Thursday, October 29, 2009


I walked into the Heights Parents Center knowing no one. One of the people that I first met was named Marcie. Her child, Harry, was the same age as my Ryan. As new mothers, we were eager to meet other mothers and survive this thing called motherhood. Weekly for years, we met as a playgroup in each other's homes and playgrounds. We became close friends. But a few years ago, Marcie's husband was offered a job and they moved away.

A few months ago, we heard the horrible news that Margaret, Marcie's middle child had cancer. She fought a courageous battle but passed away a couple of weeks ago. Marcie's husband wrote a beautiful piece for the funeral. I don't know how he go through it. I wanted to share it so that you may hug your babies a little tighter tonight. I also included the priest's message from the service because it offers hope for all of us. It is long to read but if you are dealing with grief it offers a beautiful message. Bless you little Margaret and the Ashford family.

Margaret, a Remembrance
October 23rd, 2009

Earlier in this service, there was a reading that included the lyrics of one of Margaret’s favorite songs. Hannah Montana is a somewhat non-traditional source for this church, and for those of you who may not be completely familiar with her recent movie, the song is about what she learned from her father as she grew up. This remembrance is about what I learned from Margaret over the last five months.

Lesson 1: How to live

We have all heard we worry too much and should live more in the moment. And we all know this to be true. But for me it took watching Margaret to make this idea more than a bumper sticker slogan, and show me what it can really mean. Here is Margaret’s approach.

Dance. All the time. Everywhere. And when the chemotherapy makes your nerves too slow for ballet, go to ballet anyway and dance badly. And when you are too sick to even go to ballet, dance at home to Hannah Montana.

Every meal is an opportunity for a party. Bananas Foster is always appropriate. And when the radiation makes it too painful to eat Bananas Foster, eat sour patch kids. And when you cannot eat at all, draw pictures of Bananas Foster in preparation for the next party.

Paint. Especially flowers. Collect and press flowers. And when your father tells you not to open the press yet, because the flowers haven’t been in long enough – don’t listen to him, Hannah Montana notwithstanding.

Lesson 2: When to stop living

This is why lesson 1 is so important. When your whole life before you is reduced to a summer, every moment becomes sweeter. But then the therapy works, and works well. Perhaps there is hope. Then an unexpected seizure – maybe an infection we can fight, or perhaps the cancer returned. Life expectancy swings from decades, to weeks, then back to months or years, and finally days. How do you live with this? How can you plan when you don’t know how much time you have? Margaret’s answer is it doesn’t make any difference. Life expectancy is how grown ups think. Refer to lesson 1.

Lesson 3: How to die

Many people have sent tributes to Margaret over the last week. So many of you have memories of her sweetness and kindness. But as a father, let me tell you Margaret knew a thing or two about stubborn resistance too. Whether you are confronted by a parent telling you it is bedtime or a nurse with a needle, or the final approach of death itself – the procedure is the same. Fight. Fight for more time. Negotiate. Don’t give in without a concession. The parent may give you five more minutes. The nurse will give you a treat from the hospital toy box. Death may give you one last summer.

But when at last the time comes, leave with grace. When the months finally became days, Margaret left so quietly and peacefully, that by the time I actually said goodbye, she had already gone, hours before. I was left wondering whether I had actually said goodbye while I had the chance.

Then I saw that in a way she had been saying goodbye all summer.

And finally I realized that Margaret hadn’t been saying goodbye at all. Just teaching me lesson 1, how to live, in the way only she could.

Written by Stephen Ashford

A sermon preached at the funeral of Margaret Helen Ashford,
Friday, October 23, 2009, in St. John’s Episcopal Church,
West Hartford, CT by the Rev’d Joseph L. Pace

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Several times in the last week or so Marcie has told me that today was supposed to be a wedding and that it should, of course, have been not today, but about 15-20 years off in the future. Way back in the spring -- which seems ages ago -- Marcie told me that visualizing Margaret’s wedding -- imagining Margaret walking down this aisle on Stephen’s arm -- was one of the ways she managed to get herself through the various tests, radiation and chemotherapy and the hours and days of uncertainty and waiting and fear that surrounded Margaret’s illness.

Dreaming of a wedding while sitting in a hospital room is a great dream, a grand and wonderful dream. Parents should of course always dream -- and dream big -- for their children, whether they be 5 or 12 or 35. Children need our dreams.

Dreams not only lift up, but they can also be a bit contagious, catching others up in their power, inspiring even greater dreams, carrying others along in their joy and hope. Dreaming sends the mind on wonderful journeys -- certainly much more satisfying than staring at the walls of a hospital room.

Dreams are among the greatest expressions and testimonies of love -- we dream for and we wish the best for those we love. In fact, we can often dream bigger for our children than they can dream on their own. We are the ones who teach them to dream. Parents should, of course, dream and dream big for their children -- in doing so, they open their children’s worlds to greater possibilities and brighter horizons.

