Sock It To Me…

disney sock

When my father and his girlfriend brought these socks back from Disney World for Miriam, she was just a few months old. I couldn’t imagine them ever fitting her. I was still in that newborn exhaustion phase. I was still in the early days of disbelief of finally holding a baby again. My baby. This second child and second chance. As much as we worked towards it and prayed for it, we were still in disbelief that it actually came. We were not first time parents even though there was no visible big brother to teach how to handle his little sister. How fragile she is and how much she will need him to teach her so many things.

I looked at these socks and was instantly terrified she would never grow big enough to fit into these 4T-5T red socks with Minnie Mouse on the frilly cuff. She would disappear. It’s a common fear of parents who have lost a child. A part of the post traumatic stress disorder. A part of how you change forever. Forever. No matter how much time has passed since your child has died, it’s as if a part of you is right back to their last day on earth. Trying to stop time. To stop them from leaving. No matter how they left you.

So I put these socks on five year old Miriam’s feet today as she ate Apple Jacks and watched her video. And it was as if I was right back to her newborn days and weeks and months. And that memory of being afraid of these simple socks came rushing back.

Can I make a confession? I haven’t been doing that well the last few weeks. One thing leads to another…totally unrelated to Noah…and I fall into a rough state. And it’s never truly unrelated to Noah. Because this is hard as hell. And it always goes back to how my core has been shaken. So instead of having a little too much sake or more likely too many clandestine trips to Taco Bell, I reached out with a simple message to some of the moms in this shitty club filled with wonderful people. I simply wrote:

“How are you doing?”

I got answers back of varying degrees. Ranging from “pretty okay” to “not okay at all” and everything in between. And I needed them. I needed to hear the gamut. I needed to be amongst my people. My people who understand first hand. We needed to bounce this insanity back and forth with each other. Our loneliness in a roomful of people. Our fear and anger at judgement…not the judgement of having lost a child whether by accident or illness. But the judgement of how we should be living our lives. The dreaded “but you seem to be doing so well” and the even worse “it’s been a while now, you should be _______?” Fill in the blank.

She sneaks up on you. That crazy bitch that lives inside your head that wants to tell everyone “MY CHILD DIED!!!!” She’s as fragile as she is strong. She’s as crazy as the proverbial loon. But she’s also the most sane person you know. Because she knows what’s real. She has little patience for the bullshit and has a hard time playing by the rules. Because the rules have all been broken in her life.

Barbara Bush has just died as I write this. And as her biography is shown on TV, I stop and gawk at the news. She and George had a daughter, Robin, who died of Leukemia at age three. And all I see now is another mother in my club. I instantly love and revere her. Because she kept living.

But she must’ve had these rough days too. Hearing a child cry or a mother complain about minutiae must’ve set her off into darkness just like me and so many of my fellow club members. Questioning your purpose. Questioning your value. Questioning your sanity.

A very good friend of mine told me early on after Noah’s death, as we turned down invitations to big events and small gatherings alike, that we get a “a pass”. In fact, she firmly told us that we get a pass “for the rest of our lives.” Because that is just how big this is. But the rest of the world doesn’t really believe that. Especially if you appear to be doing so well.

I just want to use that pass when I need it. And I’ve needed it a lot lately. Like a bathroom key on a giant piece of wood at the gas station. It’s not your top choice of where to pee. But when you gotta go, you gotta go.

No one wants us to be better more than we do. And some days we are. And then, there are the dark times. The fear, the anger, the crazy bitches inside our polite and pretty heads.

So thank you to my moms. From near and far. I hear you all and thank you for hearing me.  This shorthand we speak is the most tragically beautiful language I’ve ever heard.

 

 

#Happy

For this Friday’s Show ‘n Tell, Miriam needed to bring in something that begins with the letter “V”. My husband and I muttered words like “vodka” and “vagina” much to our own amusement. And when Miriam asked what we were laughing about, we pulled ourselves together and came up with an idea. It’s too early in the season for actual violets. So we went to Home Depot and bought seeds. Pretty smart, right? All set for Show ‘n Tell.

