Friday, November 30, 2012

Not to Worry...

I haven't forgotten about the whole 30 days of thankfulness thing...in true Anne fashion, I've just procrastinated until the last possible minute. 

The good news is the last possible minute is usually when I do my best work.  So where did I leave off?  Day 7?  Twenty-three things I am thankful for, coming right up!

8. My bed.  There is nothing like sinking into a warm, soft bed at the end of the day...particularly one that you have been sleeping in so long that it is all "Anne-shaped" on one side.

9. Sweet Tea.  Seriously, what does the rest of the country drink?

10. Old Friends.  There is something about being born, going to college, and raising your kids in the same state.  Some people may consider that to be sad, uncultured even...but I consider it lucky.  I have friends who have known me at my best and my worst and even before anyone clued me into eyebrow waxing, and they love me anyway.

11. New Friends.  I never understood why some had to be silver and some gold (all former Brownies will know what I am talking about).  The new friends I have made, especially since Rip died, are all platinum to me.

12. Family.  I've got a good one.  The one we've created, my husband's, the one who raised me...just good.  'Nuff said.

13. The smell of Christmas Tree.  I found THE BEST candle while shopping on Black Friday, it smells just like a Frasier Fir and makes me so happy.  It's the little things.

14. Christmas in general.  This year is fun for us.  I am beyond thankful for that.

15. Black Friday shopping.  It's a tradition my mom and I have been doing for our birthdays since I was about ten. I know that everyone carries on about the lines and why and blah blah blah...but I have a cute new peplum top and a really good smelling candle...do you?

16. My faith.  Because honestly, this girl, wouldn't be here today without it.

17. Days of renewed faith.  Today I went back and read "Sounds of Sunshine", my first Gracie blog post.  I called "her" her when I was 11 weeks pregnant.  Sometimes it takes my going back and reading something to see just how much God has been there all along.  And I need reminding.

18. Anniversaries.  Parke and my five year anniversary is this Saturday.  We have been together for 13 years.  Thankful for the Parke-shaped spot on the other side of my bed.

19. Picking Gracie up from school.  She gets the biggest smile on her face and starts wildly waving her arms and legs, it's like her whole body lights up.  Best. Thing. Ever.

20. Grey's Anatomy.  I love it.  I can't explain why, but I do.  Don't judge.

21. Exercise.  I just (like this week) started doing it again.  I used to be a runner and I miss that runner's high, feeling strong thing.  For me, physical strength helps with mental strength...and who couldn't use more of that? Hopefully it will become more of a regular routine.

22. Treats.  Just the word is exciting.  Who wants a treat?  Who doesn't??!!

23. Family Boots.  These are the boots that my mom, sister, and I all bought two years ago and thus dubbed the "family boots".  They are camel colored and I wear them almost everyday with everything.  They rock.

24. Good books.  Recently I've slipped back into my old routine of reading every night before bed.  Few things make me happier than being in the middle of a good book.  I will walk around all day feeling like something exciting is happening before I remember it is actually happening to the characters in my book, and then I can't wait to get back to them (Hi, my name is Anne...I am a dork).

25. Our new house.  I love the neighborhood we are in now, and I've got big plans for the house.  Much to Parke's horror, these plans include turquoise interior doors. 

26. The ocean.  Because it heals all things.

27. Signs.  In particular the number eleven and rainbows.

28. Big Bows. On my child's head.  Even if they only stay there for five minutes.

29. The fact that Gracie's fist word was "kitty-cat".  And that she uses it indiscriminately, so that at any given time the dog, Parke, or I can all be a kitty-cat.  Again, it's the little things.

30. And lastly, and perhaps unexpectedly, I am thankful for this lady who, by royally screwing up a priceless painting, gave my friend and I a good old fashioned belly laugh when we really needed it.  Probably not the nicest thing to be thankful for, but there you have it.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, everybody!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Mamas

You know who I find myself praying for, time and time again...the Mamas.

My heart all but breaks for the Mamas who have lost babies.

And yes, I am sure this is mainly because I have been there and done that.  That I am a Mama who lost her baby.

I realize that there are others involved...certainly the Daddys, but also the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends.  They certainly deserve throughts and prayers as well.  But somehow they seem to be able to cope better, to be stronger.

And then there are the babies themselves...and I am not just talking about babies in the strictest sense of the word..any mama can tell you that her baby is always her baby.  I think about Rip and pray for him all of the time.  But, deep down, I know he is okay.  He is safe.  He is loved. He is taken care of...

