Sunday, April 13, 2014


My friend Kristen posted this article to our Miracles for Molly Dunne Foundation page.  It's about the need for doctors to understand a "Code Death" and how a trained team of sensitive medical professionals can assist a family with making final decisions for a loved one and then support the family through the difficult task of watching that loved one die.  I absolutely agree, but it brought something home to me... because we donated Mom's organs, our final goodbyes were given in a hallway, in front of the double doors leading to the operating room, after having made the long walk through the hallways of the hospital, past people who had no idea how precious this person was and how absolutely devastating was her death.  The nurses pushing the gurney stopped, we kissed her forehead, and they pushed her through the door and that was it.  The woman from the organ donation group might have said something comforting... I don't know.  I ran out the doors and sat in my car and screamed and screamed and screamed.  

It bothers me that I wasn't there when Mom died.  For three days, I sat with Mom, holding her hand, knowing that the essential part of her being was gone, but it bothers me.  I catch myself trying to remember what it was like the moment Mom died, and I can't, because I wasn't there.   How can I have closure to a thing I didn't witness?  I have dreams where I'm a little kid, lost in a store, calling for my mom to find me.  Twice in those dreams, I've found her.  Both times, she laughs and tells me she was right here all the time. 
I don't believe in a traditional view of heaven.  I'm sorry to my religious friends, but after much reflection and thought, I've decided that eternal life is something much simpler than a Heaven where spirits wait around to be reunited with family.  I am who I am because of my mother.  My kids will be who they are because of me, and because of who my mother raised me to be.  They will in turn have kids who will be raised with love and laughter, and that will go on and on until time eternal.  I believe the same is true for everyone - the love you leave behind in others is carried on and though there will come a time when no one will remember Susan Moran or Erin Lacey, that love will still exist.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

To the lady giving my kids dirty looks today...

This is a blog I started a looong time ago and never finished... it's weird to look back and see what I was doing....

Dear Total Stranger,

Yes.  I saw you.  I am absolutely certain you wanted me to see you.  I first saw you when my kids were running around the dinosaur exhibit, shouting and laughing.  I saw you again when I was dragging the crying 4 year old out of the play room while trying to catch up to the 2 year old who was in the other room.  And then next, we crossed paths in what my kids call the "Bear Room".  I saw you shake your head when you saw my boys sprawled on the floor.  And then finally, I heard you "Tsk" in the parking lot, as my boys were not listening to me telling them to get in the car.

Here's the thing.  When you saw me the first time, my boys were pretending they were dinosaurs.  Will was a T-Rex and so was Jack, until he saw the parasarauphalas, which Jack correctly identified as a plant eater.  So Will decided to eat Jack.  And I let them play.

And then, when story time started, I wrangled them into the play room.  It took some talking, but I finally got Jack to sit on my lap and listen to the story and about three minutes later, Will had to go to the bathroom.  I know you don't know Will, so I'll explain.  He's 2, and you probably remember, you don't turn down a 2 year old who wants to go potty.  But, I had just talked the 4 year old into sitting.  So now I had to tell him that he had to get up and go to the bathroom with us.  Which he didn't want to.  I had to drag him up and chase after Will who had headed off for the bathroom before us.  He's the kid that walked right past you, without an adult, remember?

After the bathroom, we went to the "Bear Room" and before you got there, we were identifying animals and I had spent some time trying to explain that dung beetles are not the size of that big statue and that the animals in that room had all been alive at one point.  Then the boys began to pretend they were polar bears and they were prowling the tundra, in search of seals to eat.  And I let them play.

Finally, it was time to leave and we went out to the car, passing a large snow bank on the way.  Jack immediately ran to make a snowball to throw at his brother.  It wasn't so much that I didn't want him to hit Will with a snowball, more that I didn't want the snow in the car.  But there isn't always snow in the parking lot in our mid-Atlantic state, so really, what's the harm in letting a kid play?

So Total Stranger, I hope that you can forgive my lack of parenting or that you at least got enough sense of superiority to get you through another day until you can 'tsk tsk" at another harried mom.  And if that mom is me, don't worry, I'll give you plenty of stuff to talk about, but I'll be too busy enjoying my kids to care.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

What Would GoGo Do?

The following is the eulogy I gave at Mom's funeral.

