Heart

Heart
Mommy's heart for Baby Jacob

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Remembering Jacob's loss - two year's later




I learned something this week.

Well, or perhaps I was just reminded of something.  Maybe I needed to be reminded of it actually.

About a week and half ago or so I noticed something in my quiet moments around the house.  Because of our schedule lately, quiet moments for me are often hard to come by and usually not until late at night when everyone else is asleep.  But as few as they were that busy week, they were there.  And out of the blue I felt a sadness during those times, like something was pulling me ever so gently...but it was pulling me and weighting me down with a glum feeling that I couldn't figure out and that I didn't like.  I didn't have time to be down. 

I knew it wasn't time for my period...isn't that what we typically look for?  :)  Well, surely there must be some reason for my moping around the house, I bet it's PMS.  That's the first thing I questioned.  Such an easy explanation although that didn't fit for me.  Neither did being pregnant and newly pregnant hormones, unfortunately.  So what could it be?  Why amidst the busy fall activities that we were enjoying day after day was this down feeling creeping in to my schedule?

I didn't think much about it, because like I said, my quiet times have been rare and minimal so I just brushed the nagging sorrow aside and continued with my day-to-day activities and events.  Planning, coordinating, remembering, shopping, cleaning, more planning, thinking, etc.  All in a day's work for me.

Last weekend Alex was out of town for drill and it was just the boys and I. I  had a million things on my to do list including working on things for Jacob's anniversary (and some other things which I will keep a secret for now), possibly blogging, and tackling every possible project needing done around the house.  I'm always a tad over-ambitious when he's out of town. :) 

On Saturday the boys and I joined some friends and I at our church for a Family Fall Festival and Trunk-or-Treat.  The boys had a ball romping on the playground.  All of the kids were hanging, running, chasing, climbing, sliding...and all in costume.  A snow fairy, fireman, two cats, Snow White, a goth girl, a nanny, Darth Vader, a shark and tons of other characters frolicked for hours out there.  We had a chili cook-off.  The kids filled up their buckets and bags with candy.  They made fall crafts.  We sang with the new Pastor around a bonfire eating s'mores.  We watched "The Nightmare Before Christmas."  It was such an enjoyable evening.

And then came Sunday.  It started out normal enough.  I was planning dinner for when Alex would come home.  Doing laundry.  Called my dad. 

But before I knew it, a friend of mine unintentionally hurt me.  It wasn't a big thing but it hurt all the same. I know she didn't mean it and probably wasn't aware of how her words came across but it seemed to release a lot of the sadness that I had felt building throughout the past week.  And the tears that had been building finally came.

That night my mom and I talked for two hours about every possible thing on my mind.  Every worry, fret, frustration, you name it came out.  I cried.  I laughed with my mom. I  was so grateful for her time and for doing what she always does best, making me feel better.  Eventually I put myself and that strange Sunday to bed.

The first thought that popped into my head Monday morning when I woke up was there without any conscious thinking about the night before, without any wondering about what had sent my mood spiralling, it was just...there.  I can't explain it any more than that.  Almost as if the words just marched out right in front of me one by one...

Sunday was October 21.  Two years ago on the 21st we found out the devastating news that Jacob more than likely had Trisomy 13 and would not survive to be born, let alone live much longer into the pregnancy.

That was it.  It dawned on me that that was why I had been in such a sullen state...it had been building underneath the surface all week and had to come out on Sunday.  Those feelings couldn't be kept in or quiet or stifled, they needed to come out.  It didn't matter how busy I kept myself, how many times I smiled throughout the week at all of the good things in my life, the memories were still there.  The heart knew.  The heart knows.  It always knows.  The heart will always know.

I know this is nothing new but for me it's a beautiful thing to think about and to reflect on throughout my journey as a mother, and especially as a mother to my son in Heaven.  It doesn't matter how long into my journey I will be, how much healing occurs, how well I move forward, how much I reach out to other baby loss moms...my love for my child will always be there.  It doesn't go anywhere.  It doesn't stop when your baby passes.  It doesn't weaken and fade away over time.  It stays.  It remains.  It's a part of me and always will be.  Because Jacob is part of me.  He is my child.  He existed.  He still exists, just not here with us on Earth. 

And so my love exists for him...always.

I went into the month of October, "Jacob's Month", as you may remember me referring to it, with joy in my heart and with excitement in my steps as I looked forward to all of the beautiful opportunities we had to celebrate our precious baby.  The HEAL Walk to Remember kicked off our month.  I planned our local Face2Face Dayton (part of Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope) October 15th Event, I lit candles for and remembered babies of friends of mine and I looked forward to Jacob's actual day...a day all for him...today, the second anniversary of his death.

So yes, I knew all of this was coming. I knew there would be tears.  There would be memories.  There would be joy and so much love. 

But I think to tell you the truth I hadn't been actively thinking of October 21 on or around that date.  Does that make sense?  But my heart did.  It remembered how profound that date was and always will be in our lives.  It was one of those dates which changed everything.  Our plans for our third and final baby to add to our family were cruelly halted by the news of Jacob's fatal diagnosis.  Everything stopped that day.  How could I not feel an echo of what I felt two years ago?  I had to.  My heart just reminded me, that's all.

Funny thing.  On Monday, I felt fine.  The tugging sadness that I'd felt all week had disappeared.  The challenging Sunday was now just a memory.  It was back to normal life.  I'd like to think that what happened was just a normal step along this journey.  There will always be certain times where the emotions are more intense, where the memories are more fresh...such is the nature of grief, even when healing has occurred.

And do you know what?  That is okay.  It is okay to allow those times and to feel what you need to feel.  I am so glad my heart gave me a gentle reminder to go back to that day when the doctor put his hand on to mine and said, "I'm sorry."  Two words which altered everything that day and every moment since then.  While I may not have revisited that day through remembering actively, I didn't need to.  My heart knew.  It remembered.

And so here I sit.  It is now Jacob's Second Angelversary.  Sometime today on October 25, 2010 and before 5:00 PM, my sweet little baby's heart stopped beating.  He made it 13 weeks. I was 13 weeks exactly.  I've said it before, but it brings me such comfort to know that he was with me then.  That I knew exactly when he died. 

We had faced so much anxiety, anguish, uncertainty and pain in the days from October 21 up to October 25.  We carried a lot of fear in those days too...how would we handle not knowing our baby's future, what if my life would have been at risk for carrying him, what would happen if I miscarried later, or if he passed away later into the pregnancy, or if he lived to be born but only for a few moments...so much fear and pain in those days. 

Almost the same as how my journey started with the doctor's "I'm sorry", came my OB's "Kim, I"m so sorry..." on October 25 but only after I verbalized what I saw first. I knew when I looked at the screen on the opposite side of the room amidst the silence that my baby was gone.  My beloved little flicker had stopped...the little flicker that I loved to watch in Jacob was no longer beating and my baby was still, kind of stretched out as it he had just taken a nap.

Mommy knew.  Mommy knew her sweet baby had gone home to Heaven and had opened his eyes in Jesus' arms.

So with that, I'll close for now.  I'll be back to update more on Jacob's Angelversary later.  Thank you all for being a part of my journey for the last two years.  Your support means more to me and our family than you will ever know.

My dearest Jacob,

Mommy loves you so much! I miss you and wish so much that you were here with us.  You would be 18 mos and 5 days. :)  Oh, I can't even imagine how big you'd be!  How you would laugh and squeal and cuddle with me. 

It brings me so much comfort to know that you are alive and well and happy in Heaven. I know when we are reunited some day, I won't be able to stop hugging and kissing you. I hope you won't mind all of my love for you pouring out all at once! 

Today makes two years since you left us and since you went home to Heaven.  No matter how much time passes, I will never forget you.  I will always be your Mommy and I am so honored and happy to be your Mommy. I will always remember you. I will always cherish you and the time I carried you. I will treasure your ultrasound pictures and your story. I will forever love you. 

I love you sweetie.  I always will.

Love,
Mommy

We all hold you in our hearts, until we can hold you in person...forever...
Love Mommy, Daddy, Sammy and Benny
October 25, 2012
(photo taken at HEAL Walk to Remember, October 6, 2012...we were the last family in the garden)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

On the eve of the Walk...

My dearest Jacob,

Mommy is sitting here tonight thinking about tomorrow's Walk to Remember.  It will be our second Walk since losing you almost two years ago.  Sometimes it seems like an entire year has passed since our first emotional and healing experience there, other times it seems like just a short while ago that I started the event full of tension and tears, but ended it with a much-welcomed sense of peace in my heart.

