Monday, May 31, 2010

Dig Deep

Almost every time I crawl on that bike it happens. I spend the first few minutes adjusting my headphones, picking out my play list, getting comfy in the seat, then warming up my legs for the long ride on a bike that goes nowhere. Round and round my legs go, on the easy setting to get things started. After two, maybe three songs, it’s time to get serious. I lean forward and pump up the resistance. With every beep I feel the pedals resisting my feet just a little bit more.

Then comes the hard part. Pushing on when it’s not easy. Letting my thigh muscles strain against the tension. Forcing each pedal down in an even rhythm, on the left side, then the right, then back to the left. Most days I have to coach myself through it. I give myself the pep talk and visualize the good that will come from these uncomfortable moments. And then I dig deep.

I first learned to dig deep on a cold day in January, when a ten and a half pound baby was trying to make her way out of my body. We had taken the childbirth classes and been a bit deceived by the message, ‘if you just breathe correctly, you’ll do fine in labor!’

I did the breathing just as we’d practiced and it hurt like heck anyway. We ran through all the tricks, trying to find something that gave me any hope that I’d actually survive this ordeal. I changed positions, I panted, I prayed and I never could seem to find relief. For the first time in my life I had to dig deep. Very deep.

I closed my eyes and went to a place deep inside. I imagined the numbers we were chanting to get us through contractions, each in psychedelic colors, rushing toward me as I chanted them along with Jeff, much like the scene from Sesame Street when the Count is doing his thing. It was just enough of a distraction that I could survive that one contraction.

After a quick breath, another one would come and we’d start over. Closed eyes, going somewhere else, concentrating on only that moment in time until I could come up for air once again.

And despite my beliefs otherwise, she finally did arrive. We had our first baby, I’d survived giving birth to her, and even better, I’d learned a new life skill.
Unbelievably the same scene played out three more times, which explains the four tall kids who roam my house and spill juice on my couch. Soon I learned to use my labor skills for other hard things that life threw my way.

Six months after my leg surgery, when I was finally fitted with a great bionic limb, I made a bee line to the local gym. I was determined to get my strength back and see what this new limb could do. Every day I mounted a stationary bike, plugged in my headphones, and pedaled for almost an hour.

At first it was hard. Years of disability had left me with weak muscles. But soon I saw that every day I dug deep, and pushed myself on that machine, made me one tiny bit stronger. The pay off was worth it.

Now I am just a regular person on the bikes. Trying to get in better shape before my son makes me honor the promise I made to ride the bike in a triathlon he wants us to do this summer. Even though it’s easier now, with this leg I’ve had for over six years, there are days I just don’t feel like doing it. And those are the days I have to dig deep again.

The pep talks I give myself have similar themes these days. Mostly I think about my sister-in-law. She’s the woman my husband’s brother was smart enough to marry. She’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet. She lights up a room with her positive energy and thousand watt smile. And she inspires me in big ways when it comes to being fit.

Some people come to running easily. I have a son and a couple of brothers in law who fall into that category. But Terry fights for every ounce of her fitness level. Tooth and nail scrapes ahead, day by day, determined to reach the amazing goals she’s set for herself.

Because of a health condition, she has a limited diet I would not survive on for two days. She also battles asthma and has her fair share of wheezing and panting spells. She has every excuse in the world to sit on the couch and whine about what life has dealt. But she has no time for couches. She’s too busy hiking the mountain trails near her house and running long stretches of road to train for races.

Races like the Boston Marathon, which she completed last month. This is a person who knows what it means to dig deep.

So as I plug away on my simple exercise bike, trying to come up with any reason why I need to end my work out early or skip it entirely, I think of Terry and know I don’t have a choice.

If Terry can burrow into that amazing inner core she has, and pull off a marathon, I can pedal for a few extra minutes on a bike in an air conditioned gym. I don’t struggle to breathe. I have lungs that will easily take me where I need to go.

All I have to do is count my blessings, dig deep, and start pedaling.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New Definitions

We were riding bikes through Central Park over spring break and right next to the Reservoir we passed a group of interesting trees. Their trunks were twisted and mangled. I am not a plant person so I have no idea what kind of trees they were, just that they were very interesting to look at.

Jeff and I stopped to take a few pictures and ponder the unique shape of these fascinating trees.

"Their trunks are very gnarly," Jeff commented.

I shook my head in reply then noticed that nine year old Sam looked confused.

