Thursday, June 28, 2012

In Which a Small Adult Gets Kid Vibram FiveFingers

I haven't done a fitness post in a while and this isn't exactly "fitness" but I got a pair of these:

For some people this is like I've stepped over to the dark side! Like many things, Vibram FiveFingers seem to create a pretty wide division between lovers and haters although I am pleased to say that I might be converting a few of the haters! I didn't really expect to become a total fan girl but I think I am! I decided to write about it here partly because I'm excited about the shoes and partly because there aren't many reviews by adults who have had to wear the kid sized VFF's. I didn't get anything for this (although...seriously, I will take your free stuff...).

Although I've wanted a pair since I heard of the shoes not long after they came out, Vibram didn't carry my size for a very long time. I have small feet which makes sense since I am, well, small. I wear about a 4.5 to a 5. Usually a 5 to 5.5 in sports shoes. I checked the site occasionally over the years to see if they had something in my size, but the shoe finder would always come up empty.

When I discovered that the pain in my big toe was the beginning stages of a bunion, I did a ton of research and talking to people I trust and decided I wanted to get a pair of minimalist shoes. It didn't even have to be VFF's although the people who love them really love them. Fortunately, this time around, Vibram had the equivalent of a 5 in my size so I went to Outdoors Inc and tried on the Bikila LS in a 36. They fit well enough that I took them home...only to discover that when I curled my toes, they slipped out. I was soooo sad because these were adorable. But, VFF's are supposed to fit like a glove so it makes sense that I'd need a smaller size.

During all this research and trying on of shoes, I found out that Vibram started carrying a kid sized sport shoes this Spring. Before, they had a couple of kinds of casual kid shoes but I really wanted something to work out in, not to tool around in. No one in town carries the smaller sized Vibrams so I bit the bullet and ordered a size 34 (also, sales are good...there seems to be a lot of VFF sales). They fit really well, not exactly as tightly as some people have claimed in reviews but I may not have trouble getting my toes in because I have logged lots of barefoot time already in martial arts. And unless these stretch a lot, I don't think I could go down a size because two of my toes touch the top of the shoe. But, I wanted to really try them out to make sure that these kid shoes can withstand adult use.

I seriously love these shoes now that I have worn them in a variety of situations. On days when I'm in work out clothes all day, I wear them running errands. I put them through the gym gamut, doing machines, bosu ball work, and kettlebell routines. They have done well in TBS, one of the weight/cardio classes I go to at the local gym. The only thing that felt odd was the lateral step drill because the seams in the toes felt weird and rubbed wrong but I may just need to get used to that. And, besides, as Chuck the Acupuncturist says, lateral motion isn't a natural motion anyway.

The company recommends building up to using VFF's over time. That's probably true for most people but I didn't have much trouble transitioning since I do so much barefoot anyway. I did have a little bit of top of foot pain at the beginning but I have had that with regular shoes anyway. Someone stomped on my left foot a long time ago and it bruised really badly. I kind of wonder now if it had been fractured or something but who knows. I also get a little bit of ball of foot pain on that same foot from time to time and it will be interesting to see if that goes away eventually.

I've noticed that the foot with the baby bunion doesn't hurt any more. I don't know if it has to do with the shoes or something else I'm doing, but the shoes are the biggest change I have made so that's where the credit is going!

One thing I wondered about was general acceptance. Friends seem pretty evenly split between "I can't look at your feet" and "your shoes are so cute!" Mike hates them but it seems to lessen as it becomes apparent that I'm not going to morph into anything weird, haha. Strangers don't seem to care while I'm out and about but I also tend to go from place to place like I'm way focused on where I'm heading so I might have missed awkward stares. I wouldn't have even thought about it if I lived somewhere like Colorado where everyone wears them. But Memphis? I know 4 people who wear VFF's. Three are kali practitioners (one of the arts I trained regularly before I got sick) and one is a teacher at Autumn's school. Oh, and I saw some guy wearing them at church. So Memphis isn't exactly a barefoot shoes haven!

As far as the future, I can't see myself moving away from minimalist workout shoes unless my feet start really protesting or I get the dreaded Vibram Stink. But, I throw them in the washing machine and air dry them once a week (cool, huh?) so maybe that will stave it off. I'm also a little concerned about winter wear. I'll definitely have to get some socks which will be really ugly but I get cold easily. But maybe it won't be so bad. It was like 107 degrees according to some sign I saw today and I walked on a lot of hot asphalt with no trouble. And that's kind of amazing since these soles are so thin and flexible that I can feel when I step on a piece of gum or get a bit of twig in a groove! So maybe it will insulate as well against cold? WE SHALL SEE.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

More FF2A Fundraising and Our Profile Video!

