Tuesday, June 30, 2009

one day more...

Michael was born at 6:52 pm on July 1.  In Cincinnati, Ohio. (Where, according to Michael, there are really  tall buildings.  And hot dog vendors.)  Mine was a difficult pregnancy.  So he was to be induced.  To better watch both of us.

I checked into the hospital the night before.  Where I was unable to get up from the bed.  And was not able to eat or drink anything after midnight.  Only ice chips for me.   

That night was a mix of emotion.  Excitement. For this new little bundle of boy-ness to come into my life.   Terror.  At the thought that I was about to be a mother ( I seriously considered asking if we could just wait a week.  I'd come back much better prepared. Right?)  Anxiousness.  About Michael's little heart.  What it would take in the beginning to keep it beating.  To stabilize him.  What the plan would be for the next week.  The next month.  The next year.

That night.  I was a bundle of nerves.  I couldn't sleep - partially because it was my first overnight in a hospital and I was terrified that I would pull the IV out - and partially because of the overwhelming emotions I was experiencing.  

I was meeting my little boy.  For the very first time.  He had been a part of me for 9 months.  I took him on Mommy-Fetus night outs.  We'd go to the movies and eat ice cream and popcorn. (See how Michael's love for movies started out in the womb?  He would say that he peeked through my belly button and ate the crumbs from my ice cream and popcorn.) 

The next day would be my very first time seeing his face.  And to touch his skin.  And to hold his hand.  And to make guesses about who he looked the most like.  To hold him.  and smooch him.  And rock him to sleep.  

That night.  Was a rough one. 
This night.  Will be a rough one. 

For very different reasons.  This is the night where I will only have memories, pictures to see Michael's face.  This is the night where I will only have memories of Michael's skin.  This is the night where I will only be able to touch his marker.  To blow kisses to the wind.

I will be a bundle of emotions again.  Just like I was 10 years ago.  Only with no great reward at the end for the long journey through labor.  I will not be joined in the excitement of my beautiful boy's arrival into this world.

I will be joined in sadness at the departure of my beautiful boy.  From this world.
The birthday countdown continues.  
I just want the world to stop spinning.
So I can catch my breath...

Monday, June 29, 2009

keep breathing.

I am listening to my iTunes library on shuffle today while plugging away at work.  A song that I have not heard in a long while came up.  Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson.  

But all that I know is I'm breathing
All I can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing 

This seems to be my mantra of late.  When I am reminded of my devastating loss.  I remind myself to keep breathing.  When I come upon something that Michael had written.  I keep breathing.  When I hear a song that reminds me of him or a lyric that describes this season of my life.  I keep breathing.   

When I mark the days of my calendar.  And when I see that July 1 is only 2 days away.  And when I purchased a new toy to put on Michael's grave.  Because I can't NOT purchase something for my sweet boy on his birthday.  When I think that he will never reach his double digits milestone.  I keep breathing.

This week seems impossible to navigate.
All I can do.  Is keep breathing.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I am a creature of habit.  I like traditions.  Routines.  I like to know that on Tuesdays we will go to the library.  Or on Thursdays we go to Young Actor's Theatre and then to dinner at Atlanta Bread Company.  I like advent calendars and Bingo at Christmas.  I like to watch the same movies over and over again.  Because I know the outcomes.  I go to the same restaurants.  They are comforting to me.  I like familiarity.  

I do not like surprises.   I do not like change.   I do not like to have things sneak up on me.  I do not like to be unprepared.  Or unplanned.

But I find myself right in the middle of the biggest life change imaginable - a life without my son.  The second biggest life change was the birth of Michael.  Now.  That is a change I can believe in.  This is a change that I can't accept.  A change that I do not welcome.  

This is not a change that I anticipated.  Michael had a heart defect.  Yes.  But he was not sick.  He was not ill.  He did not show any of the signs that I look for constantly.  That were on my radar on a daily basis.  

He was playing with magnets.  With his very best friends.  And then he wasn't.  
He was happy and laughing and making up fun stories.  And then he wasn't.  
His heart was beating.  And then it wasn't.
In an instant.  My whole world changed.  My whole identity changed.

