Golden Sun

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Will you take me even now?

Will you love the new person I’ve become?
I’ve searched high and low for the shadows of who this person was before.
I see the books she used to read, the clothes she used to wear. She was so hopeful, naive leaving this ghost house in tact, assuming that she’d return

the same.

I’ve spent the past almost five years mourning my daughter.

But I’ve come full circle and I see her all around me. I planted her, and she grew. Not the experience I hoped for, by a long shot. But our relationship is just that.

Ours.

My relationships under the golden sun feel very beat on. Worn.

I realize that the persons on the other end haven’t changed much, though staring back at them a person that not even I recognize.

Things have become so comfortably unrecognizable that I’m okay with who this person is now. It once scared me, but it doesn’t anymore.

But I can feel the outside world giving it their very best to get along with the girl they once knew. Connect with her, though she isn’t the same. They no doubt wonder a lot, maybe not at all. Chalking it up to something frivolous.

But she wasn’t frivolous.

She was my daughter, and now that I have a daughter to raise her on this brown earth and under the golden sun, I know.

I know what I’m missing.

The gap rends my heart, but this heart soaks up those tears.

Be thankful.

And I drown in so much thankfulness.

My heart bursts, I can barely wrap my mind around how quickly (retrospectively, of course) things got better after they were so, so horrible.

But rising in the aftermath is something I didn’t see coming.

A survivor. War paint is often involved, in paint and charcoal. Dirt from a little boy and smudges of bananas from the most heavenly baby hands. A woman with mostly the same interests, but she isn’t the same.

Will you take this person still?

She misses who she used to be too, but there isn’t a path that leads back. Only forward.

I read once “don’t look back, you’re not going that way”.

Oy.

How complete. How true. And a little sad.

I can’t change back. I refuse to try anymore. She didn’t die to leave me the way I was. She died, and whether or not I believe it was God-ordained, that changed me in and out and every which way you can possibly imagine. It’s a transformation that took flight the moment her soul flew from this earth.

I entered the last year of my twenties this past weekend and when it finally hit me that day, I was a little sad. A decade ready to be behind me, almost. This decade has been the decade of school days, marriage, babies. It has transformed me in the most excruciating, and at the same time, in the most rewarding ways.

I start this year with a deep breath. Time flies when all you want to do is sit and soak it in. This year feels like one long goodbye to the baby years, the pregnancy days and all that comes with carrying precious new life, a goodbye to so many firsts. I look forward to this next decade – hopefully the one where we get to see them start school, and get to know our littles a lot, lot more. And see them become the beautiful souls they were created to be.

Maybe I’m not supposed to recognize this person I’ve become, maybe it’s an ever-changing transformation. One that I’m not in charge of. One that is divinely orchestrated. One I don’t really have a say in, only prayers that I can someday catch up. I feel like our society is eat up with “finding yourself”. I have to admit I am drawn to soul searching, and exploring these transformations that take place after intense life situations, but I can’t spend my whole life trying to find something. I fear I’ll miss these days – the days that so many testify are the best days of your life. And I am totally convinced.

I’m still getting to know this new me. But this life is about so much more. It’s about pouring yourself into the people in your world. And finding fulfillment in giving pieces of your heart and soul away. It all comes back to you somehow, I truly believe it does.

Until then, I’ll enjoy the ride under this golden sun I’ve come to love on the sunny days and miss on the cloudy ones, so so much.

First Birthday Party

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Turn To Stone by Ingrid Michaelson on Grooveshark

First of all, I can’t even put into words, but I was overwhelmed – still am – by the response of my last blog post. I just want to say thank you for everyone that shared your stories, your encouraging words… you helped me… more than you know.

From the moment she was born my dad has called Evelyn “Sunshine”. And ever since her personality has started to bloom, that names fits her so well. When I started thinking up “themes” for her first birthday I knew I didn’t want a princess theme until she was big enough to enjoy it, and nothing else came to mind except a rainbow/ sunshine theme. It was perfect!!:)

I took rainbow-colored streamers and strung them around my parents’ home, where the party was held. Where the streamers ended, me and my little brother blew up white balloons of all sizes and wrapped white tulle between the balloons to make clouds from them. But the best part, aside from you know, the birthday girl was the cake. This cake was the cake of all cakes. Seriously. It kind of hurt my heart to have to cut it up! It had glitter, ya’ll.

At the last minute my dad ran around the corner and got a pinata for the kids. He said every party needs one of these. After seeing the kids have such a good time, I think I agree.

I thought I would be a real mess, but like everything Evelyn Jane, her turning one has all been kind of surreal. I held back bitter tears on the way to my mom’s that morning to decorate. I wanted this day to be about her. Not about what I didn’t get. Over time I’ve had to train my mind to stop those thoughts dead in their tracks. Grief is grief is grief. And things will always have a way of circling back to Jenna, especially with the milestones we get to celebrate with Evelyn but I don’t want my love for Jenna to steal my joy today… I want my love for Jenna to be something that makes me a better person, a better mom, a better wife today. I want her life to be honored. For so long, I allowed grief to steal happiness, smiles, joy and gifts around me, and I think that is the nature of the beast. Grief steals, and if you let it, it will only continue to swallow up more parts of your life. On Saturday, I let myself be happy beyond tears and words. I let myself be all there. Seeing her sit in front of her massive rainbow cake brought me to tears. Happy tears, honestly sad tears, but mostly thankful tears.

