Monday, December 16, 2013

Reality crept in

It's almost always the unexpected...

On Sunday, my husband and I went to get groceries, which seems like a relatively harmless, maybe even 'safe' outing. We had planned to leave early in the morning, but I wanted to take care of a couple of things, and thus we ended up leaving later than we hoped.

Even during the busy rush of the holidays, we prefer to shop at a nearby box's nice to have an 'all in one' stop, as we can only bear so much 'holiday cheer'.  We had a few things on our agenda outside of groceries, including Christmas gifts for four little boys.  We headed straight to the toy section and found one item on our agenda.  We opted to look at the book selection, but found it disappointing, and began to meander towards the cold food section.

As we headed toward our next stop, I saw a mom on a cell phone with three young blond girls heading towards us.  I realized I knew the mom, and tried to think of who it was.  I was excited and asked my husband, "Do you know who that was?"  He wasn't sure, and I said her name.  Then it hit me that this mom was a mom to an "oldest" daughter, and twin daughters.

Catelyn being bapitzed.  May 2010
The twins were a few months younger than Catelyn, but all three of our girls were baptized on the same day.  I turned back to look at the twins, and I felt confused. 

Where were the "little" girls?  Why weren't they little?  They should be little.  They are younger than Catelyn, after all...

And then reality crept in.  Yes, two of the girls in that family are younger than Catelyn, but they aren't so little any more.  They have grown.  They get to continue to grow.

All of this hit my heart like a lightning bolt.  First, I felt it begin to shatter in slow motion, piece by piece.  Two aisles away from where I saw them, I could no longer keep up with the pieces.  I couldn't think straight.  I could barely breathe.  I was looking at the grocery list in my hand thinking that it must have been written in a foreign language because nothing was making sense.

We had 5 items in our cart, and I was about to ask my husband to take over with the list, when he looked at me and said, "I don't want to do this anymore."  I said "Neither do I, let's just get these items and leave."

We scurried to the front of the store where we checked out and left.

As we drove home, I was silently bawling in the passenger seat.  My husband took my hand and asked if I was okay.  I said no, and cried harder.

When I was finally able to speak again, I explained that it has been extremely hard watching our friends' kids growing up, but I've become accustomed to it.  I hate it, but there is nothing I can do to change it.  We see a lot of these kids all of the time.  One of my best friends' son is 2 weeks older than Catelyn.  It sucks, but, again, there is nothing we can do about it.

To see a child (or children) we haven't seen, since Catelyn's death, is so much harder though.  It almost feels as if Catelyn just died again.

It is purely agonizing to see how much time has already passed.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


For all of my life, including the past two years and 3 months, I am constantly asked how I am doing. 

Like most people, the question comes up during part of the everyday, rote, human interaction.  And, especially in grief, I have learned that most people don't really want to know how other people are doing.

The expectation is usually that someone will greet you and say, "Hi, How are you?"  You will then respond, "Good, and you?", no matter how you really feel.  To which they reply "Good, thanks", no matter how they really feel.  And then you will part ways, feeling fake and mechanical.

Well guess what.  Since Catelyn died, things haven't been 'Good' very often.  And of all the words I reply to "How are you?" with, quite simply, "Good" doesn't even register in my mind as a possibility.

Initially, I couldn't even use words to answer that question.  Instead, I would shrug and mumble, "enh." Of course, I realized that people wanted a positive answer, even if it was fake and not the truth.  So, I started with "Okay".  After a few months, I even worked up to "Fine".

At my job, it is my responsibility to greet people all day. I play the robotic 'how are you' game multiple times a day.  Generally, I try to say, "I'm doing well, how are you?" whether I feel "well" or not.  Late last week, a co-worker passed me in the hallway and said "Hi, how are you?", and I said, "Good, how are you?" 

As we continued in our separate directions, I realized what I said.  Without thinking, I replied that I was "good". 


How weird it felt to say that word.  I can guarantee you that as hard as I've tried to "fake" my answers in the last 2 years and three months, I have never been able to pull of "Good".  I've never even tried.

So I paused and thought about it, and realized that it was true.  I actually felt good.

It's not every day, but I actually had a moment where I was good.  :)

Saturday, December 7, 2013


In late 2008/early 2009, I became very aware that many of my friends were expecting.  I felt like I could throw a feather and hit someone who was either about to give birth, or due sometime in 2009.  It was becoming aggravating as I wanted so badly to have a child, but just could not conceive.  When I found out that I was pregnant, I stopped feeling so hurt, because I had joined the ranks of the parents-to-be.

In August and September of this year, I watched as many of those children posed for precious pictures of their 'First Day of School', and I felt my heart sink.  Catelyn is a December baby, so she would be eligible for 4K in 2014, but seeing all of the little 'friends' with their backpacks and smiles was so crushing.

Something about Catelyn's 4th birthday has caused a shift in my pain that I wasn't expecting.  I don't really know how to describe the pain, either.  I imagine it's just a continuation of the giant void I am left with in her absence.

Most of it, I think, stems from the fact that I simply can't imagine what she would be like now.

She was 3 feet tall at 20 months, so I know she'd be tall.  Perhaps she'd be mistaken for a Kindergartener.  Would her hair be curly or straight?  Would she want to wear dresses or jeans and a shirt?  What would her favorite color be?  What would she like to do?  Would she like having a bare Christmas Tree, with white lights, ribbon, and a star on top; or would she want a brightly colored tree with lots of baubles?  Would she be excited to visit Santa?  What would our Christmas rituals be?  What would our birthday rituals be for her?

