Re-defining Me

I posted this on my LC message board today….

So I have been thinking of my grief as it is now. I have been thinking about how… Part of me is as present to the grief and missing of Mom as I ever was. I keep thinking about how… everything is different now.

And today it occurred to me that maybe it’s not only grief, but the fact that my Mom’s illness, her death, the months after, the grieving…. they’ve all redefined my life. Totally. I am a new person. I am a different person than I was the day before my Mom was diagnosed. I am a different person than I was the day my Mom died. (Even as I am the “same old Val” I ever was).

I know that part of grieving is re-inventing yourself… Learning to live in a world without someone who was so important to you and becoming you in a new way as a result.

I don’t know… Maybe I am just trying to justify the reasons that I still think of it so much. That it still occupies such a large part of my heart and mind, even though I try very hard to move forward and not let it rule my life.

But the fact is, it all changed my life. And I’m still learning who I am after the fact. I’m still in the middle of the changes. And I think *that* is what keeps me so mindful of it now. I feel like a new person that I’m not familiar with yet. My life feels like a new life that I’m not comfortable in yet.

A woman in my Bible Study shared today that after any major life transition: Death of a loved one, divorce, birth of a child, etc. the “experts” (whoever they are) say it takes us three years to really adjust. So by that marking stick I’m only half-way into this adjustment period…

Maybe I am still so “in this” and so mindful of it because it has been, so far, the defining thing in my life.  Mom’s illness and death changed everything.  They changed me.  They made me look at the world in a new way.  Made me look at people in a new way.  Made me look at God in a new way.  I’m still not through with those changes.  And I’m certainly not adjusted to them.  It’s like a religious conversion…  Like what is supposed to happen when you make a statement of faith as a Christian and beginning trying to walk that walk (dude…  the Christianese in that sentence hurts my teeth!  anyway….).  Everything is different.  Everything is effected.

Anyway. It’s disjointed, but those are some of my thoughts today….

I think about these things, partly because of what I write here.  I imagine people out there reading and thinking, “When is she going to stop with the grief-talk already?”  And so I’ve been thinking about why it is still such a presence in my life…. 

I’m just hashing things out in writing really.  But as I said, these are thoughts I have today.  I’m still deciding what to make of them.  Maybe I am stuck and just justifying that stuckness, but…  I really feel like I am going on.  Trying to live in joy.  Dealing with the concept of “It is what it is.”  But also still…  feeling the loss of my Mom very strongly.

Today I suspect it’s because I’ve been redefined.  I am being redefined.


A Whale of a Tail to Tell You, Lads…

Warning to all–You are about to find out how twisted I really am… 

Husband and I were discussing my previous post tonight.  And somewhere in the conversation focusing mainly around my turning over hourly and being the human embodiment of Free Willy it occurred to me:  How do whales have sex?  How do whales nurse babies? 

I scrolled through all the mental pictures I could recall of whales and couldn’t remember, well…  the necessary equipment for such activities.  This lack of recall even made me question something I knew to be certain–that whales are mammals.  I went back to third grade and went…  Ok, mammal criteria:  They have live birth, they produce milk to nurse their young, they have hair.  All those are checks, right?  The birth seemed legit.  When babies get born at Sea World and such there is a big fuss about it.  But, I’ve never seen a whale nipple, so how could they nurse?  I remembered that they had fine little hairs that counted for the third, but going back to the first–I had an idea of how whale babies got OUT of whale Mommies, but no clue how they got IN there.

And you know what?  I couldn’t sleep until I had an answer.  So, I Goodsearched it (for Baby Zachary, you know) and now–at 10 til midnight, I will be able to sleep (kind of).

For those (twisted) inquiring minds like mine, who just have to know how whales procreate:  The skinny on whale reproduction. and, how whales nurse.  And yes, by the way, they are mammals. 

And now, another night of blessed, tortuous sleep may commence.

Third Trimester Sleep….

First of all, I hate when you write a post and then lose it all….

So, It’s my third trimester.  That glorious stretch of time when one can hardly contain herself because she is literally ready to burst with child.  That glowing time of round belly, and final preparations.

That delightful time when sleep is the only thing that you want, and a great instrument of torture all at the same time.

Let us look closely at the sleep habits of the beached whale known as Val:

I go to bed on a typical night, usually an hour or two later than I should have.  I strategically place pillows between my legs, and under my back and shoulders and try to settle in.  I lay there for a five minutes, ten, twenty….  thirty.  My mind races.  I plan the following day, the following week, the following month.  I worry about the pregnancy, about life after the pregnancy.  I plan the trip to IL, the trip to the grocery store.  I wonder about my career whenever it may start, Husband’s career, Little Miss’s career, Ingrid’s career.  I worry over hang-nails, and colds, and worse maladies than those.  This my friends is insomnia.

I get up, pee, get a glass of water.  Get back in bed.

I begin to settle down.  I actually fall almost asleep.

Then.  I am jolted awake by freakish heart-burn.  I groggily grasp for my bottle of extra generic, extra chalky Tums, put one in my mouth, chew it up so I don’t choke and try to settle down again after making a terrible face at the chalkiness of the Tums.  I try to sleep, only to find that one Tums wasn’t enough.  I grab another.  Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Finally, I settle into a decent sleep.  An hour later, I wake up with pain in my hips, and my back–ok, all of my joints and bones really.  I feel like I’m eighty.  This requires a position change.

Now, flipping from one side to another is nothing when you’re a normal person.  But when you are the human embodiment of Free Willy, things are a little different.  I have devised a system that I very deliberately undertake each and every time I need to flip over.

1.  Recognize the need to flip over.

2.  Haul myself up to sitting (no small feat these days,), and prop self up on elbow.  Then prop self up with arm.

3.  Sit semi-Indian style.  But who are we kidding–it’s hard to get those legs to cross these days.  However–the hips being apart is essential.

4.  I position the pillow back between my knees.

5.  Shift weight to other arm.

6.  Begin to fold legs together down to the new side, keeping pillow in place.

7.  Release weight from arm, again onto elbow.  Adjust onto side.

8.  Snuggle in and try to sleep.

An hour later, I wake up with the same pain, only generating from the new side.  Time to flip over.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

So this need to change positions happens hourly, plus I have to get up to pee at least once more during the night….  surely nothing else could disturb such fine slumber, right?

Oh yeah…  I have a toddler.  With very toddler-like sleep habits.  One night is great–sleeps straight through, even sleeps late.  The next night, I’m up with her 3 or 4 times.

And I’m supposed to be glowing????

Oh joy, oh rupture!

But…  It really is all worth it.  In a few short months, I will have another beautiful little girl who makes my world bright.  I will see Little  Miss blossom into a big sister, and I will grow even further into who I am as I discover myself as the mother of Ingrid.  The mother of Little Miss.  A mother of two. 

And speaking of Little Miss–the toddler with toddler-like sleep habits….  Guess who slept in a big-girl bed for the whole  night last night for the first time????  Isnt’ that amazing?!  I’m so proud.

Now it’s time to go wear myself out again and begin the longing for sleep/torture of sleep cycle all over again.


More Random Bits

I should be making lasagna for our supper tonight.  Instead I am staring at my computer screen.  Incidentally, I’m also listening to last week’s Grey’s Anatomy since I won’t be able to watch tonight’s until tomorrow….

I just ate two more of the chocolates I got yesterday for Valentine’s Day….  Those things are like magnets to me *sigh.*  If I was worried last pregnancy about giving birth to a 20 lb. baby, I should be terrified this time….  (ok, and I am.)

I am going nuts wanting to actually finally buy plane tickets for Dad’s wedding next month…  but the Leave Chit is sitting on someone important’s desk.  I wish someones who were important cared about little details like plane fares.

Can I also just tell you how difficult it is to find semi-acceptable Maid of Honor garb in springy colors when one is going to be 33 weeks (sure that’s not months?  feels like it!)  pregnant?  But of course, we all know how much I love shopping in general. 

