Saturday, August 29, 2009

A beautiful lesson

As the parent of a child with challenges, I was struck by the following clip I watched during Ted Kennedy's funeral. Ted Kennedy reminds me of my own father, the same hair, similar eyes and, apparently, the same unfailing belief in the ability to overcome.

The speaker is Ted Kennedy, Jr., whose leg was amputated at age 12 because of cancer. I love it because my dad told me the same thing when I was young, and I've already told Brody.

I can't figure out how to imbed the thing, so click here if you'd like to see it. It's about 90 seconds.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kindness revealed

The woman who sent me the MAC makeup a few posts ago? This is her: Anonmom. And it's her baby's birthday today and she made me tear up with her post so I thought that it was appropriate to divulge her "identity," anon as it is.

Thank you my friend, again, and may Baby enjoy the happiest of birthdays.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What do you say.....

I had a very wonderful time with my friends at bookclub last night. I tried my first rose wine (that wasn't Boone's Farm) and we sampled spumoni cheesecake (better than you think) and warmed baklava (as good as you imagine) for dessert.

One member of our bookclub was absent because she just suffered an ectopic pregnancy, her 3rd miscarriage after two years of trying. In short, we - her friends - are wondering what to do for her as she and her husband grieve this loss and try to move forward.

I can only say, given my history of recurrent miscarriage, what not to say to someone who has suffered a pregnancy loss. And over the course of 4 miscarriages, these were all said to me:

“It was meant to be.” Why not say this? Because it does not help. Do not say it.

“You can always try again.” Why not say this? Because she will never have this baby. And that is the baby she wants and grieves. Or, maybe she is unable to try again.

“At least you know you can get pregnant.” Why not say this? Because getting pregnant did not result in anything but heartbreak and loss.

“It wasn’t really a baby.” Why not say this? Because no matter how early, or what the woman’s belief system of when life is conceived, the loss is real. The heartbreak is real. And this statement is an insult to the love and grief felt by the woman. That grief is not diminished by thinking or knowing that there was a problem with the baby, nor by the idea that there was not yet a baby. Yes, I know intellectually that losing a 2 year old child is much more devastating than losing a 4 month pregnancy. But the point is this: in that moment, the grief gripping that woman for the loss of that pregnancy doesn't give a shit. Heartbreak is heartbreak. I remember having this very conversation in my own head and thinking, well, at least if I lost a child, I would have known what it was to have a child. See what I mean about grief?

“Well, at least you’re okay.” Why not say this? Because she doesn’t feel “okay.” She feels tormented mentally and emotionally and physically.

“It was just a miscarriage. Get over it, already!” I have to admit, I thought this at one time. Before it happened to me. The reason not to express this sentiment is that, in addition to just being rude, it invalidates the grief the woman is suffering. And if you want to help, you want to validate the loss, and help her to process it.

“Shouldn’t you be over this by now?” A milder variation of the above statement. Everyone grieves differently. Some people need more time and space than others. There is no wrong way to grieve. If you detect signs of depression, urge her to see a grief counsellor.

“At least it was early, before you really got attached to it.” Why not say this? Because she is attached. Hence, grief. Any woman who has ever been pregnant, and wanted the pregnancy, will tell you that within the first week of knowing about the pregnancy, she has imagined holding that baby in her arms, what time of year that will be, who the baby will look like and put her hand on her stomach. There is a primordial connection between a mother and child, and it starts in the womb.

“God had a reason for this.” Why not say this? Because why would God have a reason for ending a pregnancy? It is illogical. It is hurtful. And, even if you believe it to be true, it will not help the woman grieving.

“This is because you…” or “If only you hadn’t…” Why not say this? Because chances are, she already blames herself. At one point or another, every one of us blames ourselves for losing a pregnancy. In my case, I blamed the fact that I went up to altitude at Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s nonsensical. Don’t rub salt in the wound.

Do not discuss any information you have regarding child abuse, the crack whore who is having her 5th child, your own miscarriage(s) or stories describing the triumph of fertility against long odds. Even though we all think about those things. Why? Because the woman does not want to hear it. Discussing these things will, in turn, make her angry, enraged, resentful and pissed off.

What others can you think of to add to the list? (I enabled anonymous comments).

