Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, friends!

Look at this adorable picture my friend Matt drew for us:

I love it!

I also thought I'd post our family Christmas card here. I made it and I am very happy with it. The photo on the front is from our session with Elizabeth Wiggs.

I decided I wanted to acknowledge Garrett because it just felt wrong not to. I also wanted to do it tastefully so this is what I came up with.

That verse is 2 Thessalonians 3:16: Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

Another passage especially meaningful to me this holiday season is Romans 5:1-4:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We are thankful today for the hope, love, and comfort that only comes from a Savior.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Ultimate Source of Comfort

Christmas is rapidly approaching so I wanted to finish up the series on coping so we can move on to the holidays and then some pieces of news to update everyone on our future plans! Just to warn you, I struggle with how to proceed from here, because I feel woefully inadequate when talking about God. However, I feel pretty strongly that tonight's the night I need to write this even though I'm tired and that makes this more intimidating! But, I guess I'll just be candid and have a conversation.
I had sort of mapped out all of these articles in my head before I even started. I always planned on doing two or three posts on the things I do, what happens when "doing" isn't enough, and then on my real source of comfort. My plans got slightly interrupted when, at Thanksgiving, one of the pastors at our church did a sermon on Thankfulness that was basically this post. I highly suggest listening to it. It isn't very long and is incredibly encouraging.

I told a friend this week that I've learned something about myself during the last 6 months: I really believe what I believe about God. I think that if I didn't, I could cope with losing Garrett and with the long, hard struggle I've had getting healthy again. But...I think that's all it would be. As it is, I am not just coping. I'm thriving. I've...grown physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It's one of those things I can't describe or explain but it all boils down to this:

I believe in God and I believe he is Good.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1

I feel like I am always telling people that I can't "blame" God for losing Garrett. And that they shouldn't either. Because, really, if we want to ascribe blame and if we want to believe that God is a micro-manager, then we also have to give Him credit for all the good things He's done in the course of my life. I haven't the slightest idea how much moment by moment engineering God does (I'm guessing less than some of us might like) but in the midst of all the doubts, fears, worries, and whys, I have the knowledge that, ultimately, everything God does is Good because He is Good.

Do I know what God had in mind when he gave us Garrett for such a short time? No. Do I really like the way He's choosing to use me? Not particularly. But I do know that God is Good and there is a deep, deep comfort, a supernatural comfort if you will, in having a Something that is more than simply, "I'm hoping this is going to be okay." I know it will be. Because I know that God is Good.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:1-4

So, there you go. I do things that make me feel happy. I take zoloft. And I can rejoice in my sufferings because I have a hope that goes beyond this moment and this place.

Ben's sermon: Thankfulness

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sometimes You Can't Try Hard Enough...

I was going to make this post about the good activities I do to help me cope with what life has thrown at me this year but I decided that this entire blog is basically about those good activities. Aikido, work, art, graphics, crafting, sewing, photography...these are all hobbies I've focused on as part of the healing process.

I prayed a lot before deciding to write about this. I even talked to my counselor and Mike before doing so and they are both really supportive of the idea. I am going to talk about what I did when everything I've written about before wasn't quite enough. And please, keep in mind, I am only talking about myself in this post. I'm not intending to be an advocate for anything unless it's maybe getting counseling if you're struggling with life.

About two months ago, I started a low dose of the anti-depressant Zoloft. Really, I haven't been depressed which is a little surprising considering how tough this year has been. But I have always struggled with anxiety problems, ever since I was a kid. Those stories can wait but I'm sure I will revisit the topic one day. I had a good stretch without any major issues through most of my 20's but after I had Autumn, I could barely leave the house without anxiety taking over. So, I went on zoloft but without seeing a counselor. I weaned myself off about 6 months later and was mostly fine.

I don't regret the time I spent on Zoloft back in 2007/08. However, in retrospect, I should have gone to a counselor while I was on the medicine because a few months before I got pregnant with Garrett in 2010, I ended up going to the counselor I have now. I pretty much had post-traumatic stress as a result of how traumatic Autumn's birth was and I was terrified to get pregnant again. Seems like a premonition in hindsight, doesn't it? Anyway, my counselor has been fantastic and if you're looking for someone, I highly recommend her. Last year, we talked about me taking something to, as a friend put it, take the edge off but ended up deciding against it for a variety of reasons.

We had a similar conversation in October before I decided to start back on the medication. I seemed to be in a fuzzy area where I didn't absolutely need something, but it might be worth trying, especially with the holidays coming up. In addition to my counselor, I talked to Mike and to Stephan, who works in a rehab facility, and ultimately asked my doctor for a prescription when I went to see her for a lump I found. By the way, I don't have cancer, thank goodness, although it took 3 mammograms and an ultrasound to determine that. Scary stuff.

I cannot tell you how glad I am that I did it. I am only taking 25 mg although I have a prescription for 50. The counselor told me that if I felt well on the 25, there was no reason to bump it up. I don't feel numb, like a lot of people say when they take anti-depressants. And if I did, I'd ask for an adjustment. I am always surprised at what side effects people put up with when they don't have to (I know some medical side effects are unavoidable and preferable to the actual disease but some side effects are completely unnecessary).

