Family, HLHS

Sweet Pea

February 14, 1996 I found out I was expecting. On October 17, 1996 I gave birth to a baby girl, 7 lbs 9 ounces at 7:45 am. After cleaning her up, a nurse handed her to me and I stared into her beautiful little face wondering how on earth could I have lived without this little person in my life. I held her in my arms and said to her, “You are so little, I cannot imagine you being a year old!” The brilliance of the autumn leaves filled the window. My heart was full.

In 2001, I registered this little girl for kindergarten at the school next to our home. It my mother’s high school. It was my middle school and now, it was to be her elementary school. On the paper telling me what class she was in was her graduation date. 2015. 2015? That was so far away! I had years before I would have to think about her graduating.

This past week I have been reflecting about Elizabeth, how she came to be and how we have lived our lives together the past 18 years. I have thought about her first drawings of blobs with tiny smiley faces in them. Watching her draw stars with my best friend, Christy at the kitchen table. Reading her stories every night, tucking her in, getting her ready for school. Meeting (and sometimes marrying) different people whom I thought would make our lives whole, not realizing that we were just fine as we were. Me and my Sweet Pea.

Today I watched her put on her cap and gown in preparation  to make the final walk as a high school student. The hardwood floors of Mt. Pleasant school have ended here, on the athletic field of Plymouth North. I looked at the faces around me of the students and of her.  It reminded me of that first day when I held her and looked into her beautiful face – full of promise and hope. What would she be like? Would she love to swim as much as I did? Would she love to laugh and sing? Would she have her father’s musical talents or be a writer like me? How would she see the world?

Twenty five years ago it was my moment to walk beneath the blue and white flowers towards the podium. Today it is her turn. I cannot express what these past 12 years have been like watching her walk through the very halls I walked through as a Plymouth student. Learning from a curriculum my mother created in the schools my grandmother helped build.

Elizabeth is everything I ever dreamed she would be. She is beautiful, insightful, poetic, artistic, incredibly talented all wrapped up within a beautiful old soul. I could not have asked for a daughter better than what I was given, for I was given something more precious than anything on this earth. I was given an Elizabeth Marie Sheldon.


Underlying causes and conditions

Yesterday was a bad day. Between an awkward one on one meeting with my manager, a terrible commute in, not being able to have my kids overnight…apparently I was off the beam yesterday morning before my feet hit the floor. I did ask for help when I got to the office but even so, I felt like I couldn’t hold onto any serenity at all throughout the day. I have been feeling like this for a few days now and frankly, it is exhausting. I feel like I have no control over what I say or do, which is never a good thing for an impulsive person such as myself.

As I started to walk through the events of yesterday and see how I could do things differently today, I started to see what the underlying cause was for the initial turmoil. The wrapping was different but the issue was still the same. Never ceases to amaze me how the same stuff affects me over and over regardless of the disguise it comes in. No matter how many times I write about it, pray about it, put it in my God Box or let go of a metaphorical rock, the same reaction happens and all hell breaks loose. Maybe someday before I die I will figure out how to stop the crazy train before it leaves the station.

There have been a few times at work when I have given my professional opinion and lately everything I have brought up has been shut down with little or no discussion. I swallowed my pride on all occasions in the best interest of keeping my job. I had my one on one meeting, where I was told that I needed to ‘justify my value to the team.’ Once again, I said nothing but nodded in agreement with this knowledge that I need to prove to everyone that I don’t suck. Awesome. Next on the Shit List is not being able to have my girls because Izzie wasn’t feeling well. Not anyone’s fault but it widens the space between us. After putting them both to bed I went home and discovered a pile of crap coming down from the ceiling that was being jumped on by the rambunctious two year old upstairs. At that moment, it felt like people didn’t realize that anyone lived downstairs or cared for that matter. Lost. My. Shit. Had a hard time sleeping, go figure.

The dust settled (literally and figuartively) and I was able to process the feelings behind the irrational actions. Apologies were given, and I talked about the incidents with various third parties. What was wrong with me? Why was I so angry to begin with?