Now, of course, is the more difficult question: What do you say? The truth is, there is nothing anyone can say or do to stop the pain of a pregnancy loss. But what I found most painful about grieving the loss was that hardly anyone really understood it, acknowledged it, validated it. So I suppose that what you say is whatever you can to comfort the woman, and her partner.

Examples of what to say:

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“You don’t deserve this.”

Or just complete honesty: "I don't know what to say, except I'm sorry, and I love you."

And one more nugget of wisdom I have learned over the years....

Instead of saying, "What can I do?" or "Let me know if you need anything," (which I have said many times in my life), just do something. Anything, really.

This applies to anyone in crisis: medical, financial, emotional.... just do the thing. People in crisis do not have the ability or energy or whatever to organize and ask for what they need. Plus they probably feel guilty about it.

Again, we are not going to fix the problem anyway. So what I have learned is best, having been both the person in crisis and the friend not knowing what the hell to do, is just do....something.

Bring the dinner, send the flowers, buy the wine, mow the lawn, send the chocolate, show up with stupid magazines, mail a card, order the gift card, write the email. Or call. Just call and if you get voicemail, because they are screening no doubt, tell them you are thinking about them. Tell them you love them, you are praying for them, you are hoping their hopes, you want to buy them lunch, just something to express that you are there, and they are not alone.

And if they don't call or write you back? You call or write them again. Not in a stalker-esque manner, but just to let them know that they - the person grieving or in crisis - are not alone.

Because when it comes down to it, isn't that what counts the most? Ensuring that your loved ones know that they are not alone, through all the pain, which you can't cure anyway, and through all the joy, because it multiplies when celebrated together, is really the most and the best that we can hope to receive.

Henri Rouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest and writer, said it best (this is this quote's second appearance in less than a year on this blog):

When we honestly ask ourselves
which person in our lives mean the most to us,
we often find that it is those who,
instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures,
have chosen rather to share our pain and
touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion,
who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement,
who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing
and face with us the reality of our powerlessness,
that is a friend who cares.

And it does not matter if you do not know the person that well. Some of the most poignant moments I experienced after Brody was born and we were waiting and terrified were from virtual strangers, the friends of friends, the friends of sisters, who reached out to me, via email or a card in the mail. Sure, you probably don't want to do the whole "I love you" thing to them, but you get the idea.

Finally, one wonderful service that the March of Dimes has is to send out a free, (yes, really free) bereavement packet for the loss of a pregnancy from conception to one month after birth. The March of Dimes explains:

When a baby dies, a bit of hope dies too, a bit of our dream breaks away, a bit of our future is erased before ever being written. Besides the physical loss, there is an emotional loss and a loss of all that a new life promises. This is true whether the baby died as a newborn or before birth due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or other reasons. Society has been slow to recognize that the impact on the parents can be the same, regardless of when the loss occurred. Parents' grief over a miscarriage is as valid and real as their grief over the loss of a full-term baby.

You can order the bereavement materials for yourself or for someone else. Click here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Kindness

I read this fabulous blog called Crazy Days and Nights. (link also in my blog roll) CDAN is written by Enty, an anonymous entertainment lawyer in California who has all the juicy details of the celebrity world. Daily, Enty posts blind items, and on occasion, he posts what he calls kindnesses. Twice a year, July 4 and Labor Day (or is it January 1?), Enty reveals the blind items including some of the kindnesses.

For example, on June 16, 2009, he posted this one:

This Academy Award nominated/winner A+ list actor doesn't get much publicity for all of the good he does, and so I thought I would share one of the things about him which he did for no reason other than being a great guy. While shooting a film our actor was introduced to a young girl. The girl had wanted to meet our actor for a very long time. Because she was dying of leukemia, her parents had asked Make-A-Wish to make it happen. For whatever reason they had not. Well, someone on the set heard about this little girl and asked our actor if it would be ok for her to meet him. He said sure, and the girl came. At the time she visited him she had a few weeks to live. When he asked about her medical treatment he was told there really wasn't any money. Our actor paid for all her medical bills and three years later she is still alive and still in touch with our actor.

Then all of the commenters try to guess who is the subject. On July 4, Enty revealed the actor who was the subject of the kindness.

