Monday, December 31, 2012

FreakAngels and Art

Jeremy got me addicted to a comic series called FreakAngels, so I blame him for this short post. Must get back to reading!

I did a few hours of work today (officially I'm off work until Weds), but otherwise I haven't been up to much. I'm still working on that painting for a friend -- experimenting with watercolor and colored pencil for it -- and taking breaks to play with my scratchboard project.

These are pics of the process -- these pieces are nowhere near done:







Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Untethered Soul

I read a lot of self-helpy type stuff -- mind over matter, law of attraction, using the energy of the universe, that kind of thing. Yes, right alongside my Bible reading. No, it doesn't conflict -- because I have a brain in my head that I use to determine what I think is right and what I think is bunk. It's all about opening my mind, learning, witnessing the possibilities of this short life.

If I'm being honest, most of those books are the same. There aren't many new ideas. But I just finished reading one that took me by surprise. The Untethered Soul wasn't the best book I've ever read -- the writing was mediocre, the big paragraphs lent to skimming, and while it posed a lot of problems it didn't give a lot of step-by-step instructions for how to solve them (I like step-by-step). However, it made me aware of things I hadn't been previously aware of. And it reinforced some practices I already have.

I am aware of how much brain chatter is happening in my head. I am aware of the tightening in my chest when something upsets me. But The Untethered Soul pointed out that these are objects passing through, and I don't have to give them any attention or hold onto them. The book starts by identifying who we are -- our consciousness. We are our awareness. We are the witness.

We can witness our brain chatter, we can witness the physical sensations of distress, but we can do it with some distance. We can step back from all of that and just watch it happen. And once we become a witness of ourselves, all the stress, negativity, frustration, anger loses its power.

When I have trouble sleeping, I use meditation techniques to separate myself from the brain chatter that is keeping me up. Then the chatter stops and I immediately fall asleep. So this book just reaffirmed why this works so well for me.

It also talked about feeling your heart shut closed when you are distressed. I think we can all identify with that sensation -- that tightening in our chest. And the book encourages us to purposefully keep our heart open, to feel that closing sensation and release it, because we can only be happy when our heart is open.

Anyway, with how much stuff I'm processing this year, it was nice to be reassured that all these negative thoughts and feelings aren't me, and I have the capability of getting through it in a healthy way.


Friday, December 28, 2012

YAY Technology!

I was absolutely born at the right time in history. I freaking love the Internet.

I had lunch with two girlfriends today -- one of whom I haven't seen in a year (hi Cheryl!) -- and it was like no time had passed. We keep up on each other via Facebook and they read my blog, so there was absolutely no disconnect in our friendship. How amazing is it that three girls living in Seattle, Colorado Springs and north Denver can stay such fast friends?

This blog in and of itself is a miracle of our time. Not only is it a vehicle for me to keep my friends and family in the loop on what (and how) I'm doing, but it has been the best therapy device. Getting my thoughts and feelings down here gets them out of my head and heart, and begins to process them.

I'm working with a copywriting client in Texas right now -- someone I will never meet face-to-face -- thanks to modern technology. I'm keeping a friend apprised of a painting I'm working on via instant messenger. I found a recipe for sea-salt-chocolate cookies on a blog last week that is now Jeremy's favorite baked good. I can let a friend know I'm early to a restaurant and ask her how many people to get a table for, all without speaking on a phone. Do you ever stop and think about how amazing our world is right now?

On my drive home today, I heard a radio ad on a Christian music station talking about how atheists have a louder voice than ever, thanks to the Internet. I thought that was ridiculous on several levels. First, because ALL of us have a louder voice now. Second, because Christians are not charged with hating atheists -- we are charged with being able to answer questions, and when challenged being able to defend ourselves. But I was able to have that strong opinion of that radio ad because I have instant and omnipresent access to the Bible -- my book, my iPhone, my iPad, and my computer. I continuously learn and build my confidence because of this amazing technology.

Technology, the advancement of science, the abundance of risk-takers in this world -- they saved my nephew's life again and again. They gave us the chance to know him.

What has technology done for you lately?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dividing Line

Warning: Christian theology ahead.

I was listening to a Christmas sermon this morning about how the birth of Christ divided the timeline of history (BC/AD), and it's the only event in the history of man that has ever done that. The pastor said that our relationship with God should have the same effect on our individual lives -- that there should be a dividing line for each of us Christians where we can identify our lives drastically changed.

The Bible uses the term "born again," and while that term has a negative connotation these days, it's a pretty accurate way of putting it. When you accept Jesus, when you let Him into your heart, you become a new person. I don't think you can help it. I think once the Holy Spirit starts moving in you, it fundamentally changes you. And I think if you let it, if you don't fight it, it will make something beautiful out of you and your life.

At least it did for me.

I can identify that dividing line. It wasn't a fixed point in time, but a series of events over the course of 3 months.

I was drawn to church for the first time in my life a couple of weeks before Scarlett died. I took her with me to Crossroads and she played with the kids in the childcare area while I went to the sanctuary for the service. The sermon didn't sink in, but it still felt good to be there. I knew I wanted to go back -- I especially knew I wanted to take Scarlett back, because she was such a social butterfly. But a couple of weeks later, she died. She only went with me that one time.

After she died, I would have been justified in never going to church again. I would have been justified in being furious with God and blaming Him for my daughter's death. But instead I felt even more drawn to church. I needed to go. So every Sunday, whether by myself or with a supportive friend or family member, I went to church. Still the message wasn't sinking into my soul, but it felt good to be there.

