2012: You Were a Jerk! Resolutions and a New Project

Dear 2012,

We started off so well.  Today, I sit back and reflect on last New Year’s Eve.  I put on a pretty dress and stilettos even though I was 37 weeks pregnant with my precious Callie.  We had a delicious meal with amazing friends who were also expecting a little one a few months after us.  I drank festive pink fizzy European soda in lieu of champagne and we talked about how you, 2012, would be the best year of our lives.

You jerk.

It makes me cry to think that at those very happy moments, unbeknownst to us, Callie was very sick.  Her heart was fighting to pump blood through her body and was growing at an alarming rate until, at birth, it was much too large.  Our girl, with her big, beautiful heart, could only stay a little while.  And all I can think about now are the words of our friends on last New Year’s Eve.  Get ready for your world to change, they said.  And, oh, how they couldn’t know how true that would be.

So here I sit, another champagne-less New Year around the corner.  My world has changed forever, but not like I thought.  I sit.  Afraid to utter the words that I really want to scream.  I’m so scared to hope.  To dream.  To say it again.

This year will be different.  This year will be better.  This year my world will change.  Again.  Happily.  Peacefully.  Please God, let it be so.

Today, we aren’t dressing up.  We aren’t drinking fizzy European soda.  Nope, today we are celebrating differently.  Quietly.  Maybe if we sneak into 2013, it won’t notice we are there and will spare us the brutality you gave us, you jerk, 2012.  Today, not unlike many others, we are working on our resolutions.  And then, we are going to the local pizza place for a non-fancy but nonetheless delicious meal before we say a prayer for mercy in the coming year before we close our eyes and hit the sack.

You were cruel and mean but, I want to thank you anyway, 2012, for the gifts you gave me.  For my daughter, Callie, my sunshine.  For her little sister, our rainbow, our newest reason to hope.  Thank you for all you have taught me.  Despite the pain this year has brought, you have given me a new perspective on life, a new understanding of others, an even stronger relationship with my husband, a deeper spiritual connection, and you have shown me how truly good, kind, and wonderful people can be.  Although I’d like to kick your ass to the curb and rip your page out of the book of my life, I know that my story would not be the same without you.  And I’d like to think that I’ll have a happy ending.  So, you can stay.

But I’ll be turning the page on you tonight at midnight.  The rest of my book has not been written yet, or maybe it has and I just don’t know it yet.  All I know is that I pray that you, 2012, remain in my story as a testament to my personal history and a springboard to my future.  Don’t you dare try to hold me back or steal my joy.

Because in 2013, I deserve joy.  I deserve happiness.  I deserve hope.  And that’s what I’m going to have dammit.  My new blog header reflects the shift I feel inside my heart:  our sunshine angel has lead to our sunshine life.  We are living in the light she left behind.  Emphasis on LIVING!

So 2013, I have big plans for you.  My personal resolutions are pretty simple and inspired by my sunshine angel, Callie Marie:

Resolution #1:  Identify “happiness hurdles” and knock them down.  

How often do you make excuses?  I make lots of them.  I can’t take pictures because I don’t have a baby to photograph.  I can’t sew something for our rainbow because I don’t know how.  I can’t exercise because blah, blah, blah.  I decided to call these “happiness hurdles”.  This year, I vow to identify my hurdles quickly (what’s really behind the hurdle?), get over myself (fix the problem or fix my mindset), and then jump them.  Because the only person between me and all of those little projects/happiness I mentioned above…is me.

Resolution #2:  Begin the Kindness for Callie Project.  

A while back, I got spam-scammed into thinking someone didn’t like my blog.  I was so mad, that I asked my readers to go out and do a random act of kindness to make up for that mean-hearted comment.  It felt so good.  In the New Year, John and I plan on doing random acts of kindness and charitable giving in Callie’s memory and we will call it Kindness for Callie.  It will be our personal way of allowing her to live forever and make a difference in this world.  If you would like to join us, I will be sharing more about this project soon.

So there they are.  My resolutions in print for all the world to see.  John and I have also set some resolutions as a couple to that will help us jump some happiness hurdles we were having as a family:  (1) sticking to a budget that allows us to be more generous and charitable and (2) making some small changes in our daily routines so that taking care of our house doesn’t feel like such a burden.  And no, that doesn’t involve a maid…although, I wish it did.

Hey, 2013!  The good news is that you don’t have to try very hard to be better than 2012.  So, please be kind to me.  I have faith.

My new mantra:

Believe.

dear 2013

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The Christmas Corner: A Story That Melted My Grinchy Heart

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We have put Christmas in the corner this year…literally.  This holiday season has been about surviving.  Taking one day at a time and no more.  Not biting off more than we could chew.  We werent feeling very festive this year to say the least.  So Christmas got put in the corner like a little kid in time-out.  Being punished for hurting our hearts and reminding us of all we lost.

