Losing him or losing myself

Marriage is a blissful thing…if it is executed correctly. It can also be a very lonely place if it is left idle. I find myself alternating between both realms of reality, swinging from the rooftops, just ecstatic with my hard earned, well established relationship, and then without really a moment’s notice being in the lowest of valleys wondering what the hell happened. I find no pattern in which our marriage wanes or falls, only that I feel utterly helpless as to why it seems to hit the highest of highs when I feel like we could take down the world all the way to the lowest of lows when I question every single thing I thought defined us as a couple.

Some days it is cut and dry, just happy to be a couple, faithful and loyal to one another. Other days it feels like I love him more, then I try so long I just get numb and it seems he is the one trying to salvage this marriage………on the greatest of days we are in sync, united, equally in love and proud of what we built. Those days aren’t nearly as often as I would like. The high highs and the low lows are enough to deplete the happiest person.

I love my husband. I love that he works hard, he is reliable, he is dependable, he is constant…….yet I am only human, and I struggle wondering is this enough? This companionship that seems to come and go only when it is convenient. I miss having someone laugh at my jokes, tell me I am beautiful, or how valuable I am in this family. It is lonely when he reaches his threshold for dealing with life and I am utterly shut out without a reason or explanation. I feel totally vulnerable, alone, and I ask myself is this the day, is this the time I quit caring? Is this the day I just step away from feeling less than enough and decide I deserve more? Then he does the thing where he hugs me just tight enough and says just the right words to woo me back into feeling safe. He feels like home on those days but then just as suddenly as he becomes my safety net he sweeps it away making me feel like I am free falling into an uncertain sky or isolated on an endless peninsula of happiness and grief. I question my own resolve, why do I feel so secure one minute and then totally abandoned the next? The transition from ecstasy and complete happiness to the depths of total despair seem to have no rhythm or reason, leaving me flailing to catch my balance and left lacking.

I feel so conflicted by his actions, and I wonder if I am imagining all of the ups and downs or if I am just standing passively allowing it to happen? I only know that the journey of it all is almost more than I can bare. I often ask myself if he really knows me at all…..at times I think he must but then the deeper parts of me, the parts that feel unfulfilled make me believe he doesn’t know me at all…not at my core, not at my being, I show him just enough of me that it doesn’t reveal all of myself. I keep buried just under the false smile the girl that feels forgotten. The artist, the writer, the easy go lucky person who had a quick laugh over life’s silliness. He doesn’t get this part of me, perhaps, the essence of me. The person that accepted herself without care of what others think, the girl that enjoyed her quirkiness and relished in her individuality. Now I ask how much of me is really left and how much of me have I allowed to be molded into something unrecognizable…..the thought makes me sad in places I didn’t even know existed. Does he even know his wife is funny? The life of the party? An intellectual who loves to learn, read and perceive the world? Or have I buried that just deep enough to compromise on what he deems normal? I feel like a sell out or worse a washed up version of myself..this is not his fault it is mine for conforming to what I thought he needed instead of being who I am. I have lost my voice, I have succumbed to what makes others happy and that in and of itself makes me miserable. The rare times that I allow my true self to surface if even for a few hours I am greeted by his disappointment in me for no other reason than simply being me.

When I disappoint him for whatever reason, as I am never sure what I have done to earn his disdain, I am greeted with silence, as if my ultimate punishment is his with holding all affection or even a conversation. I find my inner self fighting to catch my breath, come to the surface of which I am drowning and find my footing. It is akin to drowning just long enough to be grateful to find my breath once more. Relentless is the pattern that each time he shuts me out I just quit caring if I surface on his safe harbor…I miss being my own safe harbor the one person I used to count on for my own happiness. I tire of conforming, of being the idea of who he wants me to be. I get fed up with being less than whole and with each silent reprimand I get from him, each wasted weekend I feel further from his shore…the shore I once considered home.

If it is jealousy he feels, then he is only competing with himself. He should be jealous of no one as I am loyal and faithful to a fault….but if he needs to feel jealousy he should  compete with the man that I have yet to meet, the one I think lies deep within the man I married. The only man he should fear is the man he refuses to be, the one who seeks my laughter like a starving man seeks a good meal, the man that after a long day wants only to make me smile, hear about my day, ask me what I have written in the words of my blog that day, a man who seeks just knowing me more fully, even if that means asking me what book I have my head buried in as of late. I feel like the part of me that is smart, challenging and intellectual has been lost and with each day I feel her slipping further away into a place I may never regain her again! There is no man he competes with other than himself and no one that could take me from him, other than the person in me that fears losing my identity more than the loss or gain of any man.

If he cherishes me, he will cherish each part of me, the writer, the poet, the artist, the joker and all of those things that are lost on him, invaluable as they don’t relate to him, a part of me maybe he doesn’t or doesn’t want to understand. It feels like a part of me, a vital part of me has been cut off like an unimportant appendage, useless to him. Today marks day two of being ignored, like a reprimanded child. Perhaps he knows that is the greatest punishment of all…to be treated as invisible as I felt as a child helpless as to what I can control. I am no longer a child, I remind myself, I only tolerate what I think I can and that is something that makes me cringe. I am not without purpose and I am not without use. I am better than being disregarded as some play thing set aside for when I am once more useful or when he feels like I have been reprimanded enough to satisfy his purpose. It distances me in a way that makes me want to escape, yet all I want is to find my way to the place I call home, him…but only if that means I can be me 100% of the time. Hiding inside myself is no longer an option. I am worthy, I am better than being ignored or treated with indifference. I love him with all I am, his dark places, his hidden places would never make me stop loving him…but him not loving all of me….that is the one thing that could possibly push me far beyond his reach can extend. I cannot be something he seeks and casts aside with equal enthusiasm……I love him with all I am but at some point I have to love me more than settling for the all of him or the scraps he wants to throw my way. Either way……today I find my way back to myself, the truest version of me, and as much as I love him, losing myself in this relentless shift between happiness and despair, is more than I think even that this man I love with my whole heart is worth the loss of myself

Being a Daughter

04/21/17

Braelyn and Brynlee,

Hey, my beautiful baby girls, I have struggled so much to make this blog. It just seems so hard to think in the past when the days are moving by at record speed. I decided to change a few things up. I am going to write to you in the here and now, and the present as things occur, then work myself backwards. You see today just seeing you climb into the bus and pull away from me is almost more than I can bare……it takes all of my courage not to chase after you kicking and screaming that you cannot possibly be ready to leave me to attend school. I have come in on days that I don’t have to work, intent on filling pages on my blog beginning with the day you were born…….but then the cloud of nostalgia hits me and I barely make it through the fact that you are both in school. Most days the only thing I can do is crawl back into bed and wish the day away, or spend my day cleaning to numb my mind to all of the ramblings it likes to replay in my head. Most days I am busy, working, providing, surviving, just keeping my head above water. Motherhood has both stripped me bare…..raw and unrelenting yet somehow soothing and magical. It has also given me my greatest gifts, you and your sister along with the most fierce weapons, the love and courage of a mother. I look at you, my eyes feel up with tears, even though my mind reels it to stop being foolish. I look at each of you, and the love I feel……well, it is beyond explanation. I would live forever in pain if it spared you just a single ounce of hurt, I would die right now if it gave you a life filled with happiness, there really is no definition to a mother’s love, and I can tell you all of this until the cows come home but you won’t truly know until you have babies of your own. The love you feel for them is almost painful.