What I do feel is...not overwhelmed. I had a ton of things on my to-do list. I was sick for so long and so many things were left by the wayside, from the wreck of my pantry to all of Autumn's clothes that didn't fit still sitting in her drawers. Some days I'd be so overwhelmed by what I had to do that day that I'd just sit on the couch and not be able to do anything. I don't really have days like that anymore. I mean, I accomplish so much and feel like myself again.

Even better? When things in the house aren't perfect? I don't angst about being the WORST WIFE AND MOTHER IN THE WOOOOOOORLD anymore. I can chill out knowing that I'll wash the pots and pans in the morning and right now, I'm just going to snuggle with my family. And occasionally the cat who really likes my electric blanket (I don't care, I just want her to sit with me).

So there you go. I listen to good music; I read good books; I choose to spend time with my good friends and my good family; and I take Zoloft. But this series isn't over yet. :) There's one more thing I wanted to share with you.

(by the way, the images in this post are from a blog called Hyperbole and a Half. She has a good post on depression here but don't click that if you don't like strong language)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Some Serious Weight and Fitness Milestones!

I cannot believe it's been 10 days since I last posted! Time goes by fast. I have been thinking I needed to write. We've been doing a good bit of prep for the holidays. It's all random stuff, too. I mean, we got the tree up and the decorations down from the attic but I've also cleaned up the pantry and the laundry room and I'm almost done with my playroom curtains. I discovered that I am terrible at hanging wreaths on the windows with suction cups but the wreaths are all up and the garland is on the balcony so I guess it doesn't matter how messy it was doing it! Incidentally, growing up, I used to fantasize about having a balcony. How funny is that?

I'm still working on my coping and what not to say series but I thought I'd hop back into blogging with a fitness update.

First of all...I am now (drum roll) 110 pounds!!! Seriously, everyone, that is 11 pounds since September 21. I forgot to get Mike to take a photo of me today and the outfit I usually wear for fitness pics is in the dirty clothes basket but the above photo is from late October...6 pounds heavier than I am now! That photo is at a good angle but you can really see the difference today in my jawline as well as my waistline. This is pretty exciting because, as you know, I've been making an effort not to overdo anything. I don't starve myself and I don't exercise like a fiend. I'm simply trying to find a healthy balance for myself and my family.

As far as my martial arts, I feel like I have hardly missed a beat in my aikido training. I think all the visualization I do when I have downtime or can't sleep is doing a lot of good in that arena, as silly as it sounds. I definitely have some issues with strength but my technique recall, footwork, reaction times, and flows are much the same as they were before. Same thing happened at the seminar I was at a month ago. How amazing is that?

Strength-wise, I have made major headway. I went to Mike's TBS class on Monday. It's not an easy class. I took it pretty easy through it but I was able to do it. A few weeks ago, I couldn't have even done the warmup. I'm teaching 3 kids aikido classes and now that I'm not all sinus-y, I'm back to regular adult aikido classes. Also, check out what throws I did on Saturday at aikido. I did try to do these about 3 weekends ago and I could barely manage the simplest one. The guy went over but it was ugly and I ached around my hernia surgery the next 2 days. This time? No problems! I did stop after a few just to not test my luck. (You can just skip to the middle and see a throw or two. Also, we aren't quite as, um, dramatic as these guys are).

Seriously, I am so encouraged and excited about all of this. I'm now within 5 pounds of my tentative goal. I can wear most of my dresses and jackets now as well as a number of my old shirts. I can still only wear a couple of pairs of pants but I'm getting there! I'm continuing to work on my core strength as well as my stamina. One thing that did NOT go especially well Saturday was randori, or Aikido's version of sparring. I did okay but I was so ridiculously winded. But hey! I'm happy with what I've got so far! Six months ago I would never have thought I'd feel as well as I do at this moment. :) My doctor says that 6 months ago she never thought I'd feel as well as I do at this moment! God is good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mike and I just spent some time talking and being teary-eyed together on this day before Thanksgiving. There are aspects about this holiday I'm sad about...this should have been our first major holiday showing Garrett off, probably in a turkey outfit that matches Autumn's turkey dress but...yeah. At the same time, I have so much to be thankful for: Garrett's legacy which I will write about more later; the fact that I am here, celebrating with my family and friends; my health; Mike; Autumn...the list goes on and on.

Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

And so it is. I'm continuing my list of things that I do to cope...this whole series can also be a list of the things I am thankful for, really, so in honor of Thanksgiving...two groups I give thanks for every day who also happen to be a huge part of what keeps me moving forward.

Good friends
I'm a raging extrovert so this one is an extra big one. I don't know how I would have coped without all the friends who have stood beside me these past months. It's really incredible and I honestly don't know what I did to cultivate such an incredible crop of friendship.

I'm stuck here a little bit because I'm dying to talk and brag about my friends but...I don't think there are any words that can ever express how much I appreciate the calls, notes, nights out, girls' nights, dinners brought over, and just love that friends like Penny, Tamara, Cathy, and our community group (to name a few of well over a dozen) have showered on us. This has also deepened some relationships with people who were once acquaintances, especially in places like Autumn's school and the dojo.

And, you know, all these friends have taught me more about being a good friend. I'm hoping that all the help, hope, and care my friends have showered on us will filter through me and affect the people I'll be supporting and caring for in the future. I'm thankful for that, too.

