Saturday, November 2, 2013

Growing Up With A Statue

My grandparents lived just outside of a cemetery.  Mom grew up there.  It's not creepy!  Really, cemetery folks make the best neighbors.  They're quiet.  They mind their own business (not that they have any businesses, but you know what I'm saying?)...  This cemetery, in Altoona, Pennsylvania, is particularly beautiful, or at least it is in my mind.  I haven't been back there since I was about 16 and my grandparents moved to Maryland.

Sheri would have been my cousin.  She died when she was two years old, before I was born.  Some kids were drag racing and hit my aunt's car, killing Sheri.  It was the sort of family devastation that no one, in my family, ever got over.  My parents were engaged to be married.  They would "practice" parenting, taking Sheri on outings.  She was the first grandchild and well loved and entirely missed!

Grandma and I took walks through the cemetery, to take flowers to Sheri's grave, nearly every time I visited.  She and I liked to talk and use the "helicopters" that fell from the tree lined lane, to stick to our noses.  Grandma was never afraid to play and didn't mind looking silly with her granddaughter.  It was a long walk.  Sometimes I would go by myself and twirl my baton as I marched along to "see Sheri".  Working on my parade routine, at age 8, I would pretend that the headstones were the spectators (not specters) cheering for me as I did my "toss turnarounds".

There was another reason I went on those walks. I loved to go see "the girl statue".  Grandma always compared my height to hers, to see how I had grown since the last visit.  I placed flowers on Sherry's grave and saved one for "the girl" to hold.  I loved her.  Strange as it sounds, I sort of grew up with her and about the time I could stand on the pedestal and found that she and I were about the same height, Grandma and Grandpa moved away and I never saw her again...until today!  It occurred to me, yesterday, that I still have cousins in the Altoona area!  I asked my cousin David.  He took a trip out there to search for "the girl".  Today he found her!

Sherry and my Uncle Bob's graves.  See the girl?  She's across the lane.

I'm so sad, she is missing part of her nose now.

David says she's "just there".  I wonder if she was placed there by the cemetery people or if she was part of the plot of the two stones she seems to be standing at the foot of?  I kinda think David must be right, though.  The two stones in front of her, are facing away from her. 

Her feet.

There's just something about her.  I've wanted to see her again, for the last 26 years and here she is! 

I think I need to make some pretty black and white pictures and frame her in a special part of our new home.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Williamsburg, Virginia Snow Ritual

It's been raining here, in Tidewater Virginia, for about 6 days straight!  If you ask any kid in a 3 county radius, they'll tell you they're cheated the snow days, they think they're entitled to!  Mine included!

"If all of this rain was snow, I bet we'd have a foot by now!"  

Really, I think we would have more!  They're craving the snow!  It doesn't help that Libby was invited to go to Wintergreen this weekend to ski with her best friend, but can't go due to other commitments and big brother and sister just turned in their paperwork to go on their youth group ski trips with our church.  It's all they can think about.  The only hills in site are on the golf courses.  I have the inside scoop on how the PGA Pros feel about kids careening down their slopes on sleds.  They don't like it much but kindly look the other way for the sake of safe sliding.

The thing that drove me to the computer to blog about snow is the ritual that is going around our children's school as well as our church.   It's fairly similar to the snow rituals in the rest of Virginia (maybe the rest of the country) but with a Williamsburg twist!

Williamsburg Virginia Snow Ritual:
To get it to snow, well enough to get at least one snow day, you must follow these steps:

In other parts of the country, they turn their P.J.s around backward, but they have the benefit of being inland and a little colder.  Here, in the Tidewater area, we have to increase chances of snow with drastic measures!

Wear your pajamas inside out!!!  Do it!  Don't whine about how it feels or how silly you look!  

If you really want a SNOW DAY, you gotta be willing to be uncomfortable!

Sleep with a spoon under your pillow.  DO IT!  Come on, people!  We want a snow day!

I'm not sure what that stands for; maybe a mini snow shovel??? Anyway, Vannie said she's going to sleep with my grandpa's WWII U.S. Army spoon under her pillow, since he's in Heaven.  I guess she figures he'll put in the request for snow, for her!  

Vannie told me her best friend is going to throw a bucket of ice cubes out of the window tonight!   