I met a girl named Lisa in my first Bible study group. When she learned my story, she invited me to Flatirons Church that Saturday night. It happened to be a baptism weekend -- and for some reason, I felt compelled to get baptized. So with this woman I didn't know, in a church I'd never been to before, in front of a crowd of a thousand people, I got dunked, fully-clothed, into a kiddie pool.

Driving home that night, I couldn't stop smiling. Something had changed within me.

After my baptism, everything started making sense. The sermons sank in. I had started a year-long Bible reading plan, and the book became a part of me -- like an extension of me, like a limb. Jesus was no longer just a great teacher, He wasn't just this theological concept. Jesus really, truly became my savior.

I look back at my life before I became a Christian, and I know that I would have made a lot of different decisions if my dividing line had been earlier. I think I was meant to cross the line at the specific time that I did. I may have made some poor decisions in my life, but they all led me to Jeremy and Scarlett -- so I wouldn't change a single one.

I realize my "dividing line" is a little more dramatic than most. But I bet all of you could tell me a story about your own -- about a point in your life that divided everything, especially spiritually.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas

Thanks to the love (and distraction) of family on both sides, we made it through Christmas with minimal tear-shed. It wasn't easy, by any stretch of the imagination -- but we made it.

Yesterday morning we brought a poinsettia to Scarlett's grave. We picked a poinsettia in a sparkly red tin bucket that we knew she would have loved. Tromping through the snow, we stood at our daughter's headstone, told her how much we missed her and wished her a merry Christmas. We also promised her we'd give her cousins extra hugs, which we promptly did at Jeremy's parents' house.

We unwrapped presents pretty soon after we got there. Jeremy's favorite part of Christmas is watching the kids open their gifts. Even if we lived across the world, I think he'd insist we fly to Colorado Springs each Christmas to witness those kids' faces light up.

I'm glad Jeremy is so confident driving in the snow, because the drive yesterday to and from the Springs was really nasty.

It's been a quiet morning here at home today. Jeremy is still sleeping. I watched a sermon online from Craig Groeschel while I drank my coffee, and I'll probably log a few hours at work later today. I also have to figure out the design for a new painting I promised to a friend.

A friend contacted me last week to ask if I would do a painting for her. She lost one of her best friends, and the godmother of her daughter, in the CT shooting. She wants to send the painting to the grieving family. If there was ever a time for me to shake off my own sadness and create some art, it's now, for this.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Perfect Christmas Eve. I cooked a feast for my parents and brothers, then we unwrapped presents. I could only be happier if Scarlett were here.

Jeremy got me a cross with a rose. He also got me one of the books in the Saint John's Bible collection -- the first hand-scribed and illuminated Bible in hundreds of years. It's truly breathtaking. My mom and I saw the original in a museum in Santa Fe -- it brought me to tears.








Jeremy truly considers my heart when he chooses gifts for me. They're always meaningful and thoughtful.

He also got me some study books (the commentary is part of a collection, and he also ordered me volume 1 but it hasn't arrived yet) and a nativity set I've been drooling over. We are going to add to this nativity each year.








He didn't realize everything he got me was Christian until tonight. I told him, "Considering my faith has kept me afloat since February, that's perfect."

Jeremy is a stubborn agnostic. The support he gives me in my faith is straight from his heart. God has exceedingly, abundantly blessed me with this man.

I'll blog more after Christmas, I promise. It's late and we've got a big day tomorrow. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Hairdo, My Special Little Man and Christmas at Church

Yesterday was a busy, but crazy blessed, day. 

I started the day by driving down to Colorado Springs to get my hair cut and colored. My hair has changed since I had a baby, and it was kinda driving me crazy. I have been throwing it back in a ponytail so much lately -- I started fresh by cutting it all off. I like it, but I don't love it as much as the first time I cut it short. I think I need the top/front longer and the back shorter. So I'll probably have my hairstylist trim the back the next time I go in and let the top/front grow a bit. Also, I like my hair a little more spiky than my hairstylist styles it -- so I'll be experimenting with it in the next few weeks.

I spiked the front a little -- I like a more punk-rock look.





After my hair was done, I drove back north to my parents' house in Castle Pines. My mom and I had set aside the day to bake holiday goodies. We started with chocolate-dipped pretzels.

Our first batch. They turned out so pretty!
We took a break in the middle of our day to go to my nephew Nicky's birthday party in Highlands Ranch. Nicky turned three yesterday -- which blows my mind. No one knew if he would live long enough to take his first breath, much less bless us with three whole years.

As his mother puts it, he has been confounding medical science since the day he was conceived. Nicky doesn't suffer from an ailment, there is no disease or single gene abnormality that explains his condition. But everything from the composition of his bones to the placement of his heart (it's on the right side of his chest instead of the left) is irregular. It's impossible to say what he will or won't be capable of in his life, or even how long he'll live. There is just no precedent for Nicky. So we cherish every moment with him.



As you can see in that picture, my brother (Nicky's dad) and my father are exceptional men. They're some of the most rare males of our species -- they delight in their children. And children respond strongly. I remember how Scarlett would light up when she saw her Uncle Drew or her Grandpa Z. "Unca" and "Papa" were some of the first words she learned (though to be fair, she called my mom, her grandma, "Papa" too. LOL). I don't take these guys for granted -- I know how lucky I am to be related to them. And I desperately want to give them more children to fawn over.

After Nicky's party, we all went back to my parents' house and my mom and I continued our baking. We made sugar cookies and sea-salt-chocolate cookies, and my mom brought out the fudge she had made before I got there earlier that day. It's not the holidays without a sugar rush, right? YUM.