Good family
Everyone knows how much I love my husband's family. Seriously, I know Mike's mom talks all the time about how crazy they are but I think they really have no idea how crazy ha-ha they are and not crazy OMG-RUN they are! I've soaked up the time with them, especially in the weeks after losing Garrett. While I was pregnant, they took such good care of us--even with Brad and Lainey and P'd decorating our house for Christmas! Lindsay embroidered a bunch of things for Garrett in preparation for his birth and when things fell apart, she is the one who embroidered the blanket for his casket that's now in his shadow box. Lauren brought me a necklace that has Autumn's birthday and Garrett's birthday engraved on it...and, of course, they all cried with us.

My family has been equally impressive through all this. My mom cleaned alongside Mike's mom and sister and my community group while I was in the hospital...she and my sister Valerie held Garrett, along with us and Mike's parents, before we had to give him over to the funeral home. My brother and his wife immediately hopped a plane from Las Vegas to be with us even though they were already coming a month later, around Garrett's due date.

Finally, Mike and it even possible to talk about how thankful I am for them? I am so, so happy to be here with them that I absolutely absorb every moment I get with them. Autumn was born after a difficult year where we lost my dad after he got back on drugs. We prayed that she'd be full of joy and bring light and a smile everywhere she goes and, boy does she do that. And Mike...he's the only person I would want to endure this with.

I really can't brag enough about how blessed I am in the family and friends department. This is only a slice of my experience in the last few months, and really over the years because these friends and family didn't just start being amazing in June when life fell apart. They were amazing before. Anyway, sorry if this post is a little mushier than usual. I'm feeling pretty mushy right now. :) Bittersweetly, as always.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May you be as blessed as I am, in good times and sad.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Survival of the Fittest, of a sort

We're coming into what is undeniably going to be the most difficult time we've had since what would have been Garrett's one month birthday. For whatever reason, maybe because at Christmas we get presents, ha, I'm less interested in Thanksgiving than Christmas. I'd really just like to hole up at home on Thursday and eat a turkey with Mike and Autumn but getting together with family is probably going to be much more therapeutic than I think it will be. It got me thinking about some of the things that I do every day to cope with life and its bumps and valleys and thought I might write about some of them.

Talking to the counselor, it seems like I do a lot of cope-y things naturally--or have learned them from other difficult times of my life--but one advantage to having these appointments is that I've been much more mindful about really taking care of myself. I do little things that help and might sound silly to some people. Like, for whatever reason, our house can have a certain smell after it rains (old house=occasional mustiness) that reminds me of being pregnant and having morning sickness. So, I refilled all the scenty things that Mike's mom hid around our house while I was in the hospital with a fresh linen scent and added a heated scent thingie to the main smell culprit, the hallway. Mike suspects I might be a little crazy but I tell him that since I can't see very well, I have a very powerful sense of smell to compensate. :D Anyway, here are some other things I've been focusing on the last few months that help me/us cope with all the upheaval:

Good music
We generally fill the house with music. Mike and I are pretty eclectic with our tastes, too. Like, you'd probably be surprised that Mike really likes house music. Who'd have thought, right? Things were pretty quiet around here at the beginning of the summer because I just couldn't handle much noise while I was really getting better. Now we listen to a lot of disney music/broadway tunes on pandora when Autumn is awake because that's what she's into right now (for a while it was Kings of Leon and before that it was opera, of all things!) but I have my own pandora and grooveshark lists I listen to while I write or work. The playlists I've made since June aren't quite the same as my pre-June's less hard rock and dance music and more melodic rock, songs that makes me smile, and songs that bring back memories of a time when life was more carefree. Although I do occasionally get in the mood for some energy music. :)

Good books
I've always loved to read. Always. Growing up, it was my escape mechanism from drama at home and what kept me sane during some less-than-ideal school situations. Anyway, a couple years ago I read 100 books in a year as part of a goal. I got it that one time but I doubt I will ever do it again! I had a really hard time reading in the months after we lost Garrett. Some of it was being on pain meds and the fact that everything exhausted me. I kind of got concerned about it and decided if I didn't get the desire to read back sooner than later that I'd consider it a sign of a problem. But, it ended up being okay. Once I got a little healthier, I read a few old favorites that I was able to just pick up and put down easily. Then I moved on to some easy young adult reads to accommodate my short attention span which, looking back, was also a grief thing, I think. I'd be doing something or listening to someone and just drift off and be startled when I kind of snapped back to it. After the series of young adult books, I haven't read a ton of fiction, but for whatever reason, I've been reading the heck out of nonfiction. I'm usually a 2-3 fictions, then a nonfiction reader but I've been finding most of my books in the new nonfiction part of the library. Honestly, I'm just glad to be back to one of my favorite activities.

I have more to say about good friends, good family, good activites, and what happens when all these things are not enough but I think I'll leave it there before this becomes a novel! Until next time!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My first photography job! Kind of.

I'm still fighting off this sinus thing. I really should have gone to the doctor last week but I had no idea it would linger this long. I've been really tired and the things I have queued up to write about need more attention that my tired, medicated self can provide right now! So I guess I will do some project updating. I posted a to-do list a couple weeks ago. I've actually gotten quite a bit of it completed even while not feeling well! As soon as I wrap up cleaning out the pink room and I get the now-painted vent cover hung, I can start making my playroom curtains! This is the fabric I bought. I just need to get some liner because it's a little thinner than I was expecting.