I was talking to your nanny the other night and it suddenly hit me. Your nanny had to learn how to live without JUST being a mommy after such a long time only identifying as being that. Your nanny and I have always had an inexplicable bond, one that neither time nor words could define growing up. I hate to admit that in the recent years there has been a distance, a wedge, a shift in what was once a very established friendship. I pondered on it relentlessly, not able to place a finger upon what caused this change, though it gave me great anxiety. For the passed few years one of us felt slighted by the other and it was a relentless cycle. I mourned for a great while before telling myself….well, you are doing this on your own, you are being a wife, and a mom, you are making it work…….never thinking that perhaps that was the very thing that hurt her. You see, my sweet girls, I ALWAYS needed your nanny, be it advice about a date, a chat about life, or a much needed laughter song fest in the car……I needed her. So, when she wasn’t there when I needed her, I was lost. Now, I place no blame on her, chances are that I didn’t tell her how much I struggled finding help with you wee little tots whilst trying to work, chances are I expected her to just know like she had all of my life…in the end, me and your dad figured it out, we made it work. But where did that leave your nanny? I just assumed she was over the child rearing stage, doing her tough love act, making me stand on my own two feet…….but yet it seemed the lesson must be over; you started school and I was free to work. I was at an impasse on how to fix our strained relationship. What did I do to make this rift and how do I repair it. I didn’t care who caused it but had no idea what I was apologizing for. You girls remember to always say you are sorry when you hurt someone even if it is unintentional. I tried to think of what I had done to hurt her until one morning after my two sweetest gifts boarded the bus and I walked into my now quiet house, I crawled into bed and wept. What is my purpose??? What do I do now?????? I asked over and over as my body was racked with sobs….then I saw her, my mommy, looking at me the way I looked at you when I was little. Watching in fast forward as I grew up, but I must’ve been hard to let go of because I always needed her. If I was happy, sad, angry, excited she was who I shared it with…then you pretty girls were born. Life got fast in a hurry, it was a blur of sleepless nights, happy days, first steps, new words……and you became my all in all, my sun, moon and my stars…….my entire universe. Now, I will never regret loving you both that much, I do regret making my mom feel like she wasn’t a necessary part of that galaxy. I put you on a bus and you would be home before dark…….she wrapped her world around me and your aunt boo and then we had a family of our own. Laying under those covers that rainy April morning, I tried to envision the day you didn’t come home to the house you share with me…I know that day will come but I have never allowed myself to think of it, much like I try not to ponder on your births because it brings up untapped emotions and it takes all the emotion I have to face each day. This particular day however, I relented, I could see my mom her blue eyes sparkling as she walked me into school each day, willing the tears not to fall. I could see her every Christmas morning as me and my sister unwrapped gifts that she had tallied through the year to make sure nothing was missed……toys, clothes, everything we really couldn’t afford she made it happen every single christmas, giving us magic for a day and herself debt for a year. She was and still is a tough love type of person…..hence the reason you have a mommy much the same way. Mom doesn’t do babying, or at least not when we were kids…a little more with you girls but I can’t fault her there when I have grandkids goodness knows I will be softer.

I am not sure why the light bulb didn’t go off after all these years? Perhaps, because you girls liked to see how sleep deprived I could get and I know there are days that run together because Brynlee Jean loves to wake me up. I know the day will come that she no longer seeks me to comfort her from a nightmare or Braelyn maybe you won’t tell me as enthusiastically as you do now, about your day. I try not to rush these things because you see a few weeks ago,I was you. I was a tiny little girl, learning about how this big old world works and I had this mom, well she was everything. Let me tell you how great she is. When my first crush came along, which also happened to be a celebrity, she didn’t discourage it, we talked about getting into concerts because she told me if he ever met me he would love me instantly. We would blast his songs and laugh all night as we painted the kitchen. That same mom, many years later would accompany me to see that very guy in concert…(although we were both very married lol)

The weekends most teens want to spend with their friends I spent with my mom, we watched great movies……and some not so great ones, shared a popcorn, then dinner…..then boys came along. Oh, girls, I know that day will come all too soon but I pray it is a long time from now. Yet, Mom, listened about every fancy my heart had, and the one that broke my heart into a million pieces…..she saw me through all the in betweens and then the heartbreak you cannot define except to live to see the revelation on the other side. She spent her life building me, she built me up, when I was broken she brought me back to life and when I could finally set sail on my own she pushed me out to sea willing me to find my way. I couldn’t see her reasoning and her way of thinking or the way it felt…I felt abandoned, capsized, done in by the waves of life that kept hammering my vessel with no relief in sight. It forced me to see a lot of things, I saw your daddy, I saw my own strength, but I didn’t see your nanny anymore. I thought for a long while this was her intention, and I continued this way after many nights grieving the bond, the love, the laughter we once shared. I mourned those back roads on a late night, a cheesy movie and just her company…but this is what she meant to do,right? I felt forsaken and alone, like my only harbor was your daddy, which only aided in the ever growing bridge between me and my mother. Girls, you see, sometimes you are too close to a situation to see it from all sides. Your nanny didn’t cast me out, she through the line and waited for the bobber to sink so she would know trouble was afoot…..the trouble is she raised me to be just like her, so even if I was struggling my bobber never moved…..so she sat on the side of a bank for goodness knows how long waiting for me to need her. It is silly now because I always needed her but thinking this was the lesson she was teaching I never grabbed the line to be reeled back in. I drowned a thousand times to keep from being saved just once. Pride is a great thing but it can also be a problem if you put it above those you love. It is a tricky thing to navigate being both independent and leaning on those you love. I hope you learn to do both. Your nanny did something my heart could never do, she loved me, built me, rebuilt me, tossed me out to stand on my own and when I did she allowed me to, even though it meant she had to stand alone.

The thing is girls, I didn’t know I was hurting her because I was too busy thinking of how much I was hurting……yet, I left your nanny who had never one time growing up abandon me, I made her feel alone, unimportant, replaceable…..no that was never my intention but it is her perception and there are years I will never get back because of it. I hope you grow up, and know my love is strong, tough, and unending. When I force you into the world that doesn’t mean you don’t get to come back to the nest………I cannot imagine my nest without you. Never be mad at me longer than a few hours because I am only human, and I am full of flaws, if you picked me apart for an hour you would know I am not worthy of you nor will I ever be. I made a mistake a long time ago to allow my mom to think that I didn’t need her. It never occurred to me that she didn’t know she was the beat of my heart, the happy to my sad, the make me laugh when I wanted to cry, the sing when I was out of music………the first day of school, and every bit of heartache I felt as I sobbed into her shoulder. To imagine you girls will one day think you can live a day without me, if I am here, call me. Pick up the phone, make the call. If you need help, tell me. If you want advice ask. Forever is a long time and I want you both to know no matter what you do or who you become I am so proud of you. I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mom and an aunt……..hopefully, I will live to be a nanny but I am human. I am flawed. I am imperfect. My love for you, however is perfection, flawless and undefinable. Forgive me more than I deserve and love me when I am unlovable. You see my mom did this for me but somewhere along the way I forgot to do the same for her. You will never regret loving someone even if it depletes all of you, because it comes back full circle. I want you to love me like I loved your nanny, and I want you to share a bond that not many women can say they have felt. We are the same, she and I, the issue was I was too much like her at my age and she is me in the future. Although no one is to blame, so much time is lost! If you see your nanny, you hug her, you love her, ask about her day, listen for a change because that is what she has done all her life, tell her how beautiful she is, share the memories I have shared with you, only then will she feel alive, reborn, renewed and fulfilled. You, my sweet girls, you are the future, I broke things I work to repair, your great grandma broke things too, let’s lift each other up. If the day comes your sister, aunt, cousin or nanny seem withdrawn……seek to draw them in. I am so sorry my mom ever felt isolated when she’s always been my one true north. Never make the same mistake, love everyone, you will never regret it. If someone is sad, you encourage them. Live by these words and you will forever make me proud. You can outgrow a lot of things but you cannot outgrow your mom.

 

Your unworthy mom,

April

Imprinted

I have searched for the exact words to write this blog, at least a million times……each time, deleting, rephrasing, rewording all that I type. How do you begin to describe the fact that my journey had at long last found a happy ending? Through words I could capture my heartache, my pain, my losses but to find words to begin to describe the joy that came at the end of that fight, the sweet fulfillment of that dream coming true…….there seems to be no words. The emotion is strong enough to make the loss seem like a shrapnel, a fragment of what was to await my heart. The treachery I had endured seemed to define me……little did I know they were a piece of me….but it was the beauty at the end of the broken road that defined me. Braelyn, YOU define me. How do you put something that infinite into words????? How do I describe how your world can be so shattered and one tiny little girl can erase all that and put all the brokenness back together. So, I will start with the ending of my journey to finding you….and as sad as that may sound it is, I had stopped searching for you, not that I didn’t love you, oh how my heart ached for you. I had to let go of what everyone had described as a pipe dream of being a mom and settle for spending the rest of eternity just being a woman, a wife, a daughter, a sister…..and nothing more.

