Saturday, March 26, 2016


The best words that resonate with me to explain grief describe it in terms of waves. You never quite know when the tide is coming in, when you will get sucked down in the undercurrent, or have the tiniest ripple throw you off balance. And so I keep moving forward despite the flash flood warnings. I do allow myself to cry because she deserves those tears. Her life was cut short, cut fast and it left us all a bit thrown to the wind. 

Soon we will be travelling home to put my mom's ashes to rest. I knew this day was coming, my dad took his time with the design of the tombstone, he asked us our opinion and adjusted; making sure we were all happy. When it was ready we then had to find the time, rather make the time, to gather back together and do this. It seems odd, she didn't seem like the type to want to be put in the ground, but then she did buy up the entire section where her parents and brother and sister in law lay at rest. If you believe in spirits at least they got each other to hang out with. And I never quite got the whole ashes thing until I gave birth to my fourth child three months later and this tiny mini urn my dad brought to the hospital was my beacon, my something still to focus on. I wrote about that experience here. It still does calm me.

 I remember the week our lives derailed like it was yesterday. Being in upstate New York for a wedding where the twins were the sweetest flower girl and escort you ever did see, my parents on a mini vacation to Nashville for their anniversary. I came home that weekend sore (I was 8 months pregnant with my third) and tired, but happy. Getting the phone call that something was happening to mom was scary and even though I googled every last option, I didn't let myself think the worst. Gathering our lives to travel to Michigan a few days later to be by her side. Calling my oldest friend to tell her, it was the first time I spoke the words out loud; my voice breaking from heartache because even without the diagnosis yet I knew it was bad. Sitting with my dad, sister, and brother those moments getting the news that it was stage 4 brain cancer. Walking out to fall into my husbands arms. The look of scared anticipation and then sorrow as we broke the news. These moments flash in my head; sometimes enraging a hurricane and other times its just gets me - a twinge right in my heart and takes my breath away. I never know which way the storm will turn until I am safely on the other side.

 I have felt quite removed lately. Not from my grief, but from being so raw and open. The feelings are still there but there is an understanding between us now. When you lose one of your persons it alters you but I have found some clarity in who I am because of her. I miss her daily, I am angry she's missing out on the life she sacrificed so much to cultivate, but I feel loved. I actually feel her love so completely and it warms me from the inside. I feel the love from the amazing family, friends, and the incredible village of extraordinary mothers I have around me. I feel the love of my soulmate and best friend and our 4 minions. My dad is gearing up to sell our childhood home and I should be sad about it but I'm not. I am excited for him to start a new chapter in his life. When the house is gone I wonder I how I will feel then.

So gearing up for this trip I was a bit surprised that it has been a roller coaster of emotions. I am going a million miles a minute with my husband while we grow our business; exhausted from being mother, maid and servant to the house; and fearing the tsunami that we are driving directly into. To say I've been on edge is a bit of an understatement. Normally this would send me into a tornado destroying everything in its path, but this time it's different. I am more aware, I am trying new approaches, and I hope I am handling this crazy thing called life with just a little better perspective. When I had to talk to my young children about going to the cemetery I was worried I would get zapped, but again to my surprise it was an amazing little conversation. They miss Mimi too and talking about that sadness and embracing our feelings made them so accepting and calm. Instead of being scared they hugged me and referred to Ash Wednesday and the body of Christ (Thank you PSR). Making the connection all on their own and they were not freaked out but totally got it. We hugged for awhile and then talked about being with our family we don't get to see nearly enough and not a tear was shed. I'm guessing there will be more questions after, but I'm not worried. If anything I welcome it. Let's talk about what it means to love fiercely, without judgement, and why we squeeze a little harder when we hug our loved ones.  I used to think they were for her, but I know better now. It is in my saddest moments the feeling of her amazing hugs linger around me. I am so grateful to feel to my core that I was loved, that I am loved. I hope my dad feels that and everyone that has ever felt her love feels it too. It's a pretty incredible feeling. My focus now is to shower my beautiful family with that kind of power so that there is never a doubt in their hearts, souls, or minds. My greatest gift I hope to give is for them to always be able to feel my love - long after my physical presence is gone.

"Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back, and reasons to stay." -- Dalai Lama XIV

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Just Born Photo Shoot

 I must have been about 10-12 years old when my mom tried her artistic touch at photography and got one of those fancy digital cameras that are now on every new moms must have list. One of the only times she ever splurged on something for herself when I was young that I can remember. We would spend hours dressing in my dance costumes, a new dress she made me or just fooling around in the backyard between the trees. Mostly it was portrait style. We would hang a sheet, she had a big light reflector thing and her fancy camera. For years we did this as my love for dance grew along with my not so hidden dreams of modeling. I was rail thin and confident and we had fun playing around. We tried countless times to capture my battement at the very top height, toes kissing the sky far above my head. I learned how to angle my head just so to capture the best version of myself, and how to jut my chin straight forward to eliminate any chance of a double chin.

