In Our House, Barbie Plays with Batman

In our house toys are toys.  We have consciously attempted to avoid labelling things as boys’ or girls’ toys and have encouraged exploration outside of what conventional marketing would dictate.

My nine year old son just finished playing Calico Critters animal doll set with his 3 year old sister and 4 year old brother.

Earlier today my daughter came in from outside, upset that her brother didn’t want her to play the make believe soldier game.

When my big boys were younger, I bought them a toy kitchen. (Gasp!) They loved it.  They also had a grocery cart, toy food, a cash register.

There are all sorts of costumes in the kids’ tickle trunk; superhero costumes, wigs, funny glasses, animal costumes, old skirts of mine and funky hats.  The skirts were in the tickle trunk long before my daughter was even a glimmer.  My boys use it for capes and wear it as a skirt when their creative play requires a femme fatale.

These same boys have watched the Little Mermaid movie over and over.  Currently, my daughter’s favourite move is “Zoro”.  Clearly, our children do not realize that they are breaking all of the gender limitations on toys and play.  What rebels!

We have embraced the idea that all toys are for all kids,   no matter their colour or target market audience. Imaginative play should be just that, imaginative.  The whole point is that kids can be any character and wear any costume, no matter the gender.

A few years ago my mom brought over my old worn out Barbie dolls from my childhood.  The boys played superheroes and civilians with them.  One afternoon my oldest sons had two of their friends over.  The Barbies were in a pile with the “guys” a.k.a the superhero figures.  These two boys laughed.  They asked my big kids why they played with ‘girls’ toys.”  The question was asked with a distinctive mocking tone of voice.  Not one that was lost on my sons either.   My children were surprised.  It hadn’t occurred to them that these were girls’ toys.  They had always just been…….toys.  Sadly, then my boys felt embarrassed.  I could see it on their faces.

My boys came to me confused and upset that their friends were making fun of their toys.  I approached the kids and explained that in our house, toys are toys and colours are colours.  There is no such thing as toys only boys or girls can play with and enjoy, or colours that only boys or girls can wear or call their favourite.  These boys looked shocked.  This idea was completely out of their frame of reference. They had never heard of such an insane idea!

“Now,” I said to them, “imagine the possibilities.  There is a world of toys out there that you didn’t even know you were allowed to enjoy!  Have fun!”  Then I left the room.

Upon returning, worn out Barbie was battling Batman in an epic save the world battle.  And all of the boys were playing.

 

Roadtrip Conversations and the Power of Empathy

I had a powerful conversation this week with an old and cherished friend I hadn’t seen in far too long.  How is it that the movement of life can carry you along on your journey, seemingly away from those real and pivotal relationships, until one single rogue wave brings you right back in front of each other, and it was like you were never separated?  How amazing is that?  The best part is that it feels like no time has passed.  You pick up exactly where you left off, not missing a beat but just filling in the puzzle pieces of each other’s lives since your last encounter.

The rogue wave that thrust my friend and me back in each other’s way was the ragic and sudden death of our mutual friend’s beautiful 18 year old daughter.  She was killed in a car accident. (The photograph at the top of the page was the view from the site of her accident.)  Her truck hit the ditch and went up in flames.  ‘Just like Joan of Arc’ her broken but courageous mother said at the funeral.   This devastating news knocked the air out of my lungs as soon as I read it.  My friend and I connected almost within moments of discovering what had happened and agreed to travel the three hour journey to her funeral together.

Our road trip conversation started the minute we put the car in drive and none of it was frivolous small talk.  We got right stuck in about the important stuff.  We discussed the tragedy we were about to confront, how we felt about it, how our friend was doing, and what she might need.  We both had fallen out of regular contact with our her, but the idea that we wouldn’t be there at her daughter’s funeral to bear witness to her loss, her daughter’s life, and show our love and support was never an option.  We packed two boxes of tissue and had not worn mascara, prepared for the mess of emotions which would overwhelm us all day long.  We talked about this girl and our memories of her as a wee one.  We cried for her life that was too short and for our friend and her brother and father, who would all now live, missing her forever.  We talked each of the losses of our own babies, cried for them both and for own hearts which would also never totally heal.  We spoke of how these experiences changed us, and our views of the world.  We shared about our work and future passion projects just fledgling yet in our minds.