As my last blog left off I had found sanctuary in your father’s arms. He again became the man that I entrusted my heart to. I didn’t know what that meant for us as a couple. I knew one day we would breach the relentless hopelessness of being unparents and find ourselves on the other side. After my final miscarriage, I found myself now infertile, unable to get pregnant which had at one time that had been so easy, although the pregnancy never lasted long. I now simply resigned to just be me again…….nothing more. I was too frail to begin hoping for anything more than the whisper of a dream. I clung to your father like the last strand of my life depended on it…….because, truthfully, my life DID depend on him. On his steadfast hand, his unwavering stability, his matter of fact belief that everything would work itself out……..my mind reeled as it tried to embrace this new reality.

I threw myself into being the best wife that I could. Shifting my focus from motherhood, to things that were tangible. Just when I had resided to move on, your dad said what if we adopt? I had always wanted to adopt even if I could have carried a baby but never thought it was something we could financially afford. I just wanted a child, it mattered not if that baby came to me through my own pregnancy or someone else’s. I didn’t care what biological factors played in your genetic makeup. I talked to a lady in mississippi that was giving her child up after birth. She was having a boy, part Thai, and I began making plans…..it was futile though the adoption fell through before he was born. For some reason, I had a peace about it, and it didn’t wreck me the way my other losses did. I just felt like he wasn’t meant to be mine.

Of course, I would have loved a son. But secretly, I had always wanted a blonde-haired, blue eyed little girl; and so had your daddy…that would have been my wish list if I could’ve made one. However, any child that was ours would have made us happy, regardless of gender or ethnicity. I had no idea what God had in store for me. I had talked to my cousin about researching adoption agencies, maybe sitting up some fundraisers to fund our quest for parenthood. Two weeks later, I get a call from her, she had been talking about me at work, and a co-worker had a relative who was placing her child. Something in my heart fell away, a calm covered me like a blanket lulling that part of me that had given up to quiet in my head, I just knew everything was going to work out one way or the other.

Anxiously, I awaited a call back, and within two days I got the call…but not the one I had hoped. “April, they have a family that wants the baby.” I just sat in the parking lot of the store, for some reason my heart just couldn’t deal at the moment…….I only had one question, “Was it a girl?” Silence on the other end of the phone as my cousin knew my desire for a daughter. “Pam, I just need to know. It is a little girl, isn’t it? “Yes, April, it is a girl.” I ended the call and sat there in silence, in that parking lot but I didn’t melt down, I just tried to process it. One more dream had been snatched away, yet it didn’t destroy me…I waited for the moment that the wave of grief would wash over me…yet it didn’t come…I think that is because somewhere in my heart, in my deepest longings, I knew that this wasn’t over….but I couldn’t see a happy outcome.

I heard the Lord whisper, “Be quiet, and still. Through the storms I am your refuge.” I leaned on that because I had given it all to him just a month before. I had laid my burden at the foot of the throne over and over and each time I had picked it back up. Unable to wait, I would take back what I had told God to take over for me. This time I vowed to leave it there, allow God to do, what I had not been able to do….like have a child or not have one whatever his will! I felt for sure that soon I would find myself on the brink of insanity having one more dream dissipate before my eyes. I braced myself for what I was sure was a waterworks of emotion, but only peace consumed me, the Lord’s voice reassuring me my time was near, the wait was almost over, my answer was coming. Although I wasn’t sure what my answer would be or if I would even be a mom…I clung to that, the promise that God would give me an answer. I had no other choice, other than to spiral into the despair that I had been living in for seven years…..and that was not an option anymore.

Once I was at home, I knelt in my office where I prayed. I didn’t shout, or scream like I had not so long ago. I simply bowed my head and told the Lord, that we had been so close, a little girl, a private adoption without the pricey adoption agency fees, and that rarely happens. I would have given a million dollars for a child, but I no more had a million dollars than a precious baby resting in my arms. I didn’t know what His test was, perhaps showing me that with him anything was possible even something that rarely existed. A few weeks passed and not one of those days did I not think of that baby, the one that was almost mine, the one that was so close to being my daughter…..why did I feel like she was mine? Adoptive families never back out of a private adoption, especially ones that waited for years. Then why was this image of her cropping up in my mind? Why hadn’t I accepted it wasn’t meant to be, there would be a next time, right? But, nonetheless it felt this time was the time, this child WAS my daughter, and it all baffled me. As my heart dared to love her anyways, I didn’t wrap myself in grief or feel any anxiety. It was said and done but I couldn’t close the chapter? She was going to be someone else’s child, I realistically knew this……then my phone rang, it was a number I didn’t recognize which I typically do not answer. I picked up the phone thinking that it was the wrong number.

“This is April,” I said as I was washing the dishes………..

(To keep names private I am going to change the names)

“This is Sandy, I am Susan’s mother in law.”

I kept asking who this was, and trying to place the voice…I guess my silence gave it away.

“I am wondering if you were still open to adopt my daughter in laws baby?”

Trying to keep my composure, “Yes, I am interested! I thought she had already found her home.”

“The strangest thing happened and the other couple decided that they had waited so long that they no longer felt the need to have children.”

I wanted to shout, I know what happened, GOD intervened!!!!!!!! “What do I need to do now,” I questioned trying to keep my voice calm.

“Can you come and meet the family and Susan for an informal interview. You can ask questions and she and my son can ask you guys things. If it works out she will contact you and then you pursue the adoption.”

The call ended and I ran, shouted, and jumped in my husband’s arms who had no idea what the commotion was about! “They changed their mind we are going to be parents!”

Scotty puzzled, “WHO, changed their mind.”

“The couple that was going to adopt our little girl changed their mind……that never happens! They changed their mind because she is meant to be our’s! We have to meet with them in two days but I just know this is our daughter!” I exclaimed.

My husband who never gets emotional, picked me back up in his arms, sheer joy on his face, so much joy in fact that tears fell down his cheeks, we laughed and cried in the middle of that kitchen. Inside those lonely empty walls of a house we cried tears of bliss, overcome with the moment and not allowing doubt to come in. This moment, we had a daughter on the way, nothing was ruining that.

Two days, were an eternity as I waited and waited, I didn’t sleep a wink. I was apprehensive about what they might ask, how would I answer, would they like us? The night we met them we pulled in the driveway, shaking with nerves, we said a quick prayer for God to give us words, for them to know what we already knew this child was meant to be our daughter. I walked inside, introductions were made and I saw Susan sitting in a rocking chair, very pregnant! I hadn’t realized she was so far along, excitement filled my heart. I instantly wanted to touch her belly, which is strange as I never touch a strangers belly but I was drawn to it, my daughter was inside there, mere inches from me, invisible except the mound under Susan’s shirt. The thought that she was in the same room with me was euphoric. Susan’s eyes met mine and she smiled up at me and I smiled back at her. I was taken aback as my oddly colored eyes, a gray blue were staring back at me……I had never met anyone with my exact eye color. She seemed to feel the same and studied my face intently as if she was seeing someone she knew already. She asked, “Would you like to touch my belly? She rarely moves but you are welcome to try!”

Without thought, I just put my hand on Susan’s stomach and I spoke to her in hushed tones……suddenly there was this large kick that took me unaware. A stirring of my baby, the baby that already had my own heart…….you were mine. She asked me why I had chosen adoption, and I told her every grueling story of my endless losses, my horrific details of every heartache we had in 7 years. I tried to keep my composure, I had gotten good at telling my story, and usually I would keep the emotions at bay. Yet here I was stripped, raw, and vulnerable, baring my heart to a stranger, a stranger with grey blue eyes who also was busily wiping tears from her cheeks. My eyes locked her’s and she said she would let me know monday…….two days away what her decision was. Yet, her eyes told me so much more….she already knew.

Braelyn, how does a person describe the sheer brilliance of the colors in a rainbow after the rain? How do you put into words the feeling you get when you are outside and the sun warms your face? The emotion of when you see something so beautiful, and experience it to the depths of your soul that you cannot see anything but that beauty???????? That is what you were to me.

Monday afternoon, I got a call, I knew the number……but answering it made me so sick and scared and thrilled that I hesitated before calming myself and answering..”This is April.”

