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.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

26 Months

Her 26th month started while we were in Oregon, with her exploring the property and what is a very large house, compared to ours. She is able to go upstairs now while I'm still downstairs or vice versa, without me worrying. We loved seeing her ride her pony, though some days she was more tentative than others.
Her language is developing rapidly, and she has started (sometimes) speaking in complete sentences. The cutest example of this was when we took the Gator up to the Orchard to let Trevi run loose. All of a sudden, Trevi came bolting, and we quickly realized she was chasing a deer. When we returned to the fire that was being built by the lake, she was excited to share with anyone who would listen: "Big deer! Trevi chased it!" 

We really enjoyed our 2 1/2 weeks in Oregon, and stayed for 3 nights at the Valley River Inn, where Baby A was able to swim in the "big pool." There were a lot of VIP family members with us there that we rarely get to see, like Aunt Nancy and Uncle Leonard from Michigan, Uncle Don from Pennsylvania and my Uncle TJ and Auntie Bex from D.C. Once everyone left, Baby A was able to have some quality time with her Grandma, and enjoyed showing her things and riding on her lap. Almost a month later, she is still asking about "Gramma."

No matter how much fun you have, it's always nice to be home. Baby A demonstrated her appreciation of being back by ransacking the place. Although we came in on a late flight and she had not napped, she had fun pulling most of her toys out and rediscovering them with vigor. The very next morning "GranpaGlennie!" came to see her and she was so excited. She ran through the house exclaiming "GranpaGlennie!" over and over. We worked in a Disney trip where she met the princess for the first time (the verdict is still out on this one) and a few days of not doing a lot before staying at The Great Wolf Lodge.

She started with the yellow slide on the left...
...and ended up tackling this blue one!
The Great Wolf Lodge was amazing. Only 6 miles from our house, I would go every month if I could. But it's expensive, so I'll settle for once or twice a year instead. We were there for three full days. On the first day, she was afraid to go down the yellow slide on the left. She went to the top all by herself and sat down, but as I was waiting at the bottom to catch her, she reached her arm out and said 'hand.' She was not budging. An employee staffing the line at the top saw her and walked over. Oh good, he's going to help her down the stairs I thought, picturing him carrying her back to me. Instead, he gave her a gentle push and she screamed and cried the whole way down. It was just what she needed, because 5 minutes later, she wanted to go again. 

On day two, I went up with her and the worker at the gate asked her what color she wanted to go down. She gave them a blank stare and I answered yellow for her. To my surprise, on our second trip up (Daddy was waiting at the bottom) she exclaimed "RED" to no one and everyone in particular. From then on, she went down the red slide. It was the first time I have ever really felt proud of her! Not that she hasn't done amazing things before, but milestones such as walking may be awe-inspiring, but they are also expected. This wasn't, and I was so happy she overcame her fear so quickly. 



After the red slide, she went down an even bigger enclosed slide again and again. That's the thing about this age - they love repetition. We spent the morning at the water park, and went back to the room for her to nap. GWL has a lot of fun activities sprinkled throughout the day, like crafts, story time and morning yoga. They also have different restaurants, and ice cream shop, bowling alley and kid spa that has mommy and me packages (I can't wait to us this when she's older). After nap, it was back to the waterpark. It feels too hot and humid when you walk in (it's always 84 degrees) but after you've been in the water, it's perfect.

"Beast, Belle coming too?"
On day three, my best friend Andrea joined us with her husband and son, "cousin Casey." Daddy was great-wolfed-out, and left around noon but we stayed until almost 8:30 pm. After more trips down the bigger slides, she kept asking to go down the big, blue slide. "Blue slide! I go der!" Assuming she would not be allowed, I asked a worker who said she could. Auntie Andrea waited at the bottom, as we climbed several flights of stairs to the top, figuring she would back out once we were up there. I asked a second worker who was at the top if she could go, and she said she could. She didn't back out, but I almost did! We were about 4 stories high, and the slide was not enclosed! I was even a bit hesitant to follow one she was down.
 
I couldn't believe that she did it, and then wanted to go again. It was the proudest I have ever felt, and we couldn't wait to tell Dad!