Seriously!  We're semi-desperate !!! Getting the snow gear ready just in case!!!  Wish us luck!!!
 Sandman & Me

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Enraged: Barbie Photo-bombed Pinterest Pic

I can't tell you how many times I've seen this "pin" on "Pinterest" and it makes me uneasy, to say the least.  Usually, the pin description is something about getting your body back after having a baby, after the holidays or just plain working out to put the belly and "the girls" where the world would like to see them.  Wrong on so many levels!

I have a degree in Kinesiology.  I love to move.  I'm not a gym-rat by any stretch, but I do what I can, when I can, as I can.  I'm always mindful of keeping my head on straight about my body because, like so many women; in college I had an unhealthy view of my body and who I was.  I struggled with Anorexia for years.  Waaayyyyy past those days now!  Thank the Lord!!!

I see who I am, clearly, now.  I like the woman I've become.  I know I COULD be a size 1 again (I'm 5'8") but can, for the life of me, figure out why I would ever want to do that to myself!   I can get to a size 7/8 (and still have my health) again, but I'm happy being a 10.  When I get to a size 12, I get a little wiggy (but never out of hand) and dial up the healthy eating and exercise and dial back the junk...Then, I go onto Pinterest and see this...

After baby (even if baby is now 4 years old). This workout will tap into the deep abdominal muscles that will pull in your waistline like a corset. Do these moves one after another with no rest in between. Then repeat once.

{via Pinterest}

The pin description reads:
"After baby (even if baby is now 4 years old). This workout will tap into the deep abdominal muscles that will pull in your waistline like a corset. Do these moves one after another with no rest in between. Then repeat once."
Momentary lapse of reason washes over me...

Really?  Could it really be true?  Something that will lift the girls, shrink my arms, narrow my waist, decrease my hips...AND, OH LOOK!  You can get a face lift doing this workout too!  

Reality smacks me up-side the head!  

The thing is, we are all getting suckered into the madness!  To see this pin, you would think that you could lightly exercise and look like Barbie!  Click on the pin and it's a different story!

This is what you'll see:

If Barbie was an actual woman, she would be 5’9” tall, have a 39” bust, an 18” waist, 33” hips and a size 3 shoe.• Barbie calls this a “full figure” and likes her weight at 110 lbs.• At 5’9” tall and weighing 110 lbs, Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the weight criteria for anorexia. She likely would not menstruate.• If Barbie was a real woman, she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions. • Slumber Party Barbie was introduced in 1965 and came with a bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs with a book entitled “How to Lose Weight” with directions inside stating simply “Don’t eat.”
{the above from Back On Pointe - Tumblr}

Not an exercise routine.  I know, Back On Pointe didn't pin this so that we would follow a workout routine.  She probably was trying to show us that real bodies are beautiful and Barbie is not!  Sadly, during the pin and re-pin path of Pinterest, someone changed the pin description and so many of us fell for it!

If I could go back to those days of starvation, feeling inadequate, frenzied workouts...I would have so much to tell myself about how life could be...I probably wouldn't listen to my older self, though.  Those of us who have made it through to the healthy side, know, that all of the outwardly signs of Anorexia were NOT because of Barbie.  Barbie and all things like her, make it worse, but dangerous weight loss and all that goes with it are to Anorexia as a sore throat and cough are to Strep Throat.  You could treat the sore throat and cough all day long and never get rid of the Strep.  Pins like this, make the "cough" worse but they don't cause a person to get sick.  I don't fault Barbie but I also don't appreciate the reckless pinning that's making girls on the edge of recovery or death, sicker; unbeknownst to the pinner.

Why, ladies, do we do this to ourselves and each other?  Pin responsibly!  Love one another!  Check and correct the pin descriptions when you pin!  It could make a real difference in someone else's self esteem and health!

My 12 year old daughter saw this pin in her Pinterest travels 

(with the incorrect description)...

Lots.  Of.  Questions!  

(none of them had anything to do with Pinterest!  :(

Sandman & Me

Not affiliated with Pinterest, Barbie or Mattel.  Just our thoughts, friends!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sweet Baby Jesse: Our Angel in Heaven

Taking down Christmas today, I rushed from house to garage to attic getting everything straight outside. I'm saving the inside for another day.  In my haste, I passed by a resin "rock" that I've had for years that says "Jesse's Garden".  It had flipped over with the words facing down and as I set it up, I thought to myself, "I'm kinda surprised our dogs haven't eaten it yet.  Gosh, it's so old you can hardly read the words.  Maybe it's time to just let it go.  It doesn't really matter to anyone but me that it's in the garden anyway.", with that, I put an arm load of donations in the back of my car.  I opened the trunk and paused, "It matters to me.  I matter.  I'm still here in heaven.  Don't forget me Mom."  went through my head as if someone was speaking it out loud to me.  I know there's no logic behind it.  I know that things are things and souls are souls, but reminders are reminders too.  I sort of think it was just my subconscious saying that our first baby mattered, in the history of us, and matters to God so if we need a silly rock to remind us, then I should keep it.

