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.  

Interlude, Part 2

My name is Heather.  I am 31 years old, I love to bake, love to laugh, love to travel and I am wife to a wonderful man that I have dated since I was 16 and mom to a sweet, funny 3 year old son.  On December 17th I also found myself as mother to a beautiful stillborn daughter named Charlotte Kathryn (or CK for short).  I like to think that she was too perfect for this world because without any type of reasoning, I can’t wrap my head around it (still can’t) and it would be a lot harder for me to go on breathing every day.

I have found myself quickly “one of those moms” that pregnant people  and anyone else with children talk about in hushed tones and don’t really think about for fear that whatever those undeserving women did (i.e. me) won’t rub off on them.  My own family doesn’t really know what to do with me and that terrifies me.  Many of my “friends” have already stopped checking in and my always optimistic, bright and shiny personality has lost part of its sheen.  There is a chink in my heart that will never be filled even if we were to have a dozen more children.  I am scared to death about ever trying to get pregnant again because I was a basket case this time and will probably need to be sedated for 9 months if we tried this again.

I never wanted to start this blog and despite being a hypochondriac and one that always assumes the worst, I would have never in my life imagined that I would be a part of this statistic.  This is still new to me, I still have signs and symptoms of pregnancy, but I have already learned that I would never wish this on my worst enemies.  Babies are supposed to inspire hope, new beginnings and life, not death.

I am starting this blog for me (I think).  I have had a lot of time to do some real hard thinking.  It has only been a little over two weeks since I started it, but it feels like an eternity.  Sleepless nights, the holidays when I’m not in the mood for celebrating, and several nights in the hospital will do that to a person.  Writing is cathartic for me and this will keep the memory of Charlotte alive as long as the Internet is in existence.  I’m not going to promise that this will be a fun or optimistic blog, but I hope to heal every day and maybe get back to my old self (or as close as I can get to it) soon.  Some of the posts will be hard to write, harder to read and I’m sure I will make some people mad, but I’m quickly learning that life isn’t perfect and this blog won’t be either.  I may repeat myself.  Some posts will be long, some will be short, and all of them will be brutally honest, but I hope with every word I write, I can bring Charlotte and my experience to life and maybe, just maybe, help someone else going through this.  At the very least, I hope it helps me.

I will be taking a break from Beach Tink for a while.  I promise I will return one day with funny stories, good recipes and the optimism you’re used to.  Until then, feel free to follow me at my new blog (www.lifewithoutck.wordpress.com) or at the very least, send someone suffering with pregnancy loss my way so they can see that what they are feeling is completely normal.  Maybe they can help me, too.

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 : ).

Interlude

I have struggled to think of the appropriate title for this blog post.  I was between “So Long, Farewell,” “Moving On,” and “Six Years Come and Gone.”  I settled on the one that I used because it is the most appropriate.  After six years working at the same company doing the same thing day in and day out, I am leaving to start a new adventure.  Doing the exact opposite of what I am currently doing and I couldn’t be any happier to do just that.  The best part is the “interlude,” a two and a half week stint with no work and no babysitter.  Thankfully, it is the summertime so our biggest dilemma is going to be do we go to the pool or the beach.  This is the longest amount of time since maternity leave that I have had with Chase and one of the longest times I’ve had off of work and I am going to enjoy every second!

The end of my current job is bittersweet.  It was an incredible company with unheard of benefits including a pension and five weeks of vacation.  I had an amazing manager whose management style is ideal for me.  I have made lasting relationships with people from all walks of life and man, I am going to miss them!

But there’s a thing about life.  It is not about staying in one spot and getting comfortable.  It is about change.  Moving on and learning something every single step of the way.  It is about getting better, and taking chances.  Not being afraid to try something new.  Not being afraid period.  So I am opening a new chapter, taking that risk and hoping in pays off.  Yes, I will miss all that I’ve met at my old company, but I am ready, and despite my best efforts, I know how quickly the next two weeks are going to fly by.

Wish me luck in my new career!  And maybe (maybe), you’ll be hearing from me more often.  At least for the next two weeks : )

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 : )

30, really?

There are parts of my life that have dragged on and when I really think about it, it seems like I’ve been here an awful long time.  Then I realize that soon I will be thirty years old.  How did that happen so fast?  Not a teen.  Not a young adult.  Or a twentysomething.  Thirty.  It is still tough for me to swallow.  Most days I have to remind myself that I actually do have a real job and that this is my real house and I have a husband, and I did go through eight(ish) months of pregnancy and that really is my child.  I still feel like it is just me and my sister playing “house” and that one day I’m going to wake up and realize that I am still 13, not THIRTY!!!