I have been looking forward to this event for months.  Why?  Because I need to feel close to you.  And this event really helps me to do that.  I know it sounds dumb to like an event as something to "help me" feel close to you, and I hope it doesn't sound like I can't feel close to you without doing something like this.  But you know Mommy.  Mommy is busy taking care of your big brothers and your daddy.  It seems like Mommy is always doing something, huh? :)  So when an event as special as this comes around....something that is solely focused on you and you alone...it is just the time I need to quiet everything else and let me just be your Mommy...and let my love for you spill out of me.  You are my baby and you always will be my baby. I need to be your Mommy.  That's who I am.  I can't not be your Mommy.  It doesn't matter if it's one day after losing you or almost two years.  I will always be your Mommy and my love for you will never be turned off.  It can't.  It just isn't possible.  And so I will always be close to you.  And I will always cherish events like this where I get to focus on feeling close to you.

I look forward to this celebration of you sweetheart...tomorrow we and hundreds of more family members will remember all of our sweet babies and children who left us too soon.  We will remember you.  We will honor you.  We will miss you.  And we will celebrate our overwhelming love for each of you.  And we will cry for you.  The tears may start out heavy and weighted with sadness full of "whys" and "if onlys".  But then hopefully our tears will lighten with joy, hope and love.  I know that's my hope and I bet that's your hope for Mommy too.  I remember how at peace I felt last year watching the last of the orange and black balloons dot the sky.  It was as if my tears purged the anxiety I felt coming into this event--it was after all my first public and "official" good-bye to you in this manner. There was something that scared me about that "good-bye".  It was so official.  Up until then, we had not yet reached your anniversary so time was measured as if we had just lost you, rather than moving into the "one year later" and so on phase of loss and grief.  And so I had no idea what to expect when I came to the Walk in 2011.  I certainly did not expect to break down at each table in the parking lot while I was so tenderly greeted by HEAL Volunteers handing me name tags, balloon tags and butterflies--all on which to write your name.

Your name.  Your sweet name.  How I love to hear your name.  How I love to see your name written!  Jacob.  Jacob Alexander.  Your name sings to my heart...I try to hard to imagine what it would be like hearing your name said aloud on a daily basis as a part of our normal family routine--"Jacob needs his bath tonight," or perhaps, "What time is Jacob's doctor appointment tomorrow?"  or perhaps, "Aw, look Jacob!  Big Brothers, Sammy and Benny, are sharing their cuddly guys with you!" 

But our daily family chatter does not include your sweet name in that way...and so I cherish whenever your name does come up.  If Benny finds a giraffe somewhere and wants me to buy it for "Baby Jacob", I feel my heart smile inside.  Sammy talks of you too, just not as often as he used to.  At least not on his own initiative like when he was younger.  He is growing up; Benny too, but Sammy is starting to find his way out of the sweet, sweet innocence of younger childhood.  After all, he is a big first grader now, you know. :)

If not Benny, probably the other person uttering your name on as much of a regular basis as possible is Mommy.  Me. :)  I think of you so often, and say your name aloud whenever I can.  Just today we were riding in the car on the way to the Spring Valley Potato Festival.  The colors were so pretty!  I can't believe fall just seemed to sneak up on us as quickly as it did!  It was almost like overnight the colors started changing--bright golds, vibrant reds, warm oranges and soft greens.  Daddy had said something about the beautiful scenery along the drive and I said, "I wish Jacob was here to see this.  Although I'm sure what he is seeing is so much prettier than what we have."

Do you think that's silly when we say things like that?  How could anything ever top the sights of Heaven? I know that you have the prettiest colors imaginable there in your sights all the time. You don't have to wait for seasons, they are there whenever you open your eyes.  I guess we, I, say things like that because we miss you.  Even though I know you are so happy and at peace right now, the selfish part of me as your Mommy wishes you were here in my arms.  I wish I could show you the pretty leaves. I wish I could take you out on our upcoming fall photo shoot--the one I do every year for your brothers, and that I've done every year since they were babies.  I'd take you out this year and plop you down on a blanket of oranges, yellows and reds. You would be almost 18 months old.  Of course, I'd help make that blanket as pretty as I could by moving leaves if I had to for just the right background! :)  But then I'd sit you in the pile and let you explore to your heart's content. I'd lay down on damp earth and take tons and tons of pictures of you from every angle.  I'd look up at your sweet face and try to catch you smile with a red leaf in your hand and the bright blue sky overhead.  And then later I'd send Grandma all of the bazillion pictures I took of you and she and I would gush over every single one of them.

This is the second fall we've gone through without you, my sweet baby.  The second season where we remember losing you.  I try not to associate the beauty of the fall with the pain of your loss because I know you wouldn't want that for me.  I know you want Mommy to love every pretty leaf that falls.  And I do.  And so do your brothers.  And so does your Daddy, especially now that we live in Ohio and get to experience fall all season long.  I'm glad that what I've come to call, "Jacob's Month", is right when all of this beauty abounds.  We go to festivals.  We smell the fall scents dancing in air.  We hug each other a little closer when the bitter air sends a chill down our necks.  But through it all, you are there with us.  Because this is your month.  What better way to keep you included in everything we do and enjoy this month than to wrap all of these family events in between your events.

Take tomorrow's Walk.  We went to a Potato Festival today.  Your brothers picked out their pumpkins today.  They are nice and big too!  Perfect for Daddy to carve!  And tomorrow, we will walk for you.  Next week we will dance at Bob Evans' Farm Festival.  And then the very next day, on the 15th, we will release a balloon and light a candle for you as a part of the National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.  We will take your brothers to our church's Trunk or Treat the following weekend.  And then we will have your special day...October 25th.  See, baby?  You are always on our minds and in our hearts, but this month especially we have so many days set aside to remember you and to love you.  I think October has come to be one of my most favorite months for this reason.

Will you be watching us tomorrow Jacob?  Will you look down from Heaven and see Mommy carrying your giraffe?  The poor thing is getting beat up. His neck is getting floppy.  I don't care.  Since I can't carry you, I will carry your giraffe.  He is my little guy to hug, especially at night whenever I miss you, when I cry sometimes and just want to see you and to hold you...when I miss you.  I just wish I could see you, baby.  Just once in a dream.  It is my wish and always will be.  Just once...to see you...

Will you see Mommy with your giraffe tomorrow?  Will you see your brothers holding their balloons?  Will you see Mommy and Daddy cry together like we did last year?  I hope you see us but most importantly I hope you feel our love for you. I hope you feel it floating all the way up to Heaven on a gentle breeze that lands on your cheek like the softest of kisses.

Will you see our balloons soaring high into the sky?  Your brothers are still young and sweet enough to think that balloons reach you in Heaven.  Who am I to say they can't?  Maybe they do in some beautiful way.  Maybe they reach you as brightly-colored pockets of love that come drifting into Heaven's playgrounds.  And you will stop playing with Grandpa just long enough to look up to see our love floating right into your arms.  You reach up, grab it and it pops all over you.  You giggle feeling the warmth of our love and joy at having you for our baby boy.  Maybe a few of our tears that sneak a ride with the balloons will pop over your face like a gentle spring rain and you will turn your face upwards with a smile, soaking all of our love in.  You know how very much we miss you.  Maybe that's how it is and maybe that's how it will work tomorrow.  Something as simple and as beautiful as that.

So tomorrow sweetie, I will go on my second Walk to Remember. I will cry.  I will walk. I will hold on to my balloon until the very last second, not wanting to let it go...not wanting to let you go.  I will remember you. I will love you.  You are my baby and I am your Mommy.  Always.

Mommy loves you, Jacob.

Love, Mommy

Monday, September 10, 2012

Crying for Jacob's Voice

Well, I'm back.  Again.

Talk about frustrating!  These delays in my blogging are so much fun.

You may remember that we returned from a 2.5 week trip to my mom's earlier this summer, June, to be exact.  Alex was out of town at both drill and a conference for work.  The boys and I enjoyed time with Mom, my step-dad and my grandma...soaking up the sounds of Grandma's polkas, Chico's hee haws from the pasture, the boys' giggles as Pa tickled them while watching TV and late night quiet conversations with mom at the kitchen table while we sewed some special projects.