“April, this is Susan…I have made my decision..” the voice said

I think my heart stopped beating before I heard the magical words..”You are going to be a mommy!”

I don’t remember my response, I just hung up. I walked to the room your daddy was painting, and with calm that I did not feel I said, “We are going to have a daughter!”

He hesitated, then swept me up and we cried, and laughed and spent the entire night talking about you. Your daddy, who is not much of a talker, couldn’t shut up. Your father who isn’t emotional, veered between laughter and tears as readily as I did. We were going to have a daughter! We spent a month cleaning, painting, decorating and buying all the bedding/necessities for a baby. It was like finding out I was 8 months pregnant……..full nesting mode. I painted everything, found the means to get all you needed……and I don’t think I slept a wink!

The day you were born was 8 days before your anticipated arrival. You were due January 24, 2009….I didn’t sleep at all. The day you were born, oh, baby girl, it was magical. It was all I wanted and more. You were brought out and put in the nursery, my heart leapt as I stared at your face for the first time. Oh, perfection, beauty, and this instant desire to just hold you swept over me. I cried, laughed, screamed, and a million other things and all I wanted was you……my daughter in my arms! You finally had a face…this baby i prayed into existence…..and you had duck down hair the color of honey, blue eyes that would rival the bluest seas, and lips the color of rose petals! The only thing that terrified me….you were REAL now, you were a PERSON, you were my DAUGHTER, not some image I wheeled up in my head about a child I never saw, touched or held, not some loss, not some sad thing…….you were EVERYTHING! My inner thoughts plagued me, so what if the biological mother decided to keep you? What if I had just laid eyes upon you but my hands would never touch you? I could come back from 8 losses, I could cope with losing 8 pregnancies, 8 babies I had never had the intimacy of seeing their faces…I could do that IF that meant your face was my reward! What I knew for certainty that I couldn’t do is walk out of that hospital without you….I could NOT see your face, and return to my mundane life like I had never looked upon your tiny existence…….I looked up to the heavens, crying as I watched them wheel you to the room that housed the woman who had kept you for 9 months, the woman who had by all rights the right to keep you, but in that instance in all the hurt and sorrow it was worth it. I pleaded to God. I am so sorry for my doubts, my uncertainty of your plan, if all those losses is for me to have this one child I would endure it all again, and never complain. Lord, what I don’t know is how I will come back from this. I had saw the face of my daughter….not a dream, but real, beautiful, breathing and perfect. I knew God would see me through but I told him under my breath, “I know you have everything figured out and I trust you..” Secretly, I knew that there was no way I was leaving that hospital without my child, I would just have to be sedated or put in restraints, but I would never recover. You were imprinted on my soul, you were more to me than any of my losses, and as terrible as it sounded, I know I would have exchanged you for every single loss 100 times over. I will never be able to put it to words, but you…yes you, were mine. You were the part of me I had missed my entire life, and I hope that one day you will know the depths of my love.

Hank, the Dog That Never Asked for Anything

Hank,

The day we met, it wasn’t planned. I wish I had written the date down, but I didn’t!

If I am being totally transparent; I really didn’t want you in the beginning. You didn’t seem to mind, you just kept crawling in my lap, forcing yourself on me, although you easily equaled my weight and then some. Jersey felt the same way, she growled at you, bit your ears, and you actually carried her around hanging from your floppy ears. Jersey, sure put you in your place, she was the head of the house and you were an intruder! Again, you didn’t seem to mind she would growl, snarl, and snap at you……..to which you would respond by tucking your tail and somehow managing to get your 100 lb body under my coffee table! Jersey and I were measuring you up, I wasn’t sure we should take on such a huge pet in our new home, and she darn sure wasn’t sure if she was willing to share us with you. Amazingly, Scotty (not a pet guy by the way) was smitten with you, and for once he was asking for you to stay. It seems someone left you to wander the world all alone, you were thin and you seemed to hide a wealth of wisdom in those chocolate brown eyes but you still had so much faith in humanity that it was contagious.

Not five minutes after Jersey viciously attacked you (your 100+ lbs) with all of her 18 lbs, you would crawl under the table, silently dart your eyes and wag your tail with great enthusiasm to see if you two could be friends yet, if she snarled at you, then you would resume your place under the table waiting to simply be accepted. Did I mention you barely fit under the table? To get under my coffee table you would literally have to crawl under it, and it would still lift from the floor! That is what I love about you, Hank. You NEVER asked for anything. You came to us, anticipating rejection, and resigning yourself to live a life of isolation. You, were sneaky that way, squirming your way into my heart without me ever realizing it, and even my tough as nails Jersey, found herself unable to resist your charm. Not once did you ask, “Can this be my home?” You would lay in the floor, not asking for anything. Jerseys bowl was heaped full of delicious kibbles, the best money could buy and though your thin frame told me you hadn’t eaten in quite some time, not once did you ever offer to eat her food… you are a gentleman that way! As much as your belly rumbled for food, your soul sought a place to just rest, you hungered that more than any food that money could buy. You wanted love, not necessarily to get love but to give it!

It took less than one night and you were engraved in my soul. Jersey took a little more convincing, when you found your way into my bed and on top of her, me and half of Scotty, she was less than impressed to put it mildly……but in the end you won her heart too, and she was head over heels for you! I am not sure what interaction occurred between you two but I woke up to one morning the both of you curled up together…ON TOP of me nonetheless but sleeping happily in one another’s company! Over time, you proved yourself, you outdid yourself, you made me question myself but never one time did you ask me for a single thing.

I would come outside and you would be laying on the porch the rain pouring down on you because you would not dare scratch on the door to be let in. I have watched you allow the ice to cover you before I even realized you were outside…..as time went on you preferred the outdoors. We left the garage open for you with a heat lamp, so you could get in against the weather. You were the casa nova, the Hugh Hefner of Twin Hill Road…….you loved a good scrap with a male dog, although you were never vicious. You liked the ladies, that is for sure…by the time we realized that you weren’t fixed you probably fathered several pups, I know of at least one litter. Just when I thought you were entirely too old to father pups you still had game and to that effect a beautiful bunch of pups were born. Out of that litter came two little pieces of you, and I fell in love with them too! I am an advocate for not over populating animals, but I guarantee any pups you fathered grew to be wonderful family members.

You came to me, filthy and battered, I have no idea of the life you led before us but you never one time asked for me to give you a bath or water. You were just content to love us…I would laugh at your silly antics as you stole toys from neighbor’s yards because you were such a kid at heart, and I would return them while you guiltly followed behind me begging forgiveness before you even had a clue what you had done wrong. Before I knew it, I was scratching your head, feeding you t-bones, and you were just a part of our tiny family!

I asked so much from you! I would walk outside and bury my head in your fur, when life got hard or as I prayed out for God to give me children of my own……….you never minded you would just lick my tears and burrowed your face deeper into my neck. As time passed you protected me, you guarded me, but you loved every one. Every one in the neighborhood loved you, and you would greet every one the same.You knew when Nanny pulled in the driveway and she always had something good for you in the car, she always had you a treat…I would watch you get excited, and would witness your puppyhood once more as she pulled in. You would stand by her door patiently awaiting whatever she had inside for you! I will always remember you chasing our car down the road, trying to keep up with us while you galloped in the grass along side us……..my first sign was that you haven’t done that in over a year……prepare yourself, I said, but there is no way to prepare for such a thing. Our neighbor next door with dementia was frail…I was terrified that your big frame would accidentally knock her down, but you would gently nudge her and when she stroked your fur, and if you didn’t visit she asked for you; a woman who didn’t remember her family, yet she remembered you……..that is when I knew a dog’s purpose.

Not one time did you ask me for reassurance except when you needed a scratch on the ear……..but when my daughter started school, and both she and I were struggling you followed us to that bus stop every morning and trotted patiently back to the porch comforting me while I cried big tears into your neck, you would wait until my sadness subsided before making your way to the driveway to lay in the sun, then at promptly 3:10 you made your way back to the end of my driveway…NEVER once did you ask for a treat, never one time did you ask for any thing in exchange. Your gift was my girls hugging you, loving you, petting you, playing in the snow with you….how it warmed my heart.