I didn't get a say.  I didn't have a vote.  Or a choice.
I do not understand.  
Nor do I accept it.

As I was leaving the cemetery today, I was overcome.  With grief.  I laid my head against my steering wheel and cried.  Big tears.  Racking sobs.  I let myself feel.  And it overtook me.  I am good at hiding my emotion.  I am good at holding back tears.  But not today.  Not by myself.   And I let them sweep me away.   

I just want what I had.  I want to give back this change.  I want to check No.  
I want Michael.  Complete and whole.
And ready for Atlanta Bread Company. 
Because it is a Thursday.  And our family tradition.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

birthday countdown

Michael's birthday is coming up in one week and one day.  I am simultaneously pushing it away and pulling it towards me.  I am not ready for it.  And yet, I just want to wake up and find myself on the other side of it.  Of course, the other side of it is where exactly?  I can't imagine a time where I will wake up and not feel the hurt of not being able to spend my baby's 10th birthday WITH him.  I will celebrate it FOR him. But he will not be there.

He will not be there to blow out his candles.  On the cake that Nana will make for him.  He will not be there to tear the wrapping paper off of his gifts.  He will not be there to watch a Star Wars movie with close friends and family.  He will not be there to participate in the annual birthday scavenger hunt.  Or pick out the special birthday dinner.  Or countdown the days until he is double digits.

But I am here to do all those things.  And all I want to do is crawl into a ball and cover my head with my covers.  To sleep through this momentous occasion.

I wonder if Michael will always remain 9 in my memory.  If he will age.  

I feel a bit like the movie Groundhog Day.  Where the same events keep happening.  With the same results.  Every day, I have the same realization.  That Michael is not coming back.  It is like I process the information over and over again.  Praying ... hoping for a different result.  Praying ... hoping that this is the day the cycle is broken.

I am unfocused.  I am sad.  I am weepy.
I am here.  Waiting.  Steeling myself. 
Trying to stop the cycle.  And failing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

daddy's day

Happy Daddy's Day to my sweet husband.  Michael's daddy.  The man who played countless games of Stratego, Yu-Gi-Oh and Bakugan.  Who created fun hideaway tents and large army battles.  The daddy who took Michael to history museums and forts.  Science centers and exhibits.  The guy who taught Michael how to throw a football.  Kind of.   The dad that would take Michael to Fun Station and stay for hours.  Who would play countless games of Laser Tag.  And Putt-Putt.  And bumper boats.  Who taught Michael how to play video games and the strategy involved.  Who introduced Michael to YouTube.   The man who encouraged our son to make friends.  To step out of his comfort zone and to not be shy.  The man who I liked to say contributed to the nerdiness of our house.

Michael was a lucky little guy to call you his daddy.  I love you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I visit Michael every day.  Usually around the 5:00 or 6:00 hour.  Even on the weekends.  This just seems to be my time to go to the cemetery.  I don't stay long.  Just long enough to tell him how much I miss him.  And how I would do absolutely anything to get him back.  And I mean anything.  Or talk about the day.  Recently, I have been telling him about the many photos that people have sent spelling out his name.  

The cemetery is such an odd place.  I talk about his "neighbors" - Patricia and Joseph.  How they were buried in the 1980's and don't have flowers on their markers.  I was thinking that I should get them some.  How it would bring more color to Michael's spot.  When a new person "moved in", I gave him (Ed is his name) one of Michael's pinwheels.  I believe that Ed's family returned the favor by putting an angel statue on Michael's grave (I don't know if this is true ... I just don't know who else would have left it).

For 9 weeks, Michael's spot has had a temporary marker.  With his name and dates.  And it was surrounded by Star Wars figures and a Star Wars vehicle;  some Army men;  a Spiderman;  two pinwheels, a flower vase, and a gerber daisy. And the aforementioned angel statue.  I held my breath in recent weeks.  I knew that the time frame for the arrival of his permanent marker was soon.  I dreaded that day.

Today.  Was that day.  

I drove up and knew instantly that something was different.  And instantly I had a knot in my stomach.  Michael's marker had arrived.  He became a permanent resident.  In the cemetery. Another reminder that this is not a nightmare that I will awake from.  He is, in fact, all moved in.  To this neighborhood.