When I first got back, I was able to write about my trip home which you have probably read by now. But then, after that my writing was hampered by the weather.  Can you believe it?  Due to powerful summer storms, we were out of power for 4 days in one storm and cable for almost 2 weeks.  When another storm hit less than 2 weeks later, we were again on the fritz, this time thankfully though not for as long.

My most recent challenge blocking me from writing in the past month or so?  I forgot my password.  Yup, something THAT simple.  Now, you may be wondering, why on earth didn't I just reset it?  Well, I finally was brave and took that step just now because I couldn't take it any longer. I've been away from my blog for long enough.  But I wasn't sure that I wanted to risk that action initially so thought I'd just keep trying to remember my password instead.

 Long story short, when we got new phones this summer, my google account got goofed up simply because the cell phone company had to reset my Gmail account.  They said the two were separate, but they weren't and so resetting one account erased the other at the same time.  I was terrified that I had lost access to my blog permanently.  I don't remember how I got things back up and running again but thankfully I did....complete with new password. 

Well, I wrote it down in a book and then misplaced the book.  Talk about frustrating. 

So here I am.  Once again trying to get things rolling in a consistent manner.  I know it's frustrating for me as a writer, I'm guessing it just may be frustrating for any of you who enjoy reading my blog.  I'm so sorry about that.

I have so many posts I need to write I'm not sure where to begin. 

I think I'll keep this one simple for now.  Three days ago I went to bed, crawled under the cool sheet, snuggled into my lumpy pillow and suddenly thoughts of Jacob popped into my head.  I am not sure why I started thinking of him in that manner and right then, but I did.  As I lay there with the fan blowing on my face and the air cleaner creating a soft white noise in the bedroom, I saw Jacob in my mind as I saw him alive for the last time in my ultrasound appointment on October 21, 2010.  It was a Thursday.  Funny how I will always remember some of those dates. I mean how many of us remember stuff like that?  Weird.

What I saw while I hoped to drift off was Jacob's mouth opening and closing as it had in the ultrasound.  I remember watching him and loving his little mouth moving so sweetly on the screen.  Of course this was all prior to the doctor placing his hand on mine and saying, "I'm sorry."

As I lay in my bed the other night remembering what I saw of my baby, I started to cry.  I have no idea why and what brought such emotion out of me so suddenly.  I remember thinking of his voice and how I never got to hear it.  How I won't hear his sweet voice until that day when we are reunited in Heaven.   Jacob would be turning two in a little less than 6 weeks and I still feel the pain of that silence....no cries, no giggles, no coos and no "mama"...all things that I still long to hear and perhaps especially that night when things were quiet and everyone was settled in bed.

Unplanned tears fell down my cheek.  I didn't bother to wipe them though. I just let them pool up on the pillow.  One by one they fell.  I stayed quiet and hugged Jacob's giraffe to my face.  My husband was asleep.  The dog was nestled at my feet.  Even the cat was hugging my husband's legs on the other side of the bed.  It was just me who was awake.  Who was remembering.  Who was missing my baby.

That night caught me off guard.  I know there are always times when I can get more emotional over Jacob, but this was one of those that popped up out of nowhere.  I'm glad it came though.  It might not make sense but I think we, as mothers of babies who have passed away, need to cry from time to time.  We need to have it smack us in the face when it can, to have it crush us...for just a little bit.  I think we need this in order to feel.  We need to feel that love for our babies and crying is a pretty strong emotion that allows us to feel that love so freely and without any fears or inhibitions. 

I know I've read so many stories of mothers who feel guilty when they start healing and moving forward.  They want to remember their baby, to keep them alive and to love them actively.  Once the initial pain and sadness passes and healing comes, the crying typically lessens which is a good thing obviously.  But sometimes I think healing can almost appear to create a bit of distance between mommy and baby.  I don't think any of us would want to remain in the freshest stage of grief when we first lost our babies as those depths of pain at a constant level would be pretty unbearable.  But I think what we want is to feel instead is that same level of closeness to them that we felt at their death.  Does that make sense?  I know at times since Jacob's death I've found myself questioning my actions..."Shouldn't I be crying more often?"  Other mommies write about missing their baby daily, every hour sometimes...they cry often.  Am I grieving enough?  The right way?  Have I moved forward in my healing too quickly?

Bet you didn't know that baby loss moms face those questions too.  Yes, I've heard so many of my friends question how they are grieving, and it gets especially bad when other friends or family offer feedback about how that mom is doing on her journey.  Unfortunately, often times that feedback isn't supportive and is very critical of the mom in how she chooses to remember her child or not, whether she comes to family functions where new babies are present and when she just needs to cry and to mourn her baby.  We all know there is no one right and only way to grieve for our babies even though we share so many of the same pains and frustrations trying to get through the heartbreak of losing our precious child.

At the beginning of this journey I knew that I had to find my own way through it.  I could learn from others, read, talk, and discuss everything under the sun but in the end only I would carve my own path through grief.  I had to figure it out.  I carried Jacob.  I carried the pain and anguish of losing him when I saw that his "little flicker" had gone quietly still on the ultrasound screen.  I carried overwhelming depths of sadness with me into the operating room for my D&C when all I wanted to do was to turn and run.  I am the one now who carries him still.  I figure out daily what to do to keep him actively in my life and in our family. I figure out when to cry and when to just smile and let my heart fill with so much joy it could blow away if it wasn't in my body.  I figure out when I have to write to express what frustrates me and what elates me on this journey. I figure out how to continue to be there to support so many of my baby loss friends who have had and who are delivering their beautiful rainbow babies.  There are always things that will pop up I guess that may throw me for a loop from time to time.  And I'll take each one as it comes.  This is my journey.

So, I cried for Jacob.  Totally unexpected, but totally welcomed.  It was brief, I drifted off missing him and loving him.  My head lay on the damp pillow and I couldn't hug Jacob's giraffe any tighter.  That was all.  But it was enough.  It was enough to know that my love for him will always be there, whether I cry buckets for him or just enough tears that my heart feels heavy...or even if I don't cry at all.  We are mommy and baby always...always connected by that bond and that love. 

Loving you, Jacob...tonight and always...

Love, Mommy

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reflections from Mom's Farm, Week 1

It's been a week since the boys and I came to my mom's.  It's been one week since I cried at my Sammy finishing Kindergarten.  Since I'd accomplished so many projects at home. Since I'd noticed so many changes that I bemoaned about in my blog.  I thought I'd share some of what we've been up to since getting a nice little break away from home...

My mom, step-dad, and grandma live on a small farm about 3.5 hours away from us.  Mom calls it a "hobby farm".  It never was a real working farm, even when my Grandpa was still alive.  But it did always have a big booming garden, plenty of chickens and the occasional horse, mule and sheep.  My mom and step-dad have animals now too:  a miniature donkey named Chico, a miniature horse named Shadow, several chickens that live in chicken coops such as "the Condo", and the "High rise", ducks in a duck house at the pond, barn cats and most recently bunnies. 

Mom's house has always been a place of peace for me.  You can't be outside walking around the beautiful land and not feel the peace, it doesn't matter what season.  It's out in the country but not too rural to be away from pizza delivery.  :) 

Going to Mom's will always mean going "home" for me.  It doesn't matter where she lives, it will always be home.  This home is extra special though.  My grandparents lived in this house and my mom and step-dad bought it several years ago in order to take care of my grandma.  Grandpa passed away in 1993 and Grandma had a stroke some time after.  Being wheel-chair bound, she needed someone to care for her.

Her house is full of memories from my childhood and young adulthood...the smell of her pies in the pantry, the crowded, yet always warm kitchen table bursting with food at family gatherings, the big red barn out back, Grandma's chickens...Mom and my step-dad brought life back to the farm when they started adding animals of their own.  It's just always been a special place to go and I love that my boys get to experience it too with their Grandma and Pa, just as I had when I was their age.

Below they are helping Grandma shuck corn the very first evening we arrived... My Grandma can only use her left hand, but does pretty well at every day tasks.


On Monday we went for "chicken dinner".  Notice there's no "a" before chicken dinner.  :)  That's how it's referred to around here.  Barberton is known for their chicken houses--restaurants famous for their fried chicken.  One chicken house started running a special on Monday nights so Mom and Grandma wanted to take advantage of it.  So we piled into Mom's car and went for "Chicken dinner". :)  It cracks me up to hear it referred to that way, but hey, it's quite tasty regardless of what it's called.  Every dinner comes with hot rice, fries and coleslaw.  Yum!