I still can’t believe she’s ours some days.

ps- I took these photos on manual mode!! I’m getting brave ya’ll! I’m also signing up for Beryl’s Momtographie course, which I know will help me make that transition from “auto” to “manual” so. much. easier. :)

Having a Girl After Losing A Girl

Having a Girl After Losing a Girl // Pregnancy after loss

I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz on Grooveshark

This is hands down one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written. It’s been one that has been stirring in my heart for over a year now. One that often sends me crashing and burning, wondering how I’ll ever explain some of the things I might be writing here, to Evelyn one day as she gets older, but somewhere deep down inside I know it needs to be said. It’s our story. And it’s messy. But above everything else, love is in the center of this mess. And I hope that in my clumsy attempt to put this part of my heart into something slightly more tangible – that LOVE is what reigns when all these words fall from my heart and through my fingertips, and glows through someone else’s screen.

Since I decided to let a lot of my work in the baby loss community go, and embrace this change in my path… (a focus on art and writing), a few well-meaning friends have wondered and asked me if I would be where I am today (healing-wise, I think), if it weren’t for Evelyn Jane.

The truth is, I wouldn’t. And I was honest each time those piercing questions came. I am not bothered by the question – I think being in the baby loss community, being highly involved and then one day nearly walking away completely from that line of work raises a few eyebrows, maybe a few critics, but definitely questions. Letting Still Standing Magazine slip out of my hands was one of the hardest choices I have made since starting my online work. I struggle with even calling it “work” because none of this ever really feels like work. Sometimes I write, and that helps my heart and soul and mind process life… sometimes I create and I love to share what happens with my creations whether they are messy, ridiculous or something that I am actually happy with. And sometimes I connect with some of the most inspiring, amazing souls. It’s hard to call what you love to do… work. I am very blessed.

But a few months ago, I felt an urgency to leave the baby loss community behind… not so much the people – in fact not the people at all, but the environment. The constant reminders that we are casting on ourselves. The label of being a baby loss mom. I don’t want to be remembered that way. For a while, I was afraid of not being known as a baby loss mom, but I never wanted the death of my first daughter to define me. I just didn’t want to lose her anymore than I already had, if that makes any sense at all. I’ve done a lot of different things since losing her to keep her memory alive. Most of those things I’ve shared at one time or another on this blog, and on facebook. I think it became an obsession. But it was the kind of obsession that was born from fear. I became so afraid of losing her memory, that I felt like I needed to keep doing something. But it has never been enough. Not once. At the end of the day, she’s still dead. She is still the one I had to say goodbye to, and no matter how many journals I donated, or how many memory boxes were sent out, or how many candles I burned, God never changed his mind and let this all become one really cruel nightmare. It’s always our reality that we lost our first child. It never stops being real, or true, or infinitely devastating.

One of the biggest ways I honored her life was by founding Still Standing Magazine. It started on the day she would have been three. It’s going strong, and it is a tragedy really that something like it is even needed, but when I felt that urgency to distance myself from the baby loss world, I knew that this resource needed to live on.

Surrounding myself with articles talking about fresh, raw grief daily left me feeling like a hypocrite, honestly. Because there were many, many days when I could remember relating to any given article in the past, but my typical day now does not involve tears or anger over our daughter’s death. My typical day feels quite normal, whatever normal is these days. But the bottom line is, I’m happy again. And I’ve been shying away from that fact, even shamed myself into thinking, what will people think when they see how happy I really am? when it came to writing for this online space – my blog and Still Standing.

After we announced that we were having a girl, when I was pregnant with Evelyn, I started getting mixed signals from a few people in the baby loss community. Most were overjoyed for us, but some felt inclined to let me know that I needed to be more sensitive about how I shared our pregnancy/our joy over having another girl. I have to say, that it kind of broke my heart reading those latter responses, because before ever sharing *any* bit of happiness or joy over Evelyn (even to this day) I always, always think about the ones who will never get their “rainbow”. It’s almost like this silent guilt I keep carrying around for getting a girl. At the same time I know that the person(s) at the other end were not speaking out of malice, but from a wounded, broken heart – who might not have the privilege to carry life again, and get that “rainbow”, or perhaps they have been trying for some time now. It’s always bittersweet, and I’ve been holding back on the sweet… a lot here.

Sharing the joy over Evelyn isn’t the same as it was with Joseph. With Joseph, he was a miracle. He was the baby that filled my arms and warmed our hearts. He made me smile again. And I never knew I could fall so deeply in love so quickly after losing Jenna.

Evelyn came with a whole different set of circumstances and heart-expectations. The truth is, I never ever dreamed or dared to imagine that I’d have another girl one day. It was a dream I was scared to fantasize about. I had my boy. I could hug him. I could love on him. Give me another boy, something about boys feels safe. I thought, maybe God just doesn’t think I’d be a good “girl mom”. He’ll probably let me keep another boy, but watch me get pregnant with a girl, he will probably take her from me.

