Monday, November 5, 2012

I'm putting my Money on the Founding Fathers

I have avoided politics throughout this whole election.  I have my views, some the candidate I will support share and some he differs vastly with me.  And I'm ok with that.  I have made a choice on who I believe will be the best representative to this country.  The country I wake up every morning and go to work and support.

I know that there will never be a human being that is the perfect President.  You have to have certain character traits to even seek the office.  Character traits that many of us would find intolerable in a friend or partner.  And let's be honest 95% of what is said on the campaign trail is an idealistic representation of a person's views or opinions, scripted to play to the most influential audience where every word has been so measured and calculated there is hardly a genuine thought.  And at the end of the day, regardless who holds the title of President for the next four years, very little will change.

You may say that sounds defeatist or resigned of jaded.  But in truth, that is what I am banking on.  Because more than any one person, I believe in our system of government.  While many will lambast the Congress or the President (or both) for not getting anything done, most don't realize that this is exactly what the founding fathers had intended.  A government that was slow to move.  A government that had to work very hard to realize the smallest changes.

Our founding fathers crafted a system of government that placed numerous checks and balances against itself in order to protect our nation from any one person, any one body or any one view point.  Think about it - there is very little the President can do without Congressional concurrence.  And that crazy Congress can hardly get it's two house to agree and lives under the constant threat of the veto pen.  Throw the Supreme Court into the mix and you have a recipe for inefficiency.  Oh, yeah, and if things weren't complicated enough then add in the political parties, regional alliances and local issues.  Honestly, it's a pretty awe inspiring feat when all of those competitive bodies and priorities line up and a law get's passed. 

So while I have my favorite that I will go in and back tomorrow, in the end, I'm putting my money on the founding fathers!

All of this to say that despite the divisive rhetoric that is going around and the pandering to swing voters, the bottom line is very little will change due to the outcome of tomorrow's election.  The Middle East will still be a mess.  Unemployment will still be high.  Jobs will likely continue to grow and we can still count on two things in this lifetime - taxes and death!  I'm confident in saying that a Romney White House will not roll back women's rights and a Obama White House will not lead to the destruction of our nation.  Regardless who is President this Country will continue to face challenges and regardless who is President I'll agree with some decisions while disagreeing with others.

More than "my guy" winning tomorrow, I hope that each individual person can take pride in the roll that they played in our democratic process and recognize that it is just that . . . a process.  There is no absolute right and there is no absolute wrong.  We are each, in the words of the wise Daniel Tiger, going to need to "stop, think and choose."  And at the end of the day, when the votes are tallied and we find ourselves on the losing end of the vote we need to take a few minutes and try to find the good in the majority's pick.

It strikes me that there must have been the same passion during elections in the past. They have come during times of war, economic crisis and scandal - but something has changed and that is the ability for all of us to share our uncensored thoughts at any time, from any location with the masses.  To quickly tweet out anger or impulsive thoughts that were once upon a time kept within one's own house.  Social Media has exacerbated the "mob mentality" and brought it into our living rooms.

And what is even scarier is that our adversaries are watching every word of this.  Watching us pick ourselves apart and making assumptions about the strength and cohesiveness of our nation.  That to me is truly frightening.  Because I still believe, Red or Blue, Romney or Obama we are strongest when we are on nation under God.

Tomorrow I hope that anyone who is reading this takes a few minutes before hitting post on facebook or submit on twitter and instead of adding to the divide you try to find something good to say - and if not take the advice given by mother's over the generations and "keep your thoughts to yourself."

And that is all I have to say about that!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

More Fall Fun

Today was another beautiful fall day.  While Matt raked the yard the boys got some fresh air.  Looking out the bedroom window I couldn't help but grab our camera and go capture some of the fun!  

Sam was really hamming it up for the camera.  I love that he was so carefree!  Will was running around like a lunatic - I got more pictures of his back as he ran away than anything else.


I've been wanting to learn more about our digital camera and some basic digital editing and have been spending some of my new found free time scouring the forums at www.clickinmoms.com .  I've picked up a few pointers that I have begun to put into practice.  While I'm sure these pictures are not technically perfect I think they capture just how much fun a big pile of leaves can be!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Perfect Fall Morning


 There is just something about the smell of fall that I love.  It's crisp and earthy.  And the air is dry and fresh.  It makes your cheeks hot and your nose sting and let's your breathe deeper than the hot humid air that is so common here during the summer months. 

Along with all those wonderful attributes also come shorter days.  The loss of day light seems to have a strong effect on my mood.  So I'm making sure I pop my Vitamin D daily and I'm trying to take advantage of the day light before the cold of winter sets in.

This morning I bundled up the boys, strapped them in the stroller and headed out for a walk with a friend.  It was . . . PERFECT.  We stopped at a farmers market and picked up fresh baked pumpkin bread, took a leisurely stroll along the creek and then the boys spent some of their energy at the play ground. 

 We came home, red (and runny) nosed, and rewarded ourselves with some of that pumpkin bread, an episode of Daniel Tiger and a mug of hot coffee (that last one is just for me). 

One of the real gifts of the 3-day was learning how much better I feel with a little bit of physical activity and some fresh air.  Now we are going to snuggle in for a fall afternoon nap.  Happy Saturday!









Friday, November 2, 2012

The Cat and the Hat: Zombie Edition


Halloween has come and gone but thanks to the modern miracle of film (or digital pictures) the memories can live on forever. 

This year we dressed the boys up as Thing 1 and Thing 2.  This is something I had been looking forward too since the day Will was born (literally).  And to complete the ensemble I went a little crazy with the black eye liner and threw on a hat and tie.

Halloween 2012 - The Cat and Thing 1 and 2

The boys were clearly not as excited about this get up as I was.  And the white face paint may have been taking things just a little too far.  Instead of cute "Things" they ended up looking like Zombies.  This was the BEST picture we had -- YIKES!

They did however enjoy going house to house.  We had been talking to Sam about Trick of Treating all week and he was raring to go when we hit the first house.  He was so excited he walked right past the woman who answered the door and into her home.  We had to re-explain the finer points of trick or treating and then all was back on track.

It's really nice, our neighbors get an annual permit and shut down our street so the kids have a safe and car free place to run up and down.  And the residents go all out, decorating their houses and dressing up.  Will made it about halfway before his little legs got too tired.  Dad carried him the rest of the way while Sam politely asked for a second piece of candy and promptly put it in Will's bucket.  

And while Thing 1 and Thing 2 were big hits around the neighborhood, I think Matt's Pumpkins stole the show.   They even made it into PBS's internal newsletter! 

Daniel Tiger and Simba Pumpkins


Thursday, November 1, 2012

What Now?

After spending the better part of the last year planning and fundraising for the DC 3-Day and all of my free time the last couple of months training I've been enjoying a little bit of down time.  I've enjoyed some weekend morning snuggle sessions with the boys and leisurely breakfasts with the family.  I've stayed in my PJs way later than I should!

But I'm also feeling a bit at loose ends.  I have a lot of found time that I didn't have a few weeks ago and I don't want to loose the motivation for physical activity I have built up.  I find myself asking "What now?"

I think I'm in need of another challenge.  Something to work towards - to keep me moving forward.  So I've set a goal, one that I have always wanted to do but never thought I had the physical ability to achieve: running a 5K.  (Note: I use the word run VERY loosely).

I'm told I need to sign up for a 5K to keep my motivation high - anyone have a good winter run they would suggest?  It definitely needs to be one that is not super competitive otherwise I will totally chicken out!

