Tuesday, August 21, 2018

on Mollie

Tonight I went on my first run in a while.  

It was dusk, my kids were in bed and my mind was on Mollie Tibbetts.  I said her name as I laced up my shoes and stepped off the front porch.  I looked left and right, wondering which way was best lit- which way was safer.   

I’m not sure if I went tonight because of Mollie, or despite what happened to her.  Perhaps most accurately, it was my silent rebellion- a way of honoring her and all women who occupy space.  

I put my headphones on, out of habit- but didn’t turn on the music.  I said her name, under my breath at first and then audibly, later, when my lungs felt tight and my legs wobbled.  I thought of her when I wanted to quit and turned up my pace instead.  

Running alone, outside, day or night, dusk or dawn- it is not a privilege. 

Mollie Tibbetts was found today, murdered because she while running alone, she asked a man to leave her like that- alone, in peace, unharassed. 

Since she disappeared, I’ve read about how women shouldn’t run alone at night.  I’ve read that our immigration policies are to blame, as her alleged murdered is undocumented.  I’ve read some say that it is not safe for women to be outside alone after dark.  

None of this sits well with me. 

I will teach my daughter diligence.  I will teach my son about consent.  (I will teach my son about diligence.  I will teach my daughter about consent).  I will teach my children to not live in fear.  I will teach my children that evil is colorblind, but so is kindness. 

Tonight I am taking a moment to grieve a stranger, a victim, a woman who did nothing wrong.  Rest In Peace, Mollie Tibbetts. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

on a century of Phyllis

My grandma Phyllis would have been 100 years old today.

She was born before women had the right to vote, and died in 1994 at the age of 77. She modeled strength and tenacity- but also and weakness and human-ness. She had, of course, deeply unconditional love for her son, my biological father, despite his demons.

Phyllis was ahead of her time. She was a strong single mother in a time where that was unacceptable, and her influence is alive 23 years after her death. I am proud to be part of her lineage.

I like to think she would have been amused and adored by my babies. Her legacy and generosity has touched their lives, even though they are too young to realize it. I also like to think she had a heavenly role in sending my "step" dad to our family and influencing the next phase of our lives.

My life intersected with hers for less than ten years - but her memory is alive. May we all be remembered with love, by happy and grateful grandchildren, more than two decades after we are gone.

Happy 100, PDM. You are missed.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Ava Jeanne Special: A Love Story

On Saturday, February 25, Scott and I woke early.  I had primped like crazy, knowing it would be a while before I could do that again.  (Also, not going to lie, there are a lot of downsides to a scheduled cesarean, but being able to prepare is not one of them).

We met my parents in our kitchen, and excitedly said our goodbyes.  They had arrived the night before to watch Jacob while we were in the hospital welcoming our baby.

During my pregnancy, I worked toward a simple vaginal delivery... however, upon the recommendation of my physicians, due to a number of specifics, I accepted the recommendation of a second cesarean.  After some initial disappointment, I made peace with that decision and moved all systems go toward the most important thing - welcoming our second child, and welcoming him or her with joy and peace in my heart.

Let's do this.

Our appointment was at 9AM, but we were to arrive at the hospital by 7AM.  Scott dropped me off at the front door, and parked the car.  We checked in to the nurses station on the Labor floor, and were assigned a wonderful nurse, Natalie, who would calm my nerves and boost my sagging spirits.  I signed a million consent forms ("Cesarean's run a risk of blah blah blah").

9AM came... and 9AM went.  Our doctor was running late.  Around 9:30, the doctor breezed in, and said a few words that I did not want my operating physician to say: "Sorry I'm late... I couldn't get my act together this morning.  So, are we just doing a cesarean or are we doing a tubal as well?"

I'm documenting this because... well... it's laughable.  I couldn't get over it.  It shocked me, and freaked me out.  Not the best bedside manner of the woman who was about to operate and help usher my child in to this world.

I shook off my fears, and was told it was time to go.  I was wheeled- alone - in to the operating room.  (The support person isn't allowed to be present until it's time for surgery to begin).  I will spare the medical graphics, but I was given a spinal block, a few other pre-operative details, and then Scott was allowed to come back.  I threw up - more than once.  (I'm not surprised by this, as I had a similar reaction to the anesthetic during Jacob's birth).  I was covered in blankets (the OR was freezing!) and... it began.

I kept staring at Scott, like... THIS IS HAPPENING.  OUR CHILD IS ABOUT TO BE BORN.   It was surreal and beautiful and terrifying.


The doctor told Scott he could stand up to watch our child breathe their first breath - and he did.

"It's a girl!" which were three of the sweetest words I have ever heard.  (For the record, "It's a boy!" were the other three sweetest I've ever heard).

I began screaming - howling - in joy and relief and happiness.  I would have been thrilled with any healthy baby - ANY BABY - but the chance to mother a son and a daughter is a privilege I won't ever take for granted.

