Monday, April 30, 2012

Angelic Hand-prints

There is a full-length mirror attached to the inside of my closet door.  Scarlett's hand-prints are all over it.  Perfect, tiny little hand-prints.

Now that the dust has settled, and the shock of Scarlett's death is fading into the heartache of missing her, those hand-prints are no longer just a sign that she was here.

They are an angel's hand-prints.

If anyone ever needs a sign that we are being looked after, that there is more to life than just this short time on earth, all they need to do is look at my full-length mirror.  Angelic presence is there, on the glass -- five little digits and a chubby palm, the smear of a nose and forehead.

We are surrounded at all times by memories, and by signs that our daughter lived.  And we are also surrounded by her angelic presence.  She reminds me to not worry.  She reminds Jeremy that unfettered happiness can come in small, pink packages.

Jeremy and I joke that if December 21 of this year truly is the end of the world, we have a personal angel escort into heaven.  But it's not really funny -- it's absolutely true.  I know we'll look into those big blue eyes and hold that tiny outstretched hand and let her lead us.

As parents, you think you set the path for your children.  You teach them to the best of your ability, and try to instill values as you point them in the right direction.  But in reality, our children set our path just as much as we set theirs.

Our Unique Challenges

Some people are born artists.  Others, born mechanics.  Or born mathematicians.  It's a given that we are all blessed with some kind of talent, skill, or just something we tend to learn easier than others.

I believe that we are also born with unique character challenges.  Or maybe I should define them as spiritual challenges.

I had a great conversation with a friend the other day about forgiveness.  I was teasing her about forgiving a long-standing grudge, and she pointed out to me how difficult it is for her to forgive wrongs.  Though she knew the value of forgiveness, and she prayed on it often, she really struggled with it on a daily basis.  That was a shock to me.

Forgiveness has always come easily to me.  And as I get older, it gets even easier still.  I remember past wrongs, but I don't let them hold me back.  I forgive and move on.  Usually pretty quickly.  I guess I've always looked at it as my peace of mind and my relationships matter more to me than the pride of holding grudges.  

I guess I thought everyone had this capacity for forgiveness, even if they didn't practice it as easily as I did. Apparently I was wrong.

I don't believe for an instant that my friend doesn't want to forgive.  I really, truly believe she does.  But she struggles with it.  Realizing this, I became very thankful for my ability to forgive, but it also made me think of what I struggle with.

I struggle with worry.  Particularly, worry about the future.  I was born anxious, and though I've learned to live my life with anxiety riding bareback, I'm always aware of it.  It's a constant battle for me.  Letting go to God, not obsessing over what my life will be like if this doesn't happen or that doesn't happen, is a constant, conscious effort.  I worry about if and when I'm going to be able to have more children.  I worry about if I'm going to be able to maintain the momentum to keep my physical health a priority.  Heck, I worry if Jeremy is going to mow the lawn tomorrow.  

Through years and years of yoga and meditation practice, I have learned methods of letting the thoughts go.  And through my spiritual exploration I have learned that a quick prayer goes a long way.  But managing my worry doesn't come naturally or easily to me.  As my friend struggles with forgiveness, I struggle with worry.  It is a battle I fight every day, and thankfully I have learned how to win -- but tomorrow a new battle always begins.

This just goes to show you that none of us can judge another.  I can't just tell my friend, "Get over it and forgive," any more than she can tell me, "Quit worrying."

We are all born with unique challenges, character traits that we must learn to manage, moral questions we must learn to answer right.  None of us is perfect.  But what I'm learning right now is that God loves us even though we are imperfect.  I wonder sometimes if He loves us even more because we are imperfect.  What fun would life be, how interesting would we be, if we didn't have anything to improve upon?  

So while we bask in our talents, we battle with our challenges -- and God keeps giving us grace and mercy.  I have been blessed in the past, and I will be blessed in the future -- so right now I am going to appreciate the meadowlark singing outside the window, drink my coffee, breathe deep and start my day being thankful.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thank God for the Straight Path to Heaven

Joel Osteen said something during a recent sermon that really hit home for me.  He said, "A child doesn't come TO parents, they come THROUGH parents."

Though I feel so strongly that Scarlett was a gift to me and Jeremy, I recognize that she had a path and a destiny of her own the moment she was born.

That doesn't change how much I miss her.  But it does make it so I don't have to worry about where she is right now.  She's in heaven, no doubt in my mind.

My heart breaks for people who pray for their deceased loved one to be forgiven, to be able to enter heaven.  My heart breaks for people who wonder where their deceased loved one ended up.

I pray for everyone to be able to have the peace that I do about the destination of the spirit.  My daughter, my uncle, my aunt, my grandmother, my grandfathers -- I know where they are.  I know I'll see them again.  As much as I worry that my heartache is so strong it can infect others, my belief in Jesus opening up the path to heaven for the whole world is so strong I WISH it would infect others.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made a request to schedule a baptism for this summer.  When I filled out the request form, I answered the question, "How did you come to understand Jesus as savior?" with the following: Thanks to Jesus, my daughter had a first-class ticket to heaven.  Thanks to Him bridging the gap between us and God, I mourn my loss but I don't doubt for one instant where her spirit is right now.

And I don't care what religion you are a part of, what spiritual path you follow, or how you relate to God.  I don't care what lifestyle you have chosen for yourself.  Each person has the God-given right to make their own decisions.  What you decide doesn't bother me one little bit (as long as it's not hurting anyone, of course).  Because when I stand in front of God at the end of my life, the only thing that will matter is that I will have the opportunity to tell Him THANK YOU before I go hug my daughter.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spontaneous Baptism

As usual, I have a story to tell you.  But this time I'm going to begin with the ending...

I got baptized tonight!

Other than the few Christmas services I went to as a kid, I had never been to a Christian church before February of this year.  I decided it was time to find a place for both me and Scarlett to spend some time each week -- me for the spiritual aspect, and Scarlett for the interaction with other kids.  I took her to Crossroads one time before she died.

If I hadn't taken her that one time, I don't know if I would have ever gone to church after she passed away.

In the weeks that followed her death, I didn't want to go to church by myself, but I felt I NEEDED to go. I felt closer to her there. My friends and family stepped up and went with me until I was comfortable on my own again.

I went to the Easter service by myself. And it was that service that really hit home to me. I finally understood that it was because of Jesus' death and resurrection that my daughter went to heaven after she died. I have Him to thank for the knowledge that she is safe in God's arms until I get to be with her again.

It was that point at which I started thinking about getting baptized. I mulled it over for a while, and this week I finally went online to Crossroads' website and filled out the request form to get scheduled for it this summer.

A few days went by and Crossroads hadn't contacted me yet. I didn't really worry too much about it, as I wasn't in any hurry.

Tonight I went to Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette with my new friend from Bible Study, Lisa. Oh. My. Gosh. It was such an amazing experience! The music, the sermon -- so right on, so modern. It wasn't better or worse than Crossroads, just different. Like how Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are both so different, but I get so much from hearing both of them speak -- I think Flatirons will be the Joyce Meyer to Crossroads' Joel Osteen for me.

In the middle of tonight's sermon, I started thinking, If Crossroads doesn't contact me in the next week, I'm going to contact Flatirons and get baptized here. And then the pastor started talking about baptism, as if he'd read my mind. He asked, "If you are a believer, why wait? Why not do it right now?" I thought, Uh, because there is no one here to bapize me. And the next thing I knew, they were giving directions for people who wanted to be baptized right then and there.

I turned to Lisa and said, "I want to do this." She said, "I'll go with you and hold your stuff!" So up we went to the front of this gigantic auditorium with probably a hundred other people in line, and Lisa held my purse and shoes as I got dunked in a kiddie pool.

I FEEL INCREDIBLE.

Soaking wet, I drove home all-smiles. I feel like so much of the pain and sadness has been washed away from me. I still miss Scarlett with every breath, but I can suddenly BREATHE.

What I've Pulled Off


I'm a big Danielle LaPorte fan.  She recently started a series on The Huffington Post entitled 30 Days to Fire Up Your Creative Genius, and I've been reading it with relish.  One of her exercises was something of a pep-talk about seeing what you've pulled off in your life.  I thought it would be fun to do and share here.

I have...

Inspired: My blog readers
Launched: A freelance writing business
Earned: Enough money to buy this awesome house
Graduated: From the University of Colorado in only 3 years with a BA in European History
Wrote: A book, articles, blog posts, poetry that someone actually published
Produced: A gamut of artwork in a dozen different mediums
Raised: The most amazing little girl
Wrangled: A team of writers for GlobalWrites
Traveled: The world
Motivated: My friends and loved ones to think positively and appreciate what they have
Bought: Two homes by myself before I was 26
Sold: Enough of my writing to have an extra income on a regular basis
Gave: My husband the ability to stay at home with our daughter
Made: Enough money to create a fantastic life for our family
Won: Entry to the semi-final round of the Amazon Breakout Novel Award
Organized: My world around my family
Transformed: Into an adult that I am really proud to be
Discovered: I can do anything I set my mind to, and learn anything I need to

I think everyone could benefit from this exercise.  Feel free to share your results in the comments section!

