Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Friday, August 26, 2016

14 Months


When we returned from Europe, Baby A had just turned 14 months and was into all sorts of things she couldn't reach before we left, like the counter tops. She was a different little person than the baby we left with. Suddenly sturdy on her feet, she has started running to and fro, for no reason in particular. It really feels like we left with a baby and returned with a toddler. Her Auntie Bex described it best:
It was especially amazing to watch Autumn transform from a baby to a toddler in front of our eyes in just a couple of weeks. All her pics before and early in the trip she looks so small (and adorable), then day by day she looks noticeably more toddler-y until she just is full toddler. I've never watched it happen so fast! You could almost pinpoint the moment! Must be so cool slash slightly sad as a parent to watch your child keep changing so fast right before your eyes!
This month included a trip to Oregon, and a weekend in Morro Bay. Some things I always want to remember about this month:
  • Imitation - Grandpa DeWitt was making hollow noise by knocking his head. She watched and then started hitting herself on the head in an attempt to make same sound. Using our cell phones.
  • At the airport, she slowly walked around in a circle to get dizzy. In Oregon, in play-yard she walked into the playhouse and said "Buh-bye!" and closed the door. She did the same thing before she walked off in volleyball field. Or, the other side of the gate we were putting up for safety with the stairs. We were concerned with adhering it to the wall when she closed the gate, headed to the stairs with my husband and on on the other side and exclaimed "Buh-bye!" And, later in the month when we were sitting in the front and she said that before walking down the sidewalk, or before she closed the bedroom door. 
  • 8/7 Started leading Trevi around on the leash - even down the driveway. Intent on doing it all by herself.
  • Exclaimed "Oh!" when she saw horses we took the gator to see. Tries to honk horn and drive.
  • I was pushing her in the swing and covered my face in peak a boo and she covered her face. Putting the slinky down the ramp and running up and down grandma's new ramp.
  • I love how when she waves, she rotates her whole hand. She can say "bye" or "buh-byeeee" and "Hi" now, and will sometimes say it randomly to people when we are out. If they don't answer her, she will repeat it. She will point to my eye (more accurately: put her finger in it) and proclaim "Eye!" She will also take my hand or my husband's hand and move it in a certain direction if she wants us to do something, like pet a dog.
  • How when we ask "Where is your bracelet?" She holds her wrist out and puts it on display.
  • She was perfect at the wedding reception, and fell asleep right on cue just after 9pm. Although it was noisy, she slept without stirring in her stroller until we were ready to leave around 11:30pm. (Who needs a sitter?) She transferred into and out of the car without waking, and went right down.
  • When she finds a little ledge, like the window in Baja Fresh, she will go sit down. Sometimes, right as she sits she will sigh "Ahhhh..." as if she's really taking a load off.
  • "Ahhhhhhhhhh..." after she takes a drink.
  • I was driving home from work and on the phone with her Daddy. He prompted her to "Say hi to Mommy!" and clear as day, I heard "Hiiii!"

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mom's Interview

An invaluable gift came in the mail this week. An interview with my Mom, Paula DeWitt, is in chapter 8 of The Crafting of Grief: Constructing Aesthetic Responses to Loss. My daughter is mentioned too, though not by name, as I was only 6 weeks pregnant when Lorraine met with Mom and I at our dining room table. 

This interview was one of the only times that Mom and I spoke about her not being here. See, I still have trouble saying it. About her dying. With all my work that I had done leading grief counseling groups and reading on the subject, it remained the elephant on the table throughout the 14 months of her illness. But that was how she wanted it to be, and I was following her lead. She said early on that she didn't want "any bad news" from the doctors. And so, my husband and I filtered it. We stayed behind after doctor's appointments and asked questions like "How much time are we realistically looking at?"


But talking about death does not need to be negative. The focus does not need to be on loss, but rather on legacy. As you will find in the skillfully formed questions, Dr. Lorraine Hedtke is a master craftswoman, carefully carving out meaning from the mundane. 


Who knew crocheting could hold so much meaning and serve to connect past and future generations of women? 



