This morning Jeremy went to the Christmas service at Flatirons Church with me. I know, you just fell out of your chair reading that. But he stayed awake the whole time, so I'm extremely proud of him. And I'm proud of myself for only crying during one song. The more ethereal Christmas songs (Oh Holy Night, Silent Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, etc.) always make me weepy -- and this Christmas I'm more weepy than usual. When the worship band did a gorgeous rendition of Oh Holy Night with Jenny Dreyer leading the vocals, I lost it. 

And now, right after I publish this, I'm spending the rest of my day wrapping presents and pre-making some dishes for Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow. I can't believe Christmas is already here!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Working at Relaxing

I have been doing my best to relax this week. Jeremy thought it was hilarious when I told him that it's hard work for me to relax.

But it's true. For me, relaxing means being unproductive and saying no to things that I actually do want to do. Relaxing, for me, means giving myself permission to be lazy. I am simply incapable of being productive and engaging in social activities without some level of stress.

It was important this week for me to avoid stress. Specifically to avoid the chemical reaction that happens in a body when you get stressed -- the spike in cortisol and adrenaline. I would do okay for a few hours, and then something would raise my blood pressure. It was seriously a lot of effort to avoid stress this week!

My day-job workplace shuts down at noon today, and the furlough goes until January 2. We've all been eagerly anticipating the break. Most of our team has already started their vacation, so there are just a handful of us holding down the fort right now -- and of course a major issue just arose. An issue that is going to require IT support. And at this company, you don't just hand things off to IT to fix -- you log a ticket, make sure the ticket gets routed to the right IT team, and then HARASS THE HECK out of that team until they decide that fixing the problem is easier than dealing with you constantly asking them where they're at with it. And yes, this process is standard for everything from a molehill to a mountain.

Every year in my peer review, "tenacity" is brought up as my strongest trait. And I think that's hilarious. Because I don't think I'm tenacious as much as I get so irritated when people won't do their jobs, that I don't care if I annoy them to death. I will stay on top of them until they do what they need to do. My manager calls it tenacity -- I call it professional harassment.

So I guess the time for me to relax is officially over. I'm writing this blog as I wait for an update from our support team.

Do you see why it's so difficult for me to relax? LOL

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Final Decorations and My Husband with a Needle

I've been dragging my feet with the holiday decorations this year. I think I was afraid of the memories.

At first I wasn't going to decorate at all. Then I decided I'd at least put a wreath up on the door. And then when my family decided that I'd host Christmas Eve dinner (thank you guys for that -- planning that has been a lovely distraction), I thought I'd put a few festive decorations around the main level of our house. I even created a few new decorations with some ribbon I got on sale at Michael's.


I've been doing little bit by little bit over the last week. Last night I determined to finish putting up decorations. I opened the last box that Jeremy had pulled out of storage, and the first thing I saw were three stockings. That hurt, but I held myself together. As I worked my way to the bottom of that box, I saw the aforementioned reindeer headband that Scarlett wore last year. That, I couldn't handle. I went upstairs to our bedroom and bawled my eyes out.

I guess Christmas is going to be like everything else this past year. Some of it I'll be able to handle, and some of it will be heart-wrenching.

But to end this post on a happier (at least more comedic) note, Jeremy and I did have a little adventure last night.

I had to get a shot (injection, not alcohol) last night. I pass out when I have blood drawn, so I knew I wouldn't be able to give myself that shot. Jeremy (bless his heart) offered to do it -- as long as he could "put a pillow over my head so he couldn't see my face." I know he meant that he doesn't want to see me in pain, but I laughed my butt off at that. I asked him, "So you want to smother me as you stab me, huh?"

He did a great job, though. I literally didn't feel a thing -- no pain, no nothing. Maybe Jeremy was supposed to be a nurse in this life. LOL

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wonderfully Made

It amazes me sometimes how we are all so fearfully and wonderfully made.

For example, I'm a terrible runner. Try as I might, I never improve and I never enjoy it. I run for cardio exercise -- never for fun or challenge. And if I don't run for a couple of weeks, when I get back on the treadmill it's like I have never run before.

But yoga -- that's a different story. I love it. I've always loved it. It makes me feel good while I'm doing it and afterward my body feels like I just got a massage. I can see improvement quickly when I do new asanas or series. If I can't do yoga for a few weeks due to travel or injury, when I go back to it I haven't lost much strength or flexibility.

But I know people who are great runners who hate yoga. And it has nothing to do with personality, but everything to do with the way our bodies are designed.

And that right there is why I hate the whole idea of a physical ideal. There is no perfect body type -- we are all perfectly uniquely made.

I've been a vegetarian for almost 7 years. And I still get questioned about it. I assure people it's a dietary decision, not a judgement about what they just ordered at the restaurant. But even that's not satisfying to most people. They ask me if I did it to lose weight. And at that point my filter comes off and I tell them the truth -- I had gut-wrenching stomach aches my entire life, and when I stopped eating meat, I stopped getting those stomach aches. End of story.

But so many people are looking for that quick fix. They want to be told, Do this exercise and stop eating XXX and you'll be skinny in 6 weeks. But that's not the way we were made. We are all unique. I experimented a lot with both diet and exercise to figure out what worked for my body -- and I still have to consciously resist comparing my lifestyle and body type to those of my friends.

These bodies of ours are gifts, and they are not indestructible. Yoga and a meat-free diet keep mine working pretty well. How about you? What have you found that makes a big difference in your overall health?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Relaxing Weekend

Saturday was a real day off. I didn't have to work, I didn't check work email, I didn't have any obligations. It was heavenly.

Jeremy had to work, so I even had the house to myself for the afternoon. I did a little painting, a little reading, watched a romantic comedy -- yes, heavenly.