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But when we stopped to fix her sock because her foot hurt and the world was coming to an end amongst the bags of grass seed, I put my keys down. And then we walked away. Without my keys. Up to the cashier named Corinne who learned all about why we were buying seeds. Whether she was interested or not.

When we couldn’t find our keys, we re-traced our steps. We went back to Corinne. We went back to the grass seed. I dumped out my purse onto a patio set floor model. Nothing. So I put Miriam in a Home Depot shopping cart and pushed her about a half mile to my husband’s job. He had spare keys. When I called Home Depot, they told me someone had just turned my keys in. Whew! So back into the Home Depot shopping cart for the walk along South Avenue. It was starting to get dark.

There aren’t many days I feel like crying. I turn to writing instead. Or eating, quite honestly. Or the occasional glass of sake. Usually just a hug from Miriam, a venting session to my husband, or a text exchange of a dirty meme with my friend Erica will help squash the inkling of tears that were about to fall.

But lately, there have been a few days that some salty teardrops leaked out. And it actually felt good. Because when you get to the point of actual tears, it’s time for action.

I had some quality kitchen-table-time with two of my favorite mom friends the other day. As our kids played like maniacs, we talked for real. About insecurities I never would’ve guessed existed, job crap, family crap. As our kids shared actual toys and snacks, we shared too. The stuff that matters. And it was all about happiness. For us, it’s all about our kids and time. And making ends meet.

We made suggestions to each other about changes we could make and threw some ideas around. And now it’s up to us to see if anything sticks.

I’ve always chased happiness. Fleeting or not, I made decisions by the seat of my pants. I still go for the immediate and inappropriate laugh. I go for the instant gratification. I go for the impractical more often than not.

But I will always have this insane sadness in me. Some days, its shadow will be bigger than others. Some days, I’ll have it under control better than others. Some days, I won’t.

Everyday, I’ll work hard at dreams for my future.

Some days, I’ll get lost in dreams of Miriam’s future. Because for a mom who’s lost a future for her child, that’s huge.

When Miriam woke up this morning, she told me she had a “very good dream.”

“I dreamed I was in the Olympics! And I won a trophy!!”

“What sport did you play?” I asked.

“For running. I won for my running. My super cat speed!”

There’s no trophy for running in this world. Unless you’re getting somewhere you want to be.

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A Public Apology

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I turned fifty years old yesterday. And honestly, it feels exactly the same as forty-nine. Or any age that’s come before it. Sure, forty-nine held the joy of a detached retina, procrastinated tooth yanking and root canals, and an introduction to perimenopause. I’ve lost weight and gained weight and lost it again. But all I really need are a few pairs of pants that fit. And some pretty dresses that are completely impractical. It seems anything impractical makes me happy.

What I need are the days to wear those dresses. Days where I can put on that big chunky necklace I never get to wear and the dress I need to pick up by the corners so I don’t trip over myself.

What I need are the minutes it takes to call my friends and family and let them know that I am thinking about them. More than they would ever think. A quick, silly text just has to suffice.

And I feel guilty.  I just always feel guilty…

But my brain is so overworked. It’s overworked to the point of stagnation. Where all I can do is stand still for a few minutes and stare at a pile of Miriam’s artwork, junk mail, bills, reminders of bills, and booklets of family activities we don’t have the time or money to do.

And now, just a little shout-out to my friend, Grief! That sucker will make everything harder, for the rest of your life. And I remind myself everyday to try not to be so critical of myself for my social shortcomings. Those unreturned phone calls. Those forgotten birthdays and check-in calls.

I just need to be in my bubble sometimes. My little family and my writing. Paying the rent late. Putting gas in the car when it’s running on empty. And so am I. Searching through the laundry basket of all the stuff that doesn’t fit for the one pair of pants that do.