You have been the ever present reassuring, guiding vessel in the storm of life, Oh, Hank……….you make saying goodbye so hard! But tonight, after being hungry, broken, beaten, and unloved before you joined our family, even after all these years you had never asked me for one thing…….yes, I fed you, yes, I watered you, and yes, I loved you but you didn’t ask for it, you earned it. You taught my girls the love of a first pet, the meaning of something more than themselves, and for that I owe you everything. Their love for you is essential to them knowing how to love and know the love of a dog…which makes it even more difficult knowing that I will have to tell them that you are in Heaven. I cannot imagine the looks on their faces or the feelings they will have when I tell them that their Hank is gone. I pray for comfort as their losses have been many as of late and your’s will be felt deeply by them.

Yes, I was taken unaware by you, loving you just came easy. So, you understand that saying farewell is the last thing I want to do. Your presence is a comfort and to think of the void you will leave in your wake, well, it demolishes me.

I can remember like yesterday, you playing in the snow with my girls, waiting for the bus with me every day, curling up with your head on my lap, a reassuring nudge of your nose reminding me that I wasn’t alone. You have given me so much, never asking for anything in return.  So, tonight when you nudged me once more, I rubbed your head, scratched your ears, but you didn’t perk up like you usually did. You stood there just staring at me, your tired eyes, your body shaking from the exertion of just standing…..yet, you were comforting me even while you were hurting. I looked at you, and you were trying to ask me something. You would walk away, and walk back to me, you would stand restlessly as if you were searching for a place that isn’t in this world. You asked for something, for the first time in over a decade you finally asked me for something…….why, son, after all this time, the one thing you asked of me is one of the things that I don’t want to do. Your eyes softened as you looked at me, your message was clear, you are hurting, you are tired, and though I am sure the last thing you want to do is to leave us. You were asking me to help you cross over, to help you leave this world and me behind. As my final act of love, I will give you what you want, I will embark on our final destination together. I will load you up in my truck, in my arms, knowing that will be our last ride. I will watch as you limp into the vet’s office, I will cry and tell you that I will be okay (although, I know that is not true) I will say it any ways because I know that is what you need to hear. I will watch them prepare the medication that will take away your suffering…but in doing so will also take you away from me, from us, from a family that loves you beyond words. But even as they sink that needle into your fur, I will bury my face in your neck once more and tell you what a good dog you have been, and thank you for all you have given me! I will hold you as your breathing slows, and that big, beautiful heart stops beating. I will watch as you move from this earth and wake up in heaven. I will do this, because I love you not because I want to but because you would spare me any pain that you could. Now I have to do the same for you, I have to spare your misery, and though my misery will ensue, I will do this for you. I will do this because it is the only thing you have ever asked me to do…you never asked me for anything until today, and for that reason I will honor that wish.

I believe that all dogs go to heaven, and I think if there is a place for the very best dogs to go that is where you will reside. I know you will be reunited with my Jersey girl, who went there 2 years ago to prepare for your arrival. I can see you two puppies once more, no longer riddled with pain, running through the clouds, tell her that I love her. If reincarnation is possible, I would be more than happy to meet you once more, and love you for another 15 years, even if it means that after that time, you will once more ask me to make this difficult choice. I would still choose to love you again, even knowing that it would break my heart in the end. If I knew that you would ask me for just this one thing I would’ve loved you anyways. You will be missed more than you can ever know. To the dog that deserves everything, and never asked for anything, until the moment you asked for something that seemed impossible, I will grant you your wish. Farewell, my sweet boy, you will never be replaced…because you asked for just one thing!

Finding My Human

11/17/2016

Dear Human,

I wish I had written down the exact day that you came into my life…….such a pivotal moment it was; but I had no idea just how much you were going to change my world! It seems my world was divided into two parts…….before you, and after you. My question is how did I exist without you?  I thought my life was normal, this discontentment was what adults felt……it was just life.

I reluctantly trudged through my day, falling away from once close friends and family to just being a mom. I tried to push through…..I succeeded. My success was wearing baby vomit, working all day to come home to more work…..and I was exhausted. Not in the way a person is tired from extending themselves, but spiritually worn out. I picked one foot up and then the other……just making it through one day, one minute, one second at a time. It became rather burdensome to make it through the struggles this old life threw at me.

The once ready to smile, laugh all the time girl had dissipated into the girl that just wanted to disappear…I forgot how it felt to have the sun shine on my face. Oh, not because of my kids but in spite of myself. I forgot, that I mattered. I mattered, my happiness counted, my joy was important……..and I was happy, happy my girls took a step, said a word, kissed my cheek, but I had forgotten me. I had forgotten such a vital part….the part of the mommy they needed, the mommy that giggled, the mommy that took a moment to relish in just being myself!!!!!!!

I was working full-time, being a mom, and coping the best I could to find a way to do what was best for my special girl, Braelyn. Then this amazing thing happened….as luck would have it you were going to start watching kids from home…an enviroment where I thought Braelyn would thrive with more one on one. I had watched you with your own kids, with the daycare kids…….and I knew you had this gift. Little did I know how much you would change my daughter…..the little girl that was misunderstood. That little girl flourished in your care, she gained confidence, the positive reinforcement, and the love you showed her made her feel like perhaps she could fit in. My heart twisted as she had tried without success to feel like she was good when she simply didn’t understand how to fit in. You embraced her, and Brynlee…..My heart grew the day I picked them up and came in to find you sitting in the floor with Bryn in your lap and Braelyn chatting away, laughing, she looked so at home. She looked like she had found her place, the place she could just be herself. I loved you for that.

Little did I know, after a few dinners with you and your family…..I realized that I had found MY place. I am not sure exactly when it happened, or the moment you became my human. It just did. Somewhere along the journey I found myself, and I owe you for that. I owe you more than I can ever give in one lifetime. Once more I laughed, once more I smiled, and I felt more like me than I had in a very long time. You just accepted me, my flaws and all. Not only did you get my silly sense of humor, you shared it! Before I blinked you were my go to friend, my always there friend, my can count on you for anything person, my laughter when I was stressed, and my sounding board. You were my cleaning buddy, my spend the whole day doing nothing or everything and having a blast.

I remember one afternoon, after I had left my job, I came over like I often did to just hang out. It was a warm summer day and all our children were playing, we were sitting in lawn chairs goofing off, and Dani was getting tired. You got a phone call, Dani lifted her tiny arms up to me and for the first time said, “Bo Bo” I scooped her up. Slowly we walked through the yard, I rubbed her hair and watched as she drifted off to sleep in my arms. It hit me that I loved your kids as much as you loved mine. I packed her back to the lawn chair as she finished her nap. I watched as the kids played childhood games and knew they were developing life long friendships with your babies, my heart swelled. Then I looked over in the middle of our conversation, we were laughing so hard tears were spilling from our eyes. I leaned back and for the first time in a long time, I felt the sun shine on my face once more. The warmth, the comfort the just being with the person that got me……and I knew I had found the best friend that I had needed without even knowing I did.

You caught me unaware, you changed me, you shifted me, inspired me, uplifted me. You are the first person to pay me a compliment. I am the first to tell you when a pair of jeans look good on you, or that I love the way your makeup looks that day! You are the one I call when my heart is burdened, I am not good with sharing sappy emotions but I can with you. I can call you sobbing and by the time we get off the phone I am me once more, we always end with a laugh! I can shoot it to you straight and you love me for it, even though goodness knows I am brutally honest! You will never know, I could spend a million years telling you how much I love you but I will try to hit on the key reasons that you are my human.

