Sunday, August 16, 2009

After the Rain...

My mom passed away four years ago today. A piece of me wedges loose every August and I feel an emptiness and longing that ebbs and flows. It's like -- for a little while -- my limbs go numb, my heartbeat slows and I know what it must be like to be colorblind. The grief isn't a stabbing pain the way it was at first; it's a duller sadness. Sometimes I imagine she's sitting with me while I quietly nurse Charlie and I feel tears running down my cheeks at 4am. When I trained for my marathon, I used to mentally detach my legs from my brain to ease the physical ache. In August, as the 16th approaches and I feel the weight of her loss, sometimes I try to disassociate my head from my heart. Today I told Madeline I felt sad. She took her band-aid off her knee and put it on my arm, then wrapped her skinny little arms around my neck and made me feel whole again.

Talking about my mom with my sisters sharpens my senses; it's easier to remember how she sounded and what she smelled like and things she said. We always, always end up laughing. Today, Mollie told me about the time she and my mom went clothes shopping at Target for her first professional post-college job. Mols got a phone call and they had to leave suddenly, so my mom, with all her enthusiasm and joie de vivre said, "Let's buy them all!" Without having tried anything on, they wheeled the full shopping cart to the check out and bought $350-worth of clothes, most of them the exact same pants and skirts in different sizes. A week later they returned almost everything...something my mom did often.

She was fabulous. Before she was sick, she had dark shiny hair and wore fuchsia lipstick. She had a beautiful full figure (though she was always trying to lose weight). When she started losing her hair from chemo, she shaved her head with gusto and glittered it with powder from Victoria Secret. She laughed loudly and a lot. She had a funky, eclectic style, and was willing to take risks, which fueled her creativity and is probably part of the reason she was such a talented artist and graphic designer. She painted our kitchen floor white, our fireplace orange and our front door magenta. She was always inventing businesses, and she dreamed about converting an old farmhouse in the countryside into an art studio.

She gave my sisters and me so many gifts, but the faith she worked into our everyday life is one of the greatest. She told me God matches our effort, which I think of often when a challenge feels bigger than me. One of my earliest memories is of her telling me that God has a great sense of humor. When I called home from college stressed out, undecided or brokenhearted, she asked me if I had prayed about it. Sometimes now when I feel stuck, I try to imagine what she would do or say. Ironically, I can imagine her saying simply -- with the loving directness that she was known for -- that she didn't know what to say. It stung then, but it strangely comforts me now. She was teaching us to be independent.

Sometimes after Madeline and I wait out a thunderstorm, the most brilliant sunshine follows and we run outside to play, getting out her chalk, jumping in the puddles and shaking the rain out of the trees. I will never stop missing my mom. August 16 may always be a hurdle. But it also marks the day she went to heaven, and there's something beautiful to celebrate in that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Tennessee August

We've been enjoying our warm Tennessee summer. Rob and I went to a beautiful vineyard (owned by Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn) just minutes from our house with a group of friends to celebrate our friend, Codie's, birthday. Madeline, Charlie and I also went to the Nashville Zoo with women from my Mom's Club. Madeline ran from exhibit to exhibit with a pack of busy three-year-olds. I put Charlie in the Baby Bjorn since he was a little fussy, and had to laugh as my diaper bag went for a smooth ride in our deluxe, souped-up double stroller all morning.

We also had a great time in Louisville last weekend visiting our close friends, Eric, Jamie and their son, Kainoa, 18 months. We goofed around until 2am playing Dance Revolution! What a sign of the times that on a "wild" Saturday night, we all toasted with cold foamy pint glasses of...milk. And finally, our dear friends Erica and Craig had a beautiful healthy boy on Saturday -- Kai William Marten. We are so happy for them! Since we couldn't be in Chicago to meet Kai in person, I shamelessly stole this photo from my friend Johanna's blog.

Madeline's a little pistol. She recently stuck a coffee bean up her nose, the first of many foreign objects she'll probably insert into curious places. She also has a favorite "sviped" (striped) bathing suit. It's welded to her body like second skin, stained and sticky with popsicle juice, dirt, paint and anything we've eaten that day. Each morning, I hold up two adorable dresses for her to choose from, and every morning the answer is the same.... "I want to wear my sviped bathing suit." I wash it each night because I know she'll want to wear it the next day. To make things even more interesting, when she isn't in the suit, she's naked! Her Borat moment was just the beginning of a new phase... Yesterday, I looked up to find her riding our neighbor's bike around the cul-de-sac 100% in the nude; I ran out into the street with a diaper and a dress. The same day, she jumped in a John Deere mini-truck with a five-year-old boy on our street and rode away without a backward glance. I stood in the street, blankly watching her pull away, and couldn't help thinking that she would be going off to prom with some boy in a few years.

Charlie's a blast too! He is interested in everything; it's amazing watching him learn. His eyes lock on whatever he sees, then he slowly (as if possessed) reaches his arms out wide and brings them in until he's gripping his target. And the best part -- without fail -- he carefully brings the object to his mouth. We started solids on Friday. Not only did he have to suffer the indignity of eating strained peas, but he did it wearing a hand-me-down bib that said, "Little Fairy." Poor guy. It's so easy to make him laugh. I see the roof of his mouth several times a day because he opens his mouth so wide with glee. He continues to grow at warp speed. At his six month appointment, he was 20.0 pounds; his thighs get stuck in the Bumbo chair when we try to lift him out. As a nursing mom, I can't express the pride that brings me (I did that?).

Rob's mom and grandma arrive tonight. Aunt Nicki had an emergency operation on her eye and wasn't able to come last minute -- we're praying for her quick recovery!