Marcie and Stephen were absolutely right to spend time these past few months dreaming of a wedding -- dreaming of the absolute best for Margaret. Parents must dream -- and dream big --for their children.

Life has taken another path and the wedding of the future is today a funeral. But the dreams and the love behind those dreams are not in the least bit diminished by the funeral we celebrate today instead of the hoped-for wedding.

Life has changed and Margaret has gone -- in the words of our faith -- from life to life, from strength to strength. Life is not ended, but rather changed. In death Margaret continues to be held in the arms of Christ’s love as well as in her parents’ dreams.
And, that same love -- that also gives us the power to dream -- that same love holds Harry and Nell and Stephen and Marcie and Margaret all together as one in Christ’s love -- nothing can ever undo the power of that love.

Life is changed, not ended. And, today is not a day to set aside hope, nor is it a day to stop dreaming; rather, today is a time to cherish those wonderful dreams and hopes and wishes and be thankful for the strength they have given all of us through the awful times of the last six months. For, it is such memories that really give life to love and enliven even life itself with unimaginable richness and joy. Such dreams and memories will serve not only to keep Margaret alive in the hearts of those who loved her -- they’ll also serve to keep everyone going in the face of death.

Death’s pain is ferocious -- it stings and stuns and hurts; it tears up the heart and works mischief in the mind and with the emotions... But, death’s pain is not triumphant. It is, instead, the love of God that triumphs and continues to hold us all together when death appears to have won.

One of the passages from Scripture Stephen and Marcie chose for today pulls together in a beautiful image just exactly what it is we are meant to do here this morning. In his vision of the triumph of God’s love John the Divine sees the heavens opened wide and coming down out of heaven comes a gift from God, prepared as a bride for her husband, a new home -- the New Jerusalem -- together with the promise and assurance
that God’s desire above all else is always to be with God’s people, pulling us together as one, comforting us, wiping away tears and crying and pain, undoing the power of death...that we all may be securely together forever in the power of God’s love --
for God’s home is always with us.

It is one of the greatest of visions -- greatest of dreams -- in the whole of Scripture, God’s wonderful, glorious dream for us. God, our parent, dreaming nothing but the absolute best for us, just as any parents would do for his or her children. Amen..

May Margaret’s soul, together with all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Who Needs the Vaccine?

There has been so much debate about whether to get the H1N1 vaccine. Luckily, most of us in our area will not have to make this decision. The flu is hitting Northeast Ohio hard.

I was sure we would get the vaccine to protect my newborn. I had to do something!

Little did I know that my sons would get it and cough all over my baby. They sneezed all over her too. Ryan, my oldest, was so sick and could not catch his breath. I took him to the pediatrician to try to get a super duper prescription cough medicine that would help him sleep. We didn't get one because my doctor was too focused on testing Ryan for the Swine flu. I had worried so much about it that I didn't think this could be it.

As I found out, he did have it! So, no vaccination for him.

My husband and I didn't get sick at all. So, we will try to get our shots. And our baby Elle, so far so good. We have Tamiflu just in case. I swear I check her head for a fever every hour.

As much as I feared the Swine Flu, it is a relief to have had a child have it, be tested for it and recover. Nothing rocks a family like having a sick child. I am feeling blessed to have had mine recover. And I am remembering the children and their families that haven't been as lucky.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No Weigh!!!


We tied.


Doesn't that suck for me? We tied and we lost 4.8 lbs. in the past month. Great to lose the weight but it didn't feel like a victory. I knew it was close. I ate so perfectly the day before and didn't eat anything with a lot of salt in it to make sure that there wasn't any water weight. I think my hubby went to McDonalds the day before we weighed in.

Then two days later, I lost 1/2 a pound not really being that strict. Ugh. Who knows.

We split the winnings. I joined Weight Watchers yesterday. I will be attending my first meeting in the next few days. I am a little nervous but happy to have the support and great ideas.

In my last post, I promised that this would not become a weight loss and exercise blog. So, I will end this discussion for awhile. We weigh in again on November 17.

I promise to write more often. Things are falling into place with the baby and I am starting to feel more like myself. Stop back again soon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Losing My Hair Continues

Bad move. I encouraged my hubby to read my post about working out.

It has taken this competition to a new level. He jumped on the treadmill and ran.

Man. Weigh in is on October 20. So far, I am ahead. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Losing My Hair

It. Is. On.

My hubby and I are in a weight loss competition.

I can hear all of the women out there screaming "So not fair. Men lose weight faster..." Yes, you are all right. They do. But, I just had a baby weight and I lose weight pretty easily once my body realizes that we aren't pregnant anymore. My hair just started falling out so my body seems to have gotten the message that it is time to let it all go. Let's hope!

So, every month on the 20th, we are weighing in. In private! I will not let him see the number. I won't admit it to anyone. It is a man size weight. And no one but me will see this crazy number.

