Friday, June 29, 2012

Bittersweet Books

Every few years I print this blog in a hardback book using Blog2Print. It's been a few years since I have done it, and Blog2Print sent me a coupon, so a couple of weeks ago I went ahead and ordered the books.

I should also admit that I got paranoid. Google has never done anything to make me lose trust in them, but I would just keel over dead if my blogs ever got accidentally deleted, or eaten by the server. The idea of losing a single memory of Scarlett, or a single picture, makes me ill.

I received the books in the mail yesterday. Four in total. Two for 2009 (I had another blog prior to this one, if you remember that far back), one for 2010 and one for 2011.

I knew it was going to be emotional when I received them, because they were filled with memories of our time with Scarlett. Happy, fun, loving memories.

Indeed, I shed a lot of tears as I flipped through each book. But they were tears of happy remembrance, for the most part. Scarlett was such a joy. Such a goofball. Such a special kid.

Yes, I'm biased. But I'm not wrong. Those of you that knew her can attest, she was unusual. I mean, how many toddlers do you know that would GIVE their toys to other kids? Or go to bed without a fight? Or wake up in the morning and play quietly in their crib? One of my fondest memories was her running at me from across the room, lips pursed, eyes crinkled, her only purpose in that moment to give me an enormous kiss. She was a ball of love, every single day of her 19 months of life.

I saw a quote from Zig Ziglar on Facebook this morning that hit my heart. It said, "Spend time with those you love. One of these days you will say either, 'I wish I had,' or 'I'm glad I did.'" I can't impress upon you enough how RIGHT that is. I'm glad I spent so much time with Scarlett. I don't have any regrets at all about those 19 months. Not one.

Sometimes I felt guilty for posting about her so much in this blog. I knew that you readers didn't care about what she had for breakfast, or about the new dress her Gramz bought her. But that didn't stop me from posting the minutiae of her life. And now I'm SO glad I did. Because reading old blog posts about the first time she tried peas, or the way she'd sleep on top of her stuffed animals, I realize now how much those posts matter. And they will matter forever.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Savage Hypocracy

I may be the last person to hear about this, but I am absolutely shocked by the story of Dan Savage bullying kids at a journalism convention.

Savage is the creator of the anti-bullying "It Gets Better" campaign. He spoke at the NSPA/ JEA's annual High School Journalism convention this spring, and when he started calling the Bible "bullsh*t", Christian kids started walking out of the convention hall. A minute later, Savage called them "pansies".

Am I completely wrong, here, or were those kids doing exactly what Savage preaches? They walked away from bullying.

And speaking from a spiritual standpoint, here is my opinion...

Those who follow Jesus live by His two commandments under the new covenant (aka the New Testament), Matthew 22:37-40: 1) Love God with all your heart, 2) Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Now, not all Christians follow Jesus. It's unfortunate, but true.

The Old Testament is meant to show us why we needed a savior in the first place -- it is NOT meant to be an excuse to bully someone. Savage's comments were not only hypocritical, they were prejudiced.

ALL of us were saved on Good Friday. ALL of us sin. And ALL of us are loved. All we are asked to do is love one another. That's it. Just love.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

City Burning

The Waldo Canyon fire crossed over the ridge into the city of Colorado Springs yesterday. Weather conditions are ripe for wildfires right now -- hot, dry, with gusty winds.

Colorado sees its share of wildfires each summer, but this is different. Fire after fire is springing up from Fort Collins to Boulder to Colorado Springs. There is no containment. The fire is quickly reaching into heavily populated areas. There is talk of arson.

The picture below was posted by my friend Cyndi near the HP offices in Colorado Springs. This is not in the mountains. This is in the city.


I lived through the Loma Prieta earthquake in California. I was living in Houston during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I saw my first tornado in Boulder at CU orientation weekend. But this -- this is different.

A wildfire doesn't end in a day. Or a week. Or even a month. Sometimes it takes months to get them contained. That's months when people can't get to their homes. Months when the air quality is so bad, you can't leave your home.

It's bad enough when these fires rage in the mountains. That is somewhat expected. If you own a home in the mountains, fire is something you think about. But not in the city. Colorado Springs' population is almost the same as Denver's -- it's not some podunk town. Colorado Springs is the home of the Olympic Training Center, the Air Force Academy, Fort Carson, NORAD, Peterson Air Force Base, and Schriever Air Force Base. It is the home of Pike's Peak, Garden of the Gods and the Broadmoor.

Almost all of Jeremy's family lives in Colorado Springs. Many of our friends live there also. It's where we met and where we married. Even though we moved north, that city will always have a special place in our hearts.

I am glued to the news and to Facebook today, praying for the weather to ease up, praying for the firefighters to get a break, praying for some level of containment.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Great Doctors

Competent, friendly, personal health care is one of the most important things in life. No one goes through life without having to go to a doctor -- and I'm sure everyone has a horror story to share about a terrible experience with an incompetent or rude doctor.

So when you come across not only a doctor, but an entire medical establishment, that makes you feel well-cared-for, you never want to have to go anywhere else when you're sick.

Living in the north Denver Metro area, I have the same insurance carrier as I did when I lived in Colorado Springs. But the group of medical practitioners here is so vastly superior, you almost can't compare the two.

Having gone through such terrible experiences with doctors in Colorado Springs, I still get a little nervous going to see a doctor here in the Denver area. But I am pleasantly surprised almost every time.

I have moved around so much in my life. As a child and as an adult. I've lived in three different states. And I've never felt like anywhere was "home", never felt a compelling reason to stay in any one location. Until now. Simply put, I would stay in this area just for the doctors. I want to have all my children at this hospital, and grow old in the care of these doctors.