It was so funny...Lainey went through the bank drive through with Autumn today and Autumn goes, "Lainey, are you going to adopt a new baby, too?" I was a little baffled at the connection but Lainey said it's because of the flip flop fundraising money I deposited over the last few weeks, hahaha. Funny girl.

Well, the Flip Flop 2 Adopt fundraiser was awesome and, seriously, the flip flops were more adorable in person than the literature let on. A number of people have mentioned wanting to buy a pair or two after seeing a friend's and everyone is in luck! The FF2A folks have just launched a new program where you can buy anything on their site and 10% of all sales will go towards our adoption by clicking this link or the FF2A picture in our right sidebar. In the shopping cart under fundraising group, choose Sh. Colley Adoption and then check out like normal!

The percentage is less than the percentage we received during the two week sale but there is a far greater range of items and prices available on Flip Flop 2 Adopt site. Plus the items ship straight to you so there won't be the wait for me to distribute the items.

So to recap:
1. Click here.
2. Shop.
3. In the shopping cart, choose the fundraising group Sh. Colley Adoption.
4. Checkout.
5. Enjoy your items!

Let me know if you have any other questions!

And, one more adoption related thing. I finished what might be our adoption video! I say might because our social worker has not seen it yet and she may recommend some changes. Let me know what you think, too, because I won't send it in until Monday. I have it unlisted for now but once it's finalized I'll make it searchable on YouTube. The video will be posted on the Bethany site along with our Dear Expectant Parent letter (I'll post that here sometime soon) and two other photos of our family.

Making the video and watching it was ridiculously bittersweet for Mike and me. Partly because of all the "should have beens" and partly because, holy cow, Autumn has grown up so much! I did a lot of praying before and during the editing of this video. I'm hoping I did a decent job of listening to any supernatural prompts. I tried to choose happy video clips and photos of us in a variety of situations. Finding the right Creative Commons music was tough but I like the track we ended up with--easy to listen to and kind of soothing. But, you tell me! Actually, tell me if you think the video needs captions, too!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A 'What to Do Clip' from Glamour

Today I was going to do a post about my AWESOME NEW SHOES which sounds really silly but I promise it's not too silly, hahaha. But it's been so crazy that I haven't had a chance to take any photos or sit at the computer much.

But, before I forget, I thought I'd post this little magazine clip. The Faces of Loss Facebook group posted this scan from a recent Glamour and I thought it would fit in well with the What Not to Say Series, which I just noticed I never finished. There are also a couple of nice "do" tips that many of my sweet friends did and still do today. This clip is about miscarriage but it really covers any kind of loss from stillbirth/early infant loss to other losses through death--which by the way, I clarify because there are many, many types of loss. Any kind of loss of expectations is a loss that can often be like a death.

I think I've made the point in the past to avoid the phrase "I would just" and someone in the comments of this post on Facebook made the excellent point that "at least it was..." is also a bad choice. "I'm sorry you lost your diamond ring but at least it wasn't your diamond tiara!" I mean, really. Here's the clip:

From Glamour. Click to embiggen.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day Treat

First, thank you all for last week. What an amazing eight days! I learned so much about God's comfort and about how grief touches those around us. I am also pleased that after writing so much about what not to say, that I can showcase so many who do know what to say and, more importantly, do.

 "The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." -John Wooden

We all know by now, I think, that I am crazy blessed in the dad department. Mike is a wonderful papa who loves his little miss and who grieves honorably and openly for his son. Mike's dad is everything a dad should be, a living embodiment of Matthew 7:11: "So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him." Seriously, I think of that verse all the time when I am with Mike's dad. I also have Boppa, Mike's grandfather, Stephan who is more than a boss and aikido teacher, and numerous others who have stepped in as a father in many ways. And, although he struggled a lot throughout his life, I do have lessons I have learned from my dad who passed away 6 years ago as well as some warm memories.

I never know what to get my moms and dads for mother's day and father's day because, for one, how do you get something meaningful for such great people and for two, I am a terrible gift giver! You know how there are people who seem to give just the right thing? Yeah, that's not me! Maybe once in a while I can but I just don't shop well or often. But it is a little easier these days because I can do things like get Autumn to paint pictures and make things and that's fun for me and for them. 