I did go to church Saturday night, though. Erin was interested in checking out Flatirons, so we went to the 5pm service. I'm glad we did -- I needed church after what happened on Friday in CT. I needed that gathering of holy spirit stirring around me. The pastor touched on the tragedy, led us in a really nice prayer, and then went on with his pre-planned sermon, effectively getting our minds off of it. Perfect.

Sunday Jeremy and I met some friends at Fox & Hound for lunch and to watch the game(s). Sad to say, we haven't done something like that in ages. Jeremy and I aren't really into watching sports, but it was a great excuse to get out of the house, splurge on greasy food and enjoy the company of some great people.

After lunch, I dropped Jeremy off at home and went on my "blind date." Heehee. At the women's ministry Christmas party a couple of weeks ago, Flatirons Church had those of us that were interested put our names and locations on pieces of paper that they gathered at the end. Then they matched us up with other ladies around where we lived, so we could have the opportunity to connect with other church members. So today I met with three ladies who live here in Northglenn. It was really nice! We're planning on meeting for another coffee date after the holidays.

Even having to do some Christmas shopping this afternoon, this was seriously the most relaxing weekend I've had in ages. Very much needed.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Day After

Yesterday was rough for the whole country. And for those families in CT, life will be rough for a long time.

I got a text from one of my best friends right after the massacre happened, simply asking if I was okay. I hadn't seen the news yet (I was head-down in work), and she checks on me pretty frequently, so I didn't think much of it. I texted back about looking forward to having a real day off on Saturday.

A few hours later, I got on Facebook to catch up (yes, that's how I get my news a lot of the time -- television news depresses me too much) and saw what had happened. After I posted about how my heart was breaking for those families, more friends started calling, texting and emailing. The consensus was they were all worried about how I was taking it, and no one wanted to be the one to break the news to me.

That is incredibly touching. I appreciate that my friends and family worry that the news of the massacre would bring back my own pain.

But here's the truth of it. It didn't bring up any more pain for me -- because the pain never really goes away. There's never a moment that my loss isn't very real and very close to me. Over time, I'm just learning how to live with it better. The pain never lessens, never goes to the back of my mind.

So my heart broke for those families that lost children yesterday. I don't want anyone to ever know the pain of losing a child -- I don't want companions in this club of mine. So I feel for them, literally, but I also mourn the fact that they now know how I feel. I don't want anyone to know how I feel! Ever!

In one of my Bible studies recently, the leader was talking about the Jessica Ridgeway murder. She said, "I just can't imagine how her parents must feel. Can you?" She didn't know the details of my own loss, and I was so choked up at the question, I didn't say anything. But I wanted to. I wanted to say I knew exactly how her parents felt -- the horror, the guilt, the questions, the pain of part of your heart being cut away. It was a different circumstance from my own, but the loss was the same.

And as for my spiritual stance on this, I can tell you right now this tragedy wasn't God's will. This was pure evil at work. There is nothing good in the death of a child. There is nothing good in murder. There is no purpose in tragedies like this.

Yes, God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28) -- but note the "all things together" there. It will take a long time for anything good to arise out of this event, and other things will be working together with it to create that good. There will never be a point at which these families look back at their loss and say, "It was for the best." I can promise you it was not for the best. But some of those families will arise from these ashes, some of them will find their way again, some of them will find their strength. Some will do none of that. So we have to send love to them all. We have to pray for their strength, for their comfort, reassurance and healing. We have to send as much good energy to those families as we can because we are part of the "all things together." Every single one of us has a part in this.

Whether you pray, send good vibes, meditate, or whatever it is you do to send love into the world, do it now. It matters. I know from personal experience it matters.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Praying for CT

I'm writing this after just hearing the news about the school shooting in Newtown, CT. I wanted to get my thoughts down right away.

Twenty children between the ages of 5-10 are dead. The parents of 20 children can't breathe right now. They don't believe they'll ever breathe again. They don't know how they can still be here, living, when their child is dead.

We live in a fallen world, yes. It's terrible when people die -- especially when they are murdered. But children? Why children? No matter how crazy the shooter was, how could he justify the death of twenty little kids? That goes beyond insanity, straight to evil.

The president teared up when he spoke today. He barely made it through his speech. The great speaker, the most powerful person in the country, Barrack Obama, could hardly speak.

I can't stop crying. I've been talking to God non-stop, asking him to care for the families of the lost, and asking him to gently guide those children into heaven.

I don't want to know how those families feel -- but I do know how they feel. And some of them won't make it through this.

If you pray, pray for the families of the lost. Send them all the positive energy you can muster.

Hilltop View

I always want to live on a hill. I love being up high, in the treetops. And this time of year I delight in our hilltop house even more because I can stand at my bedroom window and be eye-level with flying flocks of geese.

There is a lot of wildlife in our little neighborhood because of the lakes and fields near us. If I was a birdwatcher, this would be heaven. I've also seen coyotes tramping through the field behind our house and bats flapping around the trees. I can stand at any of our back windows and get an eyeful of nature at any given moment.

But when I step outside and start walking to the nearby trail, when I start making my way toward that lake, my field of vision narrows. I'm in the midst of nature, and it makes nature harder to see. I experience more nature from a window in my hilltop home.

That's a pretty apt metaphor for life, if you ask me. We can be in a beautiful time of life, where things are going right, love abounds and happiness reigns, and in the midst of it we are blind to it. Years later, from the hilltop of memory, we can see how everything in that season was so beautiful and wonder how we missed it.

