Monday, December 22, 2014

Visitor from Heaven...


When a loved one dies, certain days are harder than others, even years or decades later.  Anniversaries seem to be the hardest for many.  The anniversary of the day your loved one died being the most significant.  

What many people don't realize is that there are many other days that may be just as significant or perhaps, even more so, especially to a parent who has lost a child.

Many people cope with these difficult days through a ritual of remembrance.  It may only take a few minutes, or it may be something they devote hours or even an entire day to.  It's a way to mark the day as significant.  A day to honor your feelings, then and now.  A way to honor your loved one and the love you shared.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the day I buried my daughter.  Yesterday was the anniversary of her wake.  It was on the winter solstice.  The solstice will forever be the day we held her calling hours. Three days before Christmas will always be the day I buried my little girl.  

Not unlike a birth story, death stories need to be told.  The ritualistic remembrance is not morbid or bad or a sign of not coping well.  Quite the contrary.  Grief keeping is healthy.  It's a way of saying, "Hey, remember this person?  They were significant in my life.  Remember this day?  This day was also very significant in my life. I want you to remember them and the significance of this day, too."  

You'll see a lot of grief keeping at the holidays.  People posting messages to or about loved ones who have passed on, saying they miss them and love them.  People posting photos of their loved one who has died.  Remembrances of wonderful times they had together.  Even remembrances of the times that were not so wonderful.  I think this is a beautiful and healthy way to cope with your grief. 

Below is a keepsake I've had for ten years.  Every year, one this day, I watch it.  The photos were taken by a friend at my request during Meghan's services.  I never even noticed her presence.  Others thought I was nuts to ask her or that she was nuts for doing it.  

So many people want to help the newly bereaved.  So many offer "If there is anything I can do..." This was one of the very few things I ever asked directly for.  I'm so, so glad I had the courage and presence of mind to ask her to do it.  It was a last minute decision.  I don't regret anything about it.  

She put together the slide show/video of her photos to the song Visitor from Heaven by Twila Paris. The same song was played at Meggie's funeral.  It was written about the death of a child as I understand.  Little did I realize at the time how grateful I would be for these photos and this keepsake. Especially all these years later.  It is beautiful and powerful.  I've included it below. I encourage you to watch it and listen to the words of the song.  It is absolutely beautiful and so perfect for a child's memorial.

For what I notice now is not only the pain and sadness on our faces, but more remarkably, the love.  I can almost feel it.  Still.  After a decade.  Through the photos.  The energy was powerful then.  It is powerful today.  Love...


video

I have an accompanying scrapbook I made of these photos, plus ones I took at the funeral home, which I go through every year on this day as well.  I initially took the photos for Meghan's twin, who was only 3 at the time she died, and her brother, who was 6.  I wasn't sure if they'd remember and I wanted them to have the photos to look at someday if they asked or wanted to.  I wanted them to see the people who came.  To see their own expressions.  To see the love that was shown to us.  I had no idea at the time how much it would help me then and all these years later.

The act of scrapbooking the photos was also incredibly healing for me.  It was not easy, but I was surrounded by good friends while I worked on it.  It helped me process.  It helped me heal.

I realize photos or videos like this one may not be for everyone.  Making a scrapbook or video slide show of your loved one in any way could be a beautiful, loving, and moving tribute to their life and your love for them.  It also makes a wonderful gift for anyone who is bereaved.

May you feel the light and love of your loved ones who have passed on to the next place at the holidays and always.  Share your memories, a photo, their name.  Share it on social media.  Share it with friends and family.  Open your heart.  Let the love shine!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Furniture safety: Activism 101 - We've come so far and yet we have so far to go

As I sit and reflect on the place I was in emotionally ten years ago today, I am filled with a combination of sadness, gratitude, and awe.

This is the anniversary of the day I had to visit a funeral home, to plan my 3-year old daughter's wake and funeral.  The first day I woke up without her gleeful "Moooommmmmeeeeeeeee" squeals.  The first day she wasn't at the table for meals.  The first day I called her name and she did not answer or come to me... This is the day friends and family came to us with heavy hearts and tear filled eyes, having no idea what to say or do, but they brought love.  We needed love...

What I am reflecting on today is the way in which Meghan's Hope has grown these past ten years.  It was born the night she died and ten years ago, was mere hours old.  The mission as clear then as it is today.  Prevent any other child dying from a furniture tip-over the way Meghan did.  Holes in walls and in furniture don't matter! They can be fixed!  The hole in my shattered heart, dark with guilt, will never, ever be fixed.  I will live the rest of my life knowing I could have done something to prevent my daughter's death.  A few dollars and a few minutes was all it would have taken. If only I had known... If only I had access to the very thing that could have prevented it.  Furniture straps.

