Friday, September 25, 2009


September 26, 2003.  Probably the most important day in my life.  The day my son, Connor, was born.

In less than an hour the celebration begins.  He will turn six.  But, for now he is sleeping and probably dreaming about balloons and an unlimited supply of cake being showered upon him. 

I, on the other hand, am awake and tracing my thoughts as they wander over mountains and through deep valleys.  Once again, this celebratory milestone in my son's life reminds me of how big the sacrifice was that his birth mother made when she choose to share his life with Rick and me.

On September 26, 2003 I was living my life and harboring dreams of someday becoming a parent.  I probably went to work and shared a laugh with my coworkers over lunch.  Chances are I cooked something innocuous for dinner and Rick and I went to our local gym to work out before sharing a glass of wine and discussing our day.  We may have wondered out loud if our baby was out there and who might be caring for him or her at that very moment.

I certainly didn't know that the day was soon to become an integral part of my family's history. 

I am often struck by the enormity of that single day.  A young woman, with noone to support her, suffered through countless hours of labor to give birth to a baby whom she loved so much that she decided his life would be more complete living in another country.  Wow.

So, today I think about Juana.  I always seem to shed a tear for her at Connor's most important moments.  Tomorrow morning when the little boy who captured my heart with his engaging smile asks me to tell him about the day that he was born, I will repeat the story as we know it. 

I want him to know how powerfully he is loved.  By me.  By his daddy.  And, by a woman who hasn't touched his sweet hands or looked into his expressive brown eyes since he was only 6 months old. 

Tomorrow we'll celebrate everything that makes my Connor who he is.  We'll eat cake till we feel dizzy from the rush.  And, when we tuck in at night, we'll ask God to Bless Juana, Connor's Birth Mom.  Like we do every night.

And, I'll add my very own prayer thanking her for giving me the gift of this very most important and special day. 

Happy Birthday, Connor John.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Family History via E-mail

I could hear the disbelief in her voice as she repeated the question again, “Are you sure you really want the e-mails?” Even over the telephone I knew that my sister-in-law thought I was nuts. Why would anyone want to take possession of printouts of 10 years worth of family e-mail?

I really wasn’t sure why. But I was absolutely certain that I did. I couldn’t imagine sending the binders that our mother had constructed off to be shredded, like the cancelled checks or invoices for home improvements that we had discovered. We were discussing the e-mails again because it was finally time to wrap up the last of a wide variety of mementos, remove the final pieces of furniture, and put my parent’s home on the market. In just over two years, both mom and dad had passed away. Mom died most recently after a very short illness, leaving her children awash in the tedium and sadness of dismantling the home that she had shared with our father for more than 35 of their 50 years together.

In the late 1990’s our parents discovered that they wouldn’t have to endlessly repeat the same stories time and time again over the telephone if they would just register for an e-mail account (it really is their own fault that they had to tackle the communication issue head on – after all I am the seventh of nine children!). And, thus, our talkative family began to e-mail – about everything!

Now, as I sit in my cool basement, I revisit my past and that of my siblings (and cousins and assorted others that have become a part of the Fitzgerald Family e-mail list) through the binders that our mom insisted were important. They are reminiscent of cherished letters from a loved one away at war or a holiday greeting card sent by a treasured friend from the past. My mom always wrote to those friends, but once she was online she wrote more frequently and shared more of her day-to-day battles and cheers. Now I need to thank my mom for ignoring our laughs and incredulity about her commitment to the e-mails that she dutifully printed and three-hole punched. Ten years worth of joy, sorrow, change, and even the mundane were saved for future generations to engage with the family that went before them.

After all, who wouldn’t want to glimpse backward in time and review all of the family dissertations regarding every important aspect of the past decade? Politics ad nausea; graduation celebrations for grandkids moving from preschool through high school; hometown sports teams from all across the country (seriously, don’t get any of us started on this topic!); the challenges dad faced in recovering from several strokes; the tragic car accident that claimed dad’s life and injured mom; poems; prayers; and crazy urban legends that mom was curious about; and lots of support and words of love – always tempered with humor.

My mom treasured her family. She was a born communicator. She feared that if we stopped writing letters and notes that were tangible, there would be nothing of ourselves to pass on to the next generation. She embraced technology and its assets. In fact, she always gave others in her circle of friends tips on how to send e-mail or to view photos from the grandchildren. But, she couldn’t conceptualize how we could all spend so much time bantering back and forth and not attempt to save our thoughts and phrases for posterity.

My mom’s jump from pen and paper to the digital expression of thought seemed like a natural move to me. But, for her it was a leap of faith. It was a transition that she chose to temper with her own security net – the binders that I am charged with keeping.