That weekend, she had her first "real" friend's birthday party at our local zoo. I love seeing her interact with Tommy. We also joined them at adventure playground in Irvine, before I returned to work that Monday. She was supposed to start back at daycare the following week, but my husband unexpectedly had to fly to Oregon. I was planning to readjust her sleeping schedule (she had been staying up until 10pm and sleeping in until 8) and visit daycare. But on the first day and the whole first week, she was fine! Her teacher said it was like she never left. 

First day back to daycare!
I started increasing my mileage this month to train for the Long Beach half marathon. While I still push her in the stroller for some 3 mile runs, there's no way I would want to go any further. That's where "GranpaGlennie" came in! They come every weekend to visit anyway, so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity. She had never been left with anyone before. Yet when it was time for me to leave, she really could not care less. She gets so excited when they are coming for a visit, and was in the middle of pulling out toys to show them. When I returned an hour later, they said it went really well. So the following weekend I ran further and drove to the Back Bay to run, instead of leaving out the front door. I was gone almost 2 and a half hours, and they're ready to watch her again next weekend!

Things I don't want to forget about this month:


  • "My go there!"
  • "Beast coming too?"
  • Her excitement in telling people things. "Deer! Big deer! Trevi chased it" or "Grandpa! Saw owl. Big owl!"
  • "No, my do it."
  • Told Dad "I love you Dada" while he was carrying her, completely unprompted.
  • Watching Beauty and the Beast and saying "Love" when they dance.
  • Saying "You're welcome" after I thanked her for giving me a flower.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Perpetual Love

I do a lot of thinking on runs. I'm not sure if its the increased oxygen to my brain, lack of the usual distractions, just a way to pass the time, or all of the above, but sometimes a good, hard run helps me see a previous problem in a new light.

It was late afternoon and close to 90 degrees in Oregon when I headed out the door. My preference for running would be first thing in the morning, but these days I am at the mercy of her nap time, unless I want to push 50 pounds (30 for her, and 20 for the stroller). I headed down the rural road, thinking of Mom the day that I got the call she had a 3 cm tumor in her brain four years ago. They didn't yet know if it was cancerous or benign that day I headed down the same road, killing time waiting for the second phone call which was everything I feared. 

My thoughts then drifted to her one trip here to the property in the spring of 2014 after she had been fighting her battle with the metastatic brain cancer, and how I told her we would bring her grandchild(ren) here. She was undergoing chemo, had blurry/double vision in one eye and was so weak that she slept in (something she had never done my whole life) and often sat to help prepare meals, like cabbage rolls.

She didn't want to come, really. She wanted to stay home. But I wasn't going to go if she didn't, because I didn't want to miss out on any time with her. And it was important to me for her to see it and know her grandchild(ren) would own a piece of it someday. I can be annoyingly persuasive, and do have a bit of guilt in asking her to come. But, I'm glad she did because she did enjoy herself here (like feeding the horses, here) and I have memories with her here now.

All of these thoughts were going through my head, and making the loss of her much more painful than usual, as usual. I have a tendency to do this periodically, and make myself feel guilty for what I did or didn't do. But on this run, something shifted, and I thought of my love for Baby A, and how much that love is reminiscent of the love Mom and I shared. Since it is so rural, I was able to speak out loud to Mom, without fear of another runner or cyclist whizzing by and questioning my sanity. "I guess the baby we lost needed a Nana up in heaven more than Baby A needed a Nana here on earth." 

I thought of how it seemed that my Mom's soul, or at least part of her spirit, is in Baby A, and how maybe that was why she had to go.

Far-fetched, and not likely. The idea that Mom's soul is in Baby A and we are sharing the same love and it will be repeated for eternity - just the two of us,  was comforting but not realistic or even plausible enough to entertain. A recycled idea from a book I read as a teen, The Bridge Across Forever, where two souls continually found each other over time. The brief but impossible thought that maybe Baby A really is my Mom and we will go on in this pattern for all of eternity was too far fetched and probably goes against most religions except the ones believing in reincarnation.  

I then thought of all the questions I would ask Mom if she were here. Was I as attached to her at Baby A's age as she is to me? And I immediately knew the answer: I was.

