The year in review

2015 was one Hell of a year.  Mostly Hellacious to be perfectly honest.  But as with all things, there is good among the bad, and every experience brings something new to learn I suppose.  So, here is my list of lessons/revelations for 2015 with a pledge to focus on the good and leave the past behind in the New Year.

  • Life is way too short to be miserable. Or to hang out with miserable people.
  • Ireland is the most magical place I have been in my life.  Turning 50 there was a good decision.  If Trump is elected president, I may just move there permanently.
  • God blessed me with amazing friends.  I already knew this, but 2015 reminded me again.  And again.
  • When someone shows you who they are, you should believe them the first time.  And surely by the 10th time, you need to pull your head out of your arse and walk away.
  • My daughter is turning into a really wonderful person.  She continues to prove that you can overcome a really traumatic beginning if you put in the work required.
  • The heart and the brain are sometimes on completely different pages.  Maybe not even in the same book.  But eventually, the heart catches up and you move on.
  • I have the very best parents in the entire world.  Seriously.
  • At any point in life, you get to decide who gets to be part of your family, and who does not.
  • You can neither give nor receive too many hugs.
  • Having something furry and warm to greet you when you come home makes every single day better.
  • There is a reason your ex is your ex.  In most cases, trying to be friends is not a viable option.
  • Consumption of large amounts of alcohol never fixes anything and often makes things much worse.  However, a little bit of rum can help navigate some of life’s hurdles.
  • There are angels everywhere; you just have to let them touch you.
  • Regrets are useless.  Don’t put things off; tomorrow is not guaranteed.
  • No matter how bad things may seem, blessings surround you.
  • I am never going to love the gym.  I love the results though, so I will continue to drag myself there, kicking and screaming like a toddler.
  • A debate held on Facebook is never going to change someone’s mind.  If their opinions make you crazy, there is a fabulous little button called “Unfriend.”
  • My final lesson:  “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” This was the message at my mom’s church on Sunday and it really resonated with me.  Invest your time, talent, and energy into helping ONE person, ONE organization.  Stop giving $10 to everyone and invest in a cause or person you can truly impact and stick with them for the long haul.  It could be the first step in changing the world.

Macy’s birthday

As most of my friends know, I lost my daughter Macy 15 years ago.  She died 3 days before her due date.  It takes top billing as the biggest tragedy of my life.

Every year on her birthday, I take the day off to do something “I would have done with her if she had lived.” I would love to say I came up with that brilliance on my own, but it actually came from my very good (and clearly brilliant) friend Jordan. When he told me to do that (vs. lying in bed crying with the blankets pulled over my head per MY plan), I was neither happy nor gracious.  But I got up in year 1 and went to the zoo.  And cried a lot.  And laughed a little bit at all the kids who were crying and whining (it was hot, there was a drought, and all water fountains were turned off).  My Macy was content to go where ever I took her and waited patiently as I wiped thousands of tears away.

Since then, we have gone back to the zoo, we have been to the water park, we have explored Mt. Airy, we have had mani/pedis, and for the past 2 years we have driven to the closest beach. It’s always a sad day; I write in my Macy journal, I read all my happy pregnancy entries and all the gut wrenching entries after she died.  I replay the days leading up to her death over and over in my head, and wonder why I was too stupid to know something was terribly wrong. Last year, however, was a bit better.  I had considered going to the beach many times, but I always woke up and thought, “Gosh, 6 hours of driving for 4 hours of beach/dinner time seems kind of crazy.”  It may be (although taking your deceased daughter places on her birthday may trump that), but the beach is my place. The ocean, with its endless horizon, feeds my soul like nothing else.  There seem to be two types of people – beach people and mountain people.  I am 100% beach.  Mountains make me claustrophobic, although I can certainly tolerate them for a beautiful waterfall (sensing a theme?).  I like to believe I was a mermaid in a previous life.