I took pictures.  I will upload them when I am ready. 
Today.  Is not that day.

The marker is nice.  It lists his name and his dates.  We added a star.  Because that was Michael.  A star.  And then we were able to add a description.  This was a tough choice.  What do you add to your son's marker that will sum up all that his life was ... and all that he could have been?  In one line?  

We chose:  Love you to the moon and back.

Because it's true.  For now and for always.  It is what Michael and I have always said to one another.  We usually added  - times 1600 (Michael's favorite go-to number).  I would say it as we said good night.  When I tucked him in.

It seemed fitting.  In his final resting spot.  His final tucking in.  To say it again.
Love you to the moon and back.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

buddy. boopy. boo-bear.

I grew up with the nickname of BoBo.  I probably shouldn't put that out on the internet for fear that it will come up in strange places.  I go by BoBo, or Bo amongst family and friends.  Honestly, I kind of lucked out on my nickname.  Our family's best friends also have a daughter named Jenn.  Her nickname became JuJu.  I win.  

I think that the nickname came from being told it was "Bedtime for Bonzo" by my mom and dad.  And the Bonzo evolved into BoBo.  My parents loved the name so much that they named their dog after me.  They insist that his name is spelled Beau.  But we all know it is the same thing.


I love nicknames.  I love to call people chicken or sunshine buckets or sugar booger.  I think nicknames are fun.  And personal.  And sweet.

Michael was no exception to my love of pet names.  I am surprised that he ever knew his name.  He had many.  I was most consistant with Boo, or Boopy or Buddy.  Sometimes Boo-bear.  But had been known to call him any of the following (in no particular order, other than typing them as they come to me...):
  • Captain Crankypants
  • Sweet Pea
  • Scooter Poot
  • Stinky Pete
  • Mighty Mike
  • Doofy-Doo
  • Love Bug
  • Love Muffin
  • Michael Michael Motorcycle
  • Stinker Pie Poopie Pants
  • Snuggle Bunny
  • Cutie Pie Butt
There are many others.  The above is but a sampling.  I always expected that there would be a time when he would ask me to not call him anything but Michael in front of friends ... or girlfriends.  

He had not yet asked me to stop.  

Sunday, June 14, 2009

ride it out.

Sometimes my sadness comes up and punches me in the throat.  I can't breathe.  I can't function.  I just sit.  And cry.  Things that used to make me crazy are no longer a big deal.  I don't care about the cleanliness of my house.  I don't care how the dishes are loaded into the dishwasher.  I don't care if the laundry is folded right away.  

The finality of Michael's passing hits me daily like a ton of bricks.  I open a closet and see our Christmas advent calendar.  I am struck with the thought that we will not do that again this year. I will not put little notes of fun activities for us to do together.   I am reminded of him as I feed the dog - one of his daily chores.  Or when the recycling bucket is full - it is on the tip of my tongue to call him to take it out.

I think of the ways that I could have prevented this.  I know I couldn't.  But it doesn't stop me from feeling like if I had only been able to hold his hand, he would have come back.  Or if I had been in the room with him while they were working on him, that he would have sensed it.  Known that he wasn't alone.  Known that his mommy was right there waiting for him to open his eyes. To breathe on his own.  Or if I had only prayed harder.  

I know intellectually that I couldn't do anything more.  But my heart constantly wonders what if.  It is the what ifs that hurt daily.  We used to make what ifs a game ... what if Star Wars was really true?  What if cars could fly?  Now what ifs haunt me.  Shake me to my very core.

Weekends are difficult.  I don't have a set place to be at a set time.  I have freedom to do what I want.  But I can't leave the house except to visit the cemetery.  I just sit.  And cry.  And remember.  And long for my sweet little boy.

Our grief counselor shared that when you are on a runaway train, all you can do is sit.   You can't stick your foot out to stop it.  You just ride it out.  Hold on tight.  

And so that is what I do.  I am gripping the seat rest.  Closing my eyes.  And riding it out.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Michael and I made a CD of some new music and some of our favorite songs for a road trip to Atlanta in January (the very same trip where we saw snow).  I'll post that story (complete with video) in the next couple of days.