I didn’t want another girl, because I was afraid of so many things. What if I compared her to Jenna? What if I couldn’t love her? What if she died too? Would her death mean as much? Would I be capable of mourning or would I die of a broken heart this time? What if I called her Jenna?

And then… BOOM.

She was a girl. I didn’t cry. I don’t know if I can even articulate how it felt to hear Pete say when he opened that gender-revealing envelope that we were going to have another girl.

I thought I would burst into dramatic, happy tears, but I didn’t. All I remember doing is… freezing. This was real though. She was a girl! And then when it started to sink in, all these things came flooding over of me again…

The bows! The ribbons! The pink! The ballet slippers, and sweet Sunday morning dresses… all the things I had shunned away from because they were too painful… these little dreams could be ours again. That day I made our second daughter her first set of headbands.

And another seed of joy started blooming in my heart. More impossible joy after impossible loss.

For a long while I balanced this unforgiving beam of grief and joy. I founded Still Standing right after Evelyn was born. It was what my heart needed. I needed Jenna in my world in a very big way, because strangely – having Evelyn here with us made Jenna feel that much further away.

There is something about having a rainbow baby, and then there is something about having the same gender rainbow baby. Maybe not to all, but to some, yes. To me… most definitely.

When Evelyn was born I hardly ever talked about it, and if I did I glazed over it because it was too painful to admit but I fell into depression. I fought for four months with what a lot of doctors might write off as postpartum depression but to me, I knew it went much, much deeper (not to undermine postpartum, because I realize that that can be a very real, and serious matter). Mine went three years back, into that room where I held my first daughter as she took her last breathe… and none of it was peaceful. It was all horrific. Death was as real as the buttons my fingertips are pounding on that day. And he stole her from me.

Every time I held Evelyn, my heart was this impossible mix, like oil and water, of the purest joy and rawest grief. I had been here before, but never with a living girl. Something was different with Evelyn. And I hate myself that I could not separate grief and joy those months of her life. Without meaning to, I distanced my heart from her. I had a hard time bonding. I never saw this coming. I pleaded with heaven, I begged God for help. I talked to a few trusted friends about this. Everyone said it’s to be expected, but it didn’t make any of this easier.

I kept wondering when it would be enough. When would I stop letting death steal more of my life?

One night I can still remember the tears flowing… the breakthrough. I can’t even put it into words, but I knew that we’d be okay – her and I. That love that I was so afraid of giving her poured over her one night as I breastfed her, in months and months of heldback tears. I watched her falling asleep, both of us soaked with tears, and love. All this bundle of joy. So much richness. So much sadness. So much possibility. But the change in my heart that took place that night, it’s led me here.

Where I choose love. And choose joy. And sometimes I need to hang out with sorrow and pain too because they hold hands with the thief that took our first daughter from us. I’m comfortable with them though. They are like familiar foes, and we choose to get along. It amazes me how peace can exist even in the most impossible circumstances.

I don’t know how you go from writing a pretty narrow “baby loss” blog to writing a story all of it’s own. I’m willing to lose “followers” or “fans”, whatever facebook is calling that these days. I won’t think less of you if cannot read this part of our story right now. But there comes a time where you have to be you. You have to know what that means, and follow through. You have to know your limitations, and trust your instinct. And if anything, don’t let fear call the shots. Let love reign. Let hope persevere, and compassion rule in your heart.

I guess the great part is, I don’t have to choose between them. I choose them all. Jenna, Joseph and Evelyn. They each hold my WHOLE heart. And each of them have filled our story what it is today – chapters of love, tear stains, fear, impossible loss, followed by impossible joy and more impossibleness (yes, I just made up that word!) sprinkled everywhere in between. It’s just one big mess, but I guess (hoping?) you’re used that that around here…

Christmas

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I’m finally getting a chance to go through the Christmas pictures. As you can probably tell, I have no idea what I’m doing with my camera in the dark, early morning :) Blurry pictures do tell a story though, don’t they? The hustle, the life, the work or lack thereof put into a photo and the immediate necessity to just capture it already – regardless of it’s quality. #herestomorecrappyphotos

In all seriousness I put “learn to take better pictures” on my 2014 list of goals. We’ll see how that one goes. I get bored reading about ISOs and whatever else it all involves, but I’d like to get better.

Back to Christmas. Christmas was so good. It was actually more like a week of festivities, and we’re right near the end of it. Saturday was Christmas at Pete’s mom’s house, Monday was our seventh anniversary, Tuesday we spent some times playing games and watching the cousins tear up my sister-in-law’s house, Wednesday was a day of travelling, cooking, relaxing, presents and catching up, tomorrow we hopefully get to celebrate the seven years (that actually feel more like two decades) of marriage (yay!), and Sunday… our baby turns a whopping ONE. First of all, that isn’t happening. I’m in denial. Something about her party in two weekends from now will help it feel more official. I think. Second, I just want a break from my break :) I’m exhausted, but a good and full exhausted. The kind of exhausted that makes you want to take a super long nap just so you can jump up and start all these ideas rolling around in your head. And then hug and squeeze life and be okay with a few things slipping out of your hands just as long as the important things stick around.

