christmas tree day

Today is Christmas tree day. We are in the car, Mike, Emmett & me, on our way to a farm upstate where we can cut down our own tree. I insist on this, every year. It is one of the small ways I hang on to my brother.

One of my favorite memories of him is the years we went, just the two of us, and chose the perfect tree to cut down and bring home. We would walk circles around every tree, examining them for flaws from all sides. Argue over what attributes mattered most in a tree. Eventually settle on one we both approved of. We both loved doing that, just him and me.

I miss that, so much. My heart longs to choose a tree together with him again, even still. Even as I move forward and forge new, happy, family traditions, this one still pulls at me.

We are a family, out to joyfully choose our tree and begin the holiday season of celebrations. That we will do, but there will be a moment, out on that tree farm, which I will take just for Greg and me, to remember and reflect, and to ask him to point me toward the very best one.

busy summer things

It's been so long since I've been here.  Blogger has even changed its site - I logged on and it took me a minute to find my blog and figure out how to post something!

There are big things happening around my house... things I am not quite ready to talk about here just yet.  Which is mainly why I've been absent.  Soon, I will be ready, but I'll leave it at that for the moment.

In the meantime, we've had lots of family time lately.  We had a big picnic in our backyard in June with about 60 family & friends, which was wonderful despite the stifling heat.  We went to a baseball game with Mike's family and Emmett had playtime with Alli & Aaron.

We went up to Vermont for a family reunion with my Dad's family and had a great time with cousins, playing games, swimming and catching up.

In the past week, we've had an overnight visit from Katherine, Julia & Sam and then a 2 day visit from Maresi & Maria.  These were both so great.  I had lots of time to catch up with Kat & Maresi, and Emmett had plenty of cousin time.  Both Julia & Maria had sleepovers in his room with him, and they did a great job.  It was such a joy to have them!

Sadly, on Monday we lost Mike's Grandma Violet.  She was a really special lady, and we miss her.  We'll be driving down to PA tomorrow so that we can celebrate her life with family there on Friday.  It is a sad occasion, but we will be glad to see cousins and family there.

Saturday, we begin our summer vacation with my family.  Gram & Grandpa used to own a house on a lake, close to their home.  It was their summer house, and my mom & her siblings grew up there, spending summers from the day school closed each year.  They sold it many years ago when Grandpa was sick.  The current owner of the house invited Gram and her children to come and see the place last summer.  It turns out she rents it occasionally - and offered to give members of our family first option for renting it.  We'll be there next week with my parents and Gram and Grandfather.  It is a special place and I am really looking forward to spending the week there.  Mike will unfortunately have to work during the week next week but is going to join us as much as he can.

It's a busy summer, as usual!

six years

Six years, as of yesterday.  Six years.  It feels a moment and a lifetime.  A fresh, angry, gaping wound and a dull, ever-fading scar.  I didn't really mark the day yesterday.  I acknowledged it briefly and then I tamped it down, powered through and pretended it wasn't happening.  I survived the day.  It is an ugly, ugly day and it is just a day like any other.  As I'm sure I've said in past years, my little brother is just as dead today as he was yesterday.  The anniversary technically makes the number of years he's been gone continue to tally up, but it's arbitrary, really.

And you know what?  I was fine yesterday.  By evening, I felt I'd been bottling up the feelings of the day, and I was afraid I wouldn't fall asleep easily.  I knew if I didn't settle to sleep, the flood gates would open and I'd probably end up crying late into the night.  I did, though.  I fell asleep and I slept fairly well.  For the first time since Greg died, I marked the anniversary without falling apart AND without feeling guilty about not falling apart.  Being okay doesn't mean I miss him any less.  It doesn't mean I am less sad or less hurt.  It doesn't mean I won't still have bad days, sad days - I definitely do - but it does mean I'm healing.  It means I am making my active, conscious decision, every single day, to live life and to move forward.

trumpet recital

My senior recital was nine years ago last week.  It's hard for me, now, to imagine this time in my life when I was so focused on music, and so prepared, skilled and confident that I could stand on stage and totally kick ass.  It was an honor for me to share the stage time with my friend and recital partner, Courtney, and every year around the end of March I think of the hard work and the laughs that went into preparing for our big day.  I am taking this as inspiration now, as I struggle to regain my skill and confidence as a trumpet player.