I have said many times that my mom was pretty dumb when I was a teenager, but somewhere around age 22 she started getting smarter and smarter.  By the time I had my first baby at 30, I knew that I’d never catch up and she’d be endlessly smarter than me. 

My mom didn’t teach me to wear make up.  She taught me that true beauty comes from inside your soul.

She wasn’t physically strong, but she showed me what strength of character is.

She didn’t encourage me to be competitive, she taught me that having fun was way more important than winning.

She didn’t teach me how to get ahead in my career; she showed me that real success is measured in love not in money. 

She didn’t teach me how to get what I want, she taught me that sometimes putting others needs ahead of your own is joy all it’s own. 

 She simply taught me, every day; about the kind of woman I wanted to be.  Without ever raising her voice, her message carried through.   She might have only been 5’4”, but her soul stood 20 feet tall.    There are endless stories and examples I could give, and I could stand here all day and explain to you why I was the luckiest daughter in the world, but instead I’ll just tell you to look at my Ellie’s beautiful blue eyes, Maggie’s joy for life, Jack’s wicked sense of humor, and Will’s sweet nature.  I will find her every day in them and inside my own heart.

We should all live our lives with one simple tenet, “What Would GoGo Do?”  If you do that, you’ll always do the right thing, and you’ll always have fun doing it. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Same, same, only different

So, people keep telling me to blog.  I was going to try to start a whole new blog, cause I feel sometimes like I am a completely different person than the person that started this blog, but then I decided that, yeah, I am completely different, but I'm also totally the same, ya know?  So zen, but stick with me and I hope you'll understand.

Since I started this blog, I've lived through the diagnosis and death of a dear friend's child, the death of my mother and the death of my grandfather, not to mention the countless real tragedies of life, like running out of coffee on a Monday and forgetting that it's Downtown Abbey night.  When I started this blog, I was totally that mom who blew off fevers and mystery illnesses and thought that I would have my mom holding my hand during Ellie's wedding.  Now... well, let's just say, I keep the pediatrician in business and I'll probably be holding my mother's necklace at the weddings.  Sometimes, I miss that person, that former self who had no idea how fast things could change.  But some of the time, I remember to be grateful for the experiences I have had and to remember that no matter how much it sucks that Mom died (and it sucks bad), I still don't live in the Ukraine or Syria and the regular problems I have are almost always solved by popcicles or stickers or a glass of wine with good friends.

So I'm going to stick with this little ol' blog.  I'll try to make it funny, but I can't promise I won't stray into the serious from time to time.  But tonight, I'll be funny :)

I kept meaning to write this in a blog, and I kept not doing it, so I'll do it now.   A year ago, about this time of year, I decided that I would be Mother of the Year and take my kids to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC.  If you haven't seen them, and you live within a reasonable drive, you really should, it is spectacular.  Ellie was sitting the DCAS (our standardized testing in Delaware) so after a quick call to the school to ensure that they were finished testing, I showed up at school with a car load of snacks and juice boxes - a treat akin to crack in our house - and told the kids that we were going on an adventure.  In case you're wondering what would possess me to go to DC with 4 kids, alone, on a weekday, I can only offer two explanations... DC is the least crowded on Tuesdays and it's far and away the best day to visit and I am a person who often overestimates the my limits.

Waiting for the Metro, best part of the day
We trekked down to Greenbelt, MD and hopped on the Metro, me feeling like the coolest mom in the freaking universe.  Kids are happy; they love the Metro.  I could probably just buy 5 all day passes and ride the subway all day and they would think it was awesome.  After some internal debate, I decided we would get off at L'enfant Plaza, rather than trying to change trains and go to the Smithsonian, even though it was farther.  Better to walk on the Mall than to wrangle 4 kids in a metro station.

At last we arrived, still all so happy we could just spit.  We popped out right in front of possibly the nicest hot dog salesman ever.  I forked over $8 for hot dogs and we sat right on the grass and ate.  Old ladies stopped to tell me how adorable we were.  The sun was shining.  Pretty much, it was the stuff that music montages are made of.  Then, the first snag.  Someone had to pee.

I got my bearings and realized that to my left was the Hirshhorn Gallery of Modern Art and to my right was the National Air and Space Museum.  My goal being the cherry blossoms, I decided that Modern Art had no chance of capturing my kids' attention.  I've spent quite a bit of time in all the various museums on the Mall and I remembered where the restrooms were in the Hirshhorn and I thought we'd just duck in, pee, and head out.