In a nutshell, we had meaningful conversations. We felt the other’s story, not just heard it.  We connected.  Just like we always have. It was affirming and energizing and brilliant, even in these most horrific of circumstances.  We marvelled at this experience of reconnecting.

“The key” said my wise and brilliant friend, ” is the heart connection.  And that happens because of a strong sense of empathy.” We agreed that this empathy is not common in people.  We are taught to be sympathetic, to look in from the outside with head a-tilt.  Instead of jumping into the fray and getting messy there, we stop.   We halt just short of getting too involved for fear we might let the other person’s experience affect us too much, and we might feel too much.  We don’t want to give too much.  The effect of that would be…..what exactly?  We might get real???  Our mask might drop, and then look out!  We would be exposed with our truth out on display.  Now that is scary.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer speaks about this in her poem ‘The Invitation’.

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.  If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.  If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy. I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

What has become increasingly apparent to me over the past year, and what arriving into the open arms of my devastated friend showed again, is that empathy is so incredibly vital to healing.  It is a key ingredient.  In fact, I would argue that healing cannot happen without it.  Empathy is as vital to healing as is sun and water to a germinating seed.

Brene Brown conveys this message in an animated short film which is sheer brilliance.  See for yourself.

 

Now be honest.  Are you the person down there in the pit, or are you the one looking in from the top with the sandwich?

Happy Birthday My Angel

Today is Samuel’s birthday.  Memories of this past week replay like a record which conveys not just sound and visual images, but feelings and emotions too.  Each memory touches a profound place in my heart which is indelible.  The love and friendship and prayers and support from so many have buoyed us and carried us through this experience.  Today, I recall these gestures, and these people, with the deepest gratitude and thankfulness.  We are blessed beyond words.  Again on this day, we are inundated with flowers, meals, cards, and messages of remembrance and love.  I am simply overwhelmed.  This is God’s love in action.

I have been anticipating this day and this week with apprehension and uncertainty.  How should we mark the occasion?  How will I feel?  What will rest of the family need and want to do?  Will it be ok?

My plan has been to celebrate his life and honour our little boy. I have imagined it to be light-hearted and joyful.  That is how I want it to feel.  We are having birthday cake tonight with the kids and will sing for him and blow out a candle.  That makes it a “real birthday party” according to my three year old daughter.  Tomorrow we will visit the memorial forest where his name is engraved on a bronze plaque.  His presence in our family is as strong and undeniable as it ever was.  But so is the missing of him.  And despite my best laid plans, that is what is dominating for me at this moment.

God how painful is the missing of him.   I am letting myself feel that ache now, letting it hit me and take away my breath, as it does, so that I can find some space for the joy too.   Today, the pain is a shadow of what it was on this day a year ago.  But how accurate and how precise it is!  My stomach aches, my head aches, my heart feels sore and my arms miss the feeling of him in them.  I reach them up to the sky wanting to feel his spirit touch my fingertips.  And when I cry, my voice sounds not like my own.  My cry still sounds primal and unrecognizable even to my own ears.  Still.  After a year.

But such as it is.  Deep breath.

Ok, joy, you can enter…anytime now!

I sure hope she gets here by the time we are ready to have cake.

***************************

In honour of my sweet Samuel, please enjoy these poems I wrote for him and his photograph taken by a wonderful woman named Elizabeth who works with the organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.  I am so proud to share his story.  

The song Daylight is for me, Samuel’s song.  Let the lyrics touch you. They are perfect.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wg9Urm2_7xQ]

Samuel

Photo Credit:  Elizabeth Cranmer
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

His Name

When I say “My baby died”‘,

Please don’t shy away.

Take a moment

Then take a breath,

And ask, “What was his name?”

-Shannon Rogers – 2013

 

May He Be Known

The lives of all our children here

Are witnessed for all to see.

But the life of our sweet Samuel

Lives but in the hearts of family.

I want so much that he be known

Not lost in silent grief.

In honouring his memory

I share his joy and find some peace

Our son shall be remembered,

I tell his story

His picture shown

And every time I speak his name,

Through my voice, may he be known.

