Tag Archives: life

A Dottie Lou Update

As you’ve probably guessed by my complete and total absence from here, I’ve been very busy enjoying every possible second I can with our Dottie Lou.

Spending time with Dottie Lou

Spending time with Dottie Lou

It’s so hard to believe that she’s already nine weeks old! And every single day of those nine weeks has found me more and more in love with her. I love watching her personality develop. She loves to “goo” and “coo” at Mr. B and me, and nothing makes her smile more than when we sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or sing and sign the ABCs. She absolutely loves story time and bath time, but she hates when I clean out her boogies.

What’s even more fun? Dottie and Piper get along swimmingly. In fact, Piper is pretty sure that the human puppy is her own.

When you're the best of friends ...

When you’re the best of friends …

One of my very favorite times of day is about 15 minutes before my morning alarm goes off, when Dorothy just starts to stir. I reach over the co-sleeper, pull her close, wrap my arms around her and give her a Dottie-sized bear hug. She instantly starts snuggling into me and goes back to sleep while I wish for just a little more time when it’s just the two of us.

I’m back at work full time now — have been for a few weeks. I won’t say it’s been easy. But, it’s going pretty well so far. During the day, Dottie gets to go play with her friends — all of whom are so sweet with her. She’s learning all about sharing — from pacifiers to Ninja Turtles. While I miss Dottie during the day, she’s only about 15 minutes away so I can nurse her on my lunch break (and stock up on smooches to get me through the afternoon).

I am absolutely loving “momming” Dottie Lou. She is so special, and I can’t believe I was chosen to be her mom. Not a day goes by that I don’t look at Mr. B and ask: “Is this real? Is she really ours?” I mean, I seriously expect to wake up one day and have someone tell me it was all a dream — because I’m just that happy.

So I don’t take one second for granted — even the seconds when I’m crying on the phone to Mr. B on my drive home from work because I’m really scared that I can’t do it all … because I feel like I’m not the mom Dottie deserves or the wife Mr. B deserves or the employee my boss deserves or the friend my friends deserve. There are a lot of balls in the air. And when one looks like one is coming close to falling, it’s hard. Some days it really feels like I can’t get anything right. But, I get to come home to Dottie Lou’s smiling face. And I am reminded what “getting it right” really means.

Dottie Lou

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Life’s Little Ripples

If you know me, you know I like to have some control in my life. I like to know what’s coming so I can have a plan A, B, C and D for it. But, if there’s one thing the last four years have taught me, it’s that life doesn’t happen like that — and it sure as heck doesn’t care what plans you have in place.

If there are two things I’ve learned in life, the second would be that life keeps on going — no matter what you’re going through.

Life Goes On

Mr. B and I talk a lot about “our story.” We recognize that so many things that have brought us to where we are today are horrible and sad and difficult. But, we also recognize that without the ripples left by those things, the beauty of who we are as individuals and who we are as a couple wouldn’t exist. We appreciate — and are so blessed — that, through it all, our life together has gone on. To amazing places.

Mr. B and I met in 2011 — after my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. My husband only ever knew the “after.” And, at first, that was hard for me — knowing that Mr. B would never get to know my dad as he was. But, I don’t think I could have gotten through that “after” without my Mr. B by my side. I know that I met him when I did because that’s when I needed him most.

Lots of smooches

Because I met Mr. B when I did — and we got married when we did, just a year after we met — I got to have my dad walk me down the aisle and I got to share a dance with him at my wedding. Before the disease stole that from us.

On my wedding day with dad

Before we got married, Mr. B and I had always talked about waiting for a while to have a baby. But, after we got married, we barely got back from the honeymoon and decided we simply couldn’t wait to have a child together. That following January, we found out I was pregnant with our Penelope Joy.

And because we didn’t wait, my dad got to meet her — and got to love her — before the disease took that from him, too.

dad and penelope joy

And, perhaps the most difficult one to talk about — both the reason I’m writing this post and the reason I’ve been putting off writing this post for so long …

It is not lost on Mr. B and me that we have Sprout for one reason, and one reason alone: Penelope Joy.

Penelope Joy

If Penelope Joy had not been born, we may not have realized the immense capacity for love we had in our lives. If she had not lived, we would not have realized how full our lives could be.

At the same time, if she had not died, we would not have considered having another baby so soon. If Penelope Joy had survived, there is no way we would have gotten pregnant with Sprout. If our Penelope Joy had not become our angel baby, we would not be eagerly awaiting the arrival of our rainbow baby.

Maternity photo

You see, life is like that. You can look back with regret, remorse and sadness — wishing things had been different, wishing you could change things. But to wish away all of the bad things is to wish away the good things, too. Would I give everything I have to hold Penelope Joy just one more time? Yes, absolutely. But, I also can’t deny that a lot of beauty came out of her short little life, either.

To live in the darkness of her death would dishonor the light that was her life, too. She touched the lives of hundreds of people. And the ripples she left continue every day to change my world for the better. And, for a 38-day-old infant, I’d say that is an amazingly full life.

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2014 — Highlights (and Photos) from my Year

I’ve seen a lot of people wishing to wash 2014 away from their memory, and it makes me sad. Was 2014 the best year of my life? Yeah, probably not. I mean, we celebrated Penelope Joy’s birthday — the first of many, many more without her. We also marked her one-year angelversary. Oh, yeah, and my dad died.

But I could never tell you that 2014 was an empty year. Or a year I wish to wash from my memory bank. There is something to be gained every year — and something to be celebrated. And, even if it wasn’t a great year when compared to some of the other years of my life, it deserves its space in my history book. And it deserves to have its tale told.

January

  • After many months, Mr. B finally convinced me that I wasn’t meant to be an apartment gal for the rest of my life
  • I finally found my running legs after Penelope Joy’s birth — and death — surprised by how much emotional recovery I had to do before running felt “right” again

    A Saturday run

    Scenes from my chilly Saturday morning run.

February

  • We purchased our first house

    Our first picture of our first home

    Our first picture of our first home

  • I celebrated my 33rd birthday

March

  • We moved into our house and immediately began turning it into our home
  • I attended some social media training in San Diego for work
Checking out the sights during a break from business.

Checking out the sights during a break from business.

April

photo with Piper

Our first photo with Piper.

May

  • Rosebud and I traveled to Indianapolis to see our friends, The Secret Sisters, perform

    The Secret Sisters, once again, wow The Rosebud Sisters.

    The Secret Sisters, once again, wow The Rosebud Sisters.

  • I ran the Fifth Third River Bank Run 5k for the Alzheimer’s Association of West Michigan

    My traditional post-race selfie.

    My traditional post-race selfie.

  • We found out that Sprout was on her way
  • A downed power line gave us quite the scare
An exciting way to welcome spring at our new home.

An exciting way to welcome spring at our new home.

June

  • We took a long weekend getaway to “The Island” with T and W and our crazy dogs
On our way to The Island.

On our way to The Island.

July

  • We took Piper up north to run (and run and run) around the farm
A stop-light family photo

A stop-light family photo

August

  • Piper passed her Canine Good Citizenship Test
Our Canine Good Citizen — silly as ever!

Our Canine Good Citizen — silly as ever!

September

  • Gary’s Gang raised thousands of dollars for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s

    Gary's Gang at the Walk to End Alzheimer's

    Gary’s Gang at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s

  • We celebrated Penelope Joy’s birthday with cupcakes and hugs on the beach

    Cupcakes for our precious Penelope Joy's 1st birthday.

    Cupcakes for our precious Penelope Joy’s 1st birthday.

  • We celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary by trying out a new restaurant we both agreed wouldn’t make our list of regular dining establishments

October

  • We marked the anniversary of Penelope Joy’s death
  • We found out that our Sprout is a girl and, at the same time, heard the high-risk pregnancy doctor say “your baby is healthy, and we don’t want to see you anymore”

    Sprout's a girl!

    Sprout’s a girl!

  • We said good-bye to my dad
Hugs, smiles and laughter were always a constant with Dad.

Hugs, smiles and laughter were always a constant with Dad.

November

  • We got a very positive report from Sprout’s echocardiogram and learned that her heart looked, as far as the scans could reveal, “perfectly healthy”
  • We joined my mom and lots of loud, wonderful family for Thanksgiving up north
Nothing like family and laughter on Thanksgiving.

Nothing like family and laughter on Thanksgiving.

December

  • We celebrated our first Christmas in our new home

    Christmas at Casa B

    Christmas at Casa B

  • We said good-bye to 2014 and hello to 2015 with “Lilo & Stitch,” a slice of cheesecake and a smooch

By no means is this list exhaustive. In fact, I know of many wonderful things I left off the list. But to include everything that happened in a year? It’s a list that would run long. Too long. Know this, though: the most important thing that happened this year was that we continued to live our love story. And we continued to learn about love and its many, many forms.

2014 was a transformative year for me personally. There was loss and love. Fear and hope. Dark and light. And through it all, I changed. I continue to change. My life continues to transform as I continue to live it and take it all in — the good and the bad. And I look forward to that continued transformation and growth in the new year.

As I thought back on my year and that word, “transformative,” I wondered how other people might describe their year. So, I asked. Friends and family from various social media platforms — and countries all over the world — shared with me the one word they would use to describe their year. It’s really interesting to look at that collection of words and how similar and how different they are from each other. See what I mean?

2014 Word Cloud

It’s fun to look back at 2014 — appreciating that while it may not have been a perfect year, there was good that came with it, too. With the dark, there is light. With the fear, there is hope.

No one knows yet what 2015 will hold. But I do know that it will be a very, very special year, indeed. We’re starting our year off with our continued countdown to Sprout. Due Feb. 3, Baby Girl Baker is already making an impact on our daily lives. And I simply cannot wait to hold her for the first time and touch her sweet toes.

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Grief After Another Goodbye

I feel like most of my posts of late have started the same way:

Hello, readers, it’s been a while. So much has happened since I last wrote.

I’ve seriously started about 17 posts in my head. But by the time I got home, I forgot half of them. The other half? Well … they didn’t feel “right.” So, let me start by saying this:

On Oct. 21 — four days after the anniversary of Penelope Joy’s death — my dad left to join his darling granddaughter. We knew he was going to die. And we knew it was coming soon. But, that doesn’t make it any easier. In some ways, it makes it harder — we’ve been saying goodbye for a long time. In some ways, it makes it easier — because we got to say our goodbyes.

Living the rest of my life without my dad present … well … it makes my heart heavy. He was my roots — along with Mom, of course. But, in a way, he was my wings, too. Always there for an encouraging word: “Be yourself. Ain’t no other way to be.” Always there for a hug – boy did he give good great hugs. He was also pretty good about calling all of us on our crap — and making sure we all laughed while he did it.

Dad

Dad being silly. Also known as “Dad being Dad.”

And I miss him. Every single minute. And I wish he were still here. But not just for me.

Let me tell you: losing a parent when you’re pregnant is pretty awful. Because I’m not only mourning for me or for right now. I’m mourning for all of the “coulda beens” and “shoulda beens.” And, if I were being completely honest, I’d tell you that every time I look at my nieces and nephews I get a little jealous on behalf of my unborn Sprout. And when I see pictures of my siblings with their kids and Dad, part of my heart hurts. Because those kids all got to have a Papa. And they all got to know his twinkling, mischievous eyes — and the way he’d smile just so before saying or doing something he knew would embarrass them. And they all got to be scooped up in his arms and given a big ol’ hug. And they all knew that he loved them to the moon and back.

But Sprout? All she’ll have is stories of a man she’ll never know. And no matter how many times we tell her how much her Papa would have loved her (because I know, without a doubt, that he would have), he’ll remain a ghost.

Sprout will be hearing stories about people who, to her, will only ever exist in the abstract: her strong, loving Papa and her feisty, fighting older sister. To her they’ll be no more than characters. But to me, they’re the biggest losses in my life so far. And the last two people I think about every night before I go to sleep — except on those nights, of course, when Sprout is using my internal organs as a punching bag.

I still grieve for Penelope Joy every day — sometimes in little ways, sometimes in big ones. The grief isn’t like it used to be, of course. Like, every time someone in my life has a baby girl, I feel sad — no matter how happy I am for that person. The fact that I’m pregnant with a little girl of my own only slightly diminishes the sadness. Because I miss my Penelope Joy. And Sprout is not a replacement for her. Penelope Joy will always be my oldest daughter. But the sadness doesn’t always bring tears.

And I imagine I will mourn the loss of Dad every day, in little ways and in big ways. And every time I see pictures of grandpas and their grandbabies, there will be sadness. And it’s OK. Because grief is OK. Some other things about grief? Well:

  • There isn’t just one kind of grief. There are different kinds of grief for different types of loss. And the grief I feel about Penelope Joy’s death is very different than the grief I feel about Dad’s.
  • No matter what they say, no one knows your grief. Because grief feels different to every person — and it shows itself differently, too. They may have experienced a similar loss. But they cannot know your grief. (That doesn’t, however, mean that they can’t empathize or offer comfort.)
  • There isn’t really a wrong way to grieve — just as there’s not a right way. Some people don’t grieve with tears or any kind of outward expression. Some people go through boxes upon boxes of tissues. Some people keep busy and keep moving. Others can barely hold themselves together. It is no one’s place to judge another person’s grief.
  • Grief is not a “feeling” that ever goes away, like pain or fear or, even, sadness. It is always, always there — maybe not always noticeable, but always there. Sometimes it’s a quiet fall drizzle, just dampening the leaves enough to know it’s been there; sometimes it’s a raging thunderstorm with rains so fierce they threaten to wash away everything you hold dear.
  • Grief doesn’t take the place of other feelings and emotions. It can live as nicely beside happiness and joy as it can anger and sadness.

That’s where I am now. Taking the grief alongside the happiness. Because my life? It is full of wonderful things. Like this growing Sprout — who keeps getting happy, healthy reports from doctors. Like my family — who all have done what we do best: love. Like our crazy dog — who brings laughter into our life daily. And, of course, like my Mr. B — who loves me (even more than he should sometimes) and is never afraid to show it.

Quote about grief

 

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On Finding Peace with Death

I’ve been quiet. Really quiet. For several reasons.

Work has been busy. Really busy. Good busy. Exciting, new, challenging busy. But busy nonetheless.

More than that, though, there are a couple of things on my mind that are quieting my muse.

Pregnancy. It’s different this time. I spent much of the first trimester nauseated. And I’m still feeling exhausted. Yet, many nights, unable to sleep. There are, understandably, a lot of mixed emotions and feelings with this pregnancy. Mostly, joy and excitement. But Mr. B and I both look to each other for constance reassurance and support as we continue to work through nerves and uncertainty as the pregnancy continues. (So far, all looks good, though, and every ultrasound so far has brought positive news.)

But, mostly, it’s my dad. You see, my dad? He’s dying. And it’s not in the all-of-us-are-dying sort of way.

I mean, he probably won’t die tomorrow. But, he won’t ever get to meet Sprout. And Sprout won’t ever get to meet him.

The nurse thinks that, before long, Hospice will be called in. And then? It’s a matter of time.

So, this post, it’s not one of my more uplifting, optimistic posts about life and love. I mean, it is — in a way. But, it’s about death. And I am crying my way through writing it.

Death

Penelope’s death changed me in many ways. Not the least of which is in how I view death. Some people may think I’ve become colder, more indifferent when death comes knocking.

Rather, it is quite the opposite.

When Penelope Joy died, something inside me shifted. Her death was … devastating … in a way that only losing your child can be devastating. It forever changed me. It changed my life as I knew it. And it changed Life as I knew it.

It also changed Death.

Deaths of people I loved have, in the past, made me angry at the world for stealing yet another person from me whom I loved. Dearly.

When Penelope Joy died, though, I learned something critical. Critical to my survival. And critical to my world view. Death is part of life. It is a beautiful part of life. Yes, it can be tragic. It can pull the ground right out from under your feet, leaving you trying to regain your footing for weeks, months, years. Forever.

But, as Mr. B and I held Penelope Joy in our arms as she took her last breaths, I have never felt more at peace, or more reassured, than I did right then. Her death released her from a suffering she could only know in this world. And, in a way, it released us as well. Watching your daughter struggle day in and day out is heart-breaking. It is exhausting. And it can destroy you. Knowing that we were able to send her out of this world in peace saved us.

Would we have done anything in our power to save her life? Yes. Absolutely. We’d have gone to the ends of the earth and spared no expense. But when it became clear over and over again that all we were doing was extending her suffering for our benefit, letting her go was the only choice we could make. It was then that we learned a valuable lesson. It was then that we truly, truly understood the sacrifice of parenthood.

It was then that we understood Death.

And I think that’s why the looming death of my dad has not destroyed me. Am I sad? Terribly. Do I cry? Often. Do I wish I could spend every waking moment by his bedside — soaking up as many glances into his sparkling blue eyes as possible? 100 percent yes.

But, in a way, Alzheimer’s disease took my dad from us a long time ago. When he was diagnosed, he lost his will to fight. He gave in to the disease, and it quickly obliged — taking from him every piece of the man who was my dad.

We are left, after a 30-some-day free-fall into the abyss of Alzheimer’s disease, with a dying man, unable to form a real sentence, unable to get out of bed, unable to recognize most of us. He is not the man who raised me. He is not the man who, just 10 months ago, glowed with excitement at meeting my precious Penelope Joy. He is barely even a shadow of that man.

Grammy and Papa with Penelope Joy

Dad couldn’t stop grinning any time he was near Penelope Joy.

IMG_20131001_162908_403

This will forever be one of my favorite memories of my dad and Penelope Joy. And I will carry it with my in my heart. Always and forever.

Dad’s death, whether it happens before I hit “Post” or in a few weeks or in a couple of months, will set him free. While he was still able to form thoughts and sentences, we all knew he hated what the disease was doing to him. We all knew he didn’t want to live like this.

So, when Alzheimer’s disease does to him what it does to every single person* who has the disease, my dad will finally be at peace. Like Penelope Joy, he won’t suffer anymore. And he won’t be living a life we all know makes him miserable.

And there is comfort in that. And there is peace.


*I want to take this opportunity to provide just a little education about Alzheimer’s disease. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. There are approximately 500,000 people dying each year because they have Alzheimer’s. And every person — every single one of them — who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease will die with it. There is no cure. There is no treatment. There are a lot more eye-opening statistics where these came from. Please take some time to learn a little more from the Alzheimer’s Association

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Being Grateful for the Ordinary

As you know, religion isn’t really my thing — at least not in the societal definition of it. But we’ve found a church — a community, really — where we feel as at home with our doubts and questions just as we do with our hope and our love. Still, though, Mr. B and I aren’t overtly religious people. And, we are most definitely new to this whole “practicing our faith” thing.

Since moving into our home, we’ve been making an effort to sit down to real dinners every night. Putting aside our phones, turning off the TV and just enjoying each other’s company (and the company of our wandering cats and our hopeful, under-the-table pup). Something wasn’t feeling quite right, though. Something was missing.

One day, I randomly asked Mr. B if we could pray before dinner. He wasn’t judgy or skeptical or turned off at all. In fact, he willingly said the prayer. For that, I was thankful. You see, I grew up in a Christian home — with a mother who was the epitome of a Christian woman, always opening her home and her arms, to those who needed something … anything. But we didn’t say prayers before dinner except at special occasions or holidays. And I didn’t say a bedtime prayer — at least not that I can remember. So I was — and still am, to some extent — uncomfortable with prayer. I mean, when you can’t see who you’re talking to, it’s weird — and, yes, I’m still confused/amazed/awed by “the telephone.”

Mr. B’s first prayer in our home was an awkward and simple prayer — as are ALL of our before-dinner prayers. But, it was beautiful. And it was exactly what our dinner table was missing. Every night, before we eat, we hold hands and say a prayer of thanksgiving. When we see special needs — in our friends and family facing a difficult time — we add those in, too. But, mostly, we say thanks.