We went to the Museum of Natural History yesterday. We used our birthday money from my father to take Miriam to see the dinosaurs. We took her on the train for the first time and her first time in a taxi. She’s a great little adventurer. I hope that never changes.

As my phone buzzed with texts and messages, I was smiling a big, goofy, wide smile at them all. And then I’d look back up at the dinosaurs and smile at them too. Miriam told me she didn’t really like “these kinds of dinosaurs.” She wanted to see the friendlier dinosaurs. “The ones with skin.” She also just really wanted to say ‘hi” to all the security guards in the museum. I think they enjoyed it too.

Outside, on the way back to the train, we saw a bridal party coming out of Central Park after taking their pictures. The bride, of course, was beautiful and Miriam wanted to say “hi” to her too. So we waited on the other side of the street as they all crossed. And when the bride got close enough, Miriam shouted,

“Hi Bride!!! You look so BEAUTIFUL!!!!”

The bride stopped and said thank you and gave my little girl a moment she was still talking about on the way to school today.

Thank you all for the wishes and messages. Thank you all for understanding that we all only have so many moments. I try to keep them all as authentic as I can. Whether they involve dinosaurs without skin, random brides, museum security guards, or days that we’re all running on EMPTY.

Find the moments, Wear the chunky necklace. And at least try not to feel guilty. I’ll try too.

 

 

 

Joy Catching…

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A surprise package arrived in the mail a few days ago. The return address was an old friend. Mandy wrote in her note that she was unsure about sending me this gift. It was a picture frame that she’d had for a few years. She’d never even put a photo in it. She just liked the rust colored leaves and the pearly dragonfly perched on its lower left corner. And she wrote that it reminded her of Noah.

But she almost didn’t send me this package. She tried a few times and kept changing her mind. She was afraid maybe it would arrive on a bad day. On a day that I just couldn’t handle a reminder of Noah. On a day where one thing just compounded another. You know those days, I’m sure.

She was afraid I wouldn’t like the frame as much as she did. I wouldn’t like the color or maybe even I wouldn’t want a hand-me-down as a gift. As I read her note, her honesty and sincerity was a gift in itself. And of course the tears flowed as I realized someone like Mandy was thinking about me. And Noah.

The frame (which, by the way, I LOVE) came in a box that, perhaps, was no accident. Mandy packed this frame in a box that originally contained a caterpillar kit. The kind for kids where a butterfly appears out of a cocoon in a matter of  weeks. Mandy has a five year old son, Atticus. I could just picture him opening this box for the first time. But the message on this box stopped me cold.

“The Miracle of Metamorphosis is About to Begin!

It’s Time to Grow!”

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Mandy’s timing could not have been more perfect. Because I’ve reached a point in my cocoon. I’m battling my inner voices. The voices that tell you to “BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE…BECAUSE IT’S MORE THAN MANY HAVE”. And I totally agree. One million times over, I know this to be true.

But at what point does this stop you from reaching for more happiness? More fulfillment? More joy for me and my little family? I can still be infinitely aware and thankful for what I have while still growing into my butterfly. But it’s the fear and the self doubt that usually stops me. Just like Mandy doubted whether sending this gift was a good idea repeatedly, I also doubt myself on just how much more happiness and fulfillment I’m entitled to. Just how capable am I? Just how many chances should I take? How happy should a person really be??!

I recently referred to myself as a “joy catcher” in a story I wrote about our failed Easter Egg Hunt.  My goal of finding joy in as many places as possible never wanes. For all our sakes.

Thank you, Mandy. Thank you a million times over for this reminder. And look, I put a picture in this frame. And I placed it on the ledge in the sunshine. ❤

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The Lesson Of The Poorly Planned Easter Egg Hunt

The egg:child ratio was greatly lacking. Maybe our town didn’t know there’d be so many kids scrambling for these crappy plastic eggs. Or maybe we were just in the wrong spot on the recreation field. But finding three was a hard fought miracle. Two of the eggs were in the snow. And as Miriam was surrounded by kids with baskets overflowing with eggs, she lost it. And then I lost it. I couldn’t find a way to explain to her five-year-old face why the other kids all had tons of eggs and why she only had three.