Feeling like I had to justify my presence brought up my Fear that I really am worthless and that this was another message from the Universe that I didn’t belong here. I was a mistake from conception and this proves it. I have to prove my value at work, at home, and in all areas of my life including my kids. One of my family members broke the biggest rule in my What Not to do In My House Book without a care in the world about how I felt. I shouldn’t have to constantly prove that my feelings are important to everyone around me but that is exactly what set me over the edge yesterday. My feelings, me. I am not important enough to be part of anyone’s equation.

The other feeling that swam alongside the I Am A Mistake concept was jealousy. I was angry that my last delivery of a baby was shadowed by death. When Izzie was born I had to be cautiously joyful- if there is such a thing. Happy but not too happy becuase what if she didn’t make it out of surgery. What if after 9 months of being with me I would lose her in spite of our efforts? I was reminded that birth is supposed to be the happiest time in a new mom’s life this morning. And I knew then that I was jealous. It is. And it sucked that my last experience was so interwoven with fear that I couldn’t enjoy the moment that i deserved to enjoy. I was robbed of that and that is my truth.

That doesn’t excuse bad behavior, however. It doesn’t give me the right to lose my head after a bad day. My perception of the world has completely changed because of Isabelle’s CHD. My empathy has changed, I look at everything differently and through a skeptical eye. That doesn’t mean that everyone else’s reality has changed because mine did. It means I need to pause before I react to things. It means that I need to remember that other people’s feelings are just as important as mine, regardless of the different perceptions.

For the most part, I know I am not a walking mistake. I do. But sometimes those old buttons are pushed by day to day activities and before I know it- BAM! The fuse was lit on my way home and I didn’t even know it. Today is another day and so far it has been better. As always, thanks for reading.


Making the local paper!

Making the local paper!

Today the article about Isabelle was published in the local paper. A paper I used to work at. By a woman who once upon a time, was a good friend of mine. This meant a lot to me and I couldn’t hold in my excitement when I saw the front page with a picture of Chris and Isabelle on it. Front page. Holy shit. 

My newspaper past has come up recently and I have enjoyed spending some time in those memories of paste up. Remembering when I applied for my first job out of college and began a career with the largest pair of scissors ya ever did see. Someone posted a picture of Photoshop version 3.0 3 1/4 discs and immediately I remembered the day those came in and the lucky few who had it installed on their new PowerMacs. I was one of them, and that changed my career from an aspiring reporter to a graphic designer. I can still see the house photos I had to scan in for real estate ads.

After being at the Rutland Herald for a few years I decided it was time for me to come back to Massachusetts. I brought my husband and one year old daughter with me. I was going to get a design job that would launch a great career. Let’s just say that didn’t happen and I ended up at the Old Colony through a series of events called “Working at the Community Newspaper Company with Angry Hippies who Lived on the Cape.” When I got the call that the job was going to be offered to me I was so excited. I was going to work right up the street from my house. I could bring our daughter to school. A month after I started I ended up getting a divorce and thrust myself into the single parent life. 

I met some amazing people at the paper. Emily Clark is one of many. Kim Keyes, Jim Curran, Nan Anastasia, Mark Pothier (who probably wouldn’t know me if I ran right into him), Ed Colley, Tom Santiago, Joanne, Walter, Tamson Burgess,  Sandy Barker, Tom Booth and Bob Bishop. It was an incredible time and I learned a lot. Looking back I wonder if I should have left when I did. The road I chose has been very unpredictable and hard. It has been so unbelievably hard. I’ve met some great people on those travels too, but none have been like the ones I met at the paper. It was truly an incredible time in my life when I was learning what path I wanted to take as an artist. 

Hearing Emily’s voice on the phone the other day made me feel as though I had come full circle. It was awesome. Like having a cup of coffee with an old friend. I can’t imagine anyone else I would want to write our story. My past met my present and future. 



Goodbye 2013

What a year. What a crazy, mixed up, insane, incredible year. In many ways this year has been a great one and in others it has been extremely difficult for me personally. The temptation to go down the ‘what a crappy year’ road is pretty big and I was all set to rant (once again) about how much this year sucked. And then I received a daily reading  in my email that stopped me in mid sentence.  I will use this night to honor the changes in my life. I will list ten good or important things that have happened this year. I will find time to talk about them with someone tonight as I celebrate. I will remember to have fun, to be sober, and to be safe. 