I read a draft version of the chapter, but have yet to finish a read again. So, if you made it this far, thank you. Mom was a very private person, but obviously granted her permission for this to be used to help others. And that's just what this book will do, in due time. For now, it's hard to read through the tears. Although the focus of this interview, chapter and book is on the positive, and I remember being content that day, I am currently battling regrets that creep in when I think of her, and overshadow our would-be happy memories. From regrets that I didn't take leave from work and stay home with her those last months to regrets that I didn't stop her treatments earlier. 

But how was I to know? And what would she say to counter this? "Don't be silly, Meggie. You did all you could have, and it was more than I could have hoped for or needed. And now that you have Autumn, you finally understand just how much I loved you, and how much I love you still. You wouldn't want Autumn feeling this way, just as I don't want you to shoulder that burden." I just have to let her voice be louder than mine, because I know it's the right one. Besides, the what-ifs will continue indefinitely if I let them. I have a ways to go, and work to do, as we approach the second anniversary of her death on October 8th. I hope to report to you in a few years time that I am past this phase, but still feel as close and connected to her as ever. Because that's the goal of this approach; actively fostering connections instead of "letting go" or "moving on."


I leave you with two photographs of Mom taken three years ago today. Right after she was diagnosed, had brain surgery and moved to Tustin to be closer to us, we walked to the park across the street from their new apartment. We put the diagnosis and fears aside and had a wonderful evening at a production of Hairspray. This is how I want to remember her, and her and I together. And this is how I want my memories and thoughts to be, instead of cluttered with the what-ifs.





Friday, August 19, 2016

Vienna, Prague and Budapest

We took our 13 month old with us for three weeks in Europe and it was an amazing experience. Although we were worried that we didn't know what we were getting into, I would do it again in a heartbeat. This posting is just my travel journal detailing what we did. You can read some of my tips on what to bring and tips on traveling with a baby here. I like to think that someday, she will read this and maybe go back to some of the places we visited.

Day 1- We flew into Zurich from LAX, but our flight into Prague was cancelled. After flying for over 11 hours, we were almost at our final designation...only one more hour+ flight to go. It was very disappointing because we were already boarded when told we all had to de-board. There was a really nice play area in the airport, which we were able to spend some time in while my husband got everything straightened out.
The airline gave us a free hotel which didn't seem bad at first, but the bathroom flooded a few minutes in to my shower. Autumn went down 4pm (home time) and slept until 7pm. She was awake from 7-8pm, but went back down and slept through until morning!
Day 2- We flew to Prague via Swiss air. We were able to board the 777 from the ground which made the size that much more impressive. Walked by my IVF clinic and old town Prague, becoming acquainted with the city we would be returning to at the end of our stay. Found an old catholic church and snapped some pics of my husband throwing her up in the air.  Went to sleep 2pm our time afraid it was just nap, but she slept through until almost 9am! Surprisingly, already adjusted to the time change in spite of the 9 hour difference.
Day 3 - We started our day with breakfast at the Hilton. We walked around toward Old Town, first visit to Gennet, my would-be IVF clinic and ended with a night walk and saw Prague castle up on the hill. It was 9pm, and still light out. We both love walking around and getting a little lost. She went to sleep at 2pm back home which is 11pm Prague time. She was already starting to prove herself as a flexible, easy traveler. Visited a huge toy store called Hamley's.