I’d bought a beautiful Easter basket for her at Rite Aid the day before. I was so excited about this egg hunt. It started at noon and was close enough to our house that I could still get to work on time at 2pm. I had such high hopes for this moment. But it dissolved rapidly into tears. Hers and then mine.

I tried distraction. I told her we’ll go see the Easter Bunny and she’ll feel better. He seemed to be a very animated bunny over by the bleachers and I knew she’d enjoy that. But she said no. Through tears, she told me that the Easter Bunny will be mad at her for not finding a lot of eggs. Cue my heart breaking into a million pieces.

So first, we’re Jewish. I’m new at this Easter Bunny stuff. I didn’t grow up with it. But I like to consider myself a “joy catcher”.  I look for (and usually find) joy in the most obscure places. Because it’s a daily fight for me. To not succumb to the deep sadness I live with everyday. So I embrace the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus and I’ll throw in anything else that brings me joy. Because some days, it’s practically a cage match of joy vs. sadness.

But back to the egg hunt… I have no idea where she heard that the Easter Bunny would be mad about her eggs. But I told her emphatically, semi-holding back my own tears, that that wasn’t true. The Easter Bunny loves her and all kids and he just wants us all to have fun. No matter how many eggs we find. She started to pull herself back together eventually. But it was a rough one. We finally made our way to the Easter Bunny and she gave him a hug that spoke volumes.

We started our walk back to the car, two blocks away. Miriam explained she was still “disappointed about the eggs” but starting to feel better. I told her we were going to another super big egg hunt next Sunday and there’d be lots of eggs. I also knew that I would hide a giant bag of eggs in my purse so we’d never be the victim of a poor egg:kid ratio ever again. There’s plenty of time for her to learn lessons like today. She doesn’t need to start at five-years-old. I’m raising a second generation “joy catcher” after all.

It’s been a rough week for me. I found out my manager at my job is going to a different store in our company. We’ve worked together for almost eight years. He hired me three weeks after Noah died. I was a smiling, fragile mess and he hired me. He had faith in me. He wasn’t afraid of me like so many people would’ve been. He cheered me on as I put my life back together, day by day. He went through years of fertility stuff with me, always listening to updates and always understanding of my days of 5:30 am blood tests and negative pregnancy tests. Fertility treatments are the ultimate “egg hunt”.

So, the “joy catcher” in me was challenged this week. It’s going to be an adjustment. It’s going to be uncomfortable. But maybe it’s time to go outside my comfort zone. I have to see just how many eggs I can find to put into my basket. And whether it’s three or three hundred, The Easter Bunny won’t be mad.

All you need is one good egg. Keep hunting until you find it.

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How A Visit to The Planetarium Made Me Feel Better About Life

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Miriam was suddenly obsessed with the planets. It started with an episode of Bubble Guppies and then went on to some obscure YouTube videos. Planets with faces singing about galaxies and atmospheres and volcanic soil. There were nightly quizzes about dwarf planets and which planet I like best. At five years old, she was totally over my head. I was still at the learning level of ur-ANUS vs. YOUR-anus, purely for my own juvenile amusement.

 
Liberty Science Center is huge and spotless and filled with endless exhibits. It’s a lot to absorb in one visit. Your price of admission gets you A LOT! And the membership option is totally worth it, too.

 
We chose a thirty-minute planetarium show called “To Worlds Beyond”. We weren’t sure how sitting still was going to go. Because…she’s five. As we climbed the steep stairs and filtered towards the center into the seats, she was in awe already. The bright white dome was discombobulating and exciting.