Say what? Honor the changes in my life instead of complaining about them? I don’t have anything to lose so why not? I can’t will myself into a positive frame of mind, I have proven that many times over so a little action may help me put this year into perspective. 

1. Isabelle had her second life-saving open heart surgery and survived. Survived being put on ice. Survived bypass. Survived the repair and came back to us. 

2. The moment when I thought we were never going to leave the hospital…and then we did. Her incision infection did heal and we were able after some antibiotic trial and error, to stay home. 

3. I lost my job as Presentation Designer at Eaton Vance. After crying for months, and I mean MONTHS, I realized that I am better off.  I miss some of the people and it was an incredible experience, but I am happier knowing where I stand with people. I know the place where I am at now is where I need to be, and hopefully 2014 will bring a new role to my life. Until then, I am grateful I kept going. I kept trying. I went on interview after interview and heard nothing. I took some steps backward with some of the work I was doing and realized that I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I raised my standards and hung in there. And here I am at Fidelity. It could be for another month or longer but the important thing is I am open to the possibilities that have been presented to me. 

4. We were able to wean Izzie off the feeding tube. What a miracle that was! I can’t the credit, our daycare was the driving force behind that milestone. After her Glenn surgery she was able to have plain milk and began to drink more. Every day it was a little more by mouth until the day came that we just gave her medications through it. After maintaining this records for a few months, Dr. Lightdale just took it out. Thank God we had it so she could grow big enough for her surgery, but I was so happy to see it gone!

5. Isabelle made it to her first birthday. Thinking back to those days when I wondered if we were ever going to be able to take her home and then blowing her candles out on her cake with her on her birthday was surreal. The days leading up to when she was born were terrifying. Her first moments were surrounded by doctors and nurses. A year later she was surrounded by family, listening to us all sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and shoving her hands into cake. 

6. We went to Disney and had breakfast with the Princesses. Seeing Disney through Addie’s eyes was truly an experience I will never forget! Liz enjoyed it too but being older the sense of awe wasn’t there. Regardless we all had an incredible time and made it home in one piece. 

7. I became connected with Icing Smiles and Miles for Miracles. Again, words can’t express how exciting it is to be part of two incredible organizations that bring hope to families who are dealing with similar health issues. 

8. I was able to be there for Liz when she needed me. I have always felt that I have fallen short in being Liz’s mom. I have made many mistakes and wasn’t as available as I wanted to be when she needed me over the years.  Being home allowed me to be available when she needed me to pick her up, participate at her band events and most importantly, be there when she got home from school. Don’t get me wrong- I would only see her for a few minutes and then she would go upstairs, but I enjoyed those few minutes of when she would walk through the door. 

9. Addie started preschool at Mt. Pleasant. A school close to my heart. Seeing her walk up those steps made me tear up for a few days. And I am totally not that kind of mom that cries when the kids go off to school. Well….maybe I am. Either way, it’s awesome to see her in classrooms that I was in, that my mother and uncle were in, and that Liz was in. It reconnects me with my friends who went there with me, whether in memories or on Facebook. I love it. 

10. George became a member of our family. How could I list the year’s events and NOT mention our dog?? I had wanted a dog since I was 11 after my Mitzi died and here he was….chewing everything in sight and giving me hives. I am allergic to him but it’s tolerable. Plus, he is a great running partner when he isn’t sniffing every tree on the bike trail. I watched our girls fall in love with him and in love too. His friendly disposition makes him a  terrible watchdog, but he does love being with us so we are stuck with him. 

There are other moments in 2013 that were pretty big. The day I realized that being jobless didn’t mean that I worthless. The day my husband supported me when I couldn’t stop crying long enough to breathe. The day when I felt like myself again for the first time in months. The moment when I met some incredible heart moms and dads. When I was able to get connected with Icing Smiles and when we were accepted into the Miles for Miracles program. All of these small but great moments made 2013 an incredible year. So I guess there was only one bad moment in comparison to all of the good ones. Tonight, I’ll celebrate them all. 


