Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy 7th Emily and Alexa!

On Emily and Alexa's 5th Birthday Ava went to the hospital. It was the last time they held her. On their 6th Birthday, the cried during the Birthday song, and walked around with long faces all day. I asked what was wrong and Alexa replied, "This is hard for us Mommy." It truly was one of the worst days of my life. (I suppose that is saying something!)

For 2 years I've been trying to put as positive a spin on their 5th birthday. I've been very frank with them, I've cried with them, I've expressed my anger about it as well. From the time Ava went to the hospital I've grappled with the 'why did she have to go on THEIR birthday' as much as the Bugs.

It's exhausting. It's frustrating. It's just H.A.R.D. They needed another memory. Something to be thrilled about.

Last week we packed up and headed to The City. We stayed over night. We took the Bugs to the top of the Empire State Building. We had a birthday dinner at the American Girl Store. We agreed to frivolous spending on things that are normally not even worth asking about (doll hairstyles and ear piercing ~Really?!). We had AMAZING cupcakes at Magnolia's Bakery. We saw Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza, Central Park, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the New York Public Library. Of course we rode the subway. We spent the morning with my childhood best friend who lives in Manhattan and I haven't seen for 11 years! We ate hot dogs and pretzels from street vendors. I soaked in the rhythm of NY speech patterns and was seriously contemplating moving back. WE HAD REAL PIZZA!!!!!!!!!!! We were TOURISTS and I was not ashamed!

On the way home, we stopped in Jersey and stared at the back of Lady Liberty from Liberty State Park. We stared at the NY skyline. We showed the Bugs the Empire State building and talked about perspective and size. We talked about September 11th and the Twin Towers. I am ALWAYS humbled by how sad I feel when I look at that skyline now. It grips me in a way I don't think I understand.

For those of you who don't know. I grew up in the Hudson Valley, north of the City. I drink cawfee and when I'm tired, I still say tawlk. I can do a pretty good Cawfee Tawlk impression. Just ask my college friends. I never "knew New York" like some of my friends. But I have always loved the City. I love it's pace, the things to see. I love the architecture. I love that if you turn right there is going to be something cool to see. Oh and, I love the Yankees.

What was the best part? The love of the City that our Bugs- who are rapidly getting BIG- developed. I loved being able to show them things that I have seen numerous times. I loved seeing the City through their wide and brimming eyes. Mostly, Allan and I both loved the joy excitement and twinkle in their eyes leading up to our trip, during our trip and since we've been home.

We can't ever ever take away the fact that Ava went to the hospital on their birthday. Nor do I want to. It's a part of their story, her story, our family's story. And let's be honest, if I were to start taking stuff away from our family story, I would be a (more) crazed Mom with an 8 year old, 7 year old twins, a 4 1/2 year old and a 2 year old! But we can teach them that it's OK to have a hard memory on a special date and know that it's OK to have a good and fun memory on that date another year. We can help them break out of the tomb of grief and know it's OK to move on. You know what, Allan and I learn that in the process too.

We were talking after we put our new 7 year olds and our 4 1/2 year old to bed in our awesome hotel room (and the least expensive thanks to discount sites). We were worried that we over did it. (Which we did). You know what? Sometimes it's worth it. It's worth to see the gleam in their eyes, the joy and excitement . It's worth it to feel a happy in a way that cracks the hollowness inside.

Of course, we now have a problem as a certain 4 year old would like to go to NYC for HER birthday and he wants "to stay for one, two, three (holds up four fingers) nights. No let's stay for four". She also wants to go to American Girl. So we are going to have to explain to her that she will need to get a job.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mud, mud, mud

All of a sudden it's November 15th! Last I knew the days were rolling into September. The Joy-Hope Foundation just had it's "Music for Memories" concert and I was getting ready to run my second half marathon.