This year, Autumn did her paint thing and we also made the most amazing homemade twix bars!  Mike isn't a huge sweet eater (P'd looooves chocolate) but he does really like Twix bars. So do I, but that's no surprise. I just like sweets. And, really how could anything with all THIS in it NOT be good??

Now, I meant to post this in time for the printable to be available for you if you wanted it but I'll have it ready for next year, assuming people are still reading here then, haha. Here's the printable I put on the jars:

I'll tweak it a bit before making it available but it turned out pretty cute!

We made hearts but I think if I did it again, I'd do smaller squares. Not that Mike or P'd cared...that jar was full of deliciousness! The recipe is in the link above. I'm not going to repost the process but it was quite simple to do. Autumn helped so I think if I were doing it on my own, it would have been even easier.

We ended up piping Nutella into half of the caramel/pretzel channels and Cookie Butter into the other half. So good. I liked the Nutella ones the best but Mike said he liked them both equally because the Cookie Butter had a small spicy kick.

Once they were dipped (which I am absolutely wretched at--too impatient, I think), I sprinkled the Nutella ones with a few blue sprinkles to make sure they stood out. I decided to save some time by using the Baker's melting chocolate in the disposable bowl and it was still good. Next time I might try the Ghiradelli chocolate I normally use.

After the chocolate set, I had to tried one. Mmmm, oooey, gooey chocolately goodness.

These are dangerous! And delicious! Dangerously delicious!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One Year Later, the Guest Posts: Elyse

Thank you all so much for celebrating the large ripples Garrett's short life left in the world with us this week. Every post from a friend, every comment, every person telling us they are reading has been an encouragement and a little bit of joy for us.

Today for our last guest post, we have our friend and community group member Elyse. We joined our group a little over two years ago but our friends in the group are so dear to us that I can barely remember what life was like before them! Actually, I can tell you a little. If you follow this link, you can see an article that we wrote for the church bulletin just weeks before we lost Garrett. I've often thought I should do a follow up because our group supported us in so many ways last year that I don't think there's anything that can express my thanks or even begin to repay them. So I try to feed them a lot and hope that goes a little way. :)

Elyse's contribution is extra special, too, because she has had her own struggles with loss through death in the last two years. I think we both found a lot of healing in the group's journey through GriefShare so I am glad we were able to do that together. Too, this is another post that tells me things I didn't know. I never even imagined until this moment what it must have been like for my friends to return their baby things. All I wanted was for the things to be used by some other baby somewhere so I gave them back. It really is a reminder that we aren't the only ones who hurt.

Elyse, thank you for being our friend and thank you for having great kids who are so fun to be around. And for putting up with Mike's foolishness, haha.
Rob and Elyse at our Christmas gathering. I think this is the picture in our adoption book!

*     *     *

Several memories flash through my mind as I reminisce about last year:  Celebrating Sharaze’s baby shower with the community group girls the night before Garrett’s passing; crying with my husband after receiving the horrible news the next day; watching Mike tenderly play with Sharaze’s hair in the hospital room while they recalled the past day; staring at the small coffin in a sea of little graves at the cemetery; returning baby clothes and being asked by the cashier if anything was wrong with them; holding back tears I quickly said “No”, but my insides screamed, “Everything is wrong with this!  This shouldn’t be happening!”   

 In processing Garrett’s death, along with other losses in my life, I had to let go of my idea of “perfect”.  Death happens our plans are altered forever; the way we thought life would be is now impossible.  Death does this.  There is no reversing death.  When someone dies, they are gone from this life; a movement that cannot be undone.  We do not have control.

It is hard losing people who were a part of our life plan, because it means losing every hope we had of sharing life with them.  This became clearer to me with Garrett’s passing.  I didn’t realize how many hopes I had for that little boy.  I want to hold him, know him, see him play with my kids, and see Autumn dote on him.  Mike and Sharaze are great parents and their family would be so perfect with a new addition.  Our kids would get to grow up together; our community group family would be expanding.  But instead the worst happened.

I would not consider this a perfect plan.  This seems the opposite of perfect.  However, I had to learn that I do not know best.  There is a much better Plan-Maker.  As we learn from the story of Joseph in the Bible, who endured years of hardship, God has a plan. THE perfect plan.  He does not waste pain.  In fact, “our own tragedies can be a very bad chapter in a very good book.  The terror of randomness is enveloped by the mysterious purposes of God.  In the end, life turns out to be good, although the journey to get there may be circuitous and difficult” (A Grace Disguised, Sittser).   So my mind opens to new possibilities; a different future than what I had planned, like learning a new way to live as an amputee.