If I were to think back to when I was 13 or even 18 or 20 when I thought about these types of things and wondered where I would be when I turned 30 or where I wanted to be when I turned thirty, then I would be pretty pleased with myself.  I’ve been happily married to my high school sweetheart for almost seven years.  We still enjoy each other’s company, make each other laugh and I can’t imagine being with anyone else.  We have a home that we both really like and we’re in the process of moving into our dream home (or as close to a dream home as you can get when you’re thirty).  We have a child that we couldn’t live without and a dog that makes us happy.  We both have jobs that we really love (95% of the time, which isn’t bad at all).  We both even work for great companies in the area.  We have been to a bunch of really cool places.  We both still have our health and there really isn’t anything I would change.  So I don’t know why I am having such a tough time turning 30.

Everyone keeps telling me that their 30s are the best.  Eventually I will come to accept it.  I keep reminding myself that any day on this side of the dirt is an accomplishment whether I’m 10 or 100.  Until then, I’ll enjoy the last couple days of my 20s (and they really are numbered).

November 5th

I realize that this is a little late as I would have liked to have posted this on the actual date, but today will have to be the day…

1998:  At the regional cross country meet in Newport News park, I have the whole thing planned out in my head.  I am going to walk up to the starting line and tell the boy that I have been fawning over for nearly a year that “yes” I will be his girlfriend (after he had asked me in a note two days earlier) then kiss him on the cheek.  Instead I shyly walk up to him and say “yes” and he kisses me on the cheek.  It is official, I am dating Brad Sorgen.

1999:  We celebrate our anniversary by going out to dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town where Brad presents me with a gorgeous yellow gold dolphin ring.  We then go to see a movie and hold hands the entire time.  Although college is looming, it isn’t something that we are thinking about much, yet.

2000:  Brad is on a cross country scholarship at Radford and I am figuring things out at Virginia Tech.  We aren’t really long distance, but aren’t really in the same town.  He gets us a hotel room for the occasion and we went to a nice Italian restaurant in Radford which had such heavily garliced food that if we weren’t 18, we wouldn’t have been able to be in the same room together.  We have a very rare night together with no roommates and it is nice to hang out just the two of us.  College has had its challenges, but we’re coping for the most part.

2001:  Brad and I go out to dinner at the fine dining restaurant on campus.  It is a Monday night, so we can only do so much, but we still get dressed up and have a nice meal together.  He’s at Tech now, we even have a class together, and it is so nice to be able to walk to his dorm to see him.  We still don’t spend every waking minute together, but now if we want to have dinner together, he’s just a ten minute walk away and in my carless existence, that’s something to be thankful for.

2002:  Tuesdays are our busiest day of the week.  I have classes from 12pm until 10pm with only a 45 minute break to get dinner.  I try to get through the day as quickly as possible, being so excited with giving Brad his gifts and being able to breathe after I was done with our last class of the day which we had together.  I have been getting weird comments all day.  One girl told me that my room looked so cool.  Another person asked Brad some strange question on our way up to his dorm room after class.  Five minutes after we got up to his room, he gives me something he has written and when I look up at him, he has gotten down on one knee.  Back at my room, my door is decorated by one of my residents, the entire room is full of streamers, confetti, bridal magazines, flowers and balloons.  We are going to get married!

2003:  I have Wednesdays off, so I spend most of my morning working on a scrapbook and getting all of the pieces and pages bound.  We celebrate by going to a Japanese restaurant and the bartender comps our drinks because we tell him it is our anniversary.  I wear my engagement ring with pride and can’t believe that we’ve already been engaged for a year.  Graduation is ahead of us, neither of us have any job prospects or have a clue where we are going to live.  We are enjoying our last couple of months of college and lack of responsibility.

2004:  Brad is gone Monday thru Thursday every week for his job.  We are living together and have adapted to his crazy work schedule.  I am working for my dad’s advertising agency and spending evenings and nights to myself, so we really look forward to the weekends.  We go out to dinner to celebrate our last anniversary before we get married in April.  We choose The Melting Pot and when the waiter brings our tray of dessert, there is a wrapped present on it.  It is a beautiful diamond pendant.

2005:  We are in Blacksburg for the game against Miami.  It is one of the biggest games of the year and we are trying to recreate the same exact game experience we had two years earlier when we crushed them.  We meet my sister there and crash in one of our friends’ rooms.  We spend the weekend visiting our favorite Blacksburg haunts and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.  We lost badly, but we still have a fantastic time.  We are newlyweds with a new house and limited time together, but we’re doing ok.  I enjoy my free time and Brad enjoys his job.

2006:  I sleep in, wake up and read the paper and enjoy a cup of coffee, then we run errands to the bank, Costco and Best Buy because Brad has saved up enough gift cards to purchase an Xbox 360 and he spends the entire day playing on it and figuring it out.  He makes us enchiladas for dinner and we have a relaxing Sunday.