I miss Callie.

I wish she were here to cry when she meets that freaky looking guy named Santa for the first time.  I wish we were buying her loads of presents and dressing her up in Christmas jammies.  I wish this had all been a bad dream that we could wake up from.  But it’s not.

So, we are sad…but happy too.  We simultaneously grieve for our sweet Callie and celebrate our precious Rainbow.  We cry for each “first” that was stolen from our angel, and smile when our newest little one reaches important milestones.  The contrasts are infinite.

Over the past month, I have had moments that brought me to my knees and ones that lifted my spirits. Take these for example…

On the day before Winter Break, a visitor to my school saw me walking down the hall, innocently minding my own business, lost in thought, thinking of what I needed to prepare for my afternoon class.  When she noticed my belly, she said, “Oh, aren’t you cute?”  To which, I thought Wow, that was nice, until the follow-up ultimately came…”Just keep in mind when you think you have it rough…Just remember that I had twins.”  I stopped dead in my tracks, stunned by her words.  I fumbled for something to say, but instead reached for the door to my classroom to escape.  Of course, I thought of all the good comebacks after the dumb-dumb had left my sight.  Like…”Oh, thank you for that wonderful insight.  Here’s one for you… Next time you think you have it rough, remember that my baby died.  So go hug your TWO babies tight and think twice before you make ridiculous one-upping statements to perfect strangers.  You never know what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes.”  That one is a little too long and preachy though…how ’bout this one…”Oh, by the looks of it, I thought you had triplets.”  Bitchy and satisfying.

I’ll never get the chance to put her in her place though, and it’s better that way.  Even though she made a thoughtless comment, I know that somewhere in her small little cobwebbed mind she was coming from a place of kindness…I guess.

Which brings me to my second scenario.  A little while back, after a particularly long and emotional day, I was winding down and doing a few of the dishes in our monstrous dirty dish pile.  While I was washing, I felt my heart beating a little faster than normal..again.  I’ve talked to my doctor about these palpitations and have learned that they are fairly common in pregnancy due to increased blood flow.  But being me, my hypochondriac mind was occupied with thoughts of the worst.  Maybe I should go to the ER???  I envisioned myself undergoing open-heart surgery at 21 weeks pregnant….

At that very moment, my phone rang.  And in that instance, I joked to myself that God was calling, telling me to chill out.  I gave a little chuckle and let it go to voicemail.  I’ve told you before that my faith is not my strength, so it is a little odd for my conscious to be making jokes related to God.  But whatever, it made me feel better.  Weird or not.  And I pushed the stupid hyperchondriac thoughts away.

A few minutes later, I checked my voicemail only to find a message from a pastor from my church.  He said that someone had left a present for us and that he’d like to drop it by even though it was late.  I couldn’t believe it.  Apparently, God has my phone number.

When Pastor arrived, he handed us a gorgeous poinsettia with a card that read,

“We know this holiday season is difficult for you.  We are praying for you and thinking of you always.”  

He explained that a mother and daughter had left the plant but did so anonymously because she wanted her little girl to learn that giving generously doesn’t always mean receiving accolades or credit for your actions.  He went on to say that there was something waiting for us in Callie’s garden as well.

When we arrived, there underneath the cross, rested a beautiful winterberry plant with a note attached that said:  “Merry Christmas Sweet Angel“.

The kindness of strangers once again moved me to tears. I truly believe that there are angels among us.  You, me, a waiter at Maggianos. We can all be angels, instruments of God to be there for one another when we need it most.

And so our Christmas Corner was born and we officially got un-grinch-ified.  The Christmas Corner is not really a punishment for hurting our feelings…more of an acknowledgement that this year is different and we aren’t fighting it.  All our gifts now rest underneath the poinsettia in the niche in our living room.  Hanging from her branches is our Sunshine angel ornament, as we remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

Because on this day, a long, long time ago a very special baby was born.  A baby who would change lives.  A baby who would teach us about love and life.

For me, I will be remembering two babies this Christmas.  The One who changed the world, and the one who changed mine.

Merry Christmas to all of you and thank you for your words, thoughts, gifts, and prayers. Thank you for remembering Callie in your hearts and minds as we do.  Thank you for being our “earth angels”.

And Merry Christmas to you most of all, sweet angel.  We will love you forever.

A Nightmare Realized

For years now, I have had one recurring nightmare.  I am in my classroom when I hear gunfire.  I follow the procedures for an intruder drill, gathering my students into the corner and closing the locked door.  I block the entrance with furniture.  But it’s all too late.  The gunman enters and we come face to face.  And then the dream ends as suddenly as it came.