So usually it is the Mamas who need the caring for.  And it leaves me frustrated, wishing that I could DO more.  I know what it feels like to wish more than anything you could go back to that one day and change something...I wish I could fix it for them, for all of us.

Lori, Sarah, Christa, Brandy, Liza, Austin, and all of those other Mamas out there who have lost, I am so sorry.  I wish there was something more that I could say.  May peace find you on this day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

And Then Some

Well, it's official.  I am "in my thirties".  Thirty-two, to be exact.

I think maybe I am slightly in shock.  It's not that I really mind...but let's be honest, I was pretty heavily drugged when I turned thirty, and pretty heavily pregnant when I turned thirty-one.  It's been a heck of a two years and this is kind of like my 29 year old self blinking and waking up well, "in my thirties".

I have a vivid memory of being around seven years old and thinking about what thirty would be like.  I thought that a) I would stay up very late and watch TV and b) shots would no longer hurt

Ironically, although I guess I could technically stay up as late as I want and watch TV, I am lucky to keep my eyes open past 9:00 and unfortunately, shots still hurt, it's just less socially acceptable to run screaming from the nurse these days. 

But lest you think my seven year old self would have been totally let down, I do think there are some good things about growing up.  I find that I feel things more and less.

Things that I used to care about so much (ie whether anybody in the room thought I was a complete fool), I could now care less about...mainly because I've learned, as most people do by their late 20's or so, that everyone is too busy thinking about themselves to waste much time thinking about me.  And, if they do think I am a complete fool, fine by me.  They are totally right.

On the other hand, I feel what I DO care about these days are the really important things.  The people in my life who matter.  Taking time to enjoy them, taking time to listen.  Trying to push myself to be a person I like, even when it is hard to do. 

 Maybe that wouldn't have made up for the going to bed early or painful shots... I also eat a LOT of candy, whenever I want! 

So here's to thirty-two, bound to be a good year...because honestly, how could anything associated with the number of flavors at Baskin Robbins not be?



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Standing Up Again

As you probably already know, occasionally I worry that I sound a little too Pollyanna-ish (and to quote my friend Walker, "the only good part of that movie is when she falls out of the tree").

The night of the anniversary of Rip's passing away, I got the stomach flu.  For those that know me, you know this was a big deal.  I HATE to throw up.  Up until recently I was on a 19 year span of not getting sick once, and that included college.  My parents never even gave me the "don't drink to much" spiel because they knew I would never knowingly put myself in that position.

I can't remember if I've mentioned it before, but there is a Minnie Driver movie called Return to Me that has one line that always pops in my head during this type of situation,  As I found myself huddled on the bathroom floor the other night writhing around in misery, I pictured good old Minnie screaming at the top of her lungs "WHAT WAS GOD THINKING?!!"

But you know what the one good thing about having the stomach flu is?  Getting over the stomach flu.  Waking up the next day was pure bliss.  It was over, I could drink flat Sprite and eat saltines and watch bad daytime TV. Was it worth it?  Probably not...but sometimes you are just thankful to have made it to the other side.

Losing my child is nothing like having a 24 hour bug.  I wont ever "get over" losing Rip.  It's not something I can compare to anything else in my life.  But I am glad to have made it through these last two years.  I am glad to be where I am now instead of where I was November 19th, 2010. 

I try, and often fail, to stay positive.  I have more than my fair share of "What was God Thinking?" moments.   But once you've fallen out of the tree there are only so many options.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mama

Today, exactly two years from the worst day of my life, my second born said "Mama" for the first time.

I know some people believe things like that are a happy coincidence and some people believe things like that are gifts from above (I'll let you guess which I am), but I think all mothers will agree that hearing those words from your child's lips are heavenly.

 I am so thankful for the life of the little boy who made me worthy of such a wonderful sound in the first place.  For his sake, and his sister's, I hope I always live up to the name.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dear Gracie

Dear Gracie,

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day that your big brother Rip went to live in Heaven.  I know that as you grow up, it might be a little confusing to you if Mama and Daddy seem sad around this time of year.

As your Mama, I want to be able to explain things to you so that you understand...but even though Mamas and Daddys know almost everything, there are still some things even we don't know the exact answers to.

You know who does know the answer to everything? God.  And you know who loves us more than anything in the world? God. And do you know who is taking care of your brother this very minute? God!

So one very important thing for you to know is that Rip is safe and sound up in Heaven and you are safe and sound right here with us.