Meghan's Dresser

Safety First Furniture Wall Straps


Come hell or high water, it would be my mission that every parent know what I didn't.  Hell hath no fury like a mama whose child just died. For the record, that holds true ten years later, just on a different level.

I dreamed of our local community, state, and region rallying and helping us to spread the word.  I dared to hope that it became a nationally recognized problem and one that the media would help us solve.  I contacted TV and print media outlets asking them to help me raise awareness. Initially, there was a burst of support. A few newspaper and TV stories, some even nationally.  Flyers went out. Emails were sent.  Written letters of appeal were sent.  There was no social media like there is today, it was word of mouth.  But it quickly dwindled.

We established Meghan's Hope as a 501 C3 non-profit organization.  I exhibited at safety fairs and conferences.  I gave out furniture straps at these events.  I created all my own documents and brochures and informational presentations.  I spoke about it wherever I could to whomever would listen.  Still, I struggled to reach beyond our local community and even then, there was a whole lot of "it won't happen to us" going around.

I truly (and naively) expected furniture and local box stores to immediately start carrying furniture straps, as people were running in with Meghan's picture asking for them.  Most did not. I was shocked to discover they were made by popular childproofing companies, but not sold in stores, at least near us.  Why the hell not?  On-line shopping was in it's infancy when Meghan died.  I had no idea these devices existed!

I expected the furniture stores and box stores I wrote to to at least reply to me, and ideally, follow through on my request to post information about the dangers and sell the very straps that could prevent the type of accident that took my baby girl's life.  Crickets.  Not a single one responded!

Congressman Jim McGovern offered to help.  With his support, and that of a Congresswoman from PA, Allyson Schwartz, the Katie Elise and Meghan Agnes Act was born.  It was a bill in the US house in two different sessions of Congress. In 2005 and 2007.  I wrote to every member of Congress I could asking for their support. Neither bill ever got out of committee but it did get the attention of the Consumer Product Safety Commission  (CPSC) and the Consumer's Union.

Eventually, and painfully slowly, some of what we asked for in our bill became incorporated into a VOLUNTARY furniture safety standard written by ASTM.  It continues to be revised periodically. It's not ideal in my eyes yet, but at least progress is being made.  In 2009 tip-restraints being sold with certain types of storage furniture have been part of the standard.

There is, however, no testing or requirements for that restraining device, so it may or may not actually safely hold the weight of the furniture!  Honestly, I rarely use the device sold with the furniture, even though it brings tears to my eyes when I see one included, my little girl was a part of that...  I don't trust the cable ties or plastic L brackets to hold a 100+ pound piece of furniture, full of stuff and with a child pulling or climbing or bumping in to it accidentally.  No way.  I think they are creating a false sense of security for parents and setting manufacturers up for lawsuits that way.

There needs to be testing of the straps with that specific piece of furniture or at least some standardized testing of the restraining devices.  Both the ones sold with furniture and the ones available from the childproofing manufacturers.  There are very few with documented weight capacities.  No certification or description of how that weight capacity was determined.  Was it tested? How?  With all types of furniture?  With a giant weight?  What if it's pushed?  Pulled?  Climbed on? Bumped into?   Or is it just your best guess?

Parents should not be left to play a guessing game.  While any restraining device is better than no restraining device they are not created equal.  In fact I adamantly recommend against any cable tie type restraint.  They become brittle and crack.  They likely won't hold a heavy piece of furniture, loaded with stuff, and with a child on it.  In fact I had a set of Mommy's Helper straps (cable tie style) on my son's dresser after Meghan died.  While showing them to a TV news crew a few months later, one had broken!  I almost had a heart attack when I saw it.  His dresser was not safe, even though I thought it was safely secured.  ATTENTION FURNITURE AND RESTRAINING DEVICE MANUFACTURERS: THIS IS NOT OKAY!

I don't understand why this is not already part of the standard.  I don't understand how childproofing suppliers or furniture manufacturers can sell a safety device that has not been tested.  Forget potential litigation for failure of the device to work.  What about social responsibility?  What about protecting children?  Any cost manufacturers concur could be passed on to the consumer, or, perhaps taken out of the CEO's bonus check at the end of the year.

