Friday, December 29, 2006



Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas #2

I wasn't sure what to expect from Christmas this year. Last year it was a struggle from that first in-store carol mid November to the moment when the last red and green vestiges of the season were finally packed away in boxes in the basement.

There wasn't much I enjoyed, except for a few gentle moments with family and the kindness of our friends who remembered Thomas in special ways - and made sure we knew.

So I had no idea what would happen this year, except that I figured it would be easier. It had to be easier. And since the lead up to the big day was much merrier than last year, I assumed I would be able to find my Christmas spirit when the sun rose on the 25th.

I think not looking for it made all the difference. I tried hard last year to make merry. I went to parties. I shopped. I wrote cards. I watched Christmas movies. I listened to Christmas carols - and I did it all under duress. I made myself do it because I thought I should, and because I thought if I forced myself to do all those normally joyful things, I'd somehow magically find the peace that had been eluding me all season long.

I didn't find it. I just wore myself out instead - and felt a million times worse because of it. I was happiest when it was all over and I could stop pretending. That's when peace finally came.

But this year was different. I did what I wanted to do, and found that it included all the things that I had to force myself to do last year. Imagine that.

Time is a great healer. Not necessarily because it's particularly kind, but because the more of it there is between you and your loss, the more proven coping mechanisms you have on hand to rely upon when the going gets tough. And the knowledge that the first Christmas didn't kill me (by some miracle) meant I could probably make it through the second too.

And I did.

But the thing is, I more than "made it through" - I actually enjoyed it.

I missed Thomas. I missed him with the same passion I always do. But I felt him with me, so close it was like I could reach out and touch him. He was with me. And I was happy. Happy.

I first felt it when we were driving to my in-laws on Christmas Eve. We had on my favourite Christmas CD (St. Michael's Choir School's Joy To The World) and we were listening to O Holy Night sung by a beautiful voice that has long since been stilled. A friend of my Dad's - someone I knew as a child. Someone who knew me before and never knew me in agony.

As I listened to his voice soar, I started thinking about all the people I've lost who were so special to me and so much a part of the happy Christmases of my past. And I felt them. I swear I did. And Thomas with them, right there in the car on the busy 401 at 4:00pm in the afternoon on Christmas Eve.

Normally those kinds of thoughts would have me sobbing, but instead I felt that one perfect moment of peace that managed to completely escape me last year. I felt it wash over me and course through me. I felt it give me strength - and I felt myself smile from the inside out.

They were there. They will always be there. In my heart, in my memory and, it would seem, in the back of the car when I'm playing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve.

I don't care if it sounds crazy. It was as real to me as this computer and my hands on its keys.

And that's what I'll remember most about this Christmas. That brief, beautiful moment in the car that I spent with the people I never dreamed I'd be sharing Christmas with. Not in a million years. And the feeling of my Thomas near me through it all.

My wish is for everyone to feel that kind of peace and joy, even for just one moment.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

If this doesn't make you smile...

Free Hugs

Why did he do it?

"I was the only person I knew in my own hometown, so I wanted to get out there and do something that spread a little bit of cheer and cheered me up, and this was the first thing that really came to mind."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

For Laura...

...Laura, who's going to try the Ribbon Cookies!!

It's very exiting that someone is going to give this old family favourite a go! So exciting, in fact, that I find it necessary to post an inspirational picture of batch I made for last year's Christmas tea!

That's them on the right. The cookies in the middle were some sort of macaroon (that aren't worth making again), and the ones on the left were delicious little pecan balls which I've somehow (tragically) lost the recipe for.

Oh, cookies. I love you.

A little thing called shame

I had a no-so-nice moment the other day. One of those ugly, bitter moments that you're generally unwilling to admit to anyone that you have - or that you still have (since some people think those moments of bitter jealousy are horrendous and only acceptable right after a loss).

I opened up a Christmas card from an old friend and two small pictures fell into my lap. One was of her little boy who is, I think, 3 or 4 now. The other was a picture of her new baby girl, just 5 months old.

I've lost touch with this friend for the most part. Our only contact is at Christmastime now, which is sometimes just the way it goes. Lives are busy and move in different directions. It happens, and it's okay.

But I was still kind of stunned to see the pictures. And angry.

I sent her a picture of my Thomas in her Christmas card last year with a little note about what had happened. And then I waited to hear from her. The card I got the other day was the first contact she's made with me since, and in it she chose to put two pictures of her living, breathing, smiling children.

I was livid. I snarled and huffed quietly as My Beloved looked quizzically at me, but I was too ashamed of my instant wrath to tell him everything that was swirling around in my head. So I tucked the pictures back in the card and put it in our card holder. And quietly fumed from afar.

