Monday, November 26, 2007

1 month

Duncan died one month ago. My mood was pretty pleasant until Jackson went down for a ridiculously long nap (I'll take it!) and I spent time with my journals. It was about that time that my mood started reflecting the weather: droopy, gloomy, and sad.

But that's how I operate. I get all emotional, sobbing while writing my thoughts through the blur of tears. And it feels SO GOOD just to be in cry mode. And then, after I get it out for awhile... I'm good again. And really, I was pretty good even while crying. It's all good for the ole system, as far as I'm concerned.

Jackson and I visited with Duncan in the rain. It was Jackson's first trip out while it poured, so I did my best to shield him from the downpour by a pathetically beat up umbrella while his infant carrier sunk in the soaked, muddy ground. We were quite a ragamuffin pair.

I am still trying to figure out the whole "stay at home" thing. Seems like the authentic flavor of that life has yet to be tasted... between the holidays and visitors and relatives and special trips (going to Florida next week...yeeehaaa!). But on the few days that I have had with NO commitments, I somehow manage to do nothing inspirational as I dreamed of doing. My religious views are no more clear. My time with God is no more extensive. My political views no more firm. My reading is not lengthened. My philosophies haven't been explored. My future plans haven't been determined. Heck, I'm just now satisfying the goals of: know what the date is, read the highlights of the newspaper, figure out the day's weather, and get some exercise. But I guess some sort of rhythm takes time.

However, I would like to claim some sort of productivity today...I made a facebook account. I did it before I even knew I did it. Suddenly I somehow invited my entire email address book to become "friends" with me. And the rest is history. I still know very little about what I have got myseld into, but I'm exploring. It seems a little dangerous, given my already unstructured abundance of time...and how quickly it can become absorbed.

Enjoy the sweet pic of my boys. Last night I didn't stand a chance at staking the TV shows of my choice. Jackson and Scott monopolize when both "Godfather" AND "Rocky II" are on on the same night. Ha. Men.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Our Little Turkey

None of the "firsts" of the holiday season are any good, if you ask me, without tasting the traditional yummies. For instance, one cannot help but feel sorry for little Jackson for having endured a Thanksgiving, possibly his only one, without the actual goodness of turkey and stuffing and cranberries and pie. One could argue he indirectly got his share through nursing... but you get my point.

And yet another holiday approaches where he will have to forego peanut butter balls (Yes, I know, Ohio-folk, that you are insulted by not giving these treats their rightful names: Buckeyes. But being raised by my mom meant dipping them COMPLETELY in chocolate and deeming them "peanut butter balls"), fudge, sugar cookies, and much more.

But I cannot feel entirely sorry for the little guy. He was able to spend his Thanksgivings this year on the floor, squiggling around, cooing and smiling, the absolute CENTER of attention. He has yet to experience shyness or overstimulation. I think he eats it up.

Thanksgiving Day outfit... Lynette and I have been itching to put this on him for 3 months!

Our home was a zoo from Wed to Sat. But it was a fun zoo. We all visited Duncan's grave on Thursday before the Thanksgiving feast, which felt very good. It also brought to mind how upsetting that Duncan would not be able to experience his first family holiday with us. The GGs, Dad, Justin, and Rachel (my 1st grade penpal who now lives in Chicago) were glad to have a reference for where Duncan is. It was an emotional, yet important visit.

Turkey Day at Lynette and Henry's was truly a good time. All 16 of us chowed down together. I am fortunate to have a family on Scott's side who invites and values my own family. I sat in the same spot as last year and remembered that Mom had sat directly opposite me the year before. I was pregnant and she (and Dad and Justin and Lynette and Henry) had just learned of their future grandchild (only figured one at that time!). Who sat in that spot this year? My dear husband, Scott. I was pleasantly surprised at how sad thoughts stayed at bay during that day. I've learned quite a bit about my style of grief. I've discovered that, in general, I tend to be very content and genuinely happy doing whatever I am doing with whomever I am with at the time. The goodness of life gets in the way of being sad. It is not until the quiet moments that I reflect upon what had changed and the sadness then seaps in. And I let it. So, Thursday later in the evening was one of those nights.