My surgery was completed (with, um... STAPLES OMG... which is another story for another time).  My baby was analyzed and declared "perfect".  She was 6 pounds, 8 ounces and 18 inches long.  And we began the spectacular honor of introducing our baby to her family (including my brother Joe, who flew in on the red eye to surprise me!)

We named our daughter Ava Jeanne.  Ava is a name I've loved for close to 20 years.  In high school, I remember saying that if I ever had a daughter, she'd be named Ava, and I'm glad to have a husband who agreed.  Jeanne is my middle name, and my grandmother's first name, my aunt's first name.  I am thrilled to have another little "Jeanne" in our family.

Our visit was fairly uneventful, and our babies birth was textbook cesarean.  I am delighted to live in a time of medical advances which allowed my children and I to have safe, healthy deliveries and so grateful to welcome little Ava in to our lives.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

on Immigration

As far as I know, the entirety of my family tree came from elsewhere.  England, Ireland.  Eastern Europe.   To my knowledge, I have no indigenous blood running through my veins.  My ancestors came here, to America, seeking refuge, hoping for a better life.   And America was that for them - for so many million of us - a place where we are all invited, where we are all free.  The Statue of Liberty shining in a harbor, emblematic of that welcoming spirit. 

Give me your tired, your poor... your huddled masses yearning to break free.

Today the world was shocked by President Trump's inhumane executive order, which, among other things, banned all people from 7 countries, including Syria, whose citizens were banned indefinitely (and who need our help, desperately).  

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me.

President Trump - you do not speak for me when you say "we do not want them there". I have no hate in my heart, no fear in my head.  We are all immigrants.  I am ashamed that you represent me.   

How can this man (and his supporters) claim to be "pro life" and yet anti-refugee?  Do they see what will happen to these people?  These people are just like our ancestors were, one or two hundred years later.  The hypocrisy is both heartbreaking and enraging.  

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Friday, January 20, 2017

on our President 2017

Today Donald Trump becomes president.  I have yet to fully wrap my head about it, but I'm not a denier- as a proud American, he IS now my president, like it or not.  (And to be clear, I do not.  I do not very much).   It's a very strange day.  A very strange time.  

I hope that 4 years from now, that people's lives have gotten better, not worse- in that way I wish him well; I hope his policy changes fail decidedly- in that way I wish him failure. 

I will not be watching the inauguration today.  I do not have to embrace something to accept it.  I will be powering off the TV, closing the browser on CNN and letting my donations do most of the talking today: to Planned Parenthood, to the ACLU, to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  To the NAACP.  To NARAL Pro-Choice America.  To RAINN.  

President Trump, I am angry.  I’m angry and I’m frustrated and I’m disappointed in you already.  If I have any hope in you at all, then it’s just that you begin giving the sacred office the respect and honor that it deserves.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

today and tomorrow, for the next four years

I went to bed before the election was called, because with a sick toddler, I wasn't sure what the night would bring for us.

I woke up the one who is sick.  Sick for a nation who could elect this man: misogynistic, racist, sexist, homophobic (not to mention unqualified).  I voted for Hillary Clinton, of course, but I would gratefully take nearly anyone but him.   I've never felt so disconnected from this country- perhaps that's how some felt 4 and 8 years ago.  I'm not sure where to go from here, or even why I feel compelled to post.  I don't discount this election or the results, I believe in democracy and in each persons right to vote.  I believe in the concept of checks and balances, and while I will pray for unity and peace over the next 200+ weeks, I will also pray for strong representatives, who fight for the 50% of us who voted otherwise.

To my beloved friends who are LGBT, of other races, or religions, or women, or simply disagree with Mr. Trump: please know: #imwithher, and today- and for the next four years- I am with you.

It's still dark out- literally and figuratively. But I believe that America is already great.  And I believe that the sun will come out again today, and tomorrow.  And the next four years.  We have a lot of work to do, clearly.  But I believe in the 60M of us who voted as I did, and I know we're up for the task.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

2015 Chicago Half Marathon

My amazing parents ran their SECOND half marathon last week - and Matt and Kelly ran their FIFTH!  I've run the half the past two years (including last year while pregnant!) but decided to sit this year out due to our special new addition.  :)  Next year?  Maybe...

This year's festivities started on Saturday afternoon, with the traditional pre-race carbo-loading at our house.  Last year, the same group got together at Matt and Kelly's house, but this year, we were excited to host!  

It was an early night, because our crew had a 5am (!!) wakeup call to head to the city.  After dropping my parents off, we parked and headed to a Starbucks to caffeinate.  We originally planned to split an Iced Coffee - but the sweet barista surprised us with a free Iced Carmel Macchiato - she apparently made one too many and gave it to us.  (Yep, it was delicious).  

We saw my parents at mile 3.5 and 4, and we saw Matt, Kelly and Kelly's younger sister Olivia at mile 4.  Then we snuck away for air conditioning and breakfast (we were trying to keep JSS out of the sun as much as possible) before heading to the finish line.  We saw all five of our runners around mile 12.5 - just as they were approaching the finish line.

