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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Welcoming 2011 and a New Decade

I hope that you all had a peaceful and merry Christmas!  I will post about Christmas as soon as I get pictures moved over from the camera.  For now, I want to reflect on the past year, the new year that is approaching, and the decade that we will be leaving behind.  There are some possible triggers below, so read carefully. 

I was more than happy to say goodbye to 2009, but I really have no opinion about saying goodbye to 2010.  It was a busy year, but it was actually pretty quiet in terms of big events.  Some of the ups and downs of our 2010 include....
  • We took advantage of the new year holiday, the full moon and the blue moon (and a little alcohol) to make a rainbow was the very first thing we did!  :-P
  • My BIL and his wife adopted a 4 y/o and 6 y/o brother/sister duo that they had been fostering for about a year.
  •  My DH turned 40.
  • We gave a loving home to a pooch rescued during a raid of a local Amish puppy mill.  (Carley was a 'pet' on the farm, not in the puppy mill cages...but she came to us after suffering pretty substantial emotional trauma at some point before being rescued.)
  • We attended monthly baby loss support meetings and made some friends there.  This has become a very important part of our coping and healing.
  • We participated in the March of Dimes March for Babies, and were later asked to be an ambassador family for the 2011 walk.  
  • We observed most of our 'year of firsts' without Gracie and celebrated her first birthday in Heaven.
  • We welcomed our rainbow, Jenna, who is sleeping on my chest as I type this.  :-)   She rocked my world right from the get-go by arriving after a brief 2.5 hour labor the evening before induction was scheduled.  
  • A former co-worker of mine became a BLM after her second child lost a 16 day fight with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, and a brother firefighter became a baby loss grandpa.  :-(
  • DH's oldest nephew, with whom he is pretty close, graduated from high school and enlisted in the Navy.  He has finished boot camp, and his first step of A-school (he is now a sworn Naval M.P.), and is currently training to be a K-9 handler. 
  • We said goodbye to my BIL's wife, who is perhaps hanging out with Gracie and waiting for the rest of us.
  • My MIL had surgery to successfully remove colon cancer.
  • Jeff and I now own 3 burial plots that are part of the larger family plot...the one that Gracie is buried on, and one for each of us.  33 is much too young an age to own burial plots.  
  • We organized a collection of baby items to donate to the local NICU/PICU as part of remembering Gracie during the Christmas season.
  • I completed about 16 months of life with my sister living on a different continent.  

So there it is, 2010 in a nutshell.  Some ups and some downs, but overall, it was better to us than 2009 was.