Friday, April 27, 2012

New Habits and Resources

I am in the process of creating a new habit.  According to our grief counselor, it takes 60-90 days for a new habit to form.  So I've got a minimum of 56 days left to go.

Ouch.

My new habit is waking up earlier in the morning.  I've always struggled with mornings.  I don't know why.  It's a behavioral thing, not a physical thing -- that I'm sure of.  Our counselor thinks I'm sabotaging myself.  Apparently that's a common thing for overachievers to do.  And I've always been a bit of an overachiever.

So this morning was day 4 of my new habit.  Admittedly it hasn't been difficult.  I naturally wake at about 6:30am, I just never got out of bed that early unless I had to.  Now I'm getting out of bed by 7am at the latest.

Since Jeremy goes to bed a few hours later than I do, he wakes a few hours later as well.  So I've got some quiet time to myself in the mornings now.  That actually supports my other new habit (this one was wayyyy easier to create) of getting into a spiritual mindset first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  I've been watching sermons in the morning and reading the Bible before bed at night.

This morning I watched the latest Joel Osteen Sunday service.  He's always a big source of inspiration for me.  Such a positive thinker.  I appreciated him even before I really started exploring Christianity.

So during this sermon, Joel spoke about how God has blessed us and given us destinies to fulfill -- and nothing could stop us from fulfilling them.  We came fully-equipped.  "No one can curse what God has blessed."

Many things struck me during his sermon, but one thing in particular is on my mind right now.  He spoke about how God would connect you to the right people.

Checking Facebook before work this morning, I was struck once again by the amazing people in my life.  How BLESSED I am to know these people!  Writers, artists, entrepreneurs, evangelists, spiritualists, great financial minds, mechanics, world-travelers... the list goes on.

And not only are these people absolutely inspirational -- they are more than willing to share their knowledge with me.  When I think of my pool of resources, I am almost overwhelmed.  I feel like God could set me to any task, and I would have the right resources to learn how to get it done.

So this post is dedicated to my "network".  I pray I am as great a resource and inspiration for you as you are for me.

PS -- And in the spirit of thanks to my resources, I want to plug two things today. First is my great friend Michelle Finerty, founder of Vibrance Yoga.  Her first post on Gaiam.com went live this morning.  And second is GlobalWrites, the drop-dead-awesome, Houston-based copywriting company I do a ton of freelance work for.  They just celebrated their first anniversary AND recently recruited some terrific new talent.

Supernatural Assistance

I was driving home from Bible Study the other night, and I was feeling very positive.  Like a cloak of peace had been put around my shoulders.

A song came on the radio that I knew the chorus to, so I was singing along -- and suddenly I was struck by sorrow.  I began to cry as I was singing, letting the meaning of the words really sink in.  After the song was over, I felt like there was a vice on my chest, crushing my heart.  And I thought, I'm going to have to carry the pain of losing Scarlett with me for the rest of my life.

Just as suddenly as the sorrow came upon me, I felt the thought lifted from my mind.  It was immediately replaced with, I GET to carry her memory with me for the rest of my life.

Often the task of changing a negative thought to a positive one is a conscious effort.  But sometimes I swear I have supernatural assistance.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Amazing Women of Bible Study

The first time I spoke about Scarlett in my Bible Study group, I felt awkward when the room went silent.  I thought, Oh great, I just made everyone uncomfortable.

This is a lesson to me in how different God-fearing women really are -- because after last night's meeting, I realize no one was uncomfortable.  Everyone was listening and praying.

Last night we got into a discussion about dealing with loss, and how God helps us through in profound ways.  One of the ladies shared a story about a friend who lost his teenage son over a decade ago, and still hasn't begun to heal.  The man doesn't believe in God, and he can't (or maybe won't) move on beyond the event.  Our group leader said, "I just don't know how non-believers get through, without the constant love and support of God."  So I spoke up.

I said, "They get through with our help.  Our belief.  That's what we're here for, that's what makes us so important."  The room went silent while I bit back the threatening tears.  I continued, "My husband doesn't believe in God, but my belief, my faith, supports him right now.  And I think deep down, he does believe in God -- because he believes in heaven, and that we'll see Scarlett again when we die.  He's just very angry right now."

Then Kaylene shared Scarlett's story with the group -- because I was obviously struggling not to cry, and half of the women there weren't there on the night I shared the story.  And women began to speak -- some to ask for Jeremy's name so they could pray for him, some to give me advice on how to continue to be strong in my faith with him.  The discussion became positive and beautiful.

After class, one woman invited me to Flatirons Church with her this Saturday (not to dis Crossroads, but to add to my spiritual experience).  Another woman came up and hugged me without saying a word.

I've never been around women like this before.  I expect different responses than I have been receiving.  Many people don't know what to say to me about Scarlett, so they don't say anything -- or they avoid speaking to me at all.  These women just hug and pray and support.

What a gift church has been to me.  What a gift these women are.  Thank you, God, for giving them to me.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gym: Good News Bad News

Do you want the bad news first?  I always do.  It makes it so the good news feels extra sweet afterward.

The bad news is I'm a wimp.  I met with the trainer today at the gym and he put me through some paces, and even though I was careful with my back, it still got inflamed again.  So back to ibuprofen-and-hot-bath therapy.

The good news is that my wimpy performance today allowed the trainer to zero in on what my problem actually is.  I thought it was just an overall strength problem -- but it turns out it's the strength on the back side of my body (hamstrings, glutes, triceps, etc.) that I'm lacking.  So now we know where to start with my training.  Yay!  And strengthening the back side of my body will help prevent this back inflammation, so bonus points.

My overall goal for the next 3 months of training is to be able run a mile.  Just one measly little mile.  I'm in such poor shape that I can't run.  I have tried and tried, and I wasn't improving, and it turns out that I have to get into decent shape before I run.  That is sad.

The way I talk, you guys that haven't met me in real life probably think I look terrible.  Or think I think I look terrible.  Ah, but you'd be wrong.  I don't look overweight, but my body fat percentage is high, which puts me in the health risk category.  Heck, I'm even carrying an extra 15lbs from having a baby (okay, not really -- I actually only gained 5 lbs from that, the other 10 are from not working out enough and eating terribly in the last year) and I have to argue with retail sales clerks that I really am a size 10 -- I'm not pulling their chain.  No, don't bother bringing me smaller sizes, REALLY!  So my body image is fine, thankyouverymuch.

Looking back at an old post, you can see I was bikini-confident 15lbs ago, at 140lbs and a size 8 -- but I still couldn't run a mile.  Ideally, I'd like to get back to that weight PLUS be in running shape.  I'm dreamin' big, here.

And above all?  I was in the best shape of my life when I got pregnant with Scarlett, and it made the pregnancy so much easier on my body, and the birth so much easier on Scarlett.  I want to give our next child that same benefit.  This isn't just for my own health -- it's for our family's health.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Power of Faith

I've always been a spiritual person.  I had faith that there was a higher power, and that positive energy begets positive energy (same goes for negative energy).  I even had faith that all hard times, all mistakes, all bad situations would teach me lessons and I would grow from them.

But being married to Jeremy is a daily lesson on the limits I had put on my faith.

Jeremy isn't spiritual.  At all.  At best I'd call him agnostic.  But the man has more faith in his little finger than I have in my whole body.

Before we got married, he had faith that we would spend the rest of our lives together.  I needed the ring on my finger to prove that -- but he didn't.  When our marriage was falling apart, and we had both made irreversible mistakes, he still had faith that we were meant to be together.  He was the one that dragged me into marriage counseling, which was the first step in building what is now the foundation of a great partnership.  When we were trying to have a child, he had faith that it would happen.  He knew we were destined to be parents, and the idea of that not happening was just impossible for him to consider.  While I was tearing myself apart with anxiety during the year it took to conceive Scarlett, he never lost faith.

I try to keep my mind on a positive track.  I try to derail negative thinking.  But doubts wiggle their way in here and there.  And after Scarlett died, I started having more doubts than ever.  I doubted that we were meant to have children.  I doubted I could get my life back on track -- or a new track, for that matter -- and not live in the sinkhole of grieving for the rest of my days.  I doubted I could change lifelong habits I knew had to change to improve my situation in this terrible time (e.g. my anxiety and my sleep habits).