Sat was Turkey Day Round II. We traveled to Dresden and spent time with Grandma and Grandpa Ricci and Diane. Scrabble and Taboo entertained us. I don't think I have laughed as hard as I did that afternoon playing those games as I have in a long while. I wish everyone had the chance to play Taboo with Ricci Arthur.

Diane and Jackson

A Scrabble expert-in-the-making

And last, but not least, today was a lazy day. And I mean that. I did not leave the house. I did not complete house projects (including cleaning). I did not exercise (what's new?). I did only the bare basics: feed Jackson - and the rest of the day just kind of disappeared. Might I brag on my husband for operating rather effieciently around his bum-wife. He did laundry, tidied, cleaned the kitchen floor, got up in the morning with Jackson before I was ready to wake, and deflated air mattresses. Where did I find this guy? Plenty of my girlfriends wish he had a brother to place dibs on. What a wonderful thing that we have the opportunity to create a man (jackson) just as selfless of a servant to his future wife!

In other news, when the heck is my child going to sleep through the cockadoodee night?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pics of KK's 30th & Some Deep Thoughts...

From the Top: KK's Mom, Kathy, with Jackson, Carey and KK all smiles, Dick and Becky happy about their shared banana split, and Scott and I with the world's BIGGEST chocolate cake. I ate it single handedly. Just kidding.
I need to give a shout out to my girls from Sigma Alpha Tau (before the deep thoughts). On Sunday, Scott and I were winding down for the night and he said "Boy, today was productive." And we didn't share in one ounce of that productivity. It was all done for us! (That's what I call a Sabbath! Ha). Emily and Adam, Bri, and Tiffany raked like it was their JOB in our front and back yards. I forgot I had grass under there. It looks so good. Then, more generosity rolled on in our driveway... a huge truck, loaded with Sara, Brian and a big ole freezer showed up. And now I have an enormous freezer in my basement, equipped to keep all the good eats until we are ready to eat them! Now, if I can only find a new place for my cat litter and "yard sale" pile (please tell me everyone has one of those). I think everyone's whole back yard should have a catacomb underneath it specifically meant for storage. One little basement is simply not enough.
And now for those deep thoughts I promised you.
Scott and I talk about Duncan a lot. We visit his grave a few times a week (today was a beauty of a day to stand and talk to him). I do my best every day to close my eyes and visualize his sweet face. And when I can't seem to bring his image to mind, I go through stacks of pictures to ensure that those 5 months can continue to be reinvented in my consciousness. I think I fear most forgetting pieces of his memory. To me, it feels like I am not honoring him properly if I forget even one detail about his eyes, nose, hair, toes, personality...
And there are couple other thoughts we have had about honoring Duncan. On that Glenlaurel trip on Oct 30th, Scott shared how he had this overwhelming desire to make Duncan proud. His feelings were that Duncan went through so much more than either of us had... physical and emotional trauma. And, for the most part, he did it without complaint. So, as a result, Scott feels a deep respect for Duncan. As if his Spirit (which we both have identified is ageless when it is not bound by physical and developmental limitations) is to be revered. Thus, Scott's desire to make Duncan proud. He wants everything he is and does from Duncan's death forward to be good and right and worthy.
My thoughts are similar, mainly a simplified version of Scott's. I want to be made different by Duncan. In my thinking, if I don't proactively create a change, then his existence did not matter... then I am not honoring him... then I am not honoring God, for that matter... then the potential goodness as a result of his life and death was not seen through.
I have no doubt that I have been changed by Duncan's presence in my life. Clearly, he has and will continue to transform me in some way(s). But what I'm describing is something more intentional. It almost feels like what I'm hunting for could be likened to a way extreme New Year's resolution. Like, "For Duncan, I vow to forever stop gossiping" And when I come close to that personal flaw, I would think, "Now, I promised Duncan I wouldn't." Or as drastic as going into ministry, as if to say, "Thanks, Duncan, for giving me that extra nudge." Or to volunteer at Children's, offering support to families similar to ours. Or to start a foundation. Or I don't know what. But one thing is for sure, I do not want this event in our lives, the event called "Duncan" to get lost.
So that's what I wanted to share.
As for the upcoming Turkey Day, we will have a house full of love and chaos. Our cat Lilly, Grandmom and Grandad's cat Sasheen, and Dad's dog Esther will spend two days fighting (literally) like "cats and dogs." But their owners will be much more civilized towards one another! I cannot wait to love on the GGs, Dad, Justin, and Rachel, my oldest pen-pal friend. We will be eating our real Thanksgiving meal at Lynette and Henry's. Yum.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

11/16 a Tough One

Yesterday it was easy to be happy. For many reasons.