It's easy to see why so many doctors get burned out and stop caring. It's a tough field to work in, I'm sure. You see the worst of the worst. It takes a special breed of person to deal with sad, angry, hurting people all day, to lose patients to long illnesses or sudden death, and to still take the time to ask the right questions and really listen to the answers.

Jeremy and I have been trying to have a second child for over a year. And after my doctor appointment this morning, I feel like someone is not only understanding our situation, but willing and able to do something about it. And you know what? When we get pregnant, I know that my child and I will be well cared for. It is such a good feeling to know these doctors understand us and are looking out for us with their hearts wide open.

You don't realize how incredibly important your medical caretakers are until you have to place your life in their hands. So thank you, Denver area Kaiser doctors, for continuing to take such good care of me and my loved ones.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fires

This summer is the worst for fires that I have ever seen. Even before the official first day of summer, the Rocky Mountains were burning. One fire after another is popping up, and the weather is uncooperative to containment.

This Saturday, Jeremy and I drove down to Colorado Springs to spend some time with his family and so I could get my hair done at my favorite salon down there. We noticed the plume of smoke behind Blodgett Peak as we got closer to town, and wondered what was going on. We quickly learned that there was a fire in Waldo Canyon.

Waldo Canyon was one of my favorite places to hike when we lived in Colorado Springs. It's pretty close to the city, just outside Manitou Springs. A fire in that area would get very close to residential areas, very quickly.

Sure enough, by Sunday morning Manitou Springs had been evacuated, and Hwy 24 was closed. I've been seeing picture after picture posted on Facebook of the smoke and the flames. Some of the most striking pictures are of Garden of the Gods with an orange glow on the ridge above.

This image has gone viral on Facebook. If you are the owner, please notify me so I can give you proper attribution.


It feels like all of Colorado is on fire this summer. And I have been saying for years that we were due for some bad fires because of the bark beetle infestation that had killed off so many trees in the last decade. The Rockies are littered with dead trees -- and nature was designed to clean house and rebuild using fire as her tool. But I never imagined all the fires would come at once. It feels like Armageddon is looming.

So my prayers go out to those affected. I pray for the lives of the wildlife being driven from their homes. I pray for the homes, pets and lives of the humans living in the affected areas. But most of all I pray for the brave men and women who are battling the blazes. Firefighters, you are heroes!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Perspective

"When it comes to peace, perspective is more important than your circumstances." This is from today's Crossroads Church program. Yes, this was one of those days where the sermon felt directed right at me.

People who have known me for a long time have been floored at how my faith has blossomed in the wake of my family tragedy. Some people have even been scared by it, or hesitant about it. And I don't blame them, because it has been a dramatic change for me.

Dramatic, but easy. Let me show you, rather than tell you, why.

Imagine this. I'm curled up on the floor of my bedroom, crying. My mind is on a loop, replaying the night my daughter died. I feel like I'll never be able to stop crying, never be able to get off the floor. Part of me wishes God would just take me right then and there, so I could be with my daughter. But within reach is my Bible. I grab it and open it, reading the first lines -- Genesis 1:1.

Suddenly I am able to sit up. I keep reading. It's as if someone has thrown a soft blanket over my throbbing heart. My tears ease. Soon I stop crying. It's not the story I'm reading that sinks into my brain and my heart, it's the spiritual connection that suddenly comes upon me. It's as if I am the plug and God is the outlet. I'm plugged in. And when I'm plugged in, the pain isn't so overwhelming.

You ask why the sudden growth of my faith? It's this. God is bigger than my pain. And when I let Him in, I'm not living in the pain anymore, just with it. Anyone who has been through any kind of tragedy can understand how overwhelming the pain is, and how it seems bigger and more important than anything else. When something puts it into perspective, though, when you finally see you don't have to live with pain as your master, healing happens.

You ask how I'm able to keep a positive attitude through such a horrible experience. It's this. Seeing my life from God's perspective, I know this is a season of grief. But this will not be my life.

Every day I draw a breath is a gift. Every kiss from my husband is a gift. Every word I type here that gets into someone's heart is a gift. I want to live my life inside these gifts, not inside the pain. The pain will fade, the gifts will grow. This is perspective. And this is why my faith is so strong.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Brave

We saw Brave last night. It was a really wonderful movie -- really, really well done.

However, I wish I had known more about it before going to see it. Because I probably would have waited. You see, the plot centers on the relationship between a mother and her daughter.

I cried a lot during that movie. Not because there were a lot of sad scenes, but because it drudged up the loss of my own daughter.

I don't have any sisters. Only brothers. I didn't grow up around girls. So when I found out I was pregnant with a daughter, I admit I had a hard time adapting to the idea. I felt unprepared. I would know what to do with a son -- but a daughter?

When I gave birth to her, my fears disappeared. Having a little girl was the most magical experience. The way I described it wasn't that she was the center of my world, but that my world had gotten bigger.

Sure, Scarlett was a daddy's girl. Through and through. But she and I had a bond they could never have. We were the ladies of the house.

When she died, it wasn't just the loss of a child. It was the loss of a bond I never knew I needed.

So I can honestly say the movie Brave did a good job of representing that mother-daughter relationship, because it made my wound throb. And I don't know if I'll be strong enough to watch it again for a long time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pouring Myself In

Victoria Osteen's blog post from today, Pour in What You Have, struck a chord with me.

I'm struggling with something right now that is probably going to require professional help to accomplish. The whole experience has been such a roller coaster of emotions -- from feeling like a failure, to thinking maybe God doesn't want me to have this specific thing, to wondering if the professional help is part of God's plan to give me this thing.