  1. You can read my mind, my face, my thoughts, and that would be terrifying if it was anyone else. If I am thinking…….”GAWD, I want to throat punch this person.” But I have a fake smile plastered on my face, I can look at you and see you grinning because you already know I want to punch them.
  2. You know that I HATE kid birthday parties which may possibly make me a terrible person, you love me anyways because you know when it is your childrens birthdays that I will be there because I love them!
  3. You know all my quirks, the way noise gets my anxiety flared up and you just take over getting onto my kids so I can calm myself…..and the best part is they listen to you!
  4. You offer to keep my children even when your hands are full, you can sense I need a break and you just take them. Not from obligation but because you love them.
  5. You are one of the best moms I know, you inspire me to be a better mom every single day.
  6. You are so kind. I often get onto you because I hate to see anyone take advantage of your kindness…….but I love you because that same kindness is what makes you..YOU!
  7. You are patient, I am not but you don’t seem to mind. I have witnessed you, ten kids in your care, some in diapers, others potty training, some crawling and others running……yet you seem to know the needs of every child. There can be screaming, crying, and mass chaos running amuck and I am ready to admit defeat after five minutes. One kid is fighting, another is hungry, that one just spilled all the cereal, oh crap that one poured out the last of the milk, and that one just punched the other one…..I am in time to jump ship mode, and I look over and your demeanor is the same. Calmly you break up the fights, clean up the cereal and milk, and feed the hungry children, all while I look on in amazement. I find myself unknowingly following your lead and doing all the things that need to be done! I tell myself I could’ve done that…….only my way would have involved way more yelling and borderline psychosis than your approach did! Truth is I could not do what you do and you accept this part of me, and I am amazed by what you can do!
  8. You can make me laugh even when I want to cry! I just go to you like a refill of happy and you fill my cup! It takes me a little more gas to get where you are now, but still after about 5 minutes with you, I feel myself alter. The suffocating burdens of life, and housework start to dim, and before I know it, we are a fit of laughter in the floor, or even just sitting in the same room silent enjoying each other’s company. We don’t have to use our words lol but when we do they are complete goofiness, and when we both want to just sit together……well that is okay too!
  9. You get me……….you just get me! Like so many human beings on this earth could choose or try to get me…..but they would fail! With you, there are no explanations needed, no pardon needed, no warning of “hey, I am a dark, and twisted person who may not always be the best version of myself.” You are my no apologies needed friend, nah with you I can just be me…..all the dark places can surface without worry of being judged
  10. You aren’t a quitter. You and I have this in common. We go the distance, we have stamina and endurance, we keep on keeping on even when it hurts. That isn’t to say the hurting doesn’t get to us some days. But when those storm clouds of life come our way….when we feel like giving up, and we almost do………we don’t. I have been on the ledge; at the breaking point, ready to jump or pull the trigger just stop the hemorrhaging and you will calmly step up. When we want to give up or give in because this life is hard……we have a contact on our phone that will bring us back to reality, remind us how blessed we are, it is like calling in your own personal life line! My hostage negotiator, my tell me the truths even when they hurt!
  11. You can just tell me the truth and I listen. Well, not many have this. Actually, NONE of my friends have this trait EXCEPT YOU! Most are too intimidated to tell me the truth, the honesty is too raw and they cower beneath my dominating personality, but not you. You will tell me what I need to hear, and I thank you for that more than you ever know. Thank you, for not backing down on my VERY blatant personality but giving me what I need! I may seem upset because you are offering a new perseption  on how I should think about a situation……..I Need THAT
  12. You make me feel valued, needed and important. It sounds so silly and I wouldn’t admit it to any other soul in the world……..sounds positively pathetic and I don’t want anyone else to see that vulnerable part of me. BUT, I like being needed, it is what I do, I am the one that people come to, even though it is painful when I need them in return and I feel so lonesome. I do this to myself, I allow myself to be the therapist even when I need a dose of therapy! You are my therapy, you come to me when you are sad, but you listen when I need to be heard and THAT, well that is everything!
  13. You don’t hide. I tend to run, when life gets hard, when the hurts are many and the happiness is few….I run. I run from myself, from my circle of safety, from my hurt. I run. Not only do you run too, but you are where we run. I ran one day only to find you..YOU were on that long, hard road and you made me face my fear, my nemesis, my enemy. You didn’t leave me, you ran with me, and the reason I can allow you to walk alongside of me is BECAUSE I know that I get to return the favor.
  14. You listen. I often call you when my day is bad OR when it is wonderful! If something horrible or IF something wonderful happens to me, you are the one I want to share it with. Why? Because if I am crying you will listen, you even may cry with me, if I had some funny, or happy or AMAZING thing happen to me, you laugh, you appreciate the moments that others cannot be bothered with.
  15. You bring out my silly, and make me young again. If we are together, best believe we are doing something juvenile, be it dancing to the most recent hit song or blasting some old school n’sync or mariah carey, we are doing it loud and proud! Whether we are cleaning the oven, and dancing with a fork in our hand, or if we are in the car with at least 7 kids to witness our craziness, we do not care. I have witnessed the veritable eye rolls from our kids as we attempt to twerk or act like total fools whilst trying to do a duet. We have created so many stupid dance moves and it is all okay! I love it….and our kids are better kids because of it!
  16. Being silly with you makes me a more approachable mom. Just the fact that we aren’t above putting hair bows in our hair or talking like some derranged people…..our kids may roll their eyes, or look on acting embarrassed.  The truth is, when we have fun…..our kids do in return! We aren’t stressed about their behavior, we are just being ourselves and our children get to glimpse the fun, carefree person we can be. It makes them open up and let loose…that has to be worth more than anything!
  17. We both believe in God. That sounds like a small thing to most, but in reality it is everything. I can have friends that don’t have faith, or do not believe in spirituality, or God but to have a friend who shares my beliefs is huge! We are imperfect, the two of us, no doubt about that! But the fact that I know you believe in the written word, the Bible, and when I am human and I fail you don’t judge me and vice versa. Knowing that I can call you when my failings have landed me in need of prayer…..well, that is more than words. Do I fail? Yes! Am I a sinner? Yes! But that doesn’t change the fact that I am a christian! Having you on my team, gives me even more reason to keep my belief system!
  18. You are just YOU! You are possibly, no wait, CERTAINLY the best version of me, you are the warmth on a cold, dark day, you are the definition of who I want to be…..You are me.I thank God every single day for allowing me to have a best friend who compliments my faults, who brings out the best of me, and who pushes me to keep on trying when the world is crashing down. Thank you for being my human…you are my favorite! This is just a list of a few things that I love about you, there are a million more, I could sing your praises all day but it would never be enough! I am beyond glad I got you in my corner!  Your bestie for life! April Mangrum

Growing Pains…..Every Little Bit Hurts

10/27/2016

It seems the world revolves around joy and pain, in equal measures. From the beginning of life, until the end, all the in-betweens, the growing pains as I refer to them…….every little bit hurts. Take for instance the day you make your way into this world, THAT day will be remembered not for the undeniable pain that your mother experienced, but instead the explicit joy she felt the moment you were placed in her arms. Isn’t it amazing, how hours or days of excruciating pain can be erased by a single moment of indescribable joy? Human beings, creatures of survival, makers of our own destiny, we are resilient. It seems that you have two different ways to think of joy and pain, happiness and sadness, the good and the bad…….you can dwell upon the sad, goodness knows before your time is through you will have felt that emotion many times over……or you can look at those sad moments, and remember the great moments, how they are worth all the pain/sacrifice/loss…..because in that moment of joy it is worth every tear………joy is worth it, even if every bit hurts…this is why they call it growing pains. Each loss you are dealt is replaced by some wondrous event that will make up for that pain……even when it does not feel like the world will continue…..it does!

From the moment you open your eyes to the world, a lifetime of heartache awaits you……there is no denying that, no changing that, no altering that reality. However, you can anticipate the greatest ecstasy when you least expect it, miracles that you cannot explain, and times of sheer bliss…….You can be anything you want to be. The true moment that defines you is one of these 1) Be the one that harbors bitterness that eats away at you until you are miserable or 2) Pull through the tough times and await the blessing on the other side. I choose number 2, although that has not always been the case where my heart and logic agree. There was a time that number 1, was my go to, my way of thinking. My oh pitiful me, mentality…….and oh did it ever make me miserable.

I wallowed in it, sank deep into it, cried out until I was utterly deaf……it got me nothing, not one single, good thing came from it! Until one day I opened my eyes, I thought today, this day, I count my blessings rather than my mishaps, this day I just be grateful. So, it began, and I was amazed how many things I could be grateful for! My list began simple enough…….Grateful for waking up this morning…….but as the day passed, every tiny thing seemed more than I deserved. Thank you, Lord, for this sunny day….food on my table, never going hungry, a husband who loves and provides for me, a roof over my head, water to drink, and on and on my list continued. I was humbled……humbled in a way that one can only be humbled when they have reached the bottom of the pity barrel of what life has dealt them and decided to crawl out of…….SURE, I could dwell on the fact that I didn’t have kids, but truth is I spent 7 years doing that, or I could talk about how life is hard, because it certainly is, perhaps I could think on how many people that I love that didn’t show appreciation for the things that I attribute to their life……but all of that started to lose it’s appeal. I had spent enough time wishing, hoping, praying, screaming, hating, and wishing for something more……..I did all of that until the day, God told me, “Be quiet and be still!” For the first time in my adult life, I obeyed. As I sat in my office tears rolling down my face as every single blessing I had been given was brought forefront to my mind, I recognized how ungrateful I had been. I began to grow, and I am here to tell you, growing pains hurt, every little bit hurts, but it is necessity.