Ingrid (this is for you, Amanda) is doing well as far as I know.  There won’t be anymore ultrasounds between now and our meeting her unless one is necessary.  She is extra busy, and developed a very impressive kick early on.  Also, she likes to wedge herself into THE most uncomfortable parts of my uterus and stay there for hours.  It’s amazing–pain.  I mean…  pain!  It is extraordinarily fun to watch her jump around in my belly.   It is NOT extraordinarily fun to try to get a decent night’s sleep when all of my joints pull in all the wrong ways, I have massive freak-like heart-burn, and I have to pee and get drinks of water at least once a night.  But (don’t panic Sarah….) it’s all worth it, or will be in May.

Little Miss has recently been introduced to the wonder of balloons.  Thanks to a real-life horror story that my Dad told throughout my childhood, I have a bit of a  balloon phobia…  But I figured we coudln’t deny her the delight forever, and she got some from Pa-pa for Valentine’s Day.  She LOVES the things.  She loves to watch them float to the ceiling.  She tries to hug them.  She holds onto the string and flails them around wildly.  And when she isn’t allowed to go to bed with them in her crib, it’s the end of the world.

Speaking of Little Miss melt-downs, she’s quite possibly the most polite exampleof obstinacy I’ve ever met.  Sure, she exerts her almost two-year old independence frequently these days….  and some days she wears me down to a nub, but she never forgets to say “Thank you.”

I’ve totally over-extended myself at church again….  But it should only last through Lent.  Also, I realized Monday night, when attending my very first committee meeting, why I don’t like committee meetings…. 

My Thursday Morning Bible Study has been interesting, as usual.  The last three weeks I’ve done my level-best to prove that though I was born in 1981, I am fully aware that the world didn’t begin then.  They don’t believe me when I tell them that I know who Jack Benny is….  That I am aware of a world before internet and even T.V.  That I know what Joe Friday’s signature line is.  That I’ve not only seen a Phillips 66 Station, but I’ve also gone to a drive-in on Old Route 66 (speaking of the number).  I haven’t yet told them that my cat is named ‘Chester’ because he has a hitch in his get-along, but I think they’re starting to get it.  Thank Goodness.

And again speaking of that particular Bible Study–have you read the part of the gospels where Jesus curses the Fig Tree?  Does that just…  strike anyone else as totally random?  Did Jesus just wake up on the wrong side of the bed that day?  The story definitely challenges the ‘shiny-happy, namby-pamby’ Jesus idea…. 

Little Miss is awake and that lasagna needs to be made eventually so….  These random bits will have to suffice for now.

Trying to Get Back Home

Being a military family means being away from people that you love, and being away from the places that you thought would always be ‘home.’  No matter where we’re stationed, we aren’t close to family or the familiar.  We just can’t be. 

On top of that, we’ve both lost a parent.  The word “home” changes dramatically when your mom or dad isn’t alive to be in that space anymore.  And the changes that come about because of that loss can leave one feeling even more displaced.  Even more ‘homeless.’  It’s part of life going on and you accept it and even try to embrace it, but it is also a loss.

Husband and I spend hours some days talking about little things from ‘back home.’  Things like favorite treats or meals that only come from those regions of the country, or from specific restaurants.  For him it’s Ski, and Wally Burgers, and malts from the Dairy King, and his Dad’s lattice cherry pies, and his Mom’s sugar cookies.  For me it’s Steak-n-Shake, and Club 41 onion rings, and Quinn’s crinkly cheese fries, and Mom’s cheese cookies, and Dad’s ‘tube steaks’ on the grill in the summertime. 

And then there are places we miss and remember…  For him the old blacksmith shop that stayed in business until just a few years ago….  Or the hardware store where he and his family were known by name and each trip to the store resulted in not only a tool or building materials, but a good chat and input on the project he was undertaking as well…. or the yard of the Catholic School nearby where he used to go play after the kids had gone home, or the front yard where the flagpole they got for their Dad stood.  For me it’s the curve of the hill going down to cedar crick (yes, I said crick), shopping at Hi-lo where I know where everything is because the aisles haven’t changed (or the tiles on the floor for that matter) in decades, the back-roads to my grandma’s house, the bank of the pond, the lane I walked up and down to get to the ‘bus stop’ every single morning and afternoon, the old, red water pump in my grandparents’ yard–or at least the spot where it used to stand.

We spend hours remembering those places and longing for those tastes, and it dawned on me the other day why that might be.

Those are pieces of home.  They are pieces of places that aren’t home anymore or that will never be home in the same way again.  They are moments with our Moms and Dads, and moments when we took it for granted that our Moms and Dads were around. 

So we gather them up, and remember them.  When we’re back in those areas, we visit those places, or eat our special goodies, and we feel like we’re a little closer–to home, to our parents, to the times and places that were before.

We’re trying to get back home.   And I guess we always will be.

And  now, we focus on making our ‘home’ wherever we are….  for Little Miss and for Ingrid, and also for us.  It’s what you’ve gotta do with life.

(P.S.  Have you done a GoodSearch for Zachary yet?  See this post if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) 

GoodSearch for Baby Zachary

This is an email I received from my Sister-in-law’s sister, about her little boy, Zachary.  Using a search engine is such an easy thing to do, and something that you do mindlessly, so often.  Think about putting some pennies in the bucket for Zach by using GoodSearch.  At the very least, send up some prayers for this little guy and his family.  They’ve been through so much. 

As you may or may not know, Gary and I had a baby boy in August who arrived 3 months early.  Zachary came into this world weighing 2 lbs 5.5 oz.

At 5 weeks of age he developed a disease called Necrotizing Entercolitis which causes the small bowel to die.  On September 11th and September 12th he was rushed into emergency surgery where the surgeons removed all but 6 cm of his small bowel.  (A term infant has about 150 cm of small bowel)

With only 6 cm left, Zachary’s only chance for long-term survival is a small bowel transplant.

Currently Zachary is fed over 18 hours through a central line with a mixture called TPN ( Total Parental Nutrition)  While TPN is amazing and helps him grow, it also causes liver damage.

In November we went to Pittsburgh Childrens Hospital for an evaluation to see if Zachary was a suitable candidate for a transplant.  The doctors there listed him as a status 1 candidate on the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) for a small bowel, liver and pancreas.  While they would like him to be 22 lbs for transplant, they have perfomed this 12-16 hour operation on infants as small as 6 lbs.  Now we wait for organs and grow as big as we can!

This surgery is relatively new and is only performed at 4 centers in the country.  Only 40-50 of this type of transplant is done per year nationwide on children and adults combined.

Now, here is where you come in….I am not very good at asking for help but here it goes…..

There is an organization called Goodsearch powered by Yahoo  which donates 1 cent for every search done.  That means if we can get 500 people to search 4 times a day then $7300 in one year will be donated towards Zachary’s transplant expenses.  All of that without anyone spending a dime.

Here is how it is done:

Go to

It asks “Who do you goodsearch for”

Type in COTA and then Enter

You will see two COTA  sites but click the one that is COTA – Zachary Solomon

Then search away….

What is neat is that any time you can click on the “amount raised” button and see how many searches have been done in Honor of Zachary.

Note: COTA – Childrens Organ Transplant Association is a 501-c3 company that allows 100% raised in honor of Zachary to go directly towards his transplant expenses. 

COTA is in IN but we are in St. Louis.

For those of you who are computer savvy you can load this as your default search engine toolbar.  Just go to:

Remeber this is actually Yahoo so you are still able to use a quick and reliable search engine. Please forward this to as many people as you know.

Thank you


Hallmarks of the Luminous Interlude

January 18, 1981

May 1999


May 29, 2003

June 29, 2003

Dec. 4, 2003

June 2004

Nov. 18, 2004

Feb. 22, 2005

Mar. 7, 2005

July 19, 2005

Sept. 7, 2005

Mar. 12, 2006

“I once set out from a dark point, the Womb, and now I proceed to another dark point, the Tomb….We come from a dark abyss, we end in a dark abyss, and we call the luminous interval life.

I have one longing only:  to grasp what is hidden behind appearances, to ferretout that mystery which brings me to birth and then kills me, to discover if behind the visible and unceasing stream of the world an invisible and immutable presence is hiding.  –Nikos Kazantzakis

Today in a journalling exercise, I found myself listing important events in my life.  For whatever reason, I wrote each with it’s respective date or timeframe. 

The important part of the exercise was seeing further than the days and events themselves into how they formed me…  and how I found God at work. 

Partly because I was in a rushed small group training session at the time, and our beloved leader was crunched on time and answering questions throughout the exercise, I didn’t get to that second part.  So… I just sat there and studied the dates that were lined up. 

They strike me, for some reason, all lined up like that.  Mostly because…  all lined up like that they are only days on a calendar–and most of them, calendars that we are entirely done with.

But they weren’t that for me.  They never were.  Those number and month alignments represented things that were happening to me.  Big things.    College.  Marriage.  Beginnings of Journeys.  Birth.  Death. 

Even listing those words gives no sense of what all of those things that began or ended on those dates really did to me….  the changes that happened within me….  the way my world, my mind, my spirit, my character was altered dramatically.  These dates are hallmarks in my ‘luminous interlude.’  They’re little remembrance rocks set down along the path of my life to mark these brief moments of being made. 

I can remember giving birth to Little Miss in a room that didn’t have a window.  I figured there was a practical reason that it didn’t….  for privacy and what not.  But I really wanted to look outside, and still somehow feel connected to what was happening.  Inside my little room the miracle of life was happening.  My life was being re-formed.  Her life outside the womb was beginning.  I was becoming a new person–a mother!   She was entering the world….  I mean–entering the world! 

But I kept thinking (in some subconscious way outside of trying to live through the contractions and pushing and finally laying my eyes on her)….  Kids are at school today.  Guys (and gals) are working in Husband’s shop.  News events are happening.  Things are moving and happening just like normal except in this little room where the world has stopped and has closed in around the happening of Little Miss’s entrance into the world.

It was the same sort of feeling the day that Mom died, and the days around it.  Those last few days, my world stopped.  There was nothing but being with my mother.  Holding her hand.  Trying to make her comfortable.  Doing anything I could to take care of her.

And then she was gone….  And people didn’t just know it.  I had to tell them.  Dad had to tell them.  My world stopped.  My world as I knew it ended.  And it began again.  World with Mom.  World without Mom.  All in one moment.  All in one day.  But no one else’s really did….  Outside that little room in our house everything looked pretty much the same.  Andy and Carolyn and I went to a park later in the day after the horror of the morning, because I had an intense desire to do something life related.  We walked by people and they couldn’t just look at me and see that the worst thing that had ever happened in my life had happened that morning at 5:35.  And they walked on.  And I walked on. 

I have these dates all stacked up that represent things like that.  Events that made me Val. 

And the thing that gets me, when I’m looking at those dates is that everyone else has their own stack….  and with some exceptions for the people in my life–on their days *I* just went on.  *I* was oblivious.

Before our training session began a woman told a joke.  One of her husband’s jokes.  While doing so, she smiled the kind of smile I’ve become familiar with and explained that her husband’s birthday had been yesterday–her husband who passed away–and she’d gone out to dinner in celebration of him, and she and others who cared about her and him told the stories that he used to tell.  Yesterday was one of her days.

I don’t know what it is that has me sitting and revering this whole idea of dates.  Except that if I can go through one of my days with most of the world not even knowing it….  then that means that at any moment, any person around me could be in the midst of one of theirs–either THE day, or the anniversary of it.

And that makes me remember that people are more than their surface, just like days are more than blocks on a calendar. 

And somehow…  it seems there is holiness in that.

So….   what are your days?