After reading Victoria's post, I realized that being in a situation where I have to use resources to accomplish something that some people accomplish easily and naturally doesn't make me a failure. I'm seeking professional help in the natural to allow God's supernatural power to work in my life. And this is what I am going to focus my mind on. I'm going to try to get away from the negative by doing what I can do with what I have right now.

What I have right now is pretty amazing.

I counsel friends and family to appreciate what they have right now; to forgive others' past mistakes because there's nothing they can do to change the past, only appreciate the present and have hope in the future; to do what they can with what they're given, and accept help when they've hit a wall. And I do take my own advice. But I'm human -- this isn't easy. I falter sometimes. I get weak.

That's why reading and listening to uplifting words is so important to me. And I want to pass that along to you here as often as I can, but at the same time let you know I'm not above reproach. I have to fight negativity too.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

4th Wedding Anniversary

Today Jeremy and I celebrate 4 years as a married couple.

What a ride it's been.

We got married in Jeremy's parents' back yard in the Broadmoor area of Colorado Springs. When our reception started, a couple of black bears hopped the fence and joined the party. To this day, bears are totems representing our marriage.

We spent our honeymoon in Ireland. They say that traveling with someone is a good way to gauge a relationship, and indeed we are great travel partners. We rented a car in Dublin and Jeremy drove us around the country for a week. I've never stopped being amazed at Jeremy's skill behind the wheel. On the "wrong" side of the car, driving on the "wrong" side of the road, and navigating goat-path-like roads with ease, Jeremy never broke a sweat.

Our marriage hit a rough patch one year in. You guys have heard our story enough times that I won't repeat it again here. Some time apart in combination with counseling and sheer stubbornness on Jeremy's part got us through. And we were blessed with a daughter 9 months later.

Jeremy tried to start a business when we moved to Lafayette -- but after several months, we made the decision to end the business and have Jeremy stay home with Scarlett. That was one of the best decisions we ever made. We were such a happy family. Since I work from home, we were together all day, every day. We were SO blessed.

But tragedy struck in February. And more people worried about our marriage than our mental health, which we found really odd. We had a solid relationship. We got into grief counseling right away. We leaned on each other. And we couldn't understand people's overwhelming concern that we would split up.

Today marks four years since we tied the knot. Saturday marks four months since our daughter died. And through everything, Jeremy and I are not only partners and best friends, we are inextricably bound, linked, tied together. We are a package deal. Our relationship isn't effortless, but it doesn't require a ton of work anymore. We love each other, respect each other, and rely on each other in a healthy way.

It's only been four years since we put these rings on each other's finger. We have a lifetime to go. I can't imagine how great our marriage will be in another four years. Or forty.

Happy anniversary, Jeremy.







Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Brains and Forgiveness

I should have been a psychologist. Or a neuroscientist. I am fascinated by the human brain -- specifically how it works so differently from person to person.

Why do some people read speed limit signs and others don't? Why do some people want children and others don't? Why do women see the socks on the floor but men don't? Why are some people detail-oriented while others are careless? Why are some people able to keep a positive attitude through stressful times, while others wither?

These are just some of the questions that go through my mind on a fairly regular basis. And it all comes down to the brain, it seems.

From a spiritual perspective, I understand that each of us is a unique creation. We each have our own set of likes, dislikes, talents, predilections, and tendencies. We are each masterpieces in our own right.

That is a beautiful thing. But it also forces us to figure out how to live with other "masterpieces" that may clash with our own styles -- Picassos next to Monets, da Vincis next to O'Keeffes -- or risk living in perpetual rage and misery.

My drive home from the gym today was a perfect example of this. I was driving down a road with a speed limit of 55. I was going 55. Suddenly a minivan swung across two lanes and planted itself, going 40, in front of me. I slammed on my brakes and (admittedly) tailgated the lady to entice her to speed up. After about a mile, she threw her hand in the air like she didn't know why I was riding her bumper. Let's just say that my yoga calm was not only interrupted, it flew out the window.

I came home thinking, "How could she not know she was doing something wrong? She cut me off going 15 miles an hour under the speed limit and didn't even attempt to get up to speed." And then I remembered something my husband once told me. He said he rarely looks at speed limit signs, but instead goes with the flow of traffic. And I realized that this lady probably did the same thing. Where she pulled out in front of me, I was with a pack of cars that had just come from a stop light, and other cars around me were still trying to get up to speed. She was going with the flow of the slower traffic. (Now, let me be clear, Jeremy might not always read speed limit signs, but he would never impede traffic like that.)

It was a brain thing. The lady doesn't read speed limit signs, while I do.

Side note: I believe people like that lady are the cause of a lot of accidents. So I'm not going to sit here and play the "everyone has the right to think their own way" game. If you harm other people, I don't care if your brain is different than mine -- you're wrong.

However, I am deeply fascinated that with such vast differences in thinking, people are able to function together -- create societies, have harmonious families, work as teams. When you think about it, it's pretty darn amazing.

Even though we create groups that clash, the fact that we are able to form groups at all just confounds me. It reflects our innate ability to love and forgive. Don't you think? We humans may be a screwed up bunch, but our capacity for love and forgiveness knows no bounds.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Woe is Job

As I was driving this morning (I'm working at my parents' house in Castle Rock today because we are having a new roof put on and it's LOUD), I listened to a radio program that talked about depression from a biblical standpoint. Specifically the host talked about Job 3.

Most of you are familiar with Job, one way or another. He's the man who lost his health, his wealth and most of his family, but never lost faith in God. I never really identified much with him because frankly I thought he was a whiner. I am all about positive thinking and positive speech -- and Job complained for pages and pages and pages without a positive word to break it up. Woe is Job.