 
The show began with a real live scientist telling us about the planetarium and showing us the current positions of the planets on the dome. I learned that, for where we live, the best time to see the planets is early morning. I immediately had aspirations of rising early with Miriam, running out to our deck and gazing at the morning sky. I’ll have a steaming cup of coffee in my hand. Miriam will be dressed in adorable pajamas instead of the clothes she passed out in the night before. I’ll have a stain-free robe and pajamas on, too. Fresh-faced with a bun that looks more like an up-do.

 
But back to reality. Miriam was instantly entranced. She was shushing us incessantly, as we tried to point out planets or constellations as they appeared. She wanted to be “one” with the universe. She wanted to watch the show unfold before her. On her own terms. I snuck side-eye glances at her face. She was studying the movie and quietly mouthing recognizable words to herself. I tried to get into “the zone” as well.

 
I was surprised at the level of relaxation I felt. Even in this giant theatre, filled with people and a steep staircase, I was totally relaxed. And then I let myself flow with the movie. From planet to planet, through atmospheric gasses and dust, I felt…fine. I felt…everything will be okay. Not just for our visit to the planetarium that day. But for everything.

 
Money and job worries…
Health issues…
Family problems…

 
Seeing the expanse of the galaxy, filled with unanswered questions, I felt my anxieties ease. I thought about the loss of my mother and son in a whole new way. Did they now know the answers to all the mysteries? I hoped so.

 
Feeling so small made me feel happier. The pressure of life eased for a little while. All I can do is concentrate on my little section of the galaxy. And do the best I can to make it beautiful.

 
A few times a week, Miriam asks, “Mommy, what’s your favorite planet?”
I usually say Saturn. I tell her it’s because “I want to dance on the rings of Saturn.”
“No, Mommy. You like Uranus. Uranus has rings too.”

 
And as I giggle to myself like a twelve-year-old boy, I realize I’m doing just fine in my tiny section of the galaxy.

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Chipping Away…

snow brush

We were almost on time for school today.

Almost.

Again.

School has been closed the past two days with a good amount of snow. The sun was shining down on my car yesterday, with much of the snow melted off. But I didn’t take into account the shady side. The shady side with the wind drift left my windshield covered in a foot of SOLID snow/ice.

With Miriam buckled into her seat, she watched me. She couldn’t see my internal dialogue, disappointed in me once again. The voice that says “C’mon! Get your shit together! No more excuses! Millions of other mothers can do it…why can’t you?!”

With a smile, I began chipping away. I left the door to the car open a little so I could hear her laughter, as I stabbed and pried and hammered this solid ice chunk off my old Jeep. Miriam was crying with laughter, as she cheered me on. I made it all extra-dramatic.

“Go Mommy! You’re doing it!!”

“Woah! You’re very strong!!”

“Good job, Mommy! I can see through the window!!”

I listened to her voice as my inner voice started to quiet down, still chipping away at the ice chunks.

 

I was her super strong Mommy this morning, despite what I was telling myself. No makeup, no hairstyle, and a ridiculous outfit of assorted sweatshirts and sweatpants. We were late. We had a piece of white bread for breakfast. But man, was she happy when we got to school this morning. A big smile and wave as she went upstairs with a teacher. I overheard her launch into the story a few steps away, as they walked down the hall…”Mommy was super strong this morning!”

 

Bowling Lessons

“What size shoes?” he asks.

“I need a Men’s size 9 because you don’t have Ladies 11. And even if you do, I’d rather just ask for the Men’s size 9. Because I’ve always been a size 11. My mother and I trekked to a store in Passaic a few times a year. My mother was an impressive size 12. A sign boasting “WE SPECIALIZE IN LARGE SIZES” proudly taped up in their window, my first memory is being fitted for my Bat-Mitzvah shoes by our salesman, Alan. But I won’t burden you with all that information, Mr. Bowling Alley Guy.”

