Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

A Book Worth Knowing About: “I Will Hold You in My Heart Forever”

July 9, 2012

I recently worked on a three-part series on grief for Metro Parent magazine. It looked at grief and loss from three perspectives: parents grieving the loss of a child; children grieving the loss of a parent; and parents grieving the loss of their spouse. It was a humbling experience.

For part one of the series, I came into contact with Michelle Murray. She is the mom behind “I Will Hold You in My Heart Forever…A Baby Book for Little Angels.” I drafted a sidebar on this book that didn’t make it into the final story that ran in the magazine.

I’d hate for the world not to know about this special book, so I include below the short article I wrote on Michelle and her creation. Please share the info below with anyone you think might be in need of this special book. Thank you Michelle!

Bereaved Mother Creates Baby Book for “Little Angels”

Michelle Murray of Toronto gave birth in 2006 to her first child, a boy she named Tyler. She knew from early in her pregnancy that Tyler would be fighting an uphill battle because of a severe heart defect detected during her 18-week ultrasound. Still she held out hope that her little guy would survive the three major surgeries he would undergo during the first five years of his life. Sadly, that was not to be. Tyler died at home in his mother’s arms at seven weeks old.

Devastated, Michelle and her husband Jason went on to have two beautiful and healthy little girls. While filling out her second daughter’s baby book while home on maternity leave, Murray realized that she had no baby book for her firstborn.

“He was here. He lived,” Murray reflects.

And so she embarked on a mission to find a baby book appropriate for accurately telling Tyler’s story. Murray had little success finding something for chronicling her son’s short life and the grief journey that followed.

“I didn’t want a baby book that called for me to write in things like Tyler’s first word,” Murray recalls. “A book like that would be incomplete.”

In her search for something appropriate, Murray came across some somber memory books but nothing that captured the happy moments of her pregnancy and the almost two months she had with her son before he died. She decided to take matters into her own hands working with her sister-in-law, a graphic designer, to create a baby book that works for any parent who has lost a child at any age.

“This book is good even for those who miscarry,” Murray says. “If you miscarry at five months, you have still gone through a lot of happy things from learning you were expecting to ultrasounds.”

Titled, I Will Hold You in My Heart Forever…A Baby Book for Little Angels, the book Murray created includes space for the happy moments every expectant and new parent experiences but also includes space for parents to share their experiences after their child’s death.

The book includes section titles like “The Day You Died,” “Where I Go to Think of You” and “What I Would Have Thought You’d Be When You Grew Up.”

“I wanted my two daughters who never met Tyler to see his life story. This was a way for them to get to know their brother,” Murray says.

The book is laid out in binder format so the pages that aren’t relevant can easily be removed.

“Tyler lived for only two months, so I took out the pages for ages three months on,” Michelle says. “Originally, the book only extended through baby’s first year, but funeral homes that carry it have asked me to add pages for children who were older when they died.”

Murray has also found that some parents who have lost older children are transposing the contents of the child’s original baby book into this one.

“It’s a more complete story of their life,” Murray explains. “I’ve heard from parents who have it out on their coffee table to make it easier for visitors to broach the topic of the child.”

Murray has received letters from many of parents who’ve found the book to be a source of comfort.

“It’s unbelievable the positive feedback I’ve gotten,” says Murray, who is expecting her fourth child—a boy due in May. “Tyler has touched so many families.”

Retailing for $39.95, I Will Hold You in My Heart Forever…A Baby Book for Little Angels, can be purchased online at www.foreverheart.ca.

Has it really been 10 months?

June 26, 2012

Sheesh…time flies, and I have certainly let this blog get away from me. I have been writing–only in different places. I’ve been back at it on the Detroit’ News MichMoms blog writing about the zany journey of motherhood. I’ve also been knee deep in a very emotional series for Metro Parent on loss. The first in the three-part series takes a look at the grief journey for parents who have lost a child. The second looked at the experience of children who have lost a parent through the eyes of three local kids and their surviving parent or guardian. The third hits newsstands this week and takes a look at the experience of three local parents who lost their spouse and co-parent. I wrote an essay about my experience writing this series that shares a little bit about the process of putting together this emotional series. I can’t say thank you enough to the local parents (and kids) who shared their stories. As I said in the essay, I am humbled by you. May God Bless you!

I am looking forward to writing about some more lighthearted topics here on the MichMoms blog and for Metro Parent in the weeks and months to come. Got lots of ideas, now to find time to get them on paper…er WordPress…er here on my blog. Thanks for checking in!

