Monday, November 30, 2009

Did you feel the earth stop its spinning?

I think for a couple of months now I have had this guilty feeling that if I shirk my responsibilities for even a morning that the whole earth would come to a standstill. Well today I found out that it won't. Life goes on whether I scrap or do laundry or make beds or make lunches or skip a shower or any number of other things. I haven't taken the time to create and just play with my scrap stuff for quite awhile now and after following a link to a challenge blog- Butterfly Crafts- I thought it would be fun to play along and take on the challenge posted. I was having so much fun and not feeling the least bit guilty that I actually did two of their posted challenges.
One was a layout about which tv/movie actor you would want to be... my page is here. The other was to create something based on something that makes you happy. I scrapped a mini album about a whole bunch of things that I like right now- it was totally random and fun.
The best part is that I discovered that life kept spinning- even though I stopped and took some time for myself. I think it's something I may need to remind myself of more often. Especially as we enter this coming month and all the hustle and bustle that the Christmas season can bring to our lives. It's more important than ever to take time to be still and enjoy this time of year and make it meaningful instead of just full! I encourage you all to step back from your spinning world and do something that fills your heart- whatever that may be!
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend too. It's always a great thing to reflect on our blessings- past, present and those yet to come too. Happy last day of November. =)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This post brought to you by the letter "p"...

With the exception of Brock and Crew in the pile of leaves, the photos here represent some of what is going on around our house today. Puzzles and painting and playing with pots and pans. Basic kid stuff that involves making a mess, being creative, using hands and minds and all the various activities keep kids busy for at least a little while. Just long enough for me to finish cleaning the previous mess and then I turn around and start cleaning up the next.
We are all officially on Thanksgiving break. But I am starting to wonder why they call it a break. Besides taking a hot shower this morning and now sneaking in a few minutes to update my blog, I've yet to have a break from anything or anyone around here! =)
Chip was gone to Tulsa, Oklahoma last Friday through Sunday and then with the short school week this week I feel like I'm working overtime. That's the major reason I've been absent around here. I feel like there should be at least 3 more of me just so one of me can catch up on sleep, one to stay on top of cleaning and homekeeping, and then one to try to have fun and be more creative- something I haven't found myself doing at all lately. I miss being the one to make the mess. =)
However, there is something very satisfying about seeing the smiles on everyone else's faces around here. So I'm sitting tight and hanging around and trying to find to keep the peace around here. Not an easy task all the time, but a privilege when I stop to think about it nonetheless!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The invisible connections...