Phase 1, urination, went just fine.  As we left the bathroom, Ellie spotted the exhibit entitled "Out of the Ordinary".

        "What's that, Mommy?"
        "That's an art exhibit, honey."
        "Can we look?"

See, and here is where the wheels fall off the bus.  I don't know it yet, oh no, I was too busy breaking my arm patting myself on the back for having an extremely curious and intelligent child who was interested in looking at the weird modern art.  Obviously, it was a direct result of superior parenting.  So in we went and first encountered a piece that I can only describe like this:  A not leaning tower of Pisa, made entirely of 10" statues of the Virgin Mary, spray painted fluorescent yellow.

And as we were discussing things like perspective and interpretation, I looked over my shoulder and I saw it....

That, my friends, is a 6 foot long stick of butter.

Let me say that again.  A 6 foot long stick of butter.

I did it, I had to.  Cause no matter how cool I was trying to appear to the kids, no matter how important I feel that instilling a love and appreciation of all art is to my kids' education, I had to take a picture of the ridiculous 6 foot stick of butter and send it to Jeff.  And in the moment that I stopped parenting and became a person with a cell phone, Will took off like a shot, straight towards the butter.

If you look at the picture again, you'll notice that there is a distinct lack of barrier surrounding the butter, preventing small children from climbing on something that you might find at the play place at the mall.  What they do have is an overhead sensor that can tell when someone gets to close and it sounds an alarm.  Several things happened at once.  Will stepped over the line, the buzzer sounded, and a security guard yelled "Hey!" Will took one more step, did a pivot worthy of professional basketball and ran the other way, back to me.  "He ripped it." said my calm eldest child.  "What?" "He ripped it, look"  I looked and when he turned, his foot had been on the wrapper and the pivot tore off a corner.  Time slowed down, and I heard white noise.  OMG, my kid just broke art in the Smithsonian.  In a split second, I considered my options and I chose the only one that made sense.  I picked Will and Jack up under each arm and said, "Girls, let's go.  NOW"

We made it as far as the escalators.  I was about halfway up when the guards caught me and yelled up  to me, "Ma'am, we need to speak to you."  It was at about this point that my brains started to leak out of my ears.  They backed us up into a corner, right next to the bathrooms that we had so innocently peed in just 15 minutes before.  Three huge security guards started asking for Will's birthday, our address, where we were staying in DC, etc.  In the background, I could see a rush of activity - people walking with clipboards and cameras, snapping pictures of the damage.  I answered the questions as best I could as Will, still in my arms, struggled to get loose.  No fucking way were his feet going to touch the ground again.  Meanwhile, Maggie, who had spotted a frozen yogurt truck on the way into this little adventure and who never forgets anything, was asking "Can we get frozen yogurt?  Are we going to have frozen yogurt?  Can I get chocolate?  Will they have sprinkles?"  Ellie, stood huffing and puffing off to the side, chanting, "Worst.Trip.Ever" over and over, and then Jack chose that moment to shit himself.   By the time they were done, I was hot, exhausted, utterly humiliated and ready to cry.  Well, truthfully, I probably was crying.

After a quick trip to the bathroom to throw away Jack's underwear, thereby ensuring our position on the blacklist of the Hirshhorn Gallery, we left.  At this point, I went slightly crazy, a la Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation.  I wasn't going to quit and get back on the subway, OH NO, we came here to do the cherry blossoms and I wasn't leaving until I saw a goddamned cherry blossom and my kids had a lifelong memory.  Refer back to my blog about Luray Caverns for more information about failed day trips.

Notice the kid sized holes in the railing?
After a forced march, we arrived at the Tidal Basin and the kids oohed and aahed with satisfactory wonder.  I was having a hard time shaking the catastrophic beginning though, so I decided to apply a standard parenting rule to myself - There is nothing that can't be cured with a popcicle, band-aid, or a sticker.  I bought a round of popsicles for the kids and an extra big one for myself.  I put the popsicle in, and it promptly froze to my lips.  Completely.  Like when I pulled on the stick, my whole face moved.  Finding myself with few options, I simply ripped it and a couple layers of skin out of my mouth.  And began to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.