I went out after we came home to take some pictures. I had looked through Mom's kitchen window to see the sun setting and the rain droplets shimmering.

I like experimenting with different angles, different ways of looking at the same thing. 
These are taken with just a camera phone so aren't the best, but it was fun anyway. 

If you would have asked me years ago if I'd be taking as many flower and nature pictures as I do now, I'd have laughed and said you had me confused with Mom. :)  She's taken too many flowers pictures to count through the years.  Ever since Jacob's loss though, I've found myself so drawn to nature photography more than ever before.  And its just one more thing that Mom and I share a special passion for.

There are flowers Mom planted on the seat of Grandpa's wagon. 
My Grandpa had built this wagon back in the 1980s.  He passed away in 1993.  He had always hoped to ride the wagon in a parade, pulled by one the mules that he owned prior to getting sick.  Mom has done her best to protect the wagon through the years and keeps it on display on her patio.
I wish they could get it into a parade in honor of my grandpa, but I'm not sure if it's stable enough to move, and I don't think Shadow or Chico would be up to the task of pulling it unfortunately.

 A close up of Mom's flowers.

 I like how this leaf looked like a heart, especially with the sun highlighting it.

For some reason I decided to look up...and there was a rainbow. 
It was already starting to fade and as I quickly scanned the sky I knew the whole rainbow had been visible, as they so often are at Mom's place. 
I watched a video years ago done by National Geographic that talked about creativity.  It used photography as a learning tool.  One key lesson I learned from that video was to always "turn around"...meaning you never know what's behind you, what's above or below you. 
Change how you look at things.  Change how you see things. 
Only when you do can you be sure to see what you're meant to see, it's when you see what is most beautiful.
The video showed how much more beautiful of images the photographer caught simply by turning around and shooting what was behind him...he saw things that he hadn't previously seen. 
This lesson has stayed with me in my photography, and I try to remember it in life as well....
probably more than ever before since losing Jacob.

And so here was the other end of the rainbow that I was so grateful to spot right before going in the house.  I called the boys out to see the last of the rainbow over Mom's pond.  Rainbows have always brought me such peace.  I know they are a symbol for baby loss moms, but they've so often spoken to me of hope.  It's like my own private smile from God.  That things will be okay.  I love when I get to see them.

On Tuesday the boys and I went for haircuts.  Because my mom can't leave my grandma unattended, they came too.  After haircuts we stopped off at the library to sign up the boys and I for their summer reading program.  Yup, I signed up too!  I only found out a few years ago that libraries often offer the reading program for adults too.  How cool is that!  Not like I should need any incentive to make time to read but it helps.  I've already read a book by one of my new favorite authors and it felt soooo good to take time to read!
Later that evening, I went out again to take pictures around the farm.  In honor of Flag Day, Mom put out all of her flags. I love taking pictures of flags in the sunlight.




 Another view of Grandpa's Wagon, this time with flags displayed in the flower box.

Mom had told me to check out Jacob's Garden so after admiring the flags in the setting sun, I walked around to the backyard to see Jacob's Garden, a small flowerbed where we started planting flowers for Jacob--first on his due date and then last year for his First Angelversary.  Mom said the lilies we planted last year at his due date where now blooming.  I am so thankful that Mom designated that small flower bed such a pretty space to remember our sweet Baby Jacob.  Last year I spent a lot of time weeding it and planting additional annuals around.




Jacob's Garden just looked so pretty this trip.  I love all of the lilies, Mom said the light pink ones were "lollipop lilies"...perfect for Baby Jacob. :)

I can't wait until we buy our own home. I plan to do the same thing at my house.  I eventually want to get a paver for Jacob, a small bench as well as angel statues and lots of pretty flowers.  I don't think I'll ever have enough flowers, there's always room for more flowers!

Wednesday was grocery day!!  This is a big deal for my grandma.  She and Mom can hit anywhere from 2-4 stores in one day AND stop off for a fast food dinner before calling it a day.  Right now they've got it down to just two stores.  They start at one grocery store, mom pulling the cart behind her with one hand while she pushes Grandma in her wheelchair with the other.

I checked Sammy into the kids play area.  He looks forward to this every trip.  We only started it about a year ago or so.  Benny is old enough now but I'm keeping him with me.  He's content to help me shop and that way he gets a say as to what ends up in my cart. :)  I know one of these days he'll start going into the play area as well.  And I'll be sad.  It will be the end of an era. No more babies to ride in my cart.  I remember all of the times I'd shop with Benny as a baby, toddler and older. I'd be chatting away to him.  I loved it.  It was our Mommy-Benny time.  Just the two of us as Sammy often shopped with Daddy at home, or then started going into the play area up here at Mom's.  I know it sounds silly, but it's one more thing that will soon change that I will miss.

I remember when I was pregnant with Jacob thinking about our grocery shopping arrangements.  Isn't that a silly thing to think about?  I wondered how Alex and I would do it.  Alex would have to take Sammy and Benny in his cart while I would Jacob in his baby seat in mine. I get all of the food, while Alex typically gets the heavy drinks and dog food.  I knew I'd chatter away with Jacob in my cart too.

As Benny and I passed by the baby section the other day at Giant Eagle, I found myself feeling those slight tugging memories of when I used to shop in that section actively...Mom would give me diaper or wipes coupons, I'd check out their baby toy section.  I tried not to think about what I used to as I passed that section.

We met up with Mom, Grandma and Mom's good friend Linda in the small cafe in the store.  A family tradition,  Mom and Grandma enjoy any samples they picked up, coffee and sometimes a small sandwich.

We then ferry over to a second grocery store for more deals and where Sammy again hits the play area and Benny looks forward to riding in the car cart--the little plastic car out in front of the cart.  Then we head to eat, typically either Burger King or Taco Bell.  And then home where Mom gets Grandma into the house and restroom before coming out to load her wagon cart full of groceries to take into the house.

As if Wednesday's shopping day wasn't enough, we went out Thursday to Goodwill, or "GW" as it's referred to in our family.  It was their 35% off day.  I love coming home and doing "show and tell" with Mom and Grandma.  Grandma is always so proud that she gets out of there with the lowest bill!  It's just a quirky little thing that we all enjoy, but again, I've found that so often that's where the most special memories are made. :)

That night we continued pushing hard on Mom's room.  She and I had started it earlier in the week and had been chipping away at it every day.  We were switching things from one shelf to another in order to make more  more room.  Mom and I laughed...alot.  It was the first time during my visit that we shared such a joyful time and that we laughed so freely and with such giddiness.  It could have been the late hour, or perhaps it was the stress of trying to get it done that night that made us like giggly school girls.  Something about seeing a cloud of dust land on Mom's head makes for good memories I guess. :)  Whatever it was, I'm grateful for it.  I have so many of those memories with my mom and I treasure them all. 

Friday was Polka Day!  Grandma was chomping at the bit to go as usual and we pulled up to the Slovene Club a bit after 2:00.  We buzzed to get into the members-only club basement and saw the tables full!  I always worry about where we will sit but we fit thankfully.  Grandma goes at the end nearest the band.  The two long tables are full of older people--mostly ladies but with a handful of gents here and there (aside from the band which is all men except for one woman).  Some of the polka guests play cards, others enjoy popcorn and singing along to the music.  Then there are the line dance ladies--they take such tiny and dainty steps as they dance carefully in front of the food table--no big hops or stretches here--all just slow, nice and easy steps to the various polkas and waltzes.  I wonder if that will be me some day? :)

At the end of the two-hours the band gets into their final medley and most everyone gets up to clap and sing along.  The boys love to do this, especially the "bells" sections of each song.  And who could forget, "E-I-E-I-O" or "O-H-I-O"?  Both boys have been coming to Polka Fridays since they were babies.  We'd bring them in their car seats when they were tiny.  Jacob would have joined the fun too...I like to imagine him there now, I'm sure he'd bounce along to the music just like Sammy and Benny did.

 Lest anyone think my boys are totally in to polkas and that they don't do anything else... :)  Nope, they are still boys who take a bag full of toys, dump them all over the table and have action scenes amidst the bells (see green in the picture) and popcorn. :)  Most of the older people have never seen such characters--aliens from Ben 10, Batman guys, you name it.  That's my Great Aunt and Uncle behind Sammy.

The "Slovene Circle" -- there were three birthdays to celebrate today.  Everyone joins hands and polkas in a circle while the birthday people get to dance with everyone in the center. 
Benny jumped up with my Mom (in the red next to Benny).


