Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Tomorrow is surely to be the happiest day of my life.
So why are the tears pouring down?
Is it fear? Hell yes.
Is it anxiety? Of course.
But the reason I can't even type this out through a blurry haze of tears is that I'm afraid the "everything else" will make tomorrow too hard, unbearable even.
Too hard for me.
Too hard for mom.
And too hard for Sarah.
As excited as I am for Miles' arrival -- it feels like it's been 10 years not 10 months -- all I can think about is the giant elephant in the room. The person that isn't there. The person we are all going to be thinking about.
It's not fair.
And as that phrase rolls off my brain's tongue, I can hear my dad say, "Life's not fair. A fair is that thing that comes around once a year."
And I'm smiling.
I think about him all the time; thankfully most of the memories (like that one) make me smile. What makes me sad is to think about all Miles is going to miss out on, all I'm going to miss out on, without dad here.
I think about how dad was cheated. He would have been the best grandpa ever. That big, burly guy was AMAZING with kids. Ask my cousins. I think he was the favorite uncle hands down!
He was stoked to hear the news about Miles, well back then the baby was "Poppy." I'm sure dad knows now, but we hadn't learned if the baby was a boy or girl until after he passed away. And Miles has his grandpa to thank (or curse) for his middle name.
I'm sure dad's going to be looking down (hopefully after I'm out of the operating room) and keeping close tabs on Miles, the little guy's English skills, his taste in music and of course that ever elusive curve ball.
I just hope tomorrow -- which I know will be full of tears -- will bring happy thoughts and memories, maybe even a story or two. I don't want it to be too hard. I want us to celebrate Miles and dad's memory together in a happy way.
Anyway, here's a prayer for a healthy baby, a healthy delivery and a blessed family. And here's a shout-out to my dad, who surely is cursing this blog full of run-ons and incomplete sentences. I love you so much, think about you even more often and know you'll be with us tomorrow. This time tomorrow I'll be a momma and you'll be a grandpa!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's baby time