We thank God for each other. And for our (most-of-the-time) delicious food, our new home and our silly pets. We thank God for family and friends, sunshine and stars, talents and dreams. Mostly, we thank God for loving us through another day and for being there for us through all the bad things life has thrown at us. And for giving us such beauty and love and hope. Sometimes, we even tell God to “have a nice day” — because, like I said, prayers are awkward and we never quite know how to end them. (Besides, as Mr. B says “God probably has people asking him for things all day long and no one takes the time to tell him to have a nice day.”)

It’s been an amazing experience in practicing gratitude. And it’s carried through in so many other areas of my life. Some of the things we thank God for are silly, simple things. Things that, on most days prior to our new dinnertime tradition, we would have overlooked and ignored. Because they weren’t special enough to notice. But they still are blessings that deserve recognition.

Blessings like:

  • wrinkles around our eyes — because it means we had something to smile about
  • our leaky basement — because it means we have a home
  • weeds in our garden — because it means we can have flowers
  • sadness — because if we can feel that, we can also feel happiness
  • our morning commutes — because it means we have jobs
  • grocery shopping — because it means we’ll have food on our table
  • muddy floors and dirty dishes — because they mean we have life in our home
  • missing Penelope Joy — because it means we had an amazing daughter who we had the pleasure to parent

You see, being grateful for your blessings shouldn’t be about only saying thanks when something takes your breath away. It should be about being thankful for every breath you take.

Even if you’re not religious, I believe that taking a few minutes each day to take note of the gifts you’ve been given — and the ones you’ve worked damn hard to earn — is important. My challenge to you: sit down tonight and write down five simple things that bless your life. Things you maybe haven’t taken time to appreciate before. Things that, on an ordinary day, are … well … ordinary. Because when you take time to give thanks for the small things, you realize you have a lot to be thankful for.

Sunset in Paradise

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Paw Prints on our Hearts — and our Hardwood Floors

Mr. B and I have, obviously, had a very tumultuous year. Nothing pulls the rug out from under you like losing your child. And since then, also obviously, our hearts have been slowly healing — bit by bit. But there has always been a dark cloud hanging over any of our happiness. Because there was always something missing. There will always be something missing.

A couple weeks ago, we visited an animal rescue shelter. Knowing we had a lot of love to share — and so eager to give a home to a dog who needed one. We visited with a couple of dogs — neither really seemed “right.” But as soon as the staff member brought “Speckles” out to meet us, we started falling in love. We spent a little bit of time with her at the shelter. And as we were driving home, we both said we wanted to adopt her. That night we filled out the online application and anxiously waited to hear from them that our application had been accepted.

While we hadn’t yet heard from them by Friday evening, we already were making plans to visit “Speckles” again on Saturday. Even just for a few minutes. Even though we didn’t know for sure if we would get to be her family. We just wanted to see her again. Spending time with her made us happy — it made things feel … lighter.

 When we walked in Saturday and they said “Oh! You’re here to take Speckles home!” we were, admittedly, surprised — and a little unprepared. But we were ecstatic. First step, though, was to change her name: Piper Mae.

photo with Piper

Our first photo with Piper, courtesy Pound Buddies.

Like all changes, it has taken some adjustments — for Piper and for Mr. B and me. But, I can tell already that the gray cloud of grief is starting to lift. Piper is slowly starting to help us heal from the loss of Penelope Joy — and her smiley face and wagging tail (boy does it wag!) brings us such joy when we walk in the door after work. No longer are we falling in love with her — we love her. Even Moe Cat and Annie Cat are starting to come around!

Cats and dog

Every day they get a little closer to each other.

Piper is helping to make our new house a home — we thought we were going to give a dog a home, but she turned out to give us a home. We are so honored to be her family and so looking forward to getting to know her even better.

In a couple of weeks, we’re going to start obedience training with her — we’ve actually already had one private session to get some tips and tricks for leash training. I am so looking forward to enjoying a happy, playful spring/summer outdoors, taking walks and playing in the backyard!

collage of Piper pics

Just a few snapshots from our first couple of weeks with Piper.

And, yes, if you follow me on Instagram, you probably should be prepared to be inundated with photos of Piper.

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