Why am I posting this? Well, I've gotten some very lovely emails from fellow CDAN commenters since starting this blog. Recently I received a generous gift from one of them. So it seems appropriate that I post this as a kindness done for me:

Which A+ blogger mom and reader of Sugarplum Swank, no stranger to struggles of her own, recently emailed the author of this blog offering her 3 items from MAC cosmetics, through the Back2MAC program, writing "You can choose any eyeshadow, lipstick, or lipgloss you want. Let me know what you want and I'll send it to you!" After a feigned refusal, the author took up the blogger mom on her offer, and she recently received the coveted MAC cosmetics. They are, like all MAC products, sublime. Almost as sublime as the blogger mom who sent them.

Oh, and who was the actor in Enty's kindness above? None other than Captain Jack Sparrow, aka, Johnny Depp.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Update update update

1. Update to nerves: the thing I wanted to happen, it did not happen. The bad possibility happened. The person is dealing with it. Still trying to get it done. Not laid off though things are .... tense.

2. Trip to Michigan: so much fun and so wonderful to see my sisters and brother, nieces and nephew. Brody had fun and especially loved my sister's dogs Bella, Emma and Coco. I would post a photograph or two but I left the camera my niece's bed. In Michigan. I ate my weight. Coney, Pancake House, Polish Village and more.

3. You know what I just realized? I didn't even think to visit my father's or brother's graves. I guess I don't believe they are there. They are where we are.

4. Drove by one of my childhood homes. It's for sale. In light of the depression in Michigan right now, it's very cheap, especially for the area. In fact, on Friday it was $315,000. Today it is $289,000. In 1978, it was $78,000. If only we had a way to buy it. The owners since us have completely redone parts of it, which we viewed thanks to the virtual tour online. I want my sister to buy the house. She already has one and also has 2 children in college, but still. I have been inordinately excited about returning to it since I drove by it with my nieces on Friday.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Nervous nervous nervous.

Someone I know and love is getting big news at work today and it will make or break his/her career.

This is a good person, very talented, and worked very hard on this project.

Today we find out if the project is a success.

If yes? Possible promotion, but definite legend status at the employer.

If no? Possible layoff/termination and horror.

No, it's not me.

I'm so nervous I had to write it out.

Universe, please make this happen. Please. You know why. Please.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Streaming consciousness

1. I love my bosses. They are divine. They did something very kind for me this week (flexibility on leave time), and also, one of them bought Brody this book.

2. Brody starts preschool August 25, two days a week, 8:15-11:15am. We have to buy school supplies before then. We're enrolling him in a feeder school for his eventual elementary school solely for the purpose of him forming friendships which, our experts say, reduces the likelihood of teasing and bullying in kindergarten and beyond because of his limb difference.
The problem? We have to get permission from his current "preschool" (really it's a daycare but it's name is xxx Preschool) to drop him off at 11:30 am two days/week. They require kids to be there by 9am. Here's hoping they grant permission because otherwise...well, I don't have an otherwise.

3. Brody and I are traveling to Michigan next week! I grew up in Grosse Pointe Woods, and two sisters and my brother still live there with their families. I can't wait to see my sisters. But what amazes me is that my biannual sojourn to my hometown has become this delicious culinary tour: Coney Island, Olga's, and the Original Pancake House. I'm also feeling landlocked, and need a nice long view of Lake St. Clair,

and maybe a drive by my old house. On occasion, I still dream of driving around GPW.

4. Speaking of travel, the plans for France 2010 are firming up. Seven days in Villefranche sur mer. Then we are thinking of adding a few days in Paris. Three things we want to do in Paris: Seine boat tour, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. Not surprisingly, hotels are ridiculous in Paris (300 euros per night??). Then I remembered, which features several apartments to rent that are bigger and cheaper than a grungy hotel.
5. Still haven't seen the television appearance. Did a phone interview with a local newspaper today. Monday the paper is sending a photographer to our house to take pictures of us during dinner. I do not understand why they won't use our pictures. My house will be very clean by then though.
6. Going to see Julie and Julia on Sunday with two girlfriends while B is with my mother-in-law. And lunch. Very excited for girlfriend time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Interview with a Brody

We were on this show on Monday. Live, at the Fox studios in Denver. With the almost-3-year-old, to discuss our win from Homeaway.

It was awful.

Sure, it started out well enough.