The length of time it took to have Scarlett was a blessing, because it gave me that hilltop to stand on before she was born. When she came along, I knew how precious she was and I didn't miss appreciating a single moment. I will always be thankful for that. But this time I'm going through now, after her death and before we have any more children, sometimes it's hard to see the beauty. I know it's there, but I need to get on a hilltop to see it. In time, I will have that hilltop view, I know.

(Side note for Bible lovers -- I just realized this train of thought ties in to my Bible study from this past Weds. We talked about how God showed Moses the Promised Land from a mountaintop before Moses' death. Some ladies said it was sad, because Moses knew he would never enter the land with his people. But now I think maybe it was beautiful. God showed Moses what he led his people to, and thus what Moses accomplished in his life.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cairo

I have an 18lb half-Siamese cat named Cairo. I adopted him in February of 2006, and he was 7 months old when I brought him home.

At the time, he was a tiny little thing. And female.

There was a litter of black kittens at Dream Power Animal Rescue in Colorado Springs. They had been born at the shelter. Their mother was full-blood Siamese but the father was unknown. I picked out one of the girls -- a sweet, snugly little thing. I filled out the paperwork, paid the money, and took my kitten home.

Three years went by, and my little kitten grew bigger. And bigger. And bigger. And then she got sick. Weeks of vet appointments, and the vet could not figure out what was wrong. The symptoms all fit a UTI, but none of the antibiotics were working. Finally, during the last appointment, Jeremy and I were standing in the room with the vet and my miserable (and huge) cat, and the vet said "You know what? Let me check one thing." He lifted Cairo's tail, put it back down, and looked right at me.

"This may come as a surprise to you," he said. "It's not a surprise to Cairo. But it's probably a surprise to you. This cat is a boy. Which means it's not a UTI, but a male-specific infection that we can treat with a different drug."

I kid you not, I burst into tears. And then laughed hysterically. And then cried more. Meanwhile, Jeremy was doubled over, watching me and laughing his butt off.

For three years I thought Cairo was a girl. This cat was my little princess. It was us girls. And suddenly it was a boy!

It took me weeks to get my head around the fact that Cairo was a boy. WEEKS. I'd sit there and stare at him, repeating "boy boy boy boy," trying to drill it into my head. I was so mad that Dream Power had been wrong about his sex -- or at least given me the wrong paperwork (spayed female my rear!).

Over time it all sank in. And really, it made sense. He was 15lbs when he was 3 years old -- and he's 18lbs now. How many female cats get that big? But it's amazing how different you look at someone of one sex versus another.

Cairo is more like a dog than a feline. He's aggressively affectionate -- if you sit down in my house, you will have a huge cat in your lap in seconds. He's extremely attached to my presence. He follows me or precedes me wherever I go, spending most of his day in my office with me. Jeremy says he knows when I'm coming downstairs because he can hear Cairo's collar jingling. And Cairo has the most raucous (and prolific) meow -- definitely from his mother's side.

Most of the time, Cairo's presence is just a given. He's always at my heels. He's always "talking" to me. Shoving him off my lap so I can stand up is an unconscious act.

But every so often, it hits me how lucky I am. Sure, Cairo is obnoxious a lot of the time. But he's mine. And he loves me. And I won't have him forever.

We have that understanding about animals. We know they're not going to be around forever. But what if we looked at our humans that way, too? What if we looked at our spouse as a precious and possibly fleeting companion? What if we looked at our kids like every breath they took was a miracle? What if we saw every text message from a friend as a message from an angel?

I have to reach over a mound of black fur to type all this on my keyboard. Cairo's warmth and purring is like white noise, ever present and only really noticed when it's gone.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stirred Up

Part of the reason I love selling Thirty-One products is because women get so excited about their purchases. I mean REALLY EXCITED. Knowing you helped facilitate someone's happiness -- well don't we all just love that?

I got a phone call yesterday from one of my best customers. She was literally squealing with delight, telling me how fun it was to go through the box of products and see what everyone purchased from her party, explaining how perfectly all of her own items had turned out, and sharing her ideas for how she was going to use everything. After that phone call, I started getting texts from my mother-in-law, who is also one of my best customers. She sent me pictures of some of the items, and we chatted back and forth about how great everything looked.

I love getting texts from my mother-in-law. Any excuse to talk to her is a blessing to me. And yes, I know how lucky I am to have a MIL that I absolutely adore. Not many women can say that.

So this whole direct sales thing did something that I didn't realize it was going to do. It deepened friendships. It was never about the money for me anyway, but the friendship benefit has been outstanding.

I love connecting with people. I look at every woman I meet as a potential friend, and I treat them as such. Many women are not like that, I know -- many women think of others as competition. There's nothing worse to me than walking into a room full of women and not connecting with a single one. Sadly, that happens pretty frequently.

So imagine my delight when I found that every party I do for Thirty-One introduces me to new women who don't view me as competition. In fact, I encourage people to send me pictures of their purchases when they arrive so I can share their joy -- and many of them do just that.

I've gotten some clarity in the last several months about what I need in life. Thirty-One has been one of the things that has helped me with this. I need to connect with other women -- but beyond that, I need to stir up other women. Get them excited about something, inspire them.

I don't know what that's going to look like. But I do know that's part of my purpose while I'm here.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Other People's Memories and a New Normal

I was catching up on Facebook this morning when I came across a familiar little face in a picture. My sister-in-law had posted a picture of Scarlett from last Christmas. In it, Scarlett is wearing a headband with reindeer antlers on it. She's reaching up to touch the headband, a delighted look on her face.

Last Christmas was the best Christmas of my entire life. And this one is the worst. But I'm still breathing, and I still have hope, and I will get through this. My heart is broken, but it's still beating -- and I know there's a reason for that.