In watching Mike and Sharaze over this past year I have been impressed and encouraged with how they have chosen to respond to their loss.  It would have been very easy (and understandable) for them to become bitter and hard-hearted towards God for what happened.  However, they chose the opposite.  From early on they would quote Romans 8:28, “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  We don’t have control of who we will lose and when, but we do control how we respond to our losses.  It is normal and healthy to go through the emotions of anger, self-pity, depression, but we must not get stuck there or our life is lost along with our loved one.

I thank God for our friendship with the Colleys and the chance to grow with them through this experience.  In the midst of all the unanswered questions, moments of despair, and gut wrenching pain, some might wonder how we can still have faith in God and hope in Jesus.  As I’ve heard the Colleys say, “How can we not?”  Death is a part of life, but this life is not the end.  However, death will have an end, it is not eternal. One day, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One Year Later, the Guest Posts: Donnie and Liz

This post is going up late, my apologies. Today was an epic day beginning with flip flop deliveries through storm-torn neighborhoods and ending with teaching some aikido. Craziness!

Today's post is a collaboration between my brother Donnie and his wife Liz. It's a cool thing to count a sibling and his wife among your closest friends. Hardly an event has gone by in the last decade, even since they moved to Vegas almost two years ago, that Donnie and Liz don't feature prominently. Although Donnie and I had some friction growing up because of it, our similar personalities and interests are a neat link now that we're adults. Except, his photos are about a million times better than mine. Seriously, check out his photostream. Right now it's mostly cars but that link will take you to a really pretty photo.

So much of the week that Garrett died is a blur to me because of morphine and trauma that posts like this one and Tamara's are absolutely fascinating because I either don't remember or didn't know some of this. I know that when I heard they were coming, I was so glad Donnie and Liz could come because, well, we just wanted them here, but in my garbled state at the time I thought that it was a long trip to make for a funeral. I think it was because they already had tickets to come in July after Garrett's due date so, like Christine's visit, it wasn't one easily made with juggling work and tickets and emotions. Like I said, I was glad they did. It was nice just to have them around. Like comfort food except people, except not as weird and cannibalistic sounding!

Donnie and Liz, you guys are a blessing. Thanks for being with us in the little things like D3 and the big things like this.

*     *     *

When we received the phone call:
Getting a phone call from Mike is out of the ordinary. Our reaction to the question "Who is calling?" was "OH! It's Mike!!" Unfortunately, this phone call was one we'll never forget. As Mike took a shaky breath, he whispered “We lost Garrett…” Which is not what we were ever expecting. Hearing that, our hearts sank and could only muster "What?" to the news we'd just received... Mike briefly explained what had happened in the last few hours.  We expressed the one thing going though our minds after Mike took a short breath, “We are so sorry…is Sharaze okay?!” Mike was not able to properly convince us that she was, but did say he would keep us updated.  All we could think to tell Mike was, “Let us know if there’s anything we can do, we’re praying for you, we love you guys…”  When the call ended, that’s when we broke down and we felt so helpless. It did not feel right being so far from home...we immediately started looking at flights, tried to gather our thoughts and see if there was anything we could do until we got there. Donnie called Mr. Colley, Mike’s Dad, for updates. Being productive at work up until we left was impossible.  We watched the phone, waited for Mr. Colley to text or call...truthfully, up to the time we left nothing made sense.

Fast forward to arriving in Memphis:
We headed straight to the hospital. Seeing Sharaze in the hospital bed, her skin a shade of color we'd never seen, we felt as if there was nothing anyone could say to us that would convey the last few days. There is no way to describe our realization that life can change so quickly and without warning. As the next few days were a blur of hospital visits, Sharaze’s color seemed to improve. She was released from the hospital on Friday and the memorial service was held Saturday morning at Memorial Park. Being there with people we knew and some we'd never met before, it was amazing to see all the people who love and support Mike, Sharaze, and Autumn. The pastor did a fantastic job and we were able to celebrate Garrett's life. 

The past year and future:
We struggle to find words to explain how broken our heart is to know Mike, Sharaze and Autumn lost Garrett. “How/Why could this have happened? Of course, we’ll never be able to answer the many questions that race through our minds. We are sad we did not get to meet our nephew Garrett but ultimately, we are grateful that Sharaze is here with us.  We'll always love and cherish Mike, Sharaze, Autumn, and Garrett.