So after the success of last year, I decided that was it.  We would always go to the beach, assuming the weather supported it.  I got up this year, and was met with the usual overwhelming sadness.  I thought once again, “If I can get through this day one more time…”   I cried a bit, I packed up, and I got in the truck to head east.  And then something weird started to happen which is why I eventually had to write it all down.  First, the sun was shining through thin clouds.  You know how just a few rays come through and it’s So darned pretty and you think “How does anyone doubt there is a God in a world that is this beautiful?”  It was that sort of morning. And I thought, “Thanks Macy; I needed a sign and there you are as always.  Right on time.”

Rays

This is NOT the picture from when I was driving, but it is similar!

As I drove, I realized that I wasn’t sad at all.  As a matter of fact, I was almost happy.  I started thinking about the day she died, but instead of my usual tears, I remembered the people who were the gifts in my life. It started with my pastor, Ray Wickham.  He was one of the first phone calls we made when we realized she was gone.  I am certain he drove 120mph to get from Cary to Duke Hospital.  He arrived in what seemed like minutes while we were still in triage.  He held me for a long time while I sobbed all over him.  Then he said, “Janet, I know why this happened. There is a Biblical reason.  Do you want to know?”  I looked at him and said “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK” through my sobs.  He said “The Bible says, ‘It just sucks.'”  He made me laugh at a moment I was certain I would never laugh again in my entire life.  For those who wonder why I drive an hour to church every Sunday; that moment, combined with the most amazing memorial service ever delivered, are two big reasons.

My wonderful, amazing, one of a kind, damn I am lucky, mother somehow got on a plane and was by my side before that day was out.  I don’t know how I could have gotten through it without her.  Then again, I can say that about every single thing that has ever happened in my life, good or bad.  I am so BLESSED that God gave her to me.

Chris, Nick, Andrew, Marissa.  The children who own such a huge piece of my heart.  There were some dark years in the middle, but we came through them and found each other again.  We were always meant to be.

My friends, especially Mary, who dropped all her vacation plans and drove back home to be with me. My IBM coworkers, Kevin, Apryl, Sonal, Becky, Ginger, Dayna, Tom, Jason, John, Steve, Tuck, Maryann, Don, Robin, Lynn and all the others I am forgetting to mention.  They loved me through the pregnancy and they loved me through my loss.

My church youth group who were so crazy in love with my baby girl.  They wrote me amazing letters after she died.  I still have them all.

My friend Debbie and my cousin Jennifer who sent me cards not only when Macy died, but for years afterwards to let me know they were thinking of me.  I still have all those too.

Cards

The drawer of cards.  Should I throw them away? I think not. The purple ones up top are from the youth.

After replaying all of those memories for the first hour or so, I started thinking about all the amazing things and people that have come into my life in the past 15 years.  Especially those things that frankly, never would have happened if she lived:

  • Sarah, my amazing teenager
  • Daniel, my wonderful husband (who I met only due to Sarah’s adoption)
  • Marge, my 2nd mom
  • My dogs (6 may be obsessive, whatever)
  • Dakota, my awesome horse
  • My 100+ year old farmhouse that I adore even when I am freezing to death in winter
  • My Siler City posse: Joyce, Lea, Verna, Kris, Andrea.  I love you ladies.
  • Trisha and Emma Reese, the first baby I was mentally ready to hold in almost 13 years.
  • Jennifer (still not sure how I made it through this without knowing you)

Maybe most important… Definitely most important… there would be no Horse and Buddy if Macy had lived.  I would never have been brave enough to commit so much of my time to something that was a leap of faith.  I would have stayed in the corporate world so I had enough money to buy her a pony🙂, lived in the suburbs so she could attend the “good” schools, and kept a big safety net around me at all times.  I drove along I-40 thinking about the lives that the program has changed: the first words, the first steps, the improvements in so many important little areas, and the joy, and the joy, and the joy.

