Papa

From the outside he sounded like a statistic, and not a very happy one.  Blinded in one eye at the hands of a father in a freak accident when he was 2 or 3.  School drop out.  Married at 17 to a woman 4 years his senior.  A father at 18.  Buried his firstborn son at 34.  A father four more times to only daughters.  

His daughters would tell another story.  The hardest working man that they knew, who could be relied upon to be the best manager at the grocery stores he managed for years.  A tough dad that demanded they work hard and do better than he did.  One who rarely showed emotion, instead showing love through providing for his family.  A man who was respected and well loved at his job, in the neighborhood, and at church.

His grandchildren would tell another story.  A loving, kind, funny Papa who wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was (good or bad) who always had coffeecake on the counter and circus peanuts in the cabinet for when they came to town.  A man who with one hand movement that we all know, would ask if you wanted to do his favorite past time, playing cards.  He would play at any and all hours, with whoever would join him, sticking to the four or so games he loved the most and would gladly teach anyone who didn’t know how to play.  We knew him to have the patience of a saint, a rite of passage in childhood was learning the seven hands of progressive rummy, which is a game I have yet to play with anyone other than him.

Just like I was with Nana, I am selfishly happy that I was the oldest grandchild.  I had him all to myself for nearly four years and he was vastly different grandfather than he was a father.  He would often reminisce with stories about me when I was a baby or a toddler.  Mom didn’t work when we were growing up, so she would spend several weeks down in North Carolina in the summers and he doted on us.  He took us fishing, taught us how to play golf, took us swimming in the lake, and brought us on his “paper route” in his rural neighborhood, which consisted of Courtney and I bouncing around the bed of his pickup truck while he brought newspapers down the long driveways of his favorite neighbors.  We would often accompany he and Nana at one of their timeshares in the mountains.  The smell of coffee and Busch beer will always remind me of their house because neither of our parents drank coffee or beer.

He and Nana came to visit me a couple of times in college and I was thrilled to have my grandparents come and visit.  They would take me out to dinner at one of his favorite buffet restaurants and would press a $20 bill into my hand when we got back to my dorm.  He would write to me on instant messenger, keeping up with the latest slang better than I would.

He loved holding his great grandsons, Chase and Ryder, when they were babies and would be quick to come into the house and take them out of the arms of whoever had them.  He was proud to be a great grandfather, and I am so blessed that he was a great grandparent to my kids.  One of Ryder’s first understandable words was “Papa” and there’s a reason for that.

He quit smoking cold turkey when his best friend died over 30 years ago, but had health issues from all of the years he was a smoker.  He had quadruple bypass surgery nearly 25 years ago, and then by some miracle, my sister, Mom and I were staying with he and Nana when he had a stroke almost fifteen years ago.  I still remember him giving us the thumbs up as he was wheeled out of the house.  At the hospital he cracked jokes with the nurses, played cards with us in the “visitor area” and nearly got us kicked out of the unit because we were laughing so hard.  Thankfully he didn’t have any lingering effects after that episode.  Because of his heart problems, he was an avid walker.  Rain or shine, the only thing that slowed him down was ice.  When his wife fell ill six years ago, he took over the role of caretaker and did it well.  After Nana passed away, he even learned how to cook.  And although I know it would literally kill Nana to hear me say this, he made a better macaroni and cheese than she did!

His work ethic never wavered in his 86 years.  We would all shake our heads with disbelief when he insisted that he continue to work in his 80s at a drugstore he had once managed.  His manager would often tell him that he was the best employee that he had.  He kept his home and later his apartment as immaculate as he did the stores he worked in.

He was a lover of country music, baseball, and Duke basketball.  He would religiously follow the sports teams of the colleges his grandchildren attended.  He would regularly stay up later than anyone else if he was watching the end of a game.  Despite his cleanliness, he would hoard magazines that he knew his girls and grandkids liked.

He would claim to be introverted, but when he moved into a retirement community after Nana passed away, he was known as the “cruise director.”  He was the ringleader of a group of 18 or so that would play cards every single day and he would get my aunt who lived down the street to print out copies of the rules for the games he played most often.  

He would brush it off and shy away from any compliments that anyone ever gave him, but he will be missed by anyone who ever knew him.

A month ago, we went down to North Carolina and I ran a race with my sister and cousin.  Papa’s hearing hadn’t been great for years, so when the boys were around, it was hard for him to focus and hear.  The second night we were there my husband brought the boys to their other grandparents’ house, so it was much quieter than it usual.  He was more “Papa” in those couple of hours than he had been in years.  He told stories about the people who lived in his community, made fun of my sister and beat us all handedly in cards.