But the radio show host gave me a different perspective. One that finally made me stop looking down my nose at poor Job. The host of this radio show pointed out that Job was depressed. And rightly so! This radio show host said that depression is so incredibly common these days, and can be caused by brain chemical imbalance OR can be situationally induced. I agreed and kept listening. Then he said that the most important thing we need to do is be honest about our feelings, because so many people won't get the help they desperately need to battle depression because they either try to ignore the symptoms or they don't want to burden people with them.

A light went off in my head. Because that's exactly what I was saying just yesterday in my post about unburdening yourself to God -- it's so important to recognize how you're feeling and then speak it in a safe environment, because speaking it helps the healing process. Keeping deep emotions bottled up does nothing but make them breed and grow, and eventually you will explode. After writing yesterday about the importance of speaking the truth of how you're feeling (in addition to keeping a positive attitude -- and no, those two things aren't mutually exclusive), this radio show was like a divine message.


The host went on to say that Job was depressed, and his lamentation was a healthy thing for him to do. It's the human thing for him to do. We are not made to bear misery silently. Even Jesus cried out on the cross. So Job complained, he cried, he begged God to end his misery -- but the key to his eventual recovery and massive good fortune was that he never stopped trusting God. And God came through for him, not only restoring his health, wealth and family, but DOUBLING it.


That's why Job is considered a hero of sorts. Not because he bore his misery in silence, but because he continued to trust God through all of it.


The Book of Job is still difficult for me to read because frankly I get irritated by continuous complaining. But I see his story from a different perspective now. I agree that his groaning was a healthy expression of true depression. And it redoubles my belief that pouring your heart out to God is a healthy thing to do.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fake It 'Til You Make It

I'm a big believer in "fake it 'til you make it".

I'm insanely shy, but I can act like I have confidence -- and as people see me as confident and feel relaxed around me, eventually I actually feel confident.

As a writer, I often have to act like I know what I'm doing even when I'm actually feeling overwhelmed, in over my head, and totally unqualified. You can't let a client see you sweat, though, or you'll never get any work.

And this tactic -- faking it -- has come into play as I have grieved, too. I force myself to speak positive words, do everything I can to stay in a positive mindset, and have become practiced at talking about my daughter without crying. But truth be told, I'm often faking it.

I wonder how many people really know that. Or how many people guess. I'm a good actress. I can be crumbling on the inside, but I can still act bubbly and confident. This is a survival tactic, though, not an attempt to fool people. Because most of the time, eventually I start feeling like I'm acting. As I act happy, I start to feel happy. Fake it 'til you make it.

Sometimes, though, it doesn't work. On occasion, I'll go to bed at night and as the facade drops, I collapse under the weight of the mask. I sit alone in my bedroom and cry to God, and tell him the truth of how I'm feeling. Because sometimes He's the only person I can talk to. He's not going to worry about me. He's not going to think I'm failing or giving in to the pain. He's not going to call me ten times a day to check on me because He's concerned I might be falling apart. He doesn't tell me to drop the act. He just listens.

And I believe, with all my heart, that everyone needs this. Sometimes you can't talk to a human being. Human beings worry. They judge, even when they don't mean to. They hang on to things. They feel compelled to help. None of those are bad things -- but sometimes you just need to unload the truth. And if you're worried about the fallout, you'll never really get all the truth out.

So anyone going through a hard time, I heartily recommend this. Talk to God. Talk to the spirit of a deceased loved one. Talk to the wind. The point is to get the truth out of your heart and into the world. We often don't realize how much we hold inside until it's released.

Once that truth has been spoken, you're free of it.

Denver Comic Con Day 3

Base Camp started at Crossroads Church yesterday. I'm very excited to continue on in this introductory program, to get to know the church better, to meet the pastors in a more intimate setting, and to get to know some of the other newbies. In fact, I already made one new friend there.

After Base Camp, the boys and I headed back to downtown Denver for the third day of the convention. I met up with Patricia Vasquez-Trimpe and talked to her for a while. She is one of the neatest ladies I've ever met, and getting to know her was the highlight of the convention for me.

I got some signatures from James O'Barr (creator of The Crow) and Georges Jeanty (artist for the Buffy comics), but I missed out on seeing Gail Simone. Again. I missed her at Emerald City Comic Con, too.

We didn't last too long at the convention yesterday. We were all just exhausted. Jacob, Brick and Talon left that afternoon, and we were very sad to see them go.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Denver Comic Con Day 2

Day 2 at the Denver Comic Con was great. We met up with Jeremy's cousins, Jacob, Brick and Talon, before the convention opened. When we got there, the line to get in was already around the building. I spent most of the day in panels, while the boys went to the convention floor.

The first panel I attended was actually a class by Jan Scott-Frazier called "Unleashing Your Creativity." It really got my creative mojo going. She had us do a few drawing exercises, and normally I get really nervous drawing with people around (other than Jeremy), so I was hesitant. But the exercises ended up being really fun and educational.

The second panel I attended was entitled "Strong Female Writers and Characters" -- and this one was a bit more charged. The panelists were all women novelists, all with unique perspectives on the "problem" of how women are portrayed in media. And the audience got pretty worked up as the panelists took and answered questions. I get frustrated trying to identify these gender issues because ultimately I think media follows culture, and thus culture must change before media does. The question of Is it our responsibility to try to change this? becomes moot when you realize (as one panelist so aptly put it) we vote with our dollar. Spend your money on books, comics, movies, DVDs that you enjoy and want to support. There ya go. Losing sleep over how Catwoman was clothed on the cover of the last issue of Batman just seems pointless to me. But, I guess for some people it's a bigger issue. For me, I just won't spend my money on something I don't agree with.

