Saturday, May 7, 2016

When I See Me in You

When all you want is to be snuggled
I see me in you.
We share a need for closeness and affection.
We want to be sure of those we love.

When we sing together at night
I see me in you.
You have a song in your heart,
And we both love The Carpenters.

When you strut around in your Darth Vader cape
I see me in you.
It's the complex characters we love
Which is why I married dad.

When you cheer up your brother
I see me in you.
Our glass is half full
And we're always willing to share.

When you eat chocolate ice cream
I see me in you.
We get most of it on our lips and chin,
Sweet Wooly Willies.

When you do funny voices
I see me in you.
The world is your stage
And you live for applause.

And then there are days when
I see you in me.
When I battle you with light sabers
Or find Easter Eggs that you hid.

On the day you turned 3
I saw me in you.
Shyly clutching my face while we sang,
Reveling in adoration.

If you ever lose yourself,
You will find you in me.
In my smile, in my laugh,
In my chocolate covered chin.

I know when I'm lost
I will find me in you.
My tiny harbor, my sweet guidepost,
My amazing reflection.

Monday, February 22, 2016


Last year, I blogged about the loss of two dear friends, taken far before their time was done on earth. Writing helped me process and helped me grieve.  On February 21, my father called me sobbing.  His first words were "I have terrible news."  He asked if I was sitting down.  I told him I was.  Through tears he told me that my beloved cousin Leonard, his wife Heather, and their 4 beautiful young children had passed away due to a carbon monoxide leak in their home over the weekend.  I can count on 1 finger, the amount of times in my life that I have burst into tears.  I have wept over the loss of those I love, but my body has always taken time to process before tears could spring into my eyes.  But on February 21, I burst into tears.  My entire body shook so hard I almost dropped the phone.  Len. Len is gone.  Len's family is gone.  My uncle discovered them.  Unfathomable does not come close.  Through the fog of grief, I have to remember the Len I knew, the Len I grew up with, and the Len who loved me with a devotion only known to big Italian families like ours.  This is my Len.

Leonard was one of my first best friends.  I've said that a lot as I've memorialized him, but it's true.  Memories of him stretch back as far as I can remember.  As children we were obsessed with The Mickey Mouse Club.  I was Annette and he was Cubby.  We would watch old black and white episodes of the show in my tiny house in Redford.  We would lay under a long, wooden coffee table with a blanket draped over it.  Our own little fort.  Afterward, we'd pretend we were Mousketeers and sing and dance around the living room.  There are recordings of us singing together.  Two of his greatest hits were a song about Spring and a song about a Skunk.  Leonard clearly loved nature.

Len and I were named for our grandparents and in many ways we were carbon copies of our namesakes.  Len was goofy, full of jokes and puns just like our grandpa and I was (am) a spitfire like our grandma.  We spent so much time together as kids growing up outside of Detroit, #1 and #2 of what would eventually be 23 grandchildren.  

We were ring bearer and flower girl in our aunt and uncle's wedding.  I remember twirling around my grandparent's house in my flower girl dress.  Len was less impressed by his tiny gray tuxedo.  When the big moment came and we stood at the end of the aisle, ready to walk down, Len was frozen.  Some combination of cold feet with a dash of stubbornness kept him standing still at the end of the aisle.  So I did what any spitfire named Nancy would have done, I physically dragged him down that aisle. Refusing to let go of his arm, I got that boy to the altar, all the while keeping my beautiful navy silk flower wreath perfectly attached to my head.  10 years later, that same aunt and uncle would ask us to be godparents to their son Joseph.

Len was a renaissance man, at once, incredibly gifted in all things tech, like his father, but also absolutely content growing up in his family's country home on beautiful tree-filled acreage, far away from any city.  Every fall, their family would host a hoe-down with a huge bonfire, tractor rides, and of course, buckets and buckets of pasta.  Len greeted each cousin, aunt or uncle with his signature bear hug.  He would smile with his whole face at the sight of you.  He was soft-spoken, humble, and loving.  Was?  Can I really be talking about Len in the past tense.  I can't.  He is all of those things.  He is all of those things.