I finally reached the ocean, parked my truck, and started to walk across the street.  Some guy ran the light, but instead of going all the way through, he stopped in the middle of the intersection and backed up.  I was standing there trying to cross, but was afraid to go behind him in case he ran me over, and afraid to go in front since I would pretty much be in the road.  As I was contemplating this, the car behind him rolled down the window and yelled “JANET!!!”  In the teeny tiny small world we live in, there sat some Horse and Buddy parents.  Wonderful fabulous supportive parents who I love.  I ran across the street (behind the car who had stopped by this time) and hugged the wife.  She said they were just there for the day to celebrate their anniversary.  I said “ME TOO!  Not the anniversary but just for the day!”   The light turned green, we told each other to have fun, and I walked off to the beach, shaking my head.  I don’t know if I have reached the “Everything happens for a reason” stage nor do I think I will ever get there until I can ask the Big Man some important questions on the other side, but WOW.  I thanked Macy and God again for yet another sign that life is actually quite good.

Macy

Me and my Macy tattoo hanging out at the ocean

Racism

Clearly I AM the world’s worst blogger.  It’s so odd; I love to write.  The problem is that I tend to write when I am upset. It’s cathartic.  I don’t write when I am happy and content.  I need to fix that.

But today I rant. About Ferguson. Here’s the thing: I don’t have an opinion on whether or not the officer should have been acquitted.  You know why?  I wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened. Only two people truly do:  one is dead and the other would probably not want everyone to know every intimate detail of the encounter.  The violence seemed excessive.  The kid seemed troubled.  But I was not there and I do not know the truth.  

Here is what I do know.  We have an alarming problem with racism.  African Americans are treated completely differently than us white folk.  Every.Single.Day.  You can watch it on the news, you can read tons of statistics with a simple Google search, or better yet.. you can go out with your African American friends and see how people react.  Check out the looks you get when you have dinner with one of your BFFs who just so happens to have a darker skin tone than yours.  Heaven forbid one of them happens to be male and you are a white woman.  Go shopping at the mall and see how quickly a uniform is nearby.  Or how closely the store clerk monitors them.  It’s not your imagination and it’s not right and I’m not even sure it’s better than it was 20 or 30 or 100 years ago.  Sometimes I think it’s just more hidden.

I had a wonderfully kind friend who helped me a few years ago with projects in “this old house” where I live.  He felt a bit concerned when he saw the Confederate flag flying in a neighbor’s yard.  And please oh PLEASE don’t get defensive with your southern pride.  Have you ever asked your African American friends how it makes them feel? Every friend I have asked initially downplays it, but then admits it makes them a little tense, or a bit nervous, or more cautious.  Surely there is a better way to be prideful.

Of course, I also have the distinct pleasure of living not far from an idiot who used to fly the Aryan nation flag along with his Confederate flag, just in case any of us wondered where he stood. What flag do African Americans who hate white people get to fly?   It’s all freedom of speech right???  Of course, if such a flag existed and someone chose to fly it, I have to believe they would have a cross burning in their front yard by nightfall.  And just so you don’t think I blame the south in any way for this problem, the Ku Klux Klan originated in my home state of Indiana. I certainly find no pride in that.

I really like to think I am not racist.  I have tons of African American friends.  Many of them are like family to me.  I would do anything for them. I believe there are good people and bad people whether you are White, Black, Hispanic. Asian, Muslim or Pink with Purple Polka Dots.  However, several years ago, one of my close friends said, “If you go into a mall, and you walk by a group of black guys… does your hand reach over to hold onto your purse?  Because that happens to us all the time.”  I thought “WELL OF COURSE NOT!”  But you know what?  The next time I was out and about, I was hyper vigilant.  And my hand did do that. Unconsciously. Shame on me. Shame on a whole lot of us.