One special new addition this year was that Jacob and I made some signs to cheer on our runners :)  They didn't know about them ahead of time, so the surprise was extra fun.  We got a LOT of attention from runners - Scott holding Jacob, me holding a sign.  Super fun :)   And of course JSS was dressed thematically in an I <3 Gramps onesie!

Seeing these athletes run 13 miles in the time that - literally - it took us to get Starbucks and brunch... well, it was very inspiring.  It made me want to get up and run, and I love showing Jacob that physical fitness matters.

So proud of all of the runners this year, but especially the ones in my family!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

15 years

(Originally written in early April, and I'm only now getting around to posting it.  A casualty of my sweet new life).


I sit in my dark living room, holding my newborn son, as the clock ticks toward midnight. His father is in the next room over, having just turned in after doing the early shift with our 15 day old boy, a child so young that he prefers the comfort of his parents warm arms to his cold crib. 


My life changed in a moment, or more accurately, in a series of moments in March.  Our son was born, and with him, a mother was born of me.  Barely two weeks in,  and I am starting to grasp the significance, only the tip of it perhaps, but the sacred privilege - and the responsibility - weighs heavily on my mind. 

I am lost in thought, about the gravity of it all- who will he be? Who am I? How will his life change mine?


I don't know how to answer those questions, yet, but I know that I'll spend every day I have left working towards them.  I will devote my life to being a good mother - the kind of mother that my sweet Jacob deserves.  I hope the days I have left are numerous, that I dance at his wedding and meet his children and grandchildren.   I will do everything in my power to extend my days on earth, so that I have more time with him.  


Mike Maloney died 15 years ago today, or tomorrow as the clock hasn't quite struck midnight. He died at 52, leaving behind three children, the oldest of whom was only 15.  I do believe that he loved us, in his own way, but he left having never seeing us as adults, never meeting our spouses or holding our children.

He didn't choose to die, exactly, but he didn't work to extend his life, either.  The choices he made rattle me more now than ever before.


I am a new mother, having barely two weeks under my belt, but this disconnect feels raw, painful.  How do you make choices that are so at odds with your children's needs? How do you behave so terribly to the mother of your babies?  These questions frustrate me, because he's not here to ask. 

I turn back toward my son, my beloved, so hoped-for child, and kiss his forehead, in silent thought.  A prayer of love, a pledge of sacred obligation, a familiar pang of remembrance for this baby that has only been in my arms for two weeks.


But there's something else there, too, that I can't put my finger on.  It's not forgiveness, exactly, although I do feel that sometimes.  Acceptance, maybe?  Hope?  Maybe it's just belief that I can - and will - be different than that for my child, and that in this way Mike - and his death -  have taught me something about myself. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

fourteen years

Fourteen years ago today, Mike Maloney died.

His death was abrupt, in the middle of my softball practice.

His death was slow, throughout my childhood.  

And it's like that - two sides of one event.  And there were two sides of one man, too, I think. A monster, someone unfit to be a husband, a father, a member of society.  A chronically tormented vet, who quieted his demons with visits to the bottle. And the needle.  

There are two sides, too, to the way I feel about him.

Angry.  Sympathetic.  Wistful.  Serene.

My relationship with him is complicated, and probably will be for the rest of my life.  Do I hate what he represents?  Do I understand how he got that way? Yes and no.  Both and neither. He is a puzzle that I'll never be able to solve.  He's been gone for nearly half my life, and yet our relationship gets more - not less - complicated with each passing April 6.

I turn thirty this year.  When Mike was my age, he was nearing a decade post Vietnam, and I suspect that it was among the wildest times of his life.  No responsibilities, the late 1970s, and tormented by his past.  He was still a year or two from meeting my mom, and nearly seven years from having me.

It keeps coming back to this: acceptance.  He was a complicated man, and my feelings about him are conflicted.  But I know this - part of who I am is because of his life... his presence, his absence and everything in between. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

thirteen years

Thirteen years ago today was Mike Maloney's last day on earth.

I wonder now if he saw it coming, if his last moments were full of agony.  I wonder, as his heart was stopping, if he felt regret.

Regret over his life, over his lifestyle, over his choices.  Regret over leaving so early.

But, there is no re-do for Mike Maloney, or for any of us.

Life goes on.  Moments pass, and suddenly - inexplicably - thousands of days have gone by.

Thirteen years worth of days.

But today is NOT a day to dwell.  It is a day to celebrate, to breathe deeply, to appreciate.

We're here.  We've been given another beautiful, sacred day. We're alive, and the world is turning.

Spring is coming.

Today, in honor of Mike Maloney, I will do some acts of kindness.  Thirteen kindnesses for thirteen years.  I will do them, one by one, act by act, and with each one I will say his name out loud and offer silent prayer to the universe - a prayer that he may rest in eternal peace, and a prayer of thanksgiving for the peace I feel in my heart.

Will you join me?

Thirteen acts of kindness might not change the world... but they might.