Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day.  Advertisers are offering golf packages, dress shirts or steak dinners. Hallmark is hustling cards.  Sons of dads will pick up the phone to say hello and I love you and I miss you.  Daughters are holding the hands of their fathers, thanking them.  And in many ways it is just another day passed on the calendar, a box checked, a blip in time – a hot summer day with the sun shining bright.  But in December, my dad died.  So, it’s different this year, left remembering his story instead of making new stories with him.

On that day my dad died, we got our first big snow of the season.  I stood later looking at the calendar, seeing that the first day of winter was still days away, and calling BS on it – because the cold, dark season came early.  Like every winter, we knew it was coming.  But that just doesn’t make it any easier.  Winter is always surprising and chilling and relentless.  I remember a moment more than several years ago, sitting at my parents’ kitchen counter next to him while my dad talked candidly about having COPD, telling me that it would surely shorten his life.  At my discontented sadness, his response was: “You didn’t think I’d be around forever, did you?”  It would be foolish to think so, foolish to expect this fatherless Father’s Day would never come.

I have at times been foolish enough to envision a life in which my dad could teach my son all of the things he had taught me, like how to hold a pencil and direct it on paper into a vanishing point.  I could see us gathered – the three of us – around our stamp book, gluing them in together – watching Lucas with sticky fingers and happy eyes, side-by-side with his special, artistic, gentle grandpa.  Mike would teach Lucas the mechanics of a baseball game – of a pitch.  While my dad would teach him the mechanics of an engine, how getting dirty could be a beautiful art. He was supposed to be a part of the tribe that would build a man out of a little boy.

But COPD gave way to Cancer, that scary, heartless thief.  The first bout was matter of fact; Dad would have surgery followed by treatment.  But the surgery stole a lung and for the next six years my dad would walk around with his one heart and one lung: lighter yet heavier.  He decreasingly used his talents – his hands – a loss almost bigger than the actual loss of his breathe.  As he slowed down the world sped up, and three years later the Cancer came back – as it does. It was a black veil over his lung, his body, and us.  Shortly after, he walked me down the aisle, a trip I’d always feared I would make without him.  And for our daddy-daughter dance he chose the song “My Girl” because he always said I was his favorite girl.  Three more years flipped on the calendar and there was something on a scan, and my dad in the hospital. They couldn’t fix it this time, but in the notebook I kept of Lucas’ first year, I had noted on that day: “He said everything would be ok.”  It’s something dads tell their daughers.

In the midst of it all, our Lucas was born. We raised an infant and my dad got to be a grandpa.  This story can’t be written without him: Lucas’ first months on earth so intertwined with the last of my dad’s.  Our son was our sun, our single light shining in a dark room, proof that there is still beauty in death, in the contrast of a new life reflected against the end of one.  But our son will never know his grandpa.  It is a loss so unfair – a boy with one less superhero.  I want it so badly for him: the handmade cards each birthday – signed “grandfather”, a crude cutout construction paper “2” when he turns two, a note stuck in his car when he turns 16, probably with a few bucks for gas.  “Thanks for visiting.”  or  “Let’s do lunch some time.”  Though he can’t know his grandpa, his grandpa knew him.  My dad got to hold his grandson, to watch him learn to roll over and crawl and laugh.  He was always trying to push him into the next thing, helping him stand and encouraging him to walk and “say mama…say mama…”  It was like he wanted Lucas to grow up faster, to condense time into all that was left for my dad.

He was on hospice in the end, with nurses to check up on him and my mom – his wife of 40+ years – his everyday nurse.  And we were there, too: his daughter, his son, his son-in-law, his grandson, and his granddog – all making up the little army that marched slowly on with him.  We were there when and how we could be, having been granted the time to say what we needed to say, to repeat goodbyes.  I have quiet moments next to him, not knowing what to say.  I have the last conversations, the chances to tell him I am sorry and to accept his apologies.   I have the lasting mental images of my husband and brother carrying dad’s weight when he could no longer carry his own, of my mom upholding the vows that noone wants to face – in sickness and health and until death do us part – all with patient love.  I’m proud of us, doing the best we could, walking along with grief already next to us.  And I am proud of my dad. How impossibly hard it must have been to let us help him, to feel his body fail, to face that and the end.

My dad had this old clock that had to be wound each week with a little key. Every Sunday we wound it – to keep time going. But he left us.  And I was left with trying to put together the words to describe him, who he was as I saw him, and what he meant to me and how this world might be without him.  I said much of what I have written here at his funeral service, six months ago. I described him as a personality full of contradictions, somehow always everything he was at the same time he wasn’t.  That he could be downright mean, yet exceedingly thoughtful, or quick to anger yet mindful and patient.  He could be hard to live with but he was so easy to love.  He was witty, funny and quirky – he’d make you laugh at unexpected moments with unexpected thoughts.  He didn’t think like other people and saw the world in a way no one else could. He was creative and talented, using his gifts to leave behind pieces of him wherever he went, while never bragging or acting superior.  He was kind and loving, always with a sincere smile.  He was generous and giving.  He was a McGuyver who could fix anything, or build anything, and never said “No, I can’t do that.” He was so much more than I can manage to capture, and it was impossible then and it is impossible still now, to contain him in the few words I could and can muster: this unique and talented man who also happened to be my dad.  It feels like so much more than a loss to me and us, but to all those parts of the world around him he could have still touched. His was an average life made important and meaningful in his meticulous projects. I envy that he has left behind so much of himself and can only hope to one day be thought of as he was – as creative and artistic, hard around the edges but soft on the inside.

My dad was all these things, and he was an alcoholic.  Before he died I had the chance to sit down and interview him, to record his words so that Lucas could someday hear him talk and know him even a little bit.  I asked him how he would want to be remembered, and after a few thoughts he suggested: “remember the good and the bad, all of it.”  But, the bad usually and conveniently gets left out.  When someone dies you don’t want to recount the bad stuff, the imperfections and flaws. Yet it feels dishonest to omit it. The truth is, he drank through my formative years, during the time when I needed him most, when my self-worth and confidence were shaping.  He was mean.  He was scary, and home was scary – an uncomfortable truth.  My alcoholic dad was a son of an alcoholic, his future self also formed out of dysfunction and fear.  It’s part of his story; it created mine.  Somewhere in there he helped raise us; while mom worked he stayed home with us, making us cheese and cracker lunches and helping assemble the Hot Wheel track. And then when I was 16 he got sober for good, making the year he died the same year he got his 20 year chip.  So, it is a success story: the bad turned to good, a weakness turned to strength.  I had twenty good years with my dad and that has to be enough because it is all I was given.  Perhaps the before and after – the contrast between his two lives – makes the time we had that much sweeter to me. He wasn’t perfect, but he was ours – always mine as much as I was his.

When I was a kid my dad would inexplicably take an old dictionary and use it to look up unusual occupations and write the word for it on a card, sitting on the kitchen counter for me to find and look up – like Ornathologist or Wainwright.  Now I’m left with that dictionary, a leaf flattened within it that he placed under L for leaf so it could be found later.  I am left with this and other things: his coin collection, a basket he built, his letters and cards, money he had handed me that I can’t bring myself to spend because he will never give me more.  And I have the Cramer ears, my dad’s ears.  These goofy, big Dumbo things that stick out too far.  I have always hated them and hid them.  But, I remember one day looking into the mirror and thinking that some day they would be all I would have left of my dad.  I have these things, but not him.  How I miss his hugs, his twinkly blue eyes, his presence.  How I miss his misspelled words, his goofy emails signed OVER.  How I wish I could have some time back, to know him more and to let him know me more.  How I hate this grief, that I have to have it.  How long and unfair this remainder of my life will be lived without him.

My dad was a man of few words, and not big on advice. There are only a few things he repeated to me over and over, one of which was to “ask God for help.” He also would direct me towards the “24 Hours a Day” book used in AA – or as we called it the One-Day-At-A-Time book – to read the daily devotional for inspiration and guidance. On the day he died, part of the message in it was this: Most of us have had to live through the dark part of our lives, the time of failure, the nighttime of our lives, when we were full of struggle and care, worry and remorse, when we felt deeply the tragedy of life. And this, my dad’s and our story is just that: a nighttime of our lives, full of struggle and care. And though true it seems too sad and too personal to share here, sandwiched among blog posts about our wedding and our newborn, our home renovations and our vacations. No one wants to think about dying; I should have written about dad farting in public and blaming it on barking spiders, or of how he would buy Ryan and me a toy every Christmas well into our 30s because “everyone should get a toy on Christmas.” But for now there is still a fresh wound there, a gaping hole where my dad used to be. It is always sad for those of us left behind, trying to know and accept life differently, trying to find new framework for Father’s Day and every other holiday.  As someone just said to me, holidays are hard without those who make them special.

My dad’s sweet story came to a close, but ours keeps going.  So, we will find new meaning in Father’s Day.  I will watch Mike, my husband, be a dad – teach Lucas things unique to him and them, make memories that no one else could.  He will find his own ways to embarrass his son, to love him, to discipline him.  He will screw up, make the wrong choices, doing it sometimes perfectly and sometimes imperfectly.  He will be a dad that Lucas can love as fiercely as I’ve loved my dad.  And I get to walk beside him in this new chapter of our lives.  As that little book went on to say:  The night of the past is gone, the day is ours.  Happy Father’s Day to my dad who has moved on.  I’ll tell your story when I can and how I can, let you live in my memories, in my own actions and talents.  And oh how it goes without saying that I will love and miss you always.  And a happy Father’s Day to my husband who will be with me for the rest of our time here.  I look forward to parenting Lucas with you.  You will be a new model of fatherhood, a dad for me to watch and admire, and to love. 







Lucas Wright, the beginning


In an ideal (super mom) world, the birth of our baby boy would have lead to a steady stream of blog posts, starting with a fancy birth announcement (that all the websites told us to get ready before the birth of the baby), and ending oh I don’t know, sometime around his leaving for college.  Instead, our little bundle is on the verge of his half-birthday and this stupor mom hasn’t even mustered up a photo slideshow to post here.

I guess that whilst staring down maternity leave I had the delusion many FTM’s (translation for those not constantly surfing mommy forums: first time moms) probably have: “hello to you, all the time I’ve always wanted to achieve all the things I’ve always wanted to achieve.”  I mean, yeah, I knew there’d be this little human that would require a chunk of my time, but I hear they sleep all day, and “all day” is exactly how much time I need for all of those to-dos. Then of course reality (a baby bomb) hit and the to-do list remains untouched and this blog glaringly empty.

Little dude is now well beyond two tiny feet out of his 4th trimester, I am back to work (and he into daycare) and life tumbles on around us as we follow along.  So, away we go with my introspective retrospective.

Lucas is one-of-a-kind and amazing and a blessing and all of those things people say he’d be.  But, getting him here was the total pits.  All birth stories, great or small, quick or lengthy, pain-full or pain-free start with a plan gone to shit.  When baby T didn’t arrive on or around his due date of April 7, doc wanted to induce me and I was completely crestfallen.  But, I reluctantly went along with the plan and on induction-Eve, April 13th, Mike and I buzzed around the house cleaning up (last chance for chores before baby takes over!)  Just as I was firing up the vacuum, my water broke (or I peed my pants, it was a toss-up at first) and the clock started ticking on our little guy’s impending arrival.


Bird’s eye view:  I was in labor for 2 days before Lucas Wright entered the world on April 15 at 9:09pm.