My dear friend KK turned 30 last week and so her friends "kidnapped" her to a Hocking Hills cabin for some fun and fellowship (and good eating and hot-tubbing). We returned yesterday afternoon... and then re-kidnapped her last night for a fanstastic dinner at Cap City Diner with friends. It was very joyous.

But in the silence of my quiet moments, I felt sad. For many reasons. Yesterday marked 3 weeks, to the day, since Duncan died and 5 months, to the day, since Mom died. These two "anniversaries" colliding on the same day left me feeling very melancholy later in the evening. And I think it has carried over to today.

But there will be many more days like this to come. And I need to prepare myself for them, lean into them, be OK with them, and not resist them. The holidays are going to feel very new and different this year. I think I am just now starting to understand that as well. I never thought I would be "that person" so many churches and grief groups refer to when they make mention of how hard the holidays are for "some" people. Weird.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My two men

Look at these sweet faces. Am I a lucky woman, or what? This pic was taken over the weekend. Notice the fantastically cuddly and warm fleece sheets on our bed. I highly recommend... purchased at Cosco. Our early Christmas gift from Aunt Jo and Uncle Darrell. We all know how much I love being comfy, and these sheets definitely accomplish that!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gustavo's creation

Right after Mom died, I was given her diamond ring. I always admired it, thinking it was beautiful. Since it doesn't serve me best in ring form, I began dreaming about a pendant. This pendant idea expanded to include not only my mom symbolically, but also the boys. Their birth stone is a pearl. So, I went to a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall jewelry store (truly, it looks like a place I should not only be scared to enter, but also would take my diamond and run!) and had a long braintorming session with Gustavo, the jeweler. Turns out, he is a fantastic artist and, furthermore, a great listener of my story. It was evident to me that he really wanted to make this piece special for me.

Before long, we concocted this scheme to incorporate the diamond, two pearls, and daisies to represent Mom's favorite flower. I have been eagerly anticipating its completion. And YEY! It's on my neck as I type. I can't seem to take it off, even though it undoubtedly is a more elegant piece than my sweatpants and T-shirt warrant. The above picture doesn't do it justice, but you get the idea.
Also, this past weekend was a blast. Beth returned for another visit from Virginia, this time bringing her entire crew: Danny, Lilly and Lucas. We spent the majority of our time together doing what good friends do: talking and eating. The kids played (me included) and we solved the problems of the world through our conversations. Ha. If only I had time to solve the problems of the world.
Saturday evening we gathered with several other couples to watch Urinetown the musical at Otterbein College. What a kick! It is a pretty comical (and gross) performance. We all needed a good laugh, and that we did. Then, on Sunday a bunch of folks gathered at the house for din-din and fellowship and drinks.
A note to my Owl girls:
Thanks to my sisters from EAT at OC for a variety of things: 1) Agreeing to gather forces and rake leaves in our yard. What a gift to not have to worry about that tedious chore! 2) Sending lots of fun cookies/fruit/treats by mail from individual gals. YUM! 3) Purchasing collectively a freezer for our basement. HUGELY appreciated. Practical and very important for family living, not to mention for all the meals we have been gifted these past weeks. (our neighbors' freezers are reaching their limit!). So thanks, girls. It means a ton that you are backing our family during this time. I love y'all!

In front of Cowan Hall at OC: Me and Scott, Craig and Anita Sutherland (in back), Jeremy and Sara Lahman (front and center), Beth and Danny Shaha, and our neighbor friends: Ryan and Andrea. Not surr what's up with the pic, but - as you can kinda see - we were looking good.

Jackson-man and Carey

Lilly and Jacson with Becky

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New Kind of Normal

I have put a lot of thought into if/how this blog should continue to exist now that Duncan is gone. I went through an entire week of, "That was Duncan's blog. Maybe we ought to just stop writing." But, more recently, I am thinking, "This darn thing has turned out (unexpectedly) to be very meaningful and therapeutic for me too. And, after all, the 'Arthur Adventure' is FAR from being over. So let it live!" And, finally, today when I sat down to reconvene with the first entry since Duncan's death and, furthermore, since I became anxiously aware of just how many people tune in to this blog on a regular basis : "Jeez, what in the world do I say?"