When we dropped him off that night, I had no idea that would be the last time I would see him.  We had such a great night and so much fun and I am so grateful that is how I will remember him.  But I wish I had given him one more hug, told him one more time how much I loved him and let him know what a great grandfather he was and how lucky we were to call him ours.  

Advertisements

Lost

Writing and running have long been my outlets.  I am writing this not for pity, sympathy or attention, I am writing for myself and also in the off chance that someone going through a similar situation who is as lost as I am feeling, may find something helpful in this post.  And I’m writing it now because I’ve had a lot of time to think in the past 51 hours.

Pregnancy is all about statistics.  Numbers are thrown around all the time.  80% of all couples get pregnant within six months of trying.  40% of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage.  Once you hear the heartbeat, the percentage of miscarrying goes down to 5%.  There is 50% viability at 24 weeks.  And a 0.59% chance of having a stillborn baby.  We were the 0.59%.

Everything this time was perfect.  My out of control white coat hypertension was minimal (meaning my blood pressure in the doctor’s office was closer to normal than ever).  At 15 weeks my favorite ultrasound tech snuck me back and told me that we were having a girl.  It was easy to pick out a name, Charlotte Kathryn.  Charlotte because I have always like that name and Kathryn was the name of my grandmother.  She was due in the spring, right smack in between Chase’s third and fourth birthday.  I pretended that I was nervous about having a girl.  I am a tom boy, I love sports, hate hair, and have loved being a mother to a son.  Secretly I was ecstatic about the prospect of having a mini me.  A blonde haired, blue eyed little person to follow me around the kitchen baking cookies and cupcakes.  Someone who would have the same relationship with me as I had with my mom.  A little girl born with a protector, her big brother ready to look out for her and at the age where he would be a huge help to me.

Despite everything seeming fine, at the same time, I had a feeling of dread about the entire pregnancy.  I had three or four dreams about miscarrying and I never had a single dream that I was pregnant.  No milestone was enough to ease my mind.  Time DRAGGED by.  At 11 weeks, 4 days, I thought I was having contractions, so I went to the doctor.  I wasn’t.  At 19 weeks, my ultrasound was fantastic, but they wanted me to get another ultrasound to monitor some fluid back up in her kidneys.  But other than that, things pointed to everything being ok.  I started feeling her move at 14 weeks and felt her every single day from that point on. At 18 weeks, she was moving so powerfully, that you could see my tummy bump multiple times during the day, but that feeling never subsided.

I acted weird the entire pregnancy.  I had written my usual Christmas letter to go with our Christmas cards and had stuffed, stamped and addressed the envelopes a week ago, and had left them sitting on the island in our kitchen.  Although I was thrilled at the prospect of having a girl, I had hardly purchased anything.  At this stage in my pregnancy with Chase, I had already registered two places, purchased a crib, mattress and a changing table.  This time, I had bought one single pair of pajamas.  It was almost impossible for me to admit that I was pregnant.  I am not sure I said the words, “I’m pregnant” more than a handful of times.  I still tried to hide my quickly becoming visible bump from everyone.  I almost begged my husband to not go to his company holiday party last weekend.  No milestone was enough and most of my google searches were related to fetal viability, miscarriages and even stillbirths.

I was obsessed with advancing through the pregnancy.  I had four different countdowns in spreadsheets to march closer and closer to my due date.  I had little reminders of everyday passing by everywhere.  I had enough cotton balls for removing makeup set out to take me until late February (I counted them), I rationed body wash so that it would last for months.  Chase was born at 34 weeks, and I kept thinking, “if I just make it to 34 weeks…”  I didn’t mind being pregnant (my only complaint was heartburn), I just couldn’t get to March or April fast enough.  I was obsessed with getting to six months or 23 weeks because I felt like it would be harder for things to go wrong after that.

At twenty-two weeks, three days, I noticed that this crazy child (who I could feel move every hour day and night), hadn’t really done much moving.  I had been on my feet most of the morning, which makes it harder for me to feel, so I took a shower and laid down and she started doing her crazy kicking and punching again. Unfortunately that was the last time I truly, honestly felt her. Two days later I asked a friend if I could borrow her Doppler because everything I perceived as movement could have been digestive.  I was stuck back in the, “was that a kick?” constant questioning of the early second trimester.  After thirty minutes of searching for a heartbeat we couldn’t find it and decided to go to the hospital.  At 22 weeks, 5 days, our girl was gone.  A reminder that sometimes statistics don’t work in your favor.