"Do you know what gnarly means?" Jeff asked our youngest son.

"Um, means, like sick, right?"

Through the eyes of a little boy who's grown up skateboarding, rip sticking and skiing with his older brothers. Yes, my boy, in your world, gnarly and sick mean the same thing.

But if you asked a ninety year old in a nursing home who suffers from arthritis, I am sure she would also say gnarly and sick mean the same thing.

The same definition but an entirely different meaning.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wishful Thinking

It didn’t start out as a day of relaxation or revelation. Sure, it was Mother’s Day, but a more pressing concern was the appraiser who would be showing up on our doorstep first thing Monday morning. The house needed to look its very best, which translated into a holiday packed full of work.

After a yummy breakfast in bed, made by my finally capable children, we crawled out of the cocoon of covers and rallied up the forces. Floors needed to be swept and vacuumed, laundry was piled high, clutter had to find its rightful home. The jobs seemed to never end. By mid day we needed some kind of goal, some encouragement to keep the day from becoming a day of complete work and no fun. We had to do something to mark the one day a year that everyone thinks about where they came from and who they call ‘mama’.

A pay per view movie did the trick. One of the kids mentioned Avatar had recently been released. I had always wanted to see the movie with the tall blue people. It seemed to be the perfect answer. Some pizza that I didn’t have to make and a movie appropriate for the many ages that would be gathering on the sofa. We finished the day full of chores knowing there was good on the horizon.

I popped the popcorn. Sam gathered the blankets. Everyone claimed their seats. In our sparkling clean house, with piles of clean laundry in every dresser drawer (which in itself was a wonderful gift to me, once Monday morning rolled around) , we turned off all the lights in the house and hunkered down for a show. And boy was it a show. I finally know what all the hype was about.

Even in our living room, with sound coming out of TV speakers, not surround sound in a theater, the movie was a joy to look at. The scripted story didn’t speak to me nearly as strongly as the visual story. It was just a beautiful movie to watch. It was creative and colorful and full of new images. I am awed by huge imagination and I was awed by scene after scene in this film. But one in particular almost moved me to tears.

It wasn’t the one you might expect either. Yes, the scene where the tree blows up is startling. Yes, the visual image of so many people, in such a tight cultural quilt, bonding together under a sparkling tree, trying to save a life, was breath taking. But the scene I was most moved by might have slipped right by you.

The main character, a young man who’s lost the use of his legs, is given an opportunity to revisit the world of the able bodied. He climbs into a machine and within minutes is transferred into the body of an avatar. An avatar who is in excellent physical condition. It takes him a while to acclimate to his new body. He struggles to sit up but eventually escapes out the back door of the lab, to try out his new abilities.

And this is where it got emotional for me. His first steps were tentative but soon he was skipping, then jogging, then full on sprinting across a field. I could practically feel his excitement.

I’ve never known what it feels like to run. I lost the ability about the same time I began having memories in life. I spent my entire childhood trying to hide the fact my left foot lacked the range of motion needed to create a running gait. I have watched runners, on TV and in my own family, with awe and respect. It looks so amazing, so fluid, when practiced by the well trained. I can be mesmerized by their motion but I can never truly comprehend how it feels.

So the idea that a person who had been confined to a wheelchair, desperately missing the use of his lower limbs, could get the chance to stand up and walk again, even run again, was almost overwhelming to me.

In our dark living room, caught up in the images on the big TV screen, I could almost imagine what it might feel like to have two good feet. To take tiny steps, trying them out, seeing what they can do, and end up in a full running gait, each foot hitting the ground solid and strong. The sound effects in the movie were amazing. The thump of his feet, his breath heavy with exertion. It seemed so very real to me.

To be given the chance to start over. Not just the way I did, replacing a worn out foot of flesh and bone with a metal one made of titanium steel. But to be instantly morphed into a wholly capable body and have the chance to try it out, to run and jump and push the limits of physical capability. Seeing it play out on the screen was very moving, almost magical to me. It could definitely be described as a gift.

So my Mother’s Day turned out just fine after all. I got to curl up on the couch with a bunch of my favorite people on the planet and watch a most remarkable movie. I got to escape into another world and expand my imagination. When the lights came up and it was time to go to bed, heading into a brand new week, it felt like we’d had a very special day.

Who knew that chores and a Hollywood film could mix so well?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sweet Spots

I was driving to my son’s track meet when a familiar song came on the radio. It was a John Mayer tune that immediately took me back to another time in our life. As I drove up I-87 I let myself day dream a bit, remembering those days gone by.