The final panel I attended was about writing paranormal novels. It was pretty loosy-goosy, mainly a question and answer session. But it was interesting to hear the opinions of some of these veteran paranormal novelists.

After the convention, we all came back to our house and had a little barbecue. Now the boys are watching Firefly on the big screen downstairs. I do love these weekends with loved ones. I got to spend last weekend with my family, now this weekend with Jacob and his brothers. Happy Jessi here.

And one more pic from the convention, for those of you who haven't seen this on Facebook already:


Saturday, June 16, 2012

First Night of Denver Comic Con, Herb Trimpe and Steampunk Jewelry

The first night of the Denver Comic Con was pretty awesome. We grabbed our badges early and went to dinner at Bubba Gump's before the convention started. Della's sister Abby works there, so we got to see her for a bit.

When we went back to the con, we were really glad we got our badges early. The line for registration was insane. While we waited for Jeremy's cousins to show up, we walked around and got some signatures. Jeremy got signatures from Jason Aaron, Steven Seagle and Herb Trimpe to name a few. And we saw James Marsters (from Buffy, Angel and Smallville) and Colin Ferguson (from Eureka).

I actually talked with Herb Trimpe's wife for about a half hour. Herb is the first artist to draw the character Wolverine, so he's quite famous -- but he and his wife are as down to earth as you can get. We talked about Taos and yoga and how different this area of the country is from where they come from in New England.

At one point she asked me if we had children. This is such a difficult question for me and Jeremy. We're never quite sure how to answer. Saying no doesn't feel right. But when you tell them you had a child but she passed away, people get uncomfortable. We're getting better at navigating this question, but it's still very challenging. Lately I've just been answering "Not anymore. We had a child, but she passed away," and then quickly moving on to happier topics so people don't have the chance to feel awkward.

Anyway, here are a couple of pics from tonight. The first one is Jeremy and his cousins, Brick (the juggernaut) and Talon (the Raccoon City trooper). The second one is a necklace I bought from a Steampunk jewelry artist. This artist takes apart clocks and watches, and creates this awesome jewelry with the gears in combination with old keys. I especially liked the angel wings on this piece.





Friday, June 15, 2012

Let the Festivities Begin!

Jeremy and I went to the Comic Con kickoff party at Mile High Comics last night. It was, um, interesting. Unorganized, haphazard, but interesting.

They had a wresting ring set up on one side. A real one, with a bouncy floor and everything. Around 6pm, they started the "wrestling" match. It was hilarious.

When we got home, I gave Jeremy his Father's Day gift early. I got him Walking Dead issue #27 -- a big-time collector's item. He was so surprised and thrilled.

Denver Comic Con starts tonight at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. We were so spoiled by the Emerald City Comic Con, and this is the first year for it in Denver, I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high. But I'm excited. I've got a schedule put together of what panels I want to see over the weekend, and a lot are specifically geared toward women.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jeremy Is Home!

Yesterday was insane. I worked my full-time job, gave a presentation at said full-time job, rewrote a freelance estimate, went to yoga, met a friend to help her with her cover letter, set up two new writers for GlobalWrites, picked up Jeremy from the airport and went to a worship service at Calvary Chapel in Aurora -- all between the hours of 6:30am and 9:15pm.

And I'm paying for it today. I'm exhausted!

But Jeremy is home, safe and sound. And that's all that matters right now. Not my crazy schedule, not my sheer exhaustion, not the migraine that is brewing behind my right eye. My husband is home. Hooray!

Jeremy brought back some tea from China. The real stuff -- so high-quality that you can use the same tea bag 3 or 4 times. As I write this, I'm drinking a cup of green jasmine tea that tastes like nectar.

He also brought me back green jade earrings. Does my husband spoil me, or what?

The Denver Comic-Con starts tomorrow night. Jeremy and I bought our tickets months ago. We've got friends/family coming up from Colorado Springs to join us. It's going to be a busy weekend, but I'm excited to go to some of the featured panels.

I'm also starting the Basecamp program at Crossroads Church here in Northglenn on Sunday. Because I am still so new to Christianity as a whole (other than my collegiate studies), I feel like I have a lot to learn. I'm excited that this program is available to give me some basic education -- though I must say the most educational thing I've done so far is to start reading the Bible for myself. Nothing can replace direct knowledge. But Basecamp will give me insight as to how a modern church operates.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Trash?

I was listening to a Christian talk radio program this morning, and they were talking about how the Fifty Shades trilogy is "trash". I took issue with what they said, and here's why.

The speaker's reasons were that books "like these" make us set unrealistic expectations for the people in our lives. I counter that with the notion that we are all responsible for ourselves, our own actions and our own mindsets -- you can't blame a book for your own failings.

Someone with a healthy mindset will have no trouble with the series, because they understand they are stories. Not a bible to live by, but stories about fictional people. Someone who doesn't have a healthy mindset needs to get help for that, and in that case any book could potentially be "dangerous" -- fiction or nonfiction.

We are all responsible for our own minds. As I said in my last post, if you have ANY trouble with sensual material, Fifty Shades isn't for you. But it's also not for me to judge where you're at in your mind -- I trust you to make your own decision about what is okay and not okay for you.

Calling this book "trash" and telling people it will ruin them is pointing the finger at a bunch of paper and ink and saying, "I loved my husband until I read Fifty Shades of Grey, and now I hate all men." It's refusing to take responsibility for yourself. If you're so broken that a fictional story will make you doubt your own relationships, you and God have some talking to do and you have a counseling appointment to make.