In high school, little Annette and Cubby took to the stage.  In a great coincidence, Len and I were both cast in the musical Bye Bye Birdie in our respective high schools a year apart.  He played Albert and I played Rosie. I remember making the drive from Holt to Linden to see him. He was wonderful, of course. After the show, he pulled me onstage and we did a duet together from the show. The song was "Rosie" and one of the lyrics is, "Now my life is rosy, since I found my Rosie." He changed Rosie to Nancy and we sang and danced together just fumbling through made up choreography. That's Len. Even in his big moment, he made it about family. He wanted to multiply the joy.  

Len and Heather's story was one filled with love and mutual admiration.  As the story goes, Heather's sister Rhonda met Len by chance.  He was wearing a T-shirt with a Bible verse and believing him to be someone with shared values, she asked him if he was single.  Thinking Rhonda to be quite beautiful, Len was all too happy to answer "YES."  She quickly pointed out that the question was on behalf of her sister. To Len's great joy, Heather was her identical twin sister so by nature, also incredibly beautiful.  Len was the first of us to get married.  Len getting married was big.  All of a sudden we were grown ups!  His wedding day was beautiful and Len was beaming.  I promise you, this time, nobody had to drag him down the aisle.  

Heather is a woman who I admire so much.  As a working mom, finding role models can be hard.  Heather managed to foster a career as an ultrasound technologist while raising 4 gentle, loving, and playful children.  She was a perfect match for Len.  They complemented each other in the most beautiful ways.  Theirs was a love that brought so much joy into the world.  Luke was the second great-grandchild in the family (after my sweet nephew Tommy)  I remember holding him at Christmastime sitting next to Len on our grandparent's couch while Len just beamed.  Len and Heather (Leather, as they affectionately referred to themselves) loved their children with a strong devotion.  We all celebrated each new Quasarano that came into the world because a Leather Q was one to celebrate.

Memories swirl around my head- our family cruise in 2002, less than a year after Len married the love of his life.  Along with my brother Tom, we all explored San Juan Puerto Rico together.  I remember standing on the shores of the beach with Len, our toes buried in the sand.  Len gazed out into the surf, the picture of someone whose happiness had been hard fought and hard won.  Len's childhood was complicated.  All of ours were.  But Len's tenacity at carving out and sustaining his own happiness is what drove him to be the man he was, the man we loved so greatly. 

Spring is just around the corner.  Last weekend, in fact, was quite beautiful; our first glimpse into the season that waits just on the other side of the gray.  I mentioned one of Len's favorite songs was about Spring.  The song, which we always called "Your Feet Go Skipping" went like this:

The air is warm and the sky is blue,
The leaves are green-yellow because they are new!
Your feet go skipping, the birds all sing,
The whole world is happy because it is Spring.

Those 4 little lines capture the absolute essence of Len's spirit.  His was one of great optimism and faith.  His warmth, positivity and love of life was contagious.  He is in the background of so many of my most cherished childhood memories.  My little thumb-sucking cousin grew up to be a man of faith, of joy and of great talent.  He prided himself on being a man of God.  Let me tell you, if God is anything like Len, we are loved and cared for more than we could ever imagine.

I also mentioned that he was fond of singing a song about a skunk, which goes like this:

I'm a little stri-ped skunk
Sleeping under someone's bunk
No one likes to sleep with me
'Cause I'm stinky as can be!

And there you have it, the other side of Len.  The goofy, boyish side of him that loved a good or bad pun.  He would sing this song and we would giggle and wave our hands in front of our noses imagining a poor stri-ped skunk stuck sleeping on the floor.

Spring is a season of hope.  God knows we need that now.  Len, I will look for you in the spring.  I will look for you in the playful, rowdy squirrels who dig through my grass and stuff their cheeks and I'll look for you in the green-yellow new leaves.  I will look for Heather in the blossoms about to poke out of the ground into the light.  I will seek out your children in the laughter of my own as I look at them with new and grateful eyes.  I will look for you and I know I'll find you all.  Your very essence is entwined with my own.  Look out for me too, sweet cousin.  Nobody in the world will ever greet me the way you did- eyes sparkling, arms outstretched with a loud and joyful "NAAAAAANCE!!!!  Cousin!!!!" 