To get me there I started the Couch to 5K program once again (I stopped counting after 3 previous failed attempts).  I think I'm in a better place this time.  The 3-Day was a gift in many ways.  It showed me that I am physically much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for, it taught me the difference between muscle aches and true pain that needs treatment, it helped me develop a mental toughness to push through when giving up seems so much easier and it helped me realize that if I put my mind and some time towards something I can get it done.  The walk definitely gave me a confidence in myself that I never had before.  And before that confidence starts to fade I'm going to use it to tackle a 5K!

A couple of people have told me that a 5K should be a piece of cake after walking 60 miles.  And if we were talking about walking I would be in total agreement.  A 5K was a weekend morning warm up.  But we are talking about RUNNING.  This is a huge mental hurdle for me.  I have NEVER run.  I use to find excuses not to participate in the annual 1 mile run physical fitness test in gym.  I only joined sports that did not involve running.  I was an elementary school fun run drop out.  Seriously, my hatred of running goes all the way back to 3rd grade!  This is some deep in-grained fear.

So I'm going to set out like I did for the 3-day.  One day at a time.  One step at a time.  One foot in front of the other.  And just to add a little bit of motivation to the pot, I am not going to make a decision on walking the 3-Day this year until I cross running a 5K off my bucket list. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Zero to Sixty

I did it!  WE did it!  Last weekend was the 3-day.  I feel like I have been preparing for this FOREVER.  And now that it is over I've been trying to wrap my mind around the emotions of the weekend. 

First I want to say a big, huge THANK YOU to every body who supported me and the rest of Linda's Ladies with your donations, your love, and your cheers.  We could not have done it without you.  And because of you Linda's Ladies raised $19,500.

$19,500! 

We were so proud to be able to contribute to the $3.8 million that was raised by the Washington D.C. 3-day! 

And I couldn't have asked to share this journey with a better group of women.  Did I mention three of them were pregnant??!?!  That's dedication!

I won't say the weekend was easy.  In fact it was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  But surprisingly it was not the physical challenge that almost broke me, it was the emotional one. 

The last year, I have poured my anger and grief into preparing for this walk.  And while I was walking and fundraising and blogging I worked through a lot of my pain.  The pain is still there but it has faded into background noise.  Something that is always there but something I have learned to live along side of.  A quiet imissmymomimissmymomimissmymom.  Sometimes it bubbles up to the surface and breaks through IMISSMYMOM! But it soon returns to the hum that just kind of simmers as the rest of life takes center stage. 

But not last weekend.  Last weekend that low hum became a scream I FUCKING MISS MY MOM!  I HATE THIS WALK.  I WANT HER HERE.  WHY ME.  WHY HER.  WHY?  And with every foot step I was washed over with grief.  I had ugly moments that were full of jealousy.  Jealousy over the women who got to walk side by side with their moms.  Jealousy over the mom's who were waiting at the finish line to hug their daughters.  And loneliness.  Even while surrounded by people who have their own stories, I felt lonely.

Saturday afternoon just about broke me.  Overtired. Fighting a cold.  Racing to stay ahead of the sweep van.  I was physically exhausted and emotionally drained. 

There were four miles that I think summarized my whole three day experience.  It was during that low point on Saturday.  My teammates and I separated and I ended up walking this four mile stretch alone.  I think I spent the first two miles feeling completely sorry for myself.  I know the tears were flowing and the thing that propelled me forward was anger.  My thighs were throbbing, my calves were tight and my heart was broken.  The thought that I might just not be emotionally strong enough for this kept running through my head.

And then someone slipped their arm through mine.  The woman said "you got this.  You got it!  Let's go."  And for the next couple of minutes I walked like that.  Arm and arm with this stranger that I had never met before.  Her mom took my other side and we shared our stories.  We shared some tears.  And they kept me between them for a while.  The anger faded a little bit and the tears turned to laughter.  It wouldn't be the last time that I cried but it would be the last time I would question my emotional strength.   During those steps I found an inner strength I did not think I had and that strength is what carried me through to the finish line.  

I think I falsely convinced myself that I would find some big answers this weekend.  That somehow conquering the 3-day would make losing my mom a little bit easier.  That somehow, magically that constant hum would stop nagging me.  During those four miles I think I accepted that would never be the case.  I accepted that I would always be a little bit broken and nothing would ever be able to fix that.  No amount of money.  No amount of walking.  Nothing.  It was a freeing moment.  Acceptance.

I accept that I will always hurt.  I accept that I will be jealous of what others still have.  I accept that I will get angry.  I accept that there will be times I'm lonely.  I accept that the tears will come.  And I accept that I will forever live along side this constant hum "imissmymomimissmymomimissmymom."

On Sunday I crossed the finish line arm and arm with Linda's Ladies joined by Sam and Will.  Looking at those women, my friends and my boys it all came together.  The link between the past the present and the future was right there.  My mom, my friends and my boys.  I did this for all of them.  And you know what.  I just might do it again!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Moving Beyond Awareness

Hi!

I know I have been MIA.  Life has been busy and most days I'm trying to keep up with the boys and the to do lists.  But everything is good.  We had a wonderful vacation where family joined us and the boys were surrounded by sand and sea and love.  The days have turned into weeks and weeks have turned into months.  Time is flying!

We are also closing in on the kick off of the 3-day walk.  I feel like I started this journey a lifetime ago and I'm not sure how I feel about it soon coming to an end.  Maybe I'll write about that all soon.  But today I wanted to write about something that I have written about before but as time passes I feel a growing urgency to share again.

It's October, which means the nation turns pink.  Many major brands roll out pink products all with proceeds going towards one breast cancer charity or another.  Even the NFL goes pink for October.  Don't get me wrong I love pink and I get a little choked up when I see those big brawly men decked out in hot pink but the message is the same message it has been for over a decade; one of awareness and screenings.  Totally important but I'd be shocked if you could show me someone who is naive about the risks of breast cancer and the need for annual screening.

Advocacy is important but research is critical.  Research is what is going to find a cure.  Research is what is going to save lives.  I get a little bit annoyed when I read about a company's charitable campaign and education is still the initiative that is front and center.  We need to move research up to the forefront.  October can't just be about breast cancer awareness anymore because awareness is not enough.  There's a lot of awareness out there and yet the statistics are startling. 108 women die from breast cancer every day. 

Stop and think about that for a minute. While I walk 60 miles in 3 days 324 women will die from Breast Cancer and 2,301 will receive the life changing diagnosis.  This is just not OK.

Education and screening might shrink that number slightly but research is what will lead to prevention and a cure and anything short of that is simply not good enough in my mind.  If we want to see a day when our kids don't have to worry about breast cancer the way we do then the time is now to shift the conversation.

So what can you do?  Ask where your money is going.  Make sure that the cute pink shirt or bracelet you buy funds more than just awareness.  Look into the organizations you donate to and find out what the funds are used for.

And while you are at it consider being part of the cure by joining the Health of Women (HOW) study which is being conducted by the Susan Love Research Foundation.  If you are a woman you qualify.  If you are a man with high risk factors they want you too. 

The goal of the HOW Study is to carefully study a large group of women and men over time to investigate the causes of breast cancer. In order to do this, they will need to include all ages, ethnicities, and races, as well as to compare those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to those who have not. The HOW Study will ask you to answer questions about your health and health habits over time to give us a view of what people are doing and how their health is being affected.  In return for your time you get the satisfaction of being part of something that could change the future!

Let's make this October about more than just pink ribbons. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Dance

My brother will never dance with my mom at his wedding.

It’s weird how that is one of the things that resonates so strongly with me.  That thought first hit me when my mom was laying in the hospital during her last days, and it has come back to me often.

A moment.  That will never be.  Lost.

I’ve cried for that lost moment many times.  

Dancing with Joe at my wedding
My brother, Joseph’s relationship with my mom was very different than mine.  They didn’t talk every day.  They drove each other simultaneously crazy.  My mom with her hovering, my brother with his fierce independent streak.  They both struggled to be able to give the other what they needed.  