Again, this is my own experience, but I appreciated the story for the pure fiction of it. I am aware it is not reality. And my own reality bites right now with my recent loss, but dammit, I am truly, madly, deeply in love with my husband and I love every frustrating, beautiful thing about him -- and no book is going to change that.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Illicit Books

Yikes. Just yikes. I've been so busy this last week, my head is spinning. My routine is completely disrupted, so sorry for the random post subjects.

Today's post subject is the Fifty Shades trilogy. Yes, that trilogy.

Over the weekend, I finished the second book in the series, Fifty Shades Darker. I'm hoping to start the third book tonight, because I'm absolutely caught up in the world E.L. James has created.

You read that right -- I'm caught up in the world. Not the love scenes.

The love scenes are what make this trilogy so controversial. And yes, every other page is a love scene. But the plot behind it, and the characters involved, are just delicious. Here's my take on why...

Our modern culture worships independence. Women are taught they don't need men. Men are taught they don't need women. So when you get a man and a woman together, what happens? They each fight for their independence, making partnership difficult, if not impossible.

Some couples are able to rectify this clash and work together, compromising and learning to lean on one another. But according to our current divorce rate, those cases are becoming fewer and farther between with each generation.

So you have a book series like Twilight, and subsequently the deviant variation of that in Fifty Shades, and they show us something counter-cultural but instinctive: we need each other. The characters in Fifty Shades literally seem to be unable to function without one another from the time they meet. Sounds annoying, right? But it feels SO GOOD to read something that speaks to our deepest emotional needs -- the ones we don't want to admit to, at the risk of showing our vulnerability. The illicitness isn't in the love scenes (and those are racy, to say the least), it's in the emotional agreement that sometimes we really, truly NEED someone. To live, to breathe, to get out of bed in the morning.

Not to say we shouldn't maintain our independence to a certain point. We must maintain our ability to survive on our own because, as I wrote in a recent post, sh*t happens. But how wonderful is it when you truly need someone, and they are truly there for you -- and vice versa? Needing someone and being needed in return is euphoric.

If you're sensitive to erotic stories in any way, do not read this series. But personally, Fifty Shades makes me appreciate my husband for the partnership he helped create, the immovable rock that is his love for me, and the knowledge that we can survive apart but life is so much sweeter together.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hike, Busy-ness and Thanks

Pictures from the 5-mile hike I took with my parents this morning, up toward Cub Lake.




It's rough living in Colorado. Sigh... poor me.

On a totally different note, I've been working like a fiend this weekend on a freelance project, which has been more excellent than you can believe. It's a project I'm super excited about, and it's got my mind spinning like a top but in a really good direction. It's the energizing, fascinating lovely type of busy that I haven't been in a while. And such good timing, too, with Jeremy gone.

I should take this time to say a big THANK YOU to those of you who have been checking in on me while Jeremy has been traveling. Your emails, text messages and phone calls have warmed my heart. I love you guys!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Freelancing Pros and Cons

Today is a prime example of the pros and cons of being a freelancer.

This was my office today...





I was supposed to take a vacation up to Estes Park with my family, but a big project came up that I couldn't postpone or delegate. So I went up to Estes Park with my laptop in tow. I'm still breathing cool mountain air. I'm still staring at Long's Peak from a wraparound deck at a quaint little cabin. I'm also writing a proposal, doing research and having conference calls. But how can I complain? There is no traffic noise, there's barbecued salmon on the menu for tonight, and I'm being visited by a hummingbird whose wings move so fast they sing in vibration.

Look at this mama and baby that came to visit us this afternoon...







This sure beats a cubicle and fluorescent lighting.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Amazing Little Boy

I met the most amazing little boy yesterday.



This, ladies and gentlemen, is my nephew Nicholas. He was born in December of 2009, but I met him for the first time yesterday.

Dear, sweet Nicky was born with a lot of health issues. Too many to list here.

He is a miracle.

You guys write to me all the time -- here in the comments on this blog, in emails, on my Facebook page -- and tell me how I inspire you. But let me tell you, you haven't been inspired until you meet someone like Nicky.

I feel sorry for myself. More than I'd like to admit. I get angry at my circumstances sometimes, though I am good at putting a stop to the anger and turning my attitude around. But this child, this sweet little boy, smiles and laughs and plays though he is bedridden.

I won't lie. I was nervous going to meet him. Having just lost my own, healthy child, I was afraid I'd be overcome by emotion. I was afraid I would be overwhelmingly sad, or worse -- angry. But I felt none of that. It felt like God's light was shining down in the room where my brother, Nicky's mother and I sat with the little boy.

Nicky's mom once confessed to me that she often felt judged as the mother of a sick child. It's so easy for people at a distance to point fingers, or tell someone they made the wrong choice. I have been guilty of that myself. But from now on, when I am tempted to belittle or judge someone, I'm going to remember my nephew. I'm going to remember the love I saw in the eyes of Nicky's mom and my brother as they introduced me to their son. I'm going to remember the light of heaven that shone down on that sweet little boy the day I met him.

Nicky, when you're old enough to understand, and your mom reads this post to you, I want you to know that your Auntie is inspired by you. God bless you, little man.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Writer to the Core

Last night was our last Bible study before the summer break. It was bittersweet. That group of women taught me so much in 6 short weeks. I am really looking forward to starting back up in the fall.

So Jeremy has been gone for two entire days now. Six more days to go. He emailed me from his hotel room this afternoon, saying he would be leaving soon to go see the Great Wall. Did I mention my husband is in CHINA? Yeah, now maybe you understand why I couldn't tell him not to go.