It absolutely shatters my heart that this nightmare became a real-life tragedy for those of Sandy Hook Elementary.  I cannot even begin to imagine the pain of the victims’ loved ones who are left behind, but it does touch me deeply on so many levels.

As someone who’s hometown and college campus was violently attacked.  As the teacher of young and innocent children.  As the wife of an assistant principal.  As a mother who has experienced sudden and unexpected loss and grief.

My heart is broken for you.  I wish you peace, if but only scattered amongst the pain in tiny moments.  Savor those, as I know they are little hugs from God.

dark night sun quote

Neverland

When I was a kid, I loved the movie Hook.  My brother and sister and I watched it over and over and over again.  Something about the idea of living in an imaginary world where kids never grow up, have rules, or have those pesky parents hanging around was quite entertaining.  Not to mention that you can fly and fight pirates!  No wonder we loved it.

I have an interesting case of book/movie amnesia that has yet to be officially diagnosed, but somehow I tend to forget everything I read or watch within about one month.  But in the case of Hook, there is one scene that is burned into my mind forever.  And no, it’s not where everyone chants, “Rufio, Rufio!” (Ok so I lied, two scenes are burned in my mind forever.)

It’s the one where Peter Pan remembers.  He finally remembers his past.  He remembers going to Neverland to escape from growing old.  He remembers missing his family and coming back to his window only to find that his family has moved on.  They had a new baby and had forgotten about him.  So Peter stayed in Neverland.  He visited other people.  He never wanted to grow up and face the ugly world that adults live in.

That scene where he looks in and sees his family happily playing with a new baby…I can’t tell you how many times that image has flashed in my mind over the past weeks as our little rainbow grows bigger and bigger.  This is the guilt that rainbow mommies and daddies face.  It is a constant tug-of-war between my two children, both of whom I cannot physically hold…at least, not yet.  One I hope to hold soon on Earth.  The other, one day in heaven.  For now, I hold them both in my heart.

If I spend time thinking about Callie, I feel guilty that I wasn’t focused on our rainbow.  Am I trying hard enough to celebrate this new and different life?  And when I focus on our rainbow, I feel guilty that Callie is being “forgotten”.    Will she look in the window and feel like we moved on?  

Rationally, I know that Callie would want her mommy and daddy to be happy.  To stay frozen in time because we lost her would contradict all the things we swore to embrace because of her.  To live life, to enjoy it, to appreciate the small and precious things.  But the guilt, well, I think it’s just an unavoidable part of becoming the parent of a rainbow.  It will be a life of contradictions, of comparisons, of balance…forever.  Guilt and forgiveness.

I find myself hoping some of the same hopes, dreaming the same dreams that I had with Callie.  And it’s so hard.  I can’t explain how agonizing it is to be facing this Christmas once again daydreaming about the next Christmas.  This one was supposed to be the next Christmas.  The one where we stuck a bow on Callie’s head and  took her first picture with Santa.  We talked about how we would have a real tree this year because we wouldn’t be going out of town.  We would be staying put so we could start our own traditions for Callie.  But she’s not here.  No bows stuck to a cute baby head.  No pictures with Santa.   No real tree.  I guess we could do one anyway, but the thought of it is just too painful.  Instead, I think about next Christmas.  Again.  But this time, that hoping and dreaming is tainted with the harsh sting of reality.  The expression, “ignorance is bliss,” is so very true.  Last Christmas, I never dreamed that this would happen to us.  There were no “if”s or “I hope”s. And now, that is all I hear when people discuss next Christmas, the next doctor’s appointment, the next day.

If.  I hope.

I don’t blame Peter for running away to Neverland.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in a sick tree house?  True freedom.  Freedom from reality.

But in the movie Hook, Peter left Neverland.  He left for one reason.  Because he wanted to be a dad.

This might sound dramatic, but I think it’s the straight-up truth… becoming a parent is most likely the most dangerous thing you could do with your heart.  You create a new life, that you couldn’t possibly love any more.  But you risk pain, heartache, and embarrassment.  You feel their every triumph, but you feel their failures times ten.  And in the worst of possibilities, you watch them suffer, watch them fight for their lives…and sometimes, they lose.  We loved.  We lost.  And now we are setting ourselves up for it again.  When you become a parent, you sign yourself up for all of those possibilities whether you realize it or not.

So here we are stepping out of Neverland again, gambling it all.  The fairy tale, the swashbuckling, the fairy dust and happy thoughts.

Because… we believe it’s worth the risk.

“You know that place between sleep and awake? That place where you still remember dreaming?

That’s where I’ll always love you… That’s where I’ll be waiting.”

 

 

 

Just in case you have no clue what movie I’m talking about, here is a clip.  Yes, it’s a ridiculous kid movie.  A ridiculous kid movie I just so happen to love: