a birthday.

Today is my dad’s birthday. He would have been 56. And yesterday was his Deathiversary. Yes, he died the day before his birthday…30 minutes before, actually. This first week of March is usually a rough week. Lots of memories.

My dad was first diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 1999, when I was 13 years old. It’s a death sentence. First he lost his speech (bulbar form), then he couldn’t walk, and by the end he was on a feeding tube completely dependent on care. It’s a truly horrific disease.

He entered Hospice in February of 2003…I don’t think I fully understood what that meant at the time. We missed a lot of school that month. We’d go and read to him, and I’d paint his toenails, and we’d watch TV together. I guess we just tried to surround him with love, while trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. I just can’t believe it’s been 10 years, even though it does feel like a lifetime ago. I was 16.

He was a great storyteller. He was a former Navy Seal (Frog Man), and a great lawyer (asbestos litigator). He loved the Green Bay Packers, and sports in general. He would read to us every night before bed, even when we were older…the books grew with us. He had a sense of humor. He loved going to movies (one of his favorites was The Fifth Element). He was my biggest fan at my soccer games. And he would play four-square with me in the driveway. He was a great dad.

We went on vacations to Mexico or Jamaica at least twice a year, and I am lucky to have amazing memories of both my parents. For that I am very grateful. But I just can’t help but feel cheated. I lost both my parents by the time I was 24.

Anyway, I was going through a bunch of pictures, and I found these gems. I loved reminiscing, even though it made me bawl like a baby (hubbs can vouch). These darn pregnancy hormones are getting the best of me today. Sheesh.

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Me & my dad, circa 2000.

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Mom, me, Dad, and my sister. Dunn’s River Falls, Jamaica.

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Isn’t this epic? Awesome 70’s photo. I think it was his senior picture.

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Me as a newborn. September 1986.

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You spent $1,000 on a…WHAT?!?

Yes, it’s true. As I alluded to in this post, we got a 2012 Bugaboo Cameleon! (Pictured below is the color scheme we got.) If you don’t know anything about these strollers, it’s probably because they start at $979 brand new. Which is insane. I mean, who spends that much on a stroller?! That’s a lot of dough. It’s pretty sweet though…just look at it. But you know who turned me on to it? My momma. Bugaboo

You see, before McKenzie was born, my mom practically begged to buy us this stroller. She thought it was super cool. Awesome even. But I vehemently opposed the purchase of a $1,000 stroller.  I was like, “Geez Mom…for that price, would you please just buy the entire bedroom set AND a cheaper stroller/car-seat set?” But at the time, I wasn’t personally aware of the awesomeness that is the Bugaboo Cam. Until now.

When we found out about Baby #2, I started thinking about strollers immediately, so of course my mind drifted to the Bugaboo, which my mom had liked so much. I did TONS of research. Read hundreds of reviews. Etc. And I came to the same conclusion: it’s pretty awesome. It has a sweet bassinet (w/ a foam mattress!). It’s car-seat compatible. It can be forward or rear-facing. It has 6 different positions. Adjustable suspension (no kidding!). Heavy-duty foam tires. A reversible, height-adjustable handlebar. On top of all that, it’s relatively compact, and everything is machine washable…and according to the legends, you can push this bad-boy with one hand, no problem.

McKenzie will be 5 by the time the baby is born…which, I’ve decided, is a little old to be using a stroller…don’t you think? So I quickly ruled out double strollers. ((As a hilarious side-note, check out www.toobigforstroller.com for photographic evidence of this phenomena, if you could use a laugh.)) BUT, that said, if I’m going on a long, work-out-style walk, it might be too far for her little legs. Enter: the Bugaboo’s roller-board! I had never heard of these…but it folds up or detaches easily when not in-use…the perfect solution to my problem! I can still use a single stroller, but my kindergartener can ride along if she’s tired. Brilliant.

bugabooboard

Anyway, so I decided to go ahead with my Mom-inspired purchase, but I was still completely opposed to paying full-price. No freakin’ way am I dropping $1,000 on a stroller. So I began obsessively checking Craigslist and eBay. Unfortunately, not a lot of people in Madison, WI (or even Milwaukee) use Bugaboo strollers. And on eBay, they were pretty beat-up. Then, I had a genius idea: my step-dad lives in Orange County, California…so I searched the Craigslist there, and there were pages of Bugaboo listings. Score!

I kept my eye on them, and found a 2012 stroller, listed for $450 with car seat adapter + other accessories included. My lovely step-dad swooped over and scooped it up at my request…and after some bargaining, the final price was $375!  It’s still a lot for a stroller (I know), but we didn’t spend $1,000 on it. We managed to get a *mint* condition Bugaboo Cam for almost 65% off. I’m stoked, and I can’t wait to push Baby #2 around in it! And the best part is: I know my momma would approve. ;)

a senseless act of violence & 3 small ways you can help

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I don’t know exactly what to say, but I feel like saying nothing would be a disservice to all the victims and families in Connecticut.

It’s in our nature to want to fix things or solve a problem, but I don’t think this tragedy should be used as an opportunity to proselytize or further an agenda. It should not be politicized. It should not be blamed on mental illness or gun control. Fingers should not be pointed. There is no understanding a tragedy of this magnitude. There is no reason. It is senseless. It is horrific. And it makes me sick.