I think you always knew how much I loved you.  How proud of you I am.  Your happiness was the result of all of your hard work.  The legacy of your family will live on.  Your light, your joy, and your spirits live on long after you're gone.  I will see you all on the other side sweet, sweet family.  Kiss your namesake for me.  I know he's holding and kissing the grandchildren he never got to meet in this lifetime.


 PS- Thank you for sending the sunshine just now.  It started pouring through our windows.  I wasn't sure how to stop writing, how to say good bye.  You showed me that I don't have to.  You're here.  

Hi Len.  

Friday, January 8, 2016


9 months later, there you were,
my 5 pound warm and wriggly baby.
I never knew 9 months could go by so quickly.
You were a speck of a person, so tiny and delicate,
you fit right into your dad's hands.
You were my muse, the gift which unlocked
a sea of emotions and thoughts.
You were my heart.
12 weeks later and back to work,
my heart felt outside of my chest for a long time.
I never knew 12 weeks could go by so quickly.
You were stronger then, but still so small,
you fit into the crook of my arm.
You were my motivation, the reason for my success
and the one who I longed to be proud of me.
You were my inspiration.
1 year old and a birthday celebration,
with a single glowing candle for a wish.
I never knew 1 year could go by so quickly.
You were strong and sturdy, eyes darting all around,
out of our arms and onto the ground you sprang.
You were my joy, the simplest love I'd ever known
and the benefactor of all my wishes and hopes.
You were my dream come true.
2 years old and a cyclone came to town,
with your mischievous grin and constant motion.
I never knew 2 years could go by so quickly.
You were fast and eager, racing across hardwood,
when crawling gave way to sprints.
You were my curiosity, the mystery I tried to solve
and the puzzle I longed to piece together.
You were my jolt of energy.
3 years old with a new brother by your side,
when the laughter and tears were multiplied by two.
I never knew 3 years could go by so quickly.
You were stubborn and tenacious, lost in your daydreams,
when the world was your kingdom and you were its king.
You were my pirate, my superhero
and I saw new worlds because of you.
You were my imagination.
4 years old with a pebble in your pocket,
and a smile that lit up a city block.
I never knew 4 years could go by so quickly.
You were playful and sensitive, articulate to your feelings,
whether your days were "fun" or "rough", you always let me in.
You were my companion, my buddy,
whose smile made me believe that everything would be alright.
You were my compass.
5 years old on the shore of a great ocean called life,
standing with an open heart and a dazzling mind.
I never knew 5 years could go by so quickly.
You are brilliant and wise, so capable of everything,
I stand in awe of any part of you that is me.
You are my baby, my firstborn, my loveliest prize,
who makes time stand still and sail rapidly all at once.
You are my Jack.

Footnote, January 7, 2016, 8:00am...
In the blink of an eye we are standing outside of the car, parked outside your preschool in the wintry air.  I scoop you up and hold you.  You let me.  We stand there frozen in the early morning light.  Your feet touch my shins but your head nestles into my neck.  You're silent which is rare for you these days.  So in silence we stand there on the snowy curb.  I whispered in your ear, "I'm so proud of you my boy, I'm so very proud of you".  I remember that same head full of hair nestled into my neck 5 years ago for the first time.  We stand there holding space until your brother yells out from inside the car, "MamaMamaMama"  And the silence is broken in the best way it can be.  I set you down on the ground, we go to get Will and all three of us walk into school, an ordinary moment in an extraordinary day.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Goodbye Southern Avenue

2015 was the year that Nancy sold her house.  The house that was a physical manifestation of all of her hard work; her professional accomplishments; her sacrifices as a working mom; and her heart.  It was the home to her children.  It was a welcoming space where everyone who entered became family.  It was a house filled with music and memories.  Not many people could appreciate what leaving that house meant for her.  Of course it was time to go.  The house no longer suited her needs and it was time for a new family to come make new memories and play new music.  Not many people could understand what it felt like for her to see the For Sale sign posted up in the yard, and when an offer came in, no one knew why she resisted before signing that offer.  No one could truly understand what signing that offer meant.  No one could, but I can.