-Shannon Rogers – 2013

 

In Praise of Hope

Hope revealed her twinkling self to me yesterday.  She kind of snuck up on me out of the blue.  Suddenly I realized that while I was driving and listening to music just a little too loudly, I was anticipating.  I was looking forward to things.  It doesn’t even matter what it was exactly that I was looking forward to.  The point is that hope, that elusive little thing which I had taken for granted until we lost our baby boy, was a regular part of my life.  Hope was the thing which kept me motivated, kept me dreaming, kept me driving forward.  The promise of something fun or new, of creating something meaningful, or better, was the fuel and the spark which has always lifted me out of the average day to day.  Not that the average is bad.  But familiarity, although stabilizing, often brings along blinders which makes seeing the forest for the trees difficult, and potential, invisible.

Hope thrives on potential. She lives in your heart.  But when your heart is broken, Hope has a hard time thriving.  You soon learn though that she is tough.  She is resilient.  She is the weaver which is at least partly responsible for bringing those broken pieces back together to heal. Helping one foot march in front of the other, she brings you to the light.  Before you know it, your face is turning towards that light.  The warmth that Hope sends forth is melting away fragments of sadness and shadow.  In her light, all of the beauty and love that you have to offer and share sparkles once again.  And finally you see it.  And then a new phase of living begins.

Thank you Hope. I have missed you.

My Very Own Midlife Crisis

Last year marked the start of my very own midlife crisis.  It started, as I describe in my post, http://fiveunder8.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/the-big-birthday/ on the cusp of the big scary birthday.  I was 38 going on 100 weeks pregnant, as sick as a dog, out of breath and very overwhelmed.

I was expecting my fifth child, and about to embark on another leave of absence from my job which, I was reminded by a senior colleague, was going to have a pretty negative impact on my team. In other words, support for my impending maternity leave was reluctant.  My manager had been given the orders to juggle my clinical duties to exclude my research project, meaning I would have to pursue that endeavour on my own time; clearly a sub optimal arrangement for my work-life balance.  Basically, my career at my current workplace was taking a turn in a direction I didn’t like at all.

My son was having a terrible year at school. Watching him struggle but still put on a brave face each morning and muscle his way through the day, was really tough.  He wasn’t sleeping, had developed anxiety and said that he felt stupid every single day.  His confidence was in the toilet.  We picked up the pieces every day when he returned from school, doing the dance between psychologist and cheerleader, trying to reinforce that he was bright and capable, offer some coping strategies and then help him get through his homework.  Between this dance, parenting other children at the same time, and managing the situation with the school for countless hours each week, I was very stressed and exhausted.

I didn’t feel like celebrating much as I turned the big 4-0. We decided to wait to plan a big to-do until later.  Later meant after the baby came and I felt more human.  In 2 weeks, I would be receiving the very best birthday gift in the whole world anyway.  I had been anticipating that gift for 9 months!  No birthday party could beat that!  The pregnancy had been hard the whole way through.  I had been sick and unwell the whole time.  I often said that I felt like I had been working really hard for this baby.

So at 40 weeks, I asked my doctors to induce.  I might have even begged.  I told them something seemed unusually hard and that I had never felt this way before.  I needed the baby out and I needed it to do it quickly.  They calmly reminded me that there was no clinical reason to induce me.  Being exhausted was just the way it was and that given the number of kids I was already parenting, as much could be expected.  I insisted that I needed to get on with it.  Then my physician looked at my chart, and exclaimed, “Ah!  You just had a birthday!  Normally we wouldn’t induce you as you are only just past 40 weeks pregnant, but you are 40 now.  The risk of stillbirth goes up significantly at that age.  Now we have a reason to induce.”

Now that’s foreshadowing.  They scheduled the induction for 24 hours later.

Then it happened; the sucker punch out of nowhere.    The day before I was going to be induced, Samuel’s heart stopped beating.

My baby boy dying was simply the final straw.  I am quite sure that some type of midlife crisis was already well underway, but the death of my beautiful baby boy really was like gasoline to fire.  I hated 40 more than I have ever hated a birthday or an age ever.   The entire past year, I have turned down every offer from everyone to celebrate it belatedly, over and over again.  “I don’t want to celebrate this stupid birthday.” I have said each time.  “There is nothing about 40 that is worth celebrating.” “I hate 40.” So we didn’t do anything.

But over the past week, I have suddenly felt like I should have done something.  After all, you only turn 40 once!  I started to regret that I let the whole year go by without doing any particular thing which would mark the occasion with some significance.  In the twilight of this milestone year, I realized that what had most certainly started out as the year I thought I would never survive, the year I have hated the most out of any other of my life thus far, and had become the year that I survived.

 I survived.