Having a daughter in kindergarten, I can’t help but identify with the parents of the Sandy Hook children. I read this article today, and I started bawling like a baby. Every parent grieves for those parents. Those beautiful little children. No more bedtime stories. Christmas gifts that will never be opened. A gigantic hole in the heart of every family involved, and the country as a whole.

I found myself thinking that surely there is something I can do to help those affected by this horrible tragedy, however small. So I compiled this list of  three small ways YOU can help:

  1. Donate to the Victim’s Relief Fund or United Way of Western Connecticut. Proceeds will directly assist the victim’s families in the form of counseling for survivors, funeral expenses, and the establishment of a scholarship fund supporting the students of Sandy Hook Elementary.
  2. Write a card. You or your children can write a card and send it to the school: Sandy Hook Elementary School, 12 Dickenson Drive, Newtown, CT   06482. This is a way to help your children contribute as well, even young children. I also found this list of 10 Tips for Parents for helping your children deal with the tragedy.
  3. Sign this petition. I was sickened to learn that the Westboro Baptist Church plans on picketing vigils & funerals of the Sandy Hook Elementary victims, the same group that routinely pickets the funerals of US service members killed-in-action. Please take a moment and sign the petition to have them legally recognized as a Hate Group by the US Government. Share and pass it on.

A Deathiversary

There are just some days when memories are so vivid. Some happy, some painful. Like today. A “deathiversary,” as I call it. The anniversary of either of my parent’s deaths is always hard. Always. I can’t help but feel like I was cheated, losing both parents by the time I was 24.

I was 16 when my dad died of a horrific disease known as Lou Gherig’s Disease (ALS) at age 45, and two years ago today, my mom died of multiple organ failure at age 54. In the following 4 months, I would lose my remaining 3 grandparents as well. Talk about a stressful year.

4 months before she died.

Anyhow, both my parents were amazing people, and I have nothing but fond memories of my childhood. Even though they’re gone, I know I’m lucky. I know they did their best to raise independent, intelligent, kind, creative, loving daughters. I’m so happy with my life and I’m proud of who I am today…I feel strongly that both my parents would be too, and that makes me smile. I’m incredibly fortunate to have had them in my life, even for a little while, and I know that.

My sister, Mom, Stepdad (Jeff), and myself at their wedding in 2006.

I was SO close with my mom. She was my default “call” on a long drive to talk. We talked every day. I knew her not only as a mother, but as a person…and I’m so grateful she was my mom. She was compassionate, caring, and always put herself first (to a fault). When I was a teenager, we had our differences, but who doesn’t? And nothing was unforgivable. She was my constant supporter, cheerleader, and best friend. She was hilarious and had a dirty, dirty mind (so funny to learn about your parents!). She was the strongest, most positive person I know, and she intentionally and consciously looked at life with a “glass half-full” attitude. And I will always admire her inner strength…she went through several battles in life that would have broken or scarred any other individual. She was a fighter. I love my family so much, and I’m so proud she was my mom.

Parasailing in Mexico 2009.

I remember after she died (both my parents, really), the worst part is feeling like life goes on. The world keeps spinning, even though your world has stopped. If you’ve ever lost someone close, I’m sure you know what I mean. The worst thing you can say to someone is: “I know how you feel.” It’s such a selfish thing to say! Everyone experiences things differently, so even if you lost a parent too, you cannot presume to know how I feel. Urgh. Never say that to anyone who has lost someone, please. Under any circumstances.

Anyhow, today on her “Deathiversary,” I think about that day two years ago. About how she was at home with hospice on a ventilator and the nurses knew it was coming. Her heartbeat slowed. Her breathing slowed. And we all held her hand as she took her last breath. I remember I felt an overwhelming sadness, and a sense of relief…she was no longer in pain. I still think of her all the time. It would be impossible to forget with the daily reminders…a mug I have from her sailing days in the ’70s, Dancing with the Stars, Andrea Bocelli, Santana, books she bought McKenzie. I find I have a hard time getting rid of things she got McKenzie. But that’s just it…I’ll always miss her. The world feels like it stops, but life goes on. And you just live, because you know they would want you to.

Mall of America, 2007.

On another note, my sister wrote this and it echos my sentiments exactly…it’s just beautiful and perfect:

Dear Mom,

I’m done being mad at the world because you’re gone. I’ve cried countless times in the past two years and will keep crying because I can’t hold your hand, because I can’t hear your laugh or encouraging words, because I don’t find paper towels in my clothes you borrowed, because you’re gone and I miss you every single day, but I won’t be mad. You were the best cheerleader in the world. You taught me about love, about holding my head high, about persistence, about determination, and about life. But I still need to keep telling myself I’m glad you’re gone. You’re not suffering. You’re not in pain…I love you mom. Always have. Always will. I hope I can be as amazing as you were. I hope I can be that cheerleader for [my daughter]. I hope I will turn into that voice in her head telling her to keep it up, to keep going, telling her she’s loved. I’m so sad that your gone, but refuse to say goodbye, and never will, so I’ll see you later.

I love you with all my heart and soul.

♥ Your Daughters

My mom holding Abbey (my niece) and Jeff holding McKenzie.