Coming across a picture like that is horrible and wonderful all at the same time. I love my daughter more than I could possibly describe here, and seeing her picture is as close to being with her as I can get now. I also love to know that Jeremy and I aren't the only ones missing her.

Everyone has handled Scarlett's passing differently. And no one knows how to approach it with Jeremy and me. Mostly people don't bring it up. I'm sure they're afraid of upsetting us. I understand that completely. But it's also nice to know that Scarlett is still alive in the memory of everyone who knew her. It's nice to know people still think about her. It makes me feel like her life truly mattered.

Our grief counselor told Jeremy and I that we would have to learn a "new normal." We're still working on that. We're an unusual case, and I know that. Scarlett was our only child, she had just gotten to the age where she was learning to talk, walking with confidence, and understanding the world around her. Jeremy and I were home with her all day, every day, interacting with her every moment. She was the center of everything for us. And when she passed, she took our world with her.

There is nothing familiar about the world we're living in now. We are rebuilding it from scratch. And having trouble conceiving a second child just adds to that sense that our "new normal" is going to be rebuilt very slowly. Having another child is not going to be the world-rocking thing that it was when we had Scarlett -- rather, it's going to be like a big sigh of relief. I am excited about that. I've moved beyond a lot (not all) of the frustration and anger, and I look forward to sharing my memories with another child. I'm waiting with anticipation. But it's not my new normal. It's a step to get there.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advice from the Heart

I'm used to working on a deadline. For my entire career as a writer, and the bulk of my career as a web content manager, deadlines have guided my work. I know what to deliver and when. And while I have been known to procrastinate, I never miss a deadline and I never deliver less than my best.

But when I don't have a deadline, my head spins off into outer space. I get this overwhelming feeling that everything has to get done RIGHT NOW, if only to get it off my plate. And then determining which item to do first makes my head spin even faster. Mostly I can stop the head-spinning long enough to reasonably sort out my priorities. But then I have days like today.

Inside my head is a running tally of everything I need to do, how much time it's going to take me to do it, and when I will be able to get it done. And I'm ALL inside my head when I get into panic mode like this. But it shows on my face, obviously, because as I was trying to race from lunch back to work, Jeremy pulled me into a hug and told me I had to stop doing this to myself. And while I sat there in silence, still completely inside my own head, he rattled off all the things he knew I was working on and told me which items I was not allowed to do today.

Normally when things get hectic with my work life, Jeremy picks up some slack. He'll run to the bank for me, or to the post office, or make me meals or coffee -- whatever little things he is able to do for me, he does without asking. It's rare when everything I need to do can only be done by me. So what does he do when he can't do anything? He talks me through.

Every woman should have a partner that can handle her at her worst and talk her out of driving herself crazy. But also -- every woman should learn to listen when her partner is trying to talk her off a cliff.

There were times early in our marriage that I would dismiss Jeremy's words on the assumption that he had no idea what my work was like. But over the years, I've come to realize that he doesn't have to know the ins and outs of my projects -- he knows me better than anyone on this planet, and his advice comes from a place of love. I should listen to him.

Think about it. Whose advice do you dismiss that you shouldn't?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Becoming Van Gogh and Christmas Prayers

My mom and I had a girls' day out in Denver today. She had bought us tickets to the Becoming Van Gogh exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. It was wonderful! We did the audio tour, so we learned a ton about the artist's life and work. He was self-taught, and started painting at the age of 27. Gee, that's familiar!

I actually started a new painting a few days ago. It's a landscape based on a photo Jeremy and I took on the west coast of Ireland. It's pen and wash right now, but I think I'll end up doing a layer of pastel over it. I'll post a pic when I finish.

Anyway, after the museum today, my mom and I went to lunch at Parsley. I got a fig and brie sandwich on freshly made ciabatta bread. UN-BE-LIEVABLE. My mouth is watering just writing about it.

I went to church tonight because I'm going to be gone all day tomorrow. I am continually amazed at the range of the Flatirons worship band. They did a rendition of White Wedding by Billy Idol, and they rocked the house.

I stayed after the service to have the prayer team pray for me. It's our first Christmas without Scarlett, and, well, hard is an understatement. But Flatirons Church has an AMAZING prayer team. If you ever need prayer, even just requesting it on their website will direct some powerful positive energy your way. The woman who prayed for me was this sweet grandma who said she "wanted to take me home and make me some tea." Such good energy.

I wasn't going to put up any Christmas decorations this year. There are just too many emotions involved. But slowly I have changed my mind on that. And slowly I am adding decorations to our house. Josey made me a beautiful wreath a few years ago, so that was the first decoration to go up. And I brought home the centerpiece from the church Christmas party that Erin and I went to last night, so now that is decorating our kitchen table.

I almost forgot to blog about that Christmas party! The women's ministry at Crossroads Church threw a Christmas party called the Night of Elegance. The dress code was formal, which was a nice excuse to dress up. The entire buffet spread was desserts (women after my own heart), and professional carolers put on a great show. Finally there was a speaker who told the story of Jesus' life in a theatrical way.

Tomorrow is a big day. It's the Thirty-One spring product premiere! So I'll get a sneak peak at the new products and fabrics, and I'll also get the new catalog. So any of you that want the new catalog before it goes online in January, email me!

And yes, next weekend I WILL be starting to take my weekly Sabbath.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Importance of a Day Off

I don't remember the last time I took a day off of work. I mean 100% off of work -- not answering emails, not checking on scheduled web content publication, not updating an editorial calendar or a spreadsheet, not updating my Thirty-One Facebook group page. Just OFF. I think maybe the last time was when I went to Mexico on vacation, back in July. There were a few days during that week where I didn't answer emails or anything.