I made it through. I am still standing!  And I think maybe I am even standing straighter and taller and with more grace and faith than ever before.  All of the challenges, the stress, the grief, and the heart crushing pain were superseded.  They were transformed by strength and love, support and friendship and lots of prayer, reconstituting the rubble that I stood in the midst of into a brand new version of me. This rendition looks much different than last year’s version.

There is an obvious scar that I don’t hide.  I let it show.    And I give the cause of that scar a voice.  The silence of stillbirth makes me crazy. So I am not silent.

I am fiercely proud of my family.  My children are quite simply the light of my life.  And though no one will ever know my Samuel like I did, they will know his name, and his story. It is my story!  It is our family’s story.  And I am unfazed by those for whom this is uncomfortable.  Their discomfort may have given me pause before.  Now it gives me the words I write here.  My creativity has seen its rebirth because of them.

In this new version of me, I am clearer about what I want and what I don’t.  Much of this is different than it was before.  I don’t apologize for that.  I would have done before.

I experienced other unexpected losses this year in addition to my son.  Certain relationships ended because I finally stopped fighting for them. They were unhealthy and just didn’t work.  I have completely let them go, without reserving hope for their future.  I don’t hold onto “maybe one day…..” anymore.  Enough is enough. This has been a difficult and painful process, but it has been necessary.   I feel free and more peaceful since.

I am kinder to myself and more protective. Sometimes that means I am less kind to others, and less open.  I am less forgiving in some ways, but more tolerant.  I am indifferent to more things which don’t concern me, as my energy is more focused on what does.  I am still courageous and as always a fighter, but now I pick my fights more judiciously.  But may the good Lord help you if I bring that fight to your door.

I have allowed myself to become important to me again.  I learned how to let myself weigh back into the equation of my life.  I had been last on my own priority list for so long, I had fallen off of the bottom.  Sadly, this didn’t even bother me that much!  Now, I have a workout appointment almost every day with myself.  I don’t cancel.  I get more sleep.  I remember to take a snack for me, not just my kids.  I go out more with my friends, and I have hobbies that I actually pursue, not just remember pursuing.

Thank you little miss 40.  I am not scared of you anymore.  I don’t hate you anymore.  The journey of discovery I took along your road has been affirming. You marked the launching of a new part of my life in a new version of me, whom I am still just getting to know.  Sometimes living within this new skin feels uncomfortable, like a pair of new shoes which have not been completely broken in, but it is who I am now.  And the evolution is worth celebrating.

 

Grief Does Not Equate Insanity

Samuel’s birthday is coming up.  I have been reflecting a lot lately upon this long, intense year. It has been gut wrenching and devastating and quite honestly the worst year of my entire life.  The moment we realized that my perfectly healthy, full term baby boy died inside of me, my life took an abrupt and unexpected detour which frankly, I would give anything to reverse.

Somehow though it has also been a remarkable journey so far.  I could have anticipated some of what we have had to overcome.  But some obstacles have been a complete surprise. I have had to accept that there is an exceptional amount of misunderstanding and assumption surrounding this world of loss which has been quite alarming.

I found myself having to frequently defend what Grief Is and Is Not to many people.  I didn’t expect that.  I have in fact, fought for and defended grief so often, that I actually googled law school a few weeks ago. It seemed I was making arguments in defense of grief so much, I began to think, hell, I should make money doing stuff like this!

I had no idea that I would be mourning my son and educating others about grief all at the same time. I suppose I assumed that people close to us would perhaps take it upon themselves to find out how to best support us on this awful road.  After all, resources abound.  There are books, and support groups and workshops and internet sites and Facebook groups.  Sadly, I am pretty sure not much of that information was accessed.

The idea that grief equates insanity was one of the most frequent and dismaying defenses I had to make.

Here was my first experience doing so.

I had been venting to a family member about my experience with a medical office receptionist.  I had called a urology office about their referral process.  I told the receptionist that I was interested getting some information about a vasectomy reversal and was it possible to come in to speak to the urologist about the procedure?  I told her that I had a couple of questions regarding wait times, success rate, potential for complications etc.

She asked “When was your husband’s vasectomy?”

“Only three months ago,” I responded.

She paused. “Ok………..  Well, it is obviously unusual to want a reversal so quickly after just having had the procedure done.”