So somehow we survived Christmas. And when I say “we” I’m actually talking about myself. My family rocks and rolls this time of year. Evelyn has learned their ways. I was holding my breathe and just waiting. I thought it might catch me by surprise. Grief, you know? Christmas Eve I decided I wanted to go down to Texas Children’s and donate a parking pass for another NICU family in need. A family member did that for us when Jenna was in the NICU and well, that gift brought me to tears. I hope it touches someone else. It made Christmas feel more complete and special being down there and doing something in her honor. I won’t get to meet that family but I was able to write them a little card of encouragement and I got to use one of my own cards for it :) I went to visit Jenna afterward at the cemetery. I felt completely inadequate because I didn’t have any flowers or gifts to bring her but I wanted to see her. I talked to her. I feel so strange talking to her, but after a few sentences of awkwardness I started to feel a connection. I doubt she can hear me but something tells me she knows more about this life than I can see. Something about death, it is so silent. You beg in tears and heartache that you might feel a nod of agreement or a hesitant reply or a whisper in love. But the cars keep rolling by in the distance. The leaves keep rustling and falling and the sun keeps beaming on and lighting up this planet as if chaos never visited your doorstep. The world keeps turning. And then one day you find yourself turning again with it. I felt that surge right there on the ground with her. The full circle my grief has made these past four years. I have to assume it will continue to grow and learn and take on new formations.

Christmas felt like Christmas again. And it feels strange to admit it, but it’s true. I’m not leaving her behind, I am bringing her into this new world of light and peace with me. I’ll remember her in new ways and this year we really did.

Christmas felt like Christmas again. I don’t know how that happens. Do you arrive in this place of acceptance? Do you seek it actively or does it just happen? Does the full plate of raising babies water down grief for a while? The biggest question for me is, will it last? Someone once told me (in another context), that you might want a lot of good things in life, but it is what you want the most that will be yours in the end. I don’t know if that’s true for grief. I really don’t. All I know is that this place is a good place. And I will keep chasing this. The place of real pain, real peace and everything in between.

A Letter

Dear Jenna,

I’m going to go one living. Because that’s one does. Live.

For a while there I never imagined this would be possible and even if it was, that it would be something my heart would want.

But I do.

I’m here. Living. Loving.

This life.

A year or so ago I hit rock bottom, even with the “rainbows” and the blessings that God continued to poor over our lives. All I could see was what I didn’t have. I was so thankful, yet so empty.

I am looking onward, upward. It is a shift in perspective and one I wasn’t ready to take until now.

Time does that you know. It doesn’t heal. Healing is something that will only be accomplished in the next world. When we see Jesus, face to face.

But grace, it has a way of making things alright. Even when your world doesn’t make sense. And behind every blessing is the shadow of pain and loss.

Next year holds some big decisions for me. Some more things I believe I need to let go of. You will never be one of them. But there are seasons, and I can feel a leading that is guiding me to a next chapter or season of my life. Sigh.

Letting go, not my strong suit.

You will live on in spirit. And your name, I will only speak to those who are willing to listen to more than the sadness that illuminates your name and life. I will speak your name and story to those that understand that you are so much more than a storm, than a sad chapter in our lives. You made me a mom. For the very first time. And life has been busting wide open, bleeding with pain and new revelations since that day, but I have to say after all these years you are still a gift.

Joseph mentions your name at least once a day right now. It might only be a seasonal thing. Maybe it’s his age, I don’t know. But I do love to hear your name from your brother.

Sometimes I think about you three together, and it is an impossible dream that captures my mind for a few short seconds.

I’m not sad anymore. Is that wrong?

I get waves of longing, wondering. Even missing those days with you. But the sadness, if it’s here, it’s not the thing I hold on to the tightest anymore. These days, I am holding onto the now.

I am sad only that you can’t be a part of the now we are living. Our life is full of adventure, laughter, love, trials, growth… but one day sweet girl.

One day.

I just don’t have words for that day, because I simply cannot imagine it.

Until that day, I am living fuller because of you. That sounds terribly cliche and I am sorry that words fail me now – but it couldn’t be more true. You’ve given me the unction to be fearless, the motivation to chase my dreams, the courage to do what I love, in the face of failure and opposition.

You’ve given me my life back.

A friend recently shared this quote with me and it describes my life so perfectly. I think it describes so many of us, walking all these different paths of life…

 

Remembering Them at Christmas Time

Remembering them at Christmas time, a list of idea on including your child in Heaven in your Christmas seasonOver the years I have read and heard of some interesting and beautiful ways to include your children in heaven in your Christmas tradition. I wanted to make a list, in case anyone is looking for ideas. I wish I could remember where I found/ read some of them, but like I said it’s something I’ve collected over the years and I want it written down somewhere. :)

+ buy a children’s book, and donate to your local children’s hospital’s NICU floor/ cancer floor in memory of your child

+ create a care package/ memory box and deliver to your local hospital

+ deliver home-baked goods (or flowers) to the nurses/staff /doctors /midwives that aided you at the hospital/ birthing center

+ include a stocking for your child in Heaven and ask family and friends to write a note, a memory or a wish and read them on Christmas morning

+ send a lantern (you can write a message before sending it off with a sharpie) to the sky

+ donate some toys to a child in need, who might be around the same age as your child would have been

+ make an ornament in your child’s memory. This idea is absolutely gorgeous.