The PR woman who works with Homeaway very kindly sent us directions on where the studios were and when to arrive. She also sent us the questions we were likely to be asked:

~How the numerous surgeries and hospital stays have affected your family

~The motivation behind your participation in the HomeAway Save Our Summer Vacation Contest

~What does being chosen as a contest winner mean to your family?

~How will this experience benefit your family?

~Where do you want to go on your trip and why?

We were coiffed, we were dressed well. We had answers ready. Brody was in a grand mood, excited to be on tv, and happy.

Notice the past tense?

Brody needed a new diaper, so I went to change him. No diaper changing table in the tv station bathroom, although they did have a tv in the bathroom and a leather couch. It was good enough for us.

Jeremy asked Brody what he was going to say when we were on TV (on Fox). He replied, "Ummm.....OBAMA!"

In the green room, the show played on the TV. We were going on at 4:45, 45 mins into the hour long show. Which meant that we saw our own promos, with our name and photograph.

After we saw that, I suddenly got very nervous. I looked at Jeremy in terror. He said, "I think I need my diaper changed."

We waited a bit but Brody was still happy. Toys and snacks. But something happened to our boy in the hour and a half before we went on. Live. TV.

By the time we did, our charming, gregarious, witty, silly, sweet boy had turned into the stereotype of the "terrible threes." He was done. Done. DONE.

I don't remember anything of the interview except: how much makeup TV people have to wear, how nice the hosts and producer were, even after the interview, Brody climbing all over me and Jeremy screaming "I wanna GO!" during the interview, Brody pulling my hair into my face during the interview, and me mentioning the word Vacterl. I think that both Jeremy and I were just stopped talking mid-sentence one time each because of Brody's squirming and whining.

It's so bad that on the website they don't even have our clip to view.

We left the studios in an embarrassed daze. Brody was at that point disputing that he had ever been on TV.

Jeremy decreed in the car ride home that, "From now on, we're only doing taped interviews." Because we are so obviously the new Brangelina and everyone will interview us to talk about, say, our trip to the grocery store.

We got home to watch the horror, after stopping to get a bottle of wine, and as Jeremy turned on our TV, a message appeared:

Satellite has not been working for 4 hours.

Meaning nothing was recorded.

Even God thought it was bad TV.

We still haven't seen the interview.

I will say this, on the awesomeness of my co-workers. Recall I work with a bunch of lawyers, lest you believe all lawyers are jerks. They all watched the show on live streaming video, including my boss and my boss's boss. They cheered when we came on, and they all consoled me the next day and lied and said we looked great and Brody wasn't that bad. I love these people.

I'm being interviewed by a local newspaper on Friday, and then the photographer of the paper is coming over to get some "day in the life" photographs of us, during dinner, on Monday. Why? I do not know.

I have so much empathy for people who say stupid things and look ridiculous during interviews.

I will still judge them because they are professionals, but I do have more empathy for them.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Our HomeAway from home. . .

We've decided on a home to rent.

May 2010, but we are waiting to confirm the second or third week.

The owner is lovely; I've been emailing with her all week.
Here are the pictures from the lovely woman's website:

After reading about this picture, I was tempted to go in February:

It seems that in February, Villefranche’s fishermen celebrate Carnival with a Bataille des Fleurs (Battle of Flowers). They decorate their traditional fishing boats, parade around, and throw flowers at each other and all the spectators.
How can I not want to go to a place like that?
Also, Brody had his 14th surgery on Friday, July 31st. Hypospadias repair. It's been his most painful recovery. I've been married for 7 years, and I've never talked about a penis as much as I've talked about one with Brody since Friday. "Mommy! Don't hurt my penis, okay????" "Wanna go outside and play, Brody?" "No! I have a owie on my peeeenis."
Finally, I am doing "media opportunities" for HomeAway. This afternoon I'm being interviewed by a local newspaper, and then Monday, the 12th, J, B and I are going to be on a local TV news program. A four-minute segment. We go to the studio and are interviewed live.
We are having silly absurd days around here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Guy's heart is healing!

Update to the previous post ~ Guy is safely out of surgery, off the heart lung machine, and the surgery went beautifully!