“I know,” I said.  “Our situation is quite tragic.  My husband had a vasectomy just prior to our son being still born.  I had last minute reservations before he went in for the procedure.  As soon as I had the capacity to let what had happened sink in, I regretted that we did it.  I want to get some information about getting the vasectomy reversed.

Silence.

“Well,” she said, a bit too abruptly, “have you spoken to your doctor about this?”

I bristled.  “Of course I have, but he believes it is too soon to even inquire about the procedure.  I disagree.  I feel there is no harm in getting some information.  Can you help me?”  I defended.

“Frankly dear,” she replied, “I think you should take your doctor’s advice.  It is simply too soon to be making decisions like this.”

I was astounded.  I was gob-smacked. I was enraged.

“I’m sorry, I said. “What did you just say to me?  And who are you exactly? Are you the urologist?”

“No!'” she said, surprised.  “I am the receptionist.”

“Right”, I said tersely.  “And it is your job to give me information.  Not your opinion.”

I hung up.  I was totally furious!  How could a woman who didn’t even know my name, pretend to know what might possibly be best for me or my family?  How unprofessional! Who has that kind of nerve? Or arrogance?  Or such lack of basic kindness?

I phoned a member of my family to commiserate.  I related the details, with emphasis and appropriate pauses.  “Can you believe it?” I said at the end of my story.  “Can you imagine the audacity of this stupid woman?”  I expected immediate sympathy.  That was the reason I called in the first place.  I expected shared outrage and disdain.

This person didn’t skip a beat.  She jumped to the receptionist’s defense immediately.

“She was just probably concerned you know.  Given the circumstances.”

The devil’s advocate?  Seriously?  I couldn’t believe it.

I played along, just to be polite-ish, for a minute or so.  “Sure, maybe,” I conceded, “but she didn’t sound concerned.  In fact, come to think of it, she didn’t even say, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss.’  Pretty basic stuff I’d have thought.  At the end of the day, it was just simply unprofessional of her to offer any sort of opinion at all.  Her job is to give information.  That’s it.”

“Well you know though,” Devil’s Advocate continued, “she is in the healthcare field.  She must just be concerned about you.  You know, she probably was trying to determine whether or not you were of sound mind.”

??????

Of sound mind??

I almost hit the floor. I should have just abandoned the conversation.  But I just couldn’t help myself.  I had to clarify.

“What did you just say?  Did you just say of sound mind?” I gasped.  “Are you suggesting that because I lost my baby, that I also lost my mind?”

A bit of weak back pedalling ensued, but quickly I realized that yes, she did not see a huge separation between grief and insanity.  I learned quite a bit from that unfortunate exchange, not the least of which was how ill-informed most people are about what grieving really is about.  And moreover, what it is NOT.

Here is my version of the Coles Notes on the subject:

Mourning is messy.  It is unpredictable.  It is confusing, and although it changes, it doesn’t ever completely end.  There are many styles of grieving, and all are not wrong.  Every person’s experience and process is very different.  I understand to the observer of the grieving process, it must look crazy. I can say from experience, it sure feels crazy at times.  But it most certainly is not actually crazy.

In fact, grief is not listed as a diagnosis in the DSM V, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Conditions.  Here is one of the commonly accepted definitions of grief:

 ‘Grief is a normal response to a loss.’

(The National Cancer Institute. Loss, Grief, and Bereavement (PDQ) 2005. Health Professional Version) 

Grief is NORMAL.  As in NOT crazy.

So there you have it.  Grief does not equate insanity.

The Defense rests.

Top Three Things Which are Impossible to Teach Kids

A few things must be noted before I go on.

1)  I confess that this list is biased based upon some of my own recent frustrations.

2)  This is not a complete list by any stretch.  These are just a few little things which make the day to day round exponentially harder or easier depending on;

     a) How many of the things on the list you are attempting to accomplish and,

     b)  How many small ones you have currently battling to learn any of the items listed.

The Top Three Things Which are Impossible to Teach Kids:

1.  Putting on mittens.  (This could also be on Top Three Most Frustrating Things to Teach Kids list)

Gloves are even worse.  I have collapsed, close to tears on many a walking path in winter trying to get a glove on my baby/toddler/preschooler for the umpteenth time.    You just get each tiny little finger lined up with each finger in the glove, and push…….the thumb never seems to make it! You’d think I’d have figured out a foolproof system for this, given the number of kids I have.  But nope!  No system here.  I have no advice for new parents on this front.  But I have become a master at cursing imperceptibly through pursed lips while putting on said gloves/mittens.  I could offer excellent lessons in the art of that!