But I figured, I haven't sweated what to say in the past, so why sweat what to say now? As is my general rule of thumb, I'm gonna "let it all hang out." So if you're in a rush, you might want to wait until you can settle in and hibernate in your PJs after dark... which these days is at about 4:30pm... cuz this entry might be a doozy.

Many of you know that Scott and I celebrated our 3rd Wedding Anniversary the day after Duncan's Memorial service. That morning Scott and I met Duncan at Union Cemetery and carried him to his grave. We had some incredibly beautiful moments of talking to him in the sunshine under an umbrella of colored leaves (we chose his grave to be near a gorgeous ash tree). We had really struggled with how to let that morning unfold... Have a formal service? Invite close family? Ask a pastor to reside? It seemed right and fitting for only Scott and I to lay our little guy to rest. It was precious and good. The display of pink and red flowers in the form of a heart, which were given by Dr. G and the Heart Center at Children's, were placed over Duncan's grave that day.

Aunt Jo, Mom's sister who lives in Florida, was at home watching little man Jackson. She arrived the day before the service and stayed until this very morning (What a gift to have her here. More on Aunt Jo later). The Arthurs then met up with Jeremy Oravek for lunch. JO, as we call him, flew in from Phoenix, Arizona to be with his buddy Scott (I'd like to think he came to be with me too, but those two have quite the connection). It felt so weird to be hanging out, enjoying our cheeseburger and barbecue chicken wrap at Champs and laughing about general pleasantries with an old friend when just hours earlier we buried our son. And this sentiment continues to pop up... Why should we giggle when something so life altering just occurred? Why should we get gussied up and go on a date? Why should we talk about anything BUT Duncan? It's strange. There's nothing but time in front of us. And it has to be filled with something. But it feels strange to fill it up with normal things, much less fun things. But then, what else would we fill it with? It's tough to explain this feeling.

So, in light of this not-knowing-what-to-do-with-our-time-nor-how-to-be-in-it dilemma, Scott and I decided to spend our anniversary together... alone... away. Aunt Jo watched Jackson overnight and after lunch with JO, we hit the road for the Hocking Hills to The Glenlaurel Scottish Inn. I brought everything but the kitchen sink, my pumping parts, and my swimsuit. The latter, as it turns out, was not a true necessity. Our little cottage's hot tub was bordered by high walls (if you know what I mean). And, despite our surroundings by the most modern luxuries, I learned quickly how prehistoric women got the milk out when they had romantic getaways away from the kids. I don't recommend it. (Apparently, the "let it all hang out" mood I am in includes TMI). How do I describe our time at Glenlaurel? It was sweet and sad. It was delicious and dreary. It was beautiful and backwards. It felt good and bad, right and wrong. I would get an eyefull of the kaleidoscope of colors from trees in their peak Autumn prime and I would feel inner warmth. Nature's beauty always does that to me. It would make me feel happy, like there was nothing wrong with the world for that moment. And wow, was God there. I think He lives in the Hocking Hills, with its serenity and peace. But just as I would begin to tear up looking at the clear blue sky, tears of a different kind came too.

Scott and I were amazed at how, when you let your emotions do what they want, they can slide back and forth without preparing you. And we shared with each other that sometimes you could sort of feel the sadness work its way up your throat. And at a certain point in your throat, you could have a conversation with that sadness. You could either tell it to stay below a certain point and not move its way up (still feeling sad, just not making a mess of you) or you could approve it to take over your whole face - eyes welling, snot flowing, voice sobbing. So there is some choice in the matter. And - let me tell you - when you are in a cottage with no need for make up or clothes (robes will do just fine), and you're with your bestest friend in the whole wide world, there's not a whole lot of need to hold it back. We mainly greeted the sadness right on up every time. We shared so much. We just talked and talked and talked. And we spent at least a half hour opening up cards. Actually, we have spent about a half hour opening up cards every day since Duncan's service. It is an incredibly humbling thing to feel as loved as we do. And to think that people are giving and giving and giving - you name it: their prayers, their cards, their flowers, their food, their donations to the Heart Center, their time - without even an ounce of expectation that any of it will be given in return. It totally disregards the human instinct of reciprocity. And it is as close to the love of Christ as I can imagine. I would not want anyone to go through the pain of our past couple weeks, but I sure do pray that everyone someday feels as loved as we have as a result.