I am a very optimistic person.  I am always looking for the silver lining.  I’ve thought of a couple.  First, I’m having a huge glass of wine at every meal over the holidays.  Maybe even breakfast.  Brad and I can go on our annual anniversary vacation in April.  We can take Chase to Disney World for his fourth birthday.  We could be at the viable stage.  Or even full term when this happened.  But the truth is, I am completely heartbroken.  I try to be strong for myself and Brad and my family, but here I am days later and still struggling to hold it together all the time.  Which I totally realize is normal.  Although I hate to get emotional in front of people, I am allowing myself to grieve, which is probably the toughest part of all.

I’m not only mourning this baby, I am devastated for so much more.  All I wanted was a normal pregnancy.  One that went full term, with a healthy baby that can stay in our room as soon as it was born.  Maybe I could see what labor was like.  When we checked into the hospital on Tuesday, and I caught whiffs of all of the familiar smells of Labor and Delivery, I was suddenly hopeful.  This was just some fluky thing, she was facing the wrong direction, kicking my internal organs, and everything was fine.

Even though deep down I knew something was wrong.  We went to a Christmas themed park the night I started worrying and I was irritated at all of the kids running around.  And all of the babies, in all of their adorable snowsuits.  There was even a little girl in front of us named Charlotte.  Then Monday, I cried all the way home because I was so worried that there was something wrong after not feeling any movement.  On Tuesday, I called the doctor and despite a reassuring fetal kick test (so I thought), I was second guessing myself and still was worried that something was wrong.  Sometimes a mother’s instinct knows best.

The Labor and Delivery wing is not made for parents of stillborn babies.  The bulletin board in my room says “We are having a BOY/GIRL/ It’s a SURPRISE!”  It talks about labor progress, and asks for “Name Chosen.”  There is a cart filled with diapers and wipes.  A warmer for when the baby is born.  The entire room mocked me.  Happy families in the hallway. Carolers singing because of the holidays. A lullaby over the intercom comes every time a new baby is delivered. There are baby pictures down the hall and babies crying in the room next door.

Worst of all, there is a scarlet letter placed on our door as a bereaving family.  A small postcard with a leaf and a single raindrop in the middle to signify “Death Within”.  We are outsiders there and it warns the nurses, “Careful with this room, they don’t have anything to celebrate.”  I feel like I am going to be branded with that for the rest of my life.

And here is the cruel irony. No labor for first child (he arrived via c-section before I could go into labor), full labor for the second stillborn child. It’s the dirty little secret that they don’t tell you about. If your child dies inside of you, there are very few safe ways to get it out. The main way is the way that you would deliver any baby. Induce labor. Pain and pushing. Delivery. The only difference is that normally you reach with open arms for a bundle of joy that is crying for your comfort. Meanwhile, we asked them to take Charlotte away so that we could do the crying. She lay on an inactive warming machine less than five feet from us for over an hour. She looked like she was sleeping with nothing wrong with her. We kept waiting for her to cry out for us.   In the end we left the hospital with a small box of keepsakes including feet/hand imprints, hair snippets, photos and a death certificate.

I still can’t wrap my head around it.  We had less than a 1% chance of this happening and of all of my friends, family and even acquaintances, there is only one other person that I know who has had a stillborn baby.  Of course I wonder if it was something I did.  Did I take too many Tums?  Is it because I didn’t stop drinking coffee?  Was it because I slept on my right hand side and not my left? Were my showers too hot?  What about the glue they were using on the roof at work when I was four weeks along?  Did I want it so badly that I caused this to happen?  How could it be that just two days earlier I felt her and even saw her moving around?  What on earth happened in those two days?

At the same time, I am so grateful that this happened at this time of year.  We always have a strong family support system, but it’s even stronger around the holidays. It is a time filled with family and love and that is exactly what we will need.  Any earlier or later in the year and it wouldn’t be quite the same.  Until the holidays, which will be tougher than I could have ever imagined, we have so many amazing friends and co-workers who are going out of their way to express their concerns and condolences.