My big boys were five before this task became somewhat less painful.  My youngest could do it when she was two years old.  Yet, I did nothing different. They get it when they get it.

2.  Blowing their nose.

This one is impossible to teach I have decided.  I have tried demonstrating the in vs. out technique, prompted them to “blow out like an elephant,” which has obvious associated risks for the young observer, and even cued them to “Sniff like you are smelling a flower, and oops you sniffed up a bee!  Now snort it out.”  Nothing. They sniff it up or blow out with their mouths. (Although, how cute is that?) The snot battle wages on.

They just get it when they get it.  One day, suddenly instead of wiping endless snot all over their faces and the backs of their hands, they are blowing it into a tissue.

Hallelujah!!

3.  Toilet training

Currently, I am sitting in my bathroom, barricading my little one in here with me and giving her the perceived “choice” of potty or toilet.  I have told her we are not leaving until she makes a decent effort to be productive on either one.  We have been here for 15 minutes and counting.

My second child was fully capable of toileting at 16 months.  I’m serious.  I did nothing special to achieve this.  He was ready and so he did it.  With this little monkey, I have bribed – no, ‘provided incentives’, from Dairy Milk Chocolate Buttons and Smarties, to coveted comfort items, etc. etc., but she is my most resistant yet.  She has switched between the potty and toilet now 5 times, and nothing.  Arrrgggh.  So much for the whole “girls are easier than boys to toilet train” theory.

And yes, yes I have read THAT book with the title which promises your child will be trained in a weekend.  Oh yes, and the other one which promises five days until certain victory.  Got them all right here.

If there is anything that having kids teaches you, is that there is not one formula that works for every child, and that is isn’t always about you being an ineffective parent or not having availed yourself of the ample resources about any number of pressing parenting concerns which come with the turf.  The more kids we have, the more I know this is an absolute truth.

Certain milestones are just difficult until suddenly, they aren’t.  That is just the nature of these little beasts.  And just when you think you have figured that one key thing out, and assume with oh-so-much confidence, that you will be ever-so-prepared for the next child you take through that particular stage of development, they play with your mind.  That next child has no trouble with that particular skill, the same one you went to painstaking efforts to teach the previous kid.  It will be a different task that they just won’t be able to do as easily as the other child.

Case in point:  I am still with my daughter in the bathroom.  We are now on minute twenty………

It’s a good thing I love chocolate buttons.

Sleepless

I am writing at 1 am.  Sleep is something I crave and need so much more than I used to, but I get into my bed and sleep slips right past me.  My husband snores and twitches and enjoys this instantaneous journey into sleepland, and I lay there waiting for my turn.  I gave up tonight and now write to try to fill the space with something else.

So many thoughts turn in my mind.  I think about my to-do list, how to best organize my tomorrow’s events, what school forms I have not yet signed, and what I am going to make for supper.  Next I run through the windows of time I have with each of my kids and how we might get to spend them.  Less often these days do I question how and why it was that Samuel died, thankfully, although in these sleepless moments, I confront my missing of him head on.  Sometimes his absence feels more factual and less painful, and then other nights the sadness fill me like a faucet fills an empty glass; in seconds. Then, I silently tell him I miss him and that I feel him with me.

I suppose practice makes perfect.  You begin to get used to missing your child and somehow you get better at negotiating it into your experience of your life with each day that passes.  I reflect on this often during these sleepless times.  I think about how strange it is that just when you think you are getting better at it, the missing of him, then that song comes on the radio, his song, and you are a mess.  This was happening to me twice a day for a while.  Then twice a week.  Now it occurs less frequently, but still often enough that you can’t really trust your emotions entirely.  What is with that?  Not long ago I was out for a run.  Samuel’s song started playing on my ipod and suddenly the tears started and kept coming.   Pretty quickly I was sobbing so hard that I couldn’t see where the hell I was going.  I crouched down beside a tree and let it all out.  There I was on the running path, having a great big ugly cry, right out in the open.  I simply didn’t give a rat’s behind who was there to witness it.

I rehash things like this during these sleepless times.