It was January 1, 1996.  Sandman and I just got finished "celebrating" the new year, if you will, in the bedroom of our little apartment in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  We were married on December 1, 1995 and decided to throw caution to the wind, and not use protection on our honeymoon.  When we came home, we sort of never picked up the condoms again!  I guess we thought that people just don't get preggers that fast so, whatever!  He went to sleep and I wanted to watch a little more TV, so I went out to the living room and sat on the floor between the couch and coffee table.  I'm not sure what I was working on; I can't see it in my head anymore.  I can see my feet, table, legs, TV, but I can't remember what was on the table...anyway, that doesn't matter.  What does matter is that I felt a tingly sensation in my uterus that I had never felt before and for a moment, a little voice popped into my head, "You're pregnant."  "Really?" I remember thinking.  I didn't think one could feel conception!  Maybe it was because the night was still, I was awake and there were few distractions.  Still, I kinda thought I was, so I told my dog, Tucker; "I think you're going to be a sister!  What do you think about that?"

Sure enough, I missed my period and took a pregnancy test.  Yep!  The test confirmed that I was expecting.  Somewhat in disbelief, I took a second test to be sure the first one didn't lie.  Confirmed, twice!  We didn't have cell phone (not a common thing among normal-income folks, at that time).  Thankfully, I had already been to work and was home, otherwise I'm not sure I would have been able to contain my joy before telling my hubby!  He got home from work and I blurted it out before he could put his keys down!  I had planned to tell him over dinner but he would have known something was up, by my face.  I'm not a very good poker player!!!  He was surprised, hesitant, in disbelief, happy and scared all at once.  I was feeling the same way, except I had already stepped away from the disbelief with the second test.  Before he could ask, I told him I took two tests and promptly showed him the results.  There's something about a stick that you pee on that seems to steal the romance from telling your husband, but apparently he wasn't too grossed out because he asked if I was going to put that in the baby book!  Even then, he knew me well!

I asked some friends at work, who they like in the area as an OBGYN and opened the phone book to find the numbers of my friends' docs.  Appointment made, we happily went to have our joy medically confirmed and to find out the next steps to take.  She asked me if I was on any medication.  I told her I wasn't but a week or so, before I got pregnant, I was put on a medication for a UTI and when THAT doc asked me if I was pregnant, I said no (because I wasn't).  I remember the doc wanted me to be sure, and for some reason, I was sure.  Dumb girl!  Looking back on it now, I probably was still taking the medication when I conceived.  Those details are still a little fuzzy to me.  The OBGYN confirmed my conception date, measured my uterus and gave me a prescription for prenatal vitamins.  I went back for regular check ups, ate well, got good rest, didn't lift anything too heavy (they wouldn't let me at work.  So kind.) and we prepared to move back to Georgia. We were only in Florida so that Sandman could go to graduate school for Coastal Environmental Studies at NOVA Southeastern.  He decided to change career paths and entered PGA school in stead.  We both secured jobs at the same country club in Macon, Georgia and began packing.  We made one last appointment with the OBGYN and told her we were moving.  She said everything looked on track with the baby.  The measurements were right on time and I was healthy.  I signed a form that would release my records to my new doc in GA and we were on our way.

I don't remember unpacking much before making the phone call to my new doctor's office!  I was still so excited and a full two and a half months along.  I went in the next week for my first appointment.  She measured me and instantly challenged the previous doctors' dates (and my date of conception).  I thought, maybe she's wrong.  I'll bet this baby will show her and be born big!  (Obviously I had never given birth before and had no idea what I was thinking!  Large baby!  lol!)  She found a heart beat!  It sounded like a freight train!  She was shocked because according to her measurements, the baby shouldn't have been old enough for us to hear a heartbeat!  I think she was trying to prove her case, that the baby was not as old, gestation-ally as I was claiming and that the Florida doc was wrong.  She ordered an ultrasound.  Yep!  Baby was small, but with a strong heartbeat!  She assured me that everything was fine but still put my date of conception at February 1st; not January 1st.  I was still sort of frustrated with this and contemplated switching docs.  For heaven's sake!  She had my charts from Florida and should be able to tell from reading them that I went to the doctor (in Florida) the last week in January and she confirmed that I was pregnant (making it impossible that I got pregnant the following week!)!  Obviously that  Florida doctor wasn't a fortune teller!!!