winter carrot

After we moved into our house last May, one of the first things I did was dig up a section of flower garden to plant seeds for a small vegetable garden.  Homegrown veggies make me so happy.  I put in six tomato plants, which grew beautifully and gave tomatoes until a couple of storms did some damage and then the hurricane knocked them flat.  I planted about 4 zucchini plants, which, all together, produced one zucchini all summer.  One jalapeƱo plant, with loads of peppers, none of which were spicy even a tiny bit.  A whole bunch of asparagus, which did well but was too young to produce edible asparagus -- it'll hopefully produce this year.  And two rows of carrots, about which I was so excited, watching the tops grow and grow.  I couldn't wait to harvest and eat some of the carrots under them.  When I eventually started trying to dig up a couple, there was nothing there.  Greens on top, and no carrots underneath.  None!  What a disappointment.

At the end of the season, we cleared out the garden and readied it for winter.

Last week, Mike was outside doing a little yard work since we've had all this unseasonably warm weather. He was in the garden fertilizing and watering the asparagus, and when he came back inside, he handed this to me:

I was going to give up on growing carrots, but perhaps I'll try again this year!

connecticut gothic

From a day of fun and taking silly pictures with just the four of us, circa 2000, which resulted in some of my favorite pics of Greg and the rest of us.  I unearthed this one from a box of old photos this morning and it made me laugh.


March 2000:  Greg's sixteenth birthday.

Today, Emmett and I celebrated Greg's twenty-eighth birthday.  Emmett wanted to sing Happy Birthday to Uncle Greg.  I told him if we sing, he will hear us.  In the end, he chickened out and didn't want to sing.  He asked if we could go to Uncle Greg's house and see him.  I had trouble finding the right words, but did my best to explain the truth as I know it, on the level of a two year old.  Then we had cupcakes to celebrate Uncle Greg's birthday.

I have been fairly weepy today, but I am handling it okay.  My friend Sandra and her daughter Julia came for a while this afternoon, which was a great distraction.  The kids had fun and I was very grateful for their company.  I am glad to be through Greg's birthday for the year, but on the other hand, it means time is ticking away another year without him.

happy birthday, gram

Do you remember this, Gram?  I believe it was at our rental cottage on Lake Winnepesaukee, NH in 2004.  I hope you were this lucky at cards today!  Happy, happy birthday to you.

fighting for her little boy

I posted briefly the other day about my friend Ani and the struggles she is facing right now.  I'd like to elaborate and show my support for her now, as she has decided to go back to the county and fight to keep T.  Knowing how dearly she loves him and how much she wants him to be her forever son, it hurts my heart to know he is potentially going to be ripped out of her loving home into another foster home.

Let me go back to the beginning of this story.  I remember Ani & Flaco's lovely and sweet wedding ceremony, held on her parents' farm in rural PA.  I remember her telling me later that Flaco wanted to begin trying for kids immediately; he wanted a houseful of kids and he was ready to start.  Though they met while she was in the peace corps and were married in Nicaragua before he moved to PA, they did not look toward trying for children until they had a wedding ceremony with family and friends there.

Ani was a bit more hesitant, at first, she told me.  She was so looking forward to starting a family, but she was anxious to make sure they had a stable life together before bringing children into their home.  Not long after, though, excited to move forward, they began their journey toward a family.  It started as most of these journeys do:  with a decision to pitch birth control and see what happens.  This turns into a mild obsession with the monthly calendar.  And from there, for them, as it does with many, many couples, it turned into an infertility journey, taking over their lives and uncovering physiological issues that could prevent them from ever conceiving a child together.

With that realization, their path toward a family changed direction.  Ani began to wonder about adoption.  Flaco was slower to come on board, concerned about already being a minority here, and about potentially adding a child to their family who would not be the same racial mix as their biological babies would have been, and possibly completely different from both of them.  Wanting a family as they did though, he agreed and they moved forward with the process, while also exploring the possibility of fertility treatments (none of which turned out to be viable for them).