We salvaged the day, largely due to the kids love of the Metro - riding back pretty much put everything to rights.  We even got to stop at my favorite restaurant for dinner.

With all that said, peak bloom for the cherry blossoms is April 8 - 12 this year... who's going with us?

Friday, September 7, 2012

no one's perfect.

Well another summer has come and gone and here we are back in school.  This summer was fabulous/  Caroline came to visit and I proved to myself that I could conquer Philadelphia with four kids in tow.  It finally feels like we can actually do things, now that everyone is (mostly) potty trained and I no longer have to pack half the house with us to go places.  We went to North Carolina on vacation with my parents and other family, had barbecues and baseball games and fireworks and everything awesome about summer.  For me though, there was always a shadow behind me.  It's been nearly 4 months since Molly died, and not a day goes by that I don't wish it wasn't so.  

There are reminders everywhere - there's the obvious: driving by the cemetery or going to Kristen's house, and the subtle, like seeing a butterfly or a rainbow.  But it's the unexpected reminders that get me the most - during the Perseid meteor shower in August, I was struggling to explain what meteors are like to my 4 year old and I said that meteors are tiny and wouldn't hurt him, it would be like glitter falling from the sky and he said, "Molly's throwing glitter from Heaven!" 

All the while, I remind myself that what I feel is a sliver of the enormous pain that Kristen and her family are going through.  While that gives me perspective, it's not always enough to keep me from being angry or sad, or or generally unpleasant to be around.  I wish I could say that this experience has made me more patient with my kids, or made me kinder to others, or made me want to crusade to end Pulmonary Hypertension and HHT.  It hasn't, at least, not all of the time.  I'm just as patient as I've always been, which is to say about as patient as a regular old mom.  I'm as kind as I used to be, but probably more judgmental.  Somedays I want to contact my Senators and Congressman, but there are plenty where I want to pretend like I still had never heard of those diseases.  Those days, those times, I feel like I'm letting Molly down.  Mols, who never gave up on anything, would expect me to be better.  

But there are days where I do better - when I let Will walk on the wall at Crossroads, just to hear him say "yay!" and see the look of pride on his face when he jumps down by himself or when I actually ran around in a rainstorm with the kids or when I don't internally freak out at the guy taking his sweet time to back out of a parking space.  Those days, I remember that life is really too short, and there's no reason not to take the "super spy double secret back way home" (which is twice around the neighborhood and down a cul-de-sac and back).  

Today, a butterfly raced me down the road to the bus stop.  I couldn't help but say "Hi Molly." And then it occurred to me, did I see the butterfly because the butterfly is carrying Molly's spirit, or did I see it because I am carrying Molly's spirit in me?  And that was a very comforting thought.  Cause Molly, though persevering, wasn't perfect and it made me realize that she wouldn't want me to be perfect either.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Words that were never meant to be said

On May 17th, Molly died.

That is not a sentence that was ever meant to be written.  Even as I type it, my stomach drops, my eyes fill with tears, and I am overwhelmed with the enormity of those five words.

On May 17th, Molly died.

For 20 months, I have known that this was a possibility, if not a probability.  But the mind is a powerful liar and I have spent 20 months believing that Molly would beat it.  I mean, if any kid was ever going to magically cure herself of an incurable disease, it was going to be Molly.  She was a tough cookie from the day I met her.  I can remember babysitting the Dunne kids when Kristen was recovering from a surgery - Molly and Kate would have been about 2, almost 3 - Molly liked to change her clothes about 14 times a day and it made her dad (the chief laundry doer) crazy.  After about the third outfit change, I tried to dissuade Mols from going back into her room for yet another change, and she let me know in no uncertain terms that this was HER house and that I was NOT her mom.

Another time, the summer before she got sick, I was watching the kids and I told her no about one thing or another and she simply stared defiantly at me.  I thought "I have to stare this kid down or I'm never going to have an ounce of credibility with her again." And as we eyeballed one another, a different thought occurred to me, I thought "This kid is going to punch me in the nose."  When Molly was in the hospital and the diagnosis of PH had been made, I can remember sitting in the waiting room of the cardiac unit, holding Kristen's hands saying that if it was any other kid, I'd be more worried.  But Molly?  She would stand up in her bed in the CICU and say "Hell no!  I'm going to beat this."