We only ever got 2 sonograms of him.  This was in 1996, so the quality was really poor (not that the quality is great now).  They told us to keep it away from heat and not to put it on a copier that we would lose the image forever.  

You can see the lower image has faded somewhat.  I have had it in a frame but may put it back into my memory box so it doesn't fade anymore.

A couple of weeks before we lost him.

I remember those weeks well!  We decorated and painted the new nursery.  I registered for a few baby things at a local store.  I read "What to Expect When You're Expecting"  as all expectant moms did at that time.  On my way home from work, I felt him kick!  It was more like a flutter but it was the first time I felt movement.  On my next visit, my doc said it was a gas bubble and laughed it off!  I hold on to that feeling even to this day and my subsequent pregnancies confirmed that what I felt that day and in the couple of days that followed, was in fact the baby moving and not gas!  I woke up one morning, a few days following and began to spot.  I didn't feel well so I called my doc.  She told me to call in sick to work and rest, drink a full glass of water and lay down.  If the spotting continued, I was to come in the next day.  Sandman went to work and assured me everything would be fine.  In my heart, I kinda knew it wasn't fine.  I prayed for our baby.  I prayed selfishly that this wonderful ride of wedding, honeymoon, pregnancy, buying a house, working at jobs we loved; wouldn't end so abruptly with the loss of our first child.  I ended the prayer, as I do most prayers, "but Lord, you know my hopes.  Your will is what I truly want.  Make me ok with Your choice, whatever it may be."  I laid there for what seemed like an eternity and then got up to get something to eat.  On my way to the kitchen, I felt a gush and cried as I made myself a sandwich.  All I could think was I wish Sandman would come home and hold my hand.  I wish I didn't have the feeling that the baby is already gone.  I wish this was all a dream.  "Sinking, Peter.  You're sinking.  Trust. Trust." went though my head, as it still does when I find myself leaning on my own understanding and not His.  The date was Thursday, March 29th, 1996.  I called the doctor to make an appointment and then called Sandman to let him know.

We went into the doctor's office, first thing, when they opened up.  We sat in the examining room and made small talk.  "I don't have a good feeling about this." I remember saying.  Sandman assured me that I was worrying over nothing and that we would find out soon why I was bleeding.  The doctor assured me that spotting is normal for some people early in the pregnancy, but as she explained the possible reasons (all of which had to do with ladies early in the first trimester) I kept thinking, "but I'm not early in the first trimester.  I'm entering my second trimester this weekend!!!"  I had been following along in my book, each day!  I knew when the heartbeat started, when the fingers were beginning to form...all of that!  It was as if, every time I went to the doctor's office, she was giving me a bad report card when I knew I had been doing my homework all along!  I was too terrified to challenge her on the age of my baby.  She put the Doppler thingy on my belly and we all listened for the little train we heard only last week.  Nothing!  She said it was too soon to worry but she felt we should go into the next room for an ultrasound so we could see how he or she is.  I laid there on the table and the kind tech assured me that he does these sorts of ultrasounds all of the time for women who spot.  Things often turn out to be fine.  He put the machine up to my belly and said nothing.  The screen was facing away from me.  He clicked his mouse a few times to capture the image and then I asked, full of cautious hope, "Do you see a heartbeat?"  He said nothing and turned the screen toward Sandman and I.  "I don't understand what I'm looking at.  Can you explain?"  "No.  I'm not allowed to say anything that has to do with diagnosis.  I'll be right back with the doctor." and he left us alone in the room.

We were holding hands, looking at a rough shape of what I thought was my uterus with a shapeless lump at the bottom of what we now refer to as "the empty room".  I began to cry.  Sandman assured me that we don't have a degree in this sort of thing and can't read the report.  The thing is, I have worked with ultrasound before.  Not much, but I knew enough from lab classes to know it wasn't good.  I didn't want to dash his hopes and turnout to be wrong so I took a deep breath and told him he was right.