What to do when you come upon time to pause and reflect on things

August 31, 2011

They say men do business on the golf course. OK. To me, that begs the question where do women do business? Well, while I’m sure that the answer to that question varies widely, lately — for me, anyway — business is getting done in the basement floor changing room of my office building (a.k.a my pumping place).

You see, in this crazy life of mine, the one that involves a toddler and an infant, full-time employment and management of a house that currently sports eight brown shutters and four green ones (much to the dismay of the neighborhood association, I’m sure), idle moments are few and far between. Not that I would have it any other way, of course. Still, it does leave one with little time to pause and reflect on things.

Enter lactation.

Twice a day, while at the office, nature calls, and I visit the basement to pump in the one area of the building where the walls are not glass (aka see through)! And I sit for about 10 minutes or so hooked up to my bestie with some of that oh-so-elusive time to pause and reflect on things. It is often in these twice daily stretches that some of my best ideas come to me. Free from my BlackBerry (as my hands are — how should I put this? — otherwise occupied), I actually close my eyes and think. Imagine that!

But aside from the several “aha moments” that my pumping time and place have afforded me, I am also meeting new people! You see I work on the second floor of my office building, and I might never otherwise visit the basement bathroom where I now run into my new cronies: Gail and Lucinda** on a regular basis. And who knows, down the road when I need a programmer, I may just call on Gail. Or when I need a recipe to entertain a dinner party of eight, I just may ask Lucinda for a recommendation. Business done! All because of a little pump that could!

This all leads me to wonder what innovations, ideas and possibly even companies have been born of breastfeeding sessions when the sisterhood of nursing mothers have sat unattached to technology to pause and reflect on things. If we harnessed that collective time and brain power, just think what we could do!

Or if you simply want to use this time to close your eyes and think about George Clooney, Denzel Washington or insert your crush’s name here while reliving the moment in ninth grade when you scored the game-winning goal in the regional soccer finals, please do that. After all, when a mother comes by time to pause and reflect on things, she deserves to be able to do whatever the hell she wants.

**All names have been changed to conceal the identity of these frequent visitors to the loo (yes, I used the word “loo.” It’s just fun to say).

R.I.P. Sweet Mandy B

May 18, 2011

Well here I am again, in a familiar albeit heavy hearted state–writing a tribute to a beloved family member–our dog, Mandy. Some eight months after saying good bye to our golden retriever, we now bid farewell to our yellow lab. Sweet Mandy is surely in a better place, or at least that’s what I choose to believe. And if I had to guess what her Heavenly experience resembles, I’d wager there are sand dunes, lake waters and wood-burning fireplaces at every turn.

On Friday night we had to make that decision that millions of pet owners before us have reluctantly had to. We put Mandy to sleep when it became clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that keeping her with us was causing her suffering. I had always imagined with both of my dogs that I’d be there to stroke their ears as they took their last breath, but in neither case would fate allow for it. With an infant and a toddler now in our household, only one parent could get away to take Mandy to the 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital. And rightfully it was the guy who first came upon her as an eight-week old pup, the last remaining member of her litter to be claimed. This is the guy who would so successfully train her that she’d never need to walk on a leash, would stop on a dime if told to halt and obeyed every command ever directed her way. I suspect he wanted to be alone with his girl to say their good byes. How could I argue that?

So my good bye to Mandy took place in the driveway as I helped hoist her failing 90 pound body into the back of our Saturn Vue for her last ride in the car–an activity she had always enjoyed throughout her life. I had only a few seconds to kiss her nose and hug her to my chest before I had to run back inside to make sure our two-year-old wasn’t lying on top of our six-week old. It wasn’t enough of a good bye for a pet that to me was more like another child in many ways, but to prolong our parting would have only prolonged her pain.

I’ve known Mandy about as long as I’ve known my husband. It was she who first greeted me when I made the first trip to my then boyfriend’s home in Chesterton, Ind., when we were newly dating. I was a bit nervous–making this trip from the city to the 219 area code meant we were getting serious. All my nerves went out the window though when a friendly yellow lab greeted me in the driveway putting this dog lover at ease in an instant.

I can assure you that the stories of Mandy and her big heart are many. She was loved by all who ever met her. She was Lassie to our golden’s Marley personality. My husband used to call her the goodwill ambassador, and I can’t think of anything that more accurately describes her nature. We had many other nicknames for her, including “D,” Deeter dog, Mandino and the yellow dog under the bed–(the impetus for a children’s book series I’ve been working on), and I’m sad that I’ll never again be able to call them out and hear the tags on her collar clink in response as she scampered my way.