It is devastating to know that another Christmas, another birthday, and another new year will all come without her here. 

I can still picture her tasting that first birthday cake.  It was unlike most children with their first pieces of cake.  There was no mashing, spreading, or stickiness, and very little mess at all.  She sweetly scraped a bit of frosting off with her finger, and sat smacking her lips together as she continued to daintily pick up tiny bits of cake and neatly place them in her mouth. 

I wonder what she would do at her 4th birthday.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Nobody said it was easy...

Wednesday night was the annual kids Halloween party at my job.  This is the second time I've helped set up this event.  Last year, I waited until the party started to leave, only to discover that I couldn't handle being present as the children came in. This year, I planned to leave about 15 minutes before the party started.

About 30 minutes before 'go time', one of my co-workers came in with his daughter, who is just older than Catelyn would be.  The little girl commented on liking the witch in our lobby, but she didn't want to touch it.  She said, "I'm not scared, I know it's not real".  This got me to wondering what Catelyn would say.  I had to take a moment and re-compose myself, as the pain was creeping in.  A few minutes passed, and I was close to wrapping up my last duties for the day, when in walked a man with two small children.  Initially, they had to walk out of the building, as the children were frightened, but in no time, they were back.  I watched the dad explaining to his children, a daughter & a son, what each item was, so they wouldn't be fearful.  The daughter was younger, and didn't seem affected, but the boy was concerned with the moving and talking creatures: a witch, broom,  spellbook, cauldron, etc.

The father explained that the children were Monster's, Inc. characters.  The boy was Mike Wazowski, and the girl was Boo, dressed as a monster.  They were absolutely darling.  I actu

As the dad continued to point out different things, I heard him ask, "What's that?"  Immediately, my heart sank and I scurried to punch out and leave. 

"What's that" was Catelyn's first two word combination.  She asked it all of the time. 

As I bolted out the front door of my job, I tried to prevent the tears from starting.  By the time I started my car, I was crying in hysterics. 

All I could think was, "It's not fair". 

I started to drive, and continued to bawl and bawl.

I've had these out of control crying spells before, but it's been a while.  I called my mom, and she encouraged me to pull over.  I told her it's not fair, and she said she knew.  She reminded me that when I hear things that Catelyn said, or see things that remind me of her, it's Catelyn's way of reaching out to me.  I fully believe that, too, but sometimes it's so devastatingly hard to receive those messages. 

I told my mom that I didn't expect it to be this hard still, and she replied, "Nobody said it was easy."

How true.  Everyday I make progress towards hurting less, no, not less, just differently.  The pain is still present, and it always will be.  It doesn't really go away, it just changes.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Happy birthday dear mama...

Well, my birthday is tomorrow tomorrow. This is the first birthday in 2 years I have remotely looked forward to.  I was actually getting a little excited, but then I took my dog for a walk tonight.

You may be wondering what one has to do with the other, but I always like to walk the dog past the cemetery.  As we approached, I began talking to Catelyn, telling her not to be upset that I am looking forward to my birthday.  As I spoke, I told her I want nothing more than to hear her sing the birthday song, and then it hit me.  I never heard her sing happy birthday.  She died 15 days before my birthday.

Tears began to stream down my cheeks.

Since I missed out on any sweet attempts at "happy birthday dear mama", I racked my brain to remember anything she sang.  A memory slowly came to me, and I  decided to sing a song from the PBS TV show 'the cat in the hat knows a lot about that' that she knew quite well.

As the dog and i headed home, I envisioned Catelyn singing and dancing, and through my tears, I was able to smile a bit.

Two years and fourteen days have passed since Catelyn died, and sometimes I am still caught off guard by the unexpected.  I imagine there will always be tough moments in the years to's just part of the grieving and loving process.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

a complicated beast

It's Saturday August 31.  It's the first day of Labor Day Weekend.  September is less than 24 hours away.

We took Catelyn on our first attempted trip to the hospital ER two years ago tomorrow, and were officially admitted on the evening of Labor Day.

I detest this weekend.

Catelyn's two year angelversary is quickly approaching, and the closer it gets, the more my lungs and heart ache.  The space around me is being compressed.  I can't seem to get enough air.  My heart is being squeezed and I feel like I am going to hyperventilate.

How can it be possible that the weight of Catelyn's death is heavier this year?

I feel like Catelyn, and my memories of her, memories are being lost in the shuffle as time moves forward.

People told me that I would remember more as time moved forward, but I feel like I only have the same handful of memories that I did when she died.

I am not comforted.  I want Catelyn to be remembered and not forgotten.

I feel like I am failing her as much as an angel as I did while I could hold her in my arms.

I feel alone in my grief.

I know I'm not, but my head can't convince my heart that I'm not the only one in pain.

I feel like people are forgetting.  That makes me sad, and angry, and heartbroken.

I am struggling to find peace as this angelversary approaches.  I don't know how others do this...moment by moment, I'm sure...

Grief is certainly a complicated beast.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

4th & fireworks

For the 4th of July this year, we were invited to a friend's house for fireworks.  There were tons of people invited.  On the day of the party, I scanned the Facebook invitation, only to realize that, for the most part, it was strictly families that were on the list.