It is going to be tough.  Really tough.  I didn’t know I was capable of producing so many tears for a complete stranger.  Or for anyone for that matter.  But again, I am trying to look on the bright side.  We have a beautiful, wonderful little boy who owns my heart.  There are so many others who don’t have that much to show for it.  I am reminded of the quote, “Is it better to have love and lost than have never loved at all?”  Worst things could have happened and happen to countless others every single day.  Maybe I will decide that this is it and we won’t try again for another baby.  I’m not sure I can take the stress and worry all over again.  That it could all still end in heartbreak.  It would be easy to say I’m done, but I don’t know if I am ready to throw in the towel.  I really wanted another baby.  I really wanted a little girl.  I was so happy that we were heading in that direction.  I do know this, I am going to hug my husband a little closer (he has been amazing through all of this), snuggle a little more with my little guy and enjoy some time at home with friends and family for the holidays.

As hard as this has been for us, I have still been blessed with an amazing, active, sweet son and my life doesn’t stop just because someone else’s has.  There will still be tears, sadness and grieving, but life goes on.  Chase is very much alive and depends on me to be there for him.  Despite the time of year when this happened, it is a season of joy and love.  Thank you for all of the thoughts, prayers, love and overwhelming support we have received from everyone.  Enjoy the holidays and be sure to hold your loved ones extra tight : ).

Sabbatical So Far…

A girl could really get used to this.  I won’t, but I could.  Especially because it is sunny and gorgeous and the summertime.  If this sabbatical was falling in January or February, it would be a different story.  But it is the end of May and beginning of June and Chase and I are having a blast!

We have done a lot.  In addition to our couple of strawberry picking ventures, trips to the beach, lunches with friends old and new, stopping by work so everyone can see Chase, jaunts to the pool, running a million errands, and a trip to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, I’ve also turned over some new leaves.

I have exercised almost every day.  I have fixed dinner three times.  I painted our front door blue.  I have had a lot of summer cocktails and adult beverages, and have enjoyed every one of them.  And I’m not the only one to work on self improvement.  Chase is no longer afraid of waves at the beach.  He actually runs (fast) to the water squealing and smiling the whole time.  He has learned how to hold on to a noodle and navigate his way around our community pool.  If you try to help him, he gets mad.  He can take a shower (rather than a bath) without vomiting because he is crying so hard.  I haven’t exactly kept him on such a rigorous schedule as his regular daycare provider would approve of (ahem, Rhonda), but that’s why we pay her the big bucks, right?

There have been multiple leisurely mornings.  Like sleeping until 9am, and I’m not talking about me.  There have been some later bedtimes.  Some later lunch times.  Some later naptimes.  But life is too short to play by the rules all the time, so we’re going to enjoy these days while we can.

We still have SIX MORE DAYS!  Let’s see what shenanigans we can get in to in the next 144 hours!

Closure

On July 16, 2007, the two partners of the advertising agency I was working for brought me out to lunch. I had been working there a little over three years and this was the first time in probably three years that just the two of them took me out. They were smiling and excited when they asked, “Are you happy here?” followed by, “would you want to try something new?” By the end of the day it was announced that the agency was closing at the end of the month.

At the agency I was a media buyer, which basically meant I purchased commercials for our clients to buy on various forms of advertising (broadcast television, radio, cable television, etc.) but my father had sold media for years, so I decided that this was my chance to branch out to try what I felt I had been destined to do. I interviewed with two broadcast stations and the local cable provider and would have given anything to work for cable. I knew someone who worked there who absolutely loved what he did and raved about the company. My interview went extremely well and I loved the guy who I interviewed with. If I got the job I was going to have a client list (the holy grail of media sales) and my expected income was tens of thousands of dollars more than I was earning. A week or so later when they offered me the job, I danced to my car.

Fast forward to May 29, 2013, my final day at a phenomenal company. I learned so much about the industry, about advertising, about numbers and about how to sell. I learned how to be the type of salesperson that I would have wanted to deal with when I was a buyer. I established relationships with all of my clients and became friends with many of them. But the hardest, hardest part of leaving, was saying good bye to my coworkers. When I started I was a naïve 25 year old two years in to my marriage, when I left I was a 31 year old mother, now married to the same man for over eight years. They saw me blossom into an adult and I was there for them too. I went to their weddings, funerals for their spouses and parents, baby showers for their first, second, or fourth kids, they visited me in the hospital when Chase was born, they came to our house warming, and we had playdates with our kids. I had pool dates and happy hours and dinners and beach days and brunches and trips with these people. My friends at work have become my family through the years.