Always on our minds
Although we've never met you
We know we love you

Always in our thoughts
Your memory we treasure
The rest of our lives

-Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Donnie

Monday, June 11, 2012

One Year Later, the Guest Posts: Christine

A year ago today, we buried Garrett. I thought the day of the funeral that I'd be kind of okay. I wouldn't weep all over everyone. The funeral director was a woman who had lost a baby just the year before and that helped. But not enough. I saw the little casket with Cheri's beautiful flowers and the blanket Lindsay embroidered, which I vaguely wish I had a photo of, and lost it. All I could think of was how terrible it must have been for Lindsay to sew Garrett's name and birth date, knowing the blanket wouldn't ever hold him. Our friends were so kind...quite a few more people arrived than I ever expected: Mike's coworkers, people from Autumn's school, her Sunday School teacher, Manuel, martial arts friends, Mike's aunt and uncle from Alabama. I thought it'd be just some close friends and a few family members so I was amazed. And the service that Mo, the children's pastor at our church, presented was so beautiful. Even more beautiful? He cried during a good bit of the service and I don't think he'll ever know how much that touched us.

Christine has been one of my best friends for many years and I've been holding on to her contribution to post along with my remembrance of the funeral because it seemed right. I got to visit her and her family in April at Pascha, the Greek Orthodox Easter, and I enjoyed being with them to celebrate new life because for some time it seemed like we only saw each other to hold each other up in hard times. 

I felt relief and joy when I heard Christine was coming to be here, even if it was only for a night, and I will always be thankful to her friend Angie for driving with her all the way from South Carolina. Any time Christine comes, be it when we lost Garrett or when we lost my dad, I know it is at great sacrifice because she works and her husband has to adjust his own work schedule in order to care for their 7 (almost 8) children. It meant a lot. And it meant that in the afternoon and late into the night, we had someone to talk to, someone who could talk to visitors when we were still spacing out occasionally, and someone who hadn't already been fielding questions and phone calls so we didn't have to feel guilty about it.

Thank you for the years, Christine. And thank you for the post. Your "nothing" is actually quite a lot. And I'm glad you keep calling me. I still vote for the name Violet for your little girl. 

Christine, Christine, and me in 2006!! It seems forever ago but just yesterday at the same time!
 *     *     *

When Israel passed on foot over the sea, as if it was dry land, and they beheld their pursuer Pharaoh drowning in the sea, they cried aloud unto God,Let us sing a song of victory!

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Your infant Garrett Michael, who is fallen asleep.

I haven’t anything to say.

O Word of God Who did impoverish Yourself in the flesh and, without change, was well-pleased to become a child: Join the child whom You have received, we pray, to the bosom of Abraham.

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Your infant Garrett Michael, who is fallen asleep.

Sharaze has talked about what not to say to grieving parents, and though I’ve tried hard I know I haven’t been perfect. She knows me well enough to take my intentions over my actual words, thank God.
Now I’m trying to write something for Garrett’s birthday, and I have nothing.

You Who did exist before all the ages was seen as a child, and, as You are good, You did promise Your Kingdom unto children. Number there the child here present.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

So I’m relying on an Orthodox Canon sung for an infant’s death, in Tone 8. I am new enough to Orthodoxy that I couldn’t tell how “Tone 8” goes if my life depended on it.
What I have learned, however, is the comfort of a “pre-written prayer” for certain situations.

You have accepted this undefiled child, O Christ the Savior, before he had been tempted by earthly sweetness, counting him worthy of eternal good things, as the Lover of Mankind.

Now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

My own prayers are bitter and confused.
This doesn’t make sense. It isn’t fair.
A child’s whine, I know.
It’s been many years since I expected life to be fair. A few less years since I’ve learned to be grateful for that very lack of fairness…especially here in America.
Right now that doesn’t make me feel better.
My friends are hurting, bereft of someone precious, a child they loved, and it doesn’t make sense. It makes me feel angry.
It makes me feel guilty.

O You who ineffably did bear the Wisdom and Word of the Father, heal the cruel wound of my soul, and appease the affliction of my heart.

I suffer from a form of “survivors’ guilt.” This August, my eighth child is due.

And there is no doubt in my mind that I don’t deserve her. In no way am I better than Sharaze. In no way do we provide a more stable, loving home. We do our best and we love our kids and each other etc….but better?

This isn’t a self-esteem issue.
I don’t regret having all these kids in any way. When strangers call me crazy, stupid, or irresponsible I am unfazed, and usually have a snarky comeback of my own.
But when talking to my best friend, or other friends and family who are having their own issues with infertility, loss, and sickness, my face grows hot with shame, my voice stutters, and I usually say something stupid and self-centered ‘cause that’s just how I deal with those kind of feelings.