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The first thing that struck me were the  bumpers. I’ve never taken a child bowling before. And my own memories of bowling were filled with hardcore gutter balls. No bumpers in my bowling career. One pathetic gutter ball after another on visits to the bowling alley in my youth. And you know what? It was still fun. I didn’t get frustrated, like I know my own daughter would’ve. This desire to get it right the first time was never very strong for me. I just liked that feeling of swinging my arm back and letting the ball fly down the lane. The few seconds of “possibility” was the thrilling part. Would I hit any pins at all?

Watching that ball spin and roll down the lane was a lesson in resilience. No matter how many pins you knock down the first time, you get a second chance. You shouldn’t get angry. You shouldn’t get frustrated. You will just try again. As a child, I’d concentrate on that freeing feeling of releasing the ball and the laughable moments of gutter balls or even ending up in a different lane all together.

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There was a dinosaur ramp for Miriam to use. Push the dinosaur in front of the lane and give your ball a shove down its back. It was a stegosaurus, I think. Miriam liked it better without the dinosaur ramp. She preferred the strength of pushing the ball herself down the lane. Screw gravity. Miriam is her own force of nature.

Taking turns. An important lesson in sportsmanship. But being our first trip to the bowling alley, I let her take my turns too. Because motherhood is all about sacrifice. The Men’s size 9 shoes I had on weren’t that comfortable anyway. We cheered on Daddy, while she anxiously awaited her turns.

Miriam started to lose interest a few frames from the end of the game. Hal and I decided we needed bowling alley French fries. And Miriam saw the arcade games. Hal finished out the frames while Miriam and I ordered a giant $5 basket of fries.

 

We each ate our fries with our own fry-eating methods. I’m one at a time with ketchup. Hal is two or three at a time with ketchup. And Miriam is slice them in half with a plastic knife, eating the white inside first and then the outside. But this only takes place after we are told by Miriam to “get that ketchup away from me!” She’s not a dipper.

And then, as every happy family outing usually ends…the meltdown. It went like this. We went over to the claw machines. I was relieved to see a sign that said, “Play Until You Win”. But it was still $3 for a crappy stuffed animal she would forget about by the time we got home. And, on principle alone, I didn’t want the magnetic pull of every arcade game in every inopportune place to become a battle of wills. We looked at the other claw machine. This one was a dollar for a rubber ducky. All different kinds of rubber duckies. So, we put our dollar in the machine, also with a guarantee of “A Winner Every Time”, and the initial joy of seeing the claw rising with a cute pirate rubber ducky, quickly became a meltdown of angry grunts and screaming. What the hell just went wrong?!

Well, we found out later that Miriam had her heart set on a princess ducky she spied in the ducky pile-up in this machine filled thousands of different duckies. And as I tried to explain to her that you don’t always get the ducky you wanted out of the claw machine, I couldn’t help but feel a barrage of life lessons come on.

  • Bumpers are nice. They’re like the kind co-worker at a new job, answering all the questions you’re afraid to ask. Bumpers build confidence. Be a bumper to someone today.
  • Enjoy the possibility of a strike! But try to enjoy the spares and gutter balls too. Because throwing a bowling ball down a lane is simply fun.
  • Eat your fries however you want. But don’t forget to share. Share your fries and your preferred method.
  • Its about the claw, not always the prize it grabs. Give that pirate ducky a chance.

Just Another Day…

It wasn’t a time share scam, as my coworker jokingly suggested. I’d show up and they’d make me sit through a two hour presentation on time shares. And only if I bought one, would the glamorous photo shoot take place, as promised. That was a pretty funny scenario though. But this was real. No time shares. Just lots of makeup brushes and cameras and incredibly nice people making this a day to remember.

The lobby of MILK studios was sparse and modern. But as we got off the elevator on the 8th floor, we saw lots of exposed brick and perfectly-rusted radiators. I love exposed brick. It’s the ultimate in low-effort decorating. But at the same time, it has so much going on. Brick walls have the best nooks and crannies, don’t they? Second only to Thomas’s English Muffins.