We were living in Northern Utah, by the mountains, and taking a trip to Southern Utah, the desert, to see the famous red rock arches. I had a new leg and was ready to try it out in a real hike. Life was pretty sweet. The surgery had gone well and I was getting stronger every day. The kids were in good places in their lives, three were thriving in elementary school, and one was still at home with me, keeping me busy and making me smile on a regular basis. Jeff was enjoying his new job in this new state. We had a great neighborhood and were quickly making great friends on our quiet little street.

I had just discovered the music of John Mayer. It was hip and fun and, just the fact I was enjoying a mainstream artist, and not my usual back up of hits from the eighties, made me feel young and in tune. It would be a few years before we discovered itunes so I had purchased the CD the old fashioned way, in a music store. The songs appealed to me so much that we listened to the whole CD many times over, permanently searing in my brain the associations with those songs and red rock desert landscapes.

It was not just the scenery that I was brought back to, when I heard the familiar chorus in the car last week. I began to ponder the life place, the season we were in back then, and how much had changed in so few years.

Driving those long dusty roads in Utah, peeking at our four offspring settled in the back of the van, I had no idea what the next handful of years would bring. I could not know that we would not live in Utah until the kids graduated, like we assumed at the time. I could not know I would someday call myself a New Yorker.

I could not know what was on the horizon for our almost teen children. I knew enough to be a bit nervous about the coming adolescent years, but really had no idea what to expect. I couldn’t imagine how teen angst would manifest itself so differently in each of our children, according to their personalities and family birth order.

We survived. And pretty much thrived. But not without some rough patches. The funny thing is, I wonder if I fully comprehended the sweet spot we were in back on that trip to Southern Utah. Did I acknowledge to myself the way our family was in a comfortable place for a spell? No big issues, no big worries yet. Or was I stewing about some minor hiccup, like household budgets or difficult school projects? Did I relax and enjoy that time? I think I did, but I wish, just for a moment, I could realistically go back and revisit that scene.

Because now I am at a new crossroads. About to send one child off to college this year and her brother next year. Our family is rapidly changing again. I don’t want it to fly by without recognizing the good parts . I don’t want to look back and realize I was so caught up in tiny details that I forgot to see the big picture.

No one has life threatening illnesses. The grandparents and step grandparents are healthy and doing well. We are cultivating wonderful friendships, each in our own daily circle of friends. We are all finally beginning to feel like New York is our home.

And yet I find myself worrying about things I cannot control. I wonder what our life, what our children’s lives, will look like just five short years from today. Will my daughter find her passion and be able to make a living at it? Will she find a man to make her as happy as her dad has made me? Will her brother realize his dreams, which are so specific, or will he be forced to take a new path? They are big questions, almost big enough to justify worrying about.

But I have learned a few things in parenting this house full of kids. As much as life today feels like a mess of emotional, physical and mental details, it all works out, whether you stress about it or not. And it’s actually much more fun to sit back and let some of it play out on its own. More good memories can be made when I relax and focus on the good parts.

A good friend of mine became a grandmother for the first time last week. Her children are just about five years ahead of mine. It makes a handy telescope, watching her navigate this new season of their lives, beyond the end of high school worries and onto new kinds of adventures. I saw her this morning and could not ignore how her face lit up as she described her first grandson to me. “A miracle of life.”

The idea of grandchildren seems so far off but I cannot forget the life lessons I learned from John Mayer this week. This season will soon pass, whether I’m paying attention or not. It’s time to take a few deep breaths and take it all in.

Every stage can have a sweet spot, if I’m only alert enough to notice it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Finding Joy

It was almost time to go home. After spending just over a day in the hospital with my teenage daughter we were ready to be set free. Papers had been signed, her dad was on his way. The room was still and quiet. In a last batch of medical procedures my girl had been wiped out. An aggressive nurse made an uncomfortable test downright excruciating. For a half an hour she’d been subjected to one painful experience after another. Finally, finally, it was over and she was exhausted. Continuous pain, paired with a previous sleepless night, and my girl was spent.

I encouraged her to lay back on the bed, close her eyes, and go somewhere else, maybe a hammock on a beach or a lounge chair by a pool. Anywhere but here. I dug her ipod out of the overnight bag and got her propped up on soft pillows. I turned off the lights and the TV and I shut the door.