But Jeremy never doubted.  He would tell me, "We are meant to be parents.  Look at the amazing child we already brought into this world."  And, "Things will get better.  They'll never be the same as when we had Scarlett, but they will get so much better than this."  And the ultimate test, when faced with my new commitment to get up earlier in the morning, he didn't say a darn word.

Now, I do try to be supportive of Jeremy.  And most of the time I do a darn good job.  But I know him.  And if he told me he was going to change a lifelong habit, I would doubt.  A lot.  Maybe even enough to say something about it.

But Jeremy just has faith.  Maybe not in God, but in me.  In our marriage.  In our future.  And that is such a strong lesson to us all.  Faith can carry you through, and it can even help support and heal your loved ones during hard times.

I have faith.  But I know can do better because I have a fantastic example right here at home.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Power of Words

The power of words never ceases to amaze me.

As a writer, my fascination with words goes above and beyond the norm.  As does my appreciation of people who can speak the right words -- as my voice has always been limited to the page.

Listening to a great speaker can motivate you to be a better person, inspire you to learn new skills, shift your thinking from negative to positive.  A great speaker can change lives.

I know many people are reading my blog for reassurance and inspiration right now. And I hope I provide that at least most of the time.  I want to share with you, though, that some of my most inspired moments came after listening to someone speak.

  • One of my favorite talks on creativity was done by author Elizabeth Gilbert at a TED conference a few years ago.  Her view on genius is, well, genius.
  • Last year the company I work for full-time had Tony Schwartz come in and talk about managing your energy levels throughout the day.  It made me think about my sleep and work schedules in a different way.
  • Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are always on my iPod, in podcast or video format.  Between the two of them, I get all the positive-thinking and butt-kicking spiritual motivation I need day-to-day.
  • This weekend Pastor Kim spoke at Crossroads Church spoke about what heaven is really like, according to the Bible.  A mere 45 minutes of him speaking took me from a state of near-constant sorrow and regret to a place of hope and looking forward.
These are just some of the speakers who have taken me to the next level, shifted my way of thinking, and prodded me on my path.

Many of you have written to me and expressed appreciation for my ability to put my experiences into words.  That means the world to me.  So today I just wanted to share with you the talent/skill/avenue that I appreciate, that really motivates me to go above and beyond in my own life.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ahhhh Happy Day

Today was such an amazing day.  I feel so good, so uplifted.  This last week was emotionally difficult, so it's a relief to feel so positive.

To start with, my parents drove up from Castle Rock and went to church with me.  Crossroads' current series is called "Mythbusters: The Truth About Heaven and Hell".  Today Pastor Kim talked about heaven -- and it was absolutely perfect.

He referred to biblical text and put it into historical context, and really taught us what the Bible, specifically, tells us about heaven (text was Revelation 21:1-7, if you're interested).  It's completely different than you hear in songs or understand from books and movies.  And it's more amazing than I ever thought.  Knowing that I'm going to see my daughter again, and be able to wrap my arms around her and stay with her forever -- well, it gives me hope.  Such big, amazing hope.

And he specifically talked about babies, which just lifted my heart up like you wouldn't believe.

So I was floating on a cloud of happiness walking out of church today.

After church, my parents and I went over to Atlanta Bread, and Jeremy met us there for lunch.  I love that place.  As a vegetarian, it's difficult to find restaurants that have a wide enough variety of food for me to eat.  But there are many, many things on that menu that I can not only eat, but that I love.

Then we went for a walk on the trail that goes along the Platte River, about a mile east of our house.  It's a wide, cement path that goes along the river, and it actually goes all the way through Denver.  Oddly enough, the trail starts up here at 104th and it ends at South Platte Park in Littleton -- and I was a volunteer Nature Interpreter at South Platte Park when I was in high school.  I used to help lead groups of people on bird watching hikes, worked as a ranger wrangling kids at the Junior Ranger summer programs, and manned the front desk of their nature center.  It's amazing how life can come full circle like that sometimes -- I started at the south end of the trail as a teenager and have ended up living at the north end as an adult.

After the walk, I started the re-decoration project on our guest bathroom.  My parents graciously bought a new bathroom set for us, to replace the frog theme that reminds us too much of Scarlett.

Not too much time passed between when my parents left our house and when Jeremy's parents and Kelsey showed up.  The five of us went to The Orchard outdoor mall and walked around and shopped for about an hour and a half.  That is a really great mall -- I've always meant to check it out but never got around to it other than to go to some of the department stores there.  David generously bought some new clothes for all of us, and then we all went to dinner at Rockbottom Brewery.

So our day was filled with family, exercise, shopping, good food and heaven.  This was the best day I've had in a long time.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Biology

I spent most of today at Ikea with Katie, Tasha, Janessa and baby Janey.  Then I came home and finished some housework and cooked dinner (I know!  Me, cook?!).  By the time the sun went down, I was exhausted.

These are the times I think about time.  We think we have all the time in the world, until something happens to remind us that we are human.

I had Scarlett when I was 30 years old.  For me, it was the perfect age to have a child.  I'd matured enough, experienced enough, and helped create a strong enough marriage to be able to handle it.  Jeremy and I both desperately want more children.  We always planned on having more after Scarlett.

But this year I turn 33.  And if I got pregnant right now, I would be close to 34 when I had a child.  Then giving my body a year or more to recover, I'd be close to 36 with the next one.  And even the difference between 30 and 32 has been vast, biologically speaking.  I'm getting older.  By the time I give birth to my next child (God willing), I'll be even older yet.

This isn't a complaint as much as it's an understanding.  Having a child later in life takes a lot more out of you -- though I admit the maturity benefit almost outweighs that cost.

Do I wish I had had children at a younger age?  No.  But I often feel frustrated by the feeling of limitation.  Even if medical advances make it so I can have children right up until menopause, that's not something I want to do to my body OR my children.

Ten years from now I will understand what this was all about.  I will see God's plan in hindsight.  Right now I have to concentrate on letting go of my worries, and letting God take over.  Easier said than done sometimes... but again, that's one of the reasons I write this blog.  As a visual reminder of right thought.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Grace and Mercy

Joel Osteen posted this on Facebook this morning, and I thought it was a really interesting way to look at mercy:

Sometimes God will deliver you from the fire. Other times God will make you fireproof and take you through the fire. See Daniel 3.

Recently I've learned about grace and mercy, and how they are different but related gifts from God.  Grace is being given favor or a gift that is undeserved.  And mercy is being spared from ill that is deserved.

God's grace gave me Scarlett, the perfect little girl.  And God's mercy allowed me to not only survive her loss, and not only for my marriage to remain intact, but for me to witness what a vast support system and what a strong marriage I really have.

The thing about grace and mercy is that we don't deserve either of them.  We humans are so flawed.  We commit wrong after wrong -- all of us do this, no human being is perfect.  I didn't deserve to have such a perfect little girl.  And I didn't deserve to have such a selfless and strong husband who helped me deal with her loss.

But I was given these gifts anyway.  And you know what?  I'll be given more mercy and more grace as time goes on.  That realization is the most amazing thing about my journey to get closer to God.  I now understand why people say, "Praise God."  When you open your eyes and see what He has done for you, you can't help but be in awe.

Some people don't understand how I could love God so much after my daughter died.  Some people view it as God took her from me.  Or they think, if I believe in God I must see that he's punishing me, and what loving God could do such a cruel thing?  But Scarlett's death wasn't done to me.  She had her own path, and it was a short one that culminated in being quickly lifted to heaven as an angel.

When you think about her short path, even that is amazing.  She never suffered, she never sinned.  She had a perfect 19 months in this world, with absolute love and no pain.  When she died, she had a golden ticket to heaven.

That in itself is grace.  That in itself is mercy.  If God did anything to me in this terrible event, it's give me grace and mercy.

That is one of the reasons I write this blog.  To remind myself of these gifts of God.  Even these tears are blessings, when you think about it.  I knew such perfect love in her, and I miss it.  Scarlett wasn't taken from me, she was given to me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Control, Support and a BIG THANK YOU

This blog post is a big THANK YOU to my friends.  You guys have been there for me, supporting me through this impossibly hard time.  Even though I know none of you felt that you knew what to say or do, you all did SOMEthing -- and every little show of support, every prayer, helped me get through.

Erin went with me to Bible Study last night.  During the class, the topic turned to how we are really not in control -- and how God will often show us how not in control we are.  We shared stories about how we've been shown that we can't control everything, and it seemed like the right opportunity to tell the other women about Scarlett.

I wouldn't have opened my mouth if I didn't think I could speak without sobbing.  But I felt in control of myself (AHA!) and I started to talk about how I lost my daughter, and how we still don't have any answers as to why, and how this is the ultimate example of how we have no control over life.  We really can only control our reactions to it -- and even that has its limits.