The Club

When I was little I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. I can remember days of being on Mt.Pleasant street, laying out in the backyard or running through the sprinkler. We would go to the beach and my Nana taught me how to find sea glass amidst the vast array of stones under my toes. We made sand castles and coffee milkshakes with bananas. We watched the Price is Right at lunchtime, and in the afternoons we would go to the Club.

The Club is the Plymouth Country Club located on Warren Ave. My grandparents and parents were members and played regularly. My grandfather would always be somewhere at the 9th hole by the time we would arrive, which meant I could see him tee off by the putting green. Nana would say to me “Let’s go watch gramps tee off, but you have to be QUIET.” In most cases that would be an issue for me but when I would watch him, I knew that I had to be quiet. We would walk over behind the bushes to the bench and sat on the bench to see him swing. He would look up but not acknowledge that he had seen us. He would stand up on his toes, lean back in his heels and steady the club. Full concentration. The club would go up, hesitate for a second, and then follow through with a powerful elegance. It was beautiful. I can still see him at the tee, swinging with such grace and power. It never ceases to bring tears to my eyes. When he ws through we would clap and he would get annoyed so I quickly made my exit while Nana made dinner plans. 

Her swing was also graceful, but packed with power. She would hit the ball like a little stick of dynamite and would either cheer in delight or utter words of frustration depending on what direction the ball went. Nana expressed her emotion in some way regardless of how her shots went so some days it could be quite comical. I would have a hard time sitting still and being quiet but when she scolded me, I knew I had better keep my mouth shut otherwise I would be in trouble. Some days she let me drive the golf cart. Those days were few and far between. 

We ate lunch in the clubhouse and I would either get a hamburger, hot dog or tuna fish sandwich. Nana would always get something on pumpernickel. And of course the meal wouldn’t be complete without a frappe. It was awesome. I loved being there with her and her friends. As I am writing this I can see her sitting at a table with her girlfriends, all in a circle talking or playing mahjong. At the time it was so boring to me, a hyperactive ten-year old. Now I would give anything to be there for a second to see her laugh, her incredible golf swing, her green sunglasses and her visor. We usually wouldn’t see gramps until we got home. 

My mother was also quite an incredible golfer but I don’t have as many memories of her playing as I do my grandparents. She was pretty busy during the weekdays making sure the students of the Plymouth Carver school district were getting topnotch  education in English. We would go to the Club on the weekends occasionally, and I remember one time we played together with my step-dad on a summer evening. It was the last time she would play at the level she was used to. Days later we were in a car accident that almost killed us and robbed her of her beautiful swing (amongst other things). After that I would only go with my grandparents and those days were getting fewer as well. Age, aches and pains and Parkinson’s stole my Nana’s swing, but she still enjoyed going to the Club and socializing. My cousin benefited from these visits and learned to play during the end of their time at the Club. 

There used to be a wall of fame of sorts in the hallway at the Club with names of champions and winners of tournaments form days past. My grandparents’ names were listed more than once, and my mother’s name appears a few times. The few times I have played I don’t honor their legacy whatsoever with my pathetic swings. I hear I have potential to be a better player but I keep embarrassing myself for one reason- it is familiar. For a moment, it brings my grandparents back to me through the scent of the leather seats on the cart, to the sound of a club making contact with a ball. The wind blowing through the branches and the smell of freshly cut grass in the sun. 

The Club has been out of our family’s life for years now, and as I am making plans for Izzie’s benefit to be held on March 22, I can’t help but wish we could have it in the place where her namesake spent so much time and loved so much. Where I was so happy being with them on a summer’s day. The Garibaldi club looks to be a better option financially, and that’s ok. The goal is raise money, and our best bet is a less-expensive option. Still, my heart keeps going back to the Club and I just want to see those names one more time. 


