Friday, February 24, 2012

Rest in Peace, M.

LOG's mother passed earlier this evening. Her suffering is over and she's no longer in pain.

Rest in peace, M. You are forever missed.

Smile Friday

Me and the bestie-September 2009. One of my favorite trips, and one of my favorite memories.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


It wasn't supposed to be like this. It wasn't supposed to be this way.

In May, I'm going to be participating in a walk with my friend, LOG. We shouldn't have to do this. She shouldn't have to do this.

 This is a picture of my friend, LOG, with her mom, M. No, those aren't weird, stupid acronyms or nicknames to protect their identity. Those are their names. To those who love them, they are LOG and M. This picture was taken at LOG's bridal shower in 2007. You can see how happy they are and how close they've become. M was so thrilled for her daughter. She was so happy she'd found someone she loved to spend her life with, and that they were equally nuts about each other. She'd found happiness with her husband, T (also his real name), and she knew LOG and John were going to have a long, happy life together.

This is a picture from LOG and John's wedding. LOG's caption? "My absolute favoritest picture of me and my parents."

M & her husband, T. They're young and happy and thrilled to be celebrating their only child's wedding day. I wasn't there, but from what LOG's told me, M danced the night away at her wedding and shut the party down at the end of the night.

When LOG and John wanted to have babies, M was thrilled. She knew exactly what type of grandmother she'd be, and she wanted to babysit all the time.

Before LOG's first child was born in 2009, M hurt her hand. It wasn't getting better. Before long, her hand was basically useless. At LOG's baby shower, 3 years ago today, M's hand hung at her side and her fingers had curled inward. She couldn't use it, and LOG had been telling her mom for weeks, "You need to get this looked at, because you can't hold your grandson." They were worried, but not too worried. They were confident they'd find the problem and fix it. My memories of that day are clear. LOG was happy and glowing, M was thrilled that she was going to be a grandma, and T gave me crap about giving his grandson a White Sox onesie. They were elated that they got to watch LOG become a mother, because they knew she'd be a damn good one.

Unfortunately, months and months went by, and M wasn't getting any better. Test after test revealed nothing. Because it's a diagnosis of elimination, ALS, Lou Gerhig's Disease, was still an option on the table. Memorial Day weekend 2009 was when the official diagnosis came. LOG will always remember that day. To hear her tell it, I feel like I'm in the room with her. She's home with her son because she's still on maternity leave. The phone rings, and the news she receives is a death sentence. M is upbeat and positive, convinced that she'll beat it. T feels confident that he can save M and that together, they'll show the doctors they were wrong.

By the end of the summer, M is no longer worker. By LOG's son's first birthday, M is wheelchair bound and needed help to do the simplest tasks, things that I take for granted everyday. By LOG's son's second birthday, she couldn't and wouldn't come to the party. M was losing her body to ALS.

It's been 2 years since I last saw M.

Today, she's a fraction of the woman she used to be. I'd post the picture, but for LOG's sake and M's dignity, I won't. It's horrific. She can't speak, or even grunt. Her breathing is shallow. She weighs under 100 lbs. Her eyes are hollow and you can see her bones beneath her skin. A once vibrant, talkative, engaging woman has been taken away, and a dying shell of a human being has replaced her. Her husband, the love of her life, has taken "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health" to a new level, one that has played out beautifully over the last two years.

Last night, LOG shared with us that her mom's death was imminent. M's brother has flown into town, and her family is moving to be with her in her last hours on earth. Finally, M's suffering will end.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. It wasn't supposed to be this way. She was supposed to be a grandma. She was supposed to take her grandchildren overnight so LOG and John could date each other. She was supposed to spoil everyone rotten. She wasn't supposed to die in her 50s, because she had a good 30 years left. It wasn't supposed to be this way.

LOG's children will have no memories of their grandmother. This will be the second grandparent they've lost in a year. It's up to LOG and John to keep their memories alive, and it's not a task I envy.

ALS is a horrific disease. It robs you of basic human dignity. For years, M has been trapped in a body that doesn't work. In a matter of hours, 36 at most, she'll finally be at peace. She'll finally be set free. Unfortunately, ALS gets so little funding because, in the simplest sense, not enough people have the disease to qualify for major government funding. One day there will be a cure, but not soon enough. It's too late for M, but not for someone else. That's why I'm joining LOG in May for the Walk to Defeat ALS. They say it best: Because I Can. I can walk. So that's what I'll do. I have 80 days left to raise $500 in M's memory. Please consider donating, because it's not fair. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

And keep LOG and her family in their prayers as they say goodbye to M.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Smile Friday

Another gem from her 6 month shoot. I mean, just look at her! If you're not smiling, you have no soul.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Smile Friday

This is easily one of my favorite photos of Hannah. She's 6 months old here, and she's always this happy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

January 2012 Resolution Roundup

I'm hoping to help keep myself accountable with my New Year's Resolutions by blogging about them monthly. Maybe I'll let myself fall off the wagon in December....just in time for more resolutions!

In January, I was busy. I thought work was slowing down a bit, and it did. Unfortunately, that lasted only about 5 days or so, and now we're full throttle yet again. At least I'm earning lots of overtime, right? Let's see where I am in Resolutionville, shall we?

1. Being Healthier.

I'm not exactly where I'd like to be, but I'm back on the wagon/bicycle/horse. I've made a few vain attempts, but I didn't really "get serious" until last night. In early January, I checked out some of my local fitness options. I'd really love to be able to swim at the park district, but by the time I remembered to sign up, the $40 fee for 2-3 nights a week really wouldn't be worth it this late in the winter season. I'll investigate again for the spring. I looked into the waterobics classes, step-aerobics, and fitness center all available to me at my local park district. The fitness center is pretty nice, but was packed with resolutionists when I checked it out. I'm hoping that it'll be a little more open in the coming weeks. The park district classes all looked pretty good, but again, I'm signing up too late, and I don't want to throw that money away. An option on the table is signing up for waterrobics ($15) and using half of the pool as my own personal open swim while the elderly do their jazzercize on the other half. I talked to the lifeguard, and she said that technically I need to sign up for the class going on at that time if I want to use the pool, that way if I drown, it's no one's fault but mine. I figure if I get in the habit of swimming now, I'll be more likely to go to the outdoor pool this summer.

I'm also investigating dance classes in the area. I know everyone's all Zumba crazy these days, but I'd rather learn a style of dance. Before we got married, I took some ballet classes and really loved it. Unfortunately, none of those are offered for adults through my local park district, so I've got to investigate the suburbs.

Last night, after weeks of putting it off and telling myself I was too tired, I popped Jillian Michaels back in the DVD player. In short, she kicked my ass. Again. My legs and arms are sore today, but it felt good to be active with a purpose. I had to take a few pauses--I haven't done the 30 day shred since just before I learned I was pregnant--but I did it. HA!

2. Reading more.

I'm really proud of this one. I have been reading more, and I've forced myself to wake up the other side of my brain, the side that relies on creativity and literary analysis. It's been fun! I'm reminded of why I enjoyed my literature classes in college. I've read a few books since the start of the year, and I'm in the middle of Bossypants, by Tina Fey. I'm loving that I'm reading again, and I'm loving that it wakes up that part of my mind that had been a little sedentary for a while. It makes me want to go back to school and get the degree I keep talking about getting.

3. Blog more.

Proof! I've been trying to keep my creative side awake with blogging--actual, for-real blogging--and not just memes that go around here and there. It's nice. I know I piss people off, and that's okay. I'm putting myself out there and it's not always pretty, but at least you know where I stand on things.

4. Save more.

Again, the only issue I am not comfortable publicizing. We're working on this. Because the cost of everything has gone up, we're looking at scaling back in most areas. With the threat of the teachers union going on strike, we need to take the necessary measures to provide for our child. We already took a few steps in that direction, and I feel pretty good about it. We'll take a few more steps, and go from there.

5. Simplify.

Another area of progress! I have four plastic bags of stuff to take to church. We've skipped Mass the past few weeks, so I am so far behind in that area. The goal is to get that stuff out of the house before Friday.

6. Follow through.

This one's a little harder to blog about because it involves an internal commitment from myself. So far this year, I think I've done pretty well. I fall here and there, but take Resolution #1, for example. I stopped talking about getting healthier and took actual steps to make it happen. More of that needs to happen.

7. Recipes.

I'm doing it! I've been making new food, and I've even taken pics of a few new meals. I made a soup last week that was to die for. I need to be a little more consistent with this, and I need to make time to blog this stuff.

8. Less swearing, more church.

Uh, yeah. So far, 2012 is a wash. Back on the wagon!

Book Review Tuesday: Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love

Continuing my weekly book reviews, today I'm writing about Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love, by Matthew Logelin.

I need to say that this book is incredibly hard for me to review objectively. I've been reading Matt's blog since March 26th, 2008, the day it came across my cooking message board and a day after his wife died. I, like millions of others, was instantly hooked. For some background, Matt and his wife Liz were expecting a baby girl in May 2008. Liz had a difficult pregnancy and wasn't gaining weight, resulting in a small fetus and weeks of bed rest. On March 24th, their daughter Madeline was delivered via c-section and was transported to the NICU. Liz had to wait 24 hours to hold her baby, and she had just a few moments with her daughter before she was placed in a plastic box with a feeding tube to keep her healthy. Twenty-seven hours after her daughter was born, Liz died, the victim of a pulmonary embolism to her lungs. Matt's high school sweetheart, best friend, wife, and now mother of his newborn child died without ever getting to hold her daughter.

The tragedy in and of itself is heart-wrenching. Matt's writing in the weeks and months after Liz's death kept me coming back. Top it all off with his reflections of fatherhood, all alone with a newborn who was born seven weeks early. Holy crap.

The reasons this book is hard for me to review are many. First, this is a story I've been following for nearly 4 years. I feel like I know Matt and Maddy. Second, I've met them, so I do kind of know them. (Here's where I'd link to the blog post detailing my visit to LA, but I started it and never completed it because I suck at life. So.....)

Oh, how I love this.

Seventeen months old and very, very okay with strangers

Aaaaaaaand, nap!
Matt was totally and completely chill. When I tweeted him and asked if I could meet up with him, he was so incredibly calm about it. He welcomed my best friend and I into his home and was completely open about everything. (I'll touch more on that later). He let us sit on his couch, play with his child, and drink his beer.

These pictures were taken roughly a week or so before Matt flew to India to write this book, funnily enough. Again, super chill. "I'm leaving for India in six days and I'm not packed. Sure, strangers! Come on in!"

The third reason this is a difficult review to write is that Matt's story touches so close to home. He and Liz were high school sweethearts who dated in their last semester before college. They dated through college, grad school, and in different time zones for years before getting married. They had very different adolescent experiences, despite living a few miles apart. Matt towered over Liz by a foot. Liz had lost all her jewelry in a burglary, and Matt made a heartfelt promise to slowly replace it ....I could go on, but on nearly every single page, I read something that took my breath away. "It could be us. They could be us."

(In another strange similarity, a song I've always wanted played at my funeral called, "Dress Sexy At My Funeral" was played at both Liz's funerals/memorials. Until I found Matt's blog, I thought I was the only one who'd ever heard of it. Creepy.)

Unfortunately, this won't be a truly objective book review. But I'll do my best to be honest.

Now. Matt's memoir of his last days with his life and his first year of fatherhood isn't a light read. It's probably not a book I would recommend reading in a public place unless you're okay with sniffling, crying, and looking like a crazy person. For example, the train ride to and from work isn't where you want to be seen reading this book. Not that I would know anything about that....

As a reader of the blog, I was very familiar with the story. I'd heard it all before. What I didn't know were the small, intricate details of those days. Whether because they were too painful to recount until he wrote the book, or because in all the shock of losing his wife and becoming a father so suddenly he never shared those details, it was nice to have some more background. Matt writes in a way that he lets you in to those moments. I didn't feel like I was peering behind the curtain, I was in the room with him, waiting for Liz to wake up so she could meet Madeline. I could smell her hospital room and hear the panic in his voice when Liz slumped over, and I felt the rush of air behind me when he was pushed out of her room. That moment is raw, and he has an impossibly lovely way of sharing it with his readers.

While the story is the same, (duh!) the book differs from the blog in many ways. First of all, the writing. Matt has an e.e. cummings quality in his blog that doesn't carry over to the memoir. This is a good thing, because I think I'd stop reading and just keep turning pages if it wasn't in a format that gives me time to read and reflect before turning the page and starting the next chapter. The book does include small peaks into the blog and an introduction to each chapter, for those unfamiliar with Matt's story.

The first year or two of Matt's blog, he posted photos and stories of life with Maddy, but he also posed questions to the readers (mostly women). Questions about parenting and, "Crap, how do I [____________]?" and "What do I do when [________]?" The memoir describes the struggle, but not so much "How do I change a diaper in public?" The struggle is more, "How do I do this alone? How can I keep going without her?" (In the early days of the blog, this was a question Matt asked almost daily.)

TKFM also gets into the real loss of Liz. Matt discusses in detail Maddy's first Christmas, and the empty feeling that permeated the house. He tore my heart out when he described crying with Liz's mom and for the first time saw the pain of a woman who had lost a child, something that had rarely been touched on in his blog.

Matt writes that he wanted to talk about Liz and wanted to let people know it was okay to talk about her and share stories about her. He writes about the internal struggle to keep Liz's memory alive, and to channel his wife's spirit for his daughter, even though it was always painful to do. He writes about being a social pariah because no one knew what to say to him after Liz died. On more than one occasion, he writes that the better of Maddy's two parents had died. You want to sit next to him, hold his hand, and tell him he's doing a hell of a job given the circumstances. And it gives you an appreciation for the dead and you start to wonder why no one speaks their names after they've passed.

The memoir concludes with Maddy's first birthday, seemingly appropriate, as it was also the culmination of the first year without Liz. Even though I knew this, I wanted

Even though the memoir is peppered with names of family and friends who helped him and stepped up to be pillars of support throughout what can only be described as a shitty, shitty year, it's largely a solo flight. The description of being alone in their house at night for the first time is kick-you-in-the-gut heart-wrenching. I felt completely enveloped in the silence.

The tone of the entire book is largely bittersweet. I think this is largely because, by the time the book went to print, Liz had been gone for 3 years. Plenty of time had passed, but what was really impressive to me is that Matt wrote it in such a way that it felt like Liz died days ago. The emotions are raw, and I still can't bring myself to go back and re-read the entire first part. I have to put it down before Liz dies. There's really no way to describe how impossibly unfair it is.

Something Matt really stresses in his memoir is that he doesn't want to forget Liz, and doesn't want others to forget her by not talking about her. When I met Matt and Maddy, he talked about Liz as though she was in the next room or just out for groceries and would be back any moment. His house was relatively clean--he gave us a tour of the whole place--but he apologized for the mess, saying, "Liz never would have let you in here with it looking like this." Both of Maddy's Weirnermobiles were on display, and he half-joked that Liz would have demanded they live out in the yard. (See the blog for deets on that.) When Maddy climbed onto her play piano, he said that in twelve years together, he'd never heard Liz play, "...and she was fucking amazing, or so I was told." There was a touch of regret in his voice, and whenever Matt wrote about the what-ifs and never-weres, I heard that note.

In the face of all this awfulness, there were light-hearted and amazingly happy moments. Matt's inital successes as a parent gave him more strength, and with each hurdle, he grew more and more confident. Matt also went into greater detail about establishing The Liz Logelin Foundation, a non-profit aimed at helping the newly widowed (with families) overcome those early, horrific days without their spouse. With the establishment of the foundation, in addition to the blog, Matt garnered a fair amount of media attention in the first year without Liz. Matt was on Rachael Ray, Oprah, and easily a dozen other talk shows. Throughout the entire book, he never once name drops or makes note that he was ever on television and effectively a blogging celebrity. The book is the detailing of what happened after Liz died, and I appreciated that Matt kept the focus on Liz and Maddy. He never even says, "I went on Rachael Ray with Maddy and felt like shit the whole time because I shouldn't have been there." Amazing.

Because I was familiar with Matt and his story, the excessive use of "colorful language" throughout the memoir didn't phase me. In fact, I barely noticed it. And he says, "fuck" a lot less than I would have. However, it's definitely an issue with some readers. If you hate four-letter-words, check out the blog first and see if this is a story you want to read.

There's no one in the world, not even the people who have truly hurt me, who I would put in Matt's position. Personally, I think he's handled himself with a fair amount of grace and dignity. TKFM is a fast read, though not a light one. Matt writes as though he's talking to you and welcoming you into his home--and I speak from experience. He doesn't whisper Liz's name, or follow every mention of her with some garbage like, "God rest her soul." He is completely open and honest about their life together, and it's clear that their 12 years together were far too short.

Before I wrap this up, I think it's worth mentioning that the book isn't a complete sob fest. Matt's sense of humor is very evident throughout. His early parenting experiences, his resourcefulness, pictures of Maddy and Liz. Basically, he does a nice job of keeping you from feeling like you're at a funeral. There are so many happy moments  he shares, and there were moments where I laughed and chuckled, and came crashing down with Matt. In a few moments, he'd made me forget Liz was dead, and each time I turned the page, I felt a sting of loss all over again.

I'd definitely read this again, but I'll need to wait a while. I'm too much of a sap these days.
Grade: A-

Friday, February 3, 2012

Smile Friday

Girl is obsessed with her Baby Einstein. And when that dragon-dinosaur-puppet-freak thing comes on screen? EVERY MUST STOP. EVERYTHING.

It's really quite adorable, once I stop freaking out about her going blind because she's got to sit right in front of the screen.