As I began to say Scarlett's name, I lost it.  I turned to Erin, and through my sobs I asked her to tell the story.  I completely put her on the spot.  And I saw that she was crying too.  She tried to tell the story, but she couldn't do it either.  So Kaylene, the group leader, gave the gist of it to the class.  After a few seconds, I pulled myself together and completed the story and my point of how I'm being shown how little control I really have.

All the women in class were crying, and all of them thanked me for telling my story and giving them an opportunity to pray for me.

An opportunity to pray for me.  How awesome is that?

I think back to the times when I knew someone who was grieving, and I didn't know what to do, so I didn't do anything.  I didn't even know how to pray.  I was scared by their pain and I didn't reach out.  And these women thanked me for the opportunity to pray for me.

Poor Erin apologized after class, and I told her there was absolutely no need for an apology, that I had completely put her on the spot and I really appreciated her support.  Just going to class with me and sitting with me as I tried to tell this heart-wrenching story is such a massive amount of support -- I really hope she reads this blog and can understand how much it means to me.

Other friends text message me almost daily to ask how I'm feeling that day, or invite me over for dessert, or confide in me that they are more patient with their children now that they've learned from my loss.  The support is constant and so very precious to me.

So thank you to those who have reached out.  Thank you to those who even just leave comments on my blog or my Facebook wall.  I feel your support.  I feel your prayers.  And they help more than you can imagine.

The Importance of Mobility

I had a doctor appointment yesterday about my aching back.

The doctor said she won't do any x-rays on it unless it's been going on for a month or more, so right now the verdict is it's inflammation.  She told me to take three ibuprofen three times a day, gave me a prescription for a muscle relaxer, and handed me a sheet with exercises to do.

As she was handing me the exercises, she looked me in the eye and said, "Pay very close attention.  You can NEVER slack off.  With your body composition and your health history, you have to do these exercises every day for the rest of your life."  Great, I thought.  One more thing to work into my daily routine.

I've got a family history of fibromialgia, arthritis, low mobility, and other fun things that I would really like to avoid as I get older.  So I am taking the doctor's advice seriously.  I guess I was just really hoping I would escape this fate and just be naturally in better shape.

So the purpose of my exercising isn't just to help my mental state and get me "in shape" anymore.  It's to keep me healthy and mobile throughout my life.

I flipped through the exercises and a lot of them were things I was doing regularly in yoga and pilates classes for the last several years.  So that helps explain why I wasn't having as many back problems.  But it's also a big red flag that I can't ever take a break -- no matter what.  I have been out of a regular routine since last summer, and I'm paying for it.

I took a muscle relaxer last night when I got home from Bible Study.  I reeeeally didn't like it.  I had never taken one before, so I didn't know what to expect.  I didn't feel my muscles relaxing -- but I did get groggy and kinda cranky.  I don't think I'll take those in the future unless I'm in dire need.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Signs and Right-Side Up

When I went downstairs to have lunch today, I flipped on the TV.  I wanted to put the New Age music station on, but I mis-typed the channel on the remote.  It turned to Church TV and there was Joyce Meyer talking about being a giver versus just giving.

I've been shaking like a leaf since the call from the coroner this morning.  And in that moment that the TV flipped to a church program, it was as if God was saying, "You will get through this.  Just hold on to me."

So I'm holding on tight.

And I'm taking the message from Joyce as a sign.  God is a giver.  He's a miracle-worker.  And a miracle WILL happen for me.  My life will get right again.  Though nothing makes sense right now, though I often look without seeing and listen without hearing, someday things will be right-side up again.

Call from the Coroner

We got a call from the coroner this morning.  They are officially ruling Scarlett's death as "undetermined cause".

The coroner tested for everything under the sun.  Organs, brain, nutrition, viral infections, they looked at everything.  They found one, and only one, abnormality.  She had fatty liver metamorphosis.

That in and of itself isn't a cause of death.  It's a symptom of something else.  There are several genetic syndromes that can cause a fatty liver.  So it's a jumping-off point.

When Scarlett was born, the doctors tested for all the basic stuff.  Scarlett was free and clear of any common health problems.  The coroner assured me over and over that whatever Scarlett had, it was incredibly rare.  So rare that it wasn't typically tested for.

So the coroner is finding out what further genetic testing she is allowed to do.  And Jeremy and I will be taking the autopsy report to the genetic doctor we were referred to.  And now with this jumping off point, they may be able to determine what caused Scarlett's death.

I have mixed feelings about this.  If they find out that Scarlett had a genetic syndrome of some kind, we can screen for it in our future children.  Heck, we can even be screened for it ourselves -- maybe Jeremy or I have some super-duper-rare health problem that has gone undetected.  BUT, if they find out what caused Scarlett's death, I will be left feeling if I had known, she wouldn't be dead.

There's that unreasonable guilt rearing its ugly head.  Whatever Scarlett had, if anything at all, it was so incredibly rare, no medical professional ever thought to test for it.  There is no possible way for me to have known she was ill.

And that is the double-whammy of losing a child.  Not only are you left with the grief of missing them so terribly, but you are left with unreasonable guilt.  Because you were the parent and it was your job to protect your child -- and you couldn't.

So no matter how many times I hear "it wasn't your fault" and no matter how much I really, truly believe that -- and I DO believe that -- moving through guilt is part of my healing process.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm Not Fat

Well, it's official.  I'm a hot mess.

I work out -- doing mainly low-impact classes at the gym, like yoga, pilates, and NIA; and I also walk a lot --for both my physical health and my mental health.  But it's been a few years since I was really serious about being in shape, so I had an appointment with a personal trainer yesterday for an assessment.

It wasn't pretty.  My body fat percentage is way too high, to start with, and my muscle development leaves a lot to be desired.  So it looks like I'll be working with this guy for a couple of months to get on a healthy track at the gym.  My ultimate goal in this phase is to get in good enough shape to run a mile.  

That goal may sound too simple to some of you natural athletes, but for me it would be a huge accomplishment.  And hey, I can get my ankle behind my head, so where I'm lacking in strength I make up for it in flexibility.  I only say that to make myself feel better in this situation that makes me feel like a lump of jelly.  The fact is, with my natural body composition, I have to work really hard to build and maintain muscle.

I was all stoked to meet with the trainer later this week to outline our plan -- and this back pain I've been having for over a week flared up LIKE CRAZY.  It feels like I've got an electric eel nestled up against my tailbone, and every once in a while he gets mad and zaps me.  In other words, it's nerve pain.

Argh!

So I canceled my appointment with the trainer and scheduled one with my doctor.  I want the doc to figure out what's going on with my back, and make sure I'm not going to injure myself further by training.  I'm hoping I can meet with the trainer next week.

If you saw me in person, you'd wonder what the heck I'm whining about.  I don't look out of shape.  In fact, when talking about working out and keeping my body fat percentage in a healthy range, people like to argue with me about how I'm not fat.  And I respond I KNOW I'M NOT FAT, but my body fat percentage is high.  Which just means I've got more fat than muscle and that puts me at risk for things like high cholesterol (which I had when I was 26).  Plus I can't run a mile and it irritates me.  SO GET OFF MY BACK!  And then they walk away grumbling about how I have low self-esteem because I think I'm fat.  And I smack my forehead and swear I will never talk to anyone about the gym again.

DEEP BREATH.

Part of this whole process is changing the way I eat, too.  This trainer wants me to try a high-fat, low-carb diet to retrain my body how to use fat efficiently.  He says that even if I don't work out, I'll lose weight with this diet -- but working out kick-starts the process and helps me build muscle with the food energy.  And I really really really want to build muscle so I'm not made of play-dough anymore.  So I'm going to give it a try.

I'm a sugar addict.  I love bread and pasta and all of that too -- but sugar is my weakness.  This is going to be HARD.  Wish me luck.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Guilt, Distraction and a Purple Bear

The last few days have been all about distraction.

On Saturday, I drove down to Colorado Springs, got my hair done, went to lunch with Jeremy, Jacob, David and the twins, then spent the afternoon with Katie and Tasha.  

Sunday I went to church with Erin, then went to see Mirror Mirror with my youngest brother in Aurora.  That was a perfectly ridiculous movie, in all the right ways.

But Monday morning hit me like a ton of bricks.  I woke up in the middle of a guilt storm.  Logically I know I didn't do anything wrong the night Scarlett died, and logically I know there was nothing I could do to change the outcome.  But logic and emotions are two different things.  And guilt is tied to emotions, not logic.  So I spent the morning fighting unreasonable guilt, wishing I could go back in time and do something different, but knowing better.

I went to the gym to meet with a trainer who will hopefully be getting me back on a healthy track.  And after work I spent time working in the yard, cleaning the cat box, doing laundry.  But nothing was relieving that sense of guilt.

So I painted.  This is the first real piece I've done since Scarlett died.  Bears are special to me and Jeremy because during our wedding reception in the Broadmoor area of Colorado Springs, two black bears hopped the fence and joined our party.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We Don't Have to Hide Scars

I love these lyrics I heard on the radio today:

Praise God we don't have to hide scars
They just strengthen our wounds and soften our hearts

Sometimes I feel like I'm a walking wound, and there isn't a band-aid big enough to hide this wound as it's healing.  I feel exposed, raw.  And that song made me think -- I don't have to hide this wound or the scar that will eventually cover it.  It's a part of me.

I have a 2-inch long, raised scar on the back of my right hand.  I got it while playing with my old dog, Mac.  Years ago I was dragging a rope toy for him and he was pouncing on it like a cat -- and he overshot, scratching my hand.  I should have gotten stitches, it was so deep.  But I didn't get stitches, and the wound healed on its own.  When I look at the scar now I remember that dog, and how much I loved him.  He was my partner from the time I left for college until right before I moved in with Jeremy.  That dog died young of kidney failure and it broke my heart.  Losing him was one of the reasons I moved back to Colorado, and if I hadn't moved back here I never would have married Jeremy.

That's a lot of history in a 2-inch long scar.

So this wound that I am walking around with right now, the one left on my soul when my daughter passed away, it tells a story too.  Of love and happiness and family.  I don't want to cover that up.  This raw wound will heal, and it will become a scar, and that scar will tell the story of Scarlett.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Woman's Identity

I spent this afternoon with two awesome women, Katie and Tasha.  Have I mentioned lately how incredibly blessed I am with awesome girlfriends?  Seriously, I'm spoiled rotten with these amazing women.

As we were chatting away over coffee and fruit tarts, we got onto the topic of hair.

Tasha's mom and my mother-in-law both lost their hair to breast cancer treatments, and both of them chose to shave their heads before they lost all of their hair completely.  For both of them, shaving their head was harder than the side effects of chemo.  It was the most traumatic part of their journey through cancer.

Ultimately a woman's identity is wrapped up in her hair.  Whether we recognize it or not, our hair represents who we are.  When something happens to it, we feel like we lose a little bit of ourselves.

And you may remember, as my MIL was going through her treatments, I cut off all my hair and donated it to Locks of Love to support her.  Though I had a choice in the matter, while they didn't, cutting my hair that short still impacted my identity.  In my case, I learned I was braver than I gave myself credit for.

When Scarlett died, one of the first things I did after her funeral was to change my hair color.  I had been a blond since the day I was born, but I had my stylist color it deep red.  It felt right, to change my hair color like that, because my identity had changed and the blond no longer fit.

Maybe someday I'll go back to blond.  But right now, red is fitting.  Today I am not who I was on February 22, 2012.  I don't know if I'll ever be that woman again.  But I do know I will change from who I am today.  On February 23, 2012, I stumbled off of one path and onto another, and my identity shifted.  I'm still finding my feet on this new path.  I don't know who I'll be a year from now -- but I can promise I'll be a better woman.  I can promise that, though I stumbled, I will rise.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Can't Blame God

God didn't take my daughter away from me.  I struggle with that concept sometimes, though I really, truly believe it.

Because there was no natural cause for her death, it makes sense for me to blame God.  Right?  Yeah, well me and sense aren't sisters right now, I guess.  Sure, I want to blame God.  But I don't.  I can't.

Scarlett had a bigger destiny to fulfill in heaven.  And I have a bigger destiny to fulfill here.  I feel it in my bones.  

And I wish our destinies were in the same location.  So many of my prayers have ended with, "God, please give me my daughter back," knowing perfectly well that won't happen.  Our destinies are separate.  And while someday we'll be together again, we both have to walk our path on our own.

God gave Scarlett to me.  And for that I am eternally grateful.  But once she arrived, she began her own path.  And that path took her to heaven before me. 

It sucks.  It hurts so so so so bad.  I cry every day.  But I have my own path to walk, too.  I try to focus on that.  Sometimes that's easier to do than others.

Leading By Example

There is a war on women.  That's what I keep reading in the newspapers and online.  And it sickens me.

I don't necessarily think there's a war on women.  But I do think there's a war going on right here at home.  The war to keep religion and politics separate.  And yes, I firmly believe they SHOULD be separate.

Why?  Because using religion to influence politics is like saying we are God.  Taking away other people's rights in ANY capacity is taking on the identity of God.

It is one thing to spread the gospel.  It is one thing to say, "This is the right thing to do."  It is a totally different matter when you take away people's ability to make their own choices.  Each person's walk with God is their own.  How dare anyone steal that from another person!

This may cause some of my readers to bristle, but dammit I feel strongly about leading by example.  Not leading by dictatorship.

We are so blessed to live in a country with such freedom.  And so many people worked so hard to give us this gift.  Soldiers lost their lives to give us this gift.  And right now there is a movement happening to take that away. If anything, we should be making strides toward more freedom, not less.

As I have stated time and time again, KINDNESS is the way.  That's what God wants for us, above all else -- for us to be kind to one another.  So how about we start practicing that right up through to government?  How about instead of passing laws that restrict people's ability to make their own decisions, we make good decisions ourselves and then when someone else is struggling, we help them.

Help them.  HELP them.  Not restrict them.  Not yell at them that they're going to hell.  Not tell them they made the wrong choice.  Not judge them!  Help them, forgive them if you believe them to be wrong, be kind to them.

This can be applied to just about everything.  God gifted us with free will.  Jesus gifted us with the perfect example of kindness toward others.  And we take those names in vain when we hurdle them at one another -- especially when we hurdle them at politicians and expect them to make restrictive laws from it.

And Christians aren't the only ones guilty of this.  One of my favorite news stories recently was about an atheist man who sued a county because he was offended that they had a publicly-approved nativity scene in front of their courthouse.  He didn't even live in that county.  And soon after, he started going blind -- and Christians from the county he sued raised money to help him pay his bills.  THAT is what I'm talking about, people!  Lead by example!

Evangelism is the biggest thing I struggle with in regards to modern Christianity.  Because I think it is misunderstood more often than not.  So many people take it to mean shoving their beliefs down other people's throats.  But I don't think that's what the Bible is telling us to do.  I believe it tells us to share with one another.  As I'm sharing here with you how I am surviving tragedy by leaning on God.  This is my walk.  Yours may be different.  But it's not my job to judge.  It's my job to be kind to my fellow man.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Apocalypse, Bible Study and Getting More Than We Can Handle

I thought the world was coming to an end yesterday.

First, the bank at the entrance to our neighborhood got robbed.  The police were stopping cars as they entered and exited the neighborhood, looking for the robbers.  We live in a really suburban area -- not the ghetto.  This was a bizarre incident.

Second, I was on the phone with my manager, and I looked out the window to see dozens of birds circling an area just south of our house.  The way vultures circle carrion.  They were circling something, and my imagination ran away with me when I was thinking of what that could be.

And third, Jeremy and I were watching TV at about 5:30 when a tornado warning message came on for our county.  I stepped out onto the deck to see what the fuss was about -- because a warning is much more serious than a tornado watch -- and I heard the warning sirens wailing.  Looking east, I couldn't see any green skies or funnel clouds, but the entire eastern horizon looked like a giant bruise.

With apocalypse on the brain, shortly after the sirens turned off I headed to my first Bible study at Crossroads Church.  I had never been to anything like that in my life and I had no idea what to expect.  I was nervous, but excited because the book we are reading is so fantastic.  Knowing God By Name is a study of the various names of God throughout the Bible, and it talks about how and why each name was translated from the original language.  If you know me for five seconds, you know I love the study of languages.  This book also throws in some fantastic pieces of history and eye-opening anecdotes.

So the group was pretty small, though the leader mentioned it's usually larger.  And it was a good mixed group of  women, some mothers and some not.  I liked the personalities I was meeting, and I enjoyed hearing what each woman shared.

One thing we discussed really hit home.  The saying "God won't give you more than you can handle."  That is a  bastardization of this bible passage, 1 Cor 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.


Those are two completely different sentiments.  And the first one, the bastardization, is something I've heard many people tell me recently.  And let me tell you, that is one of the least helpful things someone could say to me under my current circumstances.  Because losing my daughter is more than I can handle.  It is more than anyone can handle.  This is the kind of circumstance you can only manage with help.  In my case, I'm being helped by friends, family, a grief counselor and God.  I am not "handling" this.

The actual Bible passage that the modern saying came from talks about temptation, and how God has equipped us to deal with it.  We have the ability to say "no".  And there is always a way out -- you just have to choose to take it.