I've found that almost everyone has a hard time imagining this fabric as curtains. I couldn't find someone who made some with this color, but here's an example of lighter blue chevron curtains.

Anyway, that's a future project. One unexpected project that turned out unbelievably well was a little out of the blue. Lainey (Mike's mom) had asked me to make some postcards for her friend Cheri. Cheri is the one who helped decorate our house last year as part of a trade for me to make her daughter some art show invitations and business cards. She also decorates Lainey's house and did the flowers for Donnie and Liz's wedding. I went up to her new shop and took some photos. I don't have a wide angle lens so I couldn't do, say, a whole Christmas tree. So I had to be kind of creative with what I photographed.

The above photo was the best but it looked too much like a dentist office Christmas card, ha! I liked this one, too, but if you look on the right, the light is just so bright. If I used it, I would have gone back and photographed it with the drape over the window, I think. The garland that this is on is gorgeous but so intricate that I think it would have been overwhelming on a postcard.

This is the one we chose to use. I'm secretly glad because when I was taking the picture, I knew I was going to love it. There was another spot I loved but the picture ended up being really, really brown because it was all wood and greenery. This just had pop. I wrote the shop's name in the top corner and tweaked the photo a little to make it look a touch warmer and called it a day.

Here's the little display where I found this lantern. I scrunched myself on a table in the corner by the window to get the angle and shoved the tree back until it sat in the background just right. I know Cheri thought I was crazy.

The postcard was to announce her extended holiday hours and I put all that on the back. I also tried to emphasize that her shop isn't "just" a florist's place.

I guess it turned out well because my mom didn't believe I really did it all myself and Cathy was so excited she gave me a hug, hahaha. How cool is that? I had a really good time doing this postcard and I'm pretty proud of myself!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fitness Update: PANTS Edition

Autumn is not actually sick, it's just that whenever I do a post on not feeling well, I think of this photo. That's at last year's preschool aikido party and she felt so down that she didn't even want cookies! I called P'd to come get her, poor thing. I thought her little feet sticking out were so cute and sad.

ANYWAY, the reason for that flashback is that my fitness week has been sidelined by a sinus infection. I'm really annoyed but it happens. I was supposed to work out at Mike's class on Monday and was pretty much couch-bound all day. Then today I had a meeting with the trainer I was going to try to make but woke up with a cough like a seal's bark so, yeah, I'm taking it easy so I'm in okay shape to teach the kids tomorrow.

On a happy note, I weighed in this week at 113 pounds!! I don't have a solid goal except to fit into my old pants but if I go by what I weighed before I got pregnant, I'm only 8 pounds away from that. Another happy, I fit into my largest pair of pre-pregnancy pants. It's a pair of jeans someone bought me that I hung on to for pre/post pregnancy use because they were a little too big to wear but were really nice, but still! I couldn't even get them over my hips back in September. The pants I did have to buy so I wouldn't have to wear maternity stuff are starting to get baggy. So good news all around! Other than the sinus/coughing stuff, anyway.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

On Finally Getting Things Done!

We moved into our house last July. We knew it would be a project but really had no clue what was in store for us. The day after we signed the contract in late April, there was a record rain in the area and, you guessed it, our house was one of the houses that flooded. Thank heavens that Mike's dad and I had both slogged through the storm to work at the house (it was filllllthy, you just have no idea) so between the two of us, we salvaged the boxes and most of the downstairs. The above photo is what the living room still looked like when we moved in. Actually, I believe Manuel, who worked on most of the house and is amazing, had discovered old water damage on the ceiling and, by the time we moved in, the ceiling had been removed from the living room and the breakfast area so that part of the house was plasticked off.

Autumn "helping" P'd put install new door knobs in the room she has yet to move into.

Incredibly long story short, the house isn't quite done yet although it's all liveable. However, since I got pregnant and roaringly sick in October and then you know the rest of the story, a lot of the house has been in flux and not at all organized. Autumn's in the nursery still but we're trying to get her future room emptied out so we can move her Aunt Lauren's old stuff in there. It's been a staging area ever since mice invaded and ate the boxes we had in the attic and I replaced everything with rubbermaids; seriously, I think this house is built on an ancient graveyard. I've spent the last two weekends sorting baby things that never got used, putting away summer things, separating Autumn's too-small clothes, and deciding what's to go to a garage sale and what's going to be a hand me down to someone. It's a little bittersweet, like many things, but it feels good to be getting Autumn settled in and having things a little more organized.

I'm trying to get a number of projects done before the holidays so I have this big list I am working through. I'm not sure I'm going to get there but I work better if I have goals and set dates for them so I self-police, haha. I've been able to mark a few things off the list.

I made Autumn's Princess Presto (with spelling power!) Halloween costume out of a torn princess dress, a yard of pink fabric (for the flounce and the cape), ribbon, and purple fabric paint. It was pretty fun and she loves it. I've had to wash it twice since I made it!