I certainly wonder what the coming year will bring for us.  But more than that, I wonder what the new decade holds in store for us.  As we move into the new decade, I can't help but reflect on the last 10 years...almost in awe.  Ten years ago I was fresh out of college, and still living in a fairy tale land...completely naive about the curve balls that life could (and would) potentially throw my way.  Since then I have survived more ups and downs than some people endure in a lifetime (but certainly less than some others...)  In addition to the events of the last year, my last 10 years look a little like this (not necessarily in chronological order)...
  • My aunt succumbed to cancer and was the first of my father's 13 siblings to die. 
  • I made my first independent car purchase (without input or financial help from my father).  I bought a Durango that is a deep purple color, and was consequently dubbed the Pur.ple Peop.le Eater.  I am still driving that car, and as it turns out, it's really the Purple Deer  I have hit and killed 3 deer with it in the last 5 years, and the only damage sustained has been on tiiiiiny ding in the bumper.  I suspect that, eventually, my luck will run out unless I get a big grill protector installed soon. 
  • I became a homeowner, and subsequently a landlord.  We no longer rent, but are instead working on changing the house from two apartments back into a single family dwelling.  It has been the most slow-going process of my life, as each project reveals 5 other projects that must be completed in order for the original project to be completed properly...and each additional project costs money that we didn't plan to spend (and usually didn't/don't have to spend) when budgeting for the original project. 
  • I forged a friendship with my first tenant...a friendship that would eventually take a most unexpected turn...a turn that would lead to a likely unbreakable bond understood only by BLMs.  (Debbie lost her daughter, Sophie, on her due date not quite 3 years before we lost Gracie)
  • I visited Costa Rica after my sister finished a semester of college study there.  It's a beautiful country, and I hope to return there some day to see the things that I missed the first time.
  • A long-time childhood friend left my life for unknown reasons.  We have not spoken in about 9 years, and to this day I have no idea why.  I miss her lots, but have decided that it's probably not worth the hurt that would come in trying to reestablish contact.
  • I fell into a pretty deep depression that, to this day, I have difficulty figuring out.  Despite meds and counseling, it hung on for a couple of years, and ultimately almost cost me the love of my life.  Luckily, when it was all said and done, it resulted in only being apart for about 6 months.  Eventually I started to pull out of my downward spiral and we were able to fix things. 
  • I became part of PA's statewide Urban Search and Rescue system, and spent a few hundred hours cross training as a Rescue Specialist, Technical Search Specialist and a Haz-Mat Specialist.
  • I quit my first P.T. job (with nothing else lined up) during a confrontation with my boss after months after months of documenting ethical and legal concerns about the practice for which I was working.
  • I opened a private physical therapy practice.  Since physical therapy is a professional, and relatively specialized service, I honestly thought that I would never have to think about disciplinary action with my employees; since having that thought 6 years ago, I have had to fire two far, two of the most humbling experiences of my life.  Overall, it has been a super-challenging, but rewarding experience.  Sometimes I wonder if I am financially going to live to seen another day, but it's been 6 years now and the doors are still open and the lights are still on.    
  • I worked my way up through line officer positions in the fire department, ultimately reaching Deputy Chief.  I have 15.5 years (plus 1.5 years as a junior member) in as a member of the department, and I have been an officer for the last 11-12 years.  2011 will likely be my last year as an officer; I will likely return to the 'lowly' status of plain old firefighter in 2012.  This makes me sad, but it's time.  I'm tired, and I am ready to be a mom.  I don't have the time necessary to dedicate to running a business, raising kids and being an active department leader...and of the three, the being an officer is what will have to give.  
  • We said goodbye to a friend who suffered from severe bi-polar disorder for most of her life.  She has been gone for 3 years, and we hope that she is free of the agony that filled her life.  
  • We welcomed 2 new dogs and 4 new cats came into our lives, primarily as a result of losing 3 dogs and 3 cats along the way.
  • I was named as Pennsylvania's Rescue Technician of the Year in 2007.
  • Less than one year later, the friend/mentor who nominated me for that award succumbed to a sudden aortic dissection caused by Marfan's Syndrome and died at the age of 44.  Coincidentally, his widow is one of our midwives. 
  • I married the love of my life after 14 years (minus the above noted 'break') together.  After finally tying the knot, we took an amazing honeymoon cruise along the coast of Alaska.  I cannot wait to return to Alaska - to hopefully celebrate our 5th anniversary.  While there, I hope to visit my friend Dawn
  • I carried my first born child in my belly through 36 weeks of pregnancy, and she was born directly into heaven on August 1st, 2009.  She was buried next to her great grandmother on August 5th.
  • My relationship with my mother and step-father continues to be estranged, although honestly, it's probably better this way.  
  • My only sibling left US soil on August 18, 2009 for a 27 month Peace Corps assignment in Namibia, Africa.  
Although so many small details of life are not included in that list, that is a quick snapshot of my last 10 years.  Some of these things seem like they happened a lifetime ago, yet some of them still seem so fresh.  I look at this list of events and compare it to the mental list of how things in my life were supposed to unfold, and it's not even close.  It certainly makes me realize that even though we expect our lives to take a specific path, we really have so little control over most of what happens to and around us.  So many people say that we control our own destiny; sure, we absolutely have control over some things, but I think for the most part destiny really is just that...destiny.