Sammy asked Joanie to dance, a sweet lady who misses her grandchildren and enjoys seeing the boys.  This is Sammy's second time to ask her to polka.  He kept up perfectly!

 The final medley!  Everyone jumps up to clap, shake bells, sing, etc. 
The boys have enjoyed this part of polkas since they were old enough to stand up!

 Part of the band

 More of the band...my step-dad's sweet uncle is in the back playing the bass

 Final medley...O-H-I-O!  I think this is the "H" that Sammy is doing!


My Grandma getting a hug, she always gets emotional :)
We finished out our first week at Mom's with a trip to the cemetery right down the road.  It's a national cemetery and my Grandpa and two of my Grandma's brothers are buried there.  It was quiet that day.  Flags still lined the entry drive leftover from Flag day but only a few flowers had been placed for Father's Day.  Grandma got teary-eyed as she held the flowers Mom had picked for her to place on Grandpa's grave.


Seeing Grandma crying made me weepy too...it doesn't take much.  I hugged her, joked about how my mom was digging out old flower vases from the trash so they could put Grandpa's into something more sturdy and watched as my boys walked the many rows of stones.  Sammy informed us that there were 1105 stones (he saw the numbers on each).  I thought about so many of the men who were buried there who served in the different wars like my Grandpa and Great Uncles.  I blew a kiss to Grandpa before we left.  He is the same Grandpa that Mom and I said would have held Jacob on the day he died--right on Grandpa and Mom's Birthday.  I'm sure they are having such a ball up in Heaven.  He was the sweetest man.

 I miss you Grandpa, I wish you could have gotten to know my wonderful boys!
My aunt leaves seashells for each person in their family, including Grandma, Grandpa and all 8 kids. 
Our family has always loved the beach.
 Mom arranges Grandpa's fresh flowers.

 I love when I get to go to the cemetery, I feel closer to my grandpa there.  I want to tell my boys more about him now that they are a little older.  My aunt made the sign for Father's Day.
After seeing the seashells, Benny decided to add something for Grandpa's stone--little pieces of grass. :)

Later that night I felt a little melancholy...I wish we had a specific place to go to remember Jacob. I know that's a common feeling amongst baby loss moms.  Jacob was cremated and while we could probably some day inter his remains somewhere, I think I'll be happy enough to just create my own memorial garden for him with a paver, little seat, etc.  That's definitely something I look forward to when we move.
So that's a peek inside one of my trips home...just up to a small farm in the country.  It's where I look forward to life slowing down even  for just a bit amidst Mom's activities.  It's where I look forward to my walks around her property visiting the animals, photographing the flowers, remembering the past and all who had walked the same paths through the years.  It's where I treasure every giggle that my boys and Mom share, every chuckle that Mom and I share when no one else is around.  It's where I see the past connecting with the present all around me and I am so grateful that our family gets to experience so much love here.

We have one more busy week here at Mom's and with lots more memories to come I'm sure.

I hope you are enjoying your summer so far my friends!  I also hope you enjoyed that one simple lesson that I shared from the video I watched years ago.  Always look behind you, above you, below you...you never know what you might see...like the rainbow I spotted at the last minute.  And especially if you find yourself facing difficult times, remember to change how you view the situation, and may you then find that rainbow too.  I find that I look for rainbows now wherever I can.  I'm grateful that in so many ways Mom's home feels so much like one big rainbow to me. :)

I'll be back with more about my trip home...

Kim :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Summertime Devotional

Well, here it is!  A few hours late, but here is the Summertime Devotional I promised you!  :)

I wrote this devotional a few years ago after a week of Vacation Bible School at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in San Antonio, TX.  Not only did our two boys, then ages 2.5 and 5 attend VBS but also my husband and I.  They had an adult class which pulled in around 15-20 adults per night.  I had never known a church to hold an adult class before and loved it!

The theme for VBS was some sort of ocean theme, I can't remember it exactly but the staff/volunteers from the church wore blue t-shirts throughout the week which had the verse below on the backs of the shirts.  All week long I saw these shirts and this verse.   It must have ingrained itself into my mind.

I didn't think much of it until a few days after VBS when a memory popped into my head in the middle of the night. I remember waking up and seeing this event so clear in my mind as if it had just happened.  I hadn't even remembered what had happened to me for years.  And there it was in my mind, as clear as day. I could smell the ocean. I could feel the breeze. I could hear the waves.  Somehow, seeing this verse all week long triggered a memory I had long forgotten--and more importantly, it brought God's Word straight to my heart.  I understood that verse and how remembering it in the future could bring me comfort.  I remember too feeling so...driven to write.  The need was so strong and the words came out so fast and so clear.  I look for these opportunities whenever I can find them--if God needs me to write, then that's what I want to write, even if it's in the middle of the night. :)

And so I wrote late one night and this is what I came up with.  I had never before written a devotional.  I know for many devotionals if I was to submit it to somewhere formal, it would be too long.  That's okay.  My purpose was just to get it captured. To relive that day and to think about how it relates to the the things that happen to us in life.

I've shared my devotional with three different writing groups and they have all praised it and it's message.  More importantly, I shared it with the Pastor of the church where we attended VBS and he surprised me with an amazing email back.  He included my devotional in their newsletter which was sent to nearly 400 members.  I even received a personal email from one of the members complimenting me on my writing, on the message and on caring enough to share something so important.  I was so honored to know that my words reached that many and I hope the message touched them too.

The entire incident that I describe below happened so quickly--I'm sure it was only a few minutes but when you're struggling in the ocean, a few moments can seem like an eternity.  The same is true for when change hits us.  It might only be a few minor changes that we are facing but getting through those can take forever and wear on us day in and day out.  Throw a big change at us and we're wondering if we have the strength to even face it let alone to get through it. 

I think that's some of what I was facing this past week. Small changes coming at me one after another.  Big changes looming in the distance.  Decisions to be made.  Significant tasks to be accomplished.  No wonder I've felt "tossed about" by the waves of change.  Reminds me of when I was a teenager.  Well, that's enough clues...read on.  :)

So, here it is in it's rough form.  I hope you enjoy it.  Please feel free to comment about what you think about my devotional, as well as your thoughts about change.  How do you navigate change?  What helps get you through the rough times?

A Summertime Devotional – June 2010
copywright Kim Villalva (2012)

“If you go through deep waters, I am with you.”  - Isaiah 43:2



Like many people, I’ve always loved the water.  We used to visit the beach a lot when I was growing up.  I remember one summer as a young teenager when I discovered the joy of riding the waves.

After watching several vacationers jumping up and over the waves farther away from shore, I decided to join in the fun so I ventured out to where the water came almost up to my chest.  Now I could ride the waves too.  I bobbed on my big toe imagining that I was a ballerina with flawless balance.  Every time a wave came I’d leap up into the air, let the wave carry me up and over, and then ride down the other side of it.  I was on nature’s roller coaster.  Every time I descended a wave, I’d quickly search for the ground again with my big toe. 

Before I knew it, my roller coaster malfunctioned and the waves started rolling at me much more frequently.  It was as if someone had pushed the “fast” button on the roller coaster—the waves came at me one right after another with almost no break between them.  I was desperately trying to keep up with this new ride.  Up and down I’d go.  Then I noticed that the waves were starting to curl and break right where I was leaping and jumping.  The waves were now several feet taller than me as they closed in on my position. 

I saw the curl of one wave as it approached me.  It looked like an ominous tidal wave right before it swallowed me up.  The current’s pull was so strong that I got sucked into the wave and it broke right on top of me.  I flipped backwards into darkness while the rushing of water pulled me and pushed me at the same time.  I struggled to find the surface and no sooner did I lift my head above water than I saw another wave crashing over my hopes for much of a breath of air. 

When I struggled to the surface the second time, I was desperately trying to find the ocean’s floor with my toe.  My foot stretched and wiggled but there was only water below me.  I looked and saw no one near me.  I had accidentally drifted out much further than I thought.  Only being a mildly passable swimmer, I fought to not get pulled under again.  I thrashed against the sucking waves and knew that the farther from shore I got, the deeper the waters would become.  More waves crashed over my head.  Sometimes I faced the looming monsters head on and saw the terror before I felt it.  Other times I’d see the beach but would look over my shoulder just in time to see the wave snatch me from behind.