But they loved each other in the purest of  ways.  Fiercely.  My brother with the fiercest of loyalty and my mom with the fiercest of heart.  The two of them, beacons of strength.  So different but so the same.  

When my mom died it was Joseph that I worried the most for.  He’s the strong silent type keeping a lot inside.  A rock.  His silent sobs at her burial were my undoing.  My already broken heart shattered.  The weight of all the moments that would never be turned me inside out.

My brother will never dance with my mom at his wedding.

That sentence paralyzes me.  It is the very essence that haunts the inner corners of my heart.  A worry so deep I don’t know how to break its hold. 

Because,

I am a mom.

I have a son (I have two sons).

I will dance with them at their wedding. 
read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Re-charged

I love being a mom. I love my kids. I love my job. I love my husband. But boy have I been tired.

Matt and I don't live close to any of our family so time alone has been pretty non-existent since Sam was born. Juggling jobs and kids and the house and everything that comes along with all of that left us a little flat. Left me going through the motions more often than I would like.

So when Matt got the opportunity to head to Aspen for work (a hard assignment covering the Food and Wine Classic) and Grandma Barb and Grandpa Lanny agreed to watch the kids, we booked the first flight out and the last flight back.

Victoria's Amazing latte, me and my culinary idol Jose Andres, Lunch - wine included
Matt had to work during the days so I did some walking along some beautiful Aspen trails, window shopped along the amazing Aspen shops, people watched, drank amazing lattes (Thank you Victoria's), sipped yummy wines and had leisurely lunches and read some good books. I even got to rub elbows with a couple of my favorite celebrity chefs.


Some beautiful views and a refreshed Mom and Dad
The evenings were spent reconnecting with Matt. Sharing meals and wine and conversation that went beyond diapers and bed times and the daily doings of our two little monsters. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of talking about the kids, but also plenty of talking -- just talking. It was nice. And I think it is just what we needed.

I drowned myself in the clean Mountain Air, stuck my feet in the Roaring Fork River, spent some time inside my own head and enjoyed not having deadlines or schedules or anyone but me to answer too. It's been a very long time since I had that kind of time to myself.

I missed the kids. I missed the kids like crazy. Grandma Barb would send us videos each day which both made my heart swell and sting at the same time.

But the time away was rejuvenating.  Even though we got in late Sunday night (or actually very early Monday morning), I have a renewed energy, especially when it comes to being a mom.

We are so very grateful for Grandma Barb and Grandpa Lanny and this opportunity they gave us to recharge.  And the boys . . . well they had the time of their life.  I have a sneaking suspicion that Grandma and Grandpa may have spoiled them just a little :-).  They have decided they no longer like to wear pants.  They talk more, run more, climb more.  I swear they grew like whole years while we were gone. 

My monkeys -- sans pants!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Accountability - Week 13

May was a terrible month for training (and accountability) but I am back!  I didn't have a stellar week but I walked more miles than was called for this weekend.  It felt good.  After pushing the boys for seven miles yesterday, today's 4 mile walk was a piece of cake.  I invested in my "hydration system" -- who knew there was such a thing? And picked up some different brands of socks to see which ones I like the best. 

I'm really looking forward to next weekend when we have some "girl walks" planned.  It's been a busy couple of weeks for all of us and I've missed catching up with my friends.  

On the fundraising front I am less than $600 away from exceeding my goal of raising $4600 and Linda's Ladies has raised $10,703.28  I am just so proud of us.  If anyone has any experience in getting corporate donors/sponsors will you drop me a line?  I'd love to pick your brain.

 Accountability - Week 13
Weeks until Walk -20
Funds Raised to Date - $4051.14
Miles Walked to Date - 138.3
Monday - Rest
Tuesday -2.8
Wednesday - Rest
Thursday - 0
Friday - -0
Saturday - 7 miles pushing the kids (that should count for at least 10 right??)
Sunday - 4 miles

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Get a Grip

May.

May is just a hard, stressful month for me.  There's a lot of good in May, but it all seems to be overtaken by my mom's death.  It hangs over me and the month sucks the energy right out of me.

Compound that with three weekends out of town, over 70 hours in the car with two toddlers, cleaning out my parent's house and a really heavy workload.  May has kicked my ass. 

To cope, I gave up taking care of me.  When something had to give, I gave up my time to walk.  When my emotions took over I gave up counting points in return for the comfort of a glass (or two) of wine and not-so-good-for-me food. 

It felt good in the moment.  But today I'm feeling sluggish and a wee bit depressed that I let things get this far away from me.  So I went and bought a cookie. 

Yup -- My name is Amanda and I am an emotional eater.

But I felt like crap.  And that cookie tasted like crap.  And you know what, that cookie didn't make me feel any less crappier so I threw two thirds of it in the trash.  It's time for me to get a grip.  There are only a couple more short days left to May and I need to get myself back on track.  Enough wallowing.  Enough giving into the stress.  Enough letting the depression take over.  Enough Enough Enough!

I need to take hold of things again and thrive on that feeling of accomplishment when I loose a couple of pounds.  Thrive on that pride when I meet or exceed my training goals for the week.  Thrive on taking care of myself not just catering to my downtrodden emotions.  I need to put my focus on making my body strong and healthy because when I was doing that my mind felt healthier and stronger.

So even though it's hot as hell here today, I'm going to refuse to make excuses and put my miles in.  And I swear I'm not going to pull that cookie out of the trash :-). 

Happy Tuesday

Just a little Sam and Will to start the short work week!

 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Milestones

It's a big week for Linda's Ladies.  It's a big week for me.

When I set out on this journey last year I committed to raising $2300.  I was nervous.  I hoped I could do it.  I was prepared to put my own money up if I couldn't meet that minimum.  This week I crossed the $4000 mark.  It's unbelievable to me.  I am so grateful that others believe in what I am doing.  I am so grateful that others share the goal, the desire to find a cure and beat breast cancer once and for all.

When I set out on this journey I did it alone.  But I wasn't alone for long.  And today, I am teamed up with five other wonderful women who are passionate about this war.  And as we linked our arms our impact grew exponentially.   This week my team, Linda's Ladies, crossed $10,000!  It's amazing.  I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around it.  And then I think that we are just one team amongst hundreds of teams and millions of individuals who are joined in battle and the weight of what we are doing towards a collective goal leaves me speechless. 

Today I am taking a few minutes to enjoy how far we have come.  I am taking a little time to give thanks for the generosity of friends, family, and even a couple of strangers.  Today I will celebrate all we have accomplished. 

And tomorrow, well tomorrow I'll march on and look back on this milestone week fondly but push towards greater things!  Tomorrow I'll keep walking towards a cure.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Letting Go

When my mom passed away she left a lot of stuff.  A LOT of stuff.  Too much stuff!

I knew my mom had an affinity for garage sales and TJ Maxx and Marshalls and specialty food stores and Lord and Taylors and well you get the picture.  She liked to shop.  It was something we all knew.  It was something we would tease her about from time to time.  But I don't think the full magnitude of her shopping sunk in until she was gone. 

I spent this weekend cleaning out my parent's house.  Trying to get it ready to sell.  Trying to help my Dad get out from under the weight of the house.  Trying to get myself out from under the weight of that house.  Clearing out that house has been a daunting and seemingly impossible task.  On Saturday we filled up a second dumpster and then continued to fill dozens of trash bags full of items to discard and items to donate.  I threw away hundreds (probably thousands) of dollars of out of date food.

I cycled between laughing at my mom, yelling at my mom and crying for my mom.

You see, I don't think my mom liked to shop, I think she needed to shop.  I think shopping was her coping mechanism.  I think when she felt lonely or sad or frightened or frustrated she headed out to buy something. 