I watched a video online the other day talking about how important a day off is. So important that it is part of the Decalogue in the Bible, aka the Ten Commandments. Sabbath is sacred because we human beings were not built to work 7 days a week. We need a day of rest. The pastor went on to talk about how he enforces his own Sabbath day (which can change from week to week, and doesn't HAVE to be Saturday) -- he refuses to schedule anything work-related on that day, and won't answer email or work calls unless it's an emergency.

I like that idea. I think the spiritual principle is sound, but I also think in my line(s) of work, my brain really needs it. Half of my work is creative, and the other half is analytical -- and both require a healthy, well-rested brain.

So I'm scheduling a Sabbath once a week. It'll have to be different days each week -- sometimes a Saturday, sometimes a Sunday, sometimes a holiday -- but one day a week I am going to try to rest from work. I am excited to see what this does for my spiritual, mental and emotional state.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Visit with Nicky

I always try to blog before the end of the workday. But today it just didn't happen. Too much going on.

But I did take a long lunch hour to go visit my nephew, sweet little Nicky. He is going to turn THREE (OMG!) two Saturdays from now.

He is such a little miracle. I've written about him before, and all of his physical limitations -- but even though he can't move or communicate like a normal almost-3-year-old, he still plays and learns and loves.

I was getting him to high-five me today. He smiled and stared at me as we played, and it lifted my spirit so high. But watching him play with his daddy, my brother Drew, was the most amazing thing of all. The way Nicky looks at Drew -- it's worshipful.

I barely got out of there without leaving too many lipstick marks on Nicky's forehead. I just love him so much! And even though I don't get to see him very often, he never leaves my mind or my heart.

I don't feel resentful that Nicky, as sick as he is, has survived while my perfectly healthy little girl did not. It's a curious thing, yes. But to me it's just proof that there is more to this world, and this life, than we are aware of. Some of our paths are short or long, simple or complicated, smooth or rough. But in the end, we all meet back with each other again in an eternal, happy place.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Innkeeper Poem

I heard a poem read this morning that had me bawling my eyes out. The poem was about the innkeeper from the nativity. I had never considered the innkeeper from the story. Have you?

It hit home in a lot of ways. But it also drove home why history is so important to me. I can read something and get a story from it -- but history makes the world of that story come alive.

Herod the Great, Roman king of Judea, ordered the execution of all boys under the age of two in Bethlehem around the time of Jesus' birth. This was an attempt to overturn a prophecy about a newborn King of the Jews, who would remove Herod from his throne. The Innkeeper poem poses the idea that maybe the innkeeper had sons when he housed Mary and Joseph. And what would have happened when Herod's soldiers came through?

It's a reasonable idea, given the historical context. And it adds a rather important element to the nativity for me. Jesus was born into a world where there were real, live people suffering at the hands of other real, live people.

I don't know about you, but until now, the nativity story was just that -- a story. Maybe a spiritually relevant one, but just a story nonetheless. Once you add some historical elements to it, it comes alive. These events happened. And they changed the entire world.

What if the innkeeper had lost his sons to Herod's soldiers? And what if Jesus had gone back to meet the man that housed his mother and earthly father when He was born? As a brokenhearted parent myself, this is a powerful poem on many levels.



The Innkeeper from Desiring God on Vimeo.
Direct URL: http://vimeo.com/54317968

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Bless the Teachers

I had a lunch/coffee date with my dear friend Heather today. I've been friends with her for about 3 years, since the time Jeremy and I moved to Lafayette.

When I was pregnant with Scarlett, I got it in my head that I wanted to re-learn how to play the piano. I had taken lessons when I was a kid, but much of my knowledge had long since disappeared. I called around the Boulder County area and found Heather. Once a week I'd trek from Lafayette to Boulder for a half hour lesson -- and usually a half hour of chatting, because we became fast friends.

She and her husband are active Christians. They were both raised in active Christian families. And while I knew that, it never really made a difference to me until recently. Now I notice that people like her have an understanding that others don't.

I always thought that "spiritual" people and Christians were so totally different. That Christians didn't have an understanding of the spiritual world that I always knew was surrounding our own and intermingling with it. When I read about parallel universes, the astral plane, the akashic field, quantum physics, ESP and magic, those things were so divorced from Christianity in my mind.

But now I see so clearly that many Christians are closer to the veil than anyone.

Women like Heather don't bat an eye when I talk about joining Scarlett someday. They don't question why I don't usually cry when I talk about my daughter. They smile when I tell them how incredibly blessed I feel to have had her for the time I did, and how I cherish that time more than anything in the world. They understand the same thing I do -- that this life is short, and what's waiting on the other side is infinitely more beautiful than anything we can imagine. And that the other side is just a prayer away. The veil is torn.

Heather asked me if she could pray with me as we wrapped up our coffee date. I enthusiastically agreed -- in fact I desperately needed that. A couple of years ago it may have made me uncomfortable, but now I crave prayer. Her words were so beautiful and thoughtful, and as she spoke I felt a familiar peace come over my heart. I know that peace now like the back of my hand -- it's the Holy Spirit stirring.

I want to learn how to pray like that for other women. I am absorbing moments like that one, memorizing the experience and making mental notes about what made the prayer work so well. I know prayer is organic and personal, and there is no "right" way to do it -- but I am not an eloquent speaker and I want to learn all I can. So I am blessed to have teachers like Heather.