Let's forget about profits or inconvenience or expense.  It's about lives.  Imagine for a moment that it's your child or grandchild that this device is protecting.  Because it is. Do you want to take that gamble?  What makes you think your child won't be one of the 71 injured every day in a tip-over accident?  What makes you think your child won't be the one to die like Meghan did?  If you think it won't be yours, and/or you do nothing to protect them, you are a fool.  Yeah, remember that hell hath no fury?  She's me and she tells it to you straight.  Used to get me in trouble all the time as a kid. Maybe now, it will motivate people to act.  It will save a life...

I am beyond thrilled to be collaborating with the CPSC on their Anchor-it tip-over awareness campaign.  They recognize the dangers and the need to get the information to parents.

The thing is, it's not just parents that need to know.  It's not just our homes that we need to be concerned about tip-overs in.  Yes, they are of the utmost importance, because we all have furniture and we all have TV's and they ALL need to be safely and properly secured to the walls.

But there is also unsecured furniture and TV's everywhere our children go; in our schools, in our churches and religious halls, in hotel rooms, at recreational facilities, and in stores.  The wall of TV's at any box store gives me panic attacks!

There is also the often overlooked danger to adults, especially our elderly.  Not only in their homes but in assisted living facilities, senior centers, elderly housing and nursing homes/rehab facilities. They are often less mobile, less agile, tend to have a lot more clutter, and have large furniture and TV's that are not secured and on inappropriately sized devices.  They are at risk, too.    The armories, dressers, and entertainment units in elderly facilities should be secured!  Elders should be made aware of the risk in their own homes not only to themselves but to their grandchildren and great grandchildren.

We have a long way to go in raising awareness.

I spend a lot of time on Meghan's Hope.  I'm a one mama show.  I receive no financial compensation. My "pay" is knowing someone "listened to Meggie."  My return on investment is people sharing Meghan's Hope, doing that news story I requested, selling restraining devices in your stores, handing out our brochures, taking action and securing furniture and TV's to the walls.  Invite me to present to your organization or group.  Interview me.  Talk to me.  Listen to Meggie!

It's a difficult job, especially since it doesn't pay my bills, so I need to do it in my "free" time, which as a mom of 2 boys, is not a whole lot!  I'd do it full time if I could, but I can't.  I do need to pay the mortgage and put food on the table.  I need to support my boys in their educational and extracurricular endeavors.

I'm not the only parent doing this. Others have lost their children the same way and they, too, are trying to raise awareness.  There are small communities all over the country who have a heightened awareness, but it's so hard to break those barriers and cross state lines.  Go national.  Go global.  Be heard.

In the past 2 years, with the advent of social media, and especially Facebook, Meghan's hope has taken off.  A viscerally raw and emotional blog post I wrote went around the world.   Awareness started to spread.  People started to listen and act.  Still, the statistics are sobering.  Children are still being injured.  Adults are still being injured.  People are still dying.  Not enough people are sharing. Not enough people are taking the risk seriously.

Why?  Is it fear?  Is it ignorance?  Is it poor marketing skills?  For the love of God, why are people not hearing the message and if they are, and not taking action, why?  Please tell me, so I know how to help them understand.

More needs to be done.  I can't do it alone.  I'm so grateful for everyone who has shared and helped us along the way. I'm so grateful for the support of the CPSC and other organizations who recognize the danger and are taking steps to raise awareness at a national level and beyond.  Who are supporting Meghan's Hope and I am grateful for the recognition of the work I've done. I just wish it was more successful...

Activism is not for the faint of heart.  It's a labor of love.  Believe me, I'd much rather be mothering Meggie by taking her to dance class instead of through Meghan's Hope.  But now, it's the only way I can.  And so it is.

Save a life.  Secure your furniture and your TV's today.  All of them.  Then do the same at your parent's house.  Inquire at your child's pre-school, school, after school program or day care, church and gym child care, the nursing home your parents or grandparents are in. Be proactive.

Need a stocking stuffer?  Furniture and TV straps make great gifts!  Offering to install them for a family member or friend, even better!

Anchor it today.  Tomorrow may not come...




Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Letter to Meggie on her 10th Angelversary

Dear Meggie,

As I sit in your bedroom on this, the 10th anniversary of your death, I find myself thinking not only of your short three years here on earth, but wondering what you would be like today, had the unthinkable not happened.  Who would you be?  What would you have become?  You would be a teenager now!

Your twin brother is thirteen.  He is growing like the proverbial weed.  Ky-ole is over 6 feet and already a junior in high school!  How tall would you be now?  What would you look like? What would your voice sound like?  Would your eyes still hold that same wisdom? Would the boys be chasing you or would you be chasing them?  Never mind, I already know the answer to that one...