Looking at this list makes me wonder what the next year and the next decade will bring.  The following is my wish list for the next year.
  • BFP some time in September or October so we can make Gracie and Jenna big sisters in June or July of 2012.
  • Continued forward progress on the house, with the hope that we can inhabit the second floor by the end of the year, or at worst, by the time baby number three arrives.
  • Continued forward progress for my business, which might financially allow more forward progress with the house.
  • Healthy growth and development for Jenna.
  • Good mental and physical health for my family and pets.
  • Completion of all projects that have been assigned to me at the firehouse, so whoever assumes my position in 2012 can start with a clean slate.  

And the next decade?  I anticipate that my life will be substantially different by the time we reach the end of the next decade, so my hopes and expectations for the next 10 years are really quite simple.  Most importantly, I hope that we have two or three healthy living children that are running us ragged with sports and other activities, and that Jeff and I still have our health and our sanity.

It is my hope that we continue to recover emotionally from Gracie's death, but at the same time keep her memory alive within our family.  I hope that I am able to continue to find ways to reach out and offer support to other BLMs, and maintain the friendships that I have developed with other BLMs over the last year.  It is also my hope that no one else we know will endure the pain of baby loss. 

It is my sincere hope that all major/structural renovations on our house are complete and that it is relatively the way that we want it.  Even better would be completed renovations, the purchase of a parcel of land somewhere that we can build the house that we really want, and sale of this existing house.  This would really make my DH happy.

It is my hope that we do not suffer the loss of any close relatives over the next ten years, but realistically speaking, that seems like an impossibility, since grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents are aging. 

It is my hope that DH and I are able to return to Alaska at least once, but preferably celebrate our 5th and 10th wedding anniversaries.  I would also like to be able to start traveling with our children, as I would like to show them as much of this country, and possibly places outside of this country, as possible before they go off to college.

I hope that my business is able to survive all of the health insurance changes that will be proposed and enacted as part of 'balancing budgets' and 'regaining control of the out-of-control' American healthcare system. 

My wish to all of you is a peaceful transition into 2011.  I wish you all much love, friendship, prosperity, health and healing in the new year and the coming decade.  My thoughts and love are with all of you.

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Blog

In an attempt to keep Gracie's blog space dedicated to Gracie and Jenna's blog space dedicated to Jenna, I have set up a new blog. I will use the new blog to post about things like cloth diapering, nursing, homemade baby food, cooking and recipes, natural childbirth, general fitness and nutrition, and other topics related to raising baby (and toddler and preschooler as I get to those stages).  While it certainly will not appeal to all, I know that I have some followers who are interested in similar subjects....  For those who are interested, my new blog can be found here

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I know that I said I would leave this open until  9:00, but there have been no entries for the last 8 hours, and I am going to be super busy at work all day, so I am going to do this a little early.

I could not get the picture from to copy and paste over here...not sure what the problem is.  But there were 17 entries. picked #11, which belonged to Maggie from Butterflies for Alexandra.  This is kind of ironic, since I won Maggie's giveaway a couple weeks ago! 

Thank you all for entering.  For those who were interested, the flag was purchased through this link.   Wishing you all a very blessed and peaceful Christmas!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

25 Days of Giveaways - Welcome to Day #21

I would like to welcome all of my regular readers, as well as those who are visiting Gracie's blog for the first time as part of Tina's 25 Days of Giveaways.  I would also like to thank Tina for putting the festivities together again this year!!!  It definitely is something to look forward to.  When I think about it, though, it's hard to believe that I have been part of this community long enough to be doing this for the second time!

Today's giveaway is open to BLMs, BLDs, BL aunts or uncles, or BL grandparents.  I had initially planned to offer a gift certificate to the Midnight Orange, however D. Antonia is on a bit of an artistic hiatus, so I decided to go a different route.

I know that many of you have special memorial gardens or other special outside areas set up to memorialize your angels, so I decided that I would give away a  garden flag that reads "We Remember Angelversaries." 

To enter today's giveaway, leave a comment to tell me what special thing(s) you have done or plan to do to remember your little one's angelversary.  If an email address is not readily available through your blogger profile, please also leave your email address in your comment.  I will leave things open until 9:00 a.m. (EST) on Wednesday the 22nd. Good luck to all who enter, and thanks for dropping by our little corner of the blogosphere!  Merry Christmas and much love to you all!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another Year Has Gone By

~* Possible triggers through this post *~

I have been walking around for the last two to three weeks with a rather lengthy post in my head, and I have simply lacked the time to sit down and get it out.  Of course, because I haven't been able to get it out, it has changed from day to day, based on what my brain remembers from day to day.