The Nancy in that story isn't me.  It's my grandma who sold her home this summer after decades of love and life filled those rooms.  Now her namesake is processing all of her same emotions, sorting through bittersweet feelings of what leaving this house means.  Today is the last day that this house belongs to me.  Tomorrow at 11am we close on this house.  What a fitting word- "close".  That's truly what it is.  It's a closing of a chapter, the closing of one door to make room to open a new one.

It was the summer of 2006.  I was succeeding professionally and personally.  I had met the love of my life performing in a show and was gaining recognition and promotions at work.  I was months away from finishing a Masters degree and life was good.  In Kalamazoo, a new program called the Promise had been announced.  Any student who went through KPS for their entire education would receive a full scholarship to any public Michigan university.  I realized that my life was in Kalamazoo so maybe it was time to put down roots.

I fell in love with my house the minute I saw it.  The same can be said of my husband.  I knew I would marry him the night we met.  I've never been one to overthink much in my life and my house was no exception.  The sweet Cape Cod with the stone front had a cherry tree and Japanese maple in the front yard.  The house I grew up in had stones out front and it took me back to those days, riding my bike out front of my childhood home.  I told my mom I found my "mini-Woodworth".

After entering through a front storm door I was greeted by an arched wooden door painted green.  I swore Bilbo Baggins would be on the other side of that door.  It was a magical door.  That Thanksgiving, Trevor and I would take our engagement photo in front of it.

I walked the rooms and just knew it was my house.  In the late summer of that year it officially became mine.  I was a homeowner.  There is no way to distill 9 years into one blog post.  If you've been to my house, you know that it was a house filled to the brim with laughter, love, and happiness.  I think in some ways it was always just my house.  Trevor came along to look at houses with me, but it was my purchase alone.  It was a house to my tastes.  Eventually he moved in and a few years later we added two giggling, rambunctious boys.  We knew after Will was born that the clock had started ticking on our time there.  Our neighborhood is one of the most beloved places for people to buy their first home in the area.  Our neighborhood is for people starting out or starting over and we are neither of those things anymore.

It was for sale for 6 months before we got an offer.  I'm grateful for that time to enjoy one last summer on our little corner lot watching the boys play outside and watching Jack ride his bike around the driveway.  We hired a friend to take photos of us inside our home to freeze this moment in time- this transition summer between living in the house that was mine and moving to the house that will be ours.

In a sign that was too incredible to miss, we received an offer on this house on November 11, 9 years to the day that Trevor proposed to me.  If I was waiting for a sign that a new chapter was beginning, this was it.  As grateful as I am for how fortunate we are to be living this life, my heart is filled with the heaviness of this great transition.  Today this house is mine, tomorrow it belongs to someone else.  

Everything I love most in this world is coming with me to the new house, but the view will be forever different.  I have walked through the rooms in my house slowly and carefully, just like I did 9 years ago.  If I close my eyes, I can hear the laughter that filled these rooms, like during the engagement party we held which also served as a housewarming party.  I can hear our dear friend Linda reading aloud from a book written in the 1940s on "how to make love", a primer on love and dating.  Linda's gone, but in my living room, I can hear her laughter.  I direct my view to where our chaise lounge used to be placed and I can see my friend Adam crouched on the floor eating Taco Bell and watching YouTube videos on my old laptop.  He's gone too, but in my living room I can hear him again. The living room walls are the same color they've been for 8 years when Trevor surprised me by painting them while I was away on a work trip.  In the dining room, the floorboards creak the same way they did almost 5 years ago when I paced them back and forth while timing the contractions I was having before Jack was born.  When I'm in my bedroom, I can look out the window to where there lilac bush is planted.  It exploded in blossoms on the day we brought Will home from the hospital.  In my basement, I can trace the place where Jack took his first, tentative, steps.  In my kitchen I can remember crowds of friends standing around at cast parties discussing how amazing we were that night or all of the missteps we noticed.  The view is going to change and I fear that those memories will be harder to recall when I can't be in this sacred, special place anymore.

Feeling all mixed up, I called my grandma today.  I told her I was moving.  "That's so exciting!!" she rejoiced into the phone.  She recalled for me all of the moves she made when my dad and his siblings were growing up.  Decades later, she can recall those spaces.  If she can recall them, then I know that I can too.  My grandma's house may have served as a monument to her success, but we know that monuments fall.  I think if you asked her, she'd say that hearing that her namesake has achieved the kind of personal and professional success that has allowed her to have choices in her life and make her mark on this world is the real legacy.

I will miss this house more than I could have imagined.  I walked the space today and on Wednesday when we say our final goodbye, I'll take some video to show the boys someday.  While walking around the house I traced my fingers over the walls.  I went to the front door where the first memory I have of this house took place.  I hugged it.  So help me God, I hugged a door.  I hugged my door and cried.  My tears dropped off of my cheeks and soaked into the door. My tears are now buried deep into that old wooden door.  This house and I are forever linked, forever bonded.  This house sheltered this little family for 9 years, how can I be anything other than grateful for it's walls and doors..  

Thank you house.  Thank you for being the setting of the most incredible decade of my life; thank you for the shelter; the warmth, the coziness.  Thank you for your creakiness, your charm, your stones and your trees.  Someday I'll bring the boys back to your front yard.  I'll tell them that we're standing on holy ground.  This house was their first house, the place where they learned to walk and talk.  It was the place where I became Mrs. Stefanick and Mama.  But for now, it's time for a new house and new memories.  It's time for a house that's ours.

The new house has a Japanese maple in the yard just like the one we're leaving behind.  Soon, the new house will also have our love and laughter.  Soon the new house will be our new home.  I can't wait.

Monday, June 29, 2015

This Moment Brought to You by Shelby Offrink

Photography by Kerry Lake
Do you see the little boy wearing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sweatshirt?  That's 4-year old Jack.  Underneath that sweatshirt is a beautiful button up shirt in muted shades of gray, green, yellow and blue- a shirt carefully chosen by me to coordinate with the rest of our outfits for family picture day.  That morning, Jack wriggled and writhed around our bed as we attempted to get him in that shirt.  As a compromise I told him we could go to his closet and pick out a different dress shirt.  It wouldn't be as perfect, but I could let that go.  When presented with two options for alternative dress shirts, he wanted nothing to do with either of them.  Instead, he reached into his closet and pulled that sweatshirt off of the hook and said "I want this.  I want my turtle sweatshirt."  When faced with this dilemma, every parent has to sigh a deep sigh and ask "Is the juice worth the squeeze?"  But for me, the answer was pretty simple.  For over a year now, the answer has been so very simple.  "Ok baby," I said. "You can be a turtle for our family pictures."  And later, when he wanted to hold his Avenger's sticker book in every shot, he found no protest with me.  Because, dear friends, when given the choice to have a smiling turtle in your photos or a crying gentleman, you pick the turtle.  You choose to let your child's heart sing for a little while.  I want a family photo that freezes us in this moment in our lives, this amazing period of joy and frustration.  Our house is on the market, we've had unexpected car repairs and illnesses to address, and our children are little balls of chaos and unfettered energy.  Life is very complicated, but it's also a tremendous gift.  Life is a tremendous gift.  And that's why the moment you see captured in that photo, and so many more have been brought to you by Shelby Offrink.

I met Shelby in the offices of our HR department at work.  She had come in to talk to someone and somehow we struck up a conversation about farming, organic vegetables and food labels- because clearly that's what happens in HR offices in case you didn't know; we like to solve all the world's problems in this line of work.  Shelby was brilliant and I love being around brilliant people who can teach me things.  I was leading a training program called SEEK- Stryker Employees Exchanging Knowledge that sponsored all sorts of guest speakers to come in and do "lunch and learn" style classes on a variety of different topics.  I asked Shelby if she'd like to do a course on food labeling and what it all meant.  Shelby put together a class called "Organic and Grass Fed and Cage Free, Oh My!" that was filled with her perfectly sarcastic sense of humor.  She opened up her presentation by saying "There is a lot of label generated confusion when you walk into the grocery store. Today I am going to probably confuse you a little more (pause)  (laughter).  But the goal is that by the end, you are a little more educated about what this stuff means to us and to our environment."

Shelby and I stayed in touch over the years, making plans to get lunch together when we could.  She was the only person who would go eat sushi with me at lunch.  Funny side note- she always gave me the tomatoes off of her salad because her amazing palette couldn't handle a non-organic, store bought tomato.  The girl truly walked the walk in all that she was passionate about.  I saw her briefly after she moved back to Michigan shortly after the birth of her second daughter.  We had a sushi date on the calendar that was canceled after she got a diagnosis that the back pain that she had attributed to sciatica was actually an incredibly rare and incurable form of cancer -  stage 3 glioblastoma of the spine.  Shelby fought with every fiber of her being.  The cancer spread to her brain and still she fought.  Her husband Ben's Hodgkin's Lymphoma which had been in remission came back and they fought together.

I watched Shelby's story unfold over the past year and a half.  I would read updates about her setbacks, her little victories, and her indomitable spirit.  I considered the little things that caused me frustration throughout my day- messy kids, cars that broke down, deadlines, bills to pay, and the litany of inconsequential distractions we all slog through over the course of a week or month or year.  I began to think about how desperately Shelby and Ben would love a child's ear infection to be the worst part of their day.  How they would long to only worry about paying for a minor car repair.  I thought of those things and I got nervous.  I got nervous that I was wasting precious time with my babies and husband worrying about trivial nonsense.  I was losing my children, not literally, but it was growing harder and harder to see them  through the noise and the fighting and battles of will.  So I bought a ring.

A fundraiser for Shelby came out in the early months of her fight.  Beautiful beaded rings whose colors were selected by her and made by an artist who donates portions of her proceeds to fund cancer research.  When the ring came in the mail I wore it every day.  The sight of it reminded me to take in a deep breath of the life-giving air that surrounded me and to feel grateful.  I wasn't always perfect at it, but I have paused in gratitude more in the past year and a half than I ever have in my entire life.

Jack and I, both wearing our Superhero rings
Shelby passed away last night, and now her positive, beautiful energy is scattered everywhere.  It certainly lives in me.  The family photo at the top of this blog post was taken yesterday morning, Shelby's last morning on earth, in the form that we all knew and loved her.  The smile on the face of my son belongs to Shelby Offrink, Ben Offrink and their daughters Maeve and Hazel.  Their story, their bravery, and their love were the only things that made me pause that beautiful Sunday morning, look my son right in his pleading brown eyes and say, "Ok, baby.  You can be a turtle for our family pictures."  I will forever look at his face in this photo, his joyful, jubilant (and yes, victorious) face and say a silent prayer to my friend Shelby thanking her for that smile.  

I asked our wonderful photographer Kerry to capture us as we are at this time in our lives; who we are in this moment.  I know now that what she captured was the legacy of Shelby Offrink in my life.  What I hope to share with anyone reading this is to carry on Shelby's legacy in every moment you pause to reflect about how grateful you are for this life; this messy, complicated, beautiful life.  In those moments when you let your 4 year olds leave the house looking like turtles or princesses or wizards because it makes their hearts sing, do that for Shelby and dedicate the ensuing smiles and laughs to her spirit.

Our family photo captured us in this moment and in this moment we have nothing but gratitude.

If you are able, please consider a donation to a trust that has been set up in Ben and Shelby's daughters' names-

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mile 2

Two days after turning two,
we stood with cowbells clanging
at Mile 13 of the half marathon, 
waiting for Aunt Rosie and Haji to stride into view.