This one was a long time coming. I saw a cross-stitch with something similar to the picture above and decided Elizabeth (my brother's wife) had to have it because the "I will CUT YOU" thing has been a long-running joke for us. It was only about 9 months late for her birthday. :P I haven't cross-stitched in years so I decided to learn how to photoshop it. I found an image and did some stuff to it (totally technical terms) to give it the cross-stitch look, printed it on linen paper and then framed it. I wanted to give it a more cross-stitchy (also a technical term >.>) frame but couldn't find one and decided not to delay sending any longer than I already had!

Last year, I taught myself how to make silhouettes. I decided to sneak a profile shot of Roxie while Mike was holding her a couple of weeks before my sister Valerie's birthday because I thought she might like one. It really wasn't the best picture for silhouette making.

I made it work, though. I had a seriously hard time with her hair. I told Valerie that if she wanted, I'd do a photo of Roxie against a solid backdrop so I could get the curls in the silhouette in a less solid manner. I also matted the frame with the paper. I had seen someone do a similar thing on one of the design blogs I read. Here's the one I made my mom, Nanny and Lainey last year of Autumn:

Fun stuff! Whenever Mike sees me doing these things he just shakes his head and says he doesn't understand why I think it's fun because it looks tedious. I told him that some of his computer stuff looks tedious to me so I guess it's just a matter of taste!

So, I'm getting things done and it feels good!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Short What Not to Say and Some Fun Halloween Shots!

You should totally sue.

Yeah, I don't think so. Seriously, the only time anyone should say those words is if they are a lawyer who also has intimate knowledge of the situation, they know there was gross negligence, and there's a time to say it that isn't wildly inappropriate (I had someone not a lawyer say this to me while I was in ICU, you know, trying not to die). I do have 2 lawyer friends and one of my best friends is in law school. None of them said a word about suing because there's nothing to sue about.

I'm pretty aggressive (you're shocked, I know). I also research everything. And if I can't research it, I'm asking knowledgeable people for information. I'm just Type A like that--even my trainer jokes about how Type A I am about exercises. If I thought for one second that there was anything weird that went on, anything that the doctor didn't do, or did do to cause all this, you can bet I'd be in a lawyer's office pronto. But I am not. So believe me when I say that there was no negligence.

On a fun note, look at these photos I took! This is the original of the one above. I did some photoshopping to get this nice, spooky look. Seriously, I think I'm going to blow this up and frame it for our halloween decor next year.

I did the same thing to this photo. Here's the original. I took both of them at Autumn's school's halloween event. There's a small graveyard there and I liked the contrast of the pretty princesses against the backdrop of the gravestones. I enjoyed learning some new ways to do photoshop, too. Whenever I'm fiddling with it, Mike always comes by and tells me how irritating he'd find it to work on photos or art. I like it, though. I told him it's probably like how'd I'd find taking apart and repairing computers tedious but he enjoys it!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fitness Update

Well, as promised, I started beginner TRX training! We did some more traditional stuff, too, but I began with pushups, pullups, tricep pulls, and one legged squats using the TRX cables. Jonna is certified and was excited when she heard about the types of skills I need for my various martial arts endeavors because she thought that I'd be a good candidate for that type of training. It turns out that my body hasn't forgotten its alignment and balance so we got to it a lot faster than I expected. It was a lot of fun and I could tell it's going to be good for me. I certainly felt it on Thursday...even the muscles over my clavicle hurt! I didn't even know I had muscles there!

Backing up a little, I got to go to a seminar with the guys from Innovative Martial Arts in Michigan on Sunday. They come down periodically and this is the third time I've had the opportunity to train with them. We did a session on knife combatives as well as gun disarms...I can't remember what that section was officially called because my paper is in my bag in the car. I was just looking at it in aikido today. I had a fantastic time...I worked with one of their students who came with them and he was very patient and worked with me as I moved pretty steadily, not as slowly as I might have thought. I always enjoy working with Chuck, Don, and anyone they bring. I'm glad my friend Chuck Sullivan brought me along back in September of last year! Going on Sunday really reminded me what I am working towards in getting back into shape--other than fitting into my clothes, of course. Even Jonna commented that the seminar had obviously boosted my confidence!

(No kittens were harmed in the course of our studies.)

Last big thing is that next Thursday is the last preschool class for this session. When the next session begins in November, I'll be doing the preschoolers and the k-13 class. I'm pretty excited. So, if you know anyone interested, let me know! I'll post more information later on. I have some pictures but I haven't asked parents if I can post their kids online so I just have the one of Autumn above. I use ribbon twirlers to get them to do the correct motion for the circular blocks, but they also get to have some fun with the twirlers before class. The photo below is of Autumn carrying my suitcase of Aiki goodness to the car. :) She's so helpful.

Oh: My weight is still 116 pounds. Monday I weighed in at 115 but I popped back up to 116 Thursday until today, so sad. But, other than that, it's been a great week for fitness!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I Am the Face of Stillbirth: Day of Remembrance

Today is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

I only recently found out that such a day exists. A couple of weeks ago we got a flyer in the mail about a candlelight ceremony that took place at Baptist Women's Hospital this past Tuesday. It led me to do a little bit a research and I ran across a notice that there was something called a Walk to Remember that took place last Saturday in Collierville.

I contacted the organizer Robin Cross who is with CrossHeart Ministries (incidentally, her husband leads a GriefShare group for which is the same support study that Mike and I are facilitating for our group) to get on their mailing list because I'm interested in getting involved in raising awareness for miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. Penny and I had been talking about attending a walk in Denver but, really, I'd rather do the work here.