So, some advice for dealing with other people in pain.  Don't tell them that God won't give them more than they can handle.  Tell them that when life gives them more pain than they can handle, they have your help to deal with it.  They are not alone.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Genetics and F-ing Angel Eyes

Doc and her colleagues at Kaiser are still trying to find a way to help us.  We don't have Scarlett's death certificate yet, which means the coroner has not filed the completed report.  But the last we heard, they were about to file it as "undetermined cause".  In other words, no one has any idea why our perfectly healthy daughter died in her sleep at 19 months old.

Doc thinks it was a heart problem.  Other things I've read about SIDS-type deaths say that it's the brain that malfunctioned, telling her body to stop breathing.

The doctors at Kaiser have determined that Jeremy and I should talk to a genetics doctor to assess the need for genetic testing.  And we don't know how we feel about it.  On the one hand, if they can tell us there is something we can do to prevent this from happening again, we're all for it.  On the other hand, we know better.  Genetic testing will probably only give us a percentage risk.  So at best we'll know what chance we have of having a child with certain problems, but no way to really control it.

With me already being an anxious person, having a doctor tell me I have a chance of having another child with a problem we can't do anything about... well that just seems like a recipe for paranoia.

But we're going to meet with the genetics doctor and hear what they have to say.  I just pray this doesn't cause more worry than it helps.

And on the topic of unexplained deaths, I have to say I'm extremely upset with the Angel Eyes organization.  Someone (probably Kaiser) reported Scarlett's passing to them, and while Jeremy and I were driving down to Colorado Springs to pick our daughter's headstone, they called me and rambled on for 5 minutes about their organization and how they support families who have been affected by SIDS.

#1 - BAD TIMING
#2 - According to the experts, Scarlett did not die of SIDS.  She was too old.  It was the same type of mysterious death, but officially it can't be called SIDS.
#3 - I went to their website and the organization is all about preventing SIDS.

Reflecting on #3: REALLY?  Really?  My daughter just died and you're telling me about how we should put our baby on her back and not co-sleep and make sure there are no loose blankets and blah blah blah.  Well, Angel Eyes, Scarlett died in her own bed.  On her back.  In her warm jammies so she didn't have to have a blanket.  So instead of having your entire homepage dedicated to telling me what I should have done to prevent SIDS, how about telling me what the hell I'm supposed to do after I did everything right and she still f-ing died?

And there's the anger.  I know I should be feeling a lot more anger right now, but most of the time I don't.  Most of the time I'm just grateful for having such an awesome kid.  But Angel Eyes, you brought out the anger.

More Seattle Pics

The first 9 photos are from my iPhone.  The rest Jeremy took with our digital SLR with a telephoto lens.  And yes, my husband loves taking candid shots of me.

Sitting down to dinner at Ivar's

Totem pole in Pioneer Square

Cool gate on Bainbridge Island

Docks at Bainbridge Island


Waterfront Trail on Bainbridge Island







Flying fish at Pike Place Market


I'm talking to the Angel Farm vendor at Pike Place Market


Jeremy was so fascinated by this giant streetcar pulley at the light rail station, he wanted me in the photo for size reference

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Precious Time

Jeremy and I got into an argument last night.  The first real argument since we lost our daughter.  And it sucked, but we worked things out, like always.

I remember when we first started dating, and when we were first married.  Before the Big Bang that created the marriage we have today.  Every argument seemed like the end of the world.  Every argument got my head spinning, thinking I can't accept this, I can't live with this for the rest of my life, he's got to change or I've got to leave.  Self-preservation mindset, I guess.

And I think probably every person who has ever lived on their own develops that mindset.  Because accepting another person into your life means you no longer have control over your life.  Their dirty socks are going to litter your bedroom floor.  They're going to hog the bathroom.  They're going to hate the TV show you're obsessed with.  They're going to think that eating on the couch is okay when you want to eat at the table.  And when you've been living alone, those things are a BIG DEAL.  And they seem like things you shouldn't have to accept, because you feel like you're giving in.  Not compromising, giving in.

Over time, I think most people work it out.  Jeremy and I needed help to do so.  Shortly after our first anniversary, we separated.  He dragged me to marriage counseling, and that's what helped put us back together.  We had to be taught how to be better partners.  We had to learn that compromising isn't the same thing as giving in.

And we still make mistakes.  I still interrupt him when he's trying to make a point.  He still gets too defensive.  But we recognize these things and know how to deal with them, and know that our marriage is worth the work and worth putting pride aside for.

Because we experienced, early in our marriage, what life would be like if we lost each other.

We were uniquely attuned to appreciating what we had.  So our time with Scarlett was precious, even as it was happening.  And in the wake of that loss, we still appreciate what we have left -- our strong marriage.  We have no regrets from our time with Scarlett, only sorrow that it ended too soon.

If the last few years have taught me anything, it's that loved ones are precious.  They can so easily be taken away, and you can so easily drive them away.  Then, what you're left with is what you had before they came along, plus all the good memories of life with them.  The bad memories just don't exist anymore.

I wish I could take my experiences and implant them in other people's heads.  Make them really see what it's like to lose a loved one -- whether in a breakup or in death.  I think pride would go by the wayside and appreciation would replace resentment so damn fast.

But I can't do that.  All I can do is write.  So here I am, writing a plea for people to appreciate what they have, while they have it.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Anne Rice, I Hear Ya

I deeply respect Anne Rice.  Not just for her writing ability, but also because she has her own ideas about religion.

Recently she's been in the news for leaving the church.  To someone who was also known for being deeply religious, this is a big deal.  She clarifies her sentiments by saying she still loves God, but she can't continue to be a part of an immoral church.  The most potent immorality she found was in her church's beliefs about homosexuality.

And I completely understand choosing not to be a part of something that you morally disagree with.  In fact, this is why I never explored Christianity as a religious choice until now.  I thought all Christians were fundamentally haters.

I am so thankful to have been proven wrong.  I am thankful to have found like-minded people and a church that aligns with my belief system.  Because, fundamentally, I don't believe in hate.  Just because someone makes a different life choice than you doesn't make them evil.  It doesn't mean they're going to hell while you, morally perfect, are going to heaven.

In fact, I believe that kindness is the key to a good life, and the key to heaven.  The old creed "do unto others what you would have others do unto you" is something I have always tried to live by.  I don't always succeed -- but I try to be kind and not hurt others.  I try to forgive and have patience with people.  And I don't care what religion you are a part of, or who you choose as your life partner, if you are kind, I probably won't have a bone to pick with you.

So all I can figure is that the church Rice attended is one that doesn't practice such kindness.  That's incredibly sad, but not uncommon.  And her experience, as well as mine, is a good example of why you should search for a group of people that share your values, and not just accept the first church that comes along -- or even necessarily the church you grew up with.

This is why I couldn't keep going to the Unitarian church I was attending.  I fundamentally disagreed with some of their political views.  First off, I don't think politics and religion should play in the same sandbox.  And second, if I disagree with a group on a value basis, I won't knowingly participate or support that group.  And that's okay!  That's the great thing about being an American -- I can make that choice.  And I want everyone to be able to make their own choice.

I'm sad for Rice that her church horrified her so.  I've been horrified by churches myself, so I understand her passionate anti-church statements.  But I'm thankful that I found a church that shares my values, and I will continue to go there and support them as long as that is the case.  With, of course, an open mind about the fact that modern churches are made up of groups of people, and groups can change.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter 2012

Today was Easter.  And we didn't completely hide out, as tempting as that option was.

In an effort to keep my word to both Jeremy and our counselor, I said "no" to events/situations that would have been stressful for me.  Namely anything with children.

My parents made reservations at a local restaurant and Jeremy and I joined my family for breakfast there.  Luckily there weren't any children in our vicinity, so breakfast was relaxing and pleasant.

Then Jeremy dropped me off at church.  Crossroads Church had this big event called The Rose with music, video, and powerful sermons.  It really hit home, and not just because of the rose theme.  It told the story of Jesus' resurrection in a way I'd never heard before.  All of this may be old hat to most of you readers, but it's all new to me.  Or rather, I'm listening to it and really understanding it for the first time.

I have a BA in European History from the University of Colorado at Boulder.  And as part of my path to that degree, I studied Latin, biblical archaeology, medieval manuscripts and the history of the Roman Empire.  So I have a pretty solid (though rusty) grasp of the history of the western world.  I tell you this because the pastors at Crossroads do a really good job of putting Christianity into historical context -- i.e. "this is where Jesus was when he said this, and this is the food they ate and how they got their water, and this is who was ruling the area".