It was an honor to be included, but I was hesitant to go...

I didn't recognize a lot of the names on FB, and I wasn't sure how it would feel to see families snuggling up their kiddos to enjoy the pyrotechnics.  (Not to mention that I struggle with being in public to begin with...)

Eventually, my husband and I decided it was better to go and hang out than to stay home and be anti-social (this was EXTREMELY hard for me, as I prefer to crawl into my hiding space and avoid social situations)

We arrived, and were greeted immediately.  We scoped out several people we knew, and it was okay....but I still really struggled.  We met some new people we hadn't met before, and while they never asked if we had kids, they had kids. 

Everyone was extremely nice and welcoming, but it was hard watching families interacting.  They were intact.

I felt like I couldn't really talk to anyone about the emotions I was facing.  Of course, the fears I had stemmed from my own interpretation of the situation, but that didn't lessen them any.

Then, about the time I felt like I didn't belong at all and should just go, I met a woman who knows a family that attends the same Compassionate Friends chapter that I do.  That helped some.  I found myself feeling freed in being able to recognize my deceased daughter.

Soon, I was alone again, trying to figure out how I fit into the happy celebration happening around me.  I contemplated latching onto a few new friends that I recently made, but my social skills aren't up to par, and my feeble attempt to connect only made me feel like more of an outsider.  As the stars began to appear overhead, it was finally time for the show.  I found my husband and we took a seat. 

The whole time we were there I wondered what Catelyn would be like now, as a three and a half year old. 

Who would she have been running around with?  Would she have been bossy like her mom, trying to tell the other kids how to behave?  Would she have been best friends with the little girls?  Would she have played football with the boys?  Would she love the fireworks or would they scare her?  Would she play on the swings or in the field or in the bouncy house? 

On occasion, I will come up with answers that make my heart feel good, but it only lasts for a moment because I can only guess and never actually know the answers.  Everyday I live with unanswered questions.... sometimes holidays and social gatherings are the hardest.

more heartache.

Monday sucked.

As I drove to work, I realized that this is the time of year when I become more aware of Catelyn's "lasts".  I am hopeful that this year won't come with all of the pain that last year did, but only time will tell.

Even with those feelings creeping up, the primary reason Monday was so crappy is that I learned of the death of a young man from the area I live in.

His name is John.  I don't know John extremely well, I know his mom, sister, and a handful of extended family members a bit better.  However, I do know a few things about John.

First, he is 19 years old.  I watched him go through his confirmation classes, and had the pleasure of making his confirmation certificate, too.  John is the guy who is always willing to help everyone.  He has been involved in 4H numerous years - probably since birth.  He helped for many years in the Sunday School rooms, as a volunteer at church.  He has always been active in the community.  He is bright, funny, and compassionate, and not only is he well liked by everyone, but extremely well known in the community.

I can't begin to express how agonizing it is to see others have to go through this type of loss.  It makes me feel so helpless.

One of the hardest parts is that, even with my own experience, I don't know what to say or do, or how to act.  I want to offer comfort to those in mourning, but it's like my tongue becomes this heavy weight, and I am trying so hard to lift it that I lose sight of my intentions and the next thing you know my entire foot is in my mouth.

I am convinced that there is no 'right' thing to say when a loved one dies.  It just sucks, and no words can really make it better because the only thing you want is for that person to be alive and not dead.

This particular death is pretty hard for me.  Maybe it's timing, maybe it's because I know his family, maybe it's just hard....  This death has stirred a lot of feelings and questions inside me.

It makes me think of Catelyn.
It reminds me how bewildered I was.
It reminds me how the shock took over, and I had no idea what I was doing, but I was doing it.
It reminds me of the first days when I felt like it had yo be a terrible dream.
It makes me wonder how word spread about Catelyn's death.
It makes me wonder what people said when they found out.
It makes my heart ache in different ways than it has before.

There isn't much I wouldn't give to prevent others from having to suffer a loss as great as the death of a child.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

it's not enough.

At the June meeting of the Compassionate Friends in my area, a mom seated next to me began crying.  She said she felt like she couldn't do enough to preserve the memory of her son.  She said she felt like she wanted to purchase a billboard just to get his face seen by more people.  She then apologized for saying it.

I sat next to her with tears streaming down my face, and I blurted out "Don't apologize for how you feel.  I think it's a great idea and personally,  I think we should all do that for our children."

As we wrapped up that evening, someone asked what people have done to remember their children.  I mentioned Catelyn's ever growing list:
baby hats I have knitted to donate in Catelyn's name
  • Linus blankets (and Catelyn cares blankets)
  • Pool feature at our local toddler/baby pool
  • A spot in our local library to be named "Catelyn's Corner"
  • Library books dedicated in her name
  • Toy, book, and monetary donations to local hospitals
  • A memorial blood drive
  • Random acts of kindness committed in Catelyn's name
  • Knitted baby hats to be donated to hospitals in Catelyn's name
  • A donation to our local veteran's memorial park

I am certain I have forgotten to list some of the wonderful things...

We have an amazing and lengthy list of ways we remember Catelyn and reach out to others in her name, but the words of the other mother at my meeting ring true.

Somehow it doesn't feel like I can do enough to preserve the memory of Catelyn.

I think I could get all of our memorial acts/efforts tattooed in a 12 inch font on every open space on my skin (which currently is tattoo-less), and even if I was covered from head-to-toe I don't believe I would be satisfied.