In so many ways, my mom and I are alike.  We are both planners (that like to procrastinate in execution) we both like things a particular way and expect everyone else to fall in line.  We both look for ways to control our life in a World that seemed uncontrollable.   And we both have anxiety.  I know my mom had some anxiety.  She voiced some of it to me, but I don't think I ever realized, or she ever realized the magnitude of her anxiety.  I think it was greater than any of us ever understood. 

And it makes me sad.  It makes me sad to think that this strong vibrant woman carried this unspoken weight.  A weight that manifested itself in stuff.  Clothes and makeup and perfume and china sets and table clothes and jewelry and roosters (oh the roosters).

I wonder if the weight of all the stuff ever made her suffocate or if it usually brought her comfort.  I wonder if she really was filling a void in her life with stuff.  That's what it looks and feels like today.  And that thought brings tears to my eyes. 

For the last couple of years I have had a hard time letting go of my mom's stuff.  I have felt like I was betraying her, or being wasteful, or throwing pieces of her away.  But I'm coming to recognize that this stuff is not the part of my mom I want to hold onto.  This stuff is just that, stuff.   And it's the stuff that represented a part of my mom I think she hid from the World.  A secret struggle she didn't really want anyone to know about.  And I hate the stuff.  I hate it for what I think it represented to her, I hate it for the weight it carries for me and my family.  I hate it and I want it gone.  This weekend it wasn't as hard to throw stuff away.

I feel kind of guilty writing about this - like I'm sharing too much of my mom, but I think it's important to share.  It's important because I've come to realize even the strongest women have a chink in their armor.  Even the strongest women have problems.  Even the strongest women need help.  And I wish with all my heart I had known and would have talked to my mom about it.  Listened to her.  Helped her find the help she needed.  Helped her face and shed this weight.  And I hope, wherever she is, she is finally rid of it. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Enough is Enough

I am lucky to have a lot of mommy friends - or friends that are moms.  Most of them I knew long before the idea of kids even crossed our minds.  They are all amazing women, amazing friends and REALLY amazing moms.

Some breastfed past their baby's first birthday, some struggled to make it to the 6 month mark, some struggled to get started - watching their baby loose weight - and agonized over turning to formula rather than put their baby's health at risk, and some decided that breastfeeding wasn't for them. 

New moms do what new moms do and share their struggles looking for support and understanding and compassion and advice.  I was surprised at what a struggle breastfeeding was, pretty universally, across the board.  And what makes this even harder is the pressure that society puts on new moms.  The constant messages and images that define what a "good mom" looks like, what a "good mom" does.

I've watched this pressure turn logical, brilliant, strong women inside out.

The pressure turned me inside out.  With both of my babies I was determined to breastfeed until the 6 month mark.  But with both of my babies my supply plummeted when I went back to work.  I exhausted myself pumping and feeding around the clock, while working an intense full time job.  I snuck in extra pump sessions at work, gave up my lunch break, pumped in the car on the way to and from work and dissolved into a mess when I would come home and still not have enough for the next day of day care.

Every time I added formula to a bottle to make up the difference I felt like a failure.  I felt like I was doing it wrong.  And at the 5 and a half month mark with both babies, I sobbed as I made the decision to move exclusively to formula.  A decision that was right for me, my sanity, my marriage and my kids.  But that decision made me feel ashamed, made me feel like I wasn't doing the best I could, made me feel inferior.

Where the hell does this pressure come from?  Why is doing the best you can not good enough?  Why do we as moms feel like we have to compete with the best of every other mom or some ideal defined by society?

And breastfeeding is just one of the many many many topics that invoke this self doubt.  Cosleeping, sleep training, baby wearing, organic baby food, homemade baby food, cloth diapers, working, staying home.

It has to stop!  We are creating a generation of moms that constantly judge themselves against an unrealistic ideal.  We are creating a generation of moms who feel like they don't measure up.

There is no "one size fits all" guide to parenting.  There is no formula on how to do it right.  Parenting is not black and white, right and wrong.  Parenting is knowing your baby and trusting your instincts.  Parenting is trial and error and finding what works for you.  Parenting is a journey down a path that winds and splits off in many directions.  Parenting is making the best decision at that moment, celebrating when you took the right path and course correcting when you made a wrong turn.  Parenting is loving, beyond all else, parenting is loving. 

I wish my mom were here so I could ask her if she struggled with these same doubts.  If she had the same nagging feeling that, despite everything she did, she just wasn't doing enough good enough.  Is this just a side effect of being a mom or something else?

Regardless of the answer, there is one thing for sure, the media exploits this desperate need to be the best mom for our children.  They prey on our insecurities, our doubts, our gut wrenching instinct to do everything we can to give our children the best we have.  And to that I say enough is enough.  We are good enough.  In fact, we are better than good enough!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What I Learned about my Kids in 30 Hours

Last Thursday we embarked on a great adventure (or insanely bad idea) -- a trip to Florida. In the car!  Have I mentioned I have a 2 year old and a 1 year old?

For those of you doing the math, that's more than 30 hours of drive time. Not counting meals and stops for the boys to run around and expel energy.

By just about every measure it was a success. The boys handled the car like champs - better than I could have hoped for.

Hour 6 -- Teddy Graham Pit Stop


I thought I knew my kids inside and out but all that time confined to a small space I learned some new things.

Like how Sam likes to sing along to his favorite Sesame Street songs -- and he knows most of the words!

Like how Will likes to do the hand motions to Itsy Bits Spider.

That Sam has a generous heart and would quickly hand over his favorite toy to try to cheer his brother up.

How Sam loves digger trucks and water.  He thinks any kind of water is the Ocean and proclaims it loudly.

Will claps along to songs he likes.

They love to hold hands and laugh at each other.

They have their own language that consists of loud, high pitched shrieks.  Apparently what they say to each other is hysterical because fits of giggles always follow.

Sam narrates every minute of life.

Will points to something he wants and says "this."

Most of all I was reminded how lucky I am to have been chosen to be their Mom.  In the hustle and bustle of the every day it's easy to get frustrated at the little things, go through the motions and miss the moments that make memories.  But this weekend I got over 30 hours of uninterrupted moments with my boys and I enjoyed every one of them (well almost!)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Accountability - Week 9

This week was a walking bust - but I wouldn't have traded it.  We took the boys to Florida to spend some time with their Great Grandparents.  It was a wonderful trip! 


Today I get back on track.
Accountability - Week 8
Weeks until Walk -23
Funds Raised to Date - $3693.14
Miles Walked to Date - 97.85
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Worked Late
Wednesday - Prepping for Trip
Thursday - Vaca
Friday - Vaca
Saturday - 3 miles in Fl.
Sunday - Vaca

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Legacy

Three years ago today I lost my mom. I still sometimes have trouble believing it really happened. It doesn't feel right. A big mistake. I feel like there must be someone I can convince that they got it wrong and then she'll be back.

But logic knows better than that. It did happen. Right or not, my mom is gone.

What is not gone are the values she instilled in me. She taught me what in life is important. And above all else comes family. She taught me to love and respect family. To hold them close. To hold them tight. That no matter distance or time, family is, and always will be the one true constant. Family is her legacy.

So I find it fitting that today, three years after I lost her, I get to honor the most important thing she ever taught me. I get to start passing this lesson down to my kids. How lucky they are to get to know my grandparents. How lucky I am to see the love between these generations.

On the day I have come to dread, I watched my Poppi's eyes light up as his great grandson dissolved into fits of giggles. I watched my son play trucks with his great grandmother. I am so lucky that my mom passed this lesson in love down to me.

My mom may not be here, but today I feel closer to her than I have in a long time.


Monday, April 30, 2012

This week - It's hard!