Yesterday I took it back out of the holder and read it again - and took a closer look at the pictures. The message she wrote inside was sweet, and I could tell she worked hard to choose exactly the right words from the millions that probably terrified her with their perceived inappropriateness. She asked me to e-mail her. She said she missed me and wanted to reconnect.

I picked up the picture of her baby girl and turned it over. On the back was her name and her age. I started thinking...

When my friend got the news of my son's death along with his picture in her Christmas card last year, she was about two months pregnant. The shocking reality of infant mortality came screaming into her life when she was in the first few nervous months of a new pregnancy. If she'd contacted me, what would she have said? What would I have said?

She must have been terrified.

The last words in her card were, "I know we are so lucky", in reference to their two beautiful children. The guilt in her words broke my heart.

I hate that things that should be easy are awkward. I hate that my sorrow dampens other people's joy. I hate that tentative hands reaching out to me are tentative. I hate that sometimes those gestures are met with hostility. I hate that my first reaction to the photo of that beautiful little girl was anger. I hate so much that I have that in my heart.

I am ashamed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Favourite Things (SO behind I've lost count)

My Mom's Ribbon Cookies

It's just not Christmas without a ribbon cookie. My Mom made big batches of them every year, and no matter how old I get the magic of seeing those three ribbons of delicious colour in one pretty cookie never fails to make me smile. You should see if it has the same effect on you. Go ahead. Poke. Poke. Poke.

1 cup butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 square bittersweet chocolate
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
red and green food colouring

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Slowly add to wet ingredients until blended.

Divide the dough into three equal portions.

Add nuts and melted chocolate to one portion. Add red food colouring (until desired colour is achieved) to second portion. Add green food colouring to third portion.

Lightly grease a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan and line with Saran wrap, waxed paper or parchment paper, taking care to go up over the sides of the pan.

Evenly press the chocolate dough into the bottom of the pan. Gently layer the green dough on top of the chocolate, pressing evenly. Add the red dough and press, making sure the layers are smooth and pressed into the corners of the pan.

Cover with extra Saran and chill for several hours or overnight.

Using extra Saran, lift chilled dough from loaf pan and slice in half lengthwise (ending up with two long rectangles).

Slice 1/4 inch cookies from each dough rectangle and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Makes six dozen.

Cool on wire rack and enjoy!

Pssst - these cookies freeze exceptionally well both baked and unbaked, so make a double batch!

Monday, December 18, 2006

So that's what it takes

I love my sleep. I'm not a napper (unless I'm sick or pregnant), but I love my night time sleep with a passion. And I used to be exceptionally good at it, once upon a time.

When I was single (sleeping alone in my snug little bed) and not on blood pressure medication (necessitating at least one groggy trip to the bathroom every night), I used to fall asleep in mere minutes and stay dreamily snoozing for the entire night.

Imagine that. Sleeping all night long.

I don't have a hungry baby wailing to be fed or a toddler who wakes up crying for me in the night, and yet it's been years since I've sleep right through to the dawn's early light. Years.

I blame it on the medication, the shared (and therefore not always quiet) sleeping arrangements, occasional pregnancies (of varying lengths), and my body's inability to regulate its temperature when confronted with the heat of another warm body. All in all, it makes for nights of tossing, turning and peeing. And occasional sleeping.

But that changed on Saturday night, and I have a bowl full of bad chicken to thank for it.

Maybe it wasn't the chicken fettucine. It could have been a 24-hour bug, but I suspect fowl play. And it kept me up half the night on Friday shaking from feverish chills and using the toilet and waste basket simultaneously. If you know what I mean.

By Saturday night I was quite literally spent. Drained of just about everything, but mostly energy. And so I slept the blissful sleep of the young, closing my eyes sometimes around 11:00pm and not opening them again until almost nine hours later.

Despite missing my favourite holiday party of the year and having to spend the entire weekend before Christmas in a germ-infested exile, I look back fondly on that rotten chicken pasta because it brought me the first complete, uninterrupted night of sleep I've had for as long as I can remember.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade my occasionally noisy Beloved for anything, nor am I particularly interested in spending another 24 hours in the bathroom - and I'm still devastated to have missed my sister's drop-in Christmas party - but oh the sleep. The delicious luxury of a full night's sleep.

It was almost worth it. Almost

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A random act of kindness

For whoever sent me the sweet little garden cherub...

You didn't include your name so the only way I can thank you is to post here and hope you're reading.

I will keep planting and I'll do my very, very best to keep believing. Thank you for thinking of me at Christmas and for sending me a gift with so much meaning. It will find a special place in my angel garden in the spring. I promise.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

And now back to our regularly scheduled holiday cheer

My Favourite Things


When I think about what happened (I mean really think), I still find myself truly dumbfounded that I survived. Not physically (although given what happened to my body during and after delivering Thomas, the fact that I'm still here is relatively miraculous too), but mentally.

I am, for the most part, sane despite living through the worst hell on earth. A hell that continues, though greatly diminished in its everyday intensity, after 21 long months.

And while I'm shocked by my sanity, I know the reason I have it is because of the voices in my head.

Yours, yours and yours. And yours too. All the people who have listened and spoken and comforted and consoled and convinced and cried and prayed and laughed and sympathized and tried so desperately to understand - even when they couldn't possibly. All those little voices have stayed in my head, offering quiet comfort in the night and welcome company when I find myself alone with my sad, lonely thoughts.

Voices like these are very definitely among my favourite things:

"It is a fact that you couldn't save him. But you are also the reason he lived. Your body is just a small part of "you". You also have a mind and a soul. And your mind and your soul are not the reason he is dead. Your mind and soul are the reason you can still feel him with you."

Thank you Rosepetal.

And thank you, My Beloved. Thank you Mom, Dad and Kathy. Thank you to our families. Thank you to my dear friends, both virtual and real, both near and far away.

Thank you for your voices, but mostly thank you for not being afraid to speak.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Guilty mind

I used to be one of those cemetery visitor types. It never really made me all that sad, for some reason. I found great comfort in being where my people were, and I liked having a special place to go to where I could quietly say whatever happened to be in my heart, even if it was just a quick hello when I was just passing by. In fact, one of the hardest things about my miscarriages was that there was no place to go. No grave to visit. It devastated me.

But when Thomas died, all that cemetery goodwill changed. And with it came a boat-load of guilt - the complex kind that you think is one thing but turns out to be something else altogether.

The thing is, I have a terrible time visiting his grave. I read the blogs of other mothers in mourning who visit regularly, taking seasonal decorations and remembrances to the spots where their children lie, and I'm consumed with guilt because I don't. Hardly ever.

I went the day before Thomas' first birthday back in March (I can't even remember what I brought with me), and I didn't go again until this past Friday when I took his Christmas wreath to him. I let nine months pass between visits because the idea of going upsets me so much - and because I always get so upset when I'm there.

And I figured out why not long after I stood by his grave as the cold wind whipped through my hair and chilled me to the bone.

I talk to Thomas all the time, but when I'm at his grave it's different. I start out telling him how much I love him and miss him, but I always end up apologizing. I find myself saying "I'm so sorry" over and over and over again, and feeling the agony of a guilt I can't seem purge myself of - and don't always feel except when I'm standing by his tiny granite plaque.

I couldn't save him. My body failed him and he died. I am the reason he is dead.

I didn't do it on purpose of course, and I know there were other factors at play (including a fucked up medical system), but the bottom line is my body couldn't do what it was supposed to and my child paid the ultimate price for its failure.

And I never feel that guilt as acutely as I do when I'm standing in the cemetery staring at his name etched in stone.

I guess there's something about being right where he is - so near and yet so impossibly far away - that brings that awful guilt to the surface.

I didn't realize it until Friday. I had to pull the car over in the middle of the cemetery because I was sobbing so hard as I was trying to leave. I thought at first it was just being there, in that place, but it slowly dawned on me that it's the guilt that's robbing me of peaceful cemetery visits with my boy.

I'm not sure where that leaves me. I guess it's good that I have somehow subconsciously managed to contain the guilt - allowing it to surface only when I'm where he is - because it means my days away from the cemetery can continue to get better and better as time passes. But I also now know that ugly guilt thing, more powerful and frightening than I ever imagined, is lurking in the cemetery.

I talk to Thomas all the time, and I feel him with me - especially, and magically, when I need him to be. I keep his memory alive and honour him in small ways that make me happy and bring me peace. We have a nice little relationship, Thomas and I.

I know he doesn't blame me. I know no one blames me. But that's not really the point. The point is I blame me, and I'm not really sure how one gets over something that, from where I'm standing, seems absolutely impossible to resolve.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I swear I have more favourite things...

...and I know I'm behind two days again. Because I'm tired and a little bit of a space cadet, I'm going to cheat and kick it one word style:

DAY FIVE - chocolate

DAY SIX - cake

I like them together and separately, incidentally.

Why am I tired? A two and a half hour seminar on adoption last night. A lot of information went into our tiny little heads, and it took a very long time for it to stop swirling around before we could finally close our eyes and sleep. Which we did, but not until close to 2:00am.

And the swirl continues today.

Not in a bad way, just in a "how did I end up this grown-up" kind of way. Surreal. Once again, so very, very surreal...