I adopted my daughter when she was 8 years old.  She was raised to believe black people were bad.  We had many long talks about it, and she met enough of my friends to change her mind. But when she got to high school, she started dating a boy who was racist.  She told him it was “OK as long as he didn’t say that stuff in front of her because it bothered her.”  She is 14; how many of us who are old enough to know better say the same thing?  “It’s OK for him to be my friend even though he’s racist; I’m not and he’s a lot of fun.”  But you know what?  It’s not OK.  I told my daughter it’s NOT OK.  We have to have integrity and values and then we have to stick to them.  All the time.

I would like to end world hunger, resolve educational issues, stop exploitation of women, and get rid of stupid politics based on party lines. But more than anything else, I would like us to look at each other and not see race.  Maybe a whole bunch of those other issues could be resolved if we could understand that we are all in this together.

Rant off.

Random thoughts for December 2012

I started a blog 3 years ago thinking that perhaps it would be a lot of fun. It truly was, but life gets busy and then you forget to type. So here I am almost 3 years later, and I am going to try again. I have been considering it all year long. In particular, I have been wondering if I openly discussed GOD in a blog, would it would force me to read my Bible more? Would it help me separate fact from fiction? And overall, would it strengthen my faith? Of course, I want to post a bunch of silly stuff too, but the deeper thoughts have been LOUD this year.

So what did it take to finally make me type? Some crazy mf -er going into a school and killing a bunch of people, mostly children. If you have not lost a child, you will never understand the devastation that just happened to those families. Their lives will never be the same, and they will never feel whole again. They have been given a life sentence. They will walk down the aisle of the supermarket and see their child’s favorite cereal and begin openly sobbing, and then feel some level of embarrassment that they could not control their emotions in public. They will never be able to predict what tiny thing, comment, thought, memory… will set them off.  They will never ever recover; they will just learn to walk again.

And that leads me back to my original intent in considering this blog again; to rediscover my faith in God. Because some of the families in Newtown will be blessed enough that their faith will help them to walk through this. Some will not. I fall into the latter category. I hated God a lot when I lost Macy. I still do some days, especially as I sit and wrap presents and wonder what her life would have been like 12 years later.  Would I be buying her a pony this year?  Would her laugh sound like mine?  Would her eyes light up when I walked in the room?

I wish I had the sort of faith that lifts you up and gets you through the tough times, but I don’t. Does that make me a bad Christian?  Or just a normal mother?  I must do one favor for those in Newtown or any family who has lost a child.  Don’t ever say to them “They are in a better place” or “God needed them more than you did.” I call bullshit on that. And I thank God for my pastor who told folks at Macy’s funeral that they were never allowed to tell me why they thought this had happened. If he didn’t know, then neither did they. YAY for Ray.

So what will 2013 bring? Stay tuned. I am about to find out myself.

The sweetest couple

For those with the “awwwwwwwwww” factor… this is for you.  Sweetest thing I have seen in awhile.  And for those of you who are mean as snakes…. don’t send me the newsclip a few weeks from now where “Oops the elephant smooshed the dog.”

Memories

I watched the inauguration with joy, amazement, and tears yesterday.  What a wonderful day for our country.  I know all of us are beyond ready for the promised change. 

As I was watching, the thought occurred that “This is a moment I will never forget. ”  After taking time to reflect on that, I thought “What other moments have I experienced that have stuck with me through the years?”    The sad part is that most of them tend to be negative.   Why is it that our brains can’t cling as tightly to the good stuff?                  

So, Memories (social/political only, no personal ones shared here)…  I vaguely remember watching the moon landing in 1969.  I remember Watergate, even though I didn’t understand it.  I remember Jim Jones.  I remember Princess Diana’s wedding (yes I got up at 4am) and I remember the day she died.  I remember Clinton/Lewinsky.  I remember the Challenger disaster.   I remember Columbine and Virginia Tech.    I remember Oklahoma City and I remember 9/11.   And I will undoubtedly remember the economy crashing down around us. 

So I guess I owe President Barack Obama a huge Thank You.  How nice to have an overwhelmingly positive memory to tuck in with all that junk.  I am looking forward to the next 4 years.