There is the guy who was my GO TO for career advice. The woman who calls me “sugar,” and always asks about my son. The guy I jokingly called my work husband. My former teammates who became my co-conspirers, and whose husbands get along with mine. The guy who was my constant lunch companion who kept it real for me in terms of life and work. There was my first manager who made me laugh. My second manager who helped me spread my wings. My third manager who inspired and encouraged me. My mentor who came and went but who provided (actually provides) me with all the support I could ever need. The friend who gave me bags of clothes after a former executive criticized our work attire. My girl who I could always depend on to talk jewelry or handbags. My coworker who was readily available to hand out free financial advice. My pal who was always good for a laugh. My friend who from the outside we look like complete opposites, but upon closer inspection, we have more in common than most people. My running buddy who keeps me sane and honest. The chick born on the same day as my mother-in-law who I love like she was my mom. I will miss all of them.

The company afforded me the opportunity to take three months off when Chase was born. They sent me to the Bahamas for an all expenses paid trip. The money I made doing what I loved to do helped us to buy our dream home. I had as much vacation as some Europeans and was able to spend more time with my friends and family because they wanted us to have a work/life balance. It was a fantastic company to cut my teeth on for sales and for a real corporate job after working at a family owned, small advertising agency.

So why did I leave? The industry is not the same as when I started. There were internal changes made that didn’t gel well with me. There were a couple other personnel issues. And truthfully I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue my career in sales, specifically in media sales. I had the requisite 3-5 years of experience under my belt and it was time to move on. I’m sad, yes, but I am so excited about this new chapter in my career.

If you have been following this blog for very long, you know that I’m very sentimental and I need closure. This was my closure. The company where I spent more time than college deserved more than a passing mention in a post about some time off, which is why I had to write what I wrote tonight. I love you guys and will miss you all!

On Marriage

This post is solely dedicated to my sister.  She’s going through some growing pains.  She is slowly but surely becoming the odd woman out; the last of the “single” girls.  She is currently in a relationship, but it is in the early stages with its own complications, further distancing her from her core group of girlfriends.  So Tizz, this one is for you.

Marriage is the union of two people, for better or worse, in sickness and health, until death do you part.  When you do get married, make sure it is for the right reasons.  Don’t do it because anyone other than the two of you said to do it (or not do it).  This is for real, for the long haul, so make sure you choose wisely.

When you get to that point know this, marriage is whatever you want it to be.  If you want to be the stereotypical domestic goddess, subservient wife, then more power to you.  If you want a passionate, 50 Shades of Gray type marriage, that’s great too (just don’t tell Mom and Dad)!  If you want to fill your house with ten kids and become the ultimate Mom and Dad, then perfect!  Whatever you decide, make sure you are both on the same page.

There are some key concepts to keep in mind once you do get married.  Two individuals came into this union, and marriage doesn’t mean that your individuality vanishes.  You are always entitled to your own friends, your own personal time and your own opinions.  Just because you are a permanent couple doesn’t mean that you give up the couple of decades of you being you.  Your life is not over when you get married.  It’s really just beginning.

When (or if) the kids come, the foundation of your relationship will be rocked to the core.  You hear people make comments all the time about how much stronger their marriage is now that they have children.  They are lying.  Despite the aggravations, the two of you came before your new bundle of joy and remembering you came first (both literally and figuratively) will keep your marriage in check.  Take advantage of the dozens of people who volunteer to babysit and go on dates or even vacations. And don’t feel guilty about doing either of those things.

Everyone should experience having children (a topic I will cover in another post), but if you cannot have them, do not let the lack of parenthood define you or your relationship.  Buy a nice car, fill your house with a couple of sweet dogs and relish in the amount of money you will always have, vacations you can always take and the blessed time you will have with each other.

I got lucky. I met my best friend when I was 15, somehow convinced him that I was a catch, stole him away from another girl and nearly six and a half years after our first date, met him at the alter.  We’ve been together for over fourteen years, and our relationship isn’t perfect.  There are days I want to send him back to that other girl, but we make up for those days with interesting conversation, doing things we love to do and a lot of laughs.  I can only hope that you are as lucky as I have been.  I managed to nab a man who is a caring, thoughtful, hilarious husband, a fun, loving, attentive father and he also happens to do laundry, cook and vacuum.

Marriage is hard.  It may be the toughest job (save being a parent) you will experience.  But at the end of the day, it is worth it and will be one of the most wonderful, fantastic, rewarding decisions you ever make.  So ignore the haters, take your time and don’t screw it up : ).