I gaze at the little lock of hair tied with a pink ribbon the nurses gave us the day you died. I can’t help but wonder, would your hair be long or would you prefer a pixie cut?  You never were one for keeping the “pretties” in for very long.  I wonder if your hair would still be that beautiful golden blonde or if it would have darkened like both of your brothers’ hair did.  

Would you be a girly-girl or more of a casual tomboy?  You liked to dress up but you also liked to be naked just as much!  You loved both your Tinker Bell jammies and your dinosaur jammies.  Your grandmothers would have kept you well supplied with girly clothes whether you liked it or not!

As I glance at the finger paintings and drawings you made, I can’t help but wonder, would you have been an artist?  You loved to paint!  You were very crafty.  Your hand and foot prints look so tiny now.  

I remember how active and busy you were. Would you be a dancer, gymnast, or soccer player like your brothers are?  I bet you’d have done all three of them!   Or, maybe you’d have done something entirely different.  My money is on gymnast.   

Would you still have a love of kitties, all things pink and sparkly, and Tinker Bell, or, would your tastes have changed?  Would you still be silly and playful?  I hope so.  I bet you would be.  Bampy would make sure you didn’t lose that!

Would you enjoy running 5k’s with your mother in silly costumes or would you roll your eyes in embarrassment like the boys do now? You always did run fast!  I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up with you.  I can’t keep up with your brothers, either.  

What would dinner time be like if you were here?  Would the family dynamic be significantly different?  Would you still like Veggie Booty?  Does anyone else even eat Veggie Booty?
If you continued to command attention the way you used to, I’m sure it would be different! You would have had your big brothers both wrapped around your little finger!  I bet there would be a lot more arguments about which movie we watch or what game we play.  Your brothers would have learned so much more about dealing with girls… and young women.  No doubt, you’d have set them straight and kept them in line.  They would have been fiercely protective of you, too.

I wonder if it would have been a Frozen Christmas this year…  Maybe we all would have gone to the Village for Christmas.  Auntie T would have totally sucked you in to glow with the show ears at Disney World!  Grammie and Bampy probably would have spent an arm and a leg to take you to the Bippidi Boppity Boutique so you could be a princess.  We would have had matching Tinker Bell wings and wands!  :-)

Speaking of Christmas, I know the joy of the season would be back if you were still with us. So much of the joy and sparkle of the season died with you.  It’s been such a struggle to get it back.  I try, but it’s so hard.  I know you send love and light every year, and occasionally throw down an angel or an ornament just to let us know your playful side is still with us.  Still, we miss you so much it hurts.  It literally hurts.

Instead of holding a photograph of you for the big family picture, I wish I was holding you.  

It’s so hard to believe it’s been ten years Meggie.  There are so many things I thought we’d share together that we’ve already missed.  The double birthday celebrations and parties for you and Ry. The first days of school and the last days of school.  Holidays and birthdays and gatherings with friends.  Family vacations and summer day trips.  The dance recitals and sporting events we never got the chance to share.  Trips to Disney.

And now, all I have to look forward to are more milestones without you. I won’t ever get to celebrate the rites of passage into womanhood with you.  I’ll never have the opportunity to teach you to drive.  I won’t get to see you grow into the amazingly beautiful and bright woman I know you would have been.  I won’t see you graduate, get married, or have your own children.  There will be no mother daughter mani-pedis, or girls only shopping trips.  No prom, no first dates, no bridal or baby showers… I’ll never be the mother of the bride.   

Instead, I spend all of these transitional moments missing you.  Every holiday.  Every milestone your brothers reach.  Every milestone I reach.  Every milestone you should have reached.  Every Mother’s Day. Every day.  Wondering who you would be at each of them. How it would be different if you were still here with us.  Feeling the pain of your absence.

I am alone in my pain of missing you, because it, like you, is invisible.  At least most of the time.  Others can’t see it, or don’t understand it, so they don’t acknowledge it.  

When Ry gets his learner’s permit I will cry.  When he graduates, I will cry.  When he goes to his first formal dance, I will cry.  When he marries, I will cry.  When your brothers achieve all of their milestones, I will cry.  Tears of happiness for him.  Tears of sadness for me, because there is forever one, where two should always have been.  

How will Ry feel?  Will he miss sharing these moments with his twin sister?  Does he wonder what it would be like if you were still his best friend?  His telepathic partner in mischief?  What would your twinship be like now?  Would you still insist “Ry Ry did it?”  He’d probably deny it now… I think he’d catch on eventually.