Stillbirth and infant loss has been in the back of my mind for some time, although it never crossed my mind that it might happen to me. But we live in Shelby County which has one of the highest (maybe the highest?) infant mortality rate in the nation. Part of the reason is because of the heartbreaking amount of poverty we have in the area. Little or no prenatal care, teens having babies, all around lack of information is a big problem so they began the Healthy Start Initiative to "specifically focusing on reducing racial disparities in perinatal outcomes, such as low birth weight, prematurity, and infant death."

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Many of you may not know that I grew up in the area where they are focusing much of the work and, in fact, my mother had two miscarriage, both somewhat late term, while we lived there. I had assumed that because I no longer lived in poverty, I wouldn't be touched by this particular tragedy. I assumed that because I am healthy, eat healthy, am fit, have an acupuncturist, live in a nice neighborhood, have excellent doctors...I assumed this wasn't going to be my story. Maybe it's arrogant to think such things but there you go. The fact is that sometimes things just happen. I may never know what caused the placental abruption, although the doctors have theories based on after the fact information.

Back to what started all of this, I couldn't go to the candlelight ceremony. I probably won't light a candle in my window like thousands of people will do at 7pm tonight. Not yet. I'm not ready. And that's okay. But for now, what I can do is tell my story. Take away some of the stigma. Open some of the doors that women have closed for centuries around infant loss. And maybe through talking and writing and walking, we can all heal together.

Which brings me to a blog I found...I think I am going to submit my story to it. There's something powerful about Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope. It's where I got the badge I've posted above and the sidebar. I'm hoping that if someone finds my blog, they find some hope, and I think it's neat that someone is out there making that happen on such a large scale. Sometimes just knowing I'm not the only one helps. Seriously, I cried when I looked at the 2000 Faces graphic, representing the 2000 women who lose their babies every day.

At our last GriefShare meeting, one of the discussion questions asked what we wanted our legacy to be as we grieve. I want the people watching me (us) to know that I hurt but that I have hope. And I want them to know where my hope comes from. I'm not sure what that looks like yet other than just living the way we have been living but we'll see.

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” –Louise Erdrich

I remember you, Garrett, today and every day. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Haircuts and Fitness Updates

I got a haircut. A Team Effort haircut. Friday I went to my mom's salon and I didn't realize until I got there that she had scheduled me for right before she was heading out of town. I had a picture and the cut didn't look like it'd be that hard to do so I thought it wouldn't be a big deal. And the cut really didn't take that long but when she was done, it didn't look anything like the picture. I figured, whatever, it looked okay so I went home so she could be on her way.

I decided to practice styling it before heading to Alabama and THANK GOODNESS I did. >.> After washing and drying my hair, I realized that she had given me a shag...I looked like Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett (DON'T JUDGE I READ GO FUG YOURSELF THAT'S HOW I KNOW). Poofy on the top and super, super thin at the bottom. Even better? She had missed a HUGE CHUNK on the side. So after some panicked phone calls because by now my mom was in Missouri, I found out that SuperCuts was still open so I went in and said "just give me a bob." So now I have a bob. And I have gotten compliments on it. All's well that ends well but, jeez, if I had known I was going to get 4 inches cut off, I would have picked a cooler haircut.

ANYWAY. I have midway fitness pics!

But first, let me relate to you a conversation between me and Autumn:

Autumn, after poking my tummy: Mama, your tummy is squishy.
Me: I know, that's why we've been going to the gym a lot lately. I've been exercising.
Autumn, completely deadpan: It's not working.

Le Sigh.

Again, excuse the mess. This mirror is in the pink room which is the staging area for other projects. Like sorting garage sale stuff.

Weight: 116 pounds
Body Fat: 26%

I am not sure why my body fat percentage jumped up...maybe I'm retaining water? I dunno. BUT FOUR POUNDS!!! That's a lot for a short person like me!
I had what I think was my 5th personal training session yesterday and it went great. I've improved across the board with the weight I can handle--I even did a few leg presses at 200 pounds! We are also doing a lot of work on my stabilizers, balance, and body alignment which is fun. I've been expanding my bosu ball routine, one cool thing I did was stand on the flat part of the bosu ball while Jonna and I threw a ball back and forth. She's also introduced me to more kettle bell motions and a couple of new, interesting machines. I will have to take pictures sometime.

It's been encouraging because she says I have good balance, focus, and body alignment, which means I'm not starting from nothing. And my body is remembering what it is supposed to do without much protest. Everything has been so safe and gentle that despite me hurting all over, I haven't had many problems with any of the incisions. So, yay!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

All the Questions a Little Miss Can Ask in the 20 Minutes After She Awakes...

Is baby Garrett still in Heaven?

Can I bring him a blanket because he is cold?

Was I in heaven before I was born?

Where is heaven?

Can we visit?

We still can't skype baby Garrett?

Is God holding baby Garrett?

Can we have another baby?

Can I have a picture of baby Garrett?

Is his marker like my marker and can I put it in the shadow box? (she heard us talking about the grave marker, she's thinking a crayola marker)

Can I show his picture to my teacher?

Can I carry baby Garrett's cloth (a bunny burp cloth that was supposed to be his) to school and show it to my teacher?