In sharing openly about our loss of Teagan and the sudden reality of trauma, grief, sorrow and heartache in our day-to-day lives our family has made connections in 'real life' and online that we never would have likely encountered had we not shared our story. This 'connection' is something that almost always invisible to the eye, but is powerful and felt so strongly by the heart. Now that it has been several years of sharing our story I am simply amazed at how many people do have this connection to us and we with them- a connection that I treasure and yet ache so deeply for all at the same time.
I recently heard it [death/heartache] described as an invisible knife that one carries in their heart forever. Those who also carry it within often sense it and can relate to others who share this same pain; those who can't 'see it' sometimes press up against it and make it worse (unknowingly many times) or are suddenly made aware of it, but at the same time they can't empathize in the same way because they do not know the depth of the ache and how it feels. I hurt when I learn of others who hurt. I ache on a whole new 'level' post-Teagan's death than I ever did prior to our tragedy. I have come to learn how my hugs and sympathies were so much more empty when life was going good for us, and now when I offer words of comfort or extend a hug, having experienced death and living without Teagan brings new meaning to my words and my hugs are more heartfelt with Teagan's spirit wrapped around them too. I don't know if this even 'makes sense' to anyone that reads it... or maybe it does. I'm still often at a loss of how to explain what my heart feels and then to put it into words is a task all it's own.
What I do know is that our family is not alone when it comes to heartache and loss. There are people everywhere who have stories and memories of loved ones that are etched on their hearts forever too. I know that our experiences and challenges are unique to each other's situations, but there is an invisible connection that ties us all together too.
I get several emails and facebook messages each week from some of you as readers, and also from friends and family who share stories of people that you know, or even you yourself are going through, as it relates to death, trauma, disability or other life challenges that are overwhelming and scary. I am constantly reminded and humbled that my life experiences can 'connect' with others and even encourage many too. I am always touched by the people behind these stories and my heart goes out to them in a very special way. I often find myself in prayer for those of you who are going through painful life (and death) circumstances and feel strongly that one of the purposes for my pain serves to be a comfort to others in theirs. I don't know that I will ever fully understand the purpose of pain and heartache this side of Heaven, but I do know that 'good' can come from it when we give it to God and allow Him to work in us and through us.
I guess all this is spilling over onto the pages of this blog for several reasons. Two of the most beautiful ones you see pictured above- the top photo is Kate and the second little girl is Ava. Their stories and photos were shared with me by friends of theirs and I find myself "instantly" connected- mostly because of my own bright-eyed, curly haired little girl that tugs at my heart to this day. There's something special about little girls, but even moreso when someone emails me and says, "follow this link to their story". I can't help but go and I encourage you to do the same.
Kate's story is one that is still unfolding. She is battling cancer and you can find ways to 'get involved' with her story- whether through prayers for her, by giving to her toy drive or even just being grateful on a new level for your own health and that of those around you.
Ava's story is one that even in her absence continues to touch people around the world through the way her family continues to share her photos and story. I have 'talked' with her mom, Sheye, via emails and I know she would be moved if you would take time to read Ava's story and in turn act accordingly as a result. It doesn't change the fact that they miss Ava, but the hope of never having another family feel the pain they do is one that drives them to share their hurt and invite others to be changed as a result.
There are so many more stories and people that I could highlight and invite you to enter in to their stories too. I hope that many of you are continuing to pray for Jaymun's family as their wounds and heartache are still so fresh and painful. I know they appreciate your care too! I oftentimes wonder why lives are cut so short and questions are left to be asked and pondered. I have yet to come to an understanding of why things happen the way they do, and yet if you have followed here for any length of time you hopefully can see that our family simply trusts God every step of the way- whether the answers are revealed to us or not. Trusting in Him is the very thing that sees us through and this 'invisible connection' to the One who holds the universe in place is the one that we turn to every single day.
To wrap up my thoughts today I want to share with you the short devotional that I read in my quiet time this morning. It's titled "Secure in God" and it comes from a little book called: One-Minute Promises of Comfort by Steve Miller.
The verse for this devotional is Joel 2:27 which simply says,
"I am the Lord your God".
When we are deeply unsettled and feeling unsure about our lot in life, the greatest comfort we have is that we can be sure about God.
Temptations may plague us, and doubts may assail us. Questions may haunt us, and fear may disturb us. We may even reach a point of questioning God's existence, or feel as though He is powerless to help us.
Yet no matter how are circumstances make us feel, there is nothing that can threaten the certainty of who God is and the security of our relationship with Him. To hear Him say, "I am the Lord your God" can give us a sense of restful calm and confidence even in the worst of earthly disasters.
God is God, and nothing can change that. He has committed Himself to caring for you. Doesn't that make you feel secure?

Monday, November 16, 2009

How it works.