I need the world to know what an amazing girl Catelyn was, and I want their lives to be forever changed when they learn about her....maybe then I could consider having done "enough" to honor her short life...

Knowing me I would still do more...

Friday, July 5, 2013

a meaningful song

I have always really loved this song, but I find it especially meaningful in trying to move forward since Catelyn's death.

At first, I think the thought of not having Catelyn by my side made the words sting.  I felt as though I would never have any moments with her, I think the words bring hope and a reminder that Catelyn is with me whether I see her or not.

The wind still whispers her name, birds sing her song, leaves drop, sway and flutter, and bells/chimes ring at seemingly random times.  These are signs that she is near & letting me know she is okay, or misses me, or says hi, and so on.

For Baby (for Bobby)
by John Denver
I’ll walk in the rain by your side
I’ll cling to the warmth of your hand
I’ll do anything to keep you satisfied
I’ll love you more than anybody can

And the wind will whisper your name to me
Little birds will sing along in time
Leaves will bow down when you walk by
And morning bells will chime

I’ll be there when you’re feelin’ down
To kiss away the fears if you cry
I’ll share with you all the happiness I’ve found
A reflection of the love in your eyes

And I’ll sing you the songs of the rainbow
A whisper of the joy that is mine
And leaves will bow down when you walk by
And morning bells will chime

I’ll walk in the rain by your side
I’ll cling to the warmth of your tiny hand
I’ll do anything to help you understand
And I’ll love you more than anybody can

And the wind will whisper your name to me
Little birds will sing along in time
Leaves will bow down when you walk by
And morning bells will chime

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Will I make it?

Every day I try to figure out how to find healing and comfort from the tragic death of Catelyn.

I don't know what I should be looking for, or where I should focus, or how to find the "magic checklist" that will tell me all of the steps to follow to make everything better (believe me, I know there is no magic checklist, but it doesn't stop me from trying to find it!).

Every day, I am doing the best I can.
I'm sure I make plenty of mistakes.
I imagine that I make things harder than they have to be.
I'm sure I overlook a ton of simple things.

I am constantly trying to gain control over my feelings, which turns into trying find ways to cram my feelings into tiny crevices that they will never fit into.....and eventually they explode all over.

I want answers.....
I want to know how I'm supposed to get through this.
I want reassurance that not only can I get through this, but I will be able to love a child again.
I want to know that someday I won't feel a piercing stab in my heart each time I see someone who loves being a parent (or worse, hates being a parent).
I want to know that there is truly nothing I could have done to magically have healed Catelyn (yeah, I still struggle with the guilt piece).

How do I stop being afraid and let my heart love again?  How can I function in "normal" every day situations?

I have been paralyzed by loss, and I feel like I can't find my way out.  I've looked so many places for answers, and I am so weary.  I am not a very patient person.  I hate waiting for answers.  As I've struggled, I've reached out to people I know, people I don't, counselors, and countless articles and books.  And, as I've talked to others, I have often heard responses such as:  "Back in the old days, people endured tons of loss, and they made it through; you will too." 

That's great, but those people aren't around for me to ask, and while they made it, I often wonder if I will.  I am so tired of seeking answers that don't fit.

So, imagine my surprise when I stumbled across an article (Letting Go of Our Fear of Loss) on today, and actually found answers to some of my questions and concerns on how to know I will make it through the challenges I have been given.

As I read the article, I realized something huge today: our ancestors suffered and struggled with significant losses too, and they made it through, likely with a lot of struggle and suffering of their own.

Rather than trying to figure out how they made it, and instead of finding myself frozen by fear, I should instead radically accept that because they made it, I will too.  And, in honor of all they endured, I should make a confident leap, head first into the depths of love, knowing that I will move forward, instead of cowering in the background of life, afraid of death, afraid of love, afraid of living.

My heart may become shattered again in the future, but I come from stock that won't be entirely broken by pain.  I must trust and love and continue to live.

If not for my ancestors, then for Catelyn, who died too soon.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hi Maimy

Catelyn's drawing from her last Father's Day Outing.

So, each year for father's day (at least for the last five years), my husband's family has had a special father's day weekend plan:  the men go fishing, and the women go out and do something fun.

The first few years, the women went to an IKEA store a few hours away.  On year 3, Catelyn was about 1.5 years old.

By then, Catelyn could say 'hi, Sara, mama, daddy, papa, grandma, grandpa, Uri, bye, baby, milk, elmo, no, no way, uppies (up please), hello, eyes, go, whee, bitte (please/you're welcome in german)' and other things.  She had a few 2 word phrases (no way, hi baby, bye baby, hi Sara, hi mama, etc).

Well, we were shopping at IKEA, and Catelyn's aunt was pushing the cart.  We decided to see if we could get Catelyn to say 'Amy', and instead, she said, "Maimy".  She put an 'm' in front of Amy.  The rest of the day, as we wandered around, it was "Hi Maimy" all of the time.  It was so cute.  It was like her own little nickname she created.

Today, I was singing "The Name Game"'s an old song by Shirley Ellis.  I was singing lots of different names, and I came to Amy.  

Let's do Amy!
Amy, Amy bo Baimy
Bonana fanna fo Faimy
Fee fy mo Maimy,

Which brings me to 'Hi Maimy'.  

A fun memory from a sweet girl....
Man do I miss her.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Walk a little slower daddy.

Father's day...

In 2011, Catelyn helped my husband open his Father's day gift.  She had tons of experience opening gifts in December (Christmas & birthday), and after that, she couldn't leave any packages alone.  It was rather sweet...

...and she was an excellent helper, of course.

Years ago, I worked at a daycare.  As a daycare teacher, we tried to come up with fun gifts for parents on their special days.  We used the poem below for Father's day.  It's a beautiful sentiment...extremely hard for a bereaved parent, but beautiful nonetheless.

"Walk a little slower Daddy"

"Walk a little slower, Daddy!" said a little child so small.
"I'm following in your footsteps and I do not want to fall.

Sometimes your steps are very fast, sometimes they're hard to see;
So walk a little slower Daddy, for you are leading me.

Someday when I'm all grown up, you're what I want to be.
Then I will have a little child, who'll want to follow me.

And I would want to lead just right, and know that I was true;
So, walk a little slower, Daddy, for I must follow you!"
Author: unknown

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mother's Day blahs

I'm not looking forward to this weekend at all.

Not only is it Mother's Day on Sunday, but Saturday is May 11, 2013.....Catelyn died on September 11, 2011.  That means that this particular month marks 20 months since Catelyn died.

Catelyn was 20 months old when she died.....  (okay, so she was 20 months and 13 days old, but those extra few days, which I would usually argue on behalf of, don't really feel all that important right this moment).

It feels so unbearable that, after this weekend, her time of death out numbers her time of living.  (Yes, it could still be argued that she was in the womb for about 8 months, so she was closer to 28 months living, but again, that isn't a comfort.)

My heart aches.

It still feels like yesterday that I held her.

It's 7:09 right now.  When Catelyn was alive, I would we would end our night by cuddling and watching Wheel of Fortune.  Just before the final round, I would tell her, "okay, it's nigh-nigh" and she would rush over to our staircase and energetically rattle the child safety gate that prevented her from taking the stairs alone.  We'd get upstairs, and I'd put her in her jammies, we'd snuggle and watch the final individual puzzle, and then I'd carry her to her room and lay her down.  Before I'd leave, I'd sing her the bedtime song my mom made up for me when I was a little tyke.
"Time to go to sleep Catelyn.  Dream a little dream Catelyn.  When you wake up in the morning, the sun will shine brightly on you."

I can hear her little voice, and her fun jabbering.  It seems impossible that she could be dead for 20 months.

When the movie "The Wedding Singer" came out, I adored it.  I still have most of the movie memorized.  When I think of how much living a life without Catelyn growing up in front of my eyes hurts, all I can think of is a scene with Drew Barrymore (Julia) & Adam Sandler (Robbie):
Julia: Okay, so it was your first wedding back. Of course, things are gonna be a little shaky.

Robbie: A little shaky? I hate weddings. I hate the bride, I hate the groom, I want them to be miserable 'cause that's what I am.

Now, please understand that I don't want to see anyone else as miserable as I am, but at the same time, I can't stand to see people celebrating and loving life and enjoying each second.

The reality, which I often lose sight of, is that everyone has something that is causing them pain in their lives.  I am not the only one.  Just because someone enjoys Mother's Day or Halloween or Birthdays or Christmas doesn't mean that there aren't other days that they struggle with.

I think it comes down to the fact that it's hard to know how to find a balance between feeling like I've lost everything, and feeling like it's okay to move forward.  It's hard to just "be" on Mother's Day.  I don't feel like a Mother, and remembering that I was one hurts.

So many friends and family members work so hard to include me on Mother's Day, but I honestly can't fathom how I could still be a mother when my toddler died.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

the Liebster Award

Wow!  Apparently I’ve been nominated for my first blog award - The Liebster Award!

Thank you, Phenomenal Lass for your support of Missing My Catelyn, and for the shout out.  :)  I started this blog as a way to get out the feelings pent up inside me as a result of Catelyn's death, and I truly appreciate all the wonderful feedback from my readers.  I can only hope that my blog will continue to enlighten others who are enduring hardships of any kind.

Liebster Award Rules:
  1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees.
  3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 3-5 bloggers who you feel deserve to be noticed (other than the person who tagged you). These blogs must have no greater than 3000 followers. Leave a comment on their blog to let them know they’ve been nominated by you.
  4. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog. Post all the items listed in item 2 on your blog also.
    Here, in no particular order, are 11 things you may not know about me:
    1. When I was a little girl, I wanted my name to be Nicki.
    2. Not only did I give myself a haircut as a child, but I gave one to one of my stuffed animals too.
    3. I have a crafting problem  :)
    4. One thing I have always wanted to be is a mechanic.
    5. Thus far, I have never been drunk in my life, nor do I plan to be.
    6. I took up knitting in January so I can make baby hats to donate to local hospitals.
    7. I LOVE singing at karaoke night - any time, any where!!
    8. At a concert, when I was 19, I was up near the stage, and the crowd surged, and I was nearly trampled.
    9. As a young child, I had a bar of Lava Soap placed in my mouth for sticking my tongue out at my babysitter's daughter, and it sizzled and burned!!
    10. I used to adore skating (both ice skating & roller skating)
    11. I was on a TV show based out of Topeka, KS called "Whizzo" when I was ~3 years old.
    Here are my answers to Phenomenal Lass' questions:

    1. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
             Well, for starters, I love writing, and find it very therapeutic.  Also, I tend to be a coward outside of my blog, so it's nice to have a 'safe space' where I feel like I can write whatever I feel and not be judged.  I assume that if you don't want to know what I have to say, you won't read it!  :)

    2. If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
   many movies are so important to me for different's hard to choose.  I guess I'd pick 'The Green Mile'.