I stopped chasing pipe dreams, I didn’t lower my expectations but instead believed that I am not the maker of my destiny. I began getting up and remembering the small things we take for granted, and how precious they are. Do you have a spouse that loves you? Cherish that because somewhere, someone is sleeping alone. Do you have a mother? Treasure that because not everyone still has that luxury. Do you have a sibling? Call them up, they are irreplaceable! Every thing you think in your mind is a struggle, you are wrong…some where under this same moon someone is sleeping outside with an empty belly and a barren heart. At this very second someone is losing someone they love beyond the definition of words……and yet you sit smuggly by and cry about something that at the end of the day really matters not. I tell you all of this to tell you this; growing up hurts, from the moment you are born you are meant to leave the safe hold of you mother’s arms……it hurts. From the time your sibling is born into this world, they are meant to part ways from you and make a life for themselves……..and that hurts….Oh, how I lavish in the memories of my mom, my sister, my dad all snug under one roof….I cannot rewind time and make this so, but I can give this to my children by all means possible for as long as I can do so. I look back at life as a child, how the memory of my youthful mom fills every moment that mattered…..Gosh, how it must have hurt to watch me grow, defy her even if I didnt mean to, take up wings and fly as far as they would take me……..far, far away from her. I view this differently now, a mother to children of my own. Wasn’t it just yesterday that my girls were being born???????????? Where did 8 years go? Then 6???? I cry every birthday but I have a whole new appreciation for what my  mother did! She gave me a safe home, a home cooked meal, a tidy house, and most importantly a sister, a life long friend! You will never know fully the depths of your love for your parents usually until it is far too late. My love for my mom, goes beyond the depths of reason, it cannot be measured by ounces or pounds because it is infinite. As sure as I sit here and type these words, there is no place I would rather be than an old back road with an old 70s song playing just being me with my mom. All my best and most cherished memories begin with her.

When I became a sister, oh the joy that it brought. This little porcelain beauty was my own personal baby doll……..seven years dividing us, you would think we wouldn’t be close……you would be wrong. Let my sister call me in the middle of the night with some minuscule problem; I will be there. Just as I was 24 years ago when she wanted to play barbies or dolls and I was much too old for it. She kept me from aging, she gave me youth, and for that there are no replacements. She is the one and ONLY to my end all be all, my catch me when I fall, my love me no matter what, my secret keeper, dream weaver, crawl into my bed late at night with her teddy because together we are safe. I can say that without question she is the ying to my yang, and although we are different, our hearts are the same. We share pain and joy equally, I often wonder if we were meant to be twins. I literally feel her hurt, her joys, her accomplishments, her buried insecurities as if they were my own. Sure, I would go back, to one more day of silly nothingness, days of just being kids, I would squeeze those perfect little cheeks and have a little more patience for her, and my mother who needed me to stay little just a little bit longer…….but every bit hurts.

As a child, if you are lucky, you make a friend in school. Someone who changes your very existence. Fills a void you didn’t know you had and if you are really blessed they stay with you. I met that person, her name is Jean, my youngest daughter is named after her just as my oldest is named after myself, my sister and my mother. I have learned that friendship may be the hardest of all to maintain. You grow up, if you are unlucky you deal with infertility, as we both did which pulls you together, if you are lucky you have a child/children that leaves no time for you to be together…….either way, you are blessed. I like to think that this friendship, will never waiver, but it has. There have been months that we haven’t spoken, years when I don’t know her day to day……….and every little bit hurts. At the end of the day, I know that when it matters we are there for each other, forever, for always, and life is hectic. Our friendship is as old as time, and although it has altered, it is still invincible. I think back on days of skating, and overnights that we clung to one another because then that is all we had. I think of the days we called each other to tell one another about some small thing that we experienced……I miss those days, yes, but priorities change and I understand that too……But nothing will express the love I have for this family, this second family that embraced and took me in as their own.  At the end of the day, I have a rare friendship that I thank God for everyday, even on the days when every little growing pain hurts.

You grow, and after finding yourself through infertility and losses, to your dreams coming true……you need someone to share it with, someone facing the same things as you are, no sleep, exhaustion, relentless chores, raising a baby that has consumed your entire world and you feel selfish to think you deserve this life…….A life full of diapers, bottles, no rest, just surviving. Cleaning, cooking, taking care of the very blessings you prayed for….as you are trying to remember every little bit hurts………then suddenly there is this human that just stops you in your tracks, reminds you your purpose, your reason, just gets you as the person you are today! I can never thank her enough, she was there just when I needed her the very most, her name is Marisa, and she is one of the greatest gifts my family has ever received. She takes in your children, when you are struggling to breathe, she loves them, she loves you, she feeds  you and in return……..well you do the same……..before you know it you can take a breath without thinking, her family becomes yours and life resumes some semblance of normalcy…….but just as life would have it, every little bit hurts………because unbeknownst to you, this again, this companionship, this just be yourself will also be stripped away so you can continue to grow……..and oh how EVERY bit hurts! Talking, sharing, just being together with our silliness, laughing over nonsense somehow what brought once joy, now it hurts. It hurts in deep places that I don’t share, it breaks me but it also makes me! As I move away from that comfort that I had not known for many years……let me tell you every little bit hurts. I miss her, the way she just knew what made me laugh……..I have a blog all her own but cannot bring myself to write it because every little bit hurts.

I move on from my graves county family, much like when I ventured away from my childhood home leaving behind my mom and sister, it breaks a piece of you. All the security of having my support group nearby, stripped away, it is scary. I drive away from the home where my own little family was began. I won’t lie, it hurts, it stings, but even as that chapter closes, even as a new chapter unfolds, every little bit hurts. I call it growing pains. Yet, as I pull into my new driveway, complete with black shutters that appear to wink at me as if to say, “Let the adventures begin, there are memories here, that are yet to be made.” I smile to myself, and I know that each time we grow the pain is intense, but the joy to follow is always worth the journey. For without the struggles, the losses, the hurt, how would we ever know sheer joy? With loss comes gratitude, humbleness, and you realize to give thanks for every blessing you are given, and focus less on what you have left behind. I walk into my new, pristine home, I breathe it all in, I let the moment take me, I smile as warm tears slide down my cheeks….in this instance, as I say good-bye to part of my history, I know my future has so much in store, and it is all worthwhile, even when every little bit hurts……I am growing, transforming, becoming a new version of myself, and I utter a silent thank you to the heavens, for the endings, and new beginnings. Even when every little bit hurts, the joy that is coming will be worth every ounce of sadness, so bring on the pain because joy awaits just beyond the horizon!

Fidget’s 1st Overnight

October 16, 2016

Dear Fidget,

Hey, there my handsomest, sweetest, cutest, littlest dude! Have I told you lately just how much I love you? If not I want you to know I love you more than all the stars in the sky, every grain of sand upon the ocean shoreline, brighter than the sun, more than you could ever dream! Your mommy needed a stress relieving horseback ride and called me out of the blue asking if I would mind watching you! Say what?????? Like when would I ever MIND watching you? I had a fall event to go to but I would gladly take you along, and let me tell you, me and your cousins have NEVER got out the door that fast! I couldn’t get to you fast enough! I took you to your first trunk or treat.. I even wore this baby wearing contraption that your mom swore by. When I first tried it I looked nine kinds of discombobulated, and I told my sister that device was some kind of witchery! But once I finally got all of the buckles buckled, and myself all harnessed in, you seemed to truly love it! I never thought your auntie would ever be a “baby-wearing” type. Alas, your charm wins me over every time………..what you want you get. Apparently, this particular night you thought it would be fun to saddle up your auntie and since you aren’t big enough for horses yet, I would have to do.