This week is hard.  

I'm trying to find the words for where I am right now but I'm at a loss. 

The memories of three years ago haunt me.  They feel more real right now.  

Three years ago. 

It feels like an eternity and a second at the same time.  It feels like forever ago that I last got to hug my mom.  It feels like ages since I heard her voice.  And at the same moment I cannot believe everything that has happened since I lost her.  All the moments she hasn't been here to share.  And I still reach for my phone to call her on my way home at night.

And I get angry.  So so so so so so freaking angry that she got robbed of these moments.  That I got robbed of these moments.  And sad. And tired. 

I'm not going to tie this post up with a pretty bow.  Find some big life lesson or attempt to have insight into my emotions.  Sometimes you just need to be mad.  And sad.  And tired.

Yeah, this week is hard!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Accountability - Week 8

It's here.  Tomorrow starts the official count down to the walk.  Tomorrow starts the official training schedule.  I am so excited.  I am so ready for this.  The first couple weeks should be a breeze but then miles start stacking up quickly.  My game face is on!  I am determined to rock this walk. 

And 8 weeks!  EIGHT WEEKS.  That's like two months.  I've been doing this accountability thing for two whole months and it's working.  


I've talked before about how easily I tend to give up on things.  I have to say I am very happy with how consistent I have been.  Sure, there are weeks where I haven't kept pace but looking back on the last 8 weeks I have been pretty steady. 

Every time I contemplate trading in my sneakers for the couch I think about my mom and how this is more than just a walk.  This is more than just raising money to beat breast cancer.  This is a promise I made to her.  This is a promise to keep fighting, to keep walking in her name.  It makes tying those laces a little bit easier. 

Accountability - Week 8
Weeks until Walk -24
Funds Raised to Date - $3693.14
Miles Walked to Date - 94.85
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Raining
Wednesday - 4 miles
Thursday - Off
Friday - Should have walked but I didn't
Saturday - 4 miles around the University of Maryland
Sunday - 6 miles

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Emily's Question

I recently wrote this post over at Merelymothers.  Emily left a comment and asked me to write about how I got through the toughest times and if I have any tips or ideas for facing such a loss.  Emily shared that her mom has been diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers Disease.

Emily, if you are reading this, first let me say that I am so sorry that you and your mother have to face this.  And thank you for reaching out.  Loss is such a hard and lonely process.  It's so very personal and no one will ever experience loss the exact same way you will.

I cannot begin to understand the emotions you are feeling.  The loss of my mom was, in comparison, sudden and unexpected.  It was acute on every level.  I didn't have a long time to to think about what was to come.  To play the future over in my head.  I can only imagine that the anticipation of what is to come is overwhelming and all encompassing. 

I think it is important to put out there that I am by no means an expert in grief and loss.  Personally, I don't think I have necessarily faced the loss in my life all that gracefully.  I don't think that I have done it right.  So I feel completely unqualified to be giving advice. But I have spent an enormous amount of time reflecting on where I am and where I have been and there are some lessons I learned and some things I have worked on that I will share with you.  These may (or may not) resonate with you or anyone else who has faced loss but they come from my very personal grieving experience.

Be kind to yourself.  This is something I have struggled with in life.  I have always been very critical of how I handle situations - I was the same way (and still am) when dealing with grief.  It is OK not to be OK.  It is OK to give yourself the space and time to deal with your emotions, what ever they are, in the moment.  Don't judge your process - because remember, grief and loss is personal.  It is your journey, don't compare it to anothers, don't expect to follow a prescribed path.

Take care of yourself.  Physically.  Grief and loss is hard on your system.  It will wear you down.  Exhaust you.  Eat.  Sleep.  Even at the worst of times, things felt more manageable after a good night of sleep. 

Take care of yourself.  Emotionally.  I am a huge (HUGE) proponent of therapy.  There is nothing to be ashamed of in getting professional help.  A good therapist will be able to help you verbalize and navigate your feelings.     

Everyone else around you will be grieving and dealing with loss too and they will not deal with it the same way you do.  I remember when I lost my mom all I wanted was to reach out and to latch onto someone else.  I wanted someone else to love me the way my mom did.  I wanted someone else to understand me the way my mom did.  My first realization was that no one else around me was capable to doing that because they were processing the loss of my mom as well.  They were stuck in their grief.  The second thing I realized is that you can't avoid grief simply by replacing the lost love.  There is no replacement. 

Similarly, I had to give space for others that are grieving.  It's not a pretty process.  People facing loss are necessarily selfish.  Their whole being is encompassed with how the loss is affecting THEM.  I found that my capacity and the capacity of those around me to truly understand how others were affected was simply not there.  It is so easy to get into the "I loved her more" "I miss her more" "the loss is the worst for me" game.  When you feel yourself going there, or see someone else going there, take a step back.  Those feelings are real, but they can be hurtful.  Grief is hard enough without it being a competition.

Embrace small moments of happiness.  Oh, I remember how guilty I felt when I first felt joy after losing my mom.  I remember how hard it was to reconcile grief and joy.  But those small moments of happiness are so important for the healing process.  They start as tiny little glimmers.  Don't ignore the glimmers.

Sit in the grief.  Don't run from it.  It will find you.  Cry.  Cry hard.  Cry ugly.  I had to hit the bottom to start climbing back up. And I hit it time and time again.  It's  OK!

Grief for me has been a two step forward, one step back process. Slow progress.  I start feeling like I am coping and things are much much better just to fall down again.  It happens.  It happens a lot.  I think it's OK.

Something my therapist told me (remember I'm a big fan of those guys): I may have lost my mom but she lives inside me.  She is part of me.  And because I carry her with me she lives on.  As long as I love her, she lives on.  As long as I continue to be the person she raised me to be, she lives on. There are days that sounds like such bull shit.  But on other days I have found immense comfort in that. 

And I'll end with this - I have found it simply amazing just how strong the human soul is at the moment it feels the weakest. 

I have only now started to be able to connect with the experiences others have had with grief and loss.  I have only now begun to see little ways this awful terrible thing has made me stronger and more resilient.  In a millisecond I would give all that strength and resiliency back to have my mom here but I guess what I am trying to say is even though it feels like it never will - it does get better.  Even though it feels like you never will - you will laugh again.  Even though it feels like you can't do it - you can.  You will.  I did.  I am.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Accountability Report - Week 7

This week I worked to get myself back on track and feel that overall I was successful.  I Would have liked to walk on Sunday but the weather got the best of me.

On a fundraising note I crossed the $3600 threshold.  I am less than $1000 away from my goal of $4600.  Today we are $3693.14 closer to a cure.  $3693.14 closer to daughters never having to go through what I did.  $3693.14 closer to never having to walk again!

I am so grateful for the generosity I have been shown.  The support, financially and emotionally has been overwhelming. 

Accountability - Week 7
Weeks until Walk -25
Funds Raised to Date - $3693.14
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 3.4 miles
Wednesday - Off
Thursday - 3.4 miles
Friday - off
Saturday - 6 miles
Sunday - Rain rain go away -- couldn't get motivated to do anything!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

She's Up then She's Down

My mood swings have been epic this last week.

 I'm like a total Katy Perry song.  Have I ever told you that Sam looooooves Katy Perry.  When he was a new born California Girls could get him to stop crying. Now his favorite Sesame Street video is the banned Katy Perry video (Yup, hand over that Parent of the Year award)!  Anyway, where was I.

Oh, yes, my mood swings.  One minute I'm on the floor playing with the boys, the next minute I'm curled up in a ball crying.  One minute I'm laughing, the next minute I'm ready to take someone's head off.   Related to my mood is my absolute lack of patience. 