+ decorate a miniature tree for your child

+ each year buy your child a special ornament and keep them in a special box, even if you don’t use them all every year

+ donate to a charity or cause in your child’s memory. Ask your friends and family to donate in your child’s name, if you think they might be receptive. Once someone anonymously donated $50 to the Ronald McDonald House in Jenna’s name, and it was one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received. A cause close to my heart is Angela’s book campaign. She even has an option to include your child’s name in her book!

+ Decorate your child’s resting place, and if you don’t have one you can create a small space for your child in your home (maybe around the miniature Christmas tree)

+ host a meal through the Ronald McDonald House at your local hospital

+ Use his/ her handprints and incorporate them into an ornament. Tutorial here.

+ do a random act of kindness everyday in December until Christmas (or the new year!) and leave a note saying who it is in memory of. You might create the note on the computer in a Word Document and print out, or photocopy :)

+ read the Christmas Box books, so good!

+ take part in an ornament exchange, or start your own with the people in your circles

+ write your baby messages in the snow, sand (you know, if you live where it snows… or near the beach)

+ take a mini vacation to a different city and take the opportunity to escape the clammer of the holidays, when your heart can only feel pain

+ decorate a candle in your child’s memory. Tutorial here.

+ start new Christmas traditions. 

+ make a snow globe using one your child’s pictures, photo copy of hand prints/ footprints, or even ultrasound pictures. Tutorial here.

If you have any ideas, feel free to include them in the comments <3

Here’s to You, December

Christmas ornaments for Jenna's treeTo tell you the truth, this year hasn’t been as hard as all the other years of Christmas time without Jenna. The first was unbearable, the second was bittersweet in every sense of the word, so we escaped town for the second time and spent Christmas with just me, Pete and the Bubs. The third Christmas I hit rock bottom. Literally. It was a rude awakening when this post accidentally published that I had written around Christmas time went viral in early February. And then this happened. From that point on I started to let go of my withholdings. This blog became so much more than grief — because I was accepting that my life was so much more than grief.

I will always grieve, but the truth is I do not cry every day, every week or every month.

I rarely get to the cemetery, not because I don’t want to go but because life is just that crazy. And complicated. And let’s face it, sometimes I just don’t want to go. It takes me to a dark place that sometimes is better left unvisited for the time being.

Grief has been a huge, huge part of my life for the past four years. Right now my life looks and feels so different than it did even a year ago. I imagine it will continue to change. I also imagine grief will always be my companion. And sometimes it will be a monster. But it will always be there.

I really wanted to put together another arrangement of “12 days of Christmas with you in Heaven” this year. It would have been the third year. But the truth is, I did not know where to even begin this year. My heart is in a different place. I suppose in a way I have found peace with the way we celebrate Jenna this time of year. I also know so many other baby loss moms are doing similar things on their own blogs (Beth’s “Hurting for the Holidays” and RaeAnne’s “12 Days of Christmas”), so it didn’t feel like it needed to be done. The great thing is that those posts will forever be out there. I’ll repost some of them on the facebook page from now until December 25th. There are some gems. Some really great ideas and beautiful words from the guest writers that made it all possible.

Today I was putting up Jenna’s tree in our living room area and a wave of sadness overcame me. Sadness, and sincere gratitude. Most of her ornaments are gifts that were sent those first two years we spent without her. I remember opening those packages and feeling completely overwhelmed with the love from this baby loss community. Her tree is so perfect, it’s decorated by some of the most beautiful moms around the world.

I so often wish there weren’t states, thousands of miles and even oceans separating us. It feels like we have been through so much together. Losing babies, trying to get pregnant again, having rainbow babies, and some of us more than one.

Life has these seasons. The seasons aren’t usually the hardest part. It’s walking away from them that is the hardest thing to do.

Sometimes.

This season is about taking back what I lost. Learning to walk again. Breathing a little easier. Dancing on what once seemed like impossible ground.

Learning to take flight. And be unafraid of what’s next.

I can’t get her back. But I can get a version of my faith back. A version of myself. A different kind of happy.

Free Christmas Download - 8x10 Print "all i want for christmas is you". Click link for full image size.Click image to download this 8×10 image for free.

Listening love.

A little bit of shop news: You can get half off of anything in the shop through midnight Monday (enter BLACKFRIDAY at checkout).

Christmas Photo Cards

This year I’ve put together a few printable Christmas Cards. They are $15 each, and of course I will pop in your own photos/ info:) I also made it possible so that if you have experienced a loss, and want to include a butterfly or heart by your family’s list of names you can do that. Over the years handing out Christmas cards has gotten tricky, but it was especially hard at first. I felt like leaving Jenna off of the cards was a disgrace to her memory, but putting her on there would make people cringe. I found a way to include her on this year’s Christmas cards, I hope to find a bird symbol but if not, I will be popping in a little heart in her memory.