Would you believe that after more than eight years of living with grief and moving beyond trauma that there are still new things to learn about the whole process and unexpected moments can still come as a surprise? Well, it's true. I've got a little story to share with you that happened while I was browsing in the girls' outwear department yesterday. If you check in on me at Facebook, you already know what happened as I updated my status with this story.
This is what I posted:
I was stopped dead in my tracks when I was at a store today and heard a mom say, "Teagan, Teagan...come over here and stay by mommy, sweetie!". Of course I had to look over and see who Teagan was. She was about 5 or 6 and had pigtails in her hair and a smile on her face. Just what I'd expect from a little girl named Teagan. =)
I also added this when a friend asked me if I was okay:
For a quick second I thought about asking if I could give her a hug. Then I would have come home and said to Chip, "I hugged Teagan today!". Thanks, Karen for caring. Yes...I'm okay with such an unexpected moment. To me, anytime something or someone makes me think about Teagan is a really wonderful thing.
It really was a surprising thing for me to hear Teagan's name and to see a little girl bouncing around the clothing racks- just being happy. I have people occasionally tell me that they know someone named Teagan or have some sort of connection to that name, but I've never met another Teagan since mine went to Heaven in 2001. I actually really liked that I happened to be in that place at such a time yesterday to hear a mom call for her Teagan. I used to miss hearing her name so much and it made me realize that another Teagan was living this life with happiness. I was happy for them. That unexpected moment also made me realize how glad I am that I have moved beyond the heart-wrenching grief that I've lived through. Instead of tears welling up in my eyes I actually felt glad and I turned and had a big grin on my face.
There are times when I wish a million times over that I could change the reality of my life without Teagan. And if you're familiar with grief on a personal level as I am with the death of my little girl, you understand how my heart felt overwhelming gratefulness that such an incident brought back a million memories and I wouldn't trade those for anything in this world.
Grief is ever-changing; forever a part of my life- even in the most unlikely of places.
I just wanted to share this as I know that some of you are walking through the process and carrying a load of grief in your own life's story. I hope that even something as small as hearing your loved one's name in an unexpected place can bring healing and happiness to your heart too. It's hard to embrace death as it's so final- yet it never, ever goes away this side of Heaven. Today I am grateful for Hope all over again. I look forward to calling Teagan's name and having her run into my arms... with Hope, I know that will happen again someday.
That's how it works.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Playing by the "rules"

I was thinking about how much Chip and I need to get away as a couple this past week for several different reasons, but recognize how it isn't the easiest thing to make happen. So I looked back in my blog archives and found it was January of 2006 when we last spent time away from our kids/home/responsibilities for more than 24 hours. That's coming up on 4 years since we've taken time for our marriage beyond the routine ways of doing marriage. Our getaway that January- was a roadtrip to Iowa where we went to a friend's 40th birthday party. We were gone for about 48 hours. =)
Prior to that it had been about 9 years since we had taken a break anywhere- just the two of us. So what I can tell from our track record is that we are rule breakers when it comes to managing our marriage. In fact, it seems likely that out next together time could still be about 5 years away if we actually follow our track record. But I sure hope we don't stick to it that closely!
It's a wonder to me, and a testament of just how much we rely on God to sustain us, when I see that we're still together and that somedays we actually look like a happy couple. =) I'm not entirely kidding when I write that. I AM amazed that we have stuck it out and been through so much and still- even without trips and time together- we somehow keep it altogether. Some days better than others, but when it's all said and done we're still a couple. I'm humbled that Chip feels like our marriage is worth fighting for and that he chooses to come back home to me each day. I have to admit I'd take more time for us if we could make that happen, but I also understand the reality of just how hard that is.
Wyndham has medical needs that require a daily shot and she honestly has been one of the biggest reasons we don't ever go away together. Also, our families live in other states and to have dependable childcare for special needs kids and the number of kids we have is tricky all on its own. So it is what it is. I just was realizing all over again how we sort of defy the odds as a family and as a couple more than we're really aware of- especially in the society in which we live. I'm not planning on calling it quits anytime soon- or ever. I hope Chip isn't either. I also hope we get the chance to play by the marriage "rules" a bit better too. Hopefully sooner, rather than later. But, I can also say that even if we never go anywhere together {alone} again, I'll still be beyond grateful for what we share. It's a gift that I take for granted far too often.
I can't end this post without typing and publicly saying, "I love you, Chip" either. Even if he doesn't read this post for a few days or if it means I have to Facebook him and post on his wall to do so. Sometimes finding ways to love one another involves unconventional methods. If you didn't know that about me by now, you should know this- I happen to love unconventional. Especially in a marriage.
Love you, Chip! Every single day. xoxo

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Crumbs and more.