Day 4 - We had my IVF medication on ice, and took a train from Prague to Vienna.  A woman at the train station told us there was no room for our luggage, but man behind us who was headed to Croatia because "I like to party" said that was bollocks. The next train was sold out, but there was plenty of room for our luggage after-all, and we still don't know what she was talking about. So many beautiful views of the countryside and our hotel in Vienna was perfect. The train ride took about six hours, so it was almost dark by the time we arrived. As I stepped out of the cab, my first view was of a beautiful Russian orthodox church that Putin had visited a few years before, it's gold dome spires reflecting what light was left from sunset.
Day 5- Such an amazing day wandering around Vienna. We walked the whole Ringstrasse! Baby A slept a record 14 hours (9pm-11am) so we got a late start but still saw a lot! Loved Belvedere Gardens, Judenplatz, St. Stephen's Cathedral, university of Vienna and a playground we found.
Baby A had her first spare ribs at dinner that night. We loved the restaurant in the Jewish plaza because there was no street traffic, and Baby A could wander all around. 
Day 6 - Took the subway to Shornbrun palace to meet my instagram friend and her daughter, who was also an IVF baby. Tiergarten, oldest zoo in the world. She was kind enough to meet us in our hotel lobby and help us navigate the subway. We went to Tiergarten, the world's oldest zoo, which was founded as an imperial menagerie in 1752. We walked by the Schönbrunn Palace and beautiful grounds. Then we relaxed at the pool (it was a hot day!) and headed out to dinner in the Ringstrasse.
View from Dinner
Day 7- On our last day in Vienna, we found the perfect Christmas outfit for Baby A before catching the train to Budapest. In the first class section of the train we met an interesting character named Ronald. If anything was good, he would exclaim "That is supa!" I won't tell you what he said if something was bad. Once settled into our hotel, we had dinner overlooking St. Stephen's Basilica. Baby A kept eating the mac and cheese, eating not only what I had reserved for her, but what I was going to save as her leftovers. 
Day 8- Early morning walk - a high of 97 degrees - found Parliament and the Danube. We got a little lost, one of our favorite things to do. Had breakfast and Baby A tried to catch some birds, amazed and surprised when they flew away. She shared her first ice cream cone with me. Quick stop at the park nearby before heading to the pool and an afternoon nap. My coworker/friend arrived with her daughter.
Day 9 - Grabbed Starbucks and an "American pancake" for Baby A. Met Janice and Hope and walked with them to Parliament. Realized, thanks to her GPS, that we have been averaging 6-8 miles a day. We crossed the chain bridge 
Chain Bridge
and went to the National gallery, which is located in what used to be Buda Castle, where the first royal residence was built between 1247 and 1265. We just do not have that kind of history back in the states! Pool time and then out for dinner - Baby A's 1st time eating spaghetti. Woman who sat next to us did not speak English, but loved Baby A and kissed her cheek before we left. There was a quick downpour of rain, and thunder and lightning which continued once we were back at the hotel. Baby A fell asleep at my side watching the sky light up and listening it through our open window.

Day 10 - Hop-on-hop-off bus to Castle Hill. Lunch, walked across chain bridge. My husband watched the girls while Janice and I went for a Thai massage. Everything is so reasopnable here. The hour-long massage cost $40 US, and dinner for the three of us was averaginf $30. Again we had Italian food followed by ice cream. This time, baby A kept going back for seconds, opening her mouth like a little bird. 
View of Parliament from  Buda Castle
Day 11- Laundry day! Yes, this was an exciting day! First, I started with lunch at Nobu in our hotel. I loved it because baby A was going to bed later and also sleeping in. We walked to find the Bubbles laundromat and found a little park on the way. The laundromat served beer, wine and coffee and had children's play area. Walked to Jewish quarter for dinner and found a bar with outdoor patio area down an alley. It was 8:30 pm and children and families still out. Every place, even bars that serve food, have high-chairs. Walked to Fashion street for ice cream. Baby A was hard at work pushing her stroller when a group of women saw her and marveled at, I assume, how stinking cute she was. One woman rushed over and kissed her hand. I am loving how culturally different it is here, and how people are not afraid to show affection toward babies. 



Day 12- More rain! We walked to the central market and Gellert baths.
We stopped in for a cake made in front of us at Kürtőskalács (On a side note, their character looks just like our poo emoji). We grabbed a seat right by the women making the Hungarian specialty, which Baby A loved watching, and the women were kind enough to interact with her as they worked away.