Guy's heart is in their hands

My friend Stacy's son Guy, age 14 months, is having open heart surgery as I write this, and she just wrote on her blog, after having taking a wee bit of Valium, and it's really a beautiful and heartbreaking post. Please read here and, if you can, add your prayers for Guy's safety and health to ours.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Two words: we won

This is a bit late.

Most of you know already but for history's sake, a week ago today I was in my living room. An insurance adjuster was on our roof, about to tell me that the hail damage from the July 20 storm destroyed our two-year-old roof and that we need a new one.

I was idly checking my email messages on my phone.

Then I saw one that said this in the subject line:

Congratulations from HomeAway! First Runner-Up Winner for $5,000 prize

I don't think I took a breath for a few minutes as I read the message, again and again, within a 90 second span of time.

Then I cried. That joyous, fast, sort of tearless, hysterical crying. Then the tears came and I started to breathe very quickly.

The email said I couldn't tell anyone, not until we had signed, notarized and returned the documents and the other winners had done the same. I called one of the phone numbers listed and left an entirely embarassing voicemail, weeping, and trying to talk, to ask if I could tell my husband.

I got permission. And then, he wasn't available.

When he works in the shop at his job, there is no cell phone coverage and it's so loud he can't hear the pages from reception.

It was a long 3 hours til I reached him. He did not believe it, and then called me back a little later and sounded drunk, asking me again if it was really true.

Then it was officially announced.

It's interesting how quickly we can assimilate some events, and then, have a helluva time comprehending the related other parts.

For example, I can tell you that as I write this, I still can't really believe that we won. We won. I responded to an email that arrived in my inbox and wrote 500 words about us, and then asked everyone I knew to ask everyone they knew to vote, and it worked and we won. We won. I know it intellectually, but on a very basic level, it's surreal and strange and feels like someone else won.

On the other hand, just because I am living in a surreal world has not prevented me from contacting several property owners on Homeaway's site to inquire as to the availability of their home. Since I have about 4 hours of vacation time (I earn 12 hours every month), The Vacation, as it will be called, will occur in April or May, 2010 (we have until August 2010 to use the prize).

Where? Not the place we picked originally, the Canary Islands. First, Brody has a fear of water that I was not aware of when I wrote the entry. He refuses to go into the pool unless it's the 3 inch deep kiddie pool, and will barely take a bath. Second, the airfare to the Canary Islands is very expensive.

Which led me to traipse around the world on Homeaway, (a very excellent way to pass the time, if you haven't tried it), and find a little 12th century village called Villefranche-sur-mer, in the south of France, with a swimming beach, views of the Mediterranean sea,

trains to take people 15 minutes away to Italy and Monaco, and boats to take people to Corsica. We can walk to the patisserie in the morning, and get our bread from the boulangerie. It's very family-friendly, too, with nearby water parks, national parks, and castles, and fortresses to explore. This is a photograph of La Rue Obscure, which is the oldest road in Villefranche-sur-mer, built in the 12th century to give shelter and protection to its inhabitants.
In nearby Antibes, I recently discovered, I can stand where Vincent Van Gogh stood to paint my favorite piece of art of all time. . .

With any luck, this will be our terrace.
I am filled with joy and gratitude to Homeaway. Yes, I understand it they did it for marketing purposes, but the result is the same. Joy and gratitude.

The people I have dealt with at Homeaway have each been kind and supportive and so happy for us. I wrote to one of them to thank them:
The gift you've given us is not just the trip; it was feeling the love and support of family, friends and then strangers while we watched the voting; it was the cheers, squeals and giggles i heard when I told my husband,(he didn't squeal), sisters, mom, and friends that we had won; it's seeing my coworkers get choked up when I told them the news; and it's the anticipation and fun of planning a vacation with the two people I love most in this world, and knowing that whatever else happens, we will have this beautiful memory of an adventure that we never thought we'd be able to have.

And do you know what this person responded? An email full of kindness, which exemplifies everything good about Homeaway:
I’d say you’re welcome, but it doesn’t exactly describe the range of my sentiments. I am so happy for you - as are my co-workers for that matter - that I feel like I won myself..... I wish for you that you never forget that feeling which you spoke of, the realization that so many people love and care for you. That’s not exactly something I or anyone at HomeAway can take credit for—it’s something you brought on yourself. But if the contest helped you see it more clearly, well, fine by me.:-)