It seemed like an eternity before the doctor came in.  She looked at the screen.  Typed some notes.  Moved the thingy around on my belly some more.  Pressed it into me really hard to get a good look and then told us the news.  I was right, when I thought the baby died the day before.  The lump at the bottom of  my uterus was what was left of the baby.   The next thing that popped into my head was the medicine I had taken for the UTI!  Could that have done it???  I needed answers...I would never get them!  The doctor said I could have a D&C but since I wasn't far along (there she was again.  Believing her own dates and not mine and the previous doctor) that she recommended I pass "the tissue" naturally, and not take a chance on scaring my uterus (thus risking future pregnancies).  She said I would feel some cramping and experience heavy bleeding but to call her if I passed anything I would consider large.  {WHAT???}

We went home.  My arms ached.  I cried at the sight of the nursery.  The mail came.  It was a package from my best friends in Maryland.  They sent me a onesie, pacifier, a kit to make our home safe for the baby and a card telling me how excited they were to become "Aunts".  I sobbed and sobbed.  Sandman broke down on the phone with his mom.  It was the first time I ever saw him cry.  He wanted to be so brave for me.  I was actually comforted by his tears.  I knew I wasn't alone in my grief.  For the first time (and last time) in my life I was angry at God!  "How could He?  Why would He?  Doesn't He love me?"  I felt like the body I knew, had betrayed me.  And then as I was crying out to God and letting him know how unhappy I was with Him; my atheist husband, who was only entertaining the thought of God being real up until this point; said, "God didn't do this to us!  Don't blame Him!  He loves us!  He has a plan for us, I'm sure of it!"  WHAT???  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? WHO ARE YOU???  YOU DON"T EVEN BELIEVE IN GOD AND NOW YOU'RE DEFENDING HIM???  In and instant I was in shock, angry, happy (for Sandman) and confused.  We sobbed together for what seemed like an eternity.  "So you believe?"  "Yes.  I think I do.  I need to believe, otherwise all of this is for nothing."  Up until this point, he only believed as much as any open minded atheist would.  Sort of an "anything's possible" approach to going to church (which was sort of the deal when we got married).  I think my next words were something like, "I think I need to bake some brownies."  With that, we put our emotions on holiday for an hour while I baked.  That night, before I went up to bed, he took the bassinet out of our room and put it in the nursery.  We lived in an old house, built in 1926.  All of the rooms were adjoining.  He shut both doors to the baby's room, the one that lead to the hall and the one that lead to our room, and suggested that we switch sides of the bed (so I wouldn't have to pass the door on the way to the bathroom). With emotions and hormones on high, I broke into tears at the sight of the doors to the nursery.  I cried myself to sleep.

That next day, Sandman went back to work and I took another sick day.  My sorority sister just happened to live down the street from me at that time.  She knew I wasn't feeling well and called to see if she could take me to lunch later in the day.  I told her I would like that, and asked that she call again later so we could make plans.  I took a nap on the couch.  I was awakened, some time later to more pain than I had ever felt before!  Then it went away.  I rested again.  The pain came back and I was feeling really achy.  Then it went away.  I took two of the 200 mg Ibuprofen pills, the doctor gave me and laid down.  Pain again.  On. Off. On. Off.  I took two more pills.  They didn't help at all!  Feeling desperate and still not knowing what was going on, Jamie called back.  I was in the middle of one of the pain cycles and could barely speak.  Jamie came over to sit with me and promptly called Sandman, when she arrived.  She had never had a baby either but knew something was wrong.  She suggested we go to the hospital and started walking me out to her car when Sandman came flying into the driveway.  She helped me into his car and the two of us were off to the hospital, but the problem was that we didn't know where the hospital was!  We were so new in town, and thought we had six more months before we needed one!  By this time, I was screaming in pain!  Sandman pulled over to the side of the road, when he saw a man on the sidewalk and asked for directions.

Once in the ER, they took me directly into an exam room and asked me to "calm down",  gown up in the bathroom, and while there, give them a urine sample!  They started collecting insurance info from Sandman, right there in the exam room.  Nearly as soon as I shut the door to prepare for the sample;  I delivered, what was left of the baby, into my hands.  Labor!  I was in labor!  I had no idea!  The doctor didn't think that was even a possibility, apparently (remember, she didn't think I was as far along as I was) and so never prepared me.  I bet the Florida doc wouldn't have been surprised!  Not screaming any more, the nurse heard the silence... 

"Mrs. Sandelin?  Are you ok?"   I paused (in shock) and looked at the small bundle in my hands.  Bones, tissue, a little head, all wrapped up like a little pale, semi-transparent bat with wings wrapped around itself.  All I could say is, "I think I need a basin to put my baby into."  
The rest of the time in the hospital was a blur.  I don't remember anything until that night when I was talking to my mom on the phone, sitting out on our front porch steps.  That night, Sandman took me out to pick out wicker furniture so I wouldn't have to sit on the steps anymore.  Nothing eased my mind.  I felt like there was something I should have been doing.  I felt like nothing was real.  My doctor didn't think the baby was as much a baby as he really was.  My mom wanted to talk about other things (maybe she was in shock too), my plans for preparing the nursery were halted and Sandman and I wondered if this was a start of a pattern.

A resin statue that we bought soon after we lost the baby, to put in the garden we would make to remember.

The weather took it's toll on it, so we don't keep it outside anymore.

Over the years, I've written to Jesse.  I haven't needed to do that in recent years.  Today is the first day I put his name in print, in many years.  Not sure why, but everything came flooding back to me today.  It just occurred too me, today is January 3, 2013.  Seventeen years and 2 days since we conceived.  Sometimes (most of the time) it seems like forever-ago.  Today, for some reason, it feels like yesterday.

The next day, we felt empty as we watched TV.  I read the little booklets the doctor and the hospital gave me.  They all suggested that we do things to honor our hearts and perhaps name the baby.  We will never know if the baby was a boy or girl, definitively.  According to the State of Georgia, there was no reason to know.  The dates that the GA doc reported, kept us out of the window of time that we needed a death certificate... by ONE week!  By Florida's dates, we would have!  I was in no position to argue.  I was sort of glad Georgia had the dates wrong, at that point!  It kept us from having a death certificate that would make it too real and from needing a proper burial. Now I wish we had one!  We talked about names and thought about using one of the androgenous  ones we had picked out already.  Sandman suggested we use the name Jesse, since it means "God exists"  God is a mighty and resourceful Lord.  He is never wasteful.  Sandman and I know that for a fact, since with the loss of our first child, Sandman was born-again.  I would say, that's a great gift God gave us for our loss.  Our baby had a purpose!  There was a reason to celebrate in a time of great sorrow.

Sandman woke me up before the sun, on the following Sunday morning.  It was Easter.

"There's a little church out past where we work.  Let's go to the sunrise service."  
A letter Grandma wrote us to tell us how happy she was that we were expecting!  In it, she notes that "Tomorrow's February 1st - you're moving (to Macon) this month..."  Clearly, we couldn't have conceived on the that day!  She already wrote the letter!

When my grandmother died, two autumns ago, I was looking through one of her journals.  In it she wrote a list, of all the people she wanted to see when she got to Heaven.  There, among the names of her parents, siblings, husband and friends;

"Cindy's sweet baby Jesse.  My first great grandchild."

I think Jesse was a boy.  
I know he's our baby in Heaven.
I like to think she's holding him while they wait together for 
Sandman & me to arrive.

I used to crochet a baby blanket, each year and then donated it to a local hospital for the next angel-baby and his or her parents to spend their final moments together (and then bury the baby with it or keep it as a memento).  I haven't done that for about a 12 years.  The last time I worked on one to donate, Sandman and I were taking turns holding vigil over night in our church, "watching over" our friends' baby's casket the night before the service.  I know that sounds morbid, but she couldn't bare the thought of her little Erin, being alone when only a day before, she was alive and warm in her womb.  The things we each need at the time of such loss, are as different as our fingerprints, from one another.  We were happy to sit there, in the wee hours of the morning, alone, in the church (we took separate shifts and I took the dog for protection).  A couple of days later, I delivered our second child and donated the blanket to the hospital.  Not sure why that was the last one I made, but it was.

I think today, I'll start a new baby blanket.  I really hope it sits on a shelf in the maternity ward, and gets terribly dusty; I hope no one will ever need it...unfortunately, I know someone will.  I pray it brings them as much comfort as it will me, as I stitch it.

Sandman & Me

Friday, December 28, 2012

Lessons About Love: From My Dogs

Our furry girls on Christmas morning.   
Sutherby is the tall blonde on the left.  Blakely's the short one on the right.