Kristen and I live close together and we used to say that one of us had to move before our daughters entered their teens, as we could totally imagine them all sneaking out of their houses together.   I imagined the trouble they would get into, driving around town, honking at boys, singing along with crappy pop songs, doing the things that teenaged girls do.

On May 17th, Molly died.

Though I knew what the chances were, I spent very little time thinking about what things were going to be like if Molly died.  During the last week, when Kristen mentioned that she was thinking about taking Molly to AI so she could say goodbye to her therapists, and even though I knew what she meant, my brain could only think of saying goodbye like she was graduating or moving or going to a new school.  Not like she was dying.  It seemed completely unreal.  It still does seem completely unreal.  Kristen recently posted a photo of Molly's grave covered in the flowers from the funeral, and my gut reaction was one of wanting to claw at the earth and uncover her, because it would be too dark and cold and scary for a 7 year old and some remote part of my brain is holding on to the wish that this is all a dream and there was a terrible mistake and that Molly's in there, pissed off and wanting to play with her toys.

People keep telling me what a great friend I am, and every time I hear it, I cringe.  Nothing I did changed the fact that Molly died, that Kristen and her family have to live with an unimaginable amount of pain.  I should have done more with the Miracles page, had more fundraisers, gone to see Molly more.  None of it would have changed anything, I know that.  But the thoughts are still there - what if, what if, what if?

On May 17th, Molly died.

And now we have to live with that.

Community News Article
NewsJournal article

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

No one ever got skinny making snarky remarks over drinks at the bar

Yup.  So I weigh 181 pounds.  I have weighed 181 pounds since about three months after Will was born. I have gone up and down within five pounds of that range, but for all intents and purposes, I have weighed 181 pounds for 2 years.

I have complained about it, read about it, thought about it, talked about it, accepted it, and been sad about it.  The one thing I haven't really, truly, honestly tried is DOING something about it.

Oh sure, I go to the gym occasionally.  I don't have endless snacks in the house.  I drink diet pepsi and switched from sugar to splenda in my coffee.  But let's be honest, I haven't really pushed myself.  If I want half of Will's donut, I eat it.  If I want Wendy's for lunch, I get it.  I'm not really very good at self denial, nor am I very good at "pushing through pain" (unless I wind up with a baby at the end, but that's a different blog).  If I hurt, I don't want to go to the gym.  So I don't.

I am not disappointed with myself.  Let me be clear.  I hate the negativity that women have around food and weight.  My friends beat themselves up endlessly about the food choices they make and the weight they don't lose, or gain back.  I hear successful, beautiful, smart and talented women put themselves down because they don't weigh the "perfect" weight.  There was a great article about "fat is the new ugly" that talks about how kids learn that being fat means you're stupid, mean and lazy.  They learn this from us, the mothers that talk about the donut we had yesterday as if we had cheated on our husbands and not our diet.

So, I'm not beating myself up.  I have made the choices I have made for many reasons, and I have many excuses for not being more diligent about living a healthy lifestyle.  I am deciding that I'm going to start making this a priority.  When Maggie is spinning like a top in the house, yelling "I'm a molecule!" (thank you Gerald from Sid the Science Kid), I tell her "Control your body!"  Today, I start controlling mine. And you, Avid Blog Reader, are going to help me.

I saw a good piece of advice on FB about exercise and I thought I'd share.  Perhaps it's not that I hate exercise, perhaps it's that I haven't found what I like to do yet.  So I'm embarking on a quest to find an enjoyable kind of exercise.  I am committing to exercising every day, some way, some how.  I will get out of my comfort zone and try something new at least once a week, even if I feel like an idiot doing it.  90% of my problem is the whole "feeling like an idiot" thing - it kept me from trying a spin class for two years. When I finally did muster up the courage to try spin, the instructor was super nice and helpful, I got my bike set up and after a few minutes of feeling stupid, I realized that not one other person in the class gave a rat's ass about my neurosis.  You'd think that a woman who has breast fed in the National Archives would be less inhibited, but there it is.

So, feel free to suggest any exercise you think would be good.  I'm going to blog about it and tell my tales.  My goal is to lose 10 pounds this month.  Wish me luck!  Hopefully, I'll be amusing while I'm doing it.