Lack of patience + mood swings + two toddlers = FAIL

I know that I'm going to have these stumbling blocks, these moments where I slip backwards.  But I don't want to.  Yesterday the boys were playing together.  Like really, laying on the ground both pushing trucks around, playing together.  And the sun was coming in the front window and I was all warm and glowy.  Because it was all just so perfect.

And then the sadness started to creep in.  It just started tugging at me, trying to pull me out of my warm and glowy place.  I didn't want to go.  I didn't want to give into the sadness because it was just too wonderful where I was.  So I pushed back against it.  I fought to stay in the moment, but I had already lost the moment.  I ended up in this weird kind of purgatory, straddling the joy and the sadness -- both pulling me in opposite directions -- both making it impossible to fully give into the other.   

I know I'm going to have these moments, days, weeks.  I know that grief is a process.  I know that it will probably be with me in some form for the rest of my life.  But I only have so many glowy moments and I'm sick of giving them up to the grief. 

And when I am being stretched to my limit by my emotions I struggle with my moods.  I become snappy and short fused and all the things I don't want to be which makes me frustrated which makes me more emotional which makes me more moody.  Anyone else exhausted?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Accountability - Week 6

It was a busy week (I feel like I say that a lot).  I didn't walk until late in the week and I realized I was cranky and anxious and blech.  I never understood people who said that they felt off when they didn't work out.  It appears I may now be one of those people!

Accountability - Week 6
Weeks until Walk -26
Funds Raised to Date - $3593.14
Monday - Busy
Tuesday - Busy
Wednesday - Busy
Thursday - Busy
Friday - 3 miles
Saturday - 5 miles
Sunday - 3.5 miles

Saturday, April 14, 2012

And Just Like that I'm Right Back Where I Started

I am going up to NJ next weekend to help clean out my Mom and Dad's house.

Honestly, since my mom died it's so hard to be there. 

And despite how well I think I'm doing on a day to day basis I feel myself slipping as the weekend gets closer.

This is hard to write because I feel so guilty for feeling this way.  I feel like I should be in a better place by now.  And I worry that these feelings will hurt my family's feelings which is the last thing I would want to do.

My anxiety is taking over.  The weight of what needs to be done to get my parent's house ready to sell is suffocating.    I know I need to do it.  I know I need to be there.  It's just so hard.  Three years later it is still so hard.

And As I was walking today I realized that it was just about three years ago that I raced up to New Jersey to be with my mom as she lost her battle.  And it's all too real, too close, too raw. 

It's always been hard - going home.  This time seems especially hard.  Maybe it's because I'm starting to feel better.  Maybe it's because I have found a way to find a sense of peace.  Maybe I have held New Jersey at a distance to protect myself.  No, I definitely have held it at a distance to protect myself.  And to go back there will bring those feelings back -- the feelings that I have been able to move past for the most part.  The thought of slipping back into the grief, the sadness, the anxiety, the helplessness has already exhausted me.

Am I my own worst enemy for anticipating this?  Why can't I just go?  It's one weekend.  I get to see my dad and my brother and the rest of my family.  Why can't I just embrace the good?  Why am I letting the anxiety seep in?  I hate that I feel this way.  I hate that I put this off until I can't put it off any longer.  I'm so frustrated with myself.  I feel like such a baby!  

How is it that I feel the loneliest and the most isolated when I am there?  I feel the most vulnerable when I am in the place that holds the best memories of the past, the place where I am surrounded by those that have always loved me.  I miss feeling like I am going home.  I miss feeling like I am safe.  I hate that I can't get back there. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seeking Inspiration

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time adding new bloggers to my twitter feed and daily reading list.  One has cancer, one's sister died, one is a recovering addict, one is a struggling single mom, one's husband is on deployment.  The list goes on.

As I thought about this the other day my initial reaction was - gee Amanda, you seem to be spending a lot of time reading about other's misfortunes.  And I contemplated stopping.  Was I looking for others who felt despair?  Was I comparing my struggles with their struggles?  Was I looking for a reason for my heart to ache? 

I really wasn't sure why I was spending so much time with these strangers and their "problems."  I even downloaded a book last night written by a man who lost his mother, wife and 4 year old daughter in a horrific car crash. 

But as I was reading through my list of current favorite blogs this morning I realized something.  These are not blogs about despair, or the depths of human sorrow, or raw pain  These are blogs about overcoming that despair and sorrow and pain.  These are blogs about digging deep into your soul and facing some of the hardest moments.  These are blogs about resiliency and hope and faith.  These women and men are putting themselves out there, exposing their most vulnerable moments and sharing little glimmers, little moments of truth, little moments of strength.

When I first lost my mom I was too overcome with grief to even hope to find glimmers of truth or strength.  I was too jaded to have hope or faith.  But now, now I'm searching.  The wounds are not as raw.  The grief isn't as palpable.  And I'm searching to connect.  To connect to others' journeys.  To see the good that has come out of grief and loss and pain.  To know that there is something beautiful that can blossom from devastation.

 Lately, I've been grappling with how to bring meaning to my mom's death.  How to honor her in my daily life.  How to not let her presence in my life, and now lack of presence fade into the past, become an "event" in my life.  I'm scared that by moving past the devastation, that all encompassing grief, that I'm moving past her.  And I struggle with finding a way to hold her in the present.  I don't have an answer for this.  I've done grief and despair for a long time.  But I don't know what comes next.  I don't know how to do the next phase (whatever that phase is).         

I think this is why I'm drawn to the lives behind these blogs.  I think this is why I keep seeking out others who have faced difficulty.  I need to know how they do it.  I need to see how they do it.  I need their inspiration And their moments of wisdom and truth are helping me navigate my way into whatever lies ahead.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Accountability - Week 5

I got back into the swing of things this week.  We had our first "official" training walk led by team mate, Maura.  And, despite it being a crazy busy weekend, filled with company and food, I made walking a priority.

Accountability - Week 5
Weeks until Walk -27
Funds Raised to Date - $3518.14
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 3.4 miles
Wednesday - Off
Thursday - 2.6 miles (Will was super cranky so we cut the walk short to get him  home and in bed)
Friday - Lots of shopping and cleaning and cooking
Saturday - 4.4 miles.  We had our first training walk (3.4 miles) which I walked to (adding an additional mile to the total)
Sunday - 3.4 miles

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Blog Post

I'm pretty excited about today! 

Why? You may ask.

Well, because I'm making my guest blogger debut over at Merelymothers.

I've been totally loving having this outlet to pour my heart into.  It's helped me process, helped me stay honest with myself, motivated me to keep training and generated a fair amount of donations for breast cancer research.  So when the opportunity to share my heart with another audience came I was both excited and kind of petrified.
It's pretty safe here.  Most the folks that read my blog know me.  They send encouraging words or at least bite their tongue when they don't agree with me.  Venturing out into the bigger blogging world is a little bit scary.  Kind of like starting a new job or going to a new school.  Not knowing if anyone is going to like you or want to sit with you at lunch or pick you for their kick ball team.  But most good things come when you stretch outside your comfort zone.  So stretch I will.

Merelymothers was created by a group of stay at home mom's as a place to share their thoughts and recommendations and support to other mom's.  One of the founding members, Dawn, has been a friend of Matt and mine for a long time and I've loved watching her little girl grow!

While I am not a stay at home mom, I think there are so many things that connect us as mothers regardless of your status as a domestic goddess or working warrior.  We face many of the same challenges, conquer the same obstacles, celebrate the same triumphs.  We are all MOMs!  And this sisterhood of motherhood and womanhood is just what I am celebrating today over at Merelymothers.  So head on over there and check it out.  
--Amanda

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Moment of Clairty

Today I was driving back to my office and was overwhelemed by the beauty around me.  The clarity of the world.  The wonder of nature and spring and cherry blossoms and bright blue skies. 