Blakely, our 1 year old Golden Great Pyrenees, is a great big fluffy bundle of fun and excitement.  She always has something going on that gets our attention.  She steels a sock and runs away, trying to get us to chase her, she sneaks into the kitchen and scarfs down her big sister's food, she lays in her sister's bed...complete silliness, really!  She'll lay in our laps, all 100 lbs of her, for hours while we love on her.  If you're not giving her attention, she'll find a way to get it.  I used to be that way too!  I get it! I grew up and had kids that required my attention so really, all of that attention getting softened to a mature level of semi-extrovertedness that most can live with.  Blake is still young.  I know she'll mature and soften too.

Blakely stealing a moment on Sutherby's bed.  I don't fault her for it.  Truth is, she can't read the embroidered name!

Sutherby is our 4 year old, of the same make and model.  She's a little more like her Great Pyr k-9 mom. Fun and outgoing on occasion but quiet and patient most of the time.  Maybe she's exhausted with the little one around.  Not sure.  She's extroverted when she wants to be, but when Blakely comes around, she steps back and lets Blakely do her thing.  It works for her, but since Blakely requires so much attention, she no longer asks for attention from us.  She just stands (or lays, most of the time) ready to receive it when you are ready to give it.  As soon as we do give her what she quietly longs comes Blakely!  She wants the same attention Sutherby gets.  She usually gets it too.  There's only so long you can hold back the rain before it becomes a downpour.  She's began barking to come in and then when Blakely runs into the house, Sutherby will go laydown on the porch.  When the weather was warmer, I would go out and sit with her, alone (usually while Blakely would get distracted inside the house with a bone).  I wondered why she did this.  Originally, I thought it was to have alone time, away from the chaos of her younger sister.  Now, I know it's to get some attention quietly, from one of us.  She wags and smiles and I know.

Sutherby opening her stocking.

The day after Christmas, we took Sutherby to see the big Christmas tree in Colonial Williamsburg.  I had gotten a new WiFi camera and wanted to take a picture of it.  Sutherby loves going for rides in the car, Blakely thinks she does, but throws up if the window isn't open.  It was VERY cold that night, so that wasn't an option.  Really, I always enjoy walking the girls one at a time.  It really gives me an opportunity to focus on them and their individuality, not to mention the small fact that walking 210 lbs of dogs, while taking photos in the dark, is no small task!  It took a million, "Blakely sit!  Blakely stay!"-s to get out the door with just Sutherby!  Once accomplished, we were on our way!  She came alive again!  No more hanging in the background.  No more sharing.  No more feeling like crap when she gets a big bone, for once and Blakely shows she's not happy that her bone is smaller (even though it's really not).  No more hearing Blakely groan and lay down when Sutherby thanks me for said bone.  Nope!  The big-girl is on her own with her parents, out in the world with a moment of attention.  Extroverted again!  Taking it all in and storing it in her heart.  As we head to the tree, she feels me slow my step and even though I usually don't require her to "heal" on our walks, she remembers the routine; when strangers approach, she auto heals.  Without a word, she slows her step and slides back to my side, keeping the same stride as mine, so she won't scare those who don't like big dogs.  Once they pass, I say, "OK"!  Released to sniff the world again!

Sutherby on her big trip to see the Christmas tree in Colonial Williamsburg.

We pull in the driveway and come back into the house to find that Blakely has gotten into the Christmas cookies!  Blakely sniffs Sutherby all over and then doesn't "speak" to her the rest of the night!  Sutherby used to seem bothered by this, but now, I think, she's come to get used to it.  She just goes about her business and lets Blakely be jealous.  I'm sure, it bugs her on some level though.  Maybe she kinda wishes that the big trip or big walk could just be wonderful and left at that.  Maybe she wishes her thank you kisses (which she rarely gives) could be just that; thank you licks for all the world to see that her heart is overflowing with joy!  Really, she could have gone for a walk up and down the driveway, alone with us or a ride to the end of the street and back, and she would have been as thankful.  Either way, Blakely would have thought it was more than she got and wouldn't have been happy.  What if Sutherby didn't thank us so openly?  Would that have changed how Blakely felt about it?  Probably not.  Blakely's going to feel how Blakely feels, no matter how the thank you comes.  The difference is, that we wouldn't have known that it was big deal to Blakely and we wouldn't have known why Sutherby never asks for attention.  Now we know.  I'm glad we know.  I'm glad she thanked us out loud so we could see Blakely's true feelings and understand Sutherby's distance a little better.

Maybe our gift was too big, but the real joy for us, the giver and Sutherby, the receiver, is that she saw, for once; that we see her.  We love her.  We know she's there.  She's not invisible in the background with all of Blakely's wonderfulness and fun, attention getting trouble.  She sees that we wanted to give her a gift that she didn't ask for.  Isn't that the real meaning of Christmas?  God gave us a gift we didn't ask for.  