Anyway, Michael asked me (from the back of the car), "Mommy, why would anyone need to say sandwich?"  Umm ... how does one answer that? 

 So I ask, "What?"  See how articulate I am?  I'll just make him ask again while I come up with something brilliant.  

And then he says, "Why is this person singing about needing to say sandwich?"

We were listening to Say What you Need to Say by John Mayer.  Michael heard "Sandwich - You Need to Say".  Funny.  Kid.

It was then that I realized he is a duplicate of his mother.  Me.  I got through life thinking that many songs were something completely different than what they really were.  Like I Want a New TRUCK.  Right ... Huey Lewis was actually singing about wanting a new DRUG.  Totally different meaning.   Or Stop in the Neighborhood.  When really one was Stopping in the NAME OF LOVE.  Not the same.  I imagine that Michael would have had the same leanings as he got older.  See ... we liked music for the beat.  Without so much a care for the lyrics. If we didn't know it, we just made them up.  Filled in the blanks with other things.

I passed down my knack for mistaken lyrics to my child.  The rest of the trip and everytime we heard this song, Michael and I would sing the wrong lyrics.  We would also sing it when we ate sandwiches.  But we would point to the sandwich.  We are clever.  And choreographers. 

How thankful I am for fun memories with my funny kid.  I just wish that we were making more of them.  Today.  And every day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

rock superstar...

Mommy, Mommy ... you need to take my picture.  
Yes, yes I did.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

name gallery

I have added all of the photos that I have received thus far into a flickr group.  The link is on the right side of my blog - just click on the photo of Michael pointing.  I set up a group - Michael's Name Project.  It is currently set to admin approval (that's me!).  If you would like to join the group, just send me a request with Michael's name in the body of the e-mail.  Easy.  Peasy.  

I decided to make the title of each photo the location that the photo came from, if I knew it.  I also added notes from the photographer, if any.  These mostly came from the e-mails sent.  I tried to not include any identifying information for those that have sent in photos.  If you would like to add something to your photo, drop me a line and I will add it.  Or leave a comment.  I'll add photos most every night.  So fun to see them all together!

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you. 
I know I said this before, but I am so amazed by the response to my not-so-little-anymore project.   Wow.  You people are awesome.

two months.

It has been two months.  Today.  It some ways it seems like two decades.  And in others it seems like two minutes.  It has been two months.

June was another big month in our household.  Michael and I would have gone on a solo road trip to Kentucky for a family reunion.  Stu couldn't go with us and so we were to have hit the road ourselves.  We were going to spread the trip out and stop at my alma mater, Berry College, along the way.  Michael had been to campus once, but he was three and didn't quite remember it.    I wanted to show him where I lived while on campus.  Where I worked.  Where I had class.  Where I got sprayed by a skunk my freshman year.  I think he would have gotten a kick out of the school.

We were going to make CDs of our favorite music.  Because that's what we did for road trips.  And we would have stayed in hotels along the way.  Hotels with pools.  And we would have jumped on the bed.  And we would have laughed.

Michael would also have started camp this month.  A camp that is held at his elementary school and full of fun field trips.  He would have brought his DS and played Pokemon or Bakugan or Star Wars or whatever else was on tap for the day.  He would have swam and skated and taken trips to far away places.

We would have planned big things for his double digit birthday.  We would have maybe had a sleepover.  Or maybe just a couple of friends over.  Or maybe another screen on the green.  We would have planned.  Michael would have been so excited that he couldn't hide it.  

I think of the things I have missed in these two months:  the smooches.  The hugs.  The "I love yous".  I think of the movies we would have seen.  And the trips we would have taken - to Star Wars Weekend.  To Kentucky.  To the grocery store.  I think of the games of UNO.  The celebratory dinner for completing 4th grade.  For making an excellent score on FCAT Writing.  For just being an all-around good kid.  I think of the rolled eyes when I would make him pose for yet another picture.  Or brush his teeth.  Or pick up his room.  I think of how involved he was in his play that his room was scattered with tons of his figures.  His tanks.  His battles.  I think about how I would ask him to clean his room.  And would find him playing with the toys as he put them away.  How cleaning was a game.  It took a lot of time ... but he made it fun.