And I realized something, I haven't felt this wonder about life in general in a very long time. 

I'm in awe of my kids and there are days that their sheer existence brings me joy I didn't know possible.

But that feeling of being one with the World -- of feeling present and grateful of that presence has alluded me for some time. 

Today it felt like I took off a pair of tinted sun glasses and for the first time all the colors came into focus.  It made me catch my breath and marvel in just how much beauty there is. 

And in that moment I gave thanks.  I gave thanks for my life, for my husband, for my babies, for my family and my friends.  I gave thanks for the cherry blossoms, and the warm sun and the blue sky.  I gave thanks for what I have and the ability to go after what I want.

I can't really explain it adequately but I felt whole and full and it was wonderful.  I smiled and I laughed and I inhaled deeply.

Things are coming into focus and I'm seeing the colors again, in all their wonderful vibrancy. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Accountability - Week 4

Motivation was severely lacking this week.  Like big time.  My walking hit a wall.  My fundraising has hit a wall.

The big success was not climbing under a blanket with a big gallon of ice cream and a spoon.

Oh well.  A new week starts tomorrow.

On a very positive note, Maura, one of my teammates, crossed the $3000 mark this week bringing our team total to $9482.28.  We are so so close to crossing the $10,000 mark.  AND we are the 6th highest fundraising team for the DC walk.  Her big accomplishment helped motivate me on Friday!

Accountability - Week4
Weeks until Walk -28
Funds Raised to Date - $3518.14
Let's not even talk about Monday-Friday (unless you want to hear about my thoughts on the Hunger Games).
Saturday - 4.25 miles in my new fancy shoes.  Ouch
Sunday - 3.3 achy miles.  I'm sure paying for yesterday's mistake!

Next weekend we have our first official training walk.  Maura is a training walk leader and we are going to kick off with a 3.4 mile walk.  It will be fun to meet other three day participants.

Gearing Up

When you buy new shoes and custom fit insoles and the experts at the shoe store tell you to break them in slowly you should probably listen.

And not take them out for a 4 mile trial the day you buy them.

Because if, hypothetically, you decided to wear them for a 4 mile walk, I bet you'd be pretty sore.  Like very, I've-never-walked-more-than-around-the-grocery-store-before sore!  Hypothetically speaking.

But not me, I'm a good listener.  Or maybe I'm not. 

Because today - I'm pretty freaking sore. Oops!

Yesterday SGK had a shoe clinic at Road Runners that I took advantage of.

They talked about the right shoe and the right fit and the right sock.  They gave pointers on what to wear and what to drink and how to keep yourself comfortable (is that possible) and healthy while walking 60 miles over 3 days. 

Road Runners has this really neat system (albeit a pretty cheesy schtick that goes along with it) where they analyze your foot and the way you walk in order to custom fit an insole and pick the right shoe to give you the right amount of support for your planned activity. 

Best thing they give you 90 days to try out your shoes. 

I think I'm going to heed their advice from here on and take it a little slower in my new kicks. 

Happy Walking!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Unwelcome Memories

It's been a while since a memory has snuck up and smacked me across the face.

It use to happen all the time.  I think it was my brain's way of processing something that it never imagined having to process.

What on earth are you talking about Amanda?

When my mom got very sick I rushed home to be at her side.  We didn't know how long she had.  Hours? Days?  No one really knew but we knew it was BAD.  Very very bad.  I spent the next 2 weeks at her side in the hospital.  There were some good days.  Days with progress.  Days where she was with us and laughing.  Good moments.  Moments where hope broke through.  But there were so many more bad moments.  Moments I would replay over and over and over and over again in my head.

I could smell the hospital for months.  I would wake in my bed having spent most the night thinking I was sleeping in a chair next to my mom.  My brain wouldn't let it go.  My brain tormented me with images and words and sounds and smells I never wanted to think about again.

But eventually it did give me a break.  It did let go.  And those memories flooded my senses less and less and less.

Now, it is rare that my mind goes back to the hospital unless I have willed it to.  It's rare that it catches me off guard.  Very rare.  But when it does it can knock me off my feet.

This morning I was in the bathroom straightening my hair.  Something I do every morning.  Nothing was unusual.  Nothing was special or unique about today.  It's not an anniversary of anything.  Just and ordinary Friday morning getting ready for work.

Then bam - I'm sitting in the hospital lounge surrounded by my family while the oncologist helped explain why it was time to move my mom to hospice.  We had already made the decision but I had asked the oncologist to come make the case to my family.  I knew I wasn't strong enough to answer why we made the choice.  To look my family in the eye and tell them it was time.  I needed someone else to do that heavy lift.  I needed someone else to convince them it was the right decision.

And I was stuck there.  I was stuck looking around the room at the people I loved as we had this awful conversation.  I was stuck looking at the hospital cart with the coffee and cookies the nurses provided for us -- for this awful conversation.  I was stuck looking at that ugly hospital furniture that was somewhere between sky blue and mint green and just UGLY.  I was stuck curled up on one of those chairs hugging my knees to my chest and crying.

Matt came upstairs and the sound of his footsteps broke through and I was free.  Blotchy faced, teary eyed but free.  I've found myself going back there today.  To that moment and wanting to know why?  Why did that moment surface?  Why did my brain go there this morning?

And so I wrote it down.  Because over the last couple of months I have discovered that if something is bouncing around inside my head, writing can help set it free.  Writing can help put it to rest. 

Maybe one day I'll understand why my brain does this to me.  Maybe one day I'll have a better way of coping with it.  But for today I'll just write.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Strong Like Bull

I'm working on a fun post with lots of past pics of the boys, but damned if I can get it lined up right.  I'll be soliciting Matt's technical expertise to find a way to make a pretty post with pictures.

So instead of sharing my boys in pictures today I am going to share something else with you.

If you knew my mom well, you knew she had this saying that she would use when she was facing something tough.  She'd use the same saying when I was struggling with something.  She would say "Amanda, you can do this (or I can do this) because you and I, we are strong like Bull."

It's one of the first things that comes to mind when someone asks me to describe my mom.

Strong. Like. Bull.

So when I came across Jen's blog a couple of days ago I was immediately moved to share that mantra with her.

She is brave.  She is strong.  She is a beautiful and honest writer.  She is inspiring.

I couldn't decide if I wanted to share her blog here because I worry about being all "wah wah wah Debbie Downer" but I've read her posts every day and I don't walk away crying from sadness but instead, I end up crying because what she says is so beautiful and truthful so full of grace and hope and everything I want to be.

So please take a few minutes and head on over to the Anderson Family Zoo.  Share a little love with Jen.  If you're feeling really generous offer some assistance.

I think you'll agree with me, Jen is, most definitely, strong like bull!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Times they are a Changing

When Will was still a little bit of a thing Matt started playing soft ball once a week.  I came to DREAD Tuesday nights.  The chaos of juggling a newborn and a young toddler was enough to drive me to bottles of wine and Advil. 

There was no good way to get them both to bed.  Will needed to be rocked until he was O. U. T. but I couldn't leave Sam alone while I tried to lull the cranky baby into sleep land.  I couldn't put Sam to bed first because if I left Will's sight he would shriek at the top of his lungs making it impossible to settle the toddler who was learning to assert his independence by fighting bed time. 

It was a juggling act that usually ended in tears from all parties. 

So when Matt announced last week that soft ball was starting up I wanted to curl into a ball, put my hands over my ears and pretend it wasn't so.  I think I even grumbled about it to him.  The memories of those horrible nights a year ago came flooding back.  Can you have PTSD from the terror imparted by your children? 