I heard from Ani last June, asking if I'd agree to be a reference for their adoption.  I agreed immediately, and received a questionnaire in the mail, which I filled out and returned.  It was much simpler than I expected it to be.  Very basic questions, and easy to answer.  I wrote exactly what I thought based on what I knew of their marriage and of each of them personally - obviously I know much more about Ani, having known her for almost 12 years, including as a roommate in college.  But the minimal time I did spend with Flaco, at various gatherings and occasions, I perceived a loving, stable marriage.  I know they struggled with many things, not least of which was logistics of Flaco's move to the US, and the culture shock and adjustment that went with it.  But the picture I saw was that of a stable couple.

The last time I got to see Ani & Flaco together in person, it was this past December.  They came up for an overnight to renew Flaco's Nicaraguan passport in the city.  We had some time to catch up, and it was so enjoyable.  They knew they were on the brink of approval for adoption, and the anticipation was evident in both of their faces.  I gave them an old high chair of ours to take home for their collection of kid stuff they were trying to accumulate to be ready.  Flaco carried it out to the car, and there was joy even in the task of loading into the car, knowing its potential.

I know my friend well.  If there had been any shadow of doubt about her marriage and their future as adoptive parents together, I believe I would have seen a sign of it.

When I heard the following day that they'd been approved and were officially waiting for a child, I could not have been more excited.  After following Ani's struggle against infertility for three years, I felt such joy that she and Flaco would soon have the family they'd always wanted.

It wasn't long before their world changed.  It changed so fast and it changed everything.  Ani and Flaco took in a little boy named T at the end of January.  Having met him, Ani's entire universe refocused around this boy she expected would become her forever son.

Through texts, emails and photos, Ani told me about T, her days spent with him, getting to know him, helping him to adjust to a stable home with discipline and steady love.  She told me how he began to thrive with them, to learn new words in both English and Spanish.  I heard about their journey to discover cloth diapers and a solution that worked for T.  I heard about difficult bedtimes morphing into routines that helped T feel adjusted and secure.  And then I heard that he, unprompted and out of the blue, began calling Ani, "Mommy," a thing he'd never done with his previous (long-term) foster family.

My heart soared for Ani, hearing about her happy new life.  Not without its difficulties and adjustments, she and Flaco welcomed their long-awaited baby home and found such joy in it.

Almost as quickly, this new life started to shatter.  Flaco decided he wasn't sure he could accept this son if his skin was dark.  After much deliberation and agony, they came to an impasse.  Ani suggested marriage counseling to decide how to move forward with their relationship and family.  With one fell swoop, Flaco refused to accept T, refused to accept marriage counseling, and their marriage was over.

Devastated by the loss of her marriage, Ani stumbled but did not fall.  She couldn't.  Like any other mother, she had her baby to consider, and knew that his needs come first.  She picked herself up and moved forward.  She made plans, calculated finances, came up with solutions and ways to move forward in the best way possible for T and for herself.  She took cautious steps forward, and, met with acceptance by T's social worker, who has been with him through his entire foster journey, she made plans to continue with T's adoption on her own.

These adoption plans have been torn apart by the county -- by T's lawyer, who had not seen T in six months, and who has never even met Ani, and by the county social worker handling T's case, who began interviewing families where T could be relocated.  With the devastating outcome of one meeting, impersonal and failing to take into account the most important piece of the puzzle - T himself - Ani felt empty, lost, sad and unable to see a way forward without T.

Unable to envision her life without T, Ani decided to do everything in her power not to allow that to happen.  Ani is going to fight for her little boy.  She's going to go to the county, and show them that she's a fit mother for T, and the best choice for him.  She doesn't know how it will come out, but she can't go down without a fight.  She won't let them take him from her without her fair chance to prove that T deserves to stay with her.

She said the following in an email to me today:  "I am looking to see if there is an appeal process or any kind of 'check' on the decisions that these people make - what if they are wrong? Who checks up on that? And I am looking to friends and family, who support me, to write a simple email to the county... I don't know if it will do any good, but I MUST try. I have nothing to lose at this point, since they plan on taking T away from me..."

