marrow out of life by staying from opening to closing, we just stayed as long as we were still having fun and more like nibbled on a little bit of marrow. We went on low-key rides and did a lot of people watching. Quitting while we were ahead gave us time to kick back in our hotel, watch a Shark Tank marathon, and read books.

We decided to share one suitcase since the airline now charges for each bag. We used a large LL Bean duffle with wheels. In order to not have an annoying mish mash of all of our clothes, I gave each of us packing envelopes/cubes that I discovered right before my trip to Armenia last winter.

This are game changers!

Not only do they compress your clothes take up less space, and keep your everything wrinkle free, they help keep you organized so that you can find your things easily throughout your trip. I used one big envelope for my clothes, and two small cubes for pajamas/underclothes, and shoes. I bought a few on Amazon and found a few more at our thrift store. The brand I like is Eagle Creek, but there are a lot of other options out there. At home, unpacking was easier, too, because we each took our own cubes out to deal with.

Now we are back in Virginia, not a palm tree in sight, busting out the flannels and trying to get used to it getting dark at 5 o'clock again.

And after a trip, sometimes it feels like home is the happiest place on earth.