Finally my toe found the ocean floor again and I fought with all of my remaining strength to gain momentum against the current’s pull and to get my feet flat on the ground.  As I gripped my toes into the sand, I won the tug of war game with the sea.  It was if the ocean decided to let me go in order to find another playmate elsewhere.  I hurried to the sandy shore while the smaller waves continued to taunt and smack me on the back.  Once I reached the safety of the beach, the sun and sand greeted me with caressing warmth as if I had never been gone.  I looked back towards where I had been.  All looked calm and inviting once more in the sea.

We often find ourselves floundering when the life we had been enjoying suddenly turns scary.  Sometimes it seems like problems come into our lives one right after another and before we know it, we can find ourselves overwhelmed.  We are tossed about and are unable to regain our footing.  Illness strikes.  We lose our jobs.  Responsibilities overwhelm us.  People hurt us.  Just as if we were in the vast ocean, there is nothing for us to grab on to and we find ourselves struggling to stay afloat in the deep waters.

When we find ourselves in situations that are literally over our heads, we shouldn’t be afraid of being pulled down into the darkness.  God reminds us that He is with us even when we are in the deepest of waters.  God has a steady grip on each of us as He helps us to regain our footing.  His loving hand holds our feet until they are steady on the ground once more. 

But even if we have to endure the struggles of the deep waters before we can return to the safety of the shore, again we need not be afraid.  In the sea where waves of panic, doubt, stress, and fear overwhelm us, God’s love fits securely around us like a life jacket.  We might have to ride the monstrous waves but can take comfort in knowing that God’s love will keep us safely coasting up and down until it is time to find our footing again.  It is His love that gives us the buoyancy we need to survive in those rough and trying times.

God’s words are the reassurance that so often we need but can sometimes overlook.  Just like I did that scary day at the beach so many years ago, we panic and think that we are all alone in our troubles.  The anxieties of our situation threaten to envelope us and consume us with a cold and frightening darkness.  Remember that God has promised to be with us even through the roughest and deepest waters.  God’s comforting touch is with us always.


Prayer

Heavenly Father, You created the seas and the land.  Thank You for staying beside us during the difficult times in our lives.  When we feel tossed about in deep waters, we thank You for keeping us afloat in the safety of Your loving arms.  Amen.


Until next time my friends, enjoy this beautiful start to summer!  Watch out for those waves!  :)  More importantly, hold tight to the God's loving hand no matter what comes your way.

Kim

Note:  If you'd like to use my devotional for a newsletter or website, I'd be happy to share.  Please just contact me first so that I know where and how it's being used. :)



Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Beginnings, Endings and A Few Tears

Change is everywhere.  Nothing new, right?  Then why does it seem sometimes like we are knocked down by a tidal wave when it hits?  We are minding our own business, making our way through life and WHAMMO!  We see it coming, we KNOW it's coming but when it hits us, instead of rolling gently over it, we lose our footing and tumble head over heels into the deep water.

I had one of those days today.  I think I felt it coming the last few days and then BOOM!  It hit today.  I cried today.  I cried over things in my life that were changing, over things that are changing. I cried for things that I'd be soon saying goodbye to. I cried for what was and what might never be.

No, I wasn't a total mess all day thankfully but I did have a few moments where it just hit.  Just like the wave that catches you off guard.  And it knocked me off my feet at times today.

On Thursday, I will be putting my kindergartner on the bus for the last time.  I will give him a big hug, like I do every morning. I will kiss his face and tell him that I love him, just like I do every morning. I will tell him to have fun today at school as he takes those big, big steps onto the bus, just like I do every morning.  The bus driver and I will exchange our "Have a good day!" smiles and waves and then I'll start my good-bye sequence with Sammy who will sit in the second seat on my side.  I'll wave.  I give him a "heart" with my fingers.  I'll blow him kisses.  He will wave to me.  He will give me a "heart" back.  And it all will melt my heart.

As the bus pulls up and around the corner, I will continue waving and making hearts until I see the gold disappear behind the trees.  I don't care if the neighbors watch me every morning and think that I'm a goofy mom.  So I wave at a bus until I can see it no longer?  I'll wave and then I will get my mail and say a prayer for God to watch over my baby on his way to, at, and on his way home from school.

I remember last August when I started this ritual with my sweet Sammy.  Talk about a mess!  :)  Sammy is our first-born son.  He is and always will be my baby.  He fills my life with such joy.  I was a bit nervous sending him into the world...and on a big ole' school bus too! :)  Yeah, yeah...I rode the bus, I endured school, we all did. :)  I think it's different though when you are a parent and when you are doing it for the very first time. It's like you are sending a part of yourself away.  Your heart goes on that bus and you have to trust the bus driver, the school, the teachers, the kids...you place your trust in people you've either never met or met only once to care for your child, to treat them right, to treat them with kindness and love.  You have to trust.  It's part of life and part of the changes that come as the years come.

Every day now since last August I've taken Sammy to meet the bus at the end of our driveway.  I've watched the bus turn the corner at the opposite end of the street when it drops him off at our driveway after school.  I've hugged him, held his hand and walked up with driveway with him asking about his day.  Tomorrow will be the last time for this year that we will share that simple little bond as mommy and kindergartner.

I find myself already wondering about next year when he's a big first grader.  Will he not want me to hug him?  Will he still give me hearts out the bus window or will he be too mature, too distracted to do such loving and silly gestures to his mommy?  All of these beautiful, innocent and true moments of simple childhood that may change (and will change eventually) simply due to time...due to our baby growing up.  It's all part of the process, I know that.  But that doesn't make it any easier when we hit these milestones. :)  I'm a mommy.  I will probably always feel much and I will always cry much.  I love my boys.  I try to celebrate and be thankful for them and for every joy they bring to my life.  It's just that simple.

So, not only has Sammy's last day of kindergarten been taking me down "reflection lane", but also the fact that it's serving as a trigger of emotions and events from when he first started kindergarten.  I found myself thinking back to last August of 2011.  Life was different than it is now.  Isn't it always?  I found myself thinking about where I was last August.  I know I, both Alex and I actually, were much more hopeful and optimistic about our chances to conceive again.  I was more naive possibly?  I don't know.  I know I was still very early into my fertility treatments.  We lost Jacob in October 2010 and didn't begin treatments until March or April of 2011.  I hadn't yet had my crushing visit with the nurse in the top of October 2011 where I thought she was about to kick us to the curb.  I had completed whatever round of treatment I was on and she said I had to stop and consult with my doctor again before continuing next cycle.  I remember sitting there in the blood work chair, with my arm still resting on the cushioned rest while she leaned on the counter flipping through my paperwork.  "Yeah," she had said..."Your AMH score was almost non-existent."  Blah, blah, blah.  She was repeating everything I had known and it felt like a sentence.  Like my attempts for another child were soon to be over. 

As I had written in my blog back then, it turned out I was saved from being "kicked out" because my doctor decided to go with what another doctor had suggested for me--adding the extra shots and then bumping me up to the daily shots later.  But back in August, none of that had happened yet and I was still feeling very positive and hopeful at our chances for another baby. I went through each month anxiously awaiting my blood work date to test for pregnancy. I looked for every sign/symptom possible near the end of my cycle.  I peed on numerous sticks.  I was so innocent I guess.

Last August too I was still a few months out from Jacob's first Angelversary...and the other thing that happened to me at that same time. I know I've only alluded to it once or twice, but it was a very traumatic thing to go through.  So, again, in August, life was still good.  It was simple. None of the October strife had hit yet.

It's funny how facing the end of one event can pull your mind right back to when you started the event and then all of the feelings associated with those the beginning and the end of it can just throw you out of whack.  I know that's what is happening to me this week.  Facing Sammy's last day of school is just suddenly connecting me to all sorts of places that I had been, and so in some ways I am reliving those feelings.  In other ways I am mourning what was, what I had hoped would be by now.  Does that make sense?

I am also soon going to be saying farewell to a babyloss support group that I've participated actively with since day 1 almost one year ago in 2011.  Now, the group is only changing addresses and I will still participate but it won't be through the same means as before.  That's what I will be saying farewell too.  I know, I know.  It's a minor change...but still a change nonetheless.  I can remember throughout the last year I could easily pull up this group on my phone, wherever I was and at whatever time of day or night.  I could scroll quickly through posts. I could stop and reply and offer support. I could share a congratulations if a friend announced a rainbow pregnancy. I could add people to my prayer list. I could share a tear for a friend  -- even a woman I'd never technically met -- as I read her story.  It was all done so easily and quickly.