Before I go any further, I would like to congratulate my friend, Dawn, on the birth of her rainbow, Maddox, on December 7th!  Mom, Maddox, Dad and big brother are all doing well so far!!  Congrats also go to Jessica, who recently welcomed rainbow baby, Joshua!!  Please keep the following ladies in your thoughts, as they are all rapidly approaching the arrival of their rainbows within the three weeks... Katy, Heather, Malory, and Lori

So another year has passed since our first Christmas without Gracie, and what a difference a year can make...or not.  A year ago, my only child was dead and I put up Christmas decorations in a cemetery for the first time.  This year I have two is still dead and we decorated in the cemetery again.  It didn't take long to decorate this year, since we knew what we were doing this time around.  Different, but the same.  

A year ago, I was simply dreading the arrival of Christmas.  Dreading it.  Christmas day came and went relatively peacefully, and I realized that the days leading up to the 25th were far worse than the actual holiday itself.  This year I am actually looking forward to Christmas with, but it will just not be as it should be.  Instead of having a 15 month old running around tearing things up, I will spend Christmas with my 3 month old, who I expect will be absolutely fascinated by the lights on the tree and the dancing Santa figurine.  Just like last year, we will host Christmas Eve dinner and then release balloons for all of the angel babies. We will still be missing Gracie, and it will be the first Christmas without my BIL's wife. Everything will be the same and different at the same time.

Last year we decided that our new 'tradition' would be to purchase at least one ornament each year for Gracie.  Last year she got several ornaments.  This year I have purchased two for her.  I will post pictures of them over the weekend.  This tradition already has me long will this tradition go on?  It's likely that each living child will have a new ornament or two on the tree each year while they live at home with us.  But how long will we continue to look for Gracie ornaments?  At what point does that stop?  When she 'turns 22, graduates from college and moves out?'  When we stop buying or making new ornaments for the rest of our kids?  When we just cannot find anything new and/or suitable to be Gracie's ornament?  When?  And why?  And how will I feel about it?

Last  year we encouraged our friends and family who wanted to honor Gracie to purchase a 'gift' to donate to Doing Good In Her Name.  This year we decided to do the same type of donation, but we wanted to keep it more local instead of sending it out of state.  So we will be donating to the patients in the NICU and PICU of the children's hospital about 20 minutes away.  Again...the same, but different.  And again I wonder how long this will go on.  How long will friends and family feel compelled to make a donation in Gracie's memory to help another child/family?  How long will Je.ff and I feel compelled to do this?  Is is something that our living children will want to continue when their parents have no steam left?  Or will it simply die off gradually from one year to the next until it simply fades to black?

On Sunday the 12th, we attended a candle lighting service at our hospital.  It was our first year for this service, which is coordinated by the bereavement team and done in conjunction with Compassionate Friends, as last year's was canceled because of bad weather.  It was a nice, small gathering.  But it still sucks.  It's likely that this will also become an annual tradition for us, simply as another means of keeping Gracie alive within us. 

We continue to go to our monthly support group, and it continues to be quite beneficial for us.  A couple that attended a few times had their rainbow baby, Eleanor, on October 14th.  I had posted a prayer request for her a few days later, as she was in the NICU and having some substantial respiratory issues - she is home now and doing well!  Another couple in our group is expecting their rainbow in a few months; I am so excited for them, but at the same time I am as afraid for them as I was when I was pregnant with Jenna.  I don't think that particular fear will ever go away.  I have been putting a lot of thought lately into the perinatal bereavement support available from the three birthing hospitals in our region...specifically, in terms of what I/we can contribute to these programs that might make the initial 'black hole' of loss just the tiniest bit smaller for parents just entering the realm of baby loss.  A few months ago we donated baby loss ribbon pins for the memory boxes given out by our hospital.  Over the last couple of months I put together a pamphlet that can be included in the bereavement literature that our hospital hands out; it contains various online resources that might be helpful to new loss parents.  But these things seem to trivial in the grand scheme of things.  I received confirmation a few weeks ago that one of the three hospitals in our region does not do much for their loss families.  They give a copy of 'When Hello Means Goodbye' and they also give them a (donated) knitted outfit that is size-appropriate for their little one.  That's it.  This makes me feel so empty, and my heart breaks for all of the families that have left this hospital more or less empty handed.  I am hoping, with the help of a few other BLM friends, to change this.  I am ultimately hoping that in the coming months we will be able to provide memory boxes for these families.  We'll see how it goes.  