Gnats eye view:  Though my water broke, no other action really happened for me, so I ultimately was induced anyway.  When that didn’t progress me far enough, and with a rising fever affecting both me and baby boy, doc opted for C-Section and Lucas had his first birthday party a mere 20 minutes later.

Mike’s eye view (buyer beware): In our birthing classes we learned how labor would be a long, slow process, and that we should labor at home with music and a bath, while Mike rubbed my lower back and I sucked on popsicles.  Once at the hospital, we could expect long walks through the hallways or bouncing on a yoga ball to our calming music playlist.

In reality, I was strapped to a machine from the word “go” with both a fetal and a mama monitor, and as time went on I got even more tethers.  Walking the hall would’ve entailed a bucket under me and a gang of residents along side me to carry all my cables and monitors.  I never saw a yoga ball and the only time I sat on something outside of the hospital bed was when the nurse suggested I try the rocking chair – an uncomfortable failure that led to me standing over it (leaning over it, and also…totally over it).  I put off the epidural as long as possible, trying some alternative methods, but when I finally broke down (because, seriously, how long will this go on?) I still had to ring the drug dude back at some point because “oh hey, still feeling the pain here, folks.”  I don’t remember a single relaxing zen-like moment, and I got poked, prodded and violated so many different times in so many different ways, I left the hospital no longer squeamish about needles.  I would have welcomed a simple poke to the arm if they would just quit going elbow deep up my hoo-ha.

In the aforementioned birthing class, when we got the portion covering induction and C-Section, I doodled on my handouts…  Not interested in those!  Turns out this was the most realistic portion of the class (for me, and for like a third of women giving birth) and I should have been tuned-in, because two days into an induction I didn’t want, I had to have a C-Section I didn’t want.


I’ve heard it a dozen times: “your healthy baby arrived safely into the world so what more could you ask?”  While well-meaning comments for sure, a hormonal post-surgery, post-trauma mama bristles at that nonchalant outlook.  If I had written this blog a few months ago (you know, when I started to write it), I would have had even more to say about how difficult it is to grieve the birth you wanted, about how it can feel like a real failure to spend 48 hours struggling for something your body just won’t cooperate with.  I felt strongly not just that my body had let me down, but that I had somehow failed.  I felt as if I were broken, unable to achieve what so many other women can and have.

On top of it, Lucas has eczema and a dairy/soy protein intolerance – both things I blamed most surely on his C-Section birth and the fact that he’d had to have antibiotics for his first few days on the planet because of the fever we both had.  I spent some time dwelling on that.  But, with more miles of time spread behind me and between me and our baby’s arrival, the feelings of failure and inadequacy have faded slightly.  I expect that there will be so many new ways to feel inadequate as Lucas grows and changes.


Like every new parent before us, after a few nurse-aided nights in the hospital we were released to care for our new bundle on our own.  During those early weeks Lucas and I cried in tandem.  Since it was our first go at this whole baby thing, it is hard for me to say what was normal newborn stuff and what wasn’t, but we had some rough times.  Had I archived my Google search history, you’d see a long long list of baby-raising inquires resembling this:  “what to do when baby won’t sleep,”  “is green poo normal,” “feed baby one side or both sides?” “how long should 1 mo old nap,” “baby crying at breast,” “baby sleeping while eating,” “newborn won’t stop crying,” “can I give newborn gas drops,” “baby hates sleep,” “2 mo old routine?” “what is a normal amount of crying for an infant?” “baby always pees on me,” “butt rash won’t go away,” “when will c-section pain end,” “stabbing pains after c-section,”and on and on.  I read all the Google things, mostly in the middle of the night, mostly leading to conflicting advice, and most of which gave me nothing much but an illusion of a little bit of control during those blurry-eyed months.  I was a mama in pain, with a fussy baby, and out of control emotions of sadness, frustration, anger (mostly towards all of those well-meaning moms who lent me advice like “just put him in a swing!” which seriously, never f-ing worked) and resentment towards the hubs who (according to post-partum me) got to resume normal life while I mucked along.  It is not all adorable photo-ops.