Flipping through Binder Number 1, I find a note from my mom dated March 31, 1996. Her humor came shining through when, sandwiched between a paragraph about the local high school Spring Break starting that week and the death of one of her neighbors, she jabbed at a taunt I’d launched at one of my older brothers in a previous e-mail with a paragraph that read, “There are five NAH’s in NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH, NAH, just in case anyone is interested.”

I recognized the phrasing immediately and, yes, I flipped back in the binder to confirm that I’d inadvertently only used four NAH’s in my original message. Reading this again, more than a decade later, brought a flood of feelings that caught even an emotional girl like me by surprise. The phrasing of the jaunt was not important, rather, the gentle humor that my mother always used and hearing her voice once again through the words that she wrote. That was important. I miss her often, but with each week that passes it gets harder and harder to remember her voice. However, her voice was clear to me again simply because she insisted on maintaining this treasury of our electronic nonsense.

I plan to sift through the remaining years of binders and enjoy the trip that my family has taken – and I’m sure to dash off a quick e-mail to my siblings about the treasures I’ve found at each new discovery. But, the big question is, will I print off a copy of those e-mails and start a new binder?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Coffee Spots!

Let's recap, shall we? We've got indoor plumbing? Check. Central air conditioning? Check. Automatic dishwasher? Check. Telephone access ANYWHERE? Check. Streaming video and Internet access on those wireless telephones anywhere? Check.

Can someone harness all of this technology and provide me with an electric drip coffeemaker in my home with a decanter that doesn't drip all over the place? Please.

No, really, I mean it!

We've got the power to create spandex pants that can stretch beyond imagination, yet every time I pour a simple cup of java my coffee pot splashes the precious liquid everywhere. My kitchen looks like a war zone after only two cups.

I've tried everything. I mimic both the long pour and the tight cup hold that I've seen in diners. To no avail.

I've sampled a variety of coffee pots from several manufacturers. We're still making messes at my house.

It's a personal mission now. Not only am I sick of the mess, but I'm ridiculously frustrated that I haven't been able to conquer this challenge.

Someone out there must have the secret. Help me save my white porcelain sink from those ugly brown stains. How do I make this dream a reality? How do I stop the senseless wasting of innocent coffee? Anyone?

And, to my friends at Mr. Coffee, if you are listening, the least you could do is consider a cross promotion with Lysol wipes. It would take some of the sting out of this mess!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

One More Turn Around the Sun!

Happens every year.  Same date.  I age.  I complete yet another revolution around that big orange ball in the sky.

This anniversary of my birth encourages a number of responses.  Mostly mirth that I've held on for another rotation!  But, also a sense of wonder regarding my splendid life.

There are so many people to thank for the fact that later today I'll be sitting outside on a patio overlooking the channel that leads to my beloved Lake Michigan and enjoying a delightful glass of wine!  Who knew that it would really take that whole darn village to raise me up and transform me into the person I am today?
But, let's be honest, the village was always involved in my life at the discretion of two people.  Specifically, John and Jackie Fitzgerald.  My parents had the courage to create a family of nine independent-thinking individuals.  And, to revel in the way that each of us grew into ourselves, warts and all.  With me they understood my emotional side (whether the bouncy baby or the tearful teen) as well as my need to organize and streamline everything around me.  According to my dad, at only a day old I orchestrated the entire nursery at Big Rapids Hospital to cry on my command in order to garner more attention!
On this birthday, I intend to swallow a deep gulp of lake-infused air, sip on my chardonnay, and channel Jackie.  I share her physicality (heck, just look at that photo, which person is me?!).  But, I miss her wit, her charm, her ability to warm everyone in the room to her idea, as well as her innate sense of when it was time to frost someone out for their lack of manners.  She was truly one-of-a-kind.  Its days like today when I miss her most (and, for the record, its not that I don't miss my Dad, but he is not my birthday memory maker!).
The early morning just wasn't the same today without her phone call and out-of-tune singing of "Happy Birthday" to me.  Midday was sullen without her perfectly timed Hallmark card (my Dad seemed to think these were the best and always made fun when we gave him anything else!) waiting in the mailbox.  And, this evening, while lovely, will be missing the phone call that I would have placed to fill her in on details of my special day.  Even if it was only filled with work and commonplace events like laundry.
But, the day is not without a gift.  Forty-two years ago Jackie Fitzgerald gave me life.  And, for the following 39 years she reaffirmed that gift over and over with her commitment to me and my siblings.  Pretty amazing.
Thanks, Mom!  And, tonight, when the sun sets on this fantastic day and I start working on circling that gorgeous sun again, I'll raise my glass to her.  Happy Birthday to me!