Sometimes I want to “fix” it. Well, since my womb works pretty well I’ll just loan it out! I feel like I “owe” those who can’t have children as easily as I do. Womb time, or an egg or two, or God forbid, my advice.

Much of the time I feel like I owe it to them to stay away, to not call them, to not ask them how they are doing. To not talk about my kids, or my pregnancy, and especially to not share my own struggles. No mentioning any money problems, marital disagreements, or anything that might make someone think, “I deserve kids more than she does.”

There is none so holy as You, O Lord my God, who have exalted the power of Your faithful, O Blessed One, and have established upon the rock of Your confession.

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Your infant Garrett Michael, who is fallen asleep.

Sometimes I am afraid. If Mike and Sharaze can lose a child, so can I. Why haven’t I?
I’ve had it too good. “Life isn’t fair” doesn’t imply that it will always be good to me.
I am not willing to sacrifice my child just so that I can “relate.” I clutch them tighter, knowing that I am living in a moment of grace, surrounded by grieving friends and knowing that I am not special.

O Most-perfect Word, Who did reveal Yourself as a perfect Child: You have taken unto Yourself a child imperfect in growth. Give him rest with all the Righteous who have been well-pleasing unto You, O Only Lover of Mankind.

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Your infant Garrett Michael, who is fallen asleep.

I’ll never forget that tiny white casket. I ache over Autumn’s innocent grief. A year later I still cry when I remember Mike’s call to me that Sunday morning, and Sharaze’s tight grip when I hugged her at the funeral.
I’ll never understand.
That’s okay.
Death is a tragedy, an unnatural separation of what was a created to be one, the soul and the body.
Death has been defeated; it is temporary.
Jesus didn’t stay dead and because of that, neither will Garrett.
Neither will Sharaze or Mike or Autumn or I or my kids or anyone else who accepts God’s gift.

I’m angry and sad over Garrett’s death and thankful and joyful when I think of his and our salvation. Someday Mike and Sharaze and Autumn and the rest of his family will all be together again and I am so excited for that. So I pray the prayers that remind me that God isn’t fair, He is Love, and I try to love because that’s the only thing useful in this situation, or any, for that matter.

Make this most-pure child whom You have been well-pleased to take unto Yourself, O Savior, a partaker of the heavenly chambers, of radiant repose, and of the most-sacred Choir of the Saints, O Lord.

Now and ever and unto ages of ages.  Amen.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

One Year Later, The Guest Posts: Eric

I'm so glad that Eric chose to contribute a piece for the blog. We've all heard the stereotypes about men not grieving and men stuffing pain. I haven't found this to be the case with many of the men I know, but we all know how true stereotypes are, right? Because you know, I'm totally a wilting lily who needs to be rescued, haha. (/s this is my sarcasm tag in case no one caught that, lol). What I have noticed, though, is there isn't a ton of daddy blogging or support groups specifically targeting men. I know they are out there. And I know a lot of the infant/child loss groups are becoming more male-friendly which I am glad of. We were also blessed to be a part of GriefShare with our community group which covered many kinds of loss as a result of death, over many age groups, and both genders. It was a little hokey at times (we had a running joke where we'd guess the location they'd be green screened in every session) but, as the pastor who recommended it said, hokey might not be a bad thing when dealing with such serious subjects.

But back to Eric, another reason this is a special entry is this is my friend Cathy's husband. All my memories of last June are fuzzy and out of order but I remember being so thankful to Eric, Frank, Rob, and Brad for being there to help keep Mike together while I was falling apart. And before that, Eric was in our wedding ALMOST A DECADE AGO, how crazy is that? Over the years, Eric and Cathy haven't just been our friends, but they really mentored my brother and his wife from the time they met which I appreciate so much. And Eric and I have often commiserated about what it's like to be the social people and always the ones making plans. I've always thought that one reason we made such good couple friends with Eric and Cathy is that Cathy and Mike are as alike in personality as much as Eric and I are alike. Thank you, Eric, for this and for many years of being our friend (and for putting up with Mike's aversion to leaving the house, ha).

May 2010, Autumn's Mickey Luau: The picture I put in our adoption profile book.

*     *     *

Ever had one of those times where you are in a group and everyone is talking about their worst _____? On occasion, I hear this question asked with many different things following the word "worst," but the worst thing that I want to tell you about is my worst weekend ever, and how God miraculously appeared in this weