‘YOU MUST DO THE THING YOU THINK YOU CANNOT DO’

“March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life’s path.” – Kahlil Gibran

I should be a Mom by now. I anticipated this morning would be full of such sadness, grief and many tears.

I could sit here and focus on how hard things have been as we have mourned these past six months. I could attempt to count the number of times I have cried or tell you how often an ultrasound or baby picture made my heart drop.

I could complain about how I’m suffering from intense writer’s block or how a month after my loss I was asked out-of-the-blue to come and interview for my actual dream job and had to pass, because buried in that much sadness, the thought of selling myself was almost paralyzing. I could make this entire post about how my short pregnancy really did a number on my body, and the blood pressure medication I was switched to has caused me gastroentestinal issues. (You can only imagine the screwed-up irony of being in the hospital for endoscopies this weekend, instead of giving birth like I had once planned to.)

The month of July has been hard, knowing she could have been here at any moment … My birthday a week ago was a struggle, as the thought we would possibly share that had crossed my mind many times as Penguin grew inside me. Hunter and I went yesterday to a local nursery and bought a Kalanchoe succulent in memory of her, and there were tears from both of us throughout the day, him dreading this moment as much as I have been.

As I opened my eyes this morning on what would have been our due date, my first thought was not of our loss, but the peace I felt now that it was here and would finally be over. I was told by several of my fellow “Loss Moms” that the anticipation would be the worst. A couple of hours into it, I could already see where they were right. Today, I chose to focus on all the things we have gained this year, rather than what we have lost.

The last day in June, Hunter and I found ourselves in Wisconsin, as we had driven to Alpine Valley to see Phish. (For those of you who know him, you know what a big deal this is for my nerdy love.) The show was actually even more special to us, as a few years ago, it was really where we solidified our love for one another. We were just friends at the time, so it was nice to go back as a couple and watch the show together, me not working. There were tough moments throughout the day, knowing we would not have been going had she still been with us, seeing many pregnant women there, and the onesies the band had printed for its fans to buy. Talking about it all as we walked from the lot toward the show, he told me “At least we are out living our lives.” It was a far cry from where we had been just months before, and it was wonderful to believe in the progress we had made.

We’ll both admit to retreating into our own world for a while, simply making it through the day at our jobs and then returning back to the the safety of our home as quickly as possible. But he was the only one who actually knew my pain, who felt it like I did, who mourned for her like I did. We never thought it possible, but we have grown so much closer this year, loving each other on a level neither of us knew could exist. That wouldn’t have been possible had she not left us, and it’s a tiny silver lining to our pain.

I shied away from my friends here, including my best one who lives just two blocks from me, because I never wanted to burden them with my sadness. (All the while, depriving many of their right to take care of Hunter and I, who they love.) Once I was able to start seeing people again, sharing laughs across the dinner table meant so much more. I learned just how many people truly care about me this year, how many care for him. The support we have both received from afar has touched us as well, our closest friends and family doing all they can to help us through it all. My best friend Robin flew up here twice this year, and reminded others of my birthday so that I could possibly feel more joy than pain. Women, who were a part of my life along the way, sharing with me their hurt, their losses, all left me with hope and an even stronger feeling that I was not alone.

And then there are the women who I have never met in real life, yet have been such an integral part in my recovery, not to mention my hope for the future. The Internet has allowed me the opportunity to bond with a small group of women, all in various states along the East Coast, all who have been through what I have, or worse. We cheer each other on daily, sharing in each others’ heartache and joy. One will be here this weekend, and we finally get to meet in real life, after forming a tight bond as we went through all of this together. Two of them are in the early stages of pregnancy, and we all take every blood draw, every ultrasound to heart, knowing how much we want their struggles to be worth it somehow. And they are just a sampling of the love I have found online, as I have discovered such great camaraderie from dozens of other ladies who have walked in my shoes.

We miss her like crazy. Not a hour goes by that I don’t think about her, talk about her, wonder about what might have been. But Hunter tells me all the time that we will make a beautiful, well-loved child, and I’m inclined to believe him. Although I can honestly say that we’re still not in a place where we’re ready to try again, feeling like this time was hers, and hers alone. I know one day, when I hold our baby in my arms, I will know that the struggle was all worth it … I hope knowing that child would not be here had Penguin not left us will help ease the pain.

We remain thankful she was with us, that she’s still with us.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself  ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

A THOUSAND WORDS CAN’T BRING YOU BACK (NOR CAN 3,007.)

“So can you understand? Why I want a daughter while I’m still young? I wanna hold her hand and show her some beauty before all this damage is done. But if it’s too much to ask, it’s too much to ask … Then send me a son.” – Arcade Fire

I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of the band, having been enthralled around the “Funeral” era, but not thinking much of their music past that.

But when I really heard “The Suburbs” (the title track, not the album) on PBS’ “Austin City Limits” about six weeks ago, those lyrics grabbed me by the gut. The tears immediately flowed, hearing words that summed up something I had never thought about in that way before. Simply put, in the moment as the prose enveloped me, I was crushed to hear someone else say how I was feeling … Spelled out in lyrics was my prayer/hope/wish/dream, and it was almost too much to take.

We had learned only a few days before that our baby had died.

On Black Friday this past November, Hunter and I had gone to Target later in the evening to see if anything interested us. It was time to get our Christmas shopping started, so we went out once all the crazies were back at home.

I was almost two weeks late, but had thought nothing about it, as I had started taking a new medication for my blood pressure. Cycle screwiness was a possible side-effect, but it was also a pill I shouldn’t take if I was, by chance, pregnant. So, while out that night, I grabbed “Zelda: Skyward Sword” for him, and a box of EPTs for me.

And so, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, three years to the day my Dad died, I peed in a cup. I dipped the stick in, and it was instantly positive … As were the other four I took within the next 24 hours. (My doctor would later ask me if I thought I would eventually get a different result. Honestly? Maybe I did.)

We weren’t planning on trying for at least another year. Being in my thirties, that may be a scary prospect for some, but we were enjoying the time that we had together, just the two of us. Plus, financially, we were in no way prepared at the moment, and I knew it would be even more pressure added onto Hunter. (He’s in the midst of deciding whether or not to go back to school as studios and studio work have really dried up in the city.)

I obviously found out before he did that the test was positive, and I waited a day to tell him. I kept trying to think of the best way to share our news with him, as no cutesy Pinterest-esque gimmick would be needed in this situation. Instead I searched for words that would convey how hopeful I was for our future as a family … All the while, feeling shocked, scared, and quite simply, saddened by the sudden nature of it all.

In the end, I simply blurted out “I’m pregnant!” But, only after he questioned the tears I had in my eyes in the middle of a totally random conversation. The angst that came with being first-time parents passed quickly. Swiftly, the wonderment of bringing our child into the world, something made of love, surpassed any feelings of doubt we had. We easily made decisions about how things would change, how we would go about raising the baby once she came. Making concrete choices early on alleviated some of the pressure we instantaneously found ourselves under … And joy soon passed any fears we may have had.

Not that any of the angst mattered anyway. We already loved our Penguin.

The first couple of doctor’s visits were pretty status quo: One to the little Russian woman who had been my general practitioner since arriving in Chicago. (She was the one who confirmed my pregnancy with a blood test, calmed my fears about my blood pressure and size and told me to enjoy every minute of it.) The second was to a new OB-GYN at the hospital where we would deliver come July. (I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I bonded with my doctor, and Hunter and I both felt excited that was where we had ended up.)

I was immediately referred to a high-risk practice at another hospital in Evanston, and soon had to go through the same process again. That visit, Hunter was working, so I went to meet the doctors by myself. Fifteen minutes after walking through the doors, I saw and heard Penguin’s heartbeat for the first time. Five minutes later, the technician went to get the doctor. There was a lot of mumbling and whispers beside me, with him finally telling me that we would talk once I got in his office.

There was a good chance that our baby was cornual ectopic, he said … Meaning that she had implanted high in my uterus, just not quite all the way out of my fallopian tube. I was told that I would have another scan two weeks later, to go to the hospital if I had any pain at all, and that there was a strong possibility that it could all end with me not only losing the baby, but my uterus as well.

Hunter and I had already decided that we would tell some immediate family and a few friends when we went home for Christmas. My Mom already knew, having asked me out-of-the-blue days after I took the tests if I was pregnant. And we had told Hunter’s Mom and my best friend, Robin. So, over dinners at my family’s and his, we told a few others that we were “having a baby, but …” And then we waited.

It was the hardest (and longest) two weeks I’d ever had.

I woke up the morning of my appointment with Bright Eyes’ “First Day of My Life” on my brain radio … As far as I knew, Dec. 28, 2011, would decide whether we would have a hopefully healthy baby, or if our dreams of ever having children were over. As we waited for my name to be called, Hunter just assured me again and again that it would all be OK … That we had been worrying for nothing … That we would walk out of the hospital smiling that day.

And he was right. Immediately, once the ultrasound started, there she was … Exactly where she was supposed to be, slap in the middle of my uterus, heart pounding away. The technician told us she had seen our previous scan, so she knew what the issue was, but that everything was perfect now. She sent us on our way with a CD full of pictures, orders to relax because the baby was fine, and wishes for a happy and healthy 2012.

The next day I had a normal appointment with my regular OB-GYN who celebrated the findings, and filled me in on just how bad it could have been had the cornual ectopic diagnosis panned out. Since the information from the other hospital had not arrived yet, she wanted to do a quick check to make sure that the baby looked OK. The little flicker of a heartbeat coming from her screen assured her (and I) that we were right where we needed to be.

I finally began to let myself relax. It was the 12th week, and we had seen and heard Penguin’s heartbeat numerous times. Numbers fly around everywhere when it comes to pregnancy statistics, and no one can seem to agree, but the chances of something happening after that point are very, very slim. We started our registries, wanting to make sure grandmas began to take care of some key items for us … We found ourselves walking through the baby aisles, discussing which diaper bag we liked, oohing and ahhing over tiny things. We tossed around names, making note of a few, laughing at some, and wondered how in the world we would ever find one that either, much less both of us, liked enough to label a person forever.

The end of the first trimester was closing in. Soon, there would be no more nausea, plus an upswing in energy, and well, it was all welcomed in my world.

It meant we were one step closer to meeting our baby.

They say there’s such a thing as mother’s intuition, and I know it now to be true. In the days leading up to my Down Syndrome screening, I began to worry, feeling as if something was wrong. My symptoms had begun to fade a little bit, but I was just assured by Hunter, my Mom and even myself that the time had come for those things to change.

I just knew that once I saw her on the screen, everything would feel real again. I would know that our baby was OK.

“I’m going to stop this now,” the technician told me just a few minutes into the scan, moving the wand away from my body. “There’s no heartbeat.”

“Excuse me?” I said, barely able to comprehend the words I was hearing.

“There’s no heartbeat,” she repeated as she began to walk to the door.

I don’t remember much after that, just the sobs that came as everything seemed to stop around me. I know the only thing she asked me was if I wanted a tissue before she left the room, and then I was left alone to “gather my things.”

I immediately called Hunter at work, who was under strict instructions to answer, as it meant something was wrong. The only bit that remains with me from that conversation were the wails of: “She died, Hunter. Our baby died.”

The technician came back into the room to let me know that my OB-GYN was on the line waiting to talk to me. Once she got me on the phone with her, she immediately left the room again. After a brief conversation with my doctor, letting her know I was not in any shape at the moment to make decisions I knew were coming, I started to make my way out of NorthShore in Evanston. It was the most alone that I had ever felt in my entire life. In a hospital full of people, nurses and doctors around every corner, not one person looked me in the eye as I sobbed, much less said “I’m sorry.”

And that will unfortunately remain with me forever.

Since Penguin’s heart had stopped beating the week before, and there were no signs that my body was recognizing the loss, my options were to try Misoprostol (Cytotec) or simply proceed with a D&C. My doctor and I had a long conversation about the benefits and risks of the D&C. Benefits? I would go to sleep in the hospital, never feel any pain, wake up and the physical aspect be over. But the risks, including being put under anesthesia and undergoing a procedure that had a chance, even ever so slight, of damaging my uterus, were enough to make us at least try the Misoprostol.

Two days after we found out she was gone, Hunter and I made the decision to miscarry at home with the help of the medication.

My doctor apologized to me on my follow-up visit for not warning me that going to the pharmacy could be hard. The same drug is given for those who choose to have a medically induced abortion. Unfortunately, a small number of women have had more-than unpleasant experiences picking up their prescriptions based on assumptions. I knew this before Hunter and I went to pick it up and told him what I would do if one person looked at me the wrong way. (Needless to say, it wasn’t very nice.)

Oddly enough, the trip to the pharmacy ended up being one of the rare highlights of the week. (And my only venture outside of our apartment for a full seven days.) The pharmacist on call, a man in his mid-to-late twenties, had to explain the medication to me. He did so with grace, extending his whole-hearted apologies to Hunter and I more than once. After the devastating way in which I learned our baby was gone, it was a blessing to finally see a stranger – at a busy Target in Uptown Chicago, nonetheless – show such compassion over what we had lost.

Hunter and I decided early on that we would not be sharing the full experience of what all we went through the day we had to let her go. Those memories are ours, and ours alone.

But, I will say that it was painful … Physically, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced; emotionally, for us both, it was the worst jumble of loss and love imaginable. The whole process took about seven hours, start to finish … Alone in our apartment, as the first real snow of the season fell outside the windows surrounding us. We were told to expect a lot of blood, clots, and indistinguishable tissue – the way I’m sure any of us imagine a miscarriage would be.

Instead, she came out perfect, a tiny little being I was able to hold in my hand. We were able to tell her how much we loved her; how sorry we were that we didn’t get to keep her; how we would do it all again just to have had the short amount of time with her that we did. In just twelve weeks, she forever changed who we are as people in general; but more than that, who we will eventually be as parents.

She is, and will always be, our firstborn.

The days since have been hard. It feels like yesterday and forever ago all at once. There are more good minutes than bad now, as time is the greatest healer we have after any loss. But memories and missed milestones have a way of creeping in uninvited, so the tears come. But there have been a few times I’ve realized I haven’t cried all day, and I have celebrated a bit of relief. But Penguin remains on my mind constantly, and the “what ifs” burrow their way to the surface every now and then.

I’ve also had to adjust my way of thinking, because I can’t shut out everything around me.

I am doing all that I can to not allow babies or other pregnant women make me sad or bitter. (I’d be crying or angry all the time, as I am surrounded in the real world and on social networking sites.) There have been moments, comments said, pictures shared, that have got me in the gut. But I choose not to let my loss overshadow the joy I genuinely feel for people I know. (Although, I will admit that a few have been temporarily unsubscribed from on Facebook … Sometimes, it’s just more than a girl can take.)

I know I didn’t do anything wrong. I know that I did not cause this. From the moment I saw those two pink lines, I loved my baby … I never drank another Diet Coke, switched to decaf, immediately changed blood pressure medications, upped my vitamins and began taking DHA, started making myself sleep more and tried not to be as stressed out as I normally am – even in the beginning with the ectopic scare. I did everything right for her.

Since this is our first loss, we were not offered genetic testing, not that I wanted it. But my doctor thinks that more-than-likely her death can be attributed to triploidy, and should hopefully be a one-off problem. A “fluke” she says, but it’s hard for me to feel too much excitement over doing it all again. Unfortunately, I am no longer naive, and will enter future pregnancies knowing what can happen, knowing how quick it can all be over. But after telling Hunter early in the first trimester that this would be the only time I would ever do this, I told him after our loss that I would do it as many times as it took. Some of the best advice I have received was quite simple: “Don’t panic, and carry on.”

Once we decide we’re ready to try again, I hope I can adhere to that. Because, truth be told, I simply feel broken.

I went back and forth on whether I would share our story, as I’m a pretty private person. Even though we were in our 12th week, very few people knew that we were expecting a baby. But in the days and weeks following our loss, reading other stories is what got me through it … Knowing that women could survive what I was experiencing – in some cases, way worse – I knew that I would make it. So, maybe one day, knowing that we have gone through this, and that we have survived, will help someone else.

On top of that, she was our child, and I hate that we never got to share our joy with everyone that she was coming. So just know, that for a few short months, we felt as if we had everything … We experienced more happiness than we ever imagined. We were very excited about what we were putting out into the world, proud when we imagined how great she could be. Her heartbeat still plays in my head and I will be sad forever, knowing that she is physically gone … But I know that eventually, I won’t be sad all the time.

I am a Mother without a child to hold, to care for, to mold … But I am a Mother in my heart, and for now, that’s all I get to be.


“A thousand words can’t bring you back, I know because I tried. And neither can a million tears, I know because I cried.” – Author Unknown

For support if you are suffering a miscarriage or loss:

http://facesofloss.com/

http://pregnant.thebump.com/pregnancy/miscarriage-and-loss.aspx

http://www.marchofdimes.com/baby/loss_miscarriage.html

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BOY

For nearly a year-and-a-half, I have been a slacker.

Not in life, might I add. Just here on the Internet. (Well, technically, just on my blog, as there are other sites where you would find articles by me … Just nothing personal about my life and my beloved Uptown.) I have decided that I will no longer be lax, and look to return to blogging with full force … Yeah, we’ll see about that one, huh?

I need a creative outlet right now, and besides painting, this is what I do best. I never meant to take this long of a break, believe me. But to be honest with you, my life hasn’t been all that exciting for the past 16 months … Unless you’re me, that is. To me, it’s been amazing, awesome, mind-blowing, stupefying and magnificent. (It’s also been wracked with more heartache than I ever thought possible, but that’s neither here nor there.) Thankfully, it’s been more good than bad, though, and no matter what, I now know I can survive anything …

At least I can with him by my side.

“SWF SEEKS SWM BETWEEN THE AGES OF 25-35. MUST BE EMPLOYED. MUST LOVE FAMILY, DOGS, SMALL BABIES, SERIOUS CURVES AND MUSIC. MUST BE FUNNY. MUST BE ABLE TO PUT UP WITH MY ALMOST SMOTHERING BOUTS OF KINDNESS. MUST KNOW THIS COULD ALL JUST BE A PHASE. MUST KNOW I NEVER MAKE PLANS, AND I COULD FEEL DIFFERENTLY TOMORROW. MUST BE DARK ENOUGH TO SEE MY LIGHT. BEARD OPTIONAL, BUT PREFERRED.”

That is from a blog post I wrote Jan. 27, 2010. A blog post that would eventually lead to my life being forever changed.

I was inspired to write “Training Myself to Look Around” after a Red Line ride downtown one morning with an older, yet attractive neighbor. After writing said piece, I got really embarrassed, wondering if someone would point out the posting to him before I ever got a chance to explain why I wrote it. (I wasn’t interested in him, and just needed to make sure he knew that before he got the wrong idea! Ha.) I tried to track him down through our Sheridan Gardens page on Facebook, but to no avail. Instead, I ended up sending a message to one of my other neighbors I saw on there, simply because he had great taste in music.

We had met a few times before, him and I. We had said hellos in passing, but nothing more than that. But after the initial online exchange, we decided that we would meet in person. So, plans were made for the following weekend for me to cross the courtyard to hang out with him and his roommate. No big deal, I thought at the time … Just a couple of soon-to-be friends, Elton John’s “Honky Chateau” on vinyl, and a few laughs. What more could a girl ask for?

Obviously, everything.

I liked him immediately, but not in a romantic sense. I found him to be funny, self-deprecating, smart … I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find him to be attractive. But it was more in a “you’re-cute-let’s-find-you-someone-your-own-age-to-date” kind of way. We were friends for a while. For months, there would be late-night conversations about everything from music to family life … Religion to our dating pasts. For hundreds of hours during the beginning of 2010, we never ran out of things to say.

It was during the summer that I knew that I loved him. It wasn’t like having a crush on a friend. (Believe me, been there, done that, bought a few T-shirts.) No, this was way different. I couldn’t imagine ever having to spend a day without seeing him … And I couldn’t imagine that he’d ever look at me in the way I saw him. But, boy, was I wrong.

He too had been feeling the same way for a while, he would later tell me. He said his stomach would turn when he’d see me coming up the back sidewalk to their apartment, and that’s when he knew. But both of us, unsure because of past hurts, doubt or whatever, never put ourselves out there, scared of being let down, afraid of disappointment. So, for months, we just looked at each other longingly, both of us wondering what the other was thinking. (And both secretly knowing how much we cared for one another.)

A rare bottle (or two) of wine at the beginning of September helped change all of that in a night … One kiss, and all at once, we were no longer just friends. We were best friends … And we were in love.

I’d like to say it’s been a whirlwind of romanticism, the kind of courtship you would read about in a Jane Austen novel … But, truth be told, as far as him and I, it’s always just been an easy ride. There have been some flowers, chocolates, and the like. Sweet dates, many a foot or back rub, and a wonderful trip home to meet each others’ families. We simply love to be around one another, each spending our time away from the other just waiting to be back together. Yes, we have become that couple that even we would have hated this time last year. I have been told that our love is infectious … That when you are around us, it’s hard not to see everything we feel for one another.

He makes me laugh on a daily basis, even if all I feel like doing at the moment is crying. He values my opinion, and thinks I am one of the smartest women to ever walk this earth. He sees my beauty, both inside and out, and finds me to be both sexy and funny. (Even if I do make up my own words and phrases sometimes, it’s one of the things he loves most about me.) Most importantly, he “gets” me … I never have to worry about being anything other than who I honestly am. (And the same for him, as well.)

All he has to do is put his arms around me, and the rest of the world, and all of my worries, seem to fade away.

We’ve been going through tough times lately, and it has only proven to me how much I love him … How strong we are. Together we have survived something that most will thankfully never face in their lifetime. But through that, we have grown to love each other on a whole other level that neither of us thought possible. For that I am forever grateful … And for that I am forever changed.

I never expected that in him I would find the one person I had been waiting my whole life for. The one person who would love and understand me better than anyone who had come before him. This week marks two years since I climbed the stairs to the third floor of 4720 N. Racine Ave. in Chicago for the first time … Now I take the same flights daily to get to my home. Our home.

It’s funny how quickly life can change. It’s times like these where I try to hold on to that. I still can not believe I put out into the universe what I was looking for, and I got everything I wanted and then some. (Plus, he looks good with or without a beard, so bonus points there.)

With all that being said, I just wanted to say thank you Hunter. For everything.

And ask you, my readers, to forgive me for being away so long. It wouldn’t have been that interesting anyway, as it’s hard to write about living when all you want is to be holed up inside with the man you love.

(But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.)

YOUTH IN REVOLT

OH, IF THINGS WERE AS SIMPLE NOW AS THEY WERE BACK THEN, AND SPENDING TIME IN THE BACKYARD WITH MY MOM AND HER CAMERA WAS THE MOST PRESSING THING ON MY SCHEDULE, RIGHT? BUT DECADES LATER, I AM HAPPY WITH HOW FAR I’VE COME, HOW MUCH I’VE LEARNED, AND ALL THE THINGS I HAVE YET TO EXPERIENCE.

“Though my body is far from old, I’m bowing to useless youth. And I can’t fake a fist to throw through the crust of the earth. If you find me, don’t wake me … I can’t be shaken awake. If you don’t stare at the dark and if you never feel bleak, life starts to lose its taste.” FRIGHTENED RABBIT

Oh age. I’ve been thinking about that lately.

Maybe it’s because I finally feel older than ever, even though I am still mistaken for being anywhere from five years to a full decade younger than my real number. (Hey, give a girl a chance to be pleased with herself for a moment. I just admitted I see the days, weeks, months, years, creeping by.)

It feels like yesterday I was eating glue with my then-best-friend Jill Jordan, four years old at our church daycare. It was either that or gluing our hands together, only to eventually pull it all off, spiderwebs of dried Elmer’s peeling from our tiny hands. And yes, this favorite pastime was done during what was supposed to be naptime. Ah quiet rebels, the both of us, even then.

Now she is a mother, a wife, an aunt.

I was home for Thanksgiving this past November. On the highway to my next destination, I was hit with the sudden realization that I hadn’t gone to see my Dad during the brief moment I was in town. I quickly detoured to purchase a poinsettia for his grave at the garden center at Lowe’s in Columbus. It was there I ran into Jill’s mother, Janice, and her older sister, Kelly.

Although the visit was brief, it was good to still feel such a connection so many years later. Once I returned to Chicago, Janice and I hooked up on Facebook, where I was able to “meet” the rest of her now family, which included grandchildren Dean Hartleroad, 19, Max Hartleroad, 16, and Miles Jordan, 15.

Better known to those who love them or have heard their music as The Motions.

When she asked if she could send me their CD, I must admit I was sceptical. I am not a good bad critic of music. I still haven’t written a review of a recent show I went to because I can not stand to be negative … remember, it’s all subjective anyway. One man’s Radiohead is another’s Britney Spears. (Shudder.) But I shouldn’t have worried in the slightest.

From the packaging to the recording, it’s good. I listened to it the first time on the Red Line coming home from work one day. (Raising yet another study in how far my life has taken me from childhood.) The raw, natural talent of all three is evident on each and every track. The best thing about the 10 songs off their self-titled CD? They were all written by them, and inspiration was obviously gained from my hometown. (Not an easy feat to accomplish, I assure you. Even Tennessee Williams had to live other places for a long time to eventually create “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”)

On tracks like “Drink Away your Pain,” a slower turn for the boys, the tones of the song show more maturity than that of normal teenagers. “This addiction’s got you down. Fear you haven’t yet touched ground. You’re looking out for just yourself. Please won’t you save you from yourself.” Dean, the frontman for The Motions, wrote many of the songs before the age of 17, when the CD was recorded in 2008.

There is obvious inspiration from other acts throughout the tracks, although they come across more as subtle nuances than rip-offs. “Intertwined Mind” has tones of The White Stripes in the music, driving guitar riffs mixed with slight drum taps. But it is really with “Fallen” that The Motions show the most promise in my eyes. (Or ears.)  It was the one that immediately jumped out to me on first listen. It is a 2-minute, 21-second, hard-hitting, well-deserved scolding on capitalism of sorts. (Yep … these are kids people.)

But to be honest with you, it’s not the album I am as impressed with as it is their future. To exhibit such drive and aptitude already can only bode well for The Motions in the years to come. They have now added a fourth member, Kyle Bennett, to the mix. Although unsigned, the band will be playing a few shows at SXSW in a couple of weeks. And yes, Janice will be taking her spring break in Austin to see her grandsons on stage. (Just a tinge of jealousy here, as SXSW is on my list of 10 things to do in the next few years, a list I’m slowly whittling away at.)

But I was reminded earlier this week by a random story I saw on the Internet, it’s never too late to become whatever you want. In France, there is a woman who travels around the country as a DJ at the age of 69. Ruth Flowers picked up the hobby after attending her grandson’s 21st birthday. As long as you are open to everything around you, I think there is no set time-line to what you will accomplish, or who you are supposed to be.

Just ask Dean, Max, Miles and Kyle as they move ahead; Janice as she continues to support them (both emotionally and financially … what a wonderful grandmother to believe in their music); Granny DJ spinning her tunes in rhinestone-covered headphones; or even me, as thankfully I can still vividly remember being that glue-eating four-year-old … so I can’t be all that far removed from her.

Age really is just a number.

http://www.myspace.com/themotionsonline

THE MOTIONS, FROM COLUMBUS, MISS., WILL BE PLAYING SEVERAL SHOWS AT SXSW LATER THIS MONTH. WITH AN AVERAGE AGE OF 17, THE BOYS ARE PROVING THAT MATURITY DOESN’T HAVE TO BE DEFINED BY HOW MANY DAYS YOU’VE BEEN ON THIS EARTH. (photo by wes frazer)

* And an addendum to my earlier post on The Motions … Dean prefers to be called Toby now. (Grandma failed to mention that.) Obviously Kyle goes by Harrison as well. Ha. And Hackberry Records in Tuscaloosa, Ala., is the band’s current label. http://www.hackberryrecords.com/ My bad, the CD I got has them unsigned. Should have done more research. But still cool, talented kids. At least I got that right.

2009: MY YEAR IN REVIEW

ONE OF THE TOP MOMENTS OF THE YEAR FOR ME CAME AT PITCHFORK IN JUNE. I WAS MORE THAN EXCITED TO BE THIS CLOSE TO THE FLAMING LIPS FRONTMAN WAYNE COYNE. (EVEN IF I WAS IN AN AREA WHERE I WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE.)

JUST SOME OF THE BEAUTY DOWNTOWN CHICAGO HAS TO OFFER … ON ONE OF THE FEW SUNNY DAYS WE HAD THIS PAST SUMMER.

THE SHOW PUT ON BY DAN DEACON AT LOLLAPALOOZA THIS YEAR MADE ME PROUD TO BE A TRUE FAN OF MUSIC … AND EVEN HAPPIER THAT I GET TO WRITE ABOUT IT.

DURING A LABOR (NOT LABOUR) DAY BARBECUE WITH FRIENDS, HUXLEY AWAITS HIS SECOND PIECE OF STEAK EVER … HAVING JUST HAD HIS FIRST SECONDS BEFORE. NOW THAT MY FRIENDS, IS PURE JOY.

LIVING DOWN THE STREET FROM THE BUSIEST FIRE STATION IN CHICAGO TRULY HAS ITS DISADVANTAGES … BUT THE FIREMEN THERE ARE SO FRIENDLY, AND HUXLEY ALWAYS KNOWS HE CAN GET A TREAT. (IF IT’S WARM ENOUGH FOR THE GARAGE DOORS TO BE OPEN, THAT IS.)

THIS WAS ONE OF THE MOST PATIENT DOGS I HAVE HAD THE FORTUNE TO OBSERVE. LEADING HIS OWNER AROUND A CROWDED RED LINE HAS GOT TO BE A THANKLESS TASK, BUT I’M GRATEFUL I GOT TO SEE IT.

ALWAYS A HIGHLIGHT OF ANY DAY FOR ME IN UPTOWN IS ENJOYING A CUP OF COFFEE WITH JOEL BY THE WINDOW AT GOLDEN HOUSE RESTAURANT.

DESPITE HAVING TO RUSH MOST DAYS AS NOT TO MISS A TRAIN, I HAVE FULLY EMBRACED THE LIFE OF A COMMUTER THIS PAST YEAR … EVEN IF IT HAS BEEN DUE TO AN UNFORTUNATE SITUATION, THE LACK OF A WORKING CAR. (AND A SERIOUS LACK OF FUNDS TO REMEDY IT.)

THOUGH IT WAS SAD THAT MY BEST FRIEND ROBIN’S SON, GARY MICHAEL, BROKE HIS ARM OVER THANKSGIVING, IT WAS AN ENLIGHTENING EXPERIENCE BEING THERE TO SEE HIS CAST PUT ON. DESPITE BEING ONLY FIVE, HE HANDLED IT LIKE A TROOPER.

THIS FAMILY JUST CAPTURED ME ONE DAY ON THE LAWRENCE BUS. I DON’T KNOW IF IT WAS THEIR BLUE PUFFER JACKETS OR JUST HOW ANIMATED THEY ALL WERE, BUT I ENJOYED WATCHING THEM FOR BLOCKS.

AGAIN … WAITING FOR YET ANOTHER TRAIN, BUT I LOVE THIS VIEW FROM THE PLATFORM. THE ARAGON IS SUCH A MAGNIFICENT VENUE.

Oh 2009, won’t you just go away already?

Counting down what’s left of this year …

(Don’t be confused by the time stamp of this post, I can’t be bothered to change it from U.K. time. Even though I am punished for it by having certain words show up as misspelled … It’s theater, not theatre … it’s humor, not humour … But since most of you know London is one of my favorite (not favourite) places on earth, it’s kind of fitting.)

… and I am waiting with frenzied anticipation for this one to beat it.

Go away … Scram … We don’t want you around here no more.

Oh so close, is how I can best describe the past 365 days … or 397 if you stretch it back to when my Dad died. (It’s all quite a blur really, each has smudged into the next.)

It’s been a year of heartache, of adjusting to changed dynamics all across the board … family, friends, lovers … life in general.

Are you really still here 2009? It feels as if the few minutes it’s taken me to write this has been an eternity.

It’s been a year of stress, I type through clenched teeth. I have accomplished things professionally, and thankfully creatively, that I never thought possible. (Moments of which I wouldn’t have wished on anyone else, hence the anxiety. The ones that caused me to lose my sense of humor (not humour) a bit … painful …

But all of it mixed with such discoveries that I almost want to think it worth it.

Ah, those discoveries …

The writing … the photography … the moments I have been able to capture this year … that’s where I count myself so very fortunate. New experiences that I would have been jealous had I not lived them myself. Special moments in my life …

… Two feet from Wayne Coyne at Pitchfork … and sharing that wonderful weekend with fantastic friends; Ruining brand new shoes traipsing through pouring rain the first day of Lollapalooza while introducing my visiting Mother to the music of Bon Iver and Ben Folds … and sweating my ass off during the hottest day of the summer 24 hours later, grasping hold of the greatest 45 minutes of my festival-going life during the Dan Deacon Experience; Grizzly Bear entrancing ever fiber (not fibre) of my being at The Metro … and sitting by Pat Sansone (sigh) while numbed by the sound …

… My first full Christmas with my best friend of 17 years, spent with her in-laws in St. Louis … the joy on her kid’s faces when discovering Santa’s bounty and later while sledding is captured in my mind forever. (Along with the unfortunate moment when I sliced my hand through a glass candle holder playing Wii tennis. The sound of that is an mp3 somewhere in my brain.)

… Being able to fish with my nephew over Thanksgiving … Knowing I am fortunate enough to have amazing family that loves and misses me, as I do them. (But are accepting enough to know that Chicago is my home now … no matter how long I choose to try to survive it’s terrible winters. Allowing me to embrace everything Uptown has to throw at me … good and bad.)

… Finding a new friend, with an amazing number of things in common … someone I told more to than anyone else over the last seven months (And vice versa, as I thankfully got to hear wonderful tales of family life.) … only to have lost him yesterday to a new job in the city. Our daily commute will be mourned, along with the ladies who came to love me at the Starbucks where we met each morning, and the seat warmers in the Subaru.

… Again, so close. The always perpetual Catch-22.

(And notice I didn’t bring back up the boys? That’s because there’s only about seven hours of greatness I can take away from 2009 … A night that forced me to confront some walls … finally woke me up … changed me.  The rest … well, quite frankly, delete.)

But here’s to the next 52 weeks. Despite the hiccups of this past year, I am truly filled with hope. Opening a Christmas card today from a friend in California who unexpectedly welcomed a daughter this year, I was fully hit with the notion that life can change in a split-second.