Historical context makes everything make sense to me.  Anything you try to explain to me, if you put it into historical context I will get my head around it.  Historians have done a really good job researching the Bible, and Crossroads does a really good job of incorporating their findings.  I appreciate that so much, because I've got a lot to learn.

So after church, I went home and I let myself be sad and cried my eyes out for a bit.  Then Jeremy and I went to Walmart for some yard supplies.  And finally I wrapped up my day by going for a long walk in the sun, and then finishing the last few sections of the book I'm reading for my women's Bible study class that starts on Wednesday.

So it wasn't a very Easter-y Easter.  But we didn't really want it to be.  It didn't feel right celebrating without Scarlett.  I think we did the best we could with the strength we have, and I'm proud of both Jeremy and myself that we didn't just stay in bed all day.

So happy Easter, everyone.  I hope you guys all dyed eggs and ate ham and hugged your dressed-up kids with all your might.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Printing the Blog

I used to print my blog in a hardbound book every year.  But it's been a few years since I've done it.  And all of a sudden I had this overwhelming fear that something would happen and my blog would disappear from the web, so I'd better print it RIGHT NOW.

So that's what I'm doing.  I'm printing the last 3 years worth of blogs into 3 hardback books via Blog2Print.

It's not as emotionally difficult as I thought it would be, putting them together.  In fact, it was a nice reminder of the amazing last few years I've lived.

I recommend everyone with a blog do this.  If you blog as much as I do, it's not necessarily cheap... but it's so worth it.  I can grab those books off the shelf and read my life story to my future children.  They are keepsakes that I hope will be passed down generation after generation.

The Fades Save the Day

I knew our first holiday without Scarlett was going to be hard.  I had no idea it would be this hard.  I am having a really hard time rewriting the negative script in my head.  And I apologize for the really depressing post yesterday.

Okay, I don't apologize.  Because that crap is going to happen.  I'm not superhuman (though I wish I was).  I'm going to have days where I can't pull myself up by my bootstraps.  Yesterday was such a day.

And I have my brother Drew to thank for my eventual ability to pull my head out of that dark place.  Because he introduced us to The Fades.

He had told us about this BBC show months ago, but it was no longer on TV and it wasn't on On Demand yet -- so the only thing we could do to watch it would be to buy the season on DVD.  And it was expensive.  Especially for only 6 episodes.  So we never watched it.

But flipping through On Demand last night, trying to find something to watch, Jeremy discovered The Fades was finally available.  And we started the first episode with low hopes.  Because, come on, it's British.

OMG.  It was absolutely the most amazing thing I've seen in ages.  Horror, humor, angels, demons and teenage love -- it was perfect.  At midnight, after we watched the fourth full-hour-long episode in a row, I had to make myself go to bed.  And then this morning we watched the last two episodes.

The Fades pulled me out of this world, hour by hour.  And it made me think that kind of thing is what I want to be writing!

So thank you, BBC, for writing and producing such a great piece of work.  And thank you, Drew, for being so insistent Jeremy and I watch it.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday: Time Stopped

Jesus died today.  Good Friday is what they call it.

What's good about a kind person dying?  In this instance, it was to save our lives.  And in rising from the dead the Sunday after, Jesus changed the world -- for the first time, people understood the eternal nature of the soul.  Death was not the end anymore.

I wonder if Jesus' mother, Mary, started counting time today.  Like I count time.  I counted the days after Scarlett died.  Then I counted the weeks.  Then months.  Like I counted the weeks, then the months of her life.  Someday I'll count the years after her death.  I wonder what that will be like, since I never got to count the years of her life.

I thought I was unusual in this counting.  But today I spoke with a woman who lost her daughter and unborn grandchild, and she told me she counts too.  She told me that time stopped on that day.

Time stopped for me on February 23.  I bet time stopped for Mary on Good Friday too.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Home from Seattle

We're home from Seattle.  I will have photos to share once I have downloaded them from my phone and camera, but for now, a quick recap.

Leaving Colorado was hard, as I mentioned.  And it didn't get any easier on the plane.  One of my big triggers right now is little kids crying.  When I see or hear a small child crying, I find it EXTREMELY difficult not to join them.  And of course, the flight out to Seattle included a hysterical toddler.  I shed a few tears on Jeremy's shoulder as we took off.

I already told you about the first three days, so I'll jump ahead to Monday.

Monday was supposed to be a sunny day, so we decided it was the perfect day to take a ferry over to Bainbridge Island.  We took the light rail down to Pioneer Square and walked the three blocks to the ferry dock, then jumped on the Wenatchee ferry.  Thirty minutes and dozens of gorgeous photos of Seattle and Mount Rainier later, we were on Bainbridge Island.

We took the Waterfront Trail into town, stopped at Bainbridge Island Fudge to pick up a souvenir for my parents (and do some taste-testing while we were there), and made our way to the Harbour Pub for lunch.  Then we continued the hike on the Waterfront Trail.  The hike was perfect, because it took us by the water, through the town, through a residential area, and through a few parks, so we got a really authentic taste of Bainbridge Island.  After a bit of shopping, we caught the ferry back to Seattle in time for our next adventure...

The Seattle Underground Tour!  There is an entire world underneath the streets of Seattle, and this tour not only took us down into it, but also gave us a really comprehensive history of the city.  Understanding how and why the city was built, and how it came to be what we know as Seattle today, was absolutely fascinating.  And our tour guide was hilarious.

Tuesday Jeremy and I started our day with brunch at Pamela's Fine Foods, then spent the day walking around Pike's Place Market and the waterfront.  We ate dinner at the famous Ivar's, and I got some delicious salmon and a glass of Mary Hill '08 Gewurztraminer (a Washington state vineyard).

We had planned to go to the top of the Space Needle on Wednesday, but we found out tickets were $20 a PERSON to go up to the observation deck.  And did I mention that we way overspent on this trip?  We couldn't justify a $40 elevator ride.

I'm not going to lie.  I didn't want to come home Thursday morning.  And it wasn't just that we had to leave the hotel at 4:30am to make our flight home.  Nothing specific was causing my overwhelming anxiety -- I think I just didn't want to come back and face reality.

And today has been really hard.  I was planning on catching up on some work tonight, but that has just not happened.  I have spent the day trying to work through these emotions.

And as always, I was given help (in addition to my awesome husband talking me through, that is).  I heard this on the radio today: Don't tell God how big the mountain is, tell the mountain how big God is.  Well, mountain, God's gonna kick your butt.  And I'm going to keep breathing through this until then.

Grief in the Internet Era

Nathan Bransford recently wrote a very popular blog post on divorce in the Internet era.  He very neatly summed up how difficult it is to go through a hard time in your life when "life" has become so public.

He wrote about how he was constantly bombarded by reminders of his ex and his former married life, and how it was impossible to avoid them.  LinkedIn would suggest his ex's new boyfriend as a contact, Facebook would bring up photos from friends' profiles, Gmail would suggest he add his ex to the email.

And you know what?  This issue isn't limited to divorce.  I am constantly bombarded by reminders of Scarlett, too.

Erasing all of the reminders isn't a possibility, even if I wanted to.  Scarlett was the subject of almost every blog, tweet and Facebook post since the end of 2009.  And you know what?  As painful as those reminders are, I never want to be rid of them.

In the case of Nathan's divorce, he found the reminders made it more difficult for him to move on.  I don't know if it's having the same effect on me -- and I don't know that I care.

No doubt, each reminder is a hit to the stomach.  And no doubt, I do need to move on with my life.  But I don't need to do it overnight.  I don't need to rush the process.  I'm just now to the point where I am accepting how utterly lost I am.  And I'm also accepting that I won't be lost forever.

I've got time on my side.  I've got God in my heart.  I've got Jeremy to care for.  And yeah, my grief is a public thing, thanks to my Internet presence.  But that's okay.  Because while you see me hurt, you'll also see me grow, and smile, and find my way again.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Universe is Knocking

Jeremy and I went to see 21 Jump Street today at the theater. We were just looking for a stupid movie to pass the time. But actually it turned out to be a really great, really funny movie. I haven't laughed like that in a long time.

Leaving the theater, we passed by my second home, Barnes and Noble. I asked Jeremy if he would mind if I went in for a bit, and he nodded and headed straight for the graphic novel section.

As I walked toward the art books, I started feeling really emotional. Overwhelmed even. Like on the verge of crying, laughing, running away -- or all of the above. It was odd, and unexpected. I'm not sure what set me off.

Two aisles from the art section was the religion section, and I stopped because a book caught my eye. I read the back and it turned out to be a book about people who claim to to really hear God. Not crazy people, but people who pray and claim to receive clear answers.

Like I've claimed to you.

I do hear God, when I listen hard enough. And don't think I'm crazy. I hear directives in my head, like when I was told that Scarlett wanted to share her toys with our future children. I sometimes get visions, like the one I got the other day of a dark-haired little girl. And sometimes I just get a feeling.