I ran Rock and Roll Philly Half marathon. It was an amazing event. It was fun, the weather was perfect and I had a great time running with some dear dear friends. After the race, 20,000 participants strong, I was roaming to our meeting place. Got stopped by a group of happy finishers and was asked to take a picture of the crew. I handed the camera back and heard someone shouting my last name. Turned around and there was my college friend, whom I haven't seen for about that long! What a special moment. It was her first half since she's had children. She kicked my butt by the way. In our brief meeting, she told me that she thought about Eric and Ava during her race. Then she said something that I will never forget- She told me that I now have run a "Half for Each". I didn't even think of that!

I am routinely surprised by the impact my sweet babies had on those around. Another dear friend of mine had a PR (personal record) and she told me that it was because she was thinking about my babes. What an honor.

The week after the Half Marathon I ran a "5K". The Delaware Mud Run. You do it as a team. You get really dirty. It is physically demanding and it makes you complete all these obstacles that I was not prepared for. I did it to "help out a friend". She needed another team mate or they couldn't do the race. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought I'd get dirty (which I hate BTW). I thought the obstacles were the mud pits at the end (which I was having anxiety about as I don't like to get dirty, sticky or put my face in the water). So there we were getting a nice rhythm and bam. We had to wait in line - for what we had no idea.

It was a 40 foot slippery incline that we had to navigate up using a rope. I got started, and slipped down, into mud. Then I couldn't get my footing. My sprightly team mate was shouting from the top for me to try the side of the hill. You could get better footing. She was right!

When I think about all the obstacles on the course that day. I realized that it was such a metaphor for life. You are just running along and wham!- there is something smack dab in your face that you never thought you would have to do or face. You stop, regroup, dig deep and ascend. Sometimes there are obstacles that are demanding, others are downright frightening. But before you know it, you are attacking them. You are hanging on for dear life. You cry out for help and you realize that God is guiding your every step. Sometimes you fall, and the recovery takes a little longer. You complete your obstacle and just when you think you are recovering, something new is lurking, waiting, challenging you. By then end you wonder if you have enough to dig deep and keep fighting. Part of you wants to roll over, hide and walk off the course. Another part of you will be so disappointed if you don't give it your all, stay the course and cross that finish line. You have a choice. You see what you are made of. You cry out because you can't do it alone. You think about what others have to endure and it propels you to the finish line. When you cross you have such a sense of accomplishment. You just did things you never did, you stayed the course and God was there with you every step of the way.

The trouble is that the obstacle course that we live is different than that of a race. On facebook you see so many statuses with the sentiments of "I wish I had a blueprint, how long can this go on, when is it over." HOwever you never know where the finish line is. In a race you wonder the same thing. "Where is the finish line? Why does this mile seem like five? When is it over?" You know that the distance will end. There will be a finish line. If you dig deep enough you will cross it, hopefully with a smile, a sense of accomplishment and with an air of gratefulness.

In life being thrown obstacles what seems like left and right makes it hard to dig deep and persevere. I struggle with it every day. I wonder when it will be "over". I spend Aug-Dec trying to live a full life but feeling mostly hollow inside. (who am I kidding, I feel like that most of the year.) I know that there are obstacles year round, some bigger than others. But for me those are intense months. There are flashbacks, smells that facilitate memory, the angle of the sun through the windows of my living room.

Then I think of that log over the water pit, the 2 inclines and the rope, the mud. I completed that course. I wasn't trained for it. I had some great girls to encourage me along the way. When I want curl up and stop trying in life, I can remember that I can do more than I think I can. God is right there guiding me on the path that He chose for me. And yes, He gives me great friends along the way to get from one step to the next. I have to decide how I want to get to the finish line- do I want to give up and wallow in my sad circumstances (yes, sometimes) or do I want to attack the course in front of me, not knowing what's around the corner: an obstacle or a reprieve? I choose to keep going. I know there are blessings in the muck. There is growth in the quagmire. So I pick up my hollow self and move.