How will Kyle feel?  Does he ever think about what life would be like now with his “baby” sister?  How it would be different?  

The world will forever see I have 2 boys where 2 boys and a beautiful little girl should have been. Some will know what is missing.  Most will not.  I will always know. I will always miss you.  It will always hurt.

All I can do now is hope that wherever you are, you are at peace.  You are happy.  You are free.  You are flying with the angels.  I hope your wings are sparkly!  I hope you can feel the love we hold in our hearts for you here.  We can feel the love you send us. Keep it coming!  

You always wanted to fly high in the sky…

Happy 10th Angelversary my sweet baby girl.  May your wings help you soar high and free.  

Kiss.
Hug.
Snuggle.

Love,

Mommy


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I gave birth today! It was a long labor of love...

I gave birth today.

It was the longest labor I've ever endured.

Like all labors, it was born of love.  A love story between a mother and a daughter.  The contractions were difficult and painful at times.  The process long.  The rest periods between the contractions welcome opportunities to recharge, collect myself, shift my focus and redirect myself to my purpose.

Transition was fast and furious these past few months, with everything falling into place and happening in the way you dream of.  Until the very end.  Surprises.  Unexpected changes in plan. Stuck at 10 centimeters for so... very... long.  Interventions needed?  No, just wait patiently and let the process unfold.  Don't rush it, Kim.  All in good time.

Time to reflect...
Unlike other labors, my gift was not a beautiful child.  No, I already had that.  She died almost 10 years ago.  My labor began the day she died.



The day my daughter died, I was thrown into a deep, dark, abyss where a storm raged in and around me, relentlessly.  It hurt.  So.  Damn.  Much.  How I didn't die myself from the pain of a broken heart is beyond me.  It was a dark, lonely, confusing place.  I felt as if I'd never find my way out.  I didn't think there was a way out.  I didn't really care at that point.

What began in part as a letter written to her to foster an ongoing relationship, was coupled with an advocacy and awareness campaign.  For the past ten years I have tirelessly devoted as much of my free time as I can to trying to prevent the same tragedy that took my daughter's life from happening to any other child.

Slowly, I began to emerge from that abyss.  The storm subsided.  At least for periods of time.  When another storm came along, it didn't last as long and I was learning how to ride out the storms.  The darkness began to fade.  Things were more gray.  Then, a glimmer of light.  Of hope.  Of... happiness?  Over time, color began to creep back in to my life.

Yet there was still a broken heart inside this mama.  Still a strong and passionate drive to prevent other children from dying the way my daughter did.  I was frustrated.  No one seemed to be listening to Meggie.

Two years ago, a breakthrough.  A post, right here, about the day she died, was the cry heard around the world.  A call to action from a deeply bereaved parent.  Social media was the vehicle that carried my voice, my emotion, my pain, my pleas.  It resonated with literally millions of parents around the world.  They answered the call.  They shared Meghan's story.  They secured their furniture and their TV's.  They joined the community of Meghan's Hope on Facebook.  They became more aware of potential hazards to children and how to fix or prevent them.

Among the thousands of messages were messages of thanks from fellow bereaved parents.  They identified with the emotions I wrote about.  The pain I still feel.  The way their family and friends didn't "get" their pain and their grief.  Some told me things they had never told anyone else, because they were afraid they were broken.  They were afraid others wouldn't listen.  They didn't think anyone cared.

I began to write more.  I had long wanted to write a book about Meggie and I.  The book I wrote was not the book I thought I would write.  The book I wrote was the book I wish someone had handed me the day I walked out of the hospital 10 years ago without my daughter... forever.  It was the guide I wish I had all these years.  The guide I wish my friends and family had then... and now.

A parent's grief never ends.  It changes over time, but we never "get over" the death of our children. There is nothing that eases that hole in our hearts, that empty chair at our holiday table, or the name called that will forever go unanswered.

It's a journey.  It will continue to be a journey.  It has hills and valleys.  Sunshine and storms.  I am not "cured".  Grief is not something that you can cure or fix.  I am healing.  I am integrating.  I am memory keeping.  It's about love.

Today, the fruits of that labor, of the past ten years, was born.  That book was published.  It's aptly called Out of the Darkness: Coping With and Recovering From the Death of a Child



You'd think I would be elated.  I'm a published author.  A dream come true.  A major goal fulfilled. On some level, I am.  I feel accomplished.  It was a long journey.  It began with NaNoWriMo in 2013.  I wrote the bulk of the manuscript then.  Then it sat for a while.  Many hours of writing and many more of tedious line and developmental editing followed over the past year.  Many hours of sleep lost.  Many social invitations declined to meet deadlines.  Many amazing friends and family to help and support me along the way. It feels... wonderful to finally hold your own book in your hands.
Yet the tears fall today.  They are not tears of joy. They are tears of bittersweet pain.   People are listening to Meggie now.  Meghan's Hope is a world-wide go to resource for furniture and tip-over safety.  I am so very grateful for that.  Meggie's beautiful face and heartbreaking story are saving lives.  She's so amazing.  The tears are because of the painful fact that this book would never have been written by me if my beautiful daughter had not died.  THAT still hurts like hell.

And by tears, I mean sobbed.  Over the past several days I have cried some of the longest, most painful tears of the past ten years.  I've cried in public, in my car, at my computer, in my husband's arms, and when I opened the box that held the physical proof of my book.  I cried when I hit the publish button on CreateSpace today.  Hell, I'm fighting tears now.  All the emotion, the pain, and even the gratitude in my heart, the stress and challenges of the past several months just burst forth like a tsunami.  Of course part of my goal was to publish it before Meggie's 10th Angelversary.  It is in two days...

I want nothing more than for no other parent to ever know what that pain is like.  I want parents to have the information and resources they need to keep their kids safe.  For those that do know this pain of losing a child, I want them to know they are not alone. I want those that love them to know how to help them.  I want them to have the information and resources they need to heal.  I want us, as a society, to learn how to "do" grief, not fear or avoid the work it demands.  The work required for us to heal.  We're in it together.  All of us.

And by us, I mean you.  Everyone knows a bereaved parent, whether you realize it or not.  There are people in your life who have miscarried, had babies born still, who lost children to cancer, accidents, suicide, and murder.  Not everyone talks about it, but you all know at least one person, I promise you. They all want you to acknowledge their pain and their child. Someone has to get the word out.  One of those someones is me.

44,000 parents lose children in the US every year and that's just the children under 19.  It's millions world-wide annually.  That doesn't even include the countless parents who lose adult children every year, who hurt as much as those who lose young children.  A parent's grief is a parent's grief.  it doesn't matter how old the child was when they died or the circumstances of their death.  Their child is gone and it's so, so wrong.  This book is needed by so many...

It was hard to allow myself to give the final approval and release the book.  I know I could do better. Write more. Improve the content.  What if it's not good enough?  What if I forgot something that is important?  I know I couldn't include everything, no one would be able to lift a book that full.  That's the Virgo perfectionist in me.  That's what second editions are for, right?   Self-publishing was my only comfortable option.  I had other traditional contract offers.  I was not willing to give up creative control, not for this deeply personal project they knew nothing about. It was worth every second and every challenge I encountered.

It is my greatest hope that this book helps even just one bereaved parent or one loved one trying to understand and help them through their journey.  If that one person is helped, it will have been worth all the hours, all the tears... it would mean that someone knows they are not alone.  That there is hope. There are resources.  There is a way out of the darkness.  A way to incorporate your grief into your life and move forward.  It's so hard to see that in the beginning.

So, now that I've given birth, it's time to mother and nurture this baby.  Please, share it with your friends and family.  Gift it to a parent or grandparent or friend or family member of someone who has lost a child.  Read it yourself to glean a better understanding about coping with grief of any kind.  We will all lose someone we love someday.  Being prepared is far better for effective coping.  Trust me. I know.

If you read it, I'd love your feedback.  You can find out more about the book and where to buy it at the Out of the Darkness Grief Support Website and Facebook Page.

Thank you for your support.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Girl Power?

This past week, I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women.  It's the largest woman-centric conference of it's kind in the nation.  Ten thousand women were in attendance.  Many of whom were career business women, worked in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professions, or were small business owners and entrepreneurs.  These were women who were movers and shakers and held a seemingly common goal; to break the glass ceiling and change the world.  Estrogen is a powerful motivator.

There were many vendors and exhibitors and a tremendous opportunity to attend breakout sessions and workshops to help you succeed in the business world.  There were sessions on finance, branding, social media marketing and so much more.  MBA programs were there encouraging graduate degrees. Banks were there, to discuss financing options for small businesses.  Technology companies were there, recruiting.  Small business vendors were selling their products.  You could even get a makeover from several cosmetic vendors and then get your head shot done for your social media profile pictures!

The conference drew amazing and successful and entrepreneurial women as key note speakers and one very brave and endearing man.  Among the key note speakers were Tori Burch, Academy award winning actress Lupita Nyong'o and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  They all had tremendously impressive resumes and experience and they delivered articulate, entertaining, and inspiring speeches.  The energy in the room was strong, but it was a different energy than I am accustomed to at large conferences of women.  This energy was one of power, ambition, drive, a strong desire to succeed in a "man's" world, to break gender and social barriers.  It's a good thing in many ways, but perhaps, not so much, in others.

I am used to attending conferences around childbirth.  Women drawn to these conferences are also powerful, passionate, driven, and embrace and use their hormonal gifts, but it's different.  These women have a primary overlying objective of love, compassion, and helping each other, rather than competing with each other.  They are not about breaking the glass ceiling, they are about nurturing others to reach their highest personal potential, for the greater good of everyone involved.  Similar, yes, but the energy is SOOOOOO different.  And honestly, I prefer this energy.

Of course, the truth is, I, personally, have a decent mix of both.  While the more heart-centered and nurturing energy of my energy sensitive birthy peeps resonates with me more deeply, I am also a business woman.  I have to be in order to accomplish the goals I want to in my life so I can educate and nurture others the way I feel I am called to do.  I need both kinds of energy.  I need both kinds of girl power.  I am so blessed to have both in my life.



Ironically, the speaker I enjoyed the most, was the one man who closed the morning keynotes.  John Jacobs is the co-founder of Life is Good.  You know, those cool T-shirts that have optimistic and outdoorsy pictures and sayings on them.

Photo: Is yours ready to rock around?  #thenewoldfashionedway http://bit.ly/LigTogether

In sharp contrast to the women in business suits, he came out on stage in jeans, a T-shirt, and a wool hat.  His boyish charm quickly revealing a man whose mama raised him right.  He spoke of the wonder of the way his daughter views the world.  He spoke of love, optimism, goodness.  He spoke of the power of dreams and persistence and doing the right thing.  Of philanthropy and giving back and of the power of community.  He threw frisbees into the audience.  He was honest, raw, playful and yet a brilliant business man.  Not because he wanted to be the best or beat the competition, but because he wanted to share a message of goodness and hope and optimism.  I felt like he was one of "my" kinda woman.  :-)

This got me thinking.  Women are women.  Or are we?  We are all driven to do and be different things.  Not everyone can be Hillary Clinton or an Academy Award winning actress.  Not everyone wants to be.

We have so many roles we need to fill in our own lives.  Mother, daughter, spouse, sister, aunt, niece, friend...  We must fulfill the duties of our job descriptions no matter what that job may be.  Whether we are the CEO of our household or the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, we all hold a position of power and authority.  We all have a "business" we need to run.  Some of us may aspire to do great things and change the world.  Maybe that's by starting a business.  Maybe that's how we measure success.  Others may change the world through volunteering or writing a meaningful children's book.

The beauty of it is, no matter what we decide we want to do with our lives, we can.  We are so blessed and fortunate to live in a place where we, as women, have those choices and those opportunities.  When there are financial barriers to our opportunities, it's women like the ones who spoke at the Women's Conference, who provide the scholarships and angel investing to help those women find success.

We are so blessed.  I am grateful for the opportunities I have had in the past and that are available to me now.  I do hope I can pay it forward, and provide something as wonderful to a young girl or girls somewhere, sometime.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Share for a Share? WTF?

Warning:  I am stepping on my soap box.  Rant ahead...

Someone, please tell me, for the love of all that is Holy, WTF is wrong with people?  I know, that's a pretty all-encompassing question.  Let me narrow it down for you.  Today's rant brought to you by "Share for a share?"

I'm all for sharing, but when did a "share for a share" become a thing?  Especially when it has to do with awareness campaigns or helping others?

Over the years, I've had a few messages on the Meghan's Hope Facebook page asking if I'd be willing to do a "share for a share" with a link to their Facebook page of choice.  I've had quite a few recently, and it's been eating at me.  Most are messages asking if I'll share their story or a link to a Facebook page in exchange for them sharing Meghan's Hope.  Most of these stories or links involve children who are critically ill and have prayer pages, children who are acutely or chronically ill and perhaps trying to raise awareness about their illness, or, perhaps, fundraising to pay medical bills. Many are heart-wrenching stories of beautiful children struggling with illnesses no one, especially a child, should ever have to endure. More than one has brought tears to my eyes.

The sharing part is not what I take issue with.  I am all for sharing and raising awareness. Obviously.

I take issue with the fact that now, for some people, sharing information that could save a life or help a family in need is somehow conditional.  That some people would actually only consider sharing my story if I share theirs.

Really?  Is it me, or is that just... wrong?