Suddenly, standing there in Barnes and Noble, I knew what the emotion I was feeling was all about.

God was trying to get through.

Following my original intention, I went straight to the art section from there. And in front of a craft book I wanted to look at, there was a copy of The Secret: The Power. Flipping through it, the words rang so true. It was all about positive thinking, love and gratitude. And one particular section really hit me in the gut. It said "Jesus always began a miracle by saying 'thank you'."

So thank you, God, for that book. And for the three art books I found that inspired me so much that I am currently scrounging up scrap paper and pencils to do some sketching -- something I love to do that I haven't done since Scarlett passed away.

Seattle City Vibe

I've spent time in my fair share of big cities. New York, San Francisco, Denver, Dublin, the list goes on. And each city is unique, each has its own vibe.

Seattle is a very clean city. And the people are incredibly friendly. Seattle folks appreciate quality craftsmanship -- we didn't encounter as many chain stores and restaurants (save Starbucks) as we did mom-and-pop shops. Microbrews, local wines, food made carefully to order from fresh ingredients, local arts and crafts -- Seattle was a heaven of the handmade.

I also felt like the Seattle weather put people on an equal level unlike anything I've experienced before.

The rain wasn't miserable, but it was prevalent. And with everyone huddled under umbrellas, stuffed into raincoats, and doing their best to stay under the (thankfully also prevalent) awnings of the businesses, you couldn't tell who was who. Students, business women, retirees, panhandlers -- everyone looked the same.

This wasn't just an experiment in equilibrium, either. It made it so the panhandlers kind of snuck up on us. Not in a scary way, mind you, but some of the people asking for money, well, I just didn't expect them.

So out of all the places we could have chosen to go, I think Seattle was the perfect choice. It got us out of our comfort zone in all the right ways. And mmmm the coffee, wine, fish, chocolate...

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Hiding Out

There is something to be said about going somewhere nobody knows your name.

In Seattle, no one knew who we were. No one knew what happened to us. No one knew we were in mourning. It was like we could be normal people again for a while.

It was a nice break.

But the sadness didn't go away. Being away from home didn't even make the sadness more bearable. The anonymity simply gave us something to hide behind for a little while.

But that's all we needed. To hide out for a while. To blend in with the foliage.

I am so good at managing my high anxiety, so good at stuffing it down so I can function in stressful situations, sometimes I don't realize how high my anxiety/stress level is until days later. Days after a busy weekend, I'll just snap, and to Jeremy it seems like it's out of nowhere -- but I immediately recognize that it was built-up anxiety. I guess I don't funnel it, but rather I hold it in.

And that's not good for either of us. I know I need to learn how to not only funnel my anxiety better, but also avoid stressful situations in the first place. I like to think I can handle anything, but the truth is I push myself too hard sometimes.

I tried practicing what I am preaching this Sunday. Big crowds are a big source of stress for me, and after two days of them I knew I was really pushing the boundaries of my ability to deal. So I hung back at the hotel and took a leisurely shower while Jeremy went to the convention floor to meet a few more artists. I met up with him for a quick lunch before heading to the panels, and I avoided the convention floor for the most part of the day.

Our counselor keeps stressing the importance of not putting ourselves in high-stress situations. I know how important that is. I just need to learn better how to do that. I've gotten so good at pushing through my anxiety, it's time I learn how to listen to my body more carefully and avoid stress in the first place.

Monday, April 02, 2012

My First Comicon

We arrived in Seattle on Thursday morning and took the light rail from SEA-TAC airport to downtown Seattle. I've gotta give it to this city -- the public transportation is really great.

We checked into Hotel Max, but had to leave our bags at the desk because our room wasn't ready yet. Then we set out on foot to do some exploring. We got our bearings pretty quickly, and ended up doing some exploring down at Pike Place Market.

As is typical for Seattle this time of year, it was chilly and rainy, but not miserable. Jeremy got some really great photos of the market with his new telephoto lens.









The first day of the Emerald City Comic Convention was Friday, but the con started later in the day so we had a lazy morning at the hotel before walking over to the Washington State Convention Center. Jeremy and I got our badges and stood for an hour in the mass of people waiting to get in. I'm still amazed I didn't lose my mind or get claustrophobic.

When the con started, Jeremy headed straight for Greg Capullo's booth, and I headed to the first panel I had on my list -- The Future of Illustrations in Photoshop. Jeremy continued going to the booths and getting signatures from his favorite artists and writers, and I went on to three more panels: The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction, Drawing Inspiration: Art of the Whedonverse, and MARVEL: Breaking into Comics.

Those panels were not only full of really useful information for me as a writer and artist, but it was a crash course in the comic book industry. Putting faces to names of all these writers, artists, editors, inkers, and colorists that Jeremy talks about, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head.

I especially fell in love with Georges Jeanty, who draws the Buffy comics. He was so personable, and told really fun stories about working with Joss Whedon (my hero!).

Saturday was the busiest day at the comicon. To the point that I was having a hard time dealing with the crowds. But luckily I was in panels for most of the day, and when I wasn't, Jeremy would lead the way through the masses to the tables I wanted to go to.

I went to How to be a Successful Freelancer, followed immediately by Building Your Fortress of Solitude: Creative Habits in the Face of Isolation.

Then I met up with Jeremy to hit some booths before the next set of panels. I got to meet Georges Jeanty in person, and I totally gushed and had to buy a Buffy print for him to sign. Then I met David Mack, who is an artist I have admired since I got my hands on my first DreamLogic comic. He was so incredibly friendly, and I'm such a stammering dork when I meet artists like him. I bought one of his Black Widow and Daredevil prints and he signed it for me, and then suggested some other work of his I might enjoy since I liked DreamLogic so much.



The next panel I went to was Writers Unite: Pitching your Creator-Owned Comics. Between that and Advanced Digital Inking Techniques (full of useful Photoshop shortcuts -- eeeee!), I found artist Cori Dietsch and bought one of her Last Unicorn prints. THEN I got to meet the awesome colorist and writer Brian Buccellato and he did a Black Widow sketch for me. I couldn't believe how easy The Booch was to talk to -- we chatted about writing the whole time he was doing my sketch, and his sweet son was talking to me about Hunger Games.




I'm going to have to find some major wall space when I get home for all this fantastic art...

We went to dinner at Red Fin (the hotel's restaurant) on Saturday night. WOW. Best salmon I have ever had in my entire life.


And then when we got back to the room, we were surprised by dessert delivered by room service. Katie, our dear friend back in Colorado, had found out where we were staying, and called the restaurant and had dessert delivered to our room. Do we have thoughtful friends or what? Jeremy and I had major sugar comas after eating our pecan cake and bananas foster. Soooooo good.


Sunday I went to two panels. Kind of. The first panel I went to was supposed to be Drawing Powerful Women and Hulking Beasts, but the artist never showed. So I left to get in line for the next panel, thinking it was going to be packed because of who was speaking at it. But there was no line. The guy in charge of managing the panel room told me I could go in and listen to the rest of the panel that was going on, so I could be in the room already when the next panel (the one I was really excited about) started.

So I went into the room and grabbed a seat -- and as soon as I heard the guy talking, I texted Jeremy. Robert Kirkman, super famous creator of The Walking Dead, was leading the panel! He was so funny to listen to. He had a comedic answer to every question the audience posed. Jeremy joined me shortly because Kirkman is one of his favorite creators.

The next panel in that same room was DC Art Masters: Drawing DC. Greg Capullo and Francis Manapul were the spotlight panelists. They are both really popular artists, and I was so excited to learn from them. But the comicon folks weren't prepared -- the artists weren't given computers or tablets to use, so we couldn't see what they were doing on the projector screen. The panel leader literally gave them a couple of sheets of paper and some sharpies and told them to do what they could. BUMMER. But still, the two artists had plenty to say, and though it was hard to see the papers they were holding up, I could make out what they were getting at with their examples. So I still learned a lot.

Jeremy found a Black Widow t-shirt for me at the comicon. YAY! I have been looking for one FOREVER. They are so hard to find. After The Avengers movie comes out in May, there will probably be a lot more available. But I love the one I got. I also got the official Emerald City Comic Convention Walking Dead t-shirt. And Jeremy won a raffle that got him to the front of the line to buy the official ECCC Walking Dead hardback compendium -- only 300 were made, so it is incredibly special. Sigh... good thing I've got a bunch of freelance work paying up next month, because we went a little nuts this weekend.

So my first comicon was an absolute blast. It was a good distraction for the both of us -- the only really difficult part was seeing kids there and thinking Scarlett would have loved it.

We've already got tickets to the Denver Comicon in June. :)