So my friend David is right... I will never be a regular blogger. Every few months (if even less frequently) I'll post a blog SWEARING I'll be better. I know when I'm typing it is not true, and I'm sure my two faithful readers know it isn't true when they read it (I don't know if I have any faithful readers, I'm just assuming I might have two).
Anyway... Here's another empty promise about regular blogging. I may try to do what said friend David does (I'm such a copycat) and do more Facebook status update-esque blogs with several a day posts. We'll see. If I could figure out how to do this from my phone I think I'd be much more successful.
So enough of all that, on to the actual, too long, blog post...
It's almost baby time (said in a sing-songy head boppy tone)! This time next week I will be less than 24 hours away from being a momma. For those of you who didn't follow that logic (it would have been better to wait and do this tomorrow), the C-section is scheduled for 8 a.m. next Wednesday. So unless Miles checks his mail and notices the eviction notice I sent out Sunday night, July 20 will be his birthday.
And I'm ready. Really, I think I'm ready. And I just don't mean ready to no longer be pregnant -- which I really, really, really am. But I mean I'm ready for Miles to be here. Yes, I'm so flippin' scared it isn't even funny. I'm anxious, I'm nervous, I'm trepidations, I'm all those synonyms. But I'm also ready.
The nursery has been all owled out for weeks now. The clothes have been hanging in the closet with care (washed in baby detergent and all) for months now and the cloth diapers are all put together and neatly folded in their appropriate cubby hole. We even have the car seat installed and have, for the most part, transformed our hoarder wanna be house into a home that will accommodate and welcome Miles and the onslaught of visitors I can't wait to introduce him to!
Yes, I still worry so much about how in the heck we are going to be able to afford this child (he's already wracking up the medical bills with every three-week visits and high tech ultrasounds at a high risk pregnancy center in Indianapolis, gestational diabetes scares, lots of extra blood work, weekly non-stress tests and now a C-section.) I worry that Michael and I will "screw him up." I worry that I won't be able to soothe him and all he'll do is cry. I worry he won't like me or think I'm cool enough. I worry he will battle with some of the same weight issues I did. I worry about him being healthy. Do you get the trend... I worry. I am a McLaughlin after all.
Anyway, even with all those worries, I'm ready. This pregnancy has been far from idyllic. My mom regales me with tales about being pregnant (even with twins) saying it was one of the best times of her life. She felt so special, so wonderful. I guess I've had so much "life" happen around this pregnancy that I haven't gotten that same chance to just focus on the "joys" of pregnancy. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade the outcome for anything, I just also can't say the physical act of being pregnant has been blissful. It's been full of swollen, swollen feet; cramps and pains; scary doctors visits and phone calls; poking and prodding and no sleep.
All in all, Michael and I are stoked about the joys (and worries) of parenthood.
Come on baby Miles, can't wait to meet you!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Grief -- it should be a four letter word. I can count, I know it isn't. But right now I feel like it is.
My hubby says I'm ignoring it. But I feel like I'm eight-feet deep in it -- and I'm only 5'4" so that means I'm in way over my head.
What's it even supposed to feel like?
Crying? Check.
Anger? Check.
Fear? Check.
Disbelief? Check.
Pain? Check.
Denial? Check.
Acceptance? I'm not there yet.
How can you accept something like this at 30. It isn't supposed to happen this way. Months before the arrival of Poppy even.
But in the same breath (and the same set of tears), it was an amazing 30 years. So many people don't get a fraction of what I got. We all have said over and over again -- both to make things easier for us and easier for those around us -- that we'd rather have had the amazing quality of years we had with him than had twice as long and have had the time be mediocre.
Michael keeps saying -- and I know he is right -- soon all I will think about and remember are the great memories, the amazing 30 years I had. But right now my mind too often goes to those last few days -- me feeding my non-responsive father, him begging me to let him get out of bed, the image of his last breath. I keep thinking about what I will miss. What my child (and future children) will miss. What Michael will never get to experience. The pain that mom must be going through. All of the things the rest of the world will never get to experience because dad is no longer in this world.
On Jan. 28 we said goodbye to the greatest dad ever. I laid in bed with him, my hand gripping his right hand so tightly, refusing to let go. My mom stroked his spikey hair snuggled next to him in the hospital bed in what used to be dad's sanctuary -- his music room. The ritual of mom rubbing that soft hair was ingrained in her mind as she'd done it so much during his sleepless, pain-filled nights he'd been burdened with since his diagnosis. Sarah knelt next to him her hands holding his left hand, her head resting on his shoulder.
We sobbed, telling him how much we loved him, how we would be OK, we promised to take care of each other. He took his last breath, finally his face at peace after days of agitation and obvious pain.
He was diagnosed with cancer two weeks before my wedding, told he'd be released from the hospital with hospice the day before my 30th birthday and died exactly 25 weeks before my due date.
When dad was diagnosed in March 2010, they told us he would have a year if he did nothing to fight the disease taking over his once strong, hulking body. Dad did the opposite -- he did everything he could. That strong, too big, body was whittled down to close to half it's original size.
He suffered through intensive seeded radiation. He did rounds of excruciating and nauseating chemo. He soldiered through painful bowel issues caused by all the medicine he was ingesting.
If dad had it his way, he would have just chilled until the end. He would have never wanted to go through what he did that last week in January.
He did that for us.
He did everything for us.
He loved mom, Sarah and me more than anything else.
And I'm one of the luckiest people in the world because it didn't take dad getting sick for me to realize that. I hope to God that he knew that we loved him just as much well before his diagnosis, and he never doubted it.
That's the joy of being raised by social workers. We are a family where nothing goes unsaid -- for good and bad, but mostly for good.
I want to share two things -- what Sarah and I wrote for the funeral and also dad's obituary. I wrote the obituary the day after he passed. I couldn't imagine trusting dad's legacy with any one else, dad deserved so much more than even what I could have written.
And when I'm a little stronger, I want to talk about those last few days. I want to share the good and the bad -- I need to get it out, process it all. But also, I want to not have it so ingrained in my brain, but I think it is important to have it somewhere. Why not here?


Jeff Brown referred to his wife Bev Brown as his angel since he was first diagnosed with cancer in March 2010. On Jan. 28, 2011, Jeff became Bev’s angel when he died at home surrounded by his loving family.