Participating in this group has helped me more than I ever thought possible.  Not only did I get the support and love that I needed but I quickly found that it helped me to give back as well. I still feel drawn to these women, to my "sisters in babyloss".  We share so much.  I know that's why I'm still so passionate to this day about continuing to help out in the babyloss community.  I have all sorts of ideas brewing in my head for additional ways to do that and hope to start cranking them out soon. 

So when I found out this week that the core group I've been participating with is changing locations, it too, has kind of thrown me for a loop this week.  Another wave to send me reeling into the waters.  I'm hoping that the new location will still be easy to navigate and will give it a try for sure but it will strange not being able to connect with my dear friends through the way I had for almost the entire last year.

When I was in Graduate School, I loved studying change management.  I found it fascinating that "change" had a model.  That there was a process that we all go through when a change happens.  That there are phases.  We can get stuck in them.  We can be in different phases at different times.  We can be in different phases than other people and yet in the same situation with them. We can help each other move through the phases through different means.  I loved every minute of it and especially in putting together training plans and classes to help teach others how to navigate the rough waters of change.  Change management was one of my favorite classes to teach.  I taught employees and managers in "Corporate America", I taught leadership students, I taught Army Officers and Enlisted, I taught Army wives and other volunteers...all the same thing--change was everywhere.  And you have to be prepared for it.

And yet.  Wouldn't you think then, that if I know all of this stuff supposedly (and yes, it's been a few years since my grad school days), that I would be okay with change coming my way?  That I'd be ready for it always?  That I'd know how to handle it?  How to react to it?  HAHAHA!!  :)  Well, you'd think that, right!  :) I so wish it were true!

The truth is, I did stop and recognize it today.  Even though I felt like I was in a "funk" at certain times when that wave came at me, I knew why. I knew that it was all of the change coming at me fast and furiously.  It was one change right after another.  It was all different and yet connected.  Triggers of memories, of varying emotions were everywhere. 

Unfortunately, just because I had a feeling why I wasn't in the best of moods today, that didn't mean that I could just deny it.  I have to go through it just like everyone else does.  I just also happen not to like it. :)  If you could, wouldn't you love to be happy and carefree and joyous all day, every day?  No gloom, no sadness, no worry, no frustrations, no anger...Unfortunately we won't get to experience that fully until that day when we meet our Father in Heaven...so until then we have to go through the ups and downs of life and that means facing the waves of change head on.  Sometimes we can brace ourselves and jump at just the right time to coast safely over.  And other times we will be knocked on our butt.  Clear out of the blue.  We will find ourselves saying, "What the???  I was just fine earlier...where did this come?  Why did it have to hit me now?"  And we might cry.  And feel kind of lousy while we try to regain our footing once again.

I wrote a devotional about this very topic a few years ago.  Would anyone like to see it?  Hmmm...maybe I'll post that in a day or so.  :)  I think it was the very first devotional I ever wrote and it was after our family attended a Vacation Bible School in San Antonio, TX.  It was also based on their theme verse for the week.  Yes, I think I might just share that with you all.  As long as no one laughs it you think it stinks. :)

Anyway, I hope that catches you up just a bit with me.  I'm still here.  Still going through life.  Still hoping for another baby. Still reaching out and supporting others in the blm world.  Still being thankful for every blessing in my life.  Still trying to find joy as often as I can.  And, still finding myself tossed in the waves of change from time to time.

So, in just a few hours now I'll be ending one chapter of my life...my Sammy's first year of school.  I will cry.  I will take lots of pictures.  I'll feel like a total sap.  :)  And I'll love every minute of it.

I know that we will be starting our "official summer chapter" and so that new beginning is wonderful to face.  In just a few days we are heading to my mom's where the boys and I will get lots of momma/grandma hugs, where we will kick balls around my mom's farm, where we will stuff grass through the wire fencing to feed the goats and where we will listen for Chico's "hee haw" as he greets us from the pasture.  We will slow down and just enjoy nature and our time with my mom and my 92-year-old grandma.  I'll still be thinking, worrying and planning, I'm sure.  But I hope not too much. I think I need to just "be"...so that maybe when that next wave comes, I'll be ready for it with my feet firmly on loving and supportive ground.

I have other new beginnings to look forward too...new babyloss groups are popping up to include those who wish to communicate via the old means.  Through them I am already meeting new people, in addition to sharing hugs with old friends.  My dance schedule will soon resume with lots of clogging at upcoming summertime festivals.  I have writing ideas gnawing at me just waiting for my attention to be given to them.  So yes, I'm grateful for the many new things to come.

Stay safe this summer my friends!  If you are facing endings in certain areas of your life, just be prepared for the "wave of change" to hit you.  If you coast over it just fine, great!  Enjoy the ride and splash around if you want!  But if it knocks you on your butt for awhile, just remember you aren't alone.  Neither am I.  God is right there to carry us through...and be sure to check out more about this by looking for my Summertime Devotional which I'll post this Saturday.

Until then, may we all face those waves of change with hope for something better on the other side...

Kim :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What do you turn to when you are stressed?  When you are sad?  When you are frustrated?  I turn to God and lots of prayer as I have so often during this journey.  I also turn to family and friends.  I like to talk it out.  I've done a lot of that in the last year and a half especially. 

I also turn to those hobbies and passions that I truly love.  Dancing helps.  Writing helps.  So does reading.  I've been an avid reader since I was a child.  I have memories of taking stacks of books to bed nightly...do you remember those school book orders?  They still do them today in fact.  I would take every book from my new order to bed that very night and don't you know I'd have to stay up to read each one. 

Not much has changed for me as far as reading now that I'm older.  I don't always have the time I'd like, but it's something that when I make the time for it, has truly helped me to de-stress, to stop thinking or obsessing or worrying...whether it was worrying about how Jacob's birthday would turn out or stressing over fertility treatment costs.  Stepping into that world that a book can offer you, especially a fiction book, is simply a time of enjoyment and relaxation. 

Well, I hadn't read in a while...I've read short devotionals before bed, I've read blogs from time to time online but I haven't picked up a book in awhile.  With Jacob's birthday and blogging again and our dance practices in the last several weeks, I've been a tad too busy to read much.  Until a new book landed in my mailbox just the other day.  It was the newest book by a wonderful author friend of mine, Janice Hanna Thompson. 

I met Janice in 2010 at a Writing Conference in San Antonio, TX.  She was our keynote speaker for a day and a half-long series of workshops focused on fiction writing.  I found myself loving every minute of her keynote and the sessions that she taught.  I was motivated.  I was inspired by her stories.  I had learned so much.  I bought two of her books that weekend and have been a fan ever since!!  I read her new books as soon as they come out and can't pick a favorite if I had to.

WEDDING BELLES was just the book I needed to enjoy following the emotional and joyful celebration of Jacob's birthday.  I remember hearing Janice talk about her historical research for this book some time back so was excited to see the storyline.  I flipped the book open the other night and found myself hooked by the very first page!  I had no idea that I needed a trip to Estes Park, Colorado...circa 1912...but I did.  I laughed.  I wondered how the characters would find their way out of the chaos.  I felt their joy and their worry.  I felt their sense of peace on the mountain and wanted to go there myself.  And oh yes, I worried about a cow.

I am so pleased to share Janice's interview for her newest release, WEDDING BELLES.  Would you like a chance to win a free autographed copy of the book sent to you by Janice herself?  All you need to do to for a chance to win this book is to leave a comment at the bottom of this page any time between Friday, May 4 - Sunday, May 6.  I will draw one name at random from the comments left on this post at Sunday, 6 PM EST.  Good luck to all of you!  Happy reading!!

WEDDING BELLES Interview with Janice Hanna Thompson


Who (or what) influenced you to become a writer?
From the time I was a little girl, I always had a creative bent. I loved to sing and dance. I got involved with drama in high school and ended up writing a little play, which we performed. In the late 70s my father moved our family to Los Angeles so that he could get into the movie business, (as a producer). He encouraged me to co-author a screenplay, which I did. In fact, I joined the screenwriter’s guild at age 18. Quite an honor! After I got married and had my children, they showed an interest in theater, too, so I ended up directing and writing musicals for Curtain Call CafĂ© (a Christian theater group). From there, my interests spread to books, and I started publishing fiction for the Christian market. I’ve now published over 80 books, everything from inspirational romance to non-fiction devotionals. I would have to say that my father was a huge influence. He passed away in ’06, but did a lot of writing in his lifetime (both screenplays and lyrics to country songs).