Tonight I have been thinking about what is next for me.  Work is looming over me like a cloud.  I am finally starting back next week.  The disability insurance people started threatening that my time was up two and a half months after my little one died.  “The average time for a person to return to work is 28 days,” the adjuster told me, ever so compassionately.  Then she said, “I know Mrs So-and-So that know your baby died…….but work is a good thing.” Thank you Janice.  Thanks so very much.

The trouble is, that I just don’t really care about work the way that I used to.  I’m sure that one day I will…….won’t I? I always have.  I like what I do, and have always been motivated and passionate about it.  Will I feel that way again?  I have been fortunate to have had this time off to get back on my feet, and I will go back to my job regardless of how it feels at the moment.  Somehow though, I anticipate that my job won’t fit for me the way it used to.

Before, juggling work and home life in a way that felt somewhat balanced, was a struggle.  I managed, but it was very complicated to orchestrate all of the moving parts. If one thing went wrong, the whole system fell apart.  I was constantly stressed and my mind   was often distracted.  I want life to feel simpler now.  “Complicated” steals energy from what I love, which is being with my family, and really being present to them.  This time we have together seems more vulnerable and precious and fleeting since Samuel died.   I cherish the now, and all I want to do is drink up each and every second.  Of course I have always valued my time at home with my little ones.  I have always loved it.  We have prioritized our lives accordingly, and I have been able to work part time outside the home.  But being with them for their day to day lives, to witness and facilitate the little details that make their day happen is critical for me in a whole new way since the game changer.  I guess death will do that to a person.

Things are different now.  I am different.   I feel less conflicted about balancing work and home life.  It is simple, and I am far less willing to negotiate about it. I want to be there in the morning for school drop off and when the big kids arrive home.  Making 100 different, complicated pick up and drop off arrangements is over.  If I can’t be there 90% of the time to manage getting the kids where they need to be, then something needs re-evaluating.  I want to be here for my little ones’ preschool and kindergarten years when we can zip to the zoo or catch an impromptu matinee, or just do puzzles or play dough all morning.  That stuff rocks my world.  Yes, I want a successful career, but I need to find a different way to pursue it.   What will be my new approach?  Change it in the air.

While I wish I was a-slumber, in peaceful reverie, I guess there is something exciting and reassuring about all of these midnight musings.  Even in the wake of horrible things happening, new and exciting things can evolve.  There is potential for new dreams while mourning the loss of the old dream.

Maybe dreaming while you’re sleepless is just as good as dreaming while you sleep.

 

No guilt for new shoes!

What is it about new shoes that make you feel so damned good?   Paolo Nutini sings about it in his jaunty and rather optimistic tune “Brand New Shoes.” Arnold Churgin advertises about it; “Life is short!  Buy the Shoes!”  (Or boots as was my recent indulgence.)  But either way, a sassy new pair of anything on your feet has power that no other article of clothing has.  Arnold and his marketing mavens have me sold.  I couldn’t agree more!  Every pair of tights, straight leg or skinny jeans I own, breathed new life when I introduced them to my new off-grey chunky heeled boots.  New foot apparel is the king of the closet!  One pair of anything sexy ramps up even the most tired skirt and blouse combo, and suddenly you have a bit more swing in your step, a tad more sway in your swagger, than you did just moments before.

Listen, I am the queen of comfort for the most part.  I am an offender of the Mom uniform at least a couple of times a week.  This is the commonly seen white t-shirt and yoga pants with the somewhat coordinated hoodie.  But even this oft criticised fashion faux pas can get the stamp of approval with a snappy pair of brightly coloured sneakers.  “Avid indulgers of retail therapy have known this for decades,” you say?  “Where have you been?”

Truthfully, shopping for emotional benefit has never been my main motivator.  I am more of a practical purchaser.  My motto is “Know what you are looking for, find it and get the heck outa there.”  This evolved from hard earned experience.  Any chance of getting enjoyment from shopping gets killed when you are trying to find your size of anything at all while your baby screams and your rambunctious toddler plays hide-and-go-seek in other people’s change rooms.  While I am beyond that stage with my kids for the moment, the philosophy stuck and my closet reflects this rather pragmatic viewpoint.

My recent purchase of leather heaven though, certainly didn’t fall neatly into the necessities category.  That was a firmly planted want, not need. I indulged in some well thought out retail therapy and enjoyed every second of it.  No guilt at all.  All Hail, King of the Closet!  I think from now on I will pay homage to you more often!

Paolo agrees.  Have a listen.