But even though we know that God has Rip safe in Heaven, because we are his Mama and Daddy and would like to squeeze him to pieces like we squeeze you to pieces it makes us sad that he is not right here with us.  And that's okay too...it is always okay to be sad or cry about somebody very important to you...just remember that even with sad things there are still good and happy things in the world.

And do you know what my best and happiest thing in the world is?  You.  Gracie Louise Harris.  And do you know why?  Just because you are you...the Gracie Louisest Harris of them all.  If your Daddy and I could pick from any baby in the whole world, we would always pick you, Squeeze Louise.

So remember, even if sometimes we may seem a little sad, it will always be okay.  Because Mama and Daddy love you very,very much (and we know almost everything).

Love,
Your Mama

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanks to You, Gracie Lou

Gracie Lou,

Last Friday, your Daddy and I took you to the hospital to have tubes put in your ears.

We knew that it was the very best thing to do, we knew that your poor little ears needed a break, we knew plenty of other kids who had the very same procedure and we knew it was no big deal...but you are our very own Gracie Lou who we love more than anything in the whole world...so we were the teensiest of nervous wrecks.

Daddy was worried about your not being able to eat all morning (because we all know you like your morning "baba's").

Mama was worried about telling you bye-bye when you went with the doctor (because Mama is terrible at bye-byes).

And we were both worried that you would be hurt or upset during or after your surgery (because we love you and never, ever want you to be hurt or upset).

Your surgery started late and by 11:00 in the morning you'd had not one thing to eat...and made not one complaint about it.

When the time came to say goodbye, you looked Mama right in the eye and gave her a little smile.

And when we finally got to you after it was all over, you sucked down a bottle, waved bye-bye to the nurses, and generally were the cutest thing to hit post-op.  Shortly thereafter, you laid your head on Daddy's shoulder and promptly went to sleep.

Your Daddy told you that you were the best baby in the whole world, and he was right.  You were so calm...and thanks to you, Gracie Lou, we were too.

Love,

Your still recovering Mama

Monday, November 12, 2012

Remembering Rip

I struggle with the "right" way to remember Rip.  At this point, we don't have any sort of race or charitable event in his name...maybe one day we will, but who knows.

So I was thinking last night about what I want Rip's legacy to be, especially during this week where his little life, however brief, changed us forever.

There are two things that came to mind...

If you are a mother (or father) of a living child, I ask you to hold that child a little closer and a little longer this week.  Not at all in a "because you never know" sort of way, as if as parents we aren't nervous wrecks enough as it is!

No, I ask you to do this because one of the wonderful gifts Rip gave me was the ability to do this more often with Gracie.  I know myself well enough to know that by nature I like to move quickly through life, eager to get to the next thing.  Rip's life taught me to savor every wonderful moment as a mother.  It isn't always easy to do, but to quote Jack Johnson, "when the whole world fits inside of your arms" it's worth taking a few extra minutes a day to realize it.

The second thing I ask you to do this week is, if you know a mama (or daddy) who has lost a child, take some time to say a prayer or send a good thought... or whatever it is you believe helps...her way.  Because her heart is breaking and she needs some extra love.  Pray for her peace.

Rip's life introduced me to many of these Mamas, some of the strongest, most incredible mamas in the world, so it is only fitting that they receive some extra love this week.

Remembering Rip with babies and mamas...it just seems right to me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

You Are Loved

Someone gave the the book Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You for Gracie when she was born, but every time we read it, I think of Rip.

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman

I wanted you more than you will ever know,
so I sent love to follow wherever you go.

It's high as you wish it.  It's quick as an elf.
You'll never outgrow it...it stretches itself!

So climb any mountain...climb up to the sky!
My love will find you.
My love can fly!

Make a big splash! Go out on a limb!
My love will find you.  My love can swim!

It never gets lost, never fades, never ends...

if you're working...

or playing...

or sitting with friends...

You can dance til your dizzy...

paint 'til your blue...

There's no place, not one, that my love can't find you.

And if someday you're lonely,
or someday you're sad,
or if you strike out in baseball,
or you think you've been bad...

just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair.
That's me my sweet baby, my love is right there.

In the green of the grass...in the smell of the the sea...
in the clouds floating by...at the top of a tree...in the sound
that the crickets make at the end of the day...

"You are loved.  You are loved.  You are loved," they all say.

My love is so high, and so wide and so deep, it's always right there, even when
you're asleep.

So hold your head high and don't be afraid
to march to the front of your own parade,

If you're still my small baby or you're
all the way grown, my promise to you
is you're never alone.