I have found myself having quite a few angry thoughts over the last few weeks.  It's relatively displaced anger, but I suppose it all has to go somewhere.  I am not sure if it has been sparked by continued changes on my hormone levels, by the impending holiday, by the anticipation of my sister's return from Namibia for a 3 week visit or by something completely unrelated, but has been pretty prevalent.  I keep thinking about our 35 week appointment with Gracie, which was the last time she was alive in the OB's office.  I keep thinking about the fact that I questioned Gracie's apparent slowing rate of growth, as well as my own weight loss at that appointment.  We had not had many dealings with the midwife that we saw that day; her response to my concerns was that we don't all grow 10# babies and that the ultrasound weights were +/- 1.5#.  She then said we would see how things looked the next week and form a game plan from that point forward if necessary.  That's what makes me angry.  She gave us the impression that Gracie's size/weight would be estimated during the next week's ultrasound.  We have since learned that the ultrasound tech in our OB's office does not do size measurements more frequently than every 3 weeks unless there is an obvious problem there was no reason for the midwife to believe that Gracie's size would be measured the following week.  That fact alone kind of makes me feel like she was really blowing off our concerns and just saying what she needed to say to pacify us and get us out of the office.  The only things pointing to a problem at that point were my weight loss and Gracie's slowing growth there would have been no reason for them to have done growth measurements the following week, and she had to have known that.  Such a simple thing, but it's really been under my skin for the last few weeks for some reason.  This, too, shall pass, I suppose.  Sigh.  

I will close tonight with some music.  I have been waiting for months and months for this song to pop up on, but no luck.  So I will include it here.  I think it's perfect for most of us.  Make sure you stop the player on the right side of the screen before you play this one. 

I would like to wish you all a merry and peaceful holiday season filled with friends, family and love.  Come back some time in the next few weeks to check out Gracie's 2010 ornaments, and perhaps see some pics of this year's Christmas Eve balloon release.  Stop back on the 21st to participate in the 25 Days of Giveaways!!  Much love to you all! 

I Never Win Anything...

...but this year I won an amazing piece from The Midnight Orange, via Maggie, who hosted a Day 7 giveaway!  It arrived the other day and it is simply stunning (my DH even thinks so, and he doesn't often have much to say about artsy things!)

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Maggie!!!  I love, love, love it and it will be a perfect addition to Gracie's shelf!!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

25 Days of Giveaways & Free Christmas Cards

Hello to all.  I feel like I have been gone from here for so long.  I have so much to write here, and have been lacking for time to do so.  I am hoping to get some things written this week regarding Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In the meantime, I am sure that most of you are already aware of it, but in case there is someone out there that is not, I wanted to make you aware of Tina's 25 Days of Giveaways.  Last year was the first year, this year looks to be just as promising!  Check it out if you haven't already!!

Also, for those who do Christmas cards, but have not ordered yet or are in need of extras, Shutterfly is offering bloggers an opportunity to get 50 free Christmas cards.  After reading the information, I don't think it's a guaranteed thing, but it's worth checking out.  I glanced through their cards tonight and I really liked them.  Sadly, I liked them better than the cards that I ordered from another site.  I really liked the 'Noir Stars' card...I plugged a few of our pictures into it and I love the way it turned out.  I don't think I can afford to order too many of them, since I already spent my Christmas card money, so I am keeping my fingers crossed for the freebies to come through!

Wishing you all a safe and healthy week, and hoping to get back to see you all later in the week.