Well, let me tell you that I wore you like the finest accessory, because you truly are the most beautiful thing I have ever put on! You are quite the party animal, mister! Let me tell you, while all the other kids were running, hooting and hollering, gathering candy and the likes…….you were snoozing! I mean the kind of sleep where you are out to the world, little snores coming from where you rested on my chest, and you didn’t even stir when I covered your face with kisses (I did that often). You have officially swayed me to the baby-wearing device….something I never did with my own two! SHHHHH don’t tell them! You slept, your cousins got bags and bags of goodies, I chatted with my friends, and you were the picture of perfect…….but you always are! Before I knew it, your mommy was calling for me to return you. I tell you, little sir, I never get used to saying good-bye to you. Letting you go is always like watching a piece of my heart drive away! I miss you before the tail lights even disappear into the night.

As luck would have it for your old auntie, your mommy had to work a double Saturday the 15th and she couldn’t bare the thought of leaving you with a sitter for that long. I could tell it was tearing at her heart and she was conflicted on what to do. Leave you with a sitter for the entire day or relent and allow you to have an overnight stay with me! I secretly prayed that she would choose to just let me keep ya, but I also wanted to respect her decision for what she felt comfortable with. Being a mommy, I know how tough it is to be away from your child, the first time is especially hard. That is why I would have taken no offense if she had chosen not to leave you overnight, after all you are still a wee little guy, but I got the call that friday night.

“Sis, do you think you could keep Rhett all night if I need you to?” Sis whispered and I could hear in her voice how she was battling with it.

I tried not to sound as blissful about the idea as I truly was, I wanted to squeal, and I may or may not have did a little dance, containing myself I calmly reply, “You know that you NEVER have to ask me to keep him, you tell me when and where and I will be there. If you aren’t ready for an overnight stay I understand that too, you have to do what you feel the most at peace about.”

“I know he is safe and loved with you. I also know whoever watched him would do a great job and I planned on his first overnight being with you BUT this isn’t my choice and that is making it tough.” (Now, refer to previous blogs on the fact that your mommy, love her soul, is a control freak and if she feels like she has no option she doesn’t like it…..)

“I remember how it feels to spend the first night away from both of my girls. I missed them, I knew they were okay but I missed them. They are going on 8 and 6 and I still miss them when they are gone for even one night. I will tell you that it does help when it is your sister or mom……you know they are equally loved there, and that is worth it’s weight in gold! Ultimately, though, if you would rather have someone watch him that is closer, I totally get it.” I said quietly crossing my fingers that she would sway in my direction….she does this stuff to me and it is like waving candy in front of a kid and snatching it away lol! My heart cannot take the lure of getting you only to learn that I am not!

“No, I think that if he is going to be away from me that long, I would rather know he is with you. We look a lot alike, we talk to him the same, and I think that I would feel better if I have to do this.” Her voice was filled with conflicting emotions and my heart went out to her….I didn’t envy her having to be painted into a corner like that. “I have been debating on having him have his overnight stay with you anyways, I know HE will be okay, it is ME that is going to miss him!”

Needless to say, I happily loaded up the girls the following day, met your mommy for a quick lunch and held my breath until she left the parking lot! THEN, the adventure began! I only had you for one day, and I hope those visits continue getting more frequent but I have to relish every second I can. Off to Babies R Us for our first excursion into a toy store together, I ended up leaving with a sound maker with a night light (you aren’t a fan of the dark), Baby Magic (oh, it is my favorite), a new frog toy, a mirror for you to stare at your handsome self when you are riding, and some little toys that go on your wrists. You smiled, and cooed the entire time. I placed you in the middle between your cousins and they entertained you on the way home.

When we got to the house, I was amazed at how effortless it was to just step right back into doing the baby thing! I haven’t had a baby in my house for more than a few hours in almost SIX years! I figured I would be rusty, and I was even a little scared that you might sense that and feel upset. It was like I just stepped back in time and it all came so natural. I cannot explain to you, how I instantly know what you are wanting, this cry means hungry, this cry means bored, this one means talk to me…….fluidly I just transitioned although you never really cried, just a whimper here and there! We talked, you grinned, you cooed and I let the girls feed/play/spoil you. YOU WERE LOVING IT! It is so amazing to me, that an infant can just KNOW, “THIS” is my family, and recognize voices that you don’t hear every day. You just lit up when you heard their voices, and your eyes followed them and me wherever we went.

You are such an initiative baby, I swear you know exactly what I am thinking, you hear inflections in people’s voices, you are sensitive and you don’t like anyone to sound sad. So, onwards we trudged, taking tons of pictures, videos, you even got to karaoke with the girls (they held the microphone up to you lol) you were eating it up! You were ready to crash by 8, I had sent you mommy tons of videos, and I know that comforted her. I was afraid to go to sleep in case she checked in but you gave me that little fuss that said, “HEY, AUNTIE, ummmmmmm it is bedtime and I want you to snuggle with me.” I picked you up, laid you on my chest and the sounds of your little breaths lulled me to sleep, I feel so at peace, so complete, and a confidence with you that maybe comes from raising two other babies, but I felt at ease. You slept on my chest our hearts beating against one another, and I dozed off with you securely wrapped in my embrace. You stirred a little at about 10, signaling me that you were ready to be laid in your little bed, I obeyed, placed my hand on your tiny chest to feel you breathe, before joining you in sleep land and you slept again until after 1!

I woke before you even cried, looked down and your little fists were finding their way to your mouth, so I got up, made you a bottle, when I returned your eyes were wide and I whispered to you. A slow grin stretched across that handsome face and I scooped you up, changed ya, fed then burped ya…….and the way your little eyes were cutting towards me, I knew you wanted to have a little conversation. I have never met a baby that loves to be talked to as much as you, but I LOVE it, good thing for you, if your auntie likes you, she will talk to you as long as you like and I happen to adore you…..(don’t ask about if I DO NOT like someone because this will take a whole new direction lol)

Ask your mommy, how much I like to be woke up…….I do not! But with you I just giddily got up and spent an hour chatting with you. Your favorite is when I tell you how handsome you are, you just grin. Then you tell me all sorts of things, with your coos, and your expressions, and I could listen to you for days on end! The best part of being an aunt is knowing how fleeting the time is, how fast you will grow up, how I can love and spoil and stay up all night if need be and it still will not be enough. It is the ease with which you, the way I unconsciously switch back to the days of infancy, and I soak them all in. I forgot how much I missed the sound, the presence, the smell of a baby until you visit and then it sweeps over me with a nostalgia that I can never get back. I pause a moment more when your milk drunk grin and those big blue eyes gaze up at me, I take an extra minute to just hold you close, knowing one day before I blink you will be too big to hold, I step into yesteryear bathing and lathering you with baby magic, then I breathe you in, savoring every single moment…….too soon you will be a toddler, a little boy, a man…….and coming from the other side of watching my girls seemingly overnight move from one stage to another, I am wise enough in the ways I once was not, to just relish, savor, soak it up, every little grin, smile, coo, feeding, that it makes me almost wish for just one more……one more baby to fill this home with the joys only a baby brings. Auntie A will never have the gift of another baby, and that is okay. This house will never be filled with the sound of that first laughter, that first word, unless you are here.

Thank you, Fidget, for giving me that reminder of the scent of baby magic, the joy of endless smiles for a silly voice, giving my girls a cousin, my sister a son, and me my first nephew. I hope and pray that my sister decides to grace me with more nieces/nephews but whether she does or she chooses not to, no one will ever take your place. You have given this old aunt of your’s a glimpse into the days gone by, the frailty of the passing of time, the joy of remembrance and a love like I have never had! You will ALWAYS be my littlest dude, my Fidget, my handsome cowboy, my piece of Sis, my knight and shining armor that swept me off my feet with a small toothless grin. You, my sweet baby, YOU are irreplaceable, and I want you to know whether you are 3 months or 30 years old, you can talk to me at 1 am any old time you want! I cannot wait for many more adventures that we will have! Love you with all my heart and soul! Love you, my beautiful boy, you will never know just how loved you are!

Love always you love smitten, obsessed, ready for another overnight visit, certifiably crazy about you,

Auntie A