My husband and I went immediately in the wrong direction off the elevator. Walking up to a reception desk, I proudly introduced myself to two twenty-something girls.

“Hi! I’m Erica Landis. I’m scheduled for 11:15 for the Good Housekeeping shoot!”

They stare back blankly. “You’re over there,” as they point to the opposite end of the hallway. Woopsy. Do over.

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Now we’re in the right place. I recognize Melissa Walker, the feature’s writer, as she gets up from the big communal table where people are working. She’s got the sweetest face. She reminds me of Maggie Gyllenhaal. I’m early (thanks to Hal, NJTransit, and a cooperative Miriam) so Melissa and I go over to the comfy couch area to do my interview.

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We talk about the story that I’m so excited to be part of. They’ve chosen fifty women at the age of fifty and above doing great things. Woah. Seriously? So how did this happen? I learn that I was actually on an internal list at Good Housekeeping of possible future stories. I remember submitting a story to Good Housekeeping over a year ago and never heard back. But somehow I was noticed by somebody. And Melissa contacted me awhile back to see if I was game for this feature. Ummm, lemme think. HELL YEAH!!!!! I’d never say I was doing great things. But I will simply say I’m doing honest things. Honest things about what it’s like to go on after losing a child. I remember struggling to find another grieving parent who understood. Someone who was able to talk about it. Because its hard as hell to put into words. My writing not only helps me, but if it’s helping others, even in a small way, then it’s a win/win.

First stop: Wardrobe. Brandy talks to me about what I’m most comfortable wearing. “Pantsless is always my first choice,” I reply. But instead she suggests some dresses that I would’ve walked right past in a store. It’s amazing how much an objective eye can help. In fashion and sometimes in life. Brandy was like a beautiful advice column. She took a look at me, got some feedback, and we hashed it through. I was stripped down before I knew what hit me. Just the way I like it.

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I narrow down my choices and they show the art director for the final decision on what will photograph best. Strip down again into a white robe that is neither ratty nor covered in coffee stains. Onto makeup!

Mark is about to do my makeup with authority. He asks me three questions.

Q. You like a strong lip, right?

A. Duh.

Q. Ever wear pink lipstick?

A. Nope. Never.

Q. Eye colors?

A. Glitter. Always glitter.

“I got you. Let’s do this,” he says. And we begin.

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“Can I clean up your eyebrows?” he asks and the angels begin to sing. I almost cry as I answer “Oh yes, please!” Finally, the tweezers in my life are being held by a professional instead of me, confused and finally alone in the bathroom for a few minutes.

Mark hands me a straw. “This is your STRAW. DO NOT drink anything without using THIS STRAW.” His authority was formidable. I loved it. I told him he could order me to do anything in that voice and I would obey. It’s an impressive quality in a make-up artist. I should take a lesson. In authority. And makeup.

While my makeup is being done, I meet the photographer, Taea Thale. She’s a bright light herself amongst the dark exposed brick walls and rusty pipes.  I feel less nervous about the actual pictures. She asks what music I want to listen to “on set” (terminology!) and my reply is almost Pavlovian. Tom Jones. Hal chimes in “and ABBA” and the room erupts with cheers of “ABBA!!!”

Onto hair. Linda is cool. And she had me at “Let’s use a curling iron.” We talk about how Hal and I met. I tell her we met online and how long we’ve been together. She’s from Sweden. And I failed to notice a few minutes earlier that Linda did not cheer when we decided on ABBA. She hates them. With one caveat. She does like Dancing Queen. I now adored Linda. Honest, gorgeous, and she gave me the hair of my dreams.

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Back to Wardrobe.  My hair is big. It’s challenging. I get professional help. And now I’m ready. I step out in front of a big mirror and take a look. It’s not as dramatic as it is on the makeover shows. There’s no blindfold. My eyes aren’t closed. It’s just me seeing myself in a way I never could have, or would have, done on my own. This navy dress with lace sleeves. Real shoes. This hair and makeup that requires the skills of a wizard to achieve. A belt! My friends…I wore a belt. And I liked it.