    3. What is your greatest strength?
           Perhaps my creativity is my greatest strength.....I don't really know. 

    4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
          Switzerland, Ireland, England or France

    5. What’s your favorite song (of the moment)?
         Respect by Erasure

    6. Are you what you wanted to be when you grew up?

    7. If you had to retake one class from school, what would it be and why?
        Art, because it lets my soul breathe

    8. If you had to commit one of the Seven Deadly Sins, which one would you choose and why?
        Probably envy.  I constantly compare myself to others, and often want what they why not stick with what I know, right?

    9. Your new best friend is a character from a book. Who do you pick?
       I haven't really read much recently, so I guess I'll have to pick Stephanie Plum....she's funny, adventurous, believes in herself, and is easily entertained!

    10. What’s the best thing you ate this week?
        Grilled pork chops

    11. What are your plans for the weekend?
        Going on an overnight trip with my husband, and then celebrating his grandfather's 92nd birthday!

    11 Questions for the nominees
    1. What 4 words would you use to describe yourself?
    2. What inspires you?
    3. What did you want to be when you were little?
    4. What is your favorite way to spend your day off?
    5. What do you enjoy most about blogging?
    6. Describe your favorite childhood memory
    7. What movie/book title would you pick for your life story?
    8. What's the best advice you have ever received
    9. What are your goals for 2013?
    10. If you were told you had to spend a year in isolation on a desert island, but you could bring 5 things with you, what would you would bring?
    11. What chore do you absolutely hate to do?

    And the nominees are:
    1. Ink It Up! with Jessica
    2. Tinker With Ink & Paper
    3. An Urban Cottage
    4. The Lovely Residence

    Sunday, March 24, 2013

    I am a work in progress.

    Since my last post, I've taken some time off from work to take part in an intensive outpatient therapy program.  I have been learning a lot about myself, and I'd like to share a little bit of what I've learned.

    (Disclaimer - for those who know me, this may be harder to read than reading my first ever post about how Catelyn, my toddler, died.)

    1. I am a hardcore perfectionist, which means:
    • I think in terms of all or nothing (ex: if I did 99 things right, and 1 thing wrong, I am a complete failure).
    • I procrastinate in fear of making mistakes, but if things go well, I continue to procrastinate because it worked in the past, and if it doesn't work out the next time, it's only because I didn't have enough time....
    • I re-write almost everything: my blog posts, emails, letters, notes, etc.
    2. I am not very assertive, but when I am, it's usually in a passive-aggressive kind of way.
    3. I LOVE DOING ART!!!!  (This may not be a surprise to some of you, but it was to me!)
    4. I am talented, creative, and have a lot to offer the world.
    5. I have spent a large part of my life believing I am worthless/unworthy.
    6. I have spent a large part of my life thinking that if I am not being productive, I am unlovable.
    7. I am EXTREMELY hard on myself.

    There are many other things I have learned, but I won't bore you with the details.... 

    However, one very important thing I would like to share is that Catelyn's death does not define who I am.  Her death, of course, was quite tragic, and I will grieve the rest of my life.  Catelyn's death will influence the decisions I make.  Her death has changed me (hopefully for the better).  Catelyn's death is a part of me, but it alone does not make me who I am.

    This idea is a foreign concept; something I had not previously considered.

    You see, somewhere around 8 months, grieving Catelyn's death became a little less daunting.  I found myself laughing, joking, smiling, etc.  I thought I was making progress. 

    At the one year angel-versary of her death, however, I was entirely overwhelmed.  I felt like I was back at square one, almost as though time had not passed at all.  I was reliving her death, and I couldn't break my thoughts from the overwhelming sadness.  I started to spiral downward.  I felt like nothing was ever going to change, and that for the rest of my life, I would always be sad.  I was convinced that nothing was going to get any better. 

    I tried to fight the feelings of despair, but they were stronger than I was, so I started giving in to them, and I fell into a deep dark pit.  I was stuck, and couldn't fathom a way out, much less see one.  Luckily, I was introduced to the idea of outpatient therapy, and I was placed in a program that helped me determine my negative thought and behavior patterns, and begin to change them.

    Now, I realize that I am a work in progress.  I will always be a work in progress, and that's okay.  It is a battle to chip away at long standing beliefs, but I know that I am worth the fight.  It is incredibly challenging trying to re-train my thoughts and behaviors, but not only is it what I want, it is what Catelyn wants for me too.

    So, here's to the future, and to all of the other work's in progress who have taken the time to read this.  To those who are struggling, to those who have found their paths, to those who are in the midst of rerouting their paths in order to reach their goals.

    Whether you have found your way, or haven't quite begun the journey.  Never give up.  Your life has purpose, and to put it simply: you are worth it.

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

    the bitter truth

    We all have moments that are up, and moments that are down.  No one's life is truly any "better" than anyone else's, it's just that we don't cycle on the same timeline, so sometimes when we are down, others are up, and vice versa. 

    The truth is that everyone struggles.  And right now, I am struggling....battling even.