Jeff had many passions in his 56 years of life. He crusaded for issues such as domestic violence, child abuse, HIV/AIDS awareness and ending hunger. But his biggest passion was always his family.

Bev describes their more than 34 years of marriage as a roller coaster ride – fun and exciting and at times a little unpredictable. Their twin daughters – Abbey Brown Doyle and Sarah Brown Spurgeon – held a special spot in Jeff’s heart.

The sisters each have their own special memories and moments of their father. His daughters' adventures both near and far were his favorite stories to tell for this vivid storyteller to share.

Jeff never worried about his declining health or the pain it might bring; his only concern was about missing out on all the future memories he had yet to make with the ever-growing Brown clan.

With the November announcement of his first grandchild, Jeff was overjoyed. He’d started stretching his grandpa muscles a few years back with "grandkitty" Comilla Spurgeon and "grandpuppy" Van Gogh Doyle.

Jeff had already made plans to teach Baby Doyle how to write haiku and throw a curve ball. Although he won’t be here for the arrival of his grandchild, Jeff will live on through the countless stories family and friends will share.

In addition to his nuclear family, Jeff was blessed by a tremendously close and supportive extended family of in-laws. He often joked that he was an “out-law” but considered each of them his sons, brothers, sisters, mother and father.

Some of his best memories were made with those family members on Bev’s family farm in Alpha, Ill. And that same family is the one that has helped support him through these past tough months.

Jeff was born in Belvidere, Ill., on Nov. 8, 1954, and grew up there. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

For more than 28 years, Jeff dedicated his life to helping people as a licensed clinical social worker. He specialized in treating addictions, and along the way he touched many lives both professionally and socially.

Friends would describe Jeff as gregarious, the life of any party and someone who never met a stranger. He often joked that the world revolved around him, and his intelligence and ease in conversation often made people agree.

Jeff shared his lifelong passion for the New York Yankees with his brother-in-law Chuck McLaughlin and nephew Wade McLaughlin. One of Jeff’s fondest memories was a trip to New York with Chuck and his sons Wade and Ryan to see Yankee Stadium one last time.

His love for music was one of his stronger passions as well. Jeff’s record and CD collection at a time numbered in the thousands, and he could name each one. Music was a passion his daughter Sarah shared with Jeff.

His gift for the written word was one that shocked many. Jeff was a published poet, had articles in national publications and helped do clinical writing for his profession. Daughter Abbey has followed in his footsteps, carrying on the writing legacy for her dad as a journalist.

Jeff’s love for Christ was evident in his actions. A longtime member of Community United Methodist Church, he often was one of the only tenors to sing in the choir. Like his touching poetry, the sweet sound of Jeff’s voice coming from such a strong presence was often shocking. In addition to choir, Jeff was involved in several missions and men’s projects at the church.

He lived life to the fullest, and he and his family never doubted their strong and forever love for each other.

Survivors include wife Bev, of Vincennes; daughters and sons-in-law Abbey and Michael Doyle of Anderson, Sarah and Chris Spurgeon of Evansville; mother Patricia Stewart of Belvidere, Ill.; sister Kristine and Mike Mollway of Machesney Park, Ill.; and several nieces and nephews that he loved dearly.

Jeff was preceded in death by his father and step-mother Russell and Janet Brown.

Visitation for Jeff will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday at Goodwin Funeral Home with his Celebration of Life service at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Community United Methodist Church with Ray Tromley and the Rev. Cheryl Garbe officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Good Samaritan Hospital Hospice or Community United Methodist Church Grief Support Fund.

Online condolences can be sent to www.goodwinfamilyfh.com.

From Abbey:

It’s been a lifetime of shoes for dad and me. We both love them. I once had a room dedicated to them. Dad could have had a wing for his collection. He was a man of great – well let’s just say eclectic – taste when it came to fashion.

Some of my earliest and fondest memories of Abbey and dad moments are when he would “dance me” resting gently atop one of those shiny pairs of shoes. We’d rock back and forth, my head barely grazing his knees. Dad would pick me up and swing me around, dancing to such songs as “My Girl,” which he would sing to me while I sang, “My dad,” back to him.

Flash forward more than two decades and once again I’m stepping on dad’s toes. This time it is just my inherited clumsy manner, not our dance technique. But as my nerves settled during our father daughter dance at my wedding – just a few weeks after I’d learned of his diagnosis with cancer – tears welled up in my eyes as all I wanted to do was say, “Daddy, can I hop on those shoes and have you dance me?” Instead I snuggled into his shoulder and let the tears fall.

It didn’t take dad getting sick for us to express our emotions – Sarah and I were raised by two social workers, what else could you expect. I’m grateful we didn’t leave anything unsaid.

Certainly I wish Dad was still here so I could tell him, “I love you,” a million more times. I wish he were here to help Michael and I raise our children. I wish I could ask him what kind of noodles to cook for dinner. I wish I could ask him if I should go with a Toyota or Honda. I won’t get to ask those questions but I know in my heart that everything that needed to be said has been.

Without a doubt I knew my daddy loved me. I also know he always realized how important he was to me and how much everything he has taught me means to me.

We promised dad that we would take care of each other. He didn’t worry for a second about how hard this whole thing would be for him, dad just worried about us. That was dad. Memories abound – meeting a boyfriend for the first time wearing a tutu on his head, painting his toe nails in sparkly pink, protective talks about no dating until graduating from medical school and talks about the baby.

I know dad was over the moon about becoming a grandpa. Telling him I was pregnant was one of the best moments for me. And even though Dad will never physically be able to meet his first grandchild – I know dad will be watching over us and his memories and lessons will definitely be passed on.

I love you daddy.

From Sarah:

Dad always shared his full self with us. This was through stories, writing, long talks and sometimes tears. The truth was at times colorful but I feel like we had the privilege of truly knowing him.

I am thankful for the appreciation of music he shared with me. From music quizzes – quick, artist, album, title and year! – on our car rides together, to long discussions about new music we wanted to introduce to each other, it was something special we shared. Dad was always patient with listening to me rattle on when I would call about anything; a silly fight Chris and I had, what had happened at work, about my first day of school each semester and after taking tests. He helped me cook and write papers over the phone and I am so glad he shared with me the secret of his world’s best tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I will think of him every time I make them. He gave great advice, which for me mostly came down to “just take a breath and think about it for a minute”.

Through the love and respect he showed mom in their marriage he taught me the value of a strong relationship. This helped me find a good husband who got to know dad as a friend and father. Someday when we have children of our own I know he will be looking down on us to help our kids have great grammar and learn how to throw that curveball. I love him so much and will miss him every day but I know he will live on through our memories and stories. Abbey and I are lucky to have had such a great dad and I would not trade anything for the time we had with him. I am proud to say I am my father’s daughter.


I miss my daddy.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

so tremendously overdue

So my last post was more than a year and a half ago. Shameful.
It is especially shameful considering the events of the last year and a half.
Let's just say it may have been one of the most eventful 20 months of my life -- some incredibly high highs and some pretty tough lows.
So I'll just give you the Cliff Notes version:
Sept. 12, 2009, Michael and his best bud Ray (who share a birthday) were celebrating with about 30 of our friends at our house. The party was super awesome complete with a giant jumpy water slide, drive-thru daiquiris and some awesome friends. I'd made Michael and Ray's favorite cakes complete with fancy candles as well as cupcakes. There was PLENTY of cake. After the boys blew out their candles Michael says, "There's not enough cake. I got another cake because I didn't think there would be enough."
I grumbily go inside because I'm kind of pissed off because there is more than enough cake. He calls me back outside and he walks toward me with a white sheet cake in his arms with the words, "Will you marry me" written in pink icing.
So sweet. I couldn't believe it and for some reason was convinced he was going to smash it into my face.
I said yes and squealed and cried.
It was so much fun as friends filtered in later that night -- I'd say, "Look at this cake" and they'd squeal like I had.
I'm a lucky girl.
So by that Monday I had a venue and wedding date picked. My in-laws thought I was insane, but we have discussed my planning proclivities.
Wedding planning and events came and went. It was great fun. I had a wonderful shower at Aunt Brenda's house put together by my friend Tia and new family in Louisiana. Dress shopping with David was interesting. I scoured the internet for deals, DIY techniques and other craziness to make this wedding happen.
I also got a second job at Walden Books and had the best time (and got some great deals.) Everyone got books or other items from the bookstore that year for the holidays. And it was fun. If I could make as much as I make in my "real job" at the bookstore, I'd totally do that full time.
The crazy planning for the wedding -- which was also a lot of fun -- came to a screeching halt just a few weeks before the wedding itself with a phone call.
I immediately knew something was up when my mom called and said, "Are you at work?" "No." "Is Michael there?" "Yes." "Your dad has cancer."
It didn't happen all that abruptly but it felt like that. It felt like I'd been shot. I lost it. I cried like a baby. I had no idea what to do. I'm crying now typing all this. Sigh.
Michael took the phone. He got the details. It didn't really matter. Details didn't change the facts.
We all knew dad wouldn't live forever. No one does. But my dad has struggled with illnesses before. He's been at the verge of some terrible stuff but always pushed through it. And although we are hopeful he will do it again -- HOPE -- is my motto now a days, it gets harder and harder to have that hope now.
So mom, dad and Sarah came as planned (well dad wasn't going to come until the weekend of the wedding but with the news and how he was feeling came early) a week before the wedding. It was wonderful to have everyone together. It had been forever since we'd all had time together as a family.
The wedding was perfect. It was a beautiful day on March 27, 2010. We were married outside of the Samuel Guy House in Natchitoches, La. The reception was there as well. We had a brunch with mimosas, an omelet and belgian waffle station, cheese grits, sausage and biscuits.
Everyone was there. We had an awesome photo booth with costumes, we had an amazing live band -- Fat Boys South -- and it was the best time with family and friends. We started the day around 5 a.m. (getting ready, photos, etc.) and didn't stop partying until as late as 3 a.m. It was perfect.
Time came and went. Michael and I honeymooned in New Orleans and had a great time.
Work was work. We both continued to slave away at the word factory. Until late June...
With dad being sick, well really for the past several years, I've wanted to get closer to home. Dad's illness just gave the desire some urgency.
I started a job in Anderson, Ind., as the government and business reporter on July 1, 2010. I moved by myself and after just a few months of marriage Michael and I went it alone. He stayed in Louisiana living with Ray at our old house (which Ray moved into) and I moved here by myself with the Van Gogh.
It was tough, for both of us. Lots of tearful phone calls, lots of emails, lots of texts. But we made it.
In September Michael joined me and worked as a freelance reporter for both The Town Talk in Louisiana (via his desk in Indiana) and for the paper I work for here. In October he was named the sports editor at The Chronicle Tribune in Marion. It is long hours and an hour commute one way so I know it is tough for him. But he's a trooper.
I have tried to take advantage of being close to home and go see mom and dad as often as possible. Dad has good days and bad. There have been several hospital stays, even a long stint in ICU and a surgery, but we revel in the good days.
On Nov. 13, we threw a surprise party for the coolest dad around. Our pretty awesome family came from near and far to celebrate the day with us as well as friends. It was an amazing day.
The following Monday was a pretty amazing day too. Michael and I decided, even though we hadn't even been married a year, that it was time to give Van a little brother or sister. Like the move, dad's illness hastened this desire. I can't imagine my child not getting to know, or at least meet, his grandfather who is one of the most amazing people around.
So that Monday -- Nov. 15 -- I thought perhaps maybe the baby making had "stuck" and drove to Walgreen's on a full bladder (because first thing in the morning is the best time to test) picked up some tests and then rushed to work. I took the test in the bathroom at work and it was positive. I took it again. It was still positive.
I went out to my car and called my mom in tears. I called Michael. Gulp. That was his reaction. It was followed by excitement.
And from that point on Poppy was a part of our lives. Poppy is the baby's name (unknown gender) for the time being as when we found out about the baby he or she was the size of a Poppy seed.
The baby is now the size of a large plum and I'm nearly 12 weeks along. It is all very exciting.
So ups, downs and in-betweens, it has been a heck of a year and a half.
That's all for now (I've done more than enough). I will try to be a better, more dedicated blogger!