Cue the ABBA. Light the light box. I’m a little lost here at this part. I have never posed for  pictures any more than the time I had to take a work photo holding a glass of wine and wearing my nametag. And in those pictures, it’s endless deleting and laughing. And I wasn’t wearing any pants. But this was the real deal.

Taea was so good at what she does. Of course she’s a great photographer. But the people part of it is so important. She was making me more comfortable with every word she shouted from behind her camera. She’d yell for technical changes and it all sounded cool when she said it. She could see the pictures on a computer next to us with the art director. And when she told me to take a look at it myself, I was shocked. Looking at yourself, knowing its you; looking so different, but still the same. When she told me I could take my shoes off and put on slippers for the rest of the photoshoot, I was relieved. Just say NO to pointy shoes for durations greater than ten minutes. I’m proud to say I had the forethought of not leaning on a temporary wall, causing the set to crumble like dominoes. I had a lovely wardrobe assistant help me instead. There were touch-ups by hair and makeup between shots and much to my delight…a wind machine. It was confirmed by hair stylist Linda that it was actually a small handheld leaf blower. She got it herself at HOME DEPOT. And whether that was true or not, I believed her. Because Linda hates ABBA and she told me so. I kept apologizing for the music choice as we sang and danced along. Linda was awesome.

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So what are my takeaway thoughts? Because you know I have a million. Keep doing what you’re doing. Whatever it is. Just keep doing it. If it’s making you happy and isn’t hurting anyone, do it. If it’s helping someone, do it even harder! And you really never know who is noticing you.

I treated myself to new underwear for this day. They have lemons on them. I love good symbolism. I may have been given some bitter lemons when we lost Noah. And it certainly wasn’t the life I ever thought Hal and I would have. I may have lost my intended purpose of simply being Noah’s Mommy way too soon, but that little boy gave me a purpose I never imagined. I know he’s sitting on my mother’s lap in heaven, hopefully very proud of how we’re carrying on down here. My mother is calling every cloud in the sky to tell her friends that I made it into Good Housekeeping! But for me, it’s back to writing stories, making chicken nuggets, and coloring with Miriam. With my hair back to its messy bun. Because that’s me too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Got Pockets!

Not only is she covered in ducks and mallards, but she’s got pockets. Striped pockets on this dress from Cousin Alice. We were having a good morning. Getting ready for school and work and chatting and actually eating breakfast for a change. It was one of those moments where it all felt under control. It all felt happy. It was a moment of optimism and normalcy. Those are the moments I chase and treasure.

“Would you like to keep something in your pockets?” I asked her, knowing the answer would be yes.

“Yes! Let’s hide something in my pockets! Just for me! I won’t show it at school. And then we’ll take it out when you pick me up!”

Side note: Miriam loves fortune cookies. To eat AND conceptually. A secret message in a cookie? Genius. Even though the cryptic messages and maxims are usually lost on a five year old, I always try to put the fortune into her terms. Hal always tells her the fortune says “MIRIAM WILL EAT BROCCOLI”

Back to the pockets…So what should we put in the pockets?

“A note! You write one for me and I’ll write one for you! I’ll write one for Daddy too! We can all have notes in our pockets!”

Mommy + Daddy

Love

Miriam

My mind goes “dark” for a minute. If I can tell her anything, this is the most important thing to tell her. Everyday. If I could never tell her anything ever again…I love her and I’m so proud of her is what I would want written on this note. I’ll add the proud part next time.

She writes two notes for us. Just her handwriting, proudly spelling our names. “Mommy” and “Daddy” is the most important thing in the world to me. She knows our “old names” as she calls them. Erica and Hal.

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I slipped my hand into my pocket about twenty times that day. Just to feel the creases of the paper.