Mandy loved more than anything to be outside. When I first made her acquaintance, she’d literally tremble for joy en route to the Indiana Dunes State Park to climb and then descend the dunes headed at full speed toward the waters of Lake Michigan. Later when she and her dad moved to Michigan where I had relocated, she enjoyed walks around our neighborhood–anything that would allow her fresh air and a chance to play fetch with a tennis ball or frisbee.

More than once Mandy served as courier between her dad and me. Stressing out over a statistics assignment that had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown during grad school, I looked up one afternoon to see Mandy headed my way with a red rose from dad tied to her collar. Who couldn’t feel a little better with that visual in mind? On another occasion, she couriered a note from my husband to me with some words of love and encouragement that I’ve now since forgotten, but the sentiment is still very much remembered.

Mandy was a teddy bear at heart but was also an astute watchdog letting us know when a stranger was at the door. And when we expanded our family and our infant daughter would fuss, Mandy would pace the floor like a worried mother. She was our ultimate protector, and I don’t doubt that if an emergency had ever arisen, she would have done everything in her power to assist.

Mandy was everything a dog should be, and she is already missed. Seeing her tattered bed out with the garbage cans this morning literally caused my stomach  a moment of pain And coming upon her red collar and leash on the counter has had me closing my eyes for a moment to acknowledge again that it’s better for her–and–us–that she isn’t here anymore, not in the state she had been in. The state that had not allowed her to go on a walk in several years. The state that meant if she wanted to join us in our bedroom in her home under the bed that we’d have to carry her up to that spot. The state that meant we’d hear that labored breathing only intensify with time.

So, she has joined her pal Riley on the other side. And one thought that has made me mentally smile since her passing is that some day (hopefully a day far from now) when I go to that side, I’ll be greeted by wagging tails full of enthusiasm. And a fuzzy yellow goodwill ambassador will be there to show me the way to all His wonder.

Rejected…again

December 1, 2010

I knew a guy in college who, like many of us during our senior year, went on a series of job interviews. He was interested in a career in consulting I believe. He probably interviewed with at least 20 different companies. He received a lot of rejection letters–so many so that he began posting them around his room as wallpaper. Soon they took over. It became a running joke–how many rejection letters could Mike collect before the end of the year?

I know his pain. I have been pitching numerous magazines over the last year to take on some freelance writing work. I’ve followed each publication’s instructions as absurd as some of them are (e.g. contact us only on the third Wednesday of even-numbered months after 2 p.m. EST in e-mail. NO PHONE CALLS!).  I’ve been as polite as I know how to be and generated what I think have been some decently creative story ideas.

Guess not.

I have a “virtual” pile of rejection letters that would rival my friend Mike’s. So taking a page from his example, I thought I’d start sharing them with others so they can feel my pain or at least get a laugh. Some are very polite. Some are kinda mean. But thankfully my skin is a bit thick after 10+ years in the work world. Heck–I work in PR. If I didn’t have a thick skin, I’d be curled up in the fetal position under my desk by 2 p.m. every afternoon.

Not only am I hoping that these letters (well e-mails mostly) will entertain, I am hoping that they will provide me continued motivation to keep pitching because sometimes it works even if it does take nine attempts–true story! So here are a few recent rejection notes to get us started. More to come I’m sure! :)

A nice one from American Baby magazine:

Thanks, Jacquie, for thinking of us with this idea, but we already have something in the works on this subject.

All the best,
XXXXXXX

A not so nice one from a publication to remain unnamed:

Hi Jacquie,

Unfortunately, your writing style is not in line with XXXXX. Also, your pitch was not between 100 and 130 words.

-XXXXXX

Ahhh….the joys of trying to be a writer!

One apology, two thank you’s

September 23, 2010

Two quick updates:

1. I am sorry to all of you who have been viewing my blog via Internet Explorer. My header has apparently not been appearing for some time, and a blank blue box welcomed you to my blog! Problem has been fixed. A shout out to Hannah Pagel for her design savvy! Thank you, as always, for putting up with my millions of questions.

2. I noticed a surge in traffic to this blog yesterday, and upon closer examination saw that I was linked to by thebump.com, specifically my post about the passing of Riley, our dog. I suspect that thanks are in order to fellow Medill alum Laura Schocker. Much appreciated Ms. Schocker!

It’s 79 degrees and sunny here in Birmingham, Mich. (gotta plug the Mitten). I’m off for a walk!


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