Janice, can you tell us about your latest book project?
Yes, I’m so tickled to share the news about my comedic historical, WEDDING BELLES, which released on May 1st. Most of my readers know that I love to write light-hearted tales, and this one is no different!



What is the story behind this book?
I received a call from editor Susan Downs, who shared an idea she had for a series of books titled “Belles and Whistles.” The books in this series, she explained, must be historical, set in the west, with funny, quirky female characters. Because I write romantic comedy, she thought I would be perfect. I quickly put together a proposal for six books and two were picked up right away: WEDDING BELLES and SLEIGH BELLES. I was commissioned to write WEDDING BELLES first and had a blast doing so! The basic premise for the book was developed before I started writing, but something significant happened along the way to change my plans drastically. I needed a sneaky reason for Lottie Sanders (my heroine) to bring a group of women to Estes Park Colorado as potential brides for the town’s men. About a week after I got the contract for this book I went to a local restaurant that happened to be hosting a melodrama during the dinner hour. As I watched the drama take place, I realized this was my answer! Lottie would write and direct a melodrama to raise funds for Parker Lodge (owned by the young man she secretly loves). Out of that came the rest of this fun, melodramatic tale!


Why did you choose to write this book under the name Janice Hanna, instead of Janice Thompson?
Ooh, great question! I write most of my contemporary novels (like the WEDDINGS BY BELLA series) under Thompson and historicals (like the LOVE FINDS YOU books) under Hanna. My maiden name is Hanna, and I love to write under that name to honor my father, who passed away in ’06. I think he would have been very proud of this particular book.

Is there any connection between the WEDDINGS BY BELLA series and this one?
Nope. None whatsoever. Just an interesting coincidence with the titles/names.

What’s the deal with the wedding stories? Why do you write so many books with wedding themes?
My four daughters (all in their late 20s/early 30s) got married within four years of each other. Talk about wedding chaos! At writer’s conferences I’ve been told to “write what you know” and I certainly know weddings. I worked for a short while as a wedding coordinator and have catered many a wedding and/or bridal shower. It just makes sense to keep my writing wedding-themed, as much as possible!

What outside interests do you have?
People might be surprised to hear this, but I bake cakes. Wedding cakes. Shower cakes. Birthday cakes. You name it, I bake it. In fact, I was once asked by a local restaurant to bake cakes for them.

Cute cover! What’s the story behind it?
My heroine, Lottie, is a tomboy. She’s not much for dresses. In fact, she wears pants most of the time. The men in Estes Park make it their mission to get Lottie “gussied up and lookin’ like a lady” as the story progresses. Of course, she’s still pretty attached to her cowgirl boots, so giving those up isn’t an option. I love the cover, because it merges the boots with the wedding dress.


How much research went into this story?
I drove to Estes Park while working on this book. Even though I had been many times before, I needed to see the area again so that I could envision it through Lottie’s eyes. The wonderful people at the Estes Park Museum spent a great deal of time with me, talking about the history of the area and pointing me to just the right research books to write. So, I would like to think I’ve got most of the historical elements right. I added the Stanley Hotel, of course, and the Stanley Steamer. But the setting for my story is Parker Lodge (which is completely fictional). Because I’m passionate about photography, I took dozens of pictures of the area. I particularly enjoy my trek up into Rocky Mountain National Park, where I did my best to absorb all I could about the scenery.

What are some of the most interesting things you found about this subject that you weren’t able to use in the story?
I learned a lot about the health benefits of living in Colorado! Did you know that Freelan Stanley (the man who designed/built the Stanley Hotel) came to Colorado at his doctor’s recommendation because he had tuberculosis? His health improved dramatically while in Estes Park.

What inspired and surprised you while you were writing the book?
I was directly inspired by the team of actors and actresses (here in Texas) who performed the melodrama. That little “spark” of inspiration completely changed the layout of my story and allowed me to tap into one of my strengths: directing. Many people don’t know that I spend part of my time working as a director at a local Christian theater and I love anything and everything about putting on shows.

What do you hope the reader takes away from the story?
Two things: I hope they see Lottie as the precious girl she is. I also hope they learn that perceptions are just that. . .perceptions. They’re not fact. Sometimes we look at situations and think we’ve got them figured out. When we give them a second look (and a third) we realize we were dead wrong.

What is the next project you’re working on?
I’m currently writing a novel titled LET THEM EAT CAKE, which is part of the new WEDDINGS BY DESIGN series from Revell Publishing. Many of my readers know me as the “Bella” author (from the WEDDINGS BY BELLA series). In this new series, readers can catch up with Bella, DJ and the whole gang!

What do you do when you have to get away from the story for a while?
I spend time with my grandbabies. I have six darling grandbabies with number seven on the way.

God has really been moving in your writing life. What do you see on the horizon?
I feel so incredibly blessed at this particular season in my life. I’ve been through several hard things over the past several years, but through it all, God has been right there, walking me through one book project, then another. He has used the writing to bring healing in so many areas, and I’m so grateful for that! I’ve made Ephesians 3:20 – 21 my life verse:  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. God IS able to do so much more than I could ask or think, and He keeps proving that to me. In spite of any weakness on my part (and there’s plenty, trust me), He entrusts me with this gift (writing). I will use it to His glory as long as He allows.

Please give us the first page of the book.

A Reckoning in the Rockies
Estes Park, prepare to be razzle-dazzled! Parker Lodge, located on the beautiful Fall River, continues to offer the best entertainment in town. This month’s event is certainly no exception. Join us this coming Friday evening, April 27, for a rousing performance by local musician Jeb Otis, who will play several well-known ballads and folk tunes on his saw. Otis, who hails from the Estes Valley region, will be appearing at the lodge for one night only, performing before a packed house. C’mon out and share in an evening of fine food, rousing entertainment, and heartfelt fellowship. Front-row seating for the first ten guests to arrive. —Your friends at Parker Lodge
Estes Park, Colorado, 1912
“Jeb Otis says he’s going to jump off Longs Peak and end it all.” “What?” Lottie Sanders looked up from the rippling waters of Fall River into her boss’s worried eyes. “He’s going to end it all? Why-ever would he do that?”

“Oh, you know how he is.” Gilbert Parker plopped down next to her and sighed. “Melodramatic. Always wanting attention. Just like the other men in this town. He’s frustrated because the Widow Baker won’t give him the time of day, so I guess this is how he plans to remedy the problem.”
“He’s going to remedy the problem by taking his life?” Lottie swallowed hard. “Won’t that defeat the purpose?”
“Who knows?” Gilbert offered a little shrug, and a hint of a smile turned up the edges of his lips. “But if it’s any consolation, I reminded him that he’s got a concert coming up this Friday evening, so maybe he’ll wait till after then to do himself in.”
“One can hope.” Lottie thought about the many times Jeb and the other fellas who frequented the lodge had posed such ludicrous threats. How weary she’d grown of their antics. “What’s it going to take to convince Jeb that he and Althea Baker are as different as night from day, anyway?” she asked. “They would make a terrible match. I’m surprised he can’t see that for himself.”
“True.” Gilbert released a sigh. “But I guess it’s true what they say—love is blind.”
“Mm-hmm.” It’s blind, all right.

How can readers find you on the Internet?
Facebook: Janice Hanna Thompson
Twitter: booksbyjanice

Where can readers buy this book?
They can email me for an autographed copy: booksbyjanice@aol.com. They can also purchase online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Christianbook.com

Wow!  Ready to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Janice's book?  Don't forget to leave a comment below no later than Sunday, May 6 at 6 PM EST.  Thank you for allowing me to share Janice's book with you!

I'll be seeing you soon my friends,

Kim
o    Romantic Times Rating:  FOUR STARS!  Hanna’s Belles and Whistles series launch is filled with mayhem, drama and, of course, romance. The characters are engaging, witty and willing to do what they need to get what they want. Hanna’s magical touch ensures the book brims with laughter, charm and style.

SYNOPSIS: Lottie Sanders would do just about anything for the man she secretly loves. When Gilbert Parker suggests they put on a play to draw people to his family’s lodge, he begs Lottie to direct it. Lottie agrees to help, but is also worried if they cannot pull this off, Gilbert and his family will lose the lodge — and she will lose him. When the local single men look at this as an opportunity to catch a bride, they secretly hatch their own drama to win the hearts and hands of the actresses.
Reviewed By: Patsy Glans