The sun came out in all her glory,
streaking gold and red through your hair,
as you clung to Momo's shoulder
while the racers passed you by.

Everyone you saw today
had two voices in their heads.
One voice said stop
and one voice said go.

At Mile 13 of a half marathon,
the go voices were louder.
The go voices were stronger.
The go voices have won.

And there in the crowd,
in an electric green shirt,
Aunt Rosie appeared, 
with her friend by her side.

Later that morning, she would recall,
how the course was tough,
how she told him to go on without her,
how he stayed by her side.

Sweet Will, you are two miles into
a very long race.
In the marathon called life,
the stop and go voices will never go away.

In celebration of Mile Marker 2,
I wish for the go voice to win and the race to be long.
For the courage to keep going
when the stop voice gets louder.

When the finish line approaches
and you reflect on every mile,
may the people you told to press on
hold your hand to the end.

Sweet Will, this race is tough,
but look over there behind the orange plastic gate!
There we are, with cowbells in hand,
clanging the stop right out of your head.

Press on, sweet baby, there are miles ahead.
You have air in your lungs and sun in your hair,
and a dance in your step that will carry you far.
May this always be so...may you always say go.

Will, Aunt Rosie, and  Haji at the finish line, May 3rd, 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Times Before

This one's for Kat. 

Hi Boys~

I don't often use this blog to write to you directly, but this week has been a tough one for your mom and I thought I'd send your future selves this letter so that when the time comes...if the time comes that you need to read it, it's here.

Last week, in the wee small hours of Saturday February 7, I wrote a blog entry about the death of my friend Adam.  And then I published it on Facebook and in three days, almost 6,500 people had read it.  It was a mixture of grief for the loss of Adam and grief for what Adam's passing meant for me that kept me awake tapping out words onto this computer while your dad snored slept next to me.  And there's a comfort in knowing that my thoughts and feelings about him are shared by so many people.

Boys, the reason I'm writing you this letter is that I realized something this week and it's a lesson that I want to pass along to you...

Sometimes opening up old wounds helps new ones to heal.

Jack, when you were born, it had been 8 months since I set foot onstage.  I was more than ready to give it up, I was happy to give it up and I packed up every sad feeling about missing theatre and missing my theatre friends and tucked them away deep down inside so I never had to have the slightest twinge of guilt for missing them.  For 5 years now those feelings lay hidden away through your obstinate toddler years, through the birth of Will, through your curious preschool years and now Will's obstinate toddler years.  All tucked away, all unexamined.  Every time I missed theatre or friends, I let that wound scar up.

And then Adam Carter died. 

And the floodgates opened.

And that tiny box of feelings exploded in one gray and dreary Friday afternoon when I read that he was gone.  I sat in our room just crying and crying while your dad put his arm around me.  So that night, I stayed up typing a love letter to Adam in an attempt to help me understand all that he had meant to me.

There's a question that parents get asked from time to time by other parents and it's some variation of this:

"I can't even remember what I did before I had children!  Do you even remember what life was like before them?"

I want to smile, nod and reply, "Yes, actually.  Yes I do remember.  I had one hell of a fun, full and rewarding life.  I had adventures, I performed in plays
, I went to parties, I made bad choices.  I had one hell of a ride.  I can recall every wandering around downtown, late night movie, sleeping in til noon, actually reading books minute.  I remember"

If you're reading this and you're 16, you're probably going to yell at me, "Jesus mom, did you even WANT us?!"  And I'll say, "Yes dumbass and watch your mouth!!" 

Because I did then, I do now, and I forever will want you.  Feeling grateful for the life you have now doesn't mean that you should forget the life you had.  I think it was a mistake for me to do just that.  I forgot about it for too long until the death of a friend snapped me back to consciousness.  It doesn't make me a terrible mother because I had a wonderful life before you came.

So on Saturday morning when I posted my blog, it was after opening up a very old wound.  I had to come to terms with the fact that for 5 years, I have gotten in my own way when it comes to maintaining connections to the people in my past.  Theatre? I was happy to give it up. The commitment to a rehearsal schedule is grueling and it would only allow me to see you boys for an hour or so every night and I love that time we have together.  But friendships?  Oh boys...friendships aren't grueling.  Friendships don't take up hours upon hours every week.  When the theatre went, so did the friendships.  And for that, I am truly sorry.  I think I can be a better mom to you if I keep some bits and pieces of my life before you.  Your lives would certainly be enhanced by the colorful cast of characters that would start filtering through our house again.  I mean look at this picture:

And I'm sending you this letter because someday, I hope, you'll be dads.  If you work outside of the home, your life is going to be divided into several categories- Spouse, Dad, Employee, Self, and Friend.  Your kids will devour so much of your time and if you did it right, you'll be ready to have your time devoured.  Work?  Well my darlings, work will take everything you give it.  Work will never tell you to back off or slow down, so you'll have to know when to raise your hand and say "Enough.  I can't do more."  Your spouses will hopefully feature somewhere prominently in your lives, more before kids, less after.  Find time to do special things just the two of you.  I'll come babysit, I promise.  Whatever little scraps are left will be for time spent with friends and time spent alone.  When your babies are little, you'll want that time alone.  Alone with your thoughts, alone for a nap, alone for video games (if you are anything at all like your dad).  You'll want some time in the day when people aren't begging for your attention.  And that will be important time.  If you've done the math (and you will if you're anything at all like your dad), you'll see that not much time has been reserved for your important role of Friend.

And on the day Adam Carter died, I had to examine what kind of friend I had become.  An old wound opened.  I went back through years of messages exchanged.  So very many talks about coffees never drunk together, books never talked about together, movies never seen together.  We all exchange these pleasantries with friends so many times over the course of a life.  They're the glue that holds us together in between the times we actually see each other.  But you have to actually see each other.  And not "Facebook" see each other (will that even be a thing by the time you read this?? Probably not, so insert "artificial intelligence robotic friendship machine" instead).  I loved seeing Adam, why didn't I see him more?  I think I got in my own way too many times.  I think I need to change some things.

An exchange of messages from the spring of 2013 caught my eye.  I was 7 months pregnant with Will and I had fallen asleep and missed Adam's goodbye party downtown.

Please forgive a tired, pregnant lady for falling asleep at 8 on Friday and missing your farewell party. I would have loved to see you and find a fantastic YouTube video on my phone to share with you for old times' sake. I wish you nothing but every single bit of happiness and success in GR- another sleepy West MI town to take by storm! It's good to know that 131 runs both ways and that I'll see your perfectly coiffed head visiting all the old theatre haunts in town. Until then, keep those cheekbones magnificent, those shoes polished and pointy and lots of confidence in yourself and all that you are capable of! xo
Lots of love! Nancy

Nanc, no need to apologize. I will do all of those things, and you enjoy being the great mom you are! I will be back for the Improv Fest...and you never know when I might just pop up.
Looooooove to you and yours. ~O.F.

Boys, I think I'm finally taking Adam's advice to be the great mom I know I am. I think I can open up that box of memories I buried so long ago and examine them a bit. I can find ways to embrace who I am while remembering who I was, free of regret or sadness. And guess what little loves? Opening up that old wound has helped heal this new one. I have reconnected with friends from my past and we have laughed and shared memories of those sweet, sweet days.
So listen to your old mom boys. Carve out a little bit of time for your friends. Talk about old times and share inside jokes. Adam told me that I'd never know when he might pop up and that was true. I'd find him like a lucky penny around town and it would be the highlight of my day. And if you think there will always be time to get that coffee or go see that movie, I can tell you that I have learned the hard way this week that sometimes time runs out.

If you're wondering what O.F. means, it means "October Friend". Adam and I became friends in October and vowed that no matter what, come October we'd find each other. Adam, I promise that when October blusters into town, I will find you again. I'll find a dappled sunlit piece of pumpkin patch and I know you'll be there.
And boys, you'll be right there with me. Because I love my life now, but it's time to open up the drapes and let a little bit of me back into the room.