Maria Had Two Moms

Mother’s day means so many different things to me. When my mother was present, it was her day. As a kid, I’d make a gift out of painted pasta and she’d fawn over it like it was Michelangelo’s David. As I grew, I bought cards, perfumes and piano-themed gifts. I’d always ask how her piano students liked the new wall art or knickknacks and she’d always tell me they loved them.

In my teens, I filled cards with heartfelt words and bought her flowers or Russell Stover chocolates with nuts. I tried to go practical as I got older, but she shopped nearly every day, so she was hard to buy for. As her Alzheimer’s started to kick in, I saw her awareness window closing fast, so I sent practical gifts and more heartfelt cards. I knew there would soon be a time that she couldn’t read or understand them. When those inevitable days came, I tried musical cards. I figured she’d notice the noise. I stopped sending gifts. She didn’t need anything. She sat at the dining room table all day, ripping up paper, shrieking or sleeping.

She was gone for eight years before she died, a year and a half ago. Last May was the first Mother’s Day I didn’t need to send a card.

During the 13 years of my mother’s illness, I remarried and had my first child. Rose never met her Yaya. By the time she was born, Yaya was so far gone she wouldn’t have acknowledged Rose’s presence, much less understood that she was her granddaughter. Rose was almost two when she visited my parents’ house the first time, for my mother’s funeral.

My mom had her parental shortcomings, but I got as close to her as she’d allow, and she was my go-to parent. And it was so hard to see her go the way she did. By the time she died, all of my grieving was over and I thanked God that she could now reunite with the soul she’d lost long ago.

I thought I’d done my grieving, but last Mother’s Day made me realize how much I missed her.

But a funny thing happened after that.

I got a letter from the adoption agency that had placed me with my parents. My birth mother wanted to meet me. Three weeks after that sad Mother’s Day, we talked for the first time. I had wanted that experience my whole life. I always wondered if she thought about me. I always felt the grief of abandonment.

It turned out that my birth mother had wanted to keep me, but her parents forbade it. She’d wanted to marry my birth father and make a family, but they wouldn’t allow it. She told me the real story of how I came to be. And last year, on my birthday, she called me, and told me the story of the day I was born. Most kids take that story for granted, but I’d never had it, and hearing it was the second best birthday gift ever. The year before, Rose took her first steps right before my birthday and beat her to the punch.

When I got pregnant the first time, I wished someone could walk me through the morning sickness, the emotionality, the fatigue – someone who’d been through it. Even if my mother was lucid at the time, she’d never been pregnant, so she couldn’t have helped me there. So it was a lucky coincidence that I was pregnant with my son the first time I spoke to my birth mother. She offered me was a camaraderie that child-bearers have shared for millennia. I was grateful for that. And I was able to offer her a first and second grandchild.

When Rose started preschool, the other moms would talk about how they were coping with motherhood, and I remember one lamenting a lack of emotional support from her mother. At least you’ve got a mother to ask, I’d thought, I don’t even have that. I would never have imagined that a couple of years later, I’d have a brand-new mother.

I’m really grateful for my relationship with my birth mother. Adoptee reunions don’t always turn out like mine. I’m one of the lucky ones. Not only did I have a mom to raise me, now I have a mom to guide me through parenthood. I had given up on finding my birth mom years ago. I never imagined anything like this. I met my birth father too, — don’t want to leave him out — but I’m saving his story for Father’s day.

So this year, when I send my Mother’s Day card, I’m back to writing heartfelt messages. But most importantly, I have a place to send it.

Prologue: Another Mother

Robert flipped over a bucket of sand as he dropped the bomb. “You had another mother,” he said. We were four years old.

I patted the top of his castle. “Yeah, my GRAND-mother!” I laughed.

“Nooo,” he said, green eyes grave.

I didn’t know what Robert meant. I tossed the idea around as I dug a moat. When his mother called him, I went inside and asked my parents. We sat around the table and my mother said, “Yes, Honey, Robert is right. We adopted you.” They told me the story. My “Other Mother” was 17 when she had me, and because she was so young, couldn’t care for me, so she gave me up and my parents had hand-picked me. “We wanted a girl, and you were Greek, too, so you were perfect for us.”

I had another mother. I wondered what she looked like, where she was, if she cared about me. As I grew, I developed a picture of this swarthy teenaged girl in the hospital, her face sweaty and strained, pushing. “It’s a girl!” the doctor said.