To order your card, just let send me an email at fran@smallbirdstudios.com, with your photo and choice of card. I will send an invoice via PayPal and have the design for you to print at your local printer within 24 hours! In the past, I have received great pricing at Office Depot, which is probably where we will end up printing our own cards this year.

Christmas Card Design #1

Christmas Printables3

 

Christmas Card Design #2

Christmas Printables4

 

Christmas Card Design #3

Christmas Printables5

 

Christmas Card Design #4

Christmas Printables1

 

Christmas Card Design #5

Christmas Printables2

For more Christmas cards options for bereaved parents, visit Lost for Words, or visit my shop where I can make you a custom card using your ideas.

Fog Rising

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Today Bubby asked where Jenna was. Again.

Of course, he knows the answer but this age. Oh, this age. He just likes to hear my answer again, and again and again. I think it is a security thing, making sure nothing has changed in the past five minutes or past five days. I love that he wants to know even a little bit about his big sister, but it is all so very bittersweet. He also asked if she was playing, and I kind of lost it for a minute.

The truth is this new life, it swallows me up whole. And at first I was resistant. I fought every bit of it. I felt guilt about warming up to the idea of laughing so hard that tears come out, and smiling so big that your heart carries it over your countenance for the entire day. Happiness is scary stuff after losing a baby.

One of my friends posted something on facebook a few days ago, and it has been on my heart ever since.

“I am more than my sad story. So much more. It just took some time for me to remember.”

I am so much more than my sad story.

I get scared sometimes admitting that here, because I realize that so many readers have probably experienced a loss very recently. I never want to write something that makes someone want to throw their laptop out the window or hurl. I want to write real life. And the truth is, some days grief just takes me by surprise and I am angry, hurt and exhausted. Other days are the so-called “good days”. But the entire thing, this life after loss – it’s messy. Just messy.

That part about “it just took some time for me to remember”, well yes. It took a couple of years for me to accept that I wanted to be truly happy again. Smile at people, go out of my way to be friendly (I am a ridiculous introvert!), buy myself something that makes me feel good about me. Find me. Whoever that might be now.

And be completely and incandescently (as Mr. Darcy would put it) okay with that.

Through the fog rising, I see this life. The laughter, the smiles, the friendships, the bonds, the fire of passion. I’ve tasted how beautiful it can be, even this broken vessel. And I just want every bit of it.

From There to Here

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Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole on Grooveshark
I don’t even know where “here” is, but I have to say it’s a long way from where I started out.

I started out mostly lost, definitely confused and just plain sad. Like the kind of sad that makes your soul ache. The kind of sad that empties your tear ducts and your face hurts from all the crying.

But I’m here.

In such a different place.

A place of being a stay-at-home/ work-at-home mom. Surrounded by diapers, and messy floors and interrupted phone calls.

A place where I have the privilege to kiss my babies goodnight and hug them so many times in a day because I just can’t get enough of their littleness. Joseph is getting to the age where he doesn’t snuggle a whole lot, unless he is just plain wore out or wants a book to be read to him. So I get in the snuggles while I can, when I can.

This place is also swarming with land mines.

A step in the wrong direction can land you in a pint of ice cream, bawling your eyes out. Because sometimes the sadness – it never really leaves. You just learn to control it better over time.

I think.

But somehow you figure out a way to keep breathing under the incredible load of grief over your chest.

You don’t feel strong. You feel old, ancient actually. You feel worn. Tired.

This place also makes me smile at the thought of death. Not in a suicidal way, but in a way that I am looking forward to what comes next.

Being with her again.

Don’t misinterpret that. I’m not seeking out death, but I’m not as scared of it as I might have been before. I have something precious waiting for me on the other side.

This place.

I just don’t know sometimes. She is the turning point for me. There is a “before” Jenna, and “after” Jenna. For basically everything in my life.

Today Joseph was talking about Jenna. He told me she has blue eyes and that she’s a “big girl”, not a baby. He was so sure of himself. I smile at the possibility that I am getting glimpses of her through his eyes.

It feels good to say her name without tears. But I find that harder and harder. I’m not sure why either.

Sometimes I get carried away with life I think I forget how much I really miss her. I wonder if when the kids are older will the grief hit me at full force again? They serve as such wonderful distractions from such tremendous pain.

I don’t know. But I do wonder sometimes.

collage

ps- Today Carly + I released our Lost for Words calendars for next year. You can find mine here and Carly’s here.

To be Free

Disclaimer: this post is a heartfelt post, but it also is one that I am using to help spread the word about the Ford Fiesta Movement. The theme is still adventure, last week I posted my bucket list and last Tuesday I was able to live out one of those! :)

Mumford and Sons GOTR

I find grief a very distant friend these days.

I don’t even know why I refer to grief as a “friend” either. But after all this time it hardly feels like an enemy. It feels like the only connection to her that I have left. Not so tangible but just as real.