Then a thought so overly simple, but profound came to me and I clung to it because so few things make the pain of Mom being gone seem less, and I need to hang on to the ones that do. The love Baby A and I share is just like the love Mom and I shared. In this way, the love Mom and I shared is not gone. The love has just changed and transferred to a different relationship, but it is still here. It is here between Baby A and I because it was there between Mom and I. The love that she gave me and I am giving to Baby A can be given to her children and their children and go on for all of eternity.
This. This made sense to me. And it makes me feel better about the loss of my best friend and closest confidant...if anything can. Even now, days later, when I revisit it, it is like a warm, comforting memory that I enjoy thinking about. Instead of thoughts of Mom being gone and me raising her without a Nana, Mom is manifested in the time, love and patience that I give to her. 

I have previously thought of all the gifts that Baby A is missing out on because my Mom is not here. Mom gave me something small for every holiday. Lip gloss disguised as fancy chocolates for Valentine's Day; a potted clover for St. Paddy's. Not just presents, but presence. When Baby A excitedly Squeals "Granpa! Glennie!" a part of me is sad, because that sentence would have started with "Nana!" Or, I think of how few things of Mom's I have to pass on to Baby A. Not even her gold cross that she wore in her final days, likely stolen by our house cleaner. But this counters all of that.

Mom gave me the most precious gift of all in giving her unconditional love to me. For 37 years, she loved me with every fiber of her being and put the needs of my brother and I before her own. Not out of obligation, but because she loved doing so. She was fun, caring, optimistic, always happy and patient. What would I prefer? Having that, or a house full of items or nice jewelry to pass on to her? Some may have material items, but less love or more judgment instead. Mom was rare, with a laugh that was contagious, and the patience of a saint. She was the strongest person I have ever known, but you would never know it because she was so sweet. She endured a lot, without ever complaining, and always looked on the bright side of life.

The gift of her unconditional love is mine, but only for a time because I am more of a steward for it. It was intended, maybe from the beginning, to be passed down to Baby A. I have been able to bask in the glow of it, but in being given such a precious gift comes the great responsibility of passing it on. 

Perhaps its being in such a rural setting, out amongst the beauty of the world, or surrounded by 100ft(+) trees, but feeling small out here is part of the allure.  Although it may sound strange, being small brings me comfort in a way. The comfort comes from the idea of not being at the center of the world like we think we are when we're younger, but rather a link in a chain. A chain where my mother is on one side of me, and Baby A is on the other. In this chain, the force applied (pulling or pushing) does not not all pile on me. Instead, the force is shared by those before me, and those after me. So, even if the force is intense, I don't bare the load alone. I am surrounded by those I love, and they help share burden.  

The burden of losing mom is more than I thought I could bare, before I was faced with it. I never imagined being able to survive and function after losing my Mom, and perhaps I would not be able to do half as good of a job if I were not linked to Baby A. Every day, I find a way to channel the pain, and change it from hurt to love to give to Baby A. This ever-present loss keeps me keenly aware of the finiteness of life, which nudges me to enjoy the heck out of her, and build a relationship like what I shared with Mom.

The pressure from losing mom (hurt) transcends the here and now. It is more than a moment. It is more than the past, or the future. It is a force that must go on, it must travel down the chain, through me and beyond. But, as time goes on, I am finding out that I have the ability to control the pressure. It does not have to be as I originally perceived it (hurt); I have the ability to decide what I pass down the line.  

In Oregon, the idea that moments, memories, and values can transcend one life is obvious and apparent. This place, where I look forward to returning to before I have even left, will be here for Baby A. As she grows older, she will know that Oregon is where her loved ones spent time; a place that her Grandma Swanek calls heaven on earth. She'll have childhood memories of spending every summer and Christmas here. Unknowingly, she travels paths my Mom walked, or sits on a bench where Mom sat and I can almost feel her presence. She'll see where our initials are carved and so are hers, or hear us splashing in the waters and running down the hills, chasing Trevi and laughing like Mom and I did. I hope that when I'm gone, she too will realize that the moments, memories, and values will go beyond her and link her to her loved ones. I hope she'll know that I am still with her, especially when she remembers our love and bond, or sees it reflected in her love of her own child.