“Ok, take it away,” she waved her hand.

Although my parents strove to convince me that they wanted me, I never grew out of feeling abandoned. My mom’s idea of affection was a dry peck on the cheek or a split-second hug. I can count the number of times my father’s met my gaze on one hand. We never said “I love you.” The closest my parents got to that was, “We love you, but…” when I was in trouble.

Growing up, I would cry in the dark, sending thoughts out to my “Other Mother.” Why did you have to give me up? You were young but didn’t you love me? You can still come and get me. I’ll be good. I’ll help you. We can do it together. Please come!

The woman who bore me became my own Greek myth. I never thought I’d see another face like mine, or unlock that door. That piece of me – Who am I? Where did I come from? – left a huge hole in my life. I thought if my “Other Mother” only knew what my life was like, she’d come get me. I used to imagine that she was famous – Jaclyn Smith from “Charlie’s Angels.”

Since I played Dorothy in our first-grade production of “The Wiz”, I wanted to be “A famous woman.” My parents talked about famous people all the time. I thought if I could be famous, people would listen to me.

First I wanted to be an actress. When I was nine, I wrote to ABC-TV in New York, asking them to put me on a show. They sent a very nice form letter explaining that production companies, not networks, sought actors, and that I should contact some of those. I bugged my mother to take me to auditions, but she said that she didn’t want to be a stage mother. I acted in school productions but nothing came of it.

When we stopped doing plays in school, I started writing them so that I could act. I showed the plays to my parents. My mom would get excited and share the plays with relatives. My dad would say, “Very nice, very nice.” But they read every word. When I tried to tell them something out loud, my father would interrupt. My mother would appear to listen, then reach over, maybe brush my bangs, and say, “You need a haircut.” But they focused their full attention on my written words, so I kept writing.

“Maybe you’ll be a famous author,” my mom would say. And way in the back of my head, I thought that if I became an actress or an author, my “real” mother would see me, say, “That’s her!” and find me. She and I would live happily ever after.

As I grew, my dreams became more realistic. Thanks to my high school English teacher’s dire warnings against studying English, I abandoned the idea and the practice of writing by the time I went to college. My experiences shaped me, and I revived the writing dream at 25, but I never abandoned the hope of learning my personal prologue.

Four months ago, my husband handed me an envelope from the adoption agency that placed me with my parents. It had been 10 years since I’d tried to search for my birth parents. At the time, I’d put my name on the New York State Adoption Registry, and they said if there was a match, they’d let me know. I didn’t get a match but they did send me a document that offered some details about my birth parents. I accepted it as a sparse but sufficient story of my life.

And now somebody was looking for me. I read the letter Saturday, and spent two days wondering who it was, hoping it wasn’t a scam, and if not, that my long-lost blood relative didn’t want a kidney. I called the agency and they said that

my birth mother wanted to make contact. Jackpot! My birth mother. My mythological heroine. Did I want to meet her? the social worker asked. “Absolutely,” I said. “I’ve been thinking about this all my life.” They would send a form for me to sign and then they would exchange our information.

I signed and notarized the consent form the same Friday I got it. It takes four business days for mail to get from Seattle to New York. I waited. I thought maybe my birth mother had balked. The following Thursday, I called the agency. I couldn’t wait any longer. Expecting to hear they were still waiting, my head felt numb as I hung up, looking at the name, address, phone and email I’d written on the back of an expense report. How did I want to make initial contact? they’d asked. Email was safest. If Brad Paisley is cooler online, I’m cooler in writing. This way I could think about what to say beforehand, instead of breaking into tears with a stranger on the phone.

I crafted a detailed email. Seeing my screen through the blur of tears, I told her all the things I’d want to know if I’d never met my daughter. Rose’s laugh is my favorite sound in the world. I told her that I laugh long and loud, no matter where I am. I told her my first word was “kiri” – candle in Greek, when I was a year old. I told her I got straight A’s in school and made the gifted program, then got ejected for writing a trashy teen soap opera. I told her I that I’d married the

love of my life and had a two-year-old daughter and a son on the way. And I told her that though I was happy now, growing up was fairly tragic. I told her not to feel bad, because I’d finally triumphed over the obstacles I’d encountered.