And even though I feel like I have exhausted myself with every thought imaginable concerning our loss, I still crave to keep her spirit alive somehow. To tell you the truth, it’s in a different way now. Yes, to always remember her and keep her memory alive… but more so to celebrate the life I feel that she gave back to me. She handed me a new set of cards when she left this earth. I could hardly imagine at the time how much would change from that moment going forward, but it did. In every possible way, life changed and has never been the same. Of course, it goes without saying I would trade it all to raise her in our home, as the eldest daughter. My goodness, I think about that everyday. What it would be like with her here.

But she isn’t. And that’s just it. Life is different. And somewhere between the NICU stays, the beautiful friendships we have made along the way, and the ups and downs life has handed us since, we made a way to be happy again. To CHOOSE joy. To somehow make grief and joy very real parts of our lives, simultaneously.

For the first time since my loss I feel like it’s okay to not dwell, without feeling guilty about it. I know grief well enough that I am positive, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that she won’t ever leave me alone for good. She will take another swing at my heart before long, and it will be good for my soul when she does. Love like this never dies. It lives on in ways most people cannot understand unless you’ve lost too.

I’ve been picking up my art pencils again. It feels good to be saturated with prismacolors and ridiculous amounts of pencil sharpenings. And to have the art process churning in your heart and mind. To be completely impulsive. To create.

It takes me back to my college artsy days, but in a more confident way. Maybe because I have a few scars of my own. Some experience. Some heartbreak. Some hard-earned life lessons. When I remember my college days, I remember feeling so lost in the sea of starving art students all wanting to make their dent in this world.

She left behind so much, but one thing she gave me was confidence and courage. To just be me. To swallow it, as painful as it might be sometimes, because for goodness sake I am such a people-pleaser even though some might not think so.

To let go, and let things be.

I have been thinking about something I read a while back…

I’m letting go… so I can be free.

 

The thought of “letting go” tugs at my heart. Sometimes I wonder what it must be like for her when I am sad. Do she hurt too? It’s such a silly thought. Heaven wouldn’t be heaven if she cried. But I wonder if I’m supposed to keep letting go… not just for her but for me too…

To be free here.

And adventure.

Travel.

Sing.

Play the guitar. Hopefully, one day.

Draw, and doodle and draw some more.

Hold her baby sister’s hand.

Teach her baby brother about rainbows.

And watch the clouds go by.

Listen to the rain.

And sit under a starry sky and a howling moon, making for one of the most perfect nights in Fran-history while Mumford and Sons plays this song. And let the music pound through the grass through the souls of my feet until it reaches my heart and soul and tears flow.

But not for her, but for me.

Because now I am free.

And maybe, just maybe that’s what she’s wanted for me all along.

To be free, as she is today and has been since we said goodbye.

Rainbow babies

This is a sponsored post and I was compensated for my participation. The opinions expressed are my own. For more adventure inspiration visit here!

Light the Night With Love

I can’t believe it’s already that time again. This Saturday will be the second time we host the Light the Night With Love sky lantern release. One more day!

I know many of you follow me on facebook, but just in case I wanted to mention this here. Plus, hopefully one day my kiddos can visit this little blog and learn all about this amazing night that was inspired by their big sister.

This Saturday, my dear friend Amanda and I will be hosting a sky lantern release. It will be held in Katy, TX at Mary Jo Peckham Park at 7 p.m. We have almost twice as many families joining us as we did last year! It’s equally amazing as it is heartbreaking. There are over 700 names from children gone too soon (from around the world) that are represented on the lanterns.

We look forward to this magical night. Seeing the evening sky lit up with these lanterns is seriously one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. To me it’s like a picture of her soul going up to heaven, and letting her go all over again. It does make me sad but it also in a strange way makes me smile. I think about her in Heaven, like for real. And that is just a thought that I never get tired of. It’s what keeps me going.

Anyway-

If you haven’t already, you can join us by adding your child’s name to the lantern here. (the form sometimes takes a moment to load)

And, if you’re in the area, or up for a road trip (!!!), we’d love to have you. You can find our location here.

***Our event also has a facebook page of it’s own!

**** You can read about last year’s lantern release (and a TON of pictures from it!) here.

***** and the inspiration!

light the night with love

I’m a Weirdo, and That’s Okay.

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W A R N I N G: This is kind of a ‘ranting’ post. Sometimes I just gotta get it out.

Today a little hummingbird whizzed RIGHT past me. I watched in complete amazement as it flew off at the most ridiculous rate. It was so small, so precious and completely perfect. She flew into the gorgeous pink sun set as I was heading into the nursery to pick up Evelyn after church.

Do you ever feel like God lets something happen in your life as a way to just say,”I love you!!!” This was one of those moments. Inwardly it’s been one of those weeks.

When I walked in, someone made a remark, wondering what the heck I was looking at when I walked in. She didn’t say “heck” but her tone said enough.

I’m a weirdo. I explained it was a hummingbird, but she wasn’t impressed. And normally I guess I wouldn’t be either, except there is this little girl, and I miss her so. Especially lately. And when I see amazing little creatures flying into the PINK sunset, my heart skips at a beat, sometimes I forget to breathe and pretend to be normal. And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God gives me these little moments to keep me assured that he GETS it. The missing, the emptiness, the void, the heartache, the wonder and the way you are left holding this empty bag that you keep trying to fill, but nothing quite fits… or stays for very long.