You are my angel, my darling, my star...
and my love will find you wherever you are.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Rip.  You are loved.  You are loved. You are loved.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

But I Did

I thought about not posting this story here, because sometimes I think all of this "talking with God" stuff makes me sound a little off my rocker.  But, you know what they say...if the shoe fits...

The other day I was reliving Rip's birth in my mind.  I do this a lot when I am by myself, driving to or from work. 

Inevitably, my mind will slip into "what if" mode.  What if I'd know then what I know now about having babies.  What if I'd been more forceful, or changed my mind about this or that, or been a better advocate.  Would Rip have lived?  What if I knew then what I know now?

And then, deep inside, where I feel like God speaks without saying a word, I heard "You didn't know, but I did"

There are a few things that I have come to know to be true and believe to be true that brought tears to my eyes and peace to my heart with this statement...

First, we live in a fallen world.  A world where terrible, tragic things happen to innocent, good people.

Second, God is not in the business of killing babies.  The God I have always known is a God of love, deep and abiding love.  Love that I believe to be even greater for little children.

Third, God's ways are not my ways.  This is so hard.  This is why I've spent many many hours on many days asking questions for which there are no answers.  But I can either accept that a God of love has reasons beyond my comprehension or I can continue to struggle against Him.  Some days I choose the latter, and that's okay too.

There are a million ways I can second guess myself as to how I could have made things better, but what if making another decision somehow made things worse? 

I don't have any doubt in my mind that the God Who Knows loves Rip Harris more than maybe even I can comprehend.  And so I have to stop the what ifs.  Because what I didn't know, He did.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thankful For...

I've been late to join in on the "30 days of thankfulness" craze, but better late than never.

So, seven things I am thankful for (in no particular order)...

- I am thankful that everyone who wanted to had the opportunity to vote yesterday.  But I am mostly thankful that at the end of the day, I was able to come home to my husband and my baby girl.  I am thankful that it is a happy home, where my child is warm, clothed, fed, and safe.  I am thankful to be able to provide her with a home where she knows that she is loved.  Not everyone is so lucky.

- I am thankful for my husband.  Half the time we could wring each other's necks and the other half we really get along very well...but we love each other all of the time.  I am thankful to have found someone who always manages to make me laugh and who truly has a good heart.

- I am thankful to have grown up in a fun family.  I love my parents and I love my siblings. I love our traditions (of which there are many).  I love that I grew up knowing that a sense of fun is one of the more important tools a girl needs to take out into the world.

- I am thankful for my memories of Rip.  Yes, they can be painful, but the only thing more painful would be not having them. Today, I am especially thankful for the memory of soft hair and sweet smells.

- I am so thankful for my wild woman, Gracie-Lou.  I am thankful for her spit-bubble blowing, funny-face making, tongue-clucking little self.  I am more thankful than ever when I look over and see her Daddy with his head thrown back, laughing uncontrollably at her antics.  Really I could just write the numbers 1-30 on this post and put "Gracie" beside each one...but that is probably cheating.

- I am thankful for writing.  I am so glad that I decided to start writing this blog when I did, and that I wrote a prayer journal over these past few years.  Those words (and the answered prayers) that I can go back to read now are some of my greatest treasures.

- And to end on a lighter note, I am awfully thankful for leftover Halloween candy.  One week later and the influx to the office is still going strong.  Doubly thankful for whoever brought the Butterfingers.

Stay tuned, plenty more to be thankful for...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Throwing In

As time goes on, my memories of  two years ago seem to become both sharper and dull at the same time. 

I remember more of what was going on, and that can be hard, but the pain isn't as intense.

One of the things I have been remembering, with a smile, is my "Summerville Family".

My mom's family is from Summerville, SC and like a lot of good southern families there are a lot of them, er, us.

Growing up, thanks to my dad's dark skin and eyes, my brothers (and later, sister) and I stood out like sore thumbs. I think we were literally the only brown-eyed kids in the bunch.  Luckily, our blue-eyed cousins (or second cousins, or grand this or thats) forgave us our Upstate ways and we spent our trips to the Lowcountry eating spaghetti, hunting Easter eggs,  jumping on trampolines, and playing in cow pastures...you know, normal stuff.

We all got older, some got married, saw each other at various weddings or (sadly) funerals or every other holiday...but the days roaming cow pastures as one happy herd were pretty much over.

And then we lost Rip.  And those Summerville people came out of the woodwork.

My cousin Jennifer works in the PICU in the same hospital where Rip was taken after he got sick.  Never have I been so glad to look up and see someone.  She brought us everything we needed while we were there, including comfort and kind words. She didn't even flinch when my mom forced her to look at my c-section to make sure it wasn't infected...I know she is a nurse and all, but probably not what she was expecting when we were having spend the night parties in our windsuits and perms back in the day.

My cousin Jamie reached out time and time again, letting me know every time she saw a rainbow once I got pregnant with Gracie.  She and her husband were the first people to come visit us when Gracie was born, I felt like she deserved part of the credit for getting her here safely.

And that's just two of the twenty or thirty who called, hugged, wrote, prayed and just down right loved us through a terrible time.

That Summerville family, they know how to throw in when it counts.  I hope that as we get older, we can show this next generation how important it is to have that kind of family...brown eyes or blue.

Thankful for all of the family who has been there for us these past two years.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Welcome Back, Old Friend

* Apologies ahead of time for the stream of consciousness post, just some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head these past few days

November, three years ago and all years prior, has always been my favorite month of the year.  Mainly because it is my birthday month...that's right I said birthday month.  I've never been one to shy away from the fact that I like my birthday to be a celebration, preferably one that goes on for many days and culminates in some hectic day after Thanksgiving shopping.

More than that though, November is just a great time of year.  Cool weather, football (not that I really watch, but the tailgating is fun), Thanksgiving, great food, great family and friends, Christmas right around the corner... and did I mention my birthday?

Of course, two years ago in November my world was turned upside down.  We had and lost Rip and I thought well to hell with November.

I remember being on a walk with a friend when I was pregnant with Rip, before things got scary, and saying how I had this weird feeling this baby was going to be like me.  How we would have other babies that were a mix of Parke and me (which Gracie totally is) or more like Parke, but this baby just felt connected to me.

And it was true, I had mother's intuition with Rip like nothing I have experienced since.  I knew just how to touch him, just how to comfort him...I can't explain it, I just knew things.  With Gracie everything is trial and error, I learn her little ways and we get through each milestone together.  But we have the rest of our lives to figure one another out.  With Rip I had seven days, and I believe God gave me the very necessary ability to provide the comfort he needed in those days.

I read two things after Rip died that brought me some comfort.  One I think I wrote about here, that a child who is lost is somehow still with you in ways that a living child cannot be.  And (I know, small consolation most of the time) I believe it to be true...whether it be in an 11-11 or feeling his little presence when I need it most, I feel my son with me most of the time.  The other was some study that said after you have a baby, you always carry some of his or her DNA in your body.  It's a (small) comfort to think that part of Rip is always physically with me as well.

Last night we went to a Halloween bash, Gracie's first.  It was great, the girl loves a good holiday celebration and had eaten Lord knows how many cupcakes at school that day (apple doesn't fall far from the tree).  The whole day was so fun.  There were a few off-handed comments about "wait until you have two (kids)" and things along those lines from people who didn't know us.  The thing is, those comments really don't bother me.  I just hate that I don't get to show off my other baby too.

I don't know what it is like to have two kids or more that I have to get ready for school in the morning, and I can only imagine how stressful that is...it takes both Parke and me to hold down Miss Priss and wrestle her into an outfit.  But I do know what it is like to hold two little people in my heart.  I think about both of my children constantly, just like everyone else.  I think that is what makes it hard when one isn't there for everyone to see, it's like a huge part of you is hidden away. 

This morning I went to see my neurologist, who I now see only every two years for migraines.  The last time I saw him was shortly after Rip died when he got the award for "best response ever" when he sat on the floor and cried with me when he heard the news.  This time he hesitantly asked how things were going and burst into a HUGE smile when I whipped out Gracie pics.  While flipping through the (roughly) 500 pictures I had on my phone he said, " I know the pain won't ever go away, but I am just so glad you have joy in your life again."

And there it is.  Nothing will ever take away the pain of losing Rip.  But I have JOY in my life again.  Yesterday, Halloween, was fun.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Gracie's Birthday, *My Birthday*...they will be fun this year.  Even Rip's birthday is a cause for joy.  These are joyous occasions.  Joyous occasions that I truly thought were a thing of the past two years ago.

While walking to the elevator from the doctor's office this morning, I had a flash of deja vu.  I feeling of what I always think of as "God Arms".  Just a peaceful feeling I've associated with God kind of hugging you close.  I remember the exact feeling leaving that office a little over two years ago, broken and joy stripped but with the smallest stirrings of hope.  This morning I felt God's Arms around me, clearly remembering that broken girl and hugging me close.

Stepping out into the cool November air felt wonderful.  Oh, November.  Welcome back, old friend.