I think this is my all time favorite picture : )

Our House is a Very Very Very Fine House

This was the last full weekend in our current house.  I would like to think that I’m not affected by it.  I’ve never really had much of an attachment to this house because I knew it was a temporary venture.  All of the walls are still white, we never even did much decorating because this house was looked at as a tax break and an escape from renting.  It was hardly a year after as we moved in that we were trying to find a better house to move in to.  The housing “crisis” hit within months of us closing and at that time the builder slashed prices by tens of thousands of dollars to get rid of the inventory, so there has been a lot of resentment towards this house.  We overpaid even in the craziness of the mid 2000s and we will never recoop most of our losses.

I haven’t had that much negativity the whole time we’ve lived here.  This was our first house as a couple.  It was one of the first we had looked at and at that time it was out of price range.  Within a month both of us had gotten raises, so we went back and took another look.  It was new construction and only the foundation had been poured, so we could pick out the carpet, cabinet, linoleum and counter colors.  We were grownups since we were finally making grownup decisions and a GROWNUP mortgage payment.  We were 23 and buying a house with our own money and a decent down payment we had scraped together.  We had lived very frugally in college and after graduation, so this was a reward for our sacrifices.

It was a gated community which was nice considering I spent the better half of the week by myself.  We had one connecting wall with our neighbor since it was a duplex, but in the years that followed, we’ve only heard them once.  It had three bedrooms, which was enough for a guest bedroom and a study (and possibly a baby?).  A huge walk-in pantry, two walk-in closets, two and a half bathrooms and an enormous master bed and bath.  There was a fenced-in backyard that was perfect to do some gardening, but no grass to mow (and the grass in the front yard was taken care of by our home owners association).  A community pool was just an added bonus.  It was the perfect starter home.

We closed six months to the day after our wedding and we moved out of our awful apartment.  I did cartwheels in the empty family room and we spent the next couple of months adding blinds, drapes, pictures and knick knacks.

There was a bit of a learning curve.  After spending my entire childhood on the other side of town, I had to learn where things were and how to get around.  Most of the area was farmland when we moved in, and we are miles away from the closest highway and when I changed jobs after living here for a couple of years, it took weeks before I knew the best way to go to and from work.

Flash forward six and a half years.  Although I still have some issues with it, I have to admit that this has been a really good house.  A very, very fine house even.  While we lived in this house we got a dog, I found out I was pregnant, Chase was born, and we’ve had fun get togethers and dinners.  We both started new careers while we lived here.  My love for baking blossomed in that kitchen.  My little nook on our oversized couch has been my area of comfort and solace ever since we moved in.   There are too many fun and funny stories to count (most of them involve me locking myself out of the house while in the backyard and having to jump our six foot privacy fence).  It has been a perfect size for us and if we had to, we could live here for many more years.  In the past couple of years we’ve gotten to know our neighbors and I am sad that we’ll be leaving them.  We’ve put miles and miles on the asphalt around our ‘hood.  When we first moved in, Brad and I would take walks when it was nice outside, since then Foster has sniffed every single blade of grass of our usual path, my pregnant self waddled around countless times (including at 10:30pm on a rainy night when I was super uncomfortable) and Chase loves the attention the neighbors always rain on him whether he’s in his stroller, wagon or walking on his own.

We’ve fallen in love with the area so much that we are only moving a couple of miles away.  There are running paths all around.  Part of the farmland was developed into a much needed hospital and medical park, more of it was built into a huge shopping center that has a ton of stores that I love and still isn’t packed all of the time.  The biggest concert venue is a couple of miles away.  Most of my doctors’ offices opened satellite offices around the area, Chase’s doctor is nearby and the school districts are good.  Our sitter lives less than a mile from our house and neither of us have to take the interstate to get to work.  In fact, just about any way I go to work I drive through mostly farmland.  It’s unusual in this day and age.

So while I would like to think that it’s no big deal that we’re moving and that we’ve basically been searching for a new place to live ever since we moved in, I will miss this house.  When I look back and think about it, this has turned into our home.  A home that has kept us warm and safe for the longest stretch that I have lived in a home full time.  A home that saw a couple grow into a family.  A home that despite it all, I have really grown to love.  I relish the last couple of days that we are here be grateful that we are not yet selling it.

I can’t wait to start building memories in our new house very soon.

We’re Moving, God Help Us

We’re not very good at moving.  After the inevitability of moving every single year in college, we did a pretty good job of settling down after graduation.  We lived together for nine months, got married, bought a house 6 months later and I sit writing on a couch in that same house six and a half years later.  We’re quickly outgrowing our “5 year house,” but the economy tanked, my job became a little less secure, and I wanted to make sure we could actually start a family before we moved into a house suited for one.  But the time is upon us, we have found a home.