I find myself wishing for more time.  Wondering what I would have done differently if I had just known about this April 9th deadline.  I wasn't given the timetable.  I didn't know.  

It has been two months.  And I am focused on keeping Michael's memory going.  To let his name be spoken.  To talk about him and his life.  That he will continue to impact others.

I am overwhelmed by the response to my call for photos of Michael's name.  I have already received quite a few. I am amazed.  I stand in awe of all of you.  Thank you.  Thank you for speaking his name.  Thank you for remembering.  Thank you.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Say my name...say my name...

It is my desire that Michael’s name always be remembered.  That he is not forgotten. That his memory will always live on.


Michael’s 10th birthday is coming up on July 1st.  Double Digits.  He would have been so excited about his day.   We had just discussed possible party plans on that Wednesday.  Before that terrible Thursday.


With that in mind, I have a big request.  I would like to see Michael’s name spelled out in as many ways as possible.  I would like to see his name in many settings.  From many people.   Handwrite his name, spell it out with objects, skywrite it.  It doesn’t matter.  Just write his name.  Be creative.  Be big.  Be small.  Take a picture.  And remember him, say his name.


And then send me the picture.  If you would like, include a story of where you were and why you wrote his name there.  Or send the picture and a memory.  Or just send the picture.  I'm not picky. E-mail is fine. I will post the photos on my blog (iloveyoubest.blogspot.com) or perhaps a flickr gallery.  I haven't quite decided on the logistics as yet. I think it depends on how many photos I receive.  But I will keep you informed.   I would like to eventually put them into a photo book.


I do have one request, if I may be so bold.  If you are going, know someone who is going, or know someone who works at Hollywood Studios – would you or ask them to get a picture with Michael’s name with some of the characters or attractions from Star Wars Weekend?  This upcoming weekend is the last for the Star Wars Weekends.  We were to have visited there two weekends ago.  We went last year and loved it. 


I got the idea from another blog,  MckMama (http://www.mycharmingkids.net/2008/08/eventually-these-photographs-will-be-in.html).  I didn’t want to take her idea without giving credit.  This link will take you directly to her son’s name gallery.


Will you help?  Send this request to friends far and wide.  Post on your blogs.  Perhaps your facebook page.  Or your work break room.  Wouldn’t it be fun to have names from across the globe?  I would be so touched.  So honored. 


I would love to have lots of photos prior to his birthday (July 1), but would certainly keep collecting well after that.  Again, not picky.  Just want my boy to be remembered by many.


Send your photos to jenndooley at yahoo.com.  Or mail them to us if that is easier.


Can’t wait to see them!  Thanks for entertaining this slightly off the wall request!


Much Love,

Jenn Dooley

Friday, June 05, 2009

three days

I participated in the 3 Day Walk for Breast Cancer last year.  Started out by myself, but made a great friend, Jenny,  at the beginning of the walk.  We ended up walking together the entire 3 Days. 

I had a pretty amazing support team.  Stu and Michael picked me up every day from camp so that I could spend the night in the hotel with them.  Call me a wussy because I opted out of camping - but I enjoyed spending the time with them.  And they totally pampered me.  Brought me meals.  And Icy Hot.  And Blister Band-ads.  Very sweet.  They were at most of the cheering stations.  I looked forward to seeing them at every opportunity.   I needed that connection.  I needed their hugs.  And high-fives.  I needed their love to keep me going.

And keep me going they did.  Along with my mom and dad and my family members and friends.  I couldn't have done the walk without so much support.

I was tired at the end of the walk.  But felt really good about the big accomplishment.  I came home on a big high.  Like I could do anything.  And so, I signed up again for the walk this October, 2009.  With nary a thought turned toward the 6 blisters on my left foot.  Or the pain in my knees on the last day.  Forgot all about those things.  I recruited more people to join me. I was glad to be walking with a team.  Cute t-shirts.  Tent decorations.  A team name.  