So our anniversary was unusual but very much tied Scott and I even more closely together. One thing is for sure, he and I are in love. Thank the good Lord for that!

Jackson awaited us when we returned. He is a joy. I have decided that what I do not feel is "emptiness," because of him. I am grieving two things: Duncan himself and the idea of a life with twins. I miss Duncan in so many ways. The places I think about him, picturing his face or his toes or his fuzzy hair, are in the shower (what is it about "cleansing" when the water washes over me?) and in bed at night before falling asleep. And I feel lost without having 2 babies. While my Girlfriends Club (Becky, KK, Carey, and Beth) were in town, they showered me with love on Sunday by going into Operation Girlfriend mode: tidying the house, stocking the fridge, preparing those fantastic picture boards of out journey that was displayed at the visitation, decorating for the Fall, making that fantastic adult beverage with lime and mint whose name is escaping me right now, and setting the mood for a night of warmth and peace. One of their roles was to quietly remove all the "doubles" in our home. Thank goodness that was done for me. It's just sad. It was early December, almost a year ago, that I learned and grew attached to the knowledge that I was going to be a mother of twins. So I miss Duncan himself, and, in addition, I miss being a mom of two.

But - where I was going with that last paragraph - what I do not feel is emptiness. I feel an absence, but not total emptiness. While it is hard enough to remove one of the cribs, I do not have to close the nursery door altogether. And that has been what has saved me... our little Jackson is a bundle of goodness whose presence prevents me from feeling loss in its deepest sense. Plus, who couldn't smile sincerely at Jackson's gummy grin? Who wouldn't find joy in his playful energy. Simply put, he's irresistible.

The past week seems like it's all gooked together. A lot got done. All four of us (Scott, myself, Jackson, and Aunt Jo) headed to Lousiville for my high school's ten year reunion this past weekend. Aunt Jo spent some quality time with Grandmom and Grandad while Scott and I had a night out on the town with old buddies from Manual. Aunt Lisa, Uncle Brad, Jessica, and Drew were on Jackson duty. (And pun intended.... they got a good diaper change out of him).

The days since have been filled with projects around the house. My dear aunt must be kin to Becky Smith, because she has two best friends: order and organization. These two are acquaintances of mine, but I wouldn't say we're tight. As you can imagine, Aunt Jo got me in good shape. We reorganized closets, rethought out how to use spaces, moved furniture, rearranged the nursery, found an insullation issue in the attic, rehung all of Scott's clothes (needed a woman's touch), etc, etc. Not to mention the fact that the dishwasher was always run and emptied, the tea was always made, the bottles were always steralized, and the washing machine was always running. What would I have done without her? And then, on top of it all, she treated me to some pampering yesterday (manicure and pedicure). Nice. Now she's in Florida, already returned to her husband and daughter. I already miss her.

I am a bit scared, to be honest, of how I will react to a quiet home. This afternoon is the first one without anyone but Jackson and myself hanging out since Duncan died. I am eager to be alone, because I know I need to do some reflecting and journaling and praying and processing. But I am also scared of it. As Lynette responded today when I told her on the phone that I was looking forward to getting bak to normal ; "It'll be like a 'new normal'" Wish me luck.

So I'm about typed out for now. And Jackson has been a very cooperative little sleeper while I indulge myself in this entry. But I am just now observing his little blue blanket moving in the swing where he lays (for the moment) peacefully. I think nap-time is over.

Please know how thankful I am just that you care enough to check in with this blog. Thanks to everyone. Enjoy the pics.

Scott, Becky, Myelf, Beth, KK, Theresa, Jackson, and CareyVisiting Duncan... the ash tree is to the left
Jackson in the fall leaves
The Arthurs with the pumpkin Carey brought from Circleville
"King of the Pumpkin"

Scott gazing at the marvelous colors of the Hocking Hills
Our time at the GlenlaurelJackson in his "Sugar Baby" Halloween costume

High School buddies: Layla Ray, Julie and myself at the 10 year reunion

Scott and myself at the reunion