Day 25 of 30 Days of Gratitude: I am grateful for the Levins

Sometimes it’s hard to a Levin. Especially when other peoples’ choices make it hard for you to maintain relationships with them. The Levins are my father’s side of the family. A group of extremely bright, ambitious, argumentative sports fanatics. I love them all. I don’t see them very often except for the occasional gathering, and maybe that is partly my fault. The tensions brought on by my father and sister and me have made things slightly awkward for all and I haven’t figured out a way to stay connected consistently. 

I never knew my grandfather, Robert Levin. I became acquainted through other peoples’ stories. He died of a heart attack shortly after I was brought home. He is one of the reasons why my parents were able to adopt me. At least that is what I have been told anyway. He was a self made man from the beginning. Apparently, the Levins were in the office furniture businesses, but his uncles weren’t interested in making him part of it. Rather than try to do something he wasn’t crazy about, he went to law school at Boston University and worked to pay his own way. He played the saxophone and met my grandmother at an afternoon tea. He became a lawyer, started his own practice in Quincy and moved to Weymouth with my Nana Helen. They had four boys trying to have a girl. 

My Nana Helen was an amazing woman. She was extremely bright, had incredible tenacity and pursued law school herself. She also was very beautiful, I used to tell her she looked like a movie star in her wedding photo. She would always laugh at me. She wasn’t crazy about living in Weymouth from what I hear so my grandfather thought a shack in the middle of the state forest was an awesome idea. Let’s just say that didn’t go over well. The cottage is still in the family. It does not resemble the shack it once was and a person could live there all summer very comfortably. Just ask my uncles. 

My cousins are amazing. I watched them graduate from Thayer, go to Boston University, graduate law school and become accomplished attorneys. My cousin Andrew was just listed in Boston Magazines Top 100 attorneys. Another cousin decided he wanted to join in the fun, went back to school and is part of the family practice. All of them are successful and all worked very hard to get where they are. It’s impressive when you work hard yourself to get to a certain level in one’s career. I can appreciate it.

I have mentioned in previous posts that my relationship with my father and sister are strained. When I was little, my dad would pick us up and take us to our Aunt Minna’s for a holiday meal. Either Passover or Rosh Hashanah we would go and be with our cousins. Cousins I hardly knew. My father didn’t socialize with his brothers and every time I would see them, I felt like it was like starting at square one with them. It was awkward but by the end of the evening, I  would be following Gary and Andrew around or teasing Ben and Robbie. (Yes, I know his name is Rob but I can’t help it) When we would first arrive I would be stuck to either Laurie or my dad. And then I would find Nana Helen. I would sit with her and talk with her every time. I loved our conversations about computers, family history and of course, Israel. She was always going to Israel, and I would ask to see her when she got home. Of course I could see her when she got home, we could go shopping at Jordan Marsh and spend the day together. Well, with Laurie too but still…

When my father left in 1987 without a trace and with other peoples’ money, he took my connection to these relatives with him. Laurie, feeling uncomfortable and very envious herself would say things to me that would make me even more anxious about upcoming family gatherings such as how they looked down on us. It was hard on everyone and my uncles were very angry. Not with us, but with him. I didn’t know this at the time but when you don’t know what to say to someone, sometimes you don’t say anything. I was 15 years old, missing my father and hating him at the same time for putting me in this position. 

My aunt Minna would still have her dinners, and would send my cousin Allan to pick me up. I know he probably didn’t want to drive to Plymouth to pick me up and the car ride was pretty quiet. Last year I thanked him for being so kind as to pick me up back in the day. It means more to me today than it did when I was 15. I would get invitations to different things but it became harder and harder to get myself to go especially after my sister left when I was a freshman in college. My last two connections were gone. I had to make connections and build relationships on my own. I wasn’t a little girl anymore relying on someone else to make them for me. They were all gone.

After I had gotten sober again, I recommitted myself to getting to know my relatives. I came to the understanding that they did in fact care about me and my sister, because they showed me. When I started to talk to one of my uncles about opening my adoption papers, he turned to me and said “If you need me to, I will stand with you in court. Let me know and I will be with you.” I still get choked up when I write that because this was a man I didn’t think cared about me at all. My cousin ended up being the one with me when we opened them. It was one of the most intense moments of my life and I am grateful Larry was with me for that. 