Ani is so strong.  She is filled with so much love, and she would be such a wonderful forever mommy for T.  She can bring T and herself through all of this and come out of it with a happy, stable home for the two of them, I know she can, if only the county will give her that chance.

***Update, 2/28/12:  The county has made its decision and placed T elsewhere.  Thanks to all of you for your prayers and words of support for Ani.  Also updated this post to change identities to pseudonyms.

empty arms

A good friend of mine has suffered the end of her marriage and the adoption of her sweet boy falling through all at once, and she is so sad and lost right now. Please go send her some love. And, if you are the praying kind, I think she could use all the prayers she can get right now.

This was 2003, the end of my senior year and the end of Alissa's junior year.  We were quad-mates (along with Thais and Kelly) and never have I laughed so much as we all did that year.  We promised to stay friends, as college friends do, and though Alissa and I don't see each other as often as we'd like, she is still one of my most treasured friends.

tuesday time travel

Welcome to a new feature I am starting here!  I'm calling it Tuesday Time Travel.  Each Tuesday I will take you back in time, via photos from my past - some old and some more recent.

I'm kicking this off with something that may look familiar to some of you:

Emmett got to wear that leopard costume this past Halloween.  

I'm guessing the year of this photo to be 1987, though it could have been 1988.  Standing in Mamie & Grandfather's kitchen, that's me in the mouse costume and Greg in the leopard costume.  We had awesome homemade Halloween costumes when we were kids.  We used to go trick-or-treating by car, all around to different relatives' houses, since we didn't live in a walkable neighborhood.

scene: kitchen table, lunch time, a couple weeks ago

Emmett is eating pasta, begging for more parmesan cheese to be added to the bowl between every bite.

Mama: "Emmett, don't you think that's enough cheese?"

Emmett: "No. I need more cheese! I need it."

Mama: "You're just like your Uncle Greg; he used to eat lots and lots of cheese on his pasta, too."

Emmett: "Where is Uncle Greg?  Where is Uncle Greg's cheese?"


Everywhere I look, the past couple of weeks, there is a blogger recapping 2011.  There are memes, countdowns, favorites lists, essays, casual mentions and recaps... countless different ways it's being done.  I see them and I like their ideas for documenting and remembering, and I want to do the same.

I've realized something about myself, though.  I think I think differently from most people.  I see all these year end/new year posts, full of specific memories and timelines from the past year.  And I can't come up with things that happened in the past year.  Which is not to say I can't remember things - just that I remember them in a different way.  I don't think in a linear way.

I group things - events, trips, parties, holidays, even songs and books - into emotional categories, rather than linear, time-related categories.  I can tell you about all the time I spent with my cousins.  I can tell you about the best things Emmett and I have done, seen, eaten & played with.  I can tell you about trips I've taken to PA and trips to CT.  I can tell you about the times we've had people over and the most enjoyable meals we've had out as a family.  I can tell you about the projects I've done on the house (bad example, maybe, since that's all from 2011!).  And I can tell you the best books I've read and the songs that stick out in my mind.

But, unless hard pressed to think it through on a calendar, I most likely can't tell you when these things happened.  Feelings tell me about these things.  Memories and nostalgia and objects that remind me of events and people keep my memories alive.  I think my brain doesn't have a calendar function - at least for memories.

Over the course of 2011, there are really only two events that were major enough to stick out for me on a timeline.  One year ago this week, I had a miscarriage.  And four months after that, in May, we moved into our new home.

I do think linearly, in an organized timeline kind of way, for future planning.  The new year, every year, does feel like a fresh start to me.  While I don't always do resolutions or goals, I do feel a sense of new beginning.  I feared that this year would be different for me.  I am anxious for a bigger family, something we've been trying to do for 20 months now.  Going into 2012 with so much time stretching out in front of me and no real control over the situation seemed daunting and scary and endless.  I discovered, though, that opening up and talking to Mike was an excellent way to center myself and create goals for overcoming secondary infertility and growing our family (imagine - actually communicating in a direct way - who knew?!).

I am feeling more positive about my marriage, my family, my home and my network of friends and family than I have in a very long time.

I am ready for you, 2012.  Bring it.

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