Knowings

I know exactly what you’d be wearing. Where you’d be sitting. The suit you’d be sporting and one of three ties you’d be wearing. Who you’d be talking to. How your hands would be positioned and how you’d hold your drink. Those subtle moves on the dance floor. I know exactly how you’d smell and what you’d love and laugh about. I know the side-eye you’d flash us when we were being inappropriately slap happy. How we’d be talking to only each other and you’d tell us to go mingle and meet someone new. Like a magnet we’d be drawn to wherever you are. Our anchor. 

All the brother-in-laws endearingly took turns swinging Mara’s car seat to rock her to sleep, without asking, without making a fuss. You’d be the first one in line to help too (and not just to get out of dancing). 

Having Mara with us almost felt like she was holding the empty space for you. Her blue eyes looking curiously about, the way she feels comforting and safe. The way we’re drawn to her calming energy.

She’s one of Poppi’s angels. Her and Stratt, so far.

We too are holding space for you, Dadio, and if only for a second, a glance, a tiny moment of remembering and knowing; it feels like you are there. 

She’s Out!

I’m having a tough time distinguishing between what I said and what I thought; what I dreamt and what I did. In a matter of several beautiful, empowering, impossibly hard hours, I transitioned from being pregnant to postpartum, a baby in my womb to one on my chest. 

Our world has instantly become a sleepless blur of sweet snuggles, talking more about sleep than actually sleeping, and straight up survival mode. She’s only been here a week and I can barely scroll to photos on my phone of a time before her. 

She belongs here with us; a perfect fit. I was completely convinced for months that she was a boy. With happy tears in his eyes, Ryan announced, “It’s a girl”, and in that surprising moment, everything was right. Of course it’s her, I felt in my bones. There is something about her that makes me feel rest assured, all is well. An essence of light, softness and hope. 

Mara Jeffries; our rounded edge on a very jagged couple of years. There was a point where I didn’t think three kids was even possible. Two was too hard…life was too hard. Yet here we are, living into the weave of chaos and beauty, knitting a whole family. A completeness I wasn’t sure I would ever feel. 

While the world spins madly on, I rest peacefully with a newborn on my chest. Her toes the size of pez (equally as edible). Her ears, the same perfect shape as my dad’s. Long, thin eyelashes frame her deep blue eyes that wander curiously about her new world. I rest and relax more this third time around, knowing how important my wellbeing is to that of our family’s.  And I also rest in gratitude. After meeting death firsthand and also watching friends give everything they’ve earned and every part of their hearts for the hope of a baby, there is nothing about this birth that I take for granted. 

The name Mara is an homage to my mom and mother-in-law’s middle name; Marie. An honoring of Mother Mary who I have grown into a deep connection with. Mara coincidentally shares the beginning and end of Maisley and Coura. It’s also the Gaelic word for Sea. And Jeffries is, of course, in celebration of my Dadio. 

“She’s out, she’s out!” yells Coura, to anyone who will listen. Our baby girl is here.

Until Baby

The girls got haircuts. We went to Leucadia Donuts, the local shop with windows covered in stickers. The car seats are installed; three in a row. We set up the birth room and then we set it up again. My altar of inspiration featuring Mother Mary, Jesus, Dadio, Surfing Madonna, Mary Magdalene, magical trees, the northern lights and a few other favorites are all framed by the window sill and spare Christmas lights that Ryan lovingly taped up.

I’m 39 weeks with baby three, and somehow I feel like he or she is running late. Braxton Hicks have been around since week 20, yet their regular rhythm has intensified. I feel grounded and ready. I’ve learned to rest more this time around, now that I’m not trying to prove how able of a pregnant person I am. What a relief. I feel overwhelmed and scared too, but it’s not the biggest piece of the feelings pie (at least today).

Every day in this waiting period before the baby is some sort of bonus day from the universe; in between this life and the next. A rebirth for me, a birth for him or her, all in a timing not on my clock. Will we even remember what life was like right now with two kids? Pizza Fridays at the beach and dancing to Maroon Five.

I dream of a beautiful sunny daytime birth. A space where Ryan and I are fully in sync and where I release this baby into the water and he or she is placed on my chest. Fully engulfed in an ocean of light, a mosaic of angels in my body and all around; fully held, healthy and safe. A birth of grace and ease where I continually find that unshakeable core of trust within and come back home to it over and over again.

Even though my tricky mind speaks otherwise, the rest doesn’t matter. Do we have enough mugs in case the midwives need tea? Do we need more ice in case I need a cold towel? Where is the peppermint essential oil I’ll certainly be craving at centimeter 7?

We bought an ez up canopy for the midwives in case the 200 square foot birthing suite isn’t big enough. It looks like a midwife check-in station at an organized sports race that should be stocked with GU and electrolytes. Although, we do have a space heater and chairs. I wonder if they’ve ever had accommodations so glamorous? Ryan is wondering if a band will come to cheer me on. Jordan suggested signs with silly puns. Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve compared birth to a marathon.