BUT

Could this kid be any cooler?
It was fine.  Last night Matt headed to his soft ball game and the boys and I settled into our nightly routine.  Dinner, then play time, then bed.  I changed up Will's routine a little to minimize the amount of time that Sam would be left alone to his own devices and Will rolled with the flow.  Not a peep when I layed him down in his crib after some family snuggles on the couch.  And Sam sat quietly watching Sprout's Good Night show for the couple of minutes I left him alone. 

I was free to spend a few quality minutes loving on my big boy and then focus on getting him to bed.  Both boys were quiet and asleep within 20 minutes of each other.  I was amazed.   I even vacuumed the family room! 

Does someone have a cape I can borrow?  Because ya'll I felt like Super Mom! 

My babies are growing up and while I have twinges of grief for their early days we are settling into this stage of life quite well and I'm really enjoying it. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Accountability - Week 3

I took advantage of the longer nights and beautiful weather this week and had a couple of evening walks with the boys.  Unfortunately Saturday was a rainy bust!

Accountability - Week3
Weeks until Walk -29
Funds Raised to Date - $3483.14 

My Walking Buddies


Monday - 2.65 miles with boys in the stroller - a beautiful after work evening walk joined by Maura and Nate
Tuesday - Rest Day
Wednesday - Lazy Day
Thursday - 4 miles with the boys in the stroller
Friday - Decided to hit down town Silver Spring for dinner and yogurt with the boys (No training)
Saturday - Rain rain go away
Sunday - 3 miles with Matt and the boys.

One more month until training officially starts.  I'm glad that I'm getting a head start on it!

Looks like this week brings more good weather.  The early Spring sure has made walking enjoyable!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dear Target, Parent's are People Too!

 I'm not usually a mommy rant kind of person.  I am well aware that in return for the blessings my children bestow on me there would be things we'd be giving up.  I know better than to take my kids into high end shops.  And Matt and I always choose a place that is loud and accommodating to kids when we take them out to eat.  Sure, I'm trying to teach my kids how to behave in public but the bottom line is they are 1 and 2.  I'm realistic, I know their limitations and boundaries and I don't force them into situations that are bad for them and would be disruptive to others. 

All this is a big set up to today's events.

It's a rainy, icky day today so after Little Gym I met Matt at Target.  I've been needing to pick up some walking gear  (I'm still wearing my maternity yoga pants and they just aren't cutting it anymore).  A couple of friends told me the Champion line at Target was pretty solid gear. 

Matt and I split up -- he took Sam to look for some things for his car and I took Will into the active wear.  I spent a while going through the racks and picking out a cart full or shirts and pants and other necessities to try on.  Will was on his best behavior (a rare and very welcome occurrence).

When I went to try them on the woman at the counter told me I could not take my cart with me.  I looked from Will to her and back to Will.  I asked her how people with small Children could try on clothes.  She rolled her eyes at me and said "Fine, but you can only take in 6 things and you must leave the rest out here."

OK, great.  Thanks - I could do that.  Just give me a minute to sort my cart load of clothes into piles of 6.  Once I had my piles sorted and the first 6 ready to go I turned back to her and asked her if there was somewhere I could put the rest of the clothes while I tried on the 6 I was allowed.

Another eye roll (my temperature started to rise).  She told me if I left them out there someone could take them and put them away.  This lady was definitely not interested in trying to make this easy for me which I pointed out to her.  She went on to tell me that she "was just telling me where I couldn't leave them."  I countered that I had not asked where I couldn't leave them but had asked where I COULD leave them.  She repeated that if I left them out someone could put them away. 

This was going nowhere fast and admittedly I was growing angry. 

It ended with me leaving my five neat piles of six articles a piece on her counter and letting her know that her customer service left much to be desired.

On may way out I raised it to the manager who assured me that the actions did not represent Target's philosophy.  Nice to know but it didn't make me feel much better.  It was a complete waste of an hour.  I had a tired and hungry baby but nothing to show for it.

Listen, I know everyone's time is stretched to the max, I'm not the first or the last person who is juggling work and kids and home and life.  I don't expect special accommodations.  I'll follow the rules.  But I'm a mom.  I'm rarely not attached to at least one of my kids and I still need to get things done efficiently.  And the fact that this woman today made me feel like such a burden on her really got me hot.  I was in TARGET for the love of all things.  I would venture to say that a hefty portion of their profits come from parent's of kids - they have one of the largest baby sections outside of Babies R Us.

So I left Target with an empty cart -- no walking gear and Target lost my business.  I'm one mom - so I know I don't mean much in the grand scheme of things to Target but it left a sour taste in my mouth and will have me looking to other options before going back there again. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Faith, and God, and the Meaning of Life - Where do I Start?

One of the things I've really wanted to work on lately is my faith.

I read this post today.  She talks about always feeling carried by a higher being but not knowing how to help someone get there.  And I get that.

In my life, I had always felt carried, protected, loved, understood by something higher.  For me that something higher was understood through a Roman Catholic context but for right here, right now I'm just going to call it something higher.  Something external from myself and from this earthly world.  And this higher power carried me through a fair share of hardships, things that challenged me emotionally.  It was a rock I held onto when the rest of the World didn't make sense.

But then 2009 happened and that feeling of being carried disappeared.  I felt betrayed.  Hm, maybe worse.  I felt like maybe there was never anything there to begin with.  That maybe this feeling that I was carried, loved, protected and understood by a higher power was not grounded in any truth.  Because if there was something there and it really did understand me, how could it possibly take away my mom -- so young -- so quick.  How could it do that to me?  How could a higher power that truly knows me and understands me and wants to protect me and carry me hurt me so badly.

And so for the last few years I have been struggling.  Well maybe that's not exactly true because for a while I just gave up.  I didn't care.  How can you struggle when you don't believe?  But this is something I want to put back on the table.  I have babies and I feel like I owe it to them to figure out where my faith is.  One day soon they will be asking questions and I'll tell them I don't have all the answers, but I owe it to them to seek those answers because that is what I will tell them to do.

Still, I don't know how to go back.  Where do I begin to rebuild this  relationship?  How do I start?  It's like a really bad breakup and what was said and done is just too bad, too hard, to forget.  It lingers and the hurt lingers and it's like poison.  I feel like I'm on really shaky ground and I don't know how to get a foot hold.

Monday, March 19, 2012

To the Parents who Taught me About Love

Today is my parent's wedding anniversary.  The day that joined the two people who shaped me into the person I am today.  I tend to worry about my dad on ceremonial days like today.  But the one thing that the last few years have shown me is that my dad is stronger and more resilient than I ever thought possible.  So today, instead of worrying I am going to take a few moments and honor the union of two of the people I love the very most in this World. 

I wouldn't say my parent's marriage was always easy but it was always honest and it was always grounded in love.  It set the example for me of what a relationship, a partnership, a family should be.

There was compromise and compassion, teamwork and communication.  They complimented each other - my mom's fiery and outgoing personality with my dad's more understated dry wit and charm. 

When they would get dressed up and leave us with a babysitter for a night out I swore they were the most glamorous people in the world.  My mom with her high heels clicking on the tile floors, lipstick freshly applied, perfume in the air.  My dad in a freshly pressed shirt, hair perfectly combed and the cologne that always made him smell freshly showered.  The picture of a perfect young couple. 

As the years passed and I grew up some of that shine faded away and I got glimpses into the every day or their relationship and the glamor was replaced by something even more amazing -- unconditional love.  Love in the face of struggles.  Love in spite of adversity.  Love for each others best attributes and the others ability to see beyond the worst. 
 
I am grateful that these are my parents.  I am grateful that they believed in each other.  I am thankful that they constantly choose love, no matter how hard it could get.  And I am grateful that they let me see their marriage at its best and hardest moments.  They taught me that two is better than one, that love is worth the work, that even when things are hard the climb back to the top can be the most rewarding.