I spent the entire day yesterday thinking it was Thursday, for some reason. I don't know why my brain was so insistent on it. I was trying to schedule a meeting with someone, and ended up having to send a second meeting invitation because I was asked to schedule it for "tomorrow" and I scheduled it for Friday. I felt like a dork, and desperately wanted to email this woman and tell her I swear I'm not a moron! My brain is just not working right today! But that's just not the professional thing to do.

That's a tough thing sometimes, though -- being professional when you work virtually/remotely AND with people you personally like. It's so easy to just shoot off a casual email, I've learned it's so important to step back and consider what I'm writing before I hit the "send" button.  I still make mistakes -- I still hit "send" and realize I misunderstood something, or mis-wrote something. And it's embarrassing having to follow up with an "oops" email.  But over the years I've gotten better.

I feel like I build stronger relationships through email/text than any other method. When I'm face-to-face with someone, it's easy to over-analyze body language. On the phone, it's easy to misunderstand tone, or feel the need to fill silences with useless (or inappropriate) blather. In an email, I'm more able say what I mean to say, in the way I mean to say it.

I guess I'm a writer to the core. :)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

One Day Down

I took Jeremy to the airport at the crack of dawn yesterday morning. So he has been gone one full day. I am literally counting down the days until he returns. One day down, 7 to go.

I have always prided myself in my independence. I never stopped to wait for someone to join me before living my life. I bought my first house on my own when I was 22 years old. I moved around the country by myself. I traveled to Scotland by myself. I hiked by myself, learned how to crochet by myself, wrote a novel by myself. Not that I didn't enjoy company, but I never wanted to wait around for someone before I enjoyed my life.

That didn't change when I got married. And that mindset got me into trouble. I had to learn how to lean on my partner and let him lean on me. But my ability to be on my own made it so when Jeremy and I were separated for whatever reason, I was okay. And when I had Scarlett, though I missed Jeremy when he was gone on trips, I wasn't lonely or scared because I still had that self-sufficiency in me, and also had our daughter to focus on.

But the last time Jeremy went out of town to help the family business, tragedy struck. And since then, I have not been alone in this house overnight. When Jeremy asked me if it was okay if he went on this trip, every bone in my body wanted to say no. And I realized that my self-sufficiency had been shredded in the last few months.

That is terrifying to me for so many reasons.

First, my independence is part of what makes up my character. The character that my friends and family love. The character that I am proud to have, that makes me me.

Second, there is a line between relying on Jeremy and needing him in order to be healthy. Needing him on that level is not good for me, and it's especially not good for him. That is too much pressure and too much stress to put on someone. Especially someone you love and respect.

And third, sh*t happens. I learned this the hard way. Life is a temporary assignment, and relying on another human being for my sanity or health is like relying on a butterfly to live ten years. I need to know, and Jeremy needs to know, that if we ever had to be without one another, for whatever reason, we will individually survive it. Be miserable for a long while, yes, but survive.

So I told him I would be okay if he went on this trip. For these specific reasons: 1) This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him, and I couldn't in good conscience tell him to turn it down, 2) I needed the time and the push to re-learn how to be by myself, and 3) Jeremy needed to know, really know, that I would be okay without him, so the pressure of being strong for me would not crush him.

I guess this is love, huh? Considering your partner's needs even when it's painful, but knowing that they will grow and thrive in your sacrifice. And to think, ten years ago, I thought love was that fluttery feeling in my stomach...

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Open Door

When I experienced my recent loss, I found church to be a soft place for me to land. A place I could go to and not be judged. A place I could connect to God and people of similar values. A place I could cry safely.

But if I hadn't taken Scarlett to church with me for the first time back in February, I might not have had this source of healing after she passed. That one trip with her opened the door to God for me, and made church a safe place for me to heal.

Spreading the word is a big part of Christianity as a whole. And there are people out there with the gift of evangelism that do a wonderful job of explaining why God is good, and how a relationship with Him can improve our lives. But I don't have this gift -- nor do I really feel the desire to have it. Rather, I just want to offer people the same thing I was offered. An open door.

I take interested people to church with me for this very reason. Not to convert them, not to drag them into religion, but to open the door for them. Whether they need a soft place to land right now, or they are going to need it later after an event comes to pass, I opened the door for them the way it was opened for me.

No one dragged me to church. No one preached to me to try to convert me. No one told me I was going to hell if I didn't believe. I simply saw an open door and walked through it -- and on the other side, I bumped into God and He caught me. He's been holding me ever since.

That's all I can hope for for my loved ones, too. For God to catch them when they fall and heal them when they are broken.

I honestly don't know why I felt compelled to write this post. Maybe to let you know I'm not trying to proselytize here. But to show you how I'm healing. And to let you know that I won't judge, no matter what you believe. I never in a million years thought I would lose my first and only child, and I never in a million years thought I'd be caught by God when I was falling, falling, falling. But here I am. Grieving, but safely, gently caught.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Necklace from Linette

This just arrived in the mail from my dear friend Linette out in Fresno. She also sent one for Jeremy that was a dog-tag style with Scarlett's name engraved on it. THIS is why I rave about my friends. They have hearts as big as Montana.

One side

The other side

Patio

We have a really great back yard. It backs up to open space, with a view of a lake in the distance. The patio is large and shaded. It really is the perfect place to sit out and enjoy a cup of tea and a good book (when the neighbor dogs aren't barking and the mosquitoes aren't attacking, at least).

