Archive for February, 2010

cards for cancer patients

sometimes I just retreat into my own little world. But that tunnel that lead into my tiny selfish little world, is no through road. Always gotta get back out, either butt first or head first. Either way it is never very pretty, sorry.

This past week someone on our homeschool group posted that she was going to head a card collection for cancer patients at the local Children’s Hospital. Handmade cards will be delivered to cancer patients all over the world on April 10, 2010. More info here. I signed us up (though I did ask if the girls will be interested in joining me). I am not sure how many we will make, or even how to go about it, but we have a ton of art supplies. And I know I will be thinking of many sweet, lost babies as I draw and write. Sometimes it feels I will never do enough, or that I do nothing. This is a small bit of effort.


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Two days ago Val told me, soon after waking up, that she cried the night before, because she thought of Ferdinand, missed him, and felt sad.

She talked as if we lived with him for years, went to many places together. As if we once hugged and linked arms and huddled together on the couch to watch a scary movie.

I sighed. We hugged, and I told her that I missed him too, extremely much.

And she continued to be sad. And cried several times again, after.

Today she went to a birthday party of a friend. It was at a kids’ hair salon, where they get their hair braided, applied make-up on themselves (though they all kept the make-up to their faces only), dressed up, and towards the end, got to walk down the “runway” while the party hostess read from a questionnaire that they had filled out prior. They were to tell everyone if they had a nickname, and the movie that they were going to be in- who will be in the movie, where will the movie be set, and what will the movie be about? And finally, what their favorite movie was.

Many of the girls’ favorite movie was “Hannah Montana”. And at the end of the runway they got into a striking post to get their photo taken.

Val was the fifth to come down the runway. I knew she had so much fun, her face was made up in such a lovely manner, and she had her braids tied with a blue ribbon (she was wearing a red dress, and I knew she chose blue because blue is my favorite color). She struck a most lavishly dramatic pose in the end, reminiscent of that famous one John Tra.volta did in “Grease”, one arm raised high.

— and her movie will star both she and her mom. The setting will be in a hospital, and the movie will be about her brother.

Do I have to tell you her answers were the oddest amongst all?

What brother? There I was sitting on the couch, holding Lyra, and Sophia next to me. Other moms looked to me and smiled politely.

(Everyone else wanted the movie to be about them, or shopping, or the beach…)

After the runway business they went back to the party room to get out of all the boas and sparkly eye-glasses and have cake. Then we left and went home.

At home, she asked if I heard what the hostess read? I nodded, and waited.

She looked at me and said, “You know why, right? I am still missing Ferdinand.”

I pulled her into my arms and we hugged for a long time while tears came freely. Then she told me earlier in the day, during the break of her choir rehearsal, she also cried because she was missing Ferdinand terribly. Her choir teacher saw her and so she explained why, and the teacher told her where to get the tissues.

I felt terrible. I was horribly sorry for her sadness. I almost said, “This is going to be for life.” And that is what kills me.

I felt apologetic, I wanted to say sorry to her, for having to cause this taint in her childhood memory, for her to have to miss her brother, whom she did not get to spend time with, whom she barely knew. I wanted to apologize a million times to her, because she cannot bail out of this.

But, apologetic is too small a word here. I felt I had done her grave wrong, even though I did not have a hand in the execution of what befell us. I felt sad, and weak. I did not think I will have the strength to do this over and over again, to have to hold that memory once again, to feel sorry that my daughters have to shoulder the burden of loss with me. The road ahead seems so long, and I do not wish to plod on.

Today I am weak, maybe tomorrow will be better.

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“When it snows up here, it is like a wonderland,” our neighbor told us.

And so, our first winter at our cabin, we waited for snow.

And waited. And waited. And waited.

The new year came and went.

Three weeks passed by.

And then, finally– snow.

The creek too, was piled with snow. Everything was white, and silent.

The girls of course were whooping with delight. Never mind that we had to shovel our way into the cabin. We discovered the slope in our yard was perfect for sledding.

The girls made snow-men, and we even made some snow-ice-cream! No less fun was going down the snow-laden slide:

We really had wonderful memories there. We loved our cabin, very much.

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tripping down memory lane

I’m going through old photos to find some to add to our cabin listing. I realize I have a ton of photos to sort through, organize and make coherent stories of. This is one of my projects this year. Seeing all these pictures of course brings back so many memories and continual surges of disbelief. I smile, chuckle, sigh and feel a little helpless as the tides of life just carry me along. I did swear a little too. I decided to dump some stuff here for personal therapy. Simply to acknowledge what was there, to pay tribute to what we had. You will be seeing and hearing a lot about the cabin, be warned.


I loved the variety there. The plants, the bugs, the animals. I could not name everything and it was at once amazing, humbling and frustrating. One day I took pictures of the different tree barks. The textures were intriguing, as if secrets were enfolded within. They remind me of wrinkled faces– weathered, but not worn down.


A few months after we bought the cabin we went off to Germany to stay with my in-laws for 6 weeks. When we returned, it was fall and glorious colors were everywhere in the mountains. We had trees full of apples.

Other than the Golden Delicious, we never did identify the other varieties, but they were all incredibly scrumptious. This was just part of our harvest:

It was really great, sampling the different apples, noticing the nuances in taste and color. Our taste-buds were titillated, and we realized what bland versions of apples we had fed ourselves in the past. I made batches of applesauce and some pies too. I remember inviting a couple of friends over to make applesauce and telling them, while cutting up the apples, that seeing my sister-in-law’s 10-month-old baby had aroused baby lust in me, and one of them felt that of course I wouldn’t want another baby- what extra trouble!  But I was already pregnant then, I just did not know it. I did not know what I was heading into.

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further defiance

Call it funny but after that “first poem” I had inspiration for a second. I wrote this second one pretty fast, a day after we took a hike. During the hike as we took a break to take in the views I could feel the aches in my old bones, and felt very alive indeed. Yet, though I had all parts of me with me, I knew I was no longer me. I submitted the poem to Angie, and she told me it would be published February 20, but I forgot, until just now. I am so glad that Angie started Still Life 365 and maintains it, with lots of opportunities for community participation. She truly is amazing, and I have been blown away by these expressions of grief, all different but ultimately beautiful because all are heartfelt.

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packing up

On Saturday we drove up to the cabin together. This time it was all about work. We had a list: unpack sun-room, unpack closets in bedroom, meet with painter to look at bedroom, find guy to clean up yard.

And we did all but the last, as the weather was, in R’s words, “just shit outside.” When we arrived there were remnant snow on the ground and the girls got SO excited. The following morning when we got up it was snowing. And raining at the same time.

It’s horrible when the weather cannot decide what it wants to do. Still, the girls managed to play outside and even made miniature snowmen. And for me, I could focus on doing stuff inside, without feeling cheated that I did not get to spend some time outside taking in the fresh air and the sights.

The packing up went pretty smoothly. Even with memories prying its way into my brain all the time. But time was limited and though there was the urge for a big cry,  I did not stop but instead corked up all the tears. For another time, perhaps. I could not help remembering how I had cleaned every inch of the cabin when we first bought it. How we discovered the little gems of verdant beauty around us. How the girls found wild blackberries. How we used to go to movie nights at the firehouse. And also the pancake breakfasts. How we could not bear to go home after a weekend at the cabin. All those fun times we had with friends up there. The dark, black skies that exploded with stars at night. The howls. The elks’ bugles. The pesky squirrels. The very entertaining acorn woodpeckers. The bossy stellar jays. The  amazing hummingbirds.

I recalled how R carefully cleaned the cabin when I felt the contractions. And how we hid away at our cabin after Ferdinand died. And how each visit to the cabin became increasingly difficult.

And now, we are cleaning things out. There is a certain gladness, now that the decision is made. And there is also boundless sadness, for what had transpired. I imagined another family like ours would buy the cabin, with children who beg to be outside searching for bugs of all sorts, clamoring to be dipping their toes in the cold waters of the creek. And I hope their days will be overflowing with nothing with happiness. May they never experience the shock and sorrow we did, muddling up happy memories of the cabin.

I realized we’ll never out-travel grief, as MacCracken had said. I realized we can never pack up that pain and ship it off to a faraway land. Because no matter what, that grief, sadness and pain is forever tied to love, and you cannot sever ties with love.

This picture I took of Lyra, who finally agreed to settle down for a (brief) nap, and we set her by the warm fire, where her sisters’ wet mittens were set to dry. She needs to graduate out of her infant car-seat already. Time flies. But some things never change.

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where the wind howls

After our babies and children die, so many things change- our bodies, our minds, how we view the world, our address book, our vocabulary, how we communicate. We all deal differently, and perhaps also similar in some sense. There is this soreness and tenderness that we understand, yet we speak in different voices- which is what makes this community beautiful.

I suspect sometimes I read, to find one who is most like me, or the “me” that is going to be. For a time the label of “the woman who had a stillbirth” or “the woman whose baby died” seems to be branded, impossible to shake off. After a time I feel I ought to transcend that, be that, accept that, and then become something bigger, something more.

But what?

I am a wife, a mother, a woman, yet I don’t feel I am all of those, and none of those define me or truly speak to me.

I guess I am lost.

And I start to read into everything, latch on to other people’s words and experiences, and try to find myself somewhere, or at least get an idea of the potentialities.

Recently we got a book from the library called Gates of the Wind, by one of our favorite authors Kathryn Lasky. It tells of this old woman called Gamma Lee, who lived all her life in this beautiful place  where it was never too hot in the summer and never too cold in the winter, and where a river flows through the village. Everyone in the village exclaimed that it was the “best place in the world!”  But Gamma Lee packed up her stuff, and with her faithful mule, Louise, decided to find the source of the river, high up in the windy mountains, called the Gates of the Wind.

It was no easy journey but she arrived. Except it was not the end of the journey. Yet. The wind was fierce and unfriendly and did not wish her company. Gamma Lee was thrown about, knocked flat,   and the house she built was blown into splinters, overnight.

It was hard, the wind on her, but Gamma Lee observed how the grasses and reeds bent gracefully in the wind and she built a new hut from supple reeds, the roof a bed of sweet green grass. Instead of blowing the hut over, the wind became a song as it blew through the reed walls.

Gamma Lee found a way to plant a garden while the wind plotted to unearth her efforts.  Again, she looked to nature and found a way to keep her plants and flowers. Finally, they made peace, Gamma Lee and the wind.

Gamma Lee would never call the Gates of the Wind the best place of the world, but neither would she call it the worst. She, her faithful mule Louise, and the wind simply passed the days together. Days that stretched into months, and then years. She has a swing from which she sail right out through the Gates to fling herself right onto the wind’s chest. It was said that  “she grew reedy and ruddy and supple, and her hair blew loose like the veils of mist at the river’s source. As time went by, Gamma Lee became as much a part of the wind as the current was part of the river.”

We all loved the story. We talked about the sense of adventure, being complacent, and determination; how to overcome difficulties and what it was like to be challenged by the strong wind and how Gamma Lee could swing right into the wind’s chest. All the while in my head, I thought of my journey after Ferdinand. I was always a little afraid of becoming stagnant. But the divergence in my path galvanized by Ferdinand’s death was not what I expected, or wanted, either. I felt, by no choice of my own, I had to head for this place, not unlike the Gates of the Wind, where I had to learn to be supple, and yield. To find the strength within me, and it was not by being tough and meeting everything head-on. It was about leaning into the pain, and making friends with the dark. The part of Gamma Lee becoming part of the wind, though, I took to mean Ferdinand, myself, and all mortal beings. One day we are all dust, no matter what, and we’ll be a part of the wind- the dirt, ash and finely ground bones blowing about.

The story ended with a little girl asking her great-grandmother, years later, if Gamma Lee was indeed true, if the Gates of the Wind existed. And the old woman, who lived next door to Gamma Lee, replied that most certainly she was real, and “crazy, too.” She wondered why would someone in sound mind leave the best place in the world to go live with the fearsome wind. But the little girl asked, “Why not?” and she determined to follow the river, as Gamma Lee did, to find the Gates of the Wind, and Gamma Lee. And when she did find the place and the woman who had become the wind, she would keep on going, to see what lay beyond.

I liked how the story ended. There is a beyond we all can look to. It’s got to be there, somewhere. maybe we will meet again, there.

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