Somedays I wonder if I am meant to do more than sweep Cheerios off of the floor and get tangles out of hair. I wonder if it matters that I bring Wyndham to therapy or wash yet another load of whites. I sometimes wonder if I had a choice, would I choose to pick kids up from school and have to quiet their squabbles on the ride home and force them to eat a few veggies at dinner too.
Yes. I can answer yes, I am meant for this. And sock monkey jammies and big smiles only add to my confidence and make every crushed Cheerio I sweep worthwhile. Today Ava learned to write her '5' correctly. She was so proud. I was happy to be the one to watch her form them and encourage and praise her as she learned something new.
Somedays it really is the littlest things that mean the most.

Monday, November 09, 2009

How fun!

So random number generator picked "Just call me b" as the winner of the DIY Holiday Workshop online class. Congrats to you! Just email me and I'll get KA to hook you up with all the class info that you need to get started. Fun!
Now, I wanted to give you all a little something for playing along, and I chose these adorable and festive winter brownie pops as just the thing. I found them through the Bake It Pretty blog- which has some of the cutest cupcake toppers and packaging ever. There was a link to the Inspired Bride, and that's how I found the photo above and the recipe for this cool dessert. I know my kids would love them. They would be really great for classroom parties and for holiday buffets too. So, I hope that helps get you all in the mood for making something this Christmas season.
To top it off, I'm also sharing a coupon code for 20% off purchases made at I got a custom photo book from there last year and love it. I get their flyer in the mail and it says to just enter coupon code HOLIDAY09 at the checkout to get the discount. There are some fun calendars and wall canvases for good prices on their website. I've been very pleased with my photos from there and hope maybe the savings will help a few of you stretch your Christmas budget just a bit.
It doesn't feel like winter is coming right now as here in Michigan we are finally getting a taste of nice autumn weather. But I have a feeling it will be here before I'm ready! Enjoy your week- wherever you are or whatever you're up to!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Merry {early!} Christmas to you!

Christmas is going to be here before we know it and I have something fun to share with you to make the gift-giving part of Christmas easier, more fun and personable too! My very talented and creative friends, Kayla Aimee and Wilna F. have teamed up and are offering an online DIY Holiday Workshop. It offers so much inspiration as well as free downloads for creating projects and also gives you ideas for making everyone on your list gifts this year. They have this to say about their class (here's a link to the online classroom so you can see more for yourself!):

"Our goal for the class was to truly make it a DIY holiday. We've repurposed sweaters into armwarmers and baby leggings, ornaments into centerpieces and made sure that ease and affordability went hand in hand with high quality homemade gifts. We've even included some easy craft you can do with your kids!"

There will be more than 25 projects covered in this class, which starts on November 15th. Feel free to stop over to the classroom/website and see some more sneak peeks of the projects they will be creating as well as find answers to any questions you may have about this class. I am taking it myself and am so ready to spend a couple of extra weeks this year celebrating Christmas- it's such a special holiday. I am also excited to offer each of you the chance to win a spot in this online class. KA and Wilna are letting me give away a spot to one of you lucky Nitty.Gritty. readers. Just post a comment telling me one of your favorite Christmas gifts or holiday dish that you love and a winner will be chosen on Monday! Merry early Christmas to one of you! =)

{By the way, doesn't Kayla Aimee have great hair?! She will laugh at me for posting that...but it's so true. Love you, KA! You too, Wilna!}

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ava Milan...

She makes me love jean jacket weather even more than I already do.
She has the most perfect color brown eyes and light brown hair a girl could ask for.
Her wink is cute and so is her smirk.
I can not imagine waking up in the morning and not getting a hug from her.
She got her first report card from kindergarten. It had lots of these on it: S+.
Her attitude can turn a day around- and sometimes it does several spins a day!
She could live on macaroni and cheese. I sometimes feel like letting her do so.
She is loud. Almost 100% of the time. I can't help but find that endearing. About 2% of the time.
I love her no matter what.
She knows it.
Lucky, little girl.