I know Heather is reading this post and crying. So I'll wrap up before she goes through too many tissues. You never know who is going to turn out to be a teacher in your life. Heather once taught me how to play lullabies on the piano so I could play them for Scarlett after she was born -- and now Heather teaches me more spiritual lessons.

Teachers are the ones we remember most, aren't they? Not bosses, colleagues, ex-boyfriends or people we used to go to clubs with. Teachers are the ones who become a part of your heart forever.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Combat Grief with Giving

When Josey and I were at brunch the other day, she mentioned how amazed she is that I am "overcoming" the grief and getting out of bed every day, even though some days I just want to take a sleeping pill and pull the covers over my head until the world disappears. For some reason, the word "overcome" struck me as wrong -- as in, I'm not really overcoming anything here. I'm getting through it with as much grace as I can muster, I'm learning how to live every day missing Scarlett, and I'm trying not to let the pain stop me from living the life God has blessed me with.

So I told Josey, "I don't know about overcoming. There are still days when all I want to do is join my baby." And as soon as those words left my mouth, I regretted them. First, because I'm not suicidal. When I say "join her," I mean that in my lowest moments, I think it would be easier if my life would hurry to the end so I could be with my daughter again -- not that I would take my own life before God decided my time here was done. Second because Josey was complimenting me and instead of saying thank you, I denied her compliment. And third, that statement does not accurately describe my normal state of mind at all.

Sure, I have my down moments, my down days, when the grief overtakes me and the depressive thoughts get a foothold -- but I refuse to live my life in that state of existence. This life is a gift, and I don't take it for granted. Plus, Jeremy doesn't deserve a wife who walks around feeling sorry for herself and bringing everyone else down with her. He deserves someone who can pull herself up by her bootstraps and help him through his own grief the way he has helped her through hers.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- there is an element of selfishness in grief. Grief is a mixture of emotions, states of mind, experiences, memories and physical symptoms. It's different for everyone, but many of the elements are universal. Sadness, for example, is a universal component of grief. Guilt, too. But the one that will ruin your life, and the lives of those around you, is the component of selfishness. If you let that rule you, the world falls away. You feel like you live in a silo, and you begin to act as if your pain doesn't affect anyone else -- but in reality you are NOT in a silo. In reality your friends, family and colleagues are still there, still surrounding you and trying to support you, and all you're doing is infecting them with your pain.

So when the grief gets its hands around my throat, if I just focus on not being selfish, I will come through it without hurting myself or anyone else. To those around me, it may seem like I'm strong -- but inside I am just trying not to be selfish.

There's a saying that goes something like, If you want to be a happier person, do something nice for someone else. I've also heard the saying, There's no such thing as an unhappy volunteer. And I think those are right on. The more we get our minds off of ourselves, the happier we are.

So I get out of bed on the days I don't want to -- to be there for my husband, to do my job, and to just be present for everyone in my life. I write in this blog when I don't have anything to say, because it gives people reassurance. I volunteer as a greeter at church and put on a smile to welcome the congregation. I donate what I can to the charity drives at church. Right now, that's not much in the way of giving. I mean, compared to people helping to build wells in Mali, or teaching orphaned children in Haiti, but it's something. It pulls me out of my own grief and makes me a blessing to someone else.

So I guess if I could give anyone advice on how to get through a difficult time in their lives, it would be, Don't be selfish. Because selfishness is the biggest temptation when you're hurting, and the thing that will ruin your life faster than almost anything else. When you're hurting, give to someone else. Give your time, give a gift, give a compliment. Giving will help your joy return.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Working on a Sunday, Shame on Me

This is going to have to be a very quick post. I've got two hours worth of work to do before Walking Dead comes on. :p

I didn't blog yesterday because I was on the road most of the day. I headed down to Colorado Springs early to meet Josey for brunch. It was great catching up with her, and hearing the funny stories about her two crazy boys.

After brunch, I went to present Thirty-One at the home of one of my best customers. There were 7 women there, and only 2 of them had not heard my spiel. I got about halfway through my presentation when I realized that the two ladies who had never been to a Thirty-One party before weren't listening to a word I was saying. My other regular customers were helping them shop while I was talking! Hey, I have no complaints about my ladies helping me sell product. Hahaha! So I cut my presentation short and helped everyone get as much as they could from the December sale.

After I got home, I watched an episode of Game of Thrones with Jeremy while we ate dinner, then I went into my office and placed the party order. One more episode of Game later, and I was in bed.

I went to church this morning and realized that for the first time in my life, there was a spiritual element to Christmas -- and I had no idea what that meant for me as a new Christian. Christmas has always been about family to me -- and doing my best to fight the consumerism of the season (sometimes more successfully than others). But this year I understand the meaning of the holiday on a different level. The pastor talked about advent, and I had no idea what that was. So this month I am learning what Christmas means for a Christian. It's a pretty cool experience.

I had just enough time to eat lunch when I got home before I had to jump on a conference call for GlobalWrites. JoAnn, Ellie and I did a Google Hangout, and it was neat actually seeing those girls while I chatted with them (one is in Houston and the other is in Washington DC), but I admit it was a little distracting because I was really focused on not doing anything embarrassing while I was on the webcam. LOL

So now it's past 5pm and I need to do some research for the new direction/focus of the content on our website. I'm the editorial director for GlobalWrites, so it's my job to make sure the website is up and running, work with the writers to get fresh content every week, manage the editorial calendar, work with development agencies on any technical issues or design needs, and also contribute content myself. I'm a very important person, you know. Ha! Really, this is the type of work I excel at. Keeping things running, managing processes, babysitting contributors, that's my bag.

And now to get back to it before Walking Dead starts...