Don't get me wrong.  My heart aches for these children and their families.  I often do share their stories... on my personal page.  I always send a message back that is full of support and thanks for sharing the story with me.  I will even sometimes send along additional information or resources that might help them that I am aware of, without being asked for such information.  I tell them if I will share it on my personal page or in another way.

What I don't usually do is share it on the Meghan's Hope Facebook page (and explain why to them). Not because I'm mean, callous, or selfish.  Not because I don't care about that child or their family.  I choose not to share it unless the story has to do with an issue of child safety. Why?  Because Meghan's Hope is about child safety.  I have an obligation to remain true to the mission of Meghan's Hope and that is to raise awareness about dangers to children and teach others about keeping kids safe.

Some people don't understand my reasoning.  I don't understand theirs.

It saddens me to think that someone would consider NOT sharing Meghan's Hope, information that could save a child's life, unless I agreed to share their story on the Meghan's Hope page.  WTF? Bribery? An eye for an eye?  Emotional blackmail? Ego?  What drives that? Who taught them that? What makes them think that is reasonable?

What is it that makes people think helping children and families for ANY reason has to be conditional?  Shouldn't we share something because we feel it's appropriate and because we want to? Since when do we need to broker a deal to save a life or help a family in need?  If I see a story I feel is worth sharing on my personal page, I share it.  If I have information that may help someone, I share it. I don't ask for anything in return, nor do I expect it.  I consider that common human decency. I consider it compassion.  I consider it the right thing to do.

**Stepping off soap box**

I wish I could say I feel better.  Really, I just feel kind of sad.

Sad that we might be raising kids who among other things, won't have the common sense and decency to do the right thing and instead, will expect something in return for every good or appropriate thing they do.  That, scares the hell out of me.






Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick, Treat, Trigger

Halloween.  A high holiday for the children who celebrate.  Dressing up.  Parties and costume parades.  The trick or treating.  The treats!  How often do you get to eat so many sweet treats in one day?!

I remember how much I looked forward to it when I was a kid and how much fun I had.  Heck, even as an adult, my husband and I are going to two costume parties this weekend! It's fun to get to dress up and "be" someone different!

When I first had kids, I couldn't wait to dress them up!  How I looked forward to finding just the right costume and re-discovering the joy through their eyes.  When I had the twins I was beyond excited!  From their little pumpkin hats the year they were born just 9 days before Halloween, to the Mickey and Minnie costumes the next year, and the Tinker Bell and Peter Pan costumes the year after that...It was so much fun to have Halloween costume themed birthday parties and coordinate their costumes!





Then, Halloween 2004.  A "butterfly princess" and "Larry Boy" from Veggie Tales.  They didn't match!  They were 3.  They wanted to be something different.  And so it was.  Their birthday party was Finding Nemo themed.  It was an eclectic year.  Little did I know it would be the last Halloween all my children would be on this earth.  The last Halloween my little princess would get to be the princess of her choosing.  The year so many of my parenting dreams died...

Now, I decorate her grave with pumpkins and a new Tinker Bell wand.  I hang a pink glowstick on Halloween.  My Halloween is nothing like I imagined it would be.


Halloween now is one of those trigger days. A  day when I know I could be blindsided at any moment by a memory, a little girl, twins... Even though I logically know it can and probably will happen, and anticipate it, it somehow always surprises me when it happens.

This morning, it was courtesy of Facebook.  Meg's twin brother has another set of twins in his class.  They are also boy-girl twins.  Their mom posted a picture of their costumes this morning.  They dressed up as each other!  It was awesome and brilliant and absolutely adorable.  I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.  I was momentarily angry.  That should have been ME!  I should be posting pictures of my twins being clever like that!

Then, the other pictures of twins in their Halloween outfits began to pop up in my feed.  Of course the boy-girl ones hit me the hardest, but I find myself a wee bit resentful.  Why are they so lucky?  Why am I the "one"?  I click "like" and move on.

My boys no longer dress up.  It's just not cool.  I admit, I'm anti-trick or treat now.  I'm a curmudgeon who turns off the lights and goes out for dinner instead.  I just can't deal.  I feel badly.  And I don't.

But tomorrow is my day.  Her day.  Our day?  Tomorrow is All Souls Day.  The Day of the Dead. We celebrate Meggie tomorrow.  Not the way I would like to, but suddenly, November 1st holds much more meaning than October 31st.

I promise you  I'm not the only one who feels this way. So be sensitive to those you know who share my shoes.  Tell them you understand how hard this must be for them.  Maybe offer a hug.  It's the best treat out there.