    I am finding myself at the hard place where it feels like I don't fit in anywhere.  I am no longer who I was, and I can't quite figure out where I belong. 

    If I were a puzzle piece, I would probably be one of those ones that you've spilled something on.  My puzzle piece has become smudged, warped.  Or maybe my puzzle piece is one that the dog has chewed the edge of.  No matter which one you pick, I can't seem to figure out how or where I fit.  I keep turning myself around and around trying to make myself fit back into my space that seems wrong.  My puzzle piece has changed, but I can't seem to figure out how to fix it.  I've thought about trying to trim the edges with scissors, or even take a hammer and puond myself into place.

    I can't see where I fit.  I feel completely lost.

    You see, I gave birth to a wonderful daughter.  She was a part of our life for 28 months (8 in womb and 20 out of womb), and now, physically, she is gone.  She was our only child, so by appearance, it looks as though my husband and I have no children. 

    So, when I am with friends who have not had children I cannot fully relate to their lives, because I did in fact have a child, though she isn't physically seen.  And on the flip side, when I am with friends who have children, I cannot fully relate to their lives, because my child isn't physically here.

    I am in this odd sort of limbo-like state.  I know I belong, and I know I fit in, but I am trying so hard to figure it out that I end up feeling isolated instead of comforted or protected.

    There are plenty of people who deeply care about me and love me.  They hurt to see me hurting.  They want to help me.  They want to make me better.  They would do anything to ease my pain.  They would fix me if they could.  They think I am strong as I go through all of this....but the bitter truth is that I am falling apart. 

    I struggle to get out of bed in the morning.  I still find glimpses of good things, but they are only momentary.  My view is fogged over, and I'm stuck in this dark, hard place.  There is no magic fix - believe me, I've looked. 

    There is nothing I can do on my own right now to make me better, so I am trying to seek help from others.  Essentially, I'm wandering in the fog with my arms outstretched, and when I come into contact with someone, anyone, I grab them to me and try to explain what I need.  I don't really know what I need...

    So here it is in plain language....I'm 16 months into my bereavement, and I'm struggling with major depression.  I can no longer take care of myself, so I am seeking help from my therapist.  I am happy to report that we have figured out a plan to help me get the care that I need. 

    I am greatly looking forward to moving out of the fog.

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    Random Ramblings (from Jan. 2012)

    Posted on Facebook on Friday, January 20, 2012:

    So I attended a TCF meeting last night and one of the questions asked of our group of grieving parents, siblings and grandparents was:  has anyone told you 'it's time to move on, and how did you handle it?'

    So here are my thoughts:  WHAT!?!  'It's time to move on?' 

    Um, NO.  That is not even acceptable. No one in this world has the right to dictate to people around them HOW to handle their grief or the TIMELINE in which it should be taken care of. 

    I'm only 4.5 months into grieving the loss of Catelyn and can clearly see that losing a child is something that will haunt you the entire rest of your life. 

    It's not something you just 'get over', EVER.

    You see, you had this child, and felt like it was your responsibility to raise them and take care of them and make sure they stayed safe.  Now they are gone (and it doesn't matter how long), and everything you do and see and say and feel reminds you of them, PERIOD. 

    You find yourself thinking 'my child would've loved this', 'wouldn't it be great if my child was here to see this', 'my child loved ________'.  There is simply no 'getting over it' or 'moving on'. 

    Every moment from the day of their death or the moments leading up to it will haunt you for the rest of your life.  Your mind is on constant re-wind and re-play looking for the answer that would've changed everything.  The worst part is that you can never go back and 'fix' it.

    I'm sure it seems well-intentioned to think 'isn't it time to move on' on the exterior, but let's face it, that is NOT HELPFUL.

    Life will never be the same again after losing a child.  All bereaved parents are doing the best that they can to rebuild their lives after they have lost a child. 

    Nothing can make it 'right' again.

    And, while that child isn't there physically, they will ALWAYS be a part of every moment: in spirit, in heart and in mind.

    My Un-Apology (from Dec. 2011)

    My Facebook post from Thursday, December 29, 2011 (only changes: names removed):

    Do you remember those 'everything I learned I learned from _____' posters?   Well, this is sort of along those lines, but at the same time, it's not.  I guess I feel that I am as good of a person as any to write a statement on grief because I've encountered my own somewhat recently.

    What I have learned from this grieving process is that no two people grieve or even think or feel in general the same way about things.  When it comes to grief, people have to do what feels right to them.

    Some people wish to cry, some wish to scream, some can't even bring themselves to feel or do anything, some want to talk, and some want nothing more than to be left alone.  Some people can't even stand the thought of eating, and some people eat everything in site just because it brings temporary relief.  Some people stand up for what they believe in, some fall down.  Some rely fully on the people around them to bring them strength, and some think they can do it all on their own.  Some will light candles, bake or cook or eat, write books or songs or poems, draw pictures, create gardens, plant trees, cry, purchase gifts, give donations or even release balloons in honor of others, and some may do nothing because they aren't sure what to feel, think or do.

    No matter what people wish to do, feel, or think, they are choosing what is right for them.  People who are grieving are doing the best they can.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  People are doing what feels right to themselves in an effort to get through.