Soon we were relaxed in our solitary cocoon. The chaos of the hospital hallways seemed far away as my girl drifted off into a much needed, peaceful sleep. I tucked my head into a book, reading by the slits of light coming through the window blinds, grateful for the solitude.

Suddenly the door burst open. I had forgotten it was dinner time. We were headed home and I could have cancelled my daughter’s meal but the idea hadn’t occurred to me. Our refuge was disturbed as a round woman with short curly hair burst into the room, carrying a Styrofoam tray and talking to herself.

“This isn’t right. I know this isn’t right. What is it supposed to be? I don’t know, but this isn’t right.”

Her simple ways, the way she walked, held the food tray, gestured with her hands, made me wonder if she were mentally handicapped. She instantly reminded me of my mentally handicapped sister. Internally I scolded myself for being quick to judge, wondering if it were even possible for a mentally challenged person to be in charge of handing out food, especially in these days of escalating food allergies.

As she came around our privacy curtain she noticed my daughter’s slumber. “Oh, she’s sleepin’. I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t wake her.” Her apology was sweet but said in a voice just a bit too loud for my comfort.

“It’s okay,” I replied, hoping now that the tray was on our table we could go back to quiet.

“Well, this tray isn’t right. I know it’s not right. I’m gonna figure it out.” She spoke to herself more than me, as she scanned the slip of paper that was tucked under what seemed to be a bowl of clear beef broth.

Before I could protest, she was out the door again. But not for long. Within two minutes she was back, this time carrying a larger tray, dripping water as she came towards me. Very carefully, with deep concentration, she exchanged the bowls, replacing the serving of broth with what seemed to be some form of macaroni and cheese.

“There!” she said, again a bit too loud. “That’s better! That’s what a young girl should have!”

I smiled in reply, not wanting to encourage this loud conversation. I’m generally a friendly person but in that moment I was just a mom, wanting so badly for her daughter to have some peace. I was even bordering on becoming annoyed with the whole food roulette, knowing my daughter would not be eating any of it anyway.

“There you go!” the woman said again. “You’re all set!” I cringed at the volume of her voice.

“Okay…thanks.” I offered, hoping it would make her go away so we could have just a few more minutes of tranquility before I had to rouse my girl and make her trek out to the parking garage, a thousand miles away.

She paused a second, looked into my eyes, and smiled. I smiled back. There was nothing left to say. The food had been fixed, it was time to move on.

As she turned and shuffled out of our room, closing our door with a bang, I sighed, then leaned back in my chair, opened my book, and found my spot under the bookmark.

But it wasn’t over. She was back. Five minutes later there was a quick knock on the door and she breezed back in. This time she was carrying an armful of wrapped items. She moved quickly over to our table and the bowls of untouched food.

Carefully, one at a time, she added to the tray three more items. One wrapped sandwich, one small salad in a plastic bowl, and two small cookies enclosed in cellophane.

“There ya go,” she said, “just a bit more food. For the mama. That lady in the next room? She’s gone home today and she don’t need this food. She was a funny one. Her and her sister. They were really fun. But here’s the food she don’t need. For the mama.”

I was speechless. This woman I was so quick to dismiss, because she was disrupting my life and my daughter’s nap, had gone above and beyond for me. Knowing I might be hungry too, she took it upon herself to bring me food. It didn’t occur to her that we were on an isolation ward and every room is quarantined.

Doctors and nurses couldn’t move from room to room without changing gowns and gloves. I am sure there was a rule about not sharing food. But the cafeteria lady wasn’t thinking about quarantines. She was thinking about moms who might be hungry too.

Before I could squeak out a contrite ‘thank you’, she had another surprise. Out of her pocket she pulled a 4 oz. can of Pepsi. “Oh, and there’s this,” she said, “this little soda was left behind too. You think your girl would like this?”

She started to place it on table, now overflowing with bounty. As she set it down something caught her eye. There was a unique graphic along the side of the can. Three large letters - a J, an O and a Y. The middle letter was the Pepsi logo.

She tilted her head to the side. “Hmmm…Joy. It says Joy. Isn’t that nice?” She seemed genuinely touched by the small word on the tiny can.

“Yes,” I said, “Yes it is. My daughter will like that a lot. She’s had a rough day today and I think that’s exactly what will make her feel better.”

My cafeteria friend smiled at me, then wistfully looked over at my still sleeping child. I wondered if she had children of her own, seeing how tenderly she gazed at my daughter.

“Good,” she said. “Good. I’m glad she’ll like it. I’m glad. She’s a beautiful girl. You have a beautiful girl there.”

I gave her my most genuine smile.

“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you for everything.”

It was a rough couple of days, camped out in the hospital room. We saw a steady parade of doctors and nurses. Each had their own opinion, their own influence on our experience. But the most touching encounter came in the last hours of our confinement. From the kindness and care of a woman who really seemed to love her job and, despite my judgments, did it well.

You just never know where you’ll find a little bit of unexpected J.O.Y.

No Picture Needed

It’s been a while since I wrote about life with this bionic leg. My day to day is very similar to most moms, and the parts that aren’t the same I forget are not ‘normal’.

I go in periodically for leg adjustments. I have a leg guy (Yes, I assume he’s a ‘leg man’, in case you were wondering). He puts pads in my socket or adjusts the way my foot sits on my metal ankle. With a few turns of the screwdriver he can give me a more comfortable gait.

But those visits are squeezed in between trips to the grocery store and treks to the pediatrician. My kids think nothing of me saying, “Today I’m getting the oil in the car changed and going to get a leg adjustment.” It’s been a part of their lives for six years now. Nothing odd about the fact mom has a leg guy, and sees him a few times a month.

But some days I definitely feel the disparity between me and you two legged people. I had one of those days on Saturday.

My oldest son is on the Varsity track team. Some meets are after school and some are on the weekends. Most of them are very long. Saturday was no different. We were at the high school track for most of the afternoon. After sucking down a few bottles of water it was eventually time to find the ladies room.

I stood in line with a handful of young, athletic female track stars in their tiny uniforms that they filled out perfectly, and no, it did not make me feel old or fat (okay, maybe a little).

We stood with our backs to a chain link fence, eyeing the small wooden door that led to our refuge. I had never been to this specific school’s track so this restroom was a new one for me. I assumed there were more than a couple of stalls for the female gender’s needs, since it was such a big school and such a large track meet.

But I was wrong. Very wrong. When it was finally my turn and my bladder was more than ready for relief, I heard a flush that signaled it was my turn. As the girl who had just finished washed her hands, I pushed open the creaky wooden door to make my way inside. And then I saw what I’d been so patiently waiting for. Indeed there were only two stalls. Two VERY SMALL stalls. And when I opened the door to the empty one I got my next surprise.

The architect of this particular restroom must have been a man. A man who was angry about women even getting stalls, while men had to relieve themselves right next to complete strangers into large impersonal urinals. And boy did he get his vengeance.

The stall was so small that the door practically hit the front of the toilet bowl when fully closed.

Now I am not a small person. I am tall and I am big boned (that’s what I’m calling it now). And I am not exaggerating to say that not only was the act of pulling down my jeans difficult, in such cramped quarters, actually sitting down brought its own challenges. My knees pushed against the door, straining the tiny metal lock. With my back fully resting on the tank, and my knees firmly pressed against the door, I finally, oh finally was able to do my business.

I think we can skip the next part. I am hoping you can imagine, without too much detail, what I looked like crammed in that tiny toilet. Now just imagine trying to wipe.

Like I said, you can use your imagination on this one. Let’s just say it was something close to a circus trick.

But the worst was yet to come. I am sure you are wondering why I started this post talking about my metal leg and segued into a horrible potty story. Well here’s where it got tricky.

When you have a metal leg, standing up from a seated position is a different kind of affair. You two legged people just stand up. You have two sets of muscles that work together and push you out of that chair, or in our case, toilet seat.

But most amputees I know cannot do that motion. It’s not a big deal. We just have to lean forward more, and usually push off of something to get momentum. In church I grab the pew in front of me. On the couch I scoot to the front of the cushion then lean forward to take off.

But suddenly I was half naked, wedged into a small wooden box, pants on the ground, realizing I could not physically stand up again. I mean not at all. I was stuck, jammed into place. There was no space to lean forward. There was nothing to grab on to. All my tricks would not work here.

Knowing there was a growing line right outside the big door, and many impatient young ladies were mentally keeping track of how quickly people came and went, I knew I had little time to spare. And knowing there was a stall right next to me, possibly occupied by one of my son’s female friends, I knew grunting was out of the question.

So here’s what I did. I leaned forward and smashed my cheek against the rough wooden door. Then with both hands spider walking up the walls on each side, cinder block on the right, knotty pine on the left, I inched my way up. Praying I didn’t get a splinter in my cheek I slid my face up the back of that bathroom stall door.

It was not pretty and it could not be described as comfortable. But in the end I was upright again. (although I just about threw my back out trying to reach down for the waistband of my jeans…)

But I did it. When the odds were not in my favor, I succeeded. There was no way I was unlocking that stall door and leaning out into the bathroom, just to stand up. When it seemed to be impossible I made it possible. Little victories, my friend. Little victories.

The glitches of this bionic leg have pretty much been worked out by now. Or at least, most of them have. Then, out of the blue, another one surprises me.

Who knew this round would involve a microscopic bathroom stall with a very rough pine door?

Monday, May 3, 2010

I Understood

It’s that time of year again. The calendar pages turn, one by one, until the winter finally takes a step back and lets in some warm spring air. It’s a glorious time of budding trees and bright colored blooms. I adore this fresh new season. But every year there is one part of it that’s bittersweet. It’s a simple little holiday, an innocent Sunday, usually tucked into the month of May, that is set aside to honor our mothers.

You would think I would adore this holiday, considering I am a mother to four children. And I do. I appreciate their gestures of love, their crayon sentiments dripping with glitter when they were little, their hugs and high fives now that they’re older. My husband makes sure we do something fun and meaningful when that day rolls around. Many years he and the kids have planted my spring flower bed, as their gift to me. It is a wonderful reminder, for the rest of the spring and summer, that I am blessed by this family.

But there’s a reason I have mixed feelings about Mothers Day - no matter how much I try to let the holiday be about me, it always seems to circle around and be about her, my own mom. And I can’t call her or drive to her house or even send her flowers, because I lost my mother almost sixteen years ago, when I was a new mom myself. She had just turned fifty and we were on our way to creating a new relationship, her as a new grandma and me as her daughter-turned- mommy. I was just starting to quiz her about this new life changing job I’d begun, and figured I had lots of years to ask all the right questions. But it was not to be. A bad headache turned out to be a stroke and in a flash she was gone.

I struggled with grief, and this holiday called Mothers Day, for many years. It just didn’t make sense to me that she’d be gone. I felt robbed and short changed. I could not make sense of her absence and no one had an answer for my pleas of ‘how can this be fair?’

I rebelled against the idea of the stages of grief, because the last stage is acceptance and I knew I’d never come to a place where it was okay that she was gone so soon. But the years have a way of softening the edges and for me that meant although it still frustrated me that she was gone, I understood more. Slowly, with each passing year, I understood more.

I understood that I became a different person because I lost her. In wading through the biggest loss I’d ever known, my heart grew a new chamber of compassion. When friends around me began to suffer similar losses, I could truly say my heart hurt for them. I knew how that felt, and knew what words brought comfort and which ones were well intentioned but hurtful.

I wrote long notes of love and encouragement in the sympathy cards I sent, instead of fearfully just signing my name. I knew that even more than a casserole delivered to the family after the funeral, a note of encouragement on the first major holiday without their loved one was a priceless gift.

I understood that my life path was different because she was gone. My home base evaporated as my dad moved on and remarried. We no longer gathered in my childhood home for holidays. Jeff and I felt more free to move our family to new states, if that’s what his career path required. We welcomed and treasured the visits from my dad and step mom but no longer felt tied to the place I grew up.

I understood on a much deeper level what I meant to my own children. I realized that missing my mom in such an intense way meant her love and encouragement mattered to me so much more than I’d ever known. I looked in my children’s eyes in a new way, understanding the intense effect I was having on who they became. And I began to take my job that much more seriously.

And most of all I finally, oh finally understood that she is never really gone. She lives on, not just as my only daughter carries her name, but as that same child’s eyes sparkle in the same blue hue as her grandmother’s every time she throws her head back and laughs. She lives on in the tender hearted gestures I witness on occasion, when big brother reaches out to little brother with a helping hand or pat on the back. Her heart was bigger than Texas and I see remnants of it in each of these children I am honored to be raising.

Each Mothers Day the sting lessens a bit. I have a few friends who will face their first Mother’s Day without their mothers this year. It will be a rough one, I have promised them that. But they’ll get through it.

The tears will fall and the memories will be bittersweet but they will survive. And slowly, oh so slowly, the edges will soften for them too. Someday they will look back and see their mothers in a different way.

And in new, unexpected ways, they will be comforted. And hopefully they will understand.