Can I sleep with baby Garrett's cloth?

Why can't I visit baby Garrett in Heaven?

Can he come see me?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Helping Out a Little Miss: Separation Anxiety Solutions

Today is supposed to be a fitness post but there's not much to report on that front. I am still 118 pounds although my fat scale tells me I am down to 24% so I guess that's good. The training sessions are going really well but not really blog-able at the moment.

I thought today might be a good day to talk about Autumn and what's been going on with her in the context of losing her little brother because four months ago today, I went to the hospital and tomorrow Garrett would have been four months old.

One of the somewhat unexpected consequences of all this upheaval is that Autumn has suffered some serious, serious separation anxiety. On the day I went to the hospital, I called Penny to ask her to stay with Autumn, told Autumn I'd see her later, and then Autumn didn't see me for 4 or 5 days. When she did, we had to tell her what happened to Garrett and she was completely freaked out by what she still calls The Crazy Bed there at the hospital. It's understandable that she would be struggling to process everything.

After things got kind of normal-ish, whenever we dropped her off at school, the gym, or Sunday school, she went into total meltdown mode. A lot of people chalked it up to a phase but I really didn't think that was it because, well, I just know Autumn and I knew this wasn't "normal" for her. So I did some research into separation anxiety after a parent's illness or a sibling's death and got some ideas.

First, we tried talking to her, reassuring Autumn that we would not leave her and she would see us again. We already did this but we also made extra effort to be super chill about dropping her off anywhere so that she wasn't feeding off of our emotions. That didn't help. Then, we tried a security item. I let her choose one of my necklaces to wear at school so that when she touched it, she would be reminded that we would come back. Autumn chose this one, which someone anonymously sent to me a couple of weeks after I got home from the hospital.

It worked for a little while. She called it her brave girl necklace and never wanted to leave home without it, which I thought was sweet. However, the necklace stopped doing its thing for her sometime after I had hernia surgery and she ended up being mostly at Lainey and P'd's house again because I was having a little more trouble than expected with the recovery.

After a couple of weeks of frustration, and one particularly heartbreaking drop off where I could hear her wailing as I walked to the car in the parking lot, I hit on the best idea ever. She asked for some things this one week, I was trying to think of ways for her to kind of earn them and suddenly, it hit me! I made her a sticker chart. There are four rows with five spaces in each row. At the end of each row is a star. Every time she goes to the gym, school, or church without crying at the door, she can put a sticker in a spot. Originally, it was just going to be school, but she bargained in the other two places. :) Smart kid, huh?

Last Thursday she got her fifth sticker so she got to choose something out of the treasure bucket! The bucket is one that her friend Josh gave her for her birthday. I drew a sign for it and put in four items since there are four rows on the chart.

I didn't want to just put in "stuff" so in addition to the doll she chose last Thursday and the remaining Tinker Bell doll, I put in a ticket to make cupcakes because Autumn read Pinkalicious and has been asking to make pink cupcakes together. I also made a TCBY ticket. She and I rarely go out for ice cream together so I thought it'd be something fun and different for the two of us.

I am an amazing artiste. I have missed my calling, right? Bahaha. Right.

This has worked like a dream. I told my counselor about what's been going on with Autumn and she thought both the necklace and behavior charts were brilliant ideas which really helped ease some of my concerns that I had created a monster, haha. Or that I was solving problems with material goods. But, I've built in a way to ease her off the chart. Once this sheet is filled, she has to fill two rows to get into the treasure box on the next sheet. And then after that, if it hasn't naturally fallen by the wayside, we might do a whole sheet to get something extra special. She's happy.

And I am happy. Also, I need to think of some nice gifts for Autumn's teachers because they have been amazingly patient and kind through all of this trial and error. I am ridiculously thankful to them all. If you're a teacher and have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Session 2 with the Trainer

Weight: 118
Body Fat: 28%

I decided to add in my fat percentage. We have one of those scales that gives weight and fat percentage and since it's one of the recommended brands, it's fairly accurate. I believe, though, that even if the accuracy isn't 100%, it's still valuable for tracking as long as I am always using the same scale.

I lost two pounds, yay! Nothing will happen that quickly again, most likely, haha! I tried eating 1200-1400 calories a day and was pretty miserable all week. The trainer said I can do some more so I am not starving all day long and gave me some recommendations on healthy, filling snacks. It was a good experience trying to keep my calories so low, though. I had to be aware of portion size and I had to make sure that what calories I ate would stick with me. I also starting buying groceries a little differently, much to Mike's dismay. :) Actually, Mike has been ridiculously supportive. He's even started watching his food intake so I am not doing it alone. All in all, there hasn't been much complaining from either of us except that I mope around sometimes like a zombie going "huuuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnngryyyyyyyyyy" and I am watching my white bread in the form of rolls intake. We eat oat bread for sandwiches so I didn't have to make a dramatic switch there.

Anyway, I did a lot of work on machines today. I've never really done anything on machines so it was a whole different experience. Judging from the range of exercises we did today, I believe I'm going to come out of this with quite a bit more upper body strength, which has always been one of my big weaknesses. I'm pretty excited. A lot of my old probleams reared their ugly heads. I don't have great posture (too much computer sitting) and I tend to hold a LOT of tension in my neck. I'm sure, though, that once I'm not so nervous and once I get used to it, that will resolve itself.