So here’s to 2010 … may it be filled with wonderful things for everyone that I know and love, including me.

Now, if I can just make it through the next 3 minutes.

FROM UPTOWN TO SMALL TOWN

MY YOUNGER BROTHER, BRANDON, AND 5-YEAR-OLD NEPHEW RAIN – BOTH DECKED OUT IN CAMOUFLAGE – FISH IN THE POND BEHIND THEIR MISSISSIPPI HOME. (NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL SOUTHERN ENTERTAINMENT.)

AND YES, EVEN I GOT INTO THE FISHING ACTION – RAIN’S SPIDER MAN ROD WAS A CHRISTMAS GIFT FROM ME, AND I WAS JUST AS EXCITED TO TRY IT OUT. LOOKING THROUGH PHOTOS FROM THE WEEKEND LATER, A FRIEND POINTED OUT THAT I STUCK OUT LIKE A SORE THUMB IN MY CITY CLOTHES NEXT TO ALL THE HUNTING GEAR.

I’M SERIOUSLY NOT JOKING ABOUT THE ATTACK OF THE CAMOUFLAGE, IT TRULY WAS EVERYWHERE. (AS SHOWN HERE BY BRANDON, RAIN AND BRENT.) I MUST SAY THOUGH, I WAS A BIT IMPRESSED BY ALL THE HUNTING GARB BRENT HAD ACQUIRED. WHO KNEW THERE WERE SO MANY PATTERNS OF TREE.

“Look, I have something to show you,” my younger brother Brent says to me.

We are standing outside my Mom’s home in Eupora, Miss., last Saturday – or “Thanksgiving” for us.

Thinking he’s going to show me a picture of something he’s experienced while away in the Air Force, I’m shocked when the picture on his phone is a deer.

A dead deer.

“That’s the exit wound,” he says, laughing at the horror on my face.

It was at that moment I could see exactly how much living in a city had affected me. How much I had changed.

I grew up a country girl. Not because I wanted to, mind you – I had no choice. I was way outnumbered in a house full of Mississippi boys.

Don’t get me wrong, some of my best memories – and a few of the greatest parts about me – are because I grew up a bit rough and tumble. But those moments include my first driving experience at five years old, behind the wheel of a truck as we bailed hay. (What was my Dad thinking? For the record though, I did a wonderful job pushing the brake and letting it out.) Feeding the cows and having to note if they had been bred. Riding four-wheelers, catching catfish with raisins, mud, dirt, scrapes.

But the one thing I never enjoyed was hunting – even though I was forced to spend every weekend at our hunting camp during deer season. My Dad and brothers really took to it, so until I was old enough to say no, off we would go. The boys would all head to the woods, my Mom and all the other wives and daughters hanging back at the camp, making meals, cleaning and finally, out of horrible boredom, trying to find something to watch on TV. (About as close as I’ll ever be to Amish, I’m sure … well minus the TV.)

I went out in the woods with my Dad once. I shot at a deer. There was blood. That’s all that I have to say about that. It’s one of those memories I’ve tried to suppress.

Thankfully for me – their vegetarian, animal-loving sister – my brothers eventually fell out of love with the hobby, as did my Dad.

Until this year.

Arriving to my Mom’s house, I was met with a barrage of camouflage. For three days, it was everywhere I looked. My brothers, my step-brothers, my nephews and my step-father were all sporting some type of tree-printed fabric. The hours consisted of Thanksgiving dinner, hunting, leftovers, hunting, football, hunting … and on and on. Someone was either coming in or going out to the woods, dousing themselves with doe urine to ward off any smells that may have picked up in their few minutes out of the tree stand. (Yep, horribly gross.)

I found myself many times saying that I could survive the streets of Uptown – three people were shot in my alley a few months ago – but I knew I would take a bullet driving through the Mississippi woods. Obviously, I escaped unscathed.

Physically anyway. Emotionally, it’s is a different story.

Living in a fast-paced environment has only increased my impatience with a slower way of life. Driving to my brother Brandon’s each day from my Mom’s was a challenge. I can sit on the train for the same distance every day without even batting an eyelash, but put me on a bumpy gravel road to the middle of nowhere, and I’m as antsy as they come.

As far as the hunting goes, I’ll get over the fact that every male I’m related to shot – or shot at – a defenseless animal this year.

I could no longer judge once Brent explained it to me after I asked him why he was into it again.

“It’s made me feel closer to Dad,” he says. “It’s all I have.”

And I know, that’s something I can’t argue with.

IF MOM CAN LAUGH OFF ALL THE HUNTING, THEN SO CAN I. “TAKE A PICTURE OF BRANDON IN HIS CAMOUFLAGE,” SHE TOLD ME AFTER THANKSGIVING LUNCH. NOT THAT I NEEDED TO … THE MENTAL PICTURE WILL LAST FOREVER.

THE BEAUTY SURROUNDING BRANDON’S HOME MORE THAN MADE UP FOR THE LONG DRIVE OUT THERE EVERY DAY. (NOT TO MENTION BEING AROUND HIM AND HIS FAMILY WHO I LOVE MORE THAN LIFE.)