The next morning, I booted up and she’d already emailed me. She said she’d never stopped thinking about me, not for a day. She said she was so grateful for the gift of contact. She said she always loved me. I cried. I could not have hoped for a better introduction.

I sent her the email, and directed her to my blog as a convenient window into my life, past and present. I’d written about some pretty serious issues in it – sexual abuse, emotional abuse, my crazy family. I told her to focus on the positive, that triumph was my life’s theme.

During our first phone call, she said that she was nervous, but conversation flowed. She was just as emotionally honest as I was, and we talked and laughed. We had no awkward moments. She told me that she and my birth father had been high school sweethearts and planned to marry. When she got pregnant, her parents sequestered her in Queens, and then sent her to a home for unwed mothers uptown. They were Greek. He was Cuban and therefore unacceptable. She wanted to keep me but knew she couldn’t care for me. Her adopted best friend lived a charmed life, so she thought her baby would have the same great experience. She loved me since she’d carried me and she gave me up but never gave up thinking about me. All those nights I wondered if she was out there, did she think of me? She did. And if she’d only known, she would have come.

Since the first phone call, we’ve talked every few days. She says all the mom things I’ve always longed to hear. She’s proud of me. She loves me. She can’t wait to meet her grandchildren. My mother died last October after suffering 13 years of Alzheimer’s disease. I never thought I’d get a second chance at having a mother. But I did. And I’ve given her a second chance at being my mom.

The Spins of the Father

My father’s visiting next week. He’s been threatening to visit since summer, before Christian was born. Before that, he was talking about going to Argentina with my cousin, to visit some relatives there. I was all for it, but my cousin has a job and a family and he couldn’t commit to a date. My dad also refused to pay 200 dollars a night for a hotel room, although they probably would have shared the room and the expense.

He told me he didn’t know why my cousin wanted to go, because he was closer to those relatives than my cousin. I stifled a laugh on that call. My father’s never shared enough of himself to be close to anyone. His job once sent him to assertiveness training. He said the class was ok but he didn’t want to participate because people were using examples from their own lives, and “I’m not gonna do that, in front of everybody!”

Once the Argentina trip fell apart, he started saying he wanted to come here. I worried he’d want to come right away. I was pregnant. The last time he saw me pregnant, he called me obese. Now I’m obese, but I wasn’t then. At the time that I saw him I was six months along with Rose and had only gained 16 pounds.

So I tried to put him off, but it turned out I didn’t have to. Someone at the Senior Center must have suggested that he wait to see his new grandchild. So I got a stay of execution. After Christian was born, I told him we were very busy and he accepted that. I knew I’d have to acquiesce sometime, but I wanted some time to lose weight before he saw me, so I wouldn’t have to hear his nasty comments.

Then he started trying to pin down dates. Fortunately we had a few people stay with us after the baby came so I told him we were having houseguests. But we finally ran out of excuses and he started to shop for a plane ticket.

That was an ordeal in itself. My dad knows very little about using his computer, and he hasn’t traveled since the 90s. Back then, we still had travel agents and they would find the best price and get us our ticket. Now we buy tickets online. Somehow my father knew that – maybe it was his computer class at the center, maybe it was seeing that little gnome on TV – so he attempted to get a ticket online. But the travel websites baffled him.

He called me, “What do I do when I get on to Travelocity?”

“You click on ‘Flight’ and enter your cities and dates,” I said.

“Where do I enter my cities?”

“Where it says ‘Locations and Dates.’”

“Where does it say that?”

“On the ‘Flight’ page.”

“Where’s the ‘Flight’ page?”

“I think you should go to the Senior Center and have them help you.”

“Naaah, they don’t know anything there,” he said.

“Ok, well you find the ‘flight’ page, click on it, and enter your cities or airports and your dates and then click ‘search flights.’”

“Where’s the ‘Flight’ page?”

“Are you on there now?”

“No.”

“Call me back when you’re at the site.”

“What number do I put in to get there?”

What address did you put in before? Sigh. “Www.travelocity.com”

“How do you spell that?”

A few days later he called me back. “Can you buy me the tickets and I’ll pay you back?”

“I can’t be charging things to my credit card.”

“I’ll pay you back.”

“Well if I buy your ticket you can’t use express check-in.”

“What’s that?”

“Ok, fine. Let me boot up the computer. We were just about to eat dinner, Dad. Matt, would you get dinner ready for us, please? I have to buy this ticket for my dad. Dad, do you have your credit card?”

“Let me go get it,” he said.

Five minutes of silence.

“Hello? I’ve got it.”

“All right, so what dates were you looking at? “ I entered them. “Ok, the lowest price ticket is $343.”

“I saw that. But there were a lot of numbers on the page.”

“Yes, those are different flights. You’re supposed to pick one.”

“How do I do that?”

“You click ‘Select Flight.’”

“Ok, well, you do it,” he said.

I picked round trip flights and got to the confirmation page.

“Ok, with taxes and 19.95 for trip insurance it’s going to be 372 dollars,” I said.

“I don’t need trip insurance,” he said.

“It looks like it’s mandatory. I don’t see anywhere to opt out.”

“Oh, well, then I guess I’ll just go to the travel agent,” he said.

He did go to the travel agent. He got his ticket $10 cheaper. The next time we spoke, I said, “As long as you’re here, you can’t make nasty comments about my weight.”

“When did I do that?”

“All the time. The last time I was pregnant, you called me obese,” I said.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” he said.

What does that mean? I thought. Will he abstain from commenting or is he saying that his comments shouldn’t bother me? I guess I’ll find out when he gets here. In preparation, I have changed my eating plan and I’ve lost some weight, but it’s been tough to get to the gym because I have Christian and the gym childcare won’t take him.

So now I’ve got to see my father at my largest. About 10 years ago I lost 90 pounds. I came home for a wedding looking svelte, and he asked me, “So how big were you?” So I doubt he can abstain from the nasty comments and I’ll stress eat and he’ll berate me for that too. There is one saving grace. My father’s a teetotaler, but in our house we have a full bar, and I’m stocking up for his visit. If I’m drunk, maybe his comments will roll off my fat.

Nasty comments aren’t the only thing that worries me. My father and I are political polar opposites, which would be fine if we refrained from discussing politics, as I’m sure even the Schwarzeneggers and Kennedys do. I don’t bring politics up, but my father does. I think he wants so much for me to be like him that he’s convinced himself that I am like him. He constantly brings up snippets from Hannity or Rush and expects me to agree with him. I admit I take the bait. I point out all the obvious impossibilities that these guys manage to sell to the paranoid right in my arguments. And he still doesn’t get that our politics disagree.

Not only that, but he thinks I should emulate these “great conservative minds.” He thinks my writing business is “cute” and I guess he wants to help, so last week he said, “There’s this guy around here. He puts out this conservative newsletter. You know, he does it to get the ads. I pick it up at the Stop n Shop. I’ll send it to you.”

“Why?”

“So you can see how other people write,” he said.

“I read. I know how other people write.”

“It’ll just cost me a stamp, that’s all,” he said.

“I don’t want it,” I said.

“I’ll send it to you,” he said.

After we hung up, my husband said, “You should let him send it. It gives you stuff to put in your book.” He was right. I have to absorb everything my dad says and does so I can portray him effectively in the book. Once again I’d taken the bait and I’d let my pride deprive me of priceless memoir material. So next time I’ll tell him to mail me the newsletter. It’ll make him happy and give me something to mock in the blog.

So now I’ve got my strategy. If anything positive can come of this visit, it’s new writing fodder. Usually I just post his notable quotes on Facebook, but I need to keep those snippets for the blog and the book. I’ll study his character every moment and take notes. Depending upon how it goes, by choice or chance, this could be our last visit. He’s not getting any younger. I’ve got to appreciate him for the character he is while I can.