Day 13- Walked to indoor play yard called millipop that was 3 stories high. Afterward, she explored a wooden play yard. I've never seen anything like it! Then, w ducked into a bar for lunch and a woman, who didn't speak any English, outstretched her arms to hold Baby A. She held her for quite awhile, talking to her in Hungarian and showing her things as she pointed. I like to think that someday, she'll encounter one of these people. They'll have a brief interaction, or pass by each other and think "she seemed familiar." Another thought I have is that this is Mom's way of sending her love, or physically holding her in the "real" world. I don't actually believe this (I wish I did), but it is a comforting thought. The Red Bull world championship air races were going on that day; they had been delayed one day due to rain. It was amazing to see the planes racing above the Danube and actually going under the chain bridge! We stopped and watched them on the way back. Again we had Italian food at Cucina for dinner. My husband bought me a Pandora charm of a lion, representing the lion on the chain bridge.
Day 14- Another 6 1/2 hour train to Prague. Baby A was a trooper on the train. Ordered her ham and cheese room service. Nice room - started looking into things to do while here.
Day 15- Astronomical clock and old square. Crossed the St. Charles bridge. Visited Czech senate and Charles IV exhibit. She had as much fun as she did at the zoo, just looking at the peacocks, koi fish and pigeons on the grounds. She pointed to the bird and exclaimed "dooo" We found a great playground on the Vltava river with an unreal view of the St. Charles bridge in the background and stayed for awhile.  We returned to the room around 5pm for a nap (baby and Daddy, while I read and blogged) and then headed out to dinner around the corner at 9pm. It was still light out! As we were waiting for our food, I took her out to the courtyard where they had a daily farmer's market. She found a "friend" a girl of about 4 or 5 who she walked over to, arms outstretched for a hug. The girl didn't speak English, but knew a few important words such as "uh-oh" and "wow." When the girl carelessly tossed some rocks behind her back, Baby A belly laughed. She cried when I took her back into the restaurant, but was easily consoled by some of my potato gnocchi.
Day 16- walked to Petřín Lookout Tower.
 Now this was a hike! Especially for Daddy, who was pushing our sleeping girl in the stroller, weighed down with all of our stuff. About 60 pounds up the steep switchbacks. I climbed to the top of the tower, which is a very small, pathetic copy of the Eiffel tower (really, they were inspired by a visit to it in the late 1800s'). We went in the mirror maze. We were relaxing in the shade, with Baby A was eating fruit when a bee started buzzing around the container. I shooed it away and she though it was the funniest thing in the world and erupted with more belly laughs. Went for Italian food (starting to seem like more than when we were in Italy!) and we were told there was no room at the restaurant. But we pointed to an open table outside and were seated. This became a story we retold to each other for the remainder of the trip. "Do you have reservation? No. That is problem. Why? There's an open table right there." Baby A had fun walking around the small square that the restaurant faced and she even walked a block while we were waiting for food. I realized we were just down the street from the old catholic church we visited at the very beginning of our trip. As we walked up the street, she blew a kiss to a man standing, smoking a cigarette and on his phone. He couldn't help but smile and wave. She has so much fun wherever she goes, and loves interacting with people. 
Day 17- Low-key day. She now knows the way to the elevator and we let her lead the way, and push the buttons. We did some souvenir shopping including a dog for baby A and hand carved and painted Santa for us all.
Day 18- Prague Castle, farmer's market. Dinner by old town square at Hotel Černý Slon. Afterward, we had crepes and sat in the square. Birds flew over and were illuminated by the lights flooding Týn church. I will always be able to close my eyes and picture her like this, toddling around and engaging with people, often pointing up with her middle finger, as they looked up at nothing in particular. Then, as she wandered back to me and outstretched her arms for an embrace a few feet away.
Day 19 - First, mommy and me shopping. Long nap at hotel room, rain and out for pizza with a play area. There was another girl a bit younger than A in there. A walked slowly over to the girl, mouth agape, to give her a kiss. Twice. It was the sweetest thing, but the mom did not speak English  so we couldn't explain what she was trying to do.
Day 20 - Daddy bought us both matching garnet bracelets, as garnets are mined in Prague and will always remind us of being there. We had lunch overlooking Tyn church, and went to mass there later in the evening.

Day 21 - Franz Kafka museum and then some more farmer's market shopping for souvenirs before returning to pack and rest up for our long flight. 

As I finish this blog entry, I'm preparing to return to work on Monday. Traveling for so much of the summer did make it seem to pass by faster, because we were only home for a week total and didn't have time to get bored. But it was worth it. Having so much undivided time with her and my husband, while exploring three new countries is my idea of heaven.