I've been told I can't take a bad picture, but that's silly of course I can. Before the age of digital I typically carried the camera, developed the film and threw away the bad pictures. It is a science though to know your face, the best angle to tilt to automatically and most times I nailed it. Looking better in photos than in person most cases. Something I have always been ok with, photos last longer after all.

So pregnant with my fourth child, sitting in a PTA committee meeting I learned of one moms passion of documenting the first moments of a baby's arrival and of the family as they meet their new bundle of joy. Years ago my initial reaction would have been -- not in a million years. A photographer at the hospital hours after a c-section, dopey from anesthesia, and no chance of prettifying myself? Please. Ask me 6 years ago, never, but 3 years ago, when my mother was still so vibrant before the tumor stole so much? I would give anything to have those moments captured.
This is my favorite picture maybe ever ofSydney  and Mimi together and it still doesn't capture all the joy I know she felt being able to hold that little girl.
It wasn't even on my radar though. The posey pics, you know the ones with the adorable hats and newborn faces propped up on the hands that make you swoon, I wanted those. I tried capturing that myself and let's just say its a skill to prop babies in those crazy poses.
So when Tracy offered, asked to "practice" on our family I didn't hesitate to say yes. I say "practice" in quotations because the girl has skills, and talent, and a grace that makes you feel as though she's a normal presence in the most intimate moment of your life. To see more of her brilliant talent check out her online gallery and if you live in the Cleveland area she is the cherry on top of the sundae.
I was nervous of course to be caught forever on film looking horrid and at my heaviest, but I pushed it down because to have these pictures forever of our youngest son and his first moments, our 3 other beautiful children gaining a new sibling, my father and mother in law in their first embrace with their youngest grandchild, respectively, well it's all priceless. My ego had no play in this decision. If I were to do it again, which I am not, I would beg Tracy to fit me into her soon to be thriving business.

I love this shot for many reasons. First Veronica's curiosity makes my heart melt, Frankie's excitement is hardly contained and that Sydney has no idea that life is changing forever as soon as she walks through that door.


Nana and Levi's first snuggle

 A papa showering him with love enough for 2

These 3 kiddo's experiencing unconditional love and excitement. Moment's that would have been lost on everyone...

Frankie wanted a brother so badly and you can see the tenderness in his embrace and the love that is just beginning. I hope he will always be thankful for this little guy.

This girl when she walked in the door looked so grown up to me. In a matter of a day she went from being Baby Sydney to Siddy Girl and my breath was taken away seeing her so big.


Forever our first family photo

 My dad had whispered he brought a small piece of mom to be with us before I went in to surgery and the first thing my husband did when we made it to our room was set the tiny urn high above to watch over us. There were so many moments that I just stared at it and I could feel her love so completely with having just a small tangible token of her. It calmed me in a way that I still don't fully understand.
Before I would have thought this creepy and I debated whether to even share these photos of my mom's urn. I wouldn't have understood the comfort this could bring before my mom passed away. When I was pregnant with the twins, I was on bed rest, spent a few nights in the hospital and ultimately developed preeclampsia and had to have an emergency C-section. In the moment I had a false sense of confidence that it would all be ok. It was more the difficulties we would endure - not seeing my son for 24 hours because he was in the NICU, the magnesium that prevented me from standing for 24hours and throwing a tissue box at my husbands head so that he would wake up and bring our daughter to me to feed. I'm sure my parents and in-laws were sick with worry, but I didn't get that. Not then. It was all going to  be fine and it was. It's not until the worst happens that you forever fear when the next shoe will drop.
This being my 3rd C-section I was relatively calm about the whole procedure, but its always in the operating room waiting for the spinal that is the hardest moment for me. Panic sets in as all these masked unknown people buzz around you getting ready for surgery. Missing my husband and screaming on the inside for my mommy.  When they took 3 tries to get it placed correctly I wasn't even trying to hide the pain or sadness and was openly weeping into the pillow they give you to hug; praying for the numbness to sweep over me. It took a long time to sew me back together again and even when we were all safe and in recovery I still felt the impeding doom lurking around the corner. Being able to glance up and see her presence calmed me and I could feel her in a moment that I so desperately needed her. This blog has become more about documenting my experiences for my children so that one day they will have this as a reference, as a comfort, and as knowledge of who I was at these most intimate moments.

As the year has progressed we have since hired Tracy to document the 1 year anniversary of our business and Levi's baptism and I am converted. I don't want posed pictures, I want the moments captured. Because of her talent I will remember this day more vividly, with more intensity and am immediately transported back with every ounce of emotion felt that day. Forever thankful and grateful of her gift.

Mama and Levi's first snuggles