Pregnancy: It’s Not Pretty Part 3 – Labor Day

Labor Day

Day 259: Thanksgiving and I can eat as much as I want! Gluttony’s last hurrah.
Day 259, 3 p.m.: Dinner smells great. I have outdone myself. Just a quick pee break before dinner. Ow! “Honey, I may be having contractions, but let’s just eat and see.”
Day 259, 3:20 p.m.: OW! “Yep, Honey, I do believe I’m in labor, but it takes several hours for your first. Think I should warm up the pie?”
Day 259, 3:35 p.m.: OW!
Day 259, 3:50 p.m.: “What do you mean, where’s the doctor’s card? I thought YOU had it!”
Day 259, 4 p.m.: “Hello, Service? I think I’m in labor. Yes, I’ll wait for the call”
Day 259, 4:20 p.m.: “Hi, doc. About 10 minutes apart, yes. I was just about to lie down. The hospital? Now? I was going to take a nap.”
Day 259, 4:40 p.m.: “What do you mean; you don’t believe it’s real? This pain is pretty freakin’ real. What is WITH you people? First my husband thinks the pains ‘aren’t regular enough’ and now this.” It hurts so bad I may puke. “Yes, I’ll take a walk, but this baby’s coming out today. I will NOT do this again.”
Day 259, 6:30 p.m.: “I TOLD you so! Yes, I will gladly go to the labor room. Thank you, I would love a hot shower and an epidural.”
Day 259, 7 p.m.: Ow, OW! That’s a needle in my spine! Ahhhhh. Dentist numb.
Day 259, 7:20 p.m.: “That was a contraction? Really? I had no idea. This completely rocks. Oh, sure, go ahead and break my water. I’ll just lay here until we’re done.”
Day 259, 11:15 p.m.: “So what exactly is a practice push? Like a big poop, huh? Oooh.”
Day 260, 12 a.m.: “What do you mean, stop pushing? It feels like a turd the size of a thermos. We have to wait for the neonatal team? Why is it taking so long? Don’t you people do this all the time? You’d think you’d be faster at it.”
Day 260, 12:15 a.m.: Ow, ow, ow, sploosh. Holy crap it’s gone. Ahhh. “Waaaah!” Did that really come out of me? It’s alive. How weird is that?
Day 260, 12:20 a.m.: “Hi, baby, I’m your mommy and this is my boob.” Did that really come out of me? Hey, she’s not all pruney. Sure, let’s deliver the placenta. Whatever, I’m still numb. It’s gone? Coool. Now can we order pizza?
Day 260, 2 a.m.: Look at her! She’s beautiful and she’s perfect. And I’m not pregnant anymore. But you know what, Honey? Next time we’re getting a puppy.”

Epilogue

The new puppy arrived Sept. 13, 2010, at 3:10 p.m., after mama waited 4 hours for an epidural. He was born to the tune of “Roll with the Changes” by REO Speedwagon. Baby Boy Fisher weighed eight pounds, nine ounces. We brought him home and baby and mama are happy and healthy. Next time I really mean it: we’re getting a dog!

The Year in Blogs

Flintstones Happy Anniversary Song Video

How Do You Measure a Year?
Five hundrend twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
Five hundrend twenty five thousand
moments so dear
Five hundrend twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year

In daylight, in sunsets, in midnights,
in cups of coffee, In inches, in miles
in laughter in strife,

In Five hundrend twenty five thousand
six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?
–“Seasons of Love” — Jonathan Larson

“You should start a blog,” my best friend Cathi told me last summer.

“Why would I do that? I get paid to write. Why would I do all of that work for free?” I protested.

“People get discovered that way. I was reading about this woman who started a fashion blog, and a magazine editor saw it, and hired her to write it as a column,” she said.

“Yeah, but that wouldn’t happen to me. I mean, who would read my blog? Who the hell cares what I have to say?”

“You never know,” she said.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. My best friend always knows what’s best for me. I started the blog. My possible readership included about 100 Facebook friends. As my own husband didn’t even read my work at the time, I doubted I’d ever see more than 50 readers.

“I caught up on your blog this weekend and it seems kind of all over the place,” Cathi told me a few months in. “What’s your topic?”

Ugh. “Well, it’s um, it’s about relationships. Family relationships. Not just me and Matt and Rose, but my mom and dad and everyone else.” I finally put it into words.

“Oh. Well, it’s kind of hard to figure out. If you want a niche, people have got to identify it.”

Sigh, “You’re right. I’ll think of something.” So I thought about it. Family relationships was the closest description I could get, so I held onto that.

Two months after I started the blog, my mom died, after 13 years of Alzheimer’s disease, including eight years of complete oblivion. Honestly it was more of a relief than a loss. I’d experienced the loss over the first five years, and for the next eight, it was her survival that was tragic. I wrote “Mom: The Last Lesson.”

The trip home for the funeral was the first and only time my father’s met Rose. By then, she was almost two. We’d moved from Maryland to Seattle in my seventh month of pregnancy. My dad never really expressed an interest in her.

I remember my dad playing with me and the neighborhood kids, throwing us in the water and being such a fun guy, but I either remembered wrong, or over the years he lost his touch. Rose’s charms failed on him, and when she fell down his stairs, trapping her head in his accordion door terrified, he offered her a cookie as she cried in my arms. Well, at least I learned the origin of my food issues. I wrote “The Other Loss.”