2007:  Brad leaves early in the morning to head to Philly, which is where he has been working for months and will probably continue to work for years due to so many contracts in the area.  I’m working at a new place.  Our agency closed over the summer and now I’m on the selling side of what I used to do.  I spend the day attending our sales meeting, going out to lunch with one of my new coworker friends, coming home, fixing dinner and finishing reading a book.  We’ve been discussing getting a dog to keep me company while Brad is on the road and to see if I can keep something with a heartbeat alive.  We’ve settled on a Westie, and we are slowly starting our search for one.

2008:  I sleep in, opting not to work out because I was up late the night before.  As usual I’m running late and Brad is out of the door a whole ten minutes before me (typical).  He’s working down the street from our house and is only gone two months out of the year, rather than every week.  We have a dog named Foster who we completely dote over.  After work we have leftovers for dinner, take Foster for a walk and enjoy a glass of wine.

2009:  Brad is out of town and will probably be out of town this time of year for as long as he works at his current company because there is a huge trade show going on at the end of October through the beginning of November.  I don’t mind it though, I spend the night picking up mac and cheese and wine from Target for dinner and watch a movie I’ve been wanting to watch and thoroughly enjoy watching with Foster curled up next to me.  We’re starting to talk about trying to have a baby.  The baby bug has bitten me hard, and although I want it to be a stress free process, it’s just about all I can think about all day, every day.  Maybe one day I’ll be more excited and not so worried.

2010:  Brad’s parents pick me up from my parents’ house and bring me to the hospital in time for me to feed our week old baby.  He was early, so he’s still in the hospital, so I spend every waking moment up there with him.  It is the first time they will be able to hold him and they are both ecstatic.  I’m extremely frustrated because Chase keeps having bradycardia episodes, which is when he forgets to breathe when he’s eating.  I feel like I’m suffocating my own baby.  This is not a good day, but the nurses keep threatening me that he’s going to be discharged soon.  I don’t know what I’ll do with myself when I can hold him whenever I want to with no tubes, no wires and no monitors.

2011:  We’re spending the weekend in North Carolina with my grandparents.  Nana is not doing well.  She was diagnosed with leukemia this time last year and she’s been having less good days.  I don’t want to think about this being the last time that we see her, but that day is coming sooner rather than later.  Today Chase decides to start walking.  Not going one or two steps, going more like 10 or 12.  It is quite a sight to see, and he is proud of himself.  I am so happy that Nana gets to see him walk for the first time.  When I talk to Brad later that day I wish him a Happy Anniversary.

Brad, thank you for 13 glorious years.  Thank you for always being the one thing I can depend on.  For being my rock.  For loving me despite all of my flaws.  For being my shoulder to cry on.  For always keeping me smiling and laughing.  For being a fantastic father and blessing me with an equally fantastic child.  For these things and so much more.  I look forward to the next lucky 13 and beyond.

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.

Absent

Wow, so this chick has been busy!  I have gotten super far behind on my posts, but I’ve had some pretty good excuses…

1. Planned, implemented, executed and all that for a first birthday party (which I will point out was a smashing success, at least I thought so) for 32 people

2. Visited my grandparents down in North Carolina one weekend

3. One of my BFAW (Best Friends At Work for those not familiar with the acromym) had her baby 3 weeks early so I may have made some (read: many) visits to see little Chloe

4. Directed a wedding (with that verb being used very loosely).

5. Been baking, baking and baking some more for birthdays, holidays, potlucks

6. Preparing Christmas gifts

7. Allegedly getting ready to move, which was news to me as of this week.  Much, much more to come on this topic

8. Planning a trip out west to ski in 2 months!

9. Dealing with a now walking child

10.  Went on a road trip to Richmond for another one year bday party (this is the end for a while, I hope)

So, I get that it’s the holidays and all, but I will try to get better and get to writing!  Until my next entry, enjoy this picture of my one year old child making a mess : )

Vacay!

We all went on our first family trip at the end of September.  We went to Sanibel Island which sits off the coast of Ft. Myers on the gulf side of Florida.  This was Chase’s first airplane trip and like most things in his life so far, he proved to be a well behaved and happy traveler, despite cutting 3 teeth in the time we were there.  We had a fantastic time, but I learned the new reality of traveling, it really isn’t that relaxing with a child.  I was very thankful to have my parents and sister with us, so despite all of their much appreciated help, I still had a 10 ½ month old with me.

My family has been going down to Sanibel since my sister was Chase’s age, so it was really cool to share the experience with him.  I was also able to spend the longest amount of time I have spent with him since I was on maternity leave.  As usual, Brad was an enormous help and enjoyed himself too.  We all (including Chase) came back sporting some great tans.  Here are a couple of shots from vacation.