And then when the unthinkable happened, I knew that I wouldn't be able to complete the walk this year.  Michael was such a big part of my experience last year that I couldn't imagine doing it again without him.  I didn't want to imagine it.  His little face was what kept me going when I thought I couldn't go any further. 

But then my sweet husband reminded me of how proud Michael was of me walking. How he talked about cheering me on again this year.  How he was my trainer and would come in while I was on the treadmill and tell me to hustle it up.  Walk harder.  Faster.  Stronger.   How he wanted to complete the walk with me when he was older.  How we would be a great team.  

And now he can't.
But I can.

I am going to participate in this walk.  I imagine that Michael will be with me at every step of the way.   I made a promise to do it.  And Michael was adament that promises always be kept. Because otherwise you were lying.  and we. do. not. lie.  It was a rule of the house. (Alongside the rule of never talking to Mommy during Biggest Loser... ahem)

So I am in.  It will be hard.  I will cry.  I will talk of quitting.  But I am determined to push forward.  For my Michael.  For my Grams.  And for me.

Want to join me?
Click here to go to my donation page:  http://www.the3day.org/goto/jenndooley

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

thoughts on geico...

"I'd just do what Pa says - Flick off his eyes and take the money".
Michael, after spring break with his Pa and Nana (April 2009)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

model. model.

Because I need a laugh today...

I love reality shows.  That won't surprise most.  I don't watch the more mainstream shows like American Idol or Dancing with the Stars.  No ... I watch Rock of Love, and Charm School and Big Brother.  Only the classiest for me.   I also am a fan of Biggest Loser and any of the Real Housewives or Top Whatevers on Bravo.  

Michael liked to watch {some} of these shows with me.  I didn't so much let him watch all of these shows ... as they are a bit on the ... um ... scandelous side of things.  But he would watch Top Chef or Project Runway or Biggest Loser with me.  And he liked the cartoon Total Drama Island, which is like a reality show.   For the smaller set.

Michael was asked to write about Rules for his the Writing portion of the FCAT.  He told me that he wrote that one of the rules in our house was "that no one could talk to Mommy while she watched Biggest Loser".  I wasn't that strict ... I would totally chat during commercials.  Sheesh.  (I'm hoping to get a copy of this writing ... it is not a typical request, but I am hoping to see it.  I can only imagine the other rules he might have written about.)

Anyway, I thought I would share these two pictures.  These are his model/runway walk photos.  You can tell two things:  1.  I took tons of pictures of my kid.  I used to say he was the least photogenic kid ever (don't believe me?  check out all of those school pictures for the past few  years!).  I would take hundreds of pictures to get one that I liked.  He was a pretty good sport, but obviously liked to spice things up a bit.  2.  We practiced our runway walks and end poses in the house.  Especially with first day of school outfits.  Hilarious.    Michael was pretty good at the posing.  As evidenced by these two photos.  

My boy.  Totally hip.

Heaven's Next Top Model?

Monday, June 01, 2009

differences. similarities.

Some friends of ours had a baby the same week that Michael left us.  Their little one arrived on a Monday.  Our little one left us on a Thursday. 

It is interesting to me the similarities that I have encountered with these seemingly very different life events.  As they are preparing for life with a baby, we are preparing for life without.  

But we both have received meatloafs.  And chicken casseroles from friends.  Both of our families receive cards.  And the thoughts from many. 

They picked out a going home from the hospital outfit.  I picked an outfit for burial.  

Both of our families are struggling with sleep.  They don't sleep because the baby cries.  I don't sleep because I cry.  And routines.  They are establishing routines while I am fighting against a routine.  Because routine means that the world continues to spin.

They measure their little one's age in weeks.  I measure my loss in weeks.  And soon those will turn to months.  And then years with half years sprinkled in to measure time.  

They will document firsts.  I struggle through firsts.  And lasts.  And then will struggle when firsts become seconds.    They will lament the fact that time goes by quickly.  That their baby is growing up.  I will agree with them.  That time goes by quickly.  They will wish for time to stand still ... for their little one to stop growing.  I will agree.  And wish for time to reverse.  To get my baby back.  And to treasure each moment. To document it so that I don't forget even the tiniest of detail.

They look forward.  I look back.  
They think of what will be.  I think of what could have been.