Now we know that we need to spend more time coming to Sutherby and rubbing her ears more and helping Blakely be ok with it.  It has been sort of lopsided until now.  It takes us humans a while to realize these things.  Eventually, with a little training, it won't be lopsided, but the attention will be different for each dog.  The trick will be, to help them realize that the car ride we take Sutherby on is just as important as the rawhide we give Blakely, that Sutherby can't have because she's allergic to it.  No need to be jealous of the ride, right?  Their parents love them both the same!   Maybe with the extra loving training, Sutherby'll feel safer coming around more.  She won't wait (or trick Blakely) to get us alone.  She'll know how we feel about her.  How important she still is.  Hopefully, one day, Blake will be ok with us taking them for a walk or ride, one at a time!  Maybe we won't ever get there at all.  Who knows.

I hope Sutherby didn't spend much time feeling bad about the walk.  I don't think she did, really.  Today they were playing and rolling around our backyard like nothing happened.

It's ok to be Blakely.  It's ok to be Sutherby.  Both are loved.  It's not ok for one to be jealous of the other though.  If I want to give one a gift, then that's what I'll do.  I would hope that even though Sutherby thanks me openly, Blakely wouldn't make her feel bad for it.  Still, I'll keep loving them each, as they need to be loved, as I want to express it, as I always have and will take more time to notice the one who quietly waits for it without asking.

Sandman & Me

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmastown At Busch Gardens Williamsburg: I Believe!

When Busch Gardens rolled out the idea of having Christmastown at their Williamsburg park, we were excited for a new BG experience, until we found that we would only be able to use our annual pass (which we pay for monthly, year round for all five of us for the last six years) to obtain a discount on a one time visit (each time we go).  We were sort of hoping on a discount for unlimited visits or, better yet, unlimited access for "Platinum Passholders"!  Too much to ask for?  We boycotted the whole Christmastown experience, until yesterday.  Our loss!

It was spectacular!  Light shows, caroling, theater performances, Christmas dinner and more lights than you can imagine in your wildest of Christmas dreams!  It was amazing and whats more, is our kids were blown away by it all.  Being the family pack mule, I juggled our refillable BG sport bottles, 2 cameras, my purse, gloves, hats... and still managed to have a great time snapping photos and sipping hot chocolate!  {it's a Christmas miracle!  how does she do it???}

The family all had places to go and things they wanted to see, but thankfully they entertained my wishes to see the performance of "Gloria!"  I really don't know where BG gets their talent, but every performance in the park is top notch but this one especially! The effects and range was so moving.  Music moves me to tears easily, so by the end the chill bumps and tears were plentiful!  Gloria is a musical presentation of Jesus' birth.  How wonderful to be in a public place like BG and take off our politically correctness to just be us, the real us' in body, mind AND spirit!  It was like that throughout the whole park!  Freeeeeeeee!!!

Lights everywhere and holiday tunes in each of BG's represented languages/countries.  Here, we're heading into France.

While waiting in line to see Santa in Germany.

Sandman started a new trend:  Photo-bombing Mom's snapshots!

Nice!  Now can I get a good one?

Thanks girls!

Writing their wishes for Santa.  Libby's a skeptic but essentially still believes.  Yet another Christmas miracle!  

Parents have to stand to the side to take a picture, that way, they get you to buy the ones they take, when yours don't turn out.  I didn't buy.  :oP

Photo-bombed again!

My sweet Sandman!

Photo-bombed a third time!  Get the trend of the night?  Gotta love 'em!

Kinda tough getting good pictures of lights while running after kids.  Happy to get this one with reflection!

Part of the nativity?  lol!

So beautiful!

There was beauty everywhere we looked!

This tree was our favorite.  Sandman looked closely to see how they did it.  The wires wrapped the tree, round and round, no further apart than a centimeter!  It was breathtaking!

The tree from a distance.  It really stands out in white.


We hung out there for a while.

Pompeii transformed from the fiery inferno to a palace of ice.


Why do I suddenly have a desire to visit the Travelocity site when I see this santa???  Hmmmm?  Wonder!

On our way out of the park.

Back to England and the beautiful carols.

Good night Busch Gardens!  You made a believer out of us!  I'm sure we'll be back to buy another pass in a couple of days!  

Merry Christmas,

Sandman & Me