    Recently, my husband and I have offered that people, who wish to, could release balloons on 12/30 in rememberance/recognition of Catelyn on her birthday.  Some people feel that this is a nightmare - ecologically speaking.  All I can say is that if it doesn't feel right to you, then don't do it.  If you'd like to light a candle, have a birthday meal or a birthday cake or a birthday cupcake or even a cookie, make a donation of some type to some place, do nothing, cry, scream, cheer, sing, or anything else you can think of, then do that.   Our idea to release balloons isn't about doing ONE thing, or even ANY thing, but if you feel like you want to do SOME thing, then pick and do what is right for you.

    A different but "Merry" Christmas (from Dec. 2011)

    This was a post (altered only by removing names) from facebook written on 12/5/2011:

     This year, I don't really feel like 'celebrating' Christmas.  I haven't purchased one gift, and I absolutely DO NOT want anything for myself.
         I haven't sent any Christmas Cards (though I did make quite a few with my Stampin' Up! friends), and I have no plans to write up a cutesy holiday letter.
         Don't get me wrong - I love Christmas - I love the lights, giving gifts, singing carols, baking, being invited places, spending time with friends and family, hearing from loved ones, and of course decorating.
          I have been listening to the 24-7 Christmas song stations, and I've even gone out to see a holiday parade filled with lighted floats and more!  At most, I might put up a teeny-tiny tree in Catelyn's room, and I have her stocking available to put a note in to tell her how much I miss her and love her.  I've decided to 'gift' her presents, that I had already started purchasing in the summer, to an organization that takes in items for children (haven't decided which one yet, though).
         Many, many friends and family members have wanted to do something for my husband and I, and we greatly appreciate that.  The best thing that I can come up with is donate your time or funds to people in need.  Get involved somehow, and if there is a "in honor of" option on what you do, please consider doing it on behalf of Catelyn.

    Some ideas of places to donate to:
    Whatever you choose to do, I hope that your Christmas is extra merry this year!

    2010 First Christmas - at Grandma and Grandpa's

    2010 First Christmas - at Great Grandma & Great Grandpa's

    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    the importance of giving

    Today is officially the first day of 2013 (at least in my time zone), and I want to take a second and share about Catelyn's birthday, which was 2 days ago.

    As you may know, my husband and I requested that family and friends let us know about ways that they are remembering Catelyn through giving to others.  We sent out our request through the blog & facebook about ten days before Catelyn's birthday.  I was pretty slow in sending out emails to family & friends, but managed to get the word out a couple of days (at best) before her birthday.

    On December 30th, we were surprised to see that we had received just over 35 emails from people telling us of the good things they did in Catelyn's honor.  What a gift within itself!!

    As began reading the messages, it quickly became clear that our request, of loved ones and strangers, to help us find joy during such a hard time had a bigger impact than we realized.

    Numerous people mentioned that our request of giving to others actually gave them an unexpected gift within itself.  I felt one person put it best when they said:  "By giving love we receive love which makes everyone feel good."

    Every message we received was so incredibly touching, and each gift immeasurable.  Here is an idea of the gifts we were notified of: 
    • New or gently used items have been given, sometimes completely anonymously, and even when the giver's own funds were stretched, including:
      • books
      • toys
      • crayons
      • clothing (lots of clothing)
      • bicycles
      • quilts, afghans, & blankets
      • luggage (for children who are in the foster system so they don't have to carry their belongings in garbage bags)
      • get well packages (for children in the hospital)
      • plants
      • shopping carts at stores that require you to 'rent' them while you use them
      • ornaments (to a mother who recently survived an accident that her children did not)
      • varying gifts to those who might not receive them otherwise
    • Financial support has been given to various causes including 
      • struggling family members
      • The Histiocytosis Foundation
      • Project Linus
      • Salvation Army
      • Toys for Tots
      • youth group mission trips
      • animal shelters
      • animal surgeries
    • Technology for educational care/support was given to a teenager struggling with illness that requires multiple surgeries which would prevent her from attending school in the traditional way
    • Driveways were shoveled for elderly
    • Elders were visited
    • Perspectives were changed
    • Resentments were cast aside
    • Random Acts of Kindness are being offered including:
      • smiles
      • hugs
      • kind gestures
      • kind words
      • holding doors
      • generous tips to waitstaff
      • purposeful consideration (for illness, worry, sadness, loneliness, kindness, and so many, many reasons)
      • prayers
      • positive thoughts
      • Kleenex
      • memories
      • transportation
      • meals/donuts/cookies/baked goods/beverages
      • seeking out the owner of a cell phone that was found in a slushy parking lot just days before Christmas
      • Letters and Cards sent to the ill, elderly, & struggling
    • One family adopted Catelyn's spirit by naming their Child's doll after her, so Catelyn can go on adventures with their family
    • Other drivers were given extra consideration in high traffic zones
    • Grieving siblings (younger and older) and parents were recognized in special ways
    • The Christmas Angel Tree gift program was reinstated at an organization, led by a grieving mother, in honor of all Angels taken too soon
    • Candles lit
    • Volunteering of time/talents has occurred
    • Blood drives have been attended
    • Some relationships have been mended

    I've tried to give a good picture of all of the messages we've received, and I'm sure things have been left out.  Needless to say, we were wonderfully overwhelmed by all of the messages we received.

    What a gift we've been given, and it sounds like many of you who have participated have experienced the same feelings.

    We are grateful beyond words.

    It's hard to feel anything but some joy as we read such wonderful messages.  Thank you for easing the pain on what could've been a much harder day.

    Each of you is a blessing.