I care when they get sick, or have hard times in their lives. I do my best to be available and to let them know that they are in my heart. I don’t see them every day, but I love them. It hasn’t been easy and I wish I was closer. I received my invitation to the annual open house and I already have it on my calendar. I hope I have shown them how much I appreciate them, and I look forward to seeing them soon. 


Day 23 of 30 Days of gratitude: I am grateful I Live Where I Grew Up

I grew up in Plymouth. Went to school here, worked here, learned to drive here, and prayed here. I love seeing my daughters walk down the same school steps I did. I love seeing my oldest march with the band down the same streets I did. This weekend was a great weekend to be in Plymouth, and I couldnt have been prouder. 

The parade on Saturday was amazing. Well, once it got going it was. There was a significant delay and as we stood waiting I was concerned for Liz standing on Olmstead Terrace probably freezing her tush off. Once it got going it was great seeing all the floats that came down the street inbetween marching bands and bugle corps. 

The floats were great this year with lots of detail. My favorite one was the Nathaniel Morton School replica. The images alongside the bottom of the float were photographs of my parents’ generation. It struck me that the phrase “where generations has learned” really applies at that school and about my family. 

My mother and step-dad both graduated from high school at Nathaniel Morton. My sister went to 7th grade there. I spent 6th and 7th grade there, and met my dearest friend in Mrs. Humphrey’s class- Christy Thomas. I met Ken Horne, Joe Souza, Linda Maloof, Lisa Coveney, Summer Bucholz and Andrea Giracca there. Dana Beck was in my homeroom, along with Derek Gorman, Brian Hammond and Bonnie Blakesly. We used to watch movies in the common area outside the classrooms, we had our Olympics at the Plymouth Carver High school, and went on whale watches together. Jen Schroeder was in my class along with Sherry Greengross, Jed Benedict, Andrea Colucci and Josh Metta. The names bring me back to the dusty smell of the hallways and the cloakrooms. Some of these people became friends for life. Others I see around town and I remember them as they looked back then. Yeah, I know it’s 20+ years later but in my mind, you will always look the same to me with your collars up and jeans pegged.

Elizabeth went to kindergarten to the fifth grade at that school. I loved walking in and seeing it become a true elementary school. There was a great parents community there that I haven’t seen anywhere else. She had a great bunch of friends and had a great experience there. Her last day of fifth grade was bittersweet for me. She is the last of my family to attend that school. 

As the marching band went by I saw that some of them were wearing pins and I saw the NMES on them. All of the kids who went to Nathaniel Morton were wearing pins celebrating the 100th anniversary. I was so proud of her and of that pin. To me it represented my mother, my step-father, my sister, and myself all walking those steps over the years. 

I get the same feeling when I see Addie sit on the steps of Mt. Pleasant school. I met the best people at that school- Jill Furtado, Shayne Melchin, Peter Govoni, Jeff Parkhurst, Jeff Squillante, Chris Nadeux, Joe Pinzino, Skip Williams, Joanna Hoban, Colin Keohan and Jon Scharath. Some of these people I have remained friends with and have provided me with incredible support. It’s a blessing to see Addie enjoying it so much and I never get tired of standing in Mrs. Phillips’ old classroom. Of course, I can’t really be in there since it isn’t Addie classroom, but I didn’t have Mrs. Worcester so….

I love walking down main street and trying to remember what each business used to be and how the town looked back then. I love seeing the waterfront and running along the bike trail at Nelson Beach. Living in North Plymouth feels like it is the last piece of Plymouth that feels like….Plymouth. If you grew up here, you know exactly what I mean. 

I came back here from Vermont so Elizabeth could know my grandparents and my family. I also came back to further my graphics career since I was so limited where we were. The icing on the cake has been seeing my children grow up here as well. I know my husband feels the same way about Rockland, and I am grateful and thankful for his sacrifice of staying here for me. 

Seeing the Boston Strong floats, the Boston Police and the police car from MIT, I was so proud that they were included. Yes, the Red Sox one was pretty cool but seeing the marathoners- wow. Yes Boston is still 60 miles away but yesterday it felt like we were neighbors. It was awesome.