I am about five pounds down and I have one more week to go for the month. That's not too shabby. My husband is down about 4 pounds. He can not eat dessert one night and be down two pounds so I have to stick to it this week in order to win.

What do I win other than gloating rights and pants that fit? My husband received a little extra bonus money and he divided it up per month. So, it is a good amount and one that motivates me. The winner of the best out of three months wins a sizable amount of money from Coin Star that we just turned in. FUN!!!

And how am I doing it? For now, just cutting back on my addiction to sweets and walking each day on my treadmill. I will get more crazy when I need to if I hit a plateau. And what will I do with my money when I win this month (hear that husband?)? I might join Weight Watchers to ensure that I win each month after this. Sort of a reinvestment of my money. I won't drive you crazy with updates each day about my workouts and weight loss. There is nothing worse than reading that on blogs. But, I will keep you posted once in awhile. I may even post some pics if we ever get the computer and camera working together again.

Hubby- It. Is. On.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Believe

There has been a lot of talk about feeling good in our skin, self esteem and what we all do to feel beautiful. From Chris Rock's movie "Good Hair' to Glamour Magazine's November issue about real woman and their bodies, we all want to feel good about ourselves.

At my children's school, they are embarking on an "I believe" campaign for self-esteem. The children will wear special shirts and listen to song on special days. I think it is silly but I bought the shirts because I would never want my children to think that their mother didn't believe in them enough to buy the shirts to wear on the special "believe" days. I am sure this program makes certain administrators feel like they are covering this developmental area. I don't think it is so easy. One comment from a special teacher or administrator to a child would mean a lot more than a silly song.

How we develop our self-esteem starts with our parents. If we feel loved and cherished in an atmosphere without fear and anger, self-esteem can flourish. As a child, I told I was pretty and smart but when I got to high school, I wasn't sure anymore. Peers can take so much away from a teenage girl. I then went to college and had a great experience. People were smart around me and I loved learning. The parties weren't too bad either. My self-esteem flourished.

Fast forward ten years to motherhood. It rocks your world. Who you were and how you feel about yourself is torn apart and reconstructed. That is not a bad thing. For awhile, you lose yourself in your children. You become a mother. You then spend a couple of years trying to regain your mojo while taking care of your family.

And just when you think you have figured out how to be OK in your skin, something surprises you. Maybe you hear from an old friend and the old memories come flooding back. Maybe you attend a class reunion. Maybe you talk to someone and they don't remember meeting you before. Maybe you aren't chosen for a project that you really wanted. Maybe someone says something negative about you. Maybe your child isn't invited to a party and they are disappointed. Maybe you aren't invited. You tell yourself that you are all grown-up and that it doesn't hurt. But, you know otherwise.

I have heard from older woman that the older you get, the more comfortable you feel in your skin. Nothing excites me more about getting older. And as I get older, I realize that self-esteem doesn't come from labels or money spent on things. Someone will always have more than you. I feel best when I help others and reach out to people. The love I get as a result makes me feel good. This has taken me years to learn.

So, I will dress my boys in their silly "I believe" t-shirts twice a month for school while teaching them at home that there is more to self-esteem. It is a journey and not a destination. I believe.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Gnat Funny

I worked my butt off this week. We had guests for the weekend. This would be tough without a newborn. But, it was nearly impossible to pull off with a baby. I can barely shower and eat during a normal day (and check Facebook and watch TV) let alone clean it from top to bottom.

But, with my fantastic husband's help, we got it done. He came home a little (a lot) early on Friday and we tag teamed it. We took turns cleaning and taking care of the baby. By the 6 p.m., I couldn't believe how much more we had to do. I had no idea my house was such a wreck.

Now, before I continue, I have to explain why I care. I know many of you would say that real friends shouldn't care how my house looks. I hear you. This is all about ME. I would be so annoyed if my house was trashed with people LIVING with me for the weekend. You can't just get away with cleaning the main floor.

OK. So, we got it done. I drank a glass of wine Friday night and nearly collapsed. Relieved to be done with the work. The basement was as clean as it gets. The guest bed was made. Towels were out. The only thing I didn't get to was my own bathroom or closet. I never thought they'd see it. In fact, I threw everything I had to get rid of into my closet. You know how that goes. In goes the clean clothes I can't get put away in time. In goes the clothes I need to return to Target. In goes the hermit crabs. The aquatic frogs. The crap.

I left the closet door is open.

"Can my girls take a bath?" My dear husband suggested to the guest that the girls take a bath in OUR bathroom. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In walked our guest.

I went white. I was stuck. I couldn't talk them out of our tub.

It was nasty. It was dirty. And she saw it all. All that I was hiding.

And wouldn't you know that the hermit crabs' tank had an outbreak of a million tiny gnats while in my closet? So, in my bathroom/bedroom they swarmed.

The weekend is over and I am happy to have a somewhat clean house. We had a great weekend with great friends. The gnats are still with me. Anyone wants some hermit crabs?

I'm Not Talking About It, I'm Just Saying...