Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ronan's Food Drive

Dear Friends, 

As many of you know, our son, Ronan Cooper, passed away when I was 7 months pregnant back in January 2008 due to the complications of Trisomy 18. It was unknown to us at the time that our active little boy, who looked great at all ultrasounds and had a strong heartbeat, would only be with us for this very short time. 

Time has moved on for us, and we have been fortunate enough to have 2 healthy children since his passing. But as any parent knows, you will never forget your children---no matter how long they were on the earth. 

Every year in January we strive to honor our first born, usually quietly as a family. This year, on what would have been his 8th birthday, I am asking my friends and family to join us for a tribute to him. We are raising money and accepting donations for a food drive to help combat childhood hunger in local communities. We will be working through the Feeding America Backpack Programs and Summer Food Service Programs that aim to feed hungry children on the weekends and during the summer, when no free lunches are available for them through schools. We have seen this program implemented in our local communities here in the Dayton area and feel that it would be a worthy program to donate in Ronan’s name.

If you wish to donate money, we have a Paypal account set up or would gladly accept checks (e-mail me at for the address). If you send us the money directly, the donations will be split between the Dayton, OH and San Antonio, TX (where he was born) food banks that sponsor these programs. If you wish to donate in your local areas, please follow the links above and click on “Food Bank Locator” and put in your zip code. You can navigate your local food banks for programs that are targeted for children and make your donations that way. Most food banks ask if this is a memorial donation. If so, we would appreciate if you would write his name in this space. Our goal for this endeavor is $1000, which would help fund roughly 8,000 meals for hungry children. 

I thank you for the constant support of our family, and continued love and support you have shown us on January 26th every year. 

Thanks for reading. And thanks for helping us keep his memory alive. 

Love, Reese

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Just a Girl

There are times in my career that I have to ask myself "am I being treated differently/wrong/badly because I am a woman?"

In this day and age, I wish I didn't have to have these thoughts, but recently this question is coming to mind. I've noticed that the few significant times that I have felt mistreated, the wrong-doing comes from another woman with more seniority or power than me.

I am trying to undo what happened to me last June---where I was demoted for no other reason that trying to save my division. I succeeded. We are still afloat and thriving. But it came at a cost. Today I found out one of the provisions of my demotion were not met. I was supposed to retain a certain title, but they didn't keep their word.

What's in a title? Well, in the military, title and rank is everything. Taking this title meant taking rank from me. It was a blow that was handed down by the second in command---who is a woman. She didn't have to do this, but she felt she had to. When I asked why, she said that it was not a big deal, it was just something small---no harm came in the change. But there was harm. She just doesn't see it.

I have been through the ringer professionally the last few months. And with the revelation, I am not sure I wish to continue on a path with an organization that keeps doing this to someone who works very hard....

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Art Of Grieving

What I have learned in the last seven years about grief is that when you stumble upon it years after the trauma, the severity and shape of it is unknown until you are right in its face. Sometimes grief is a bunny rabbit, soft and subtle, and makes you sit with it and remind you about the simple beauty of the world. Sometimes, though, grief is like a rabid wolf, attacking when you are most vulnerable, and all you can do is try to avoid it taking out your jugular and dying. You fight it with all your might, because you can't die---others depend on you and need you. Failure is not an option. All you can do is pray that you get out without too many wounds and that you are still recognizable to the outside world after the attack.

Grief is also an asshole, making sure to whisper at every happy moment, moment of sheer bliss, beautiful moment with your living children, "your son is dead," reminding you that you do not live in a normal reality now. Your reality includes a world where babies die. The majority do not live in this world, nor wish to know about this world. It's understandable to feel that way. As a person who resides here, I can tell you that it sucks. And I wish I could go back and live in the other reality. Life was so much easier there.

In the ~2,555 days since Ronan died, I have learned how to weep softly in a bathroom stall, my office, in the corner of a lab, clenching soaking wet Kleenex at the corners of my eyes, praying that the tissues can hold while the storm is passing. I have lost friends (close ones), gained friends, and learned about the human experience in the way that can only be learned when your world is turned completely inside out.

For the majority of my days, grief is around, quiet...waiting. I keep it in check. I acknowledge its presence and respect its power. But for one day of the year, I put down my guard and allow grief to flow freely as it's meant to at that given time. January 26th. Ronan's birthday. I allow myself to remember the way the technician's voice sounded when he said 'nothing' looking at a still ultrasound on the screen. I allow myself to remember the way Peyton stood facing the windows in the hospital room as he told his father his grandson was dead. I remember the pain of the 8 tries to get an IV in that night, bruised and bloody, until the doctor whispered to leave me to rest and to try again in the morning. I remember weeping when we were finally alone, sobbing in a way that was unearthly and us holding on to each other like frightened children who were thrown into a dark dungeon, unsure of what the morning light would bring.

I remember the horrifying 17 hours of labor, worst of the three I have now experienced, how I begged my nurse Tonnya to kill me as she pushed the narcotic to help ease the pain, and how she hugged my nearly unconscious head after her shift and said 'you can do this, I know you can do this.' I remember the pop of the epidural, the quieting of the pain, and holding the white flower they tape to your door to tell everyone 'in code' that the baby is gone. I remember hearing the lullaby that is played when a baby is born at least 10 times that night, and how sad I was that I was not going to hear it being played for Ronan, for they only played it for the living children.

I remember 3 pushes and how quiet it was when he was born. I remember thinking that the word 'stillborn' was appropriate, because except for the sound of my breathing, I heard nothing. No cries. No happiness. No speaking. Just sorrow. Up until that moment, I was not aware sorrow had a sound, but it does. I remember Ronan's red lips, his dark hair, and his feet that were miniature replicas of Peyton's feet. And just how robbed I felt at that moment holding him. So very robbed.

I remember the older security guards who walked with Peyton as he brought Ronan to me on another floor for the last time. How one of them wept and hugged me, saying he was so very sorry. How I promised myself to remember this cop whenever I got pulled over for a speeding ticket. How I sat alone in the room by myself when they took Ronan away for the last time, and how I made myself look at the setting sun to calm the panic I felt that he was gone for good, telling myself he was in the light. Look at the light. Spell the colors of the light. P-I-N-K. R-E-D. Y-E-L-L-O-W. He's in the light.

Grief has been at my doorstep since Christmas, and I have been fighting with it, knowing that when my guard was down today, that I would take a beating. Some years are easier than others (unfortunately), and all I can do is cover my head and let the day come. I respect this process, because despite the pain and the sorrow, I don't ever want to forget him or what he meant to me. My firstborn son, who would have been 7 today. Today I mourn what Peyton and I have lost, and honor the memory of a child that held so much promise and hope for us---a baby who taught me so much in his brief life and so much more in his death.

Tomorrow, I will order grief back in its resting place. But for has full reign.

Happy Birthday, Ronan. I miss you. Love, Mommy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Whisper, Whisper, And That is That

I had not seen him in a long time. The war called him right before Christmas, and then I glanced at him briefly when he got back from deployment. He went on his two week rest and relaxation and at the tail end of that, the diagnosis came in. His son had cancer. All hell was breaking loose.

We've tried to rally as a unit, we gathered money for meals. We have sent 200 texts back and forth to each other, mostly of the holy shit, I can't believe this is happening variety.

I saw him yesterday, passing along a card for his son that we all signed encouraging words in, and the giftcards so they can eat. His eyes were misty. The lump in my throat was the size of Venus. We hugged, and he whispered 'thank you' and was off---

The whisper hit me deep down where I tend to bury the real emotion of reality. The core of pain, hurt, fear, loathing. The emotion of his mess. My mess.

He left and I closed my door and cried. When did life get so complicated?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lies and the Liars Who Tell Lies

So, my former boss managed to do a number to my group and our reputation before he walked out the door. Basically has told everyone that the only thing that we have accomplished is being late with our final tech reports.

And while I will agree we are often late, to our defense, we start late on projects because of a wacked system we are forced to work in. However, we do push through and always deliver the final product, even though it's late (and there are times we get machines and no reagents. Reagents and no machines. Contractors and no supplies. I mean the list is insanity).

So, my interim boss asked to come to my lab meeting to talk to the lab and to tour the lab. So, I obliged. After being demoted and basically having all sorts of crazy shit happening to me in the last 3 weeks, what the hell do I have to lose, right?

So, as we toured, I told her what we did, how we did it, what we can do. And I think she was completely floored. For when you are fed lines about a person, from a person you probably trust, and then you see what that bad-mouthed person has actually done with your own, unobstructed eyeballs, the story changes drastically.

By the end of the tour she walked away with lips pursed and a plan to get me back in the good graces of my Commander, who was told a bunch of malarkey about us.

"People are building programs with nothing, and you actually have something--more than probably anyone in the department"

Why yes. Yes we do.

I don't know if this will about-face the bullshit that has been coming in droves over the last 21 days, but I will tell you that it felt so nice to see someone admit (at least by the sheer, utter expression on their face) that they were completely and totally wrong. I felt vindicated.

For now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lies and Brain Tumors

Today was awful.

Just plain awful.

An old colleague turned foe and in such a way I'm thinking he's lost his mind.

My leadership has everyone convinced I'm the crazy one.

 I feel I have stumbled into the Twilight Zone....

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What Fears May Come

I watch my daughter be paralyzed by fear that only can be logical in the mind of a 5 year old.

She hates scary movie trailers.

And by scary, I mean The Muppet Movie trailer, where Kermit was not Kermit, but an evil frog trying to pretend to be Kermit. The fear of this Kermit with the fake mole and the bad accent was so bad that she downright almost refused to see Frozen in the theater again. Frozen!! The movie that she knows every song, every line, every whimsical scene that tugs at the hearts of all little girls and makes them ask their momma's for a sister.

I have tried to pep talk her into getting past these fears, because they are coming in droves and popping up at weird, inopportune places. I have done the nice mommy, trying to understand and then resort after the 1000000th time to the Latina 'you will push through and suck it up'. Not my best display of support, but yeah, we all have our limits about how the evil Kermit can pop up randomly and destroy a trip to Subway for lunch.

I have had one of my worst fears come true recently. Something I have sidestepped by playing by the rules and being a go-getter. Or so I thought. Last Monday my deputy commander called me into his office---said I was a great worker, but I would no longer hold my leadership spot in my department. A new Colonel was coming in and 'they needed to put him as Chief'.

It was a blow, and one that had been coming for about 2 years, dealing with a leader who, for lack of a word, is a spineless-ass-chicken shit. February started our demise. And by June he was gone, but not without taking me down with him.

I haven't really had time to process this, as things were due. Things that in any other given period in my life I would have tossed out the window and said 'fuck this and this place', but my senses came back and I pushed through, because when you work so hard to finally get a chance to prove yourself after 7 years to the bigger 'joint' community, you don't throw it away because some asshat who doesn't know what you do for a living managed to get the upper hand.

So, I wrote. And wrote, and didn't let the festering derail me. But tomorrow, the final proposal is turned in and now the reality of what has happened to my career is at the forefront of my thoughts. But as I was dipping into the downward spiral of woe is me on Sunday, I get this frantic text from one of my colleagues that, after I re-read it 142x, realized that he was telling me that his 15 year-old most likely had bone cancer and was going to lose his leg.

I have been sitting with his news and my news all week. Going back and forth between the fear of cancer and the fear of not being successful in my career. Two totally different things, and some may argue, completely unrelated, but both fears on this spectrum now have to be dealt with. Head on. Like when I have to be firm with my daughter--I hear this voice. Suck it up and find a way to move through this. Your fear is right in front of you to deal with. You must deal with it.

I feel awful for my colleague. He and his wife are crazy right now dealing with the reality of cancer, chemo, amputation, more chemo. And as I feel awful for them, I pack up my office that will become the new boss' office, and plan a way forward through this mess....