But I have not been able to sit out there since Scarlett died. I have so many memories of taking her out there with me at lunchtime, letting her run around that patio. She was always so careful not to go too close to the edge -- really amazing for a toddler. She was happy just running in circles out there.

This seems like such a small issue, sitting out on the patio. And considering that yard is one of the big reasons we bought this house in the first place, it's one of the first things you'd think I would get over. But it has been a hurdle for me. I can go into her bedroom to put things away, but I can't sit out on the patio.

The death of a loved one is a multifaceted experience. You have the loss itself to contend with, then all the minutia of planning the funeral and arranging paperwork and finances (which seem heartless and stupid at the time, but nonetheless must be dealt with), and finally you have the memories to deal with.

Memories come from nowhere sometimes. And sometimes they feel more powerful than you expect. Learning how not to drown in them has been an ongoing process for me.

I'm going to conquer that patio. Maybe not today, but soon. I'm going to have friends over and we're going to sit out there with coffee, and they're going to ooh and aah over the view, and we're going to create new memories. Not to replace the old ones, but to buffer them -- to make them happy and no longer reminders of a terrible loss.

Because, after all, happy memories are what my daughter deserves. Happy, giggling, silly, beautiful memories.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Lazy Day

Today has overall been a pretty lazy day.

I woke up at 8am and made some coffee, read some of The Purpose Driven Life, and waited for Drew to arrive. Then Drew and I drove up to Lafayette and met Lisa at Flatirons Church for the 10:45am service.  As usual, it was uplifting and fun -- and I was so thrilled that my brother went with me for the first time.

When I got home, Jeremy and I finished watching the 10th season of Smallville on DVD. We have been watching that show pretty much every night for the last two months, and it was kinda sad when it came to an end today. Silly, I know.

This afternoon Jeremy and I took a drive through the country and up to Palizzi Farm in Brighton. It was quaint, but definitely can't compare to the Boulder Farmers Market.

After writing all that, I realize I was a bit busier than I thought! I guess I've just been trying to stay distracted. Jeremy is taking a trip soon, and it will be the first time I've been alone here since Scarlett died. To say I'm nervous about it is an understatement. But I'm spending as much time with him as I can before he leaves, and my friends and family have all volunteered to keep me company while he's gone. So I think I'll survive.

But keep me in your prayers nonetheless. This will be a big challenge for me.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Joel Osteen and My Destination

For my dad's birthday back in February, I got him tickets to see Joel Osteen speak in Denver. Last night, we finally got to see this amazing preacher in action.

I drove down to my parents' house at lunch and worked from there for the afternoon. When my dad got home from work, we headed to the light rail station and took the train into downtown Denver. After an awesome (and calorie-laden) dinner at Brooklyn's, we walked to the Pepsi Center and took our seats in the audience for Joel Osteen's Night of Hope.

I have seen Joel on TV and online dozens of times -- but in person, he was a thousand times better. His uplifting messages of hope and striving for abundance hit me right in the heart. And even though there were probably 20,000 people in the audience, he felt like someone I knew personally. My dad and I raved to each other about the experience on the ride home. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much!

This morning I headed to downtown Denver once again to meet a friend for coffee. She recently had a very personal, very sudden loss, and we got together to share our experiences. It is so powerful to me that with the right attitude, a person can not only survive a deep loss, they can bloom from it. I saw the same peace in her eyes that I feel now -- the "investment in heaven", as my Bible study leader would say.

I wish I could better express to you readers this sense of peace, but I truly think only those people who have lost a loved one could really grasp it. It's the knowledge that our loved one is not in pain anymore. That the last thing they heard was "I love you." The understanding of how precious our time with them was, and not regretting an instant of it. The knowledge that we will see them again in heaven someday -- that our loved one is in our future as much as they were in our past.

When I go to the cemetery to visit Scarlett's grave, and I come to the family plot where Jeremy and I will someday be buried with her, a wave of calm comes over me because I know where I'm going. I know where my body will be laid, and I know where my spirit will go. Scarlett is my final destination, and that is the most beautiful, reassuring feeling.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Heart Friends

I was recently blessed with two friends who make my weeks brighter, and I feel I should honor them here.

Erin was my college roommate. I introduced her to her husband over ten years ago. And though they have moved around the country, Erin and I stayed in touch (some years better than others). But only in the last year have we lived near each other again, and been able to physically get together.

After Scarlett passed away, Erin was one of the first to offer to go to church with me. Thus began our parallel paths to God -- both of us feeling like we're still learning the basics, but loving every step along the way.

Erin and I joined a women's Bible study group together, and we met Lisa there. When Lisa heard about Scarlett's passing, she came up to me after class and handed me her phone number, offering to go to church with me.

Lisa was with me at Flatirons Church the night I was baptized. We didn't know each other in the slightest, but she held my purse as I got dunked in a kiddie pool, and we raved about the experience afterward.

Lisa suggested we get together for an individual study, since she was also in the early stages of her walk with God. I invited Erin, and thus our little threesome was born. We have been meeting weekly to do our own Bible study ever since.

There is something so special about this little group. We follow a pre-written beginner's plan for each meeting, but as we go through each passage and talk about our responses, we bring our life experiences into it. We talk about our successes and our failures, our blessings and our worries. And as we do so, answers often emerge. Our camaraderie is one of the deepest I have felt in my life.

I have learned many lessons from studying with these women. But the most powerful lesson I learned is how important it is to have good people in your life. People that hold similar values, people that are willing to listen, speak, and not judge. People you can rely on. Because when the chips are down, you need a safe place to keep your heart. And when blessings come your way, you need a mountaintop to shout from. And this is what good friends are -- safety in the valley and cheers on the mountaintop.