Unfortunately, this moving process isn’t as easy as it should be.  We are renting our current house out starting in the middle of April (money talks, people), and the sellers of our new home are renting it back from us until the end of May.  That leaves us homeless until the beginning of June.  Of course, we aren’t homeless at all, we’ll be moving in with my parents, which will prove to be an adventure, I’m sure.  It will be wonderful to have built in babysitters, but it will double my commute to work and the sitter isn’t “on the way” to Brad’s office any more, so I think I will be doing a lot of the picking up and dropping off.  Plus we are used to having our own space, time and privacy.  Brad is traveling most of the time we will be living there, so he will have his own reprieve and I will appreciate the help while he’s gone, but I think it will be a long two months.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited about this new house!  Chase will have a playroom, Foster (and Chase) will have a backyard, I will have an ENTIRE PANTRY just for my baking stuff, we will have an attic, a room for an as yet conceived second (and third?) child (not to make an appearance until LATE 2013 or early 2014), and a fireplace in the master bathroom.  Yes, in the bathroom.  I am so excited to get in the house, I can hardly stand it, but we do have mere 79 days in between now and then.  Not that I’m counting.

Wish us luck.  We are going to need it.

Winter Got You Down?

There is one and only one saving grace to winter, and that my friends, is skiing.  Well that and maybe Christmas too.  But after the hangovers of Christmas, New Years and then Brad’s birthday (all a week apart), there is nothing but a vast expanse of cold, illness and untanned skin.  Cue winter fun!

This January 8th was Brad’s 30th birthday.  He had wanted to go skiing “locally” (i.e. within a 3 hour drive of the flat, flat tidewater area), but since it was kind of a big deal that he was hitting a big birthday and since my ever so enterprising sister had an ingenious idea to go west (complete with hotel recommendations), we decided to do it up!  This would prove to be a very good idea because there has been no snow whatsoever practically east of the Mississippi and south of DC this winter.  We had gone out to Colorado before, love the mountains, hated the two hour drive from the airport and had only heard great things about Utah, so we hit the skies on converged on Park City!

My sis’s high-school-boyfriend/close-friend-ever-since met us there as did Courtney and we had three amazing days on the slopes.  Everyone out there was very apologetic about the lack of snow, and it was such a major issue that at least half of the trails at every resort were closed, but it was so much more than we have had or were expecting that we didn’t mind at all!  Everyone got along so well, we loved the resorts out there and I think Brad had a pretty good 30th birthday.  Of course, four days after we got home, Park City had an extra 3 FEET of snow on the ground.

I can’t complain much about this winter because even today it is supposed to be 60 with a weeklong forecast that includes only 50s and 60s, but hopefully my main man Punxsutawney Phil won’t see his shadow next week and we will be in for an early spring rather than pushing winter into April.  Phew, are we there yet?

Sisters!

Me and the Birthday Boy!

Oh the holidays…

I’ve been baking and baking and baking some more these past couple of weeks! With Thanksgiving kicking off the start of the madness! I fixed some pumpkin cupcakes for a friend. Then made some treats for my fam. Followed by cupcakes and a cake for a co-worker’s daughters 5th birthday. Then breakfast cakes for our realtor to hand out to his clients. Finally more treats for the holiday, which will really start today! On the hopper I’ve got Poor Man’s Toffee (so yummy and so easy), Buckeyes for my native Ohio in-laws, Coconut Orange Snowballs and finally Cheesecake Brownies. I plan on spending most of today in the kitchen and I am so happy to do just that!

Have a happy, healthy holiday season! Merry Christmas to you and your families : ). See you in the new year!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Cinnamon Breakfast Cakes

Birthday Cupcakes


Nana

This past week I lost my last living grandmother, my mother’s mom whom all of the grandkids called Nana. She had endured a year-long battle with a form of leukemia prevalent among elderly people whose blood gets worn out after decades of doing its job. She is survived by her loving husband of 64 years, her four daughters, 10 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. She will join her son who passed away in adolescence close to fifty years ago.

That is what everyone will read in the paper, this is the woman that I knew.

I was the first grandchild of the oldest daughter, and had four glorious years of Nana to myself. I named her (and consequently named my grandfather Papa) although she had insisted that she be called “grandmother, it never stuck. My stay at home mom would take me down to North Carolina to the only house I ever knew for weeks at a time when I (and later my sister) were younger. When we weren’t visiting, we would call every weekend and keep in touch that way. When I was about 3 or 4 (I remember this, so I wasn’t that young), I filed a complaint about Nana. She hugged me so tight that it hurt. That epitomizes her role as a person and especially as a grandmother. She loved so much and so hard, it hurt. That is her lifelong legacy.