However, this marathon doesn’t have a set course, and the race day of March 10th is just an educated guess.

Longings

My longings are tugging again,
asking for her to come out and play. 
The wild one.
The spontaneous, change-craving one. 
The one whose time was all her own.
The one who thought slow and simple was for the birds. 
The one who could effortlessly free fall into love
without the fear
of losing. 

Cocooned on the brink of new life,
the longings sit and wait.
To sit and wait,
for the kids to grow up,
so we can find her again. 

But what if the sitting and waiting is actually
the finding and living?
What if slow and simple gives me wings?
What if I don’t lose myself a little more this time around;
but find a treasure trove of wholeness deep in the ground I’m unearthing by
staying?
What if that’s what I’ve been longing for
all along?

Small moments of ordinary magic stretching into an entire life. 

In Loving Memory

The sting of seeing your photo still hits at odd times
How did that frame become the closest my eyes will get to seeing you again?
How did your name become something to memorialize rather than someone to call when my B.O.B. tire goes flat?

We read the names and tributes on the benches at the beach:
An awesome guy, friend and brother
A gentle soul
Save some waves for me

Maisley asks what the dates mean.
She always asks questions about Heaven and, “Will you go?”
I tell her not for a long time and meagerly convince both of us that I’m in control.
“Do they wear masks in heaven?” she asks.

I was setting up some essentials for baby Orkie in the casita of our 672-square foot Airbnb and felt a deep longing for you. A remembering that this tiny soul is in the “after you” part of our timeline.
I cried because I missed you. I cried because I’m so tired from carrying a human, and trying to be a human, and also raising other humans.
Every time I cry, Maisley and Coura sweetly ask, “Mommy, do you miss Poppi?”
Even when it’s not about you, it’s about you.
Every triumph and every sadness is layered in you.

Meesh got a beautiful tattoo that included your classic handwritten sign off – love ya.
I kept imagining you saying, “Had I known it would be on your body forever I probably would have tried a little harder!”
Even your chicken scratch is worthy of a permanent place with us.

Your very own bench is coming soon. Overlooking the golf course that holds our post-dinner frisbee and football throws. Much to your humble dismay, we’d cover every inch of that bench in your praise if we could, but they capped us at 24 characters.

In loving memory of Jeff Loftus
Husband, Dadio, Poppi, Friend
Loving soul, humble heart

Just a Thought

What if we lingered a little while longer?

Awkward hands and dancing feet.

Eyes locked on another person or a piece of ourselves that aches to be seen.

What if we stayed in the discomfort, sat in hard conversations or with strange feelings to see what would happen next?

What if lingering made the difference in a lasting friendship or moving to the other side of judgement and fear?

What if lingering uncovered a place inside only reachable through the valleys?

Linger, then listen, then act.

In-Between

Everything seems to work out in the end, but what about when it’s not the end? What about that uncomfortable place between here and there?

Here we are in the middle, unsure of how this particular story ends: the one where our things are moved out of storage and into a new home. For now, we are at my in-laws house and then an Airbnb for six months in Leucadia.

I always looked at life as an adventure, but after having two kids, growing a bit older, and navigating grief, being flexible and allowing change comes with much greater resistance. My HSP-ness is heightened and I feel things, all the things. I’m like one of those lint rollers, but for my feelings and other people’s or places too. 

Most other big transitions in life I’ve managed with partying, workout goals, or work. Somehow staying busy so as not to feel the discomfort. But right now, pregnant and mostly a full time mom –  there is no numbing. There is just feeling and living. 

Moving feels right to us. The process has been smooth. And yet, we aren’t immune to the emotions, questions and fall out of a big life event. 

How exactly do I take the photograph off the wall that my dad helped me hang? How do I leave neighbors who helped me feel safe and well-loved? How do I leave a home where I know how to survive? A home that took a long time to feel like home. How do I leave the trees and trails that kept me grounded? Or walls that hold the condensation from my grief storms. How do I leave the room where Coura came into the world? My plumeria in the front yard that bloomed especially for us. 

Those questions are true. And so is this: our memories come with us. Who we are, what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown all gets packed and stored deep in the corners of our minds and hearts. None of that stays. 

Anxiety, fear and down days have followed. But I have the tools. My anchor is here, inside of me. The house was never my safety after-all. When I want to run from the discomfort and fear, my heart is saying, “Come home. Stay here. This is the safest place you can be.” So I am working hard with every deep breath to come back to center – to release what’s not mine and come home to what’s true. 

I am the anchor. I am the anchor. I am the anchor. 

The act of moving is an obvious transition, but aren’t we always in a transition? If not from the greatest one – birth and death – from one season to the next, from one goal to the next. We don’t often dwell in a beginning or ending before we find ourselves in the middle. 

As we were touching up the paint in the house, I saw the pencil mark my dad scribbled to effortlessly hang up my cherished “Aquabumps” photograph. I left the mark untouched. Even if it gets painted over one day, his mark has been made. Even when a new neighbor moves in, our time there doesn’t get erased. 

Transitions are loose and schedules are scattered. Uncertainty is what we are eating for all three meals, working to find a way to digest this new existence. One that’s not forever, but that is for right now. 

Everything is up in the air. 

I’ve always wanted to fly.

To you, Dadio

Where are you?

When I’m angry at you for leaving. When a shit-storm is passing through our family and the world. When the comfort of home is far out of reach. When I look through hundreds of recent photos and you’re not in one. When nothing makes sense, nothing goes right and grief rages on. When a beautiful baby boy is born.

Where are you?

The answer to my vocal doubt has never not been – I’m right here. I’m wherever you are. 

I rubbed my cracked heels together the other night, the same way you used to while sitting on your big brown chair in the family room, talking about sports or politics or something. When Maisley yelled, “I’m hungry!”, I pulled an old trick from your playbook and replied with, “Hi Hungry, I’m Jenna”. 

I see you in me. 

I see you in Nicole the way she stands up for what she believes in and how she says it with conviction. I see you in Linny in her carefree moments, the way she tells a sly joke and laughs with every tooth God gave her.  I see you in Meesh, the way she says yes to spontaneous happenings while navigating her days by always doing the next right thing. I see you in mom with her overly generous heart and the way she walks us out to our cars, offering to help us carry our bags. 

I see you in Brandon’s calm, intentional demeanor and in James’ inventive projects. And of course, I see you in Ryan, the way he has grown into his sarcasm game towards mom, the joy he gets from sweeping the side yard, and the way he never tires of working to create the best life for his family.

You’ve missed so much according to my human mind, a lifetime in two years. 

I desperately want to tell you about our air conditioning leak and the ins and outs of our escrow deal. The tone of Coura’s voice as she sings, Take Me Out To The Ball Game. The way Maisley pauses every time she hears a cricket and says, “Hi Poppi!”

But whenever I have that recurring dream about you coming back home after living in San Francisco or somewhere else far away, the only thing I end up saying profusely is, “I love you, I’m so thankful for you, I miss you.”

I hope you never wonder. I hope you can see the corners of my healing heart and know that they are yours.

I love you, I’m so thankful for you, I miss you.

Four

I twirled her silky hair around my finger while Ryan read, How to Catch a Mermaid. It looked like a chocolate and vanilla swirled cone. Like the ones we used to devour from McDonald’s after a long day at the beach.
She’s beautiful and full of fire. I worry I won’t know how to be her mom sometimes. I worry about sending her to preschool and also to not.
She is insistent. Independent. Into high heels.
I hold her hair like it’s mine.
I get quietly petulant thinking I should get to decide if it’s worn down or in a braid.
One day I’ll have to let go of her hand and say, “No speeding!”
Another time, “No drinking!”
I’m slowly letting her go more and more everyday.
She’s like the mermaid they could never actually catch.

Lessons from the Little Ones

The first hour or two of a long road trip is really just your mind scanning to see what you forgot. The car potty. Not the car potty. The good thing about road-tripping during a pandemic is that peeing on the side of the road feels mostly acceptable. 

Van patrol set off to Sacramento, CA, Crater Lake, OR, Hood River, OR and then our final destination, Orcas Island, WA. It sounds easy typing it out, but hours of patience, sight-seeing, please don’t touch that, podcasts, snacks, canoe rides and cabin stays all dotted our map up north. 

One of the most unexpected memories of our trip was seeing what my daughters chose to love and enjoy along the way. 

At Crater Lake National Park, the girls were so excited about playing in the snow, I wondered if they even noticed the bucket list view. At the pottery shop on Orcas Island, they found a tree-house of their dreams. At the best fish and chips in town they skipped their lunch to fill shell buckets with rocks and chase the chickens. 

At first I felt a little annoyed – we came all this way and you just want to play in the snow?! This is the reason we came here.  The illusion of control is alluring. It draws me in over and over again. Like a wiley temptress, my pretend friend. 

But then it happened to me.

Driving home from dinner to catch the sunset one night on Orcas, a golden, warm glow lit up certain parts of the dense, thick forest, the way light from the sun streams into your home and forms spotlights on the walls. The way it feels to see love shine on the face of a beloved. It was breathtaking. 

What if instead of only looking at the sunset, we see what’s being illuminated by the light. What if we look up, or across the street, or around the corner?

As usual, I’m not sure who’s the teacher and who’s the student between my kids and I. 

How wonderful (and challenging to the ego) getting to know my girls, and witnessing who and what they want to become. Seeing how they want to experience their world from an unfiltered perspective, uninterested in what they should be enjoying. 

We asked Maisley her favorite part of the trip – four days on the road and seven days on a magical island – and she said watching a show in the car.

Fine by me!