Lucas and I were both insufferable.  But, we eventually climbed out of the dark cave we were in, and just as he got super cool (though always super cute), my maternity leave was up and we said goodbye to our little daily routine (“routine” used loosely), and Lucas is building a new routine (again, used so very loosely) at daycare.  We are living our new normal.  And as life marches on, I hope to retain snapshots of all those simple but precious moments.  The first night in the hospital, when I couldn’t get myself out of bed and couldn’t reach Mike to get his attention – wanting him to come check on our new bundle and make sure he was breathing.  The late night feedings, just me and him most times – feeling so exhausted yet not wanting to put him down.  The way he’d put his tiny hands in front of his face while he fed, or the smirks he makes when he is falling asleep.  First baths.  That he would get the hiccups often and for long bouts.  How after being swaddled all night, his perfect arms would unfurl into a stretch when unleashed.  Tiny outfits.  Walks with the stroller.  Day naps together.  The first coos, sighs and chatter- the sweetest noises an ear could hear.  That toothless smile.  Studying his face while he observes things around him, or a book in front of him, or his first look at a cartoon (Garfield), mouth agape.  Accidentally catching his first time rolling over on video and how it brought tears to my eyes for some crazy reason.  Our little escape artist, breaking out of his swaddle every night.  So many things I am already forgetting.  Watching Mike with him, and seeing my parents as grandparents.  Seeing how he’s changed us all.


The most commonly asked question of this new mom is (besides, “how you sleeping?!”) is “Is it what you expected?”  So I’ve said it a million times over:  I never expected to love him so much.  Mike and I didn’t know if we even wanted kids for a while, and what if he arrived and we found out we really didn’t want kids?  Turns out that pendulum swings way to the other side, and we couldn’t possibly want him any more or love him any harder.  The biggest hidden secret of bringing a baby into the world, often unspoken by all mamas out there, is the ridiculously overwhelming instalove.  It is withheld probably only because it’s impossible to explain – this uberjoy brought on by a tiny human that you’ve known for only a few seconds, days, week and months.  I loved him from the second I saw his tiny purple body, and I will love to continue to re-see this world through his curious eyes.

So all of these words can really be boiled down to this simple fact: birthing was hard, and recovering was hard, and learning how to do this whole thing is hard…  but loving is easy.

A very belated welcome to this world, Lucas Wright Trosien!







A Baby Shower

Back in January Mike and I had our baby shower, hosted by one of baby’s future grandmas – mom Cramer.  Thanks to her for putting it together and to everyone who could attend and help shower baby T.

Here are a few photos from that day – going on three months ago – as we now wait for the little one to arrive any day!

Baby Shower Photos

PS I wanted you to be able to view the photos right here on our site, but this blog and Flickr are both smarter than me and nothing is working anymore.  If you’ve visited our photo gallery you’ve found a big fat nothing in there, too.  What the…!?!   I can’t fix it right now, so please just click on through to Flickr and enjoy.

39 weeks + 4 days



So, what’s there to say about being pregnant that hasn’t already been said?  I’ve read it all (or a lot of it), thanks to the internet, phone Apps, and a few good old fashioned books.  But, at a near-40 weeks, here’s a little commentary on my own experience.

Let’s just get down to business…  The worst of it:

  • From weeks 5, when the morning sickness hit, until week 17, when it mercifully moved along, I thought pregnancy was the worst thing to ever happen to me.  It lasted all day every day and was at its worst in the evenings.  I found out what it was like to throw up everything from pears (the worst) to PB&J (so gross) to Jimmy John’s.  Just kidding – Jimmy J’s was the only thing I didn’t throw up.  (Freaky fast and stomach-friendly, apparently!)  I tried everything the Google had to offer for curbing it:  Saltines, ginger, lots of small meals, Sprite, eating before getting out of bed, water, up the protein, lemon candies, Sea-bands, Unisom paired with Vitamin B6…  I tried them all and none of them did one damn thing.  Good freaking luck to any of you mamas out there trying to get some relief.  It doesn’t exist and your life is over until it’s not.  Oh, and you’re at your worst and looking not pregnant but fat, all while trying to hide it from everyone that you’re knocked up?  Good luck with that.
  • Cravings?  Not really.  But in the beginning I hated the smell of coffee and Mike’s deodorant.  And one time he burped and made me throw up.  Honestly, that first trimester is the devil.
  • Immune system shmimmune system.  I hardly have one anyway, but when I came down with a cold/sinus-crap at around 7 months I couldn’t kick it for 6 weeks.  Pregnant AND sick?  Oh joy!
  • Second Trimester is supposed to be a honeymoon, but I had middle back pain around 20-25 weeks and couldn’t find much relief outside of some lumbar support and massages from the hubs.  Oh, and PS maybe take some Tylenol, Cristin, but also maybe your child will come out with ADD and hypochondria and three arms.  And a tattoo.
  • But yeah yeah…  so what, everyone has aches and pains.  What’s the worst worst thing about pregnancy?  People.  First, you tell them you are pregnant and surprise THEY ALL ALREADY KNEW.  They each want to enlighten you with just which moment really screamed “with child” to them, whether it was your growing waistline (gee, thanks for noticing), the bag of Cheerios you carried around (maybe I just like Cheerios, ok?), the lack of coffee cup in your hand (people actually notice this?) or the fact that you turned down some booze (so, you’re saying I’m normally a lush…).  Then, pregnancy is just an endless influx of “advice.”  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate advice when it is actual advice.  As in, “Hey, you should check out this superspecial baby-care item that saved my life with my baby, and maybe you’d like it, too!”  I know nothing, so please do tell me all your secrets.  But, hard-pass on the advice that sounds a lot more like “Oh you just wait until THIS happens to you,” or a command like “Don’t ever buy that item, buy this item.”  Just because at week 30 you grew a beard doesn’t mean I am going to (totally didn’t) or though your labor lasted 47 hours doesn’t mean mine will (please God, no) and though you had a baby and thus never left the house again doesn’t mean I won’t.  GAK.  Oh, and the endless requests to reveal the name?  Don’t even get me started.
  • I’m sounding super complainy, so I won’t get into the inability to breathe, the fatigue and the heartburn.  Hardly noticed those.

The best:

  • The best thing about being pregnant?  The people.  Yeah, they’re maddening much of the time, but they’re also super supportive and interested in your well-being.  Never have I been asked so many times, “how you feeling?”  The girls at work sometimes snuck me breakfasts and asked me to choose lunch, because I am the pregnant one, afterall.  And, strangers actually smile at you occasionally.  It’s totally not a bad gig.  Friends and family have expressed such love and kindness, some from which I’d have never expected it.  And you know what?  Not one stranger has asked to touch my belly, so that phenomenon is a total myth in my world, but when they ask me how far along I am and follow up after my response with a “wow, you look great!”  THAT I can get behind.
  • Feeling the little guy move around in there has been surprisingly sweet and comforting.  He’s gentle, too, so I’ve never had to give his little foot a shove out of my ribcage.
  • And, honestly, there are a lot of pregnancy-induced ailments I didn’t get, so I’m most definitely grateful for that.
  • Lastly, this is where I say how the best thing of all is that it’s all worth it because in the end we’re rewarded with an angel baby unlike any other baby in the world, whom is the best thing that ever happened to me and makes my clock tick.  But I haven’t met him yet, so I’ll withhold any gushing until he at least has a name.  (No, he doesn’t have a name yet, people!!).