Days spent with Nana were filled with baking cookies, icing cakes, pouring over baby pictures of my aunts, my mom and myself, fixing delicious southern style meals, playing cards, taking pictures and spending time in her garden or on one of the swings she had installed around the property after she had grandchildren. Once we were in school, we would still go down for a week at a time at least once in the summertime. If we got lucky, we would spend that time in the mountains at a timeshare that my grandparents owned. Mom and Papa would go play golf and Courtney and I would hang out in the condo doing crafts that Nana had brought for us to do. At their house, we knew that every morning there would be a gift waiting for us on the dresser in their room and store bought coffee cake (the ultimate treat for us) waiting on the kitchen counter.

 I always had a special place in my heart for Nana when I was younger, but once I grew up; I realized what a special person she was. She was the kindest person I have ever met. She never met a stranger, and never hesitated to tell you all about the strangers she met. She had an enormous heart, would give away everything she had to someone less fortunate than her and also had a wicked sense of humor. She was a religious watcher of entertainment shows on television and sometimes you would get half way through a conversation with her about Britney this or Brad that before realizing she was talking about celebrities. She was a fierce fan of the Braves (and later Nationals), Duke basketball (although she was really a closeted Carolina fan) and Virginia Tech football during and after my time there. She and Papa would stay up later than I would to watch the ends of games or during a particular lengthy and competitive game of triominos or Rummy cube.

Although she was 86, she could remember everything. Even until the day she died she was sharp as a tack. She remembered things about people and events that sometimes it would catch you off guard and you would wonder if she was finally losing it, but she wasn’t. She had just proven to you that her memory was better than yours. 99% of the time she was right about what she was talking about. I like to pride myself on my memory and I know that I get it from her. For her sweet side, she was feisty too. One of the first times my high school boyfriend (and later husband) met Nana, she told him to pull his pants up and that he needed a belt. When I would bring my child down to see her, she would fuss at me about putting him in some nicer outfits (particularly overalls), making sure he had on a dry diaper and had a full stomach. She would fuss at us for not eating enough, waking up too soon (she was a lifelong advocate of sleeping in and practiced herself), calling my unborn child a “kid” (she would ask me if he was a goat) or not helping out our mom. She was extremely protective of her grandchildren. She once chopped the head off of a baby rattlesnake that I came across one summer at their house and she was proud of my sister for breaking up with her mediocre boyfriend (and told her so).

I have so many wonderful memories about Nana. Her chasing down (as much as she could with a walker) a handsome college friend at our wedding that she had met at my college graduation. Waking up to the smell of coffee at their house (my parents didn’t drink coffee, so that olfactory memory was even more powerful). Her crying when I told her that she was going to be a great grandmother and not stopping the tears long enough to call her only daughter that didn’t know yet. Lying in bed with her watching movies that she had recorded off of TV for me and my sister. Swinging on their porch swing for hours hearing about her childhood.

I am selfish about some parts of Nana too. Her side of the family had longevity on its side. Her mother, brother and sister had been close to ninety when they passed away. When Brad and I discussed starting a family, I figured that my children would have memories of their great grandmother because I “knew” I had years before her time would be up. Now that she’s gone, I am so grateful that she was at so many special events in my life. She attended my high school and college graduation. She preceded me down the aisle at my wedding. She got to cuddle and snuggle and hug and kiss my son. She was able to spend five weekends with him before she passed away. But it makes me so sad that he won’t get to know her like I did. That he won’t get to experience the love she had for him or how much joy he brought to her. That he won’t whine to me that she hugs him too tight. Instead all I have are some stories I can tell him about the two of them, and some pictures. Although that is all I have, it’s going to have to be enough. And it is more than anyone else.

No matter your religious affiliation, there are some signs when someone passes away that you cannot ignore. The day after she died, Brad said in a passing comment before leaving for work, “Oh look, our roses are blooming again.” In December. You figure that one out.

I love you Nana, I will miss you until the day that I die, and I will never ever forget you. Thank you for hugging me so tightly. Thank you for being a role model on how to treat other people and how to love. If at the end of the day I have 1/8 of the compassion that you had, then I came out better than most. You were the best grandmother that anyone could ever wish for and I am so happy we had 29 years together. Your legacy will live on among all that met you and knew you and although we won’t be perfect, we will try to make you proud.