So forgive me while I lose myself in a moment of wonder. I’m a weirdo by nature, and after losing Jenna I for realz don’t care.

Sometimes I’m tired of trying to be normal.

Most days I look put together. And okay. But the truth is, I’m not okay. Well, I am, but I’m not. I’m both.

That is real life after losing a child. Everything magical and amazing in motherhood is haunted by the what if’s, the longing, the heart strings that are infinitely tied to each of your children, including the one you lost.

Lately out of the blue, random people in my world have been sending me little pictures, graphics and messages letting me know they are thinking of Jenna. It’s pretty neat that without me even saying anything, this community just gets it. Even four years later, those “little” things mean the world.

Most days I find myself bottling up grief. Since having Evelyn I feel like I’ve done this even more. More than ever. I’m afraid of Evelyn reading these thoughts one day and wondering, questioning my love for her. It’s ridiculous, I know. But I don’t ever want her to feel unwanted, unloved or like she isn’t just as much a miracle as Jenna and Joseph.

So the only solution I can find rather than it clumsily spilling onto this blog, is bottling it up, but lately it’s just starting to overflow in a way that I realize I cannot stop. Somehow I have to find balance in grief and this new baby as well.

As I’m writing this, I remember I sort of hit “rock bottom” when Joseph was about six months old. It was a hard time. I did the same thing with my grief, of course it was much fresher… but the concept is the same, I think.

I’ve been holding grief as far away from my heart as I possibly could these past eight months, maybe longer. And my arms are getting a little weak. My eyes are leaking more than they have in a while. And even though the pain has been amplified for whatever reason, the release gives my exhausted, grieving heart a little rest. I almost convinced myself I might never cry for her again.

I will.

I know that I will.

I’m not okay, and I am.

I’m both.

That might not make a lot of sense to everyone but if you’ve ever lost a child I think you might understand.

hold the vision, trust the process

UPDATE: this is amazing.

Writer’s Block

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When I can’t write…

When words fail me…

When it feels like my emotions are running through my veins at a crazy pace in every direction, and they have no outlet whatsoever…

When the writer’s block is at all time peak…

I find myself creating.

That’s how I tick. I have to be making something. Like homemade pizza. Or snapping pictures. Maybe something fun like chalk paint for Bubby. Or something completely horrible, but tasty like Nutella cookies.

But I miss writing. Writing is setting my soul free. It allows me to feel my soul EXHALE. And something about it makes every inch of me ready for another day of this thing called life.

Big things happen. Little things. Moments that make my heart ache with so much curiosity and wonder. Yet words fail me. A lot lately, it seems. So I turn to other things to express what my soul just can’t bear inside.

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I think a lot about God being an artist. Being surrounded by so much beauty in Florida last week – the water, the sunset, the impeccable grains of sugary sand, the sea creatures that found themselves at our feet that week… it amazes me. What a great God.

Last week I checked facebook or instagram, I can’t remember which now. But I saw Diana’s update on her precious newborn son (she has lost twins in the past few years, in case you don’t follow her blog or know her), at the time she said he was taking a turn for the worst. That same day, only a few hours later my husband got a text message that a co-worker had been murdered. Twenty-five. Leaving behind young children. It felt so wrong to be vacationing. Enjoying life, when someone else is living through hell. Or dying a completely senseless death.

*sigh*

There just aren’t words sometimes. Only tears. Silent prayers that feel like they hit a brass ceiling or soaking the ground beneath us.

When my feet hit the water for the first time last week, it was at dusk. Jenna instantly came to my mind. I meet her at the beach. I have always loved the beach, but since losing Jenna, it is my heart’s desire to be by the water permanently someday. I feel close to her there. Watching the waves crash, collide and retreat back into the sea help me process the waves of grief. I thought a lot about our eldest girl. I pictured her in the back seat with our precious babies. I so wished I could see her interact with her new baby sister. Bubby is so in love with Evelyn. He just swoons over everything she does. He calls her ‘gorgeous’ and refers to her as ‘my baby’. He lets her play with his favorite toys (now that is love!).

I can only imagine what Jenna would have thought of Evelyn.

I just missed writing tonight… and I’m a blubbering mess now. It’s ridiculous. Sometimes I just forget how much I really miss our Jenna. I think about her every single day, but somedays the ache is too strong to keep inside.

But I am also desperately thankful at the same time.

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Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine!

It kind of made my DAY when I got tagged by PN Mag on Instagram that Evelyn’s nursery was being featured on their website last Friday!

I was interviewed a few weeks ago on the things I decorated her nursery with, and was so excited to share a little bit of the bittersweetness (reality) that you face decorating a nursery for a rainbow baby, as well as the ways we saved money and created her own space in our home. We break the silence in little and big ways I believe. Speaking up about it, truthfully, and with grace.

I hope you enjoy it!

You can read the full article here.

PN MAG feature