During that trip, I gained some more insight into my family and got to play a different role in it. I was a mom. I didn’t have one anymore, so I had to do all the mothering, for my daughter and for myself. My mom was long gone before Rose was born, and even though she couldn’t have helped with pregnancy stuff, I wished I could have asked her what she remembered about me, and learned how Rose compared.

Rose looks like a little white version of me. The thing that’s so cool about that is that she was the first blood relative I’d ever known. Most people take family resemblances for granted, but to an adopted kid, a resemblance is better than money and almost as good as love. Better yet, Rose has blue eyes, which I knew came from my birth mother, so I thought I might be able to see where I came from in Rose’s face someday.

Two months after my mom died, after giving up on my dried-up ovaries and researching adoption, we conceived. I’ve always held this theory that sometimes there’s no room left in the family for anyone new, so someone’s got to die in order to add a new baby to the clan. And I had wondered if my mom had to be the one to make room for our second child. Maybe she did; maybe it was the complete lack of trying; but in any case, I was knocked up. I wrote “Change in Plans.”

I suffered horrible morning sickness with Rose, and I endured it again with this baby. I was extremely nauseated for four months straight; lived with debilitating headaches and required a daily nap just to make it through the day. I worked at home part-time, which was great because I could lie down whenever I needed to, but even in the comfort of my own home, I struggled through work. I spent those four months bored, angry and frustrated, but I did learn to savor every moment of relief, every laugh, every good cry, and every small victory. I wrote “The Gift of Morning Sickness.”

Once the morning sickness abated, I had a mini-breakdown. Sobbing in the parking lot of Bed, Bath and Beyond, I realized I hated what my life had become. Of course I looked forward to the baby but it’s hard to look five months ahead when you hate right now.

So I went home, put Rose to bed, cried myself to sleep, and when we woke up, I mapped out my plan. Then I got to work. (“Be Careful What You Wish For”)

About a month later, I got a letter from the agency that had arranged my adoption. They had a “possible match,” they said. I read the letter on a Saturday so all weekend I wondered who it could be. I’d placed my information on the New York State Adoption Registry 10 years ago. No one matched at the time, but that’s when they sent me some info on my birth parents and I found out about the blue eyes. I had no idea my name was still up there. I called first thing Monday morning. My birth mother wanted to make contact. Jackpot! You know when someone asks you if you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be? This was my chance. My answer was always my birth mother.

The next month we emailed and phoned. Conversation came easily and we’re really very similar, especially emotionally. I’d always wondered if she thought about me after she gave me up. She said not a day went by that she didn’t. We talked about my pregnancy, and what it was like carrying me. She said all the mom things I’d longed to hear growing up. She was literally the mother I never had. And the blog served to catch her up on the things she’d missed over the years, the important things that were so hard to talk about. (“Some Things You Can’t Forgive,” “Wasted Time,” “Mom’s Piano Lessons: The Legacy,” “Your Money or Your Life”)

A month later I lost my job. Losing the income was a shock, but once I’d digested the impact, I realized the whole thing was a blessing. By that time I hated that job. I’d done the same thing for almost six years and I spent five hours a day bored out of my mind just so I could get money. I’d wanted to freelance full-time since I was 25. Now, 16 years later, here was my chance. We’d have to cut back, but my husband could cover us. My goal was to be able to show my daughter that Mommy worked her dream job and loved it. And now I could do it!

My last day in the corporate world was July 13th. Since then, I attended my first real writer’s conference, interested two acquisitions editors and an agent in a book of essays, completed my second parenting story and generated tons of story ideas.

Last week I put myself on maternity leave, giving myself permission to focus on personal projects. I’m just waiting to give birth, feeling so grateful for this year and the blog that motivated it all. And I’m especially grateful for the 600 people who read the blog last month – more than ten times the readership that I’d expected, ever — and for people linking and telling their friends.

Saying thanks for one of the best years of my life doesn’t begin the depth of my gratitude, but we have so few words for appreciation that it’ll have to do. I wanted to include an list of people to whom I am especially grateful, but every time I tried I’d think of someone else and I didn’t want to leave anyone out. Suffice it to say that you all know who you are. Thanks again. I can’t wait to see what this year brings!