We also did some new core exercises. We're really building up gently and in a healthy manner. I liked what she had me doing. Jonna also introduced me to a bosu ball. Mike's parents use one when they trained but I had never done anything with it. This is what it looks like:
BOSU, Rotational Discs and Foam Pads

I did some standing and just alternating my feet. Then once my legs stopped shaking and I got my bearings, I was able to do some side stepping with the ball and also some lunges. Very cool stuff. I think that the bosu ball training will be really good for me. Eventually, once my core is stronger, I'll be able to turn the bosu ball over and use it like a balance board. Cool stuff!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Not to Say to a Grieving Parent: Part 3

You should be more compassionate and forgiving.

I've had a bad week. It seemed like this was the week when insensitive comment after insensitive comment rolled in every day. Most of my friends think I'm too nice when it comes to the harsh remarks people feel the need to share with me. I don't think it's that, though. Mostly I'm either shocked or not entirely certain someone really meant to say or write what they did. I also have a lot of compassion for how awkward the situation can be for some people. Loss, especially loss involving a child, isn't the norm, thank goodness. So I tend to err on the side of assuming that people don't mean to be jerks. Or, when I am feeling less generous, I fall back on Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

So I was shocked when someone close to me berated me for not forgiving people and for holding grudges. What? They said I wasn't forgiving enough and that as I get older, I will be more compassionate. Um. No? I simply have healthy boundaries. I should know! I've seen three different counselors over the past 5 years in order to learn how to set and maintain them! (My regular counselor, the 8 year tuneup guy Mike and I went to a few times late last year, and Stephan who led us through my dad's intervention and aftermath 5 years ago--details because I know you're curious, haha) I can forgive people all day long but it doesn't mean they get to keep special spots in my life. I remember teaching a Sunday school lessons years ago that used a good example. If your friend has a tendency to hit you or be mean, what do you do? Forgive the friend but don't spend any more time alone with them--there was other stuff in there about telling adults and chances but you get what I mean.

Here's the thing, I have a lot to deal with right now. I've lost my little one. Today we had family snuggle time and I was so sad because we are missing one...I'll be learning how to deal with that for the rest of my life, if other women who have been through this are any indication. I'm also learning how to deal with the fact that barring any major medical miracles, we won't have any more biological children. Last night, autumn woke up and wandered into our room asking for baby Garrett and wanting to know if he was still in heaven. She weeps every time I drop her off anywhere and she and I have been working on different ways to help ease her anxiety (I think we hit on one so I might blog that if it continues to work). I don't sleep well anymore. Mike and I still have nightmares and flashbacks...

All that to say...I have a lot to deal with and I reserve the right to take care of myself; now, more than ever. This is easier said that done because, unfortunately, I think this is going to damage my relationship with this person. We have never seen eye to eye on enabling behaviors and setting boundaries. I care very much about them but don't interfere with this person's decisions unless I'm directly asked because I know my answers upset them. I'm not even sure why I am so hurt that they would call me unforgiving and a grudge holder because I shouldn't be shocked. I guess it's just part of the trial of having crazy family. The crazy usually doesn't change and even when we try, there's still so much twisting and turning to unravel from the history of unhealthiness, as Mike said to me when I was in the kitchen wondering why I still care--and why I do exactly the opposite of what this person accused me of: forgive.

Click here for the rest of the What Not to Say series

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Taking the Next Step

Today I met with the trainer I will be working with over the next few weeks. Mike takes a class called TBS at the gym and his instructor highly, highly recommended Jonna Danis. I was able to get an appointment after having a good conversation with her to make sure she was okay with working with someone who'd been through as much as I have.

Today we didn't do a whole lot of exercising. She got my history, took measurements, and did a short fitness assessment. She also showed me how to work on my squats and crunches (on a ball) safely but we didn't count those since my abdominals are pretty much a war zone right now. It was crazy...I have been doing tilts and bridges to ease myself back into movement. When I started to do the first tiny crunch, my upper abs were all WHAT IS THIS I DON'T EVEN. They were shuddering. Despite all that, Jonna was really optimistic about how things are going to go which is exciting because she totally gets that my goals aren't "normal" goals.

One other thing we did today, she looked over my diet which was horrendous because, well, birthday week. Using her suggestions (watching the white bread, potato chips, and sweets), I'm hoping to get my caloric intake down from 1700-1800 calories a day to 1200-1500.

Aaaaand, here's the fun part. :) I am going to post before pictures. And my measurements.

Weight: 121 pounds. I am 4'11" and weighed 105 pounds before I got pregnant with Garrett.

Smallest part of the waist: 29.25"
Waist at the navel: 32"
Hips: 37"
Thigh: 21"
Bicep: 11.5"

I managed 20 pushups from my knees.

My homework is to work on my diet, crunches on the ball, pushups, and squats. I can also try to add some cardio, starting with walking and moving to an alternating walk and run.

Now, pictures.

Tomorrow my kids aikido class starts up again. And I have the adult aikido class Saturday, so all in all, it should be a pretty active week. I'm going to take it slow and listen to my body so no one worry and start sending me lecture emails :) I have doctor approval and everything. I meet with Jonna again on Wednesday so I guess the next fitness post I do will be in a week!