At least my life is consistent.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Because you asked for it...

...I did it.

Plumpkin Heads

My favourite things - day 3 & 4

I kind of got a little behind (yes, already) so I'm combining yesterday and today in one post. It's okay to do this, by the way. I checked the official My Favourite Things rule book. Really, I did.

DAYS 3 & 4 - old home movies and the people in them

Last night after dinner and my mom and dad's we sat down to watch old home movies that we haven't seen in probably 16 years. Not since my grandmother died, in fact. My sister arranged to have all the old 8mm family movies my Mom shot in the 60s and 70s transferred to DVD just in time for Christmas.

And just in the nick of time too.

The ravages of time were starting to set in on the now ancient celluloid reels. The once vivid colours had slowly started to wash away and the crispness that I'm almost certain was once there has been reduced to soft edges and grainy blurs.

But there we are, in all our wonderfully young glory. The people of my memories. My grandparents - alive, vibrant and younger than my mom and dad are now by years. My mom and dad - not old and tired, but running, bending, lifting, kneeling and chasing after two toddlers. Kathy and me, two tiny little mites with wide brown eyes and big trusting smiles. Great aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, many now long gone. The house - the same house we sat in last night - with foreign furniture, strange lamps, wallpaper I'd long forgotten and impossibly tiny trees.

As I sat transfixed watching my early life play out in front of me on the screen, I realized that I have far more than I sometimes think I do. I'm ashamed to admit that I'd forgotten how rich my life has been - how much I've really had. I've been consumed with loss for what seems like forever, and somehow I allowed myself to forget the things I do have - that I've always had. And the proof is captured on those films.

Seeing the gentleness in my mother's touch and the love in my father's face brought me to my knees. Watching myself, at two on Christmas Eve, wrap my arms around my Grandfather's neck in the kind of hug only love knows how to give broke my heart. Seeing my face peek out from behind my sister's back and stare up at her with utter awe and devotion made my want to lay down and cry.

I've had so much. I've lost so much, but my God, I've been blessed.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My favourite things - day 2

DAY TWO - Saturdays

1. Bacon and eggs
2. Pajamas for clothes
3. Large format comics
4. Afternoon cooking shows
5. An entire day with My Beloved
6. Not having to cook dinner
7. Old movies
8. Staying up past my bedtime
9. Falling asleep on the couch
10. Knowing there's another day to do/enjoy the above

Friday, December 01, 2006

My favourite things - day 1

To give credit where it's due, I freely admit that I have stolen the idea for the next 25 blog entries from My Beloved. He thought it would be cool to do a Christmas countdown by way of a list of 25 of his favourite things.

What better way to focus on being happy than THAT, I say? And so, I copy.

(I think he's actually going to start on day 2, by the way, since right now he's sound asleep on the couch in front of the TV and there's only 10 minutes left of day 1. But we'll forgive him because in addition to having excellent ideas, he's very cute).

DAY ONE - Advent Calendars

Oh the little joys of Christmas when you're just a little girl. Picking open tiny cardboard windows to see what picture, bible verse or Christmas greeting was hidden beneath them was the highlight of every December morning when I was a child.

I would gaze longingly at that huge double window hiding the Christmas day message as I dug my fingernail under the lowly first few numbers, knowing that until I was into double digits Christmas was at least a good hundred years away.

I got a new Advent calendar every year, sometimes from my Grandma and sometimes from my Mom and Dad, and with it came the thrill of knowing Christmas was really and truly finally coming. I was holding the proof of this miraculous fact in my pudgy little hands. At last.

I can't remember any one calendar. They've blurred into a sea of donkeys, stars, snowy mountains, steeples, mangers, shepherds, reindeer, baby Jesuses and Santas in my memory. But the feeling of anticipation before opening each window - and the sheer brute force of willpower (the intensity of which I haven't seen since) that kept me from opening up the whole lot of them all at once - is what I remember vividly.

And it's why I bought myself a pretty winter snow scene Advent calendar this year. I decided it was time to bring back as much of the magic of Christmas as I could, in any way I could. And an Advent calendar seemed like a pretty good way to start.

The funny thing is, my sparkly winter scene isn't the only Advent calendar I have this year. The other day My Beloved came home with a Santa ornament for our tree that doubles as a Christmas countdown, and my sister sent me a very cute sock monkey-themed countdown wheel that's currently hanging on our powder room doorknob.

After probably close to two calendarless decades, I suddenly - magically - have three. And the little girl in me couldn't be happier.

After all, it's the first bit of Christmas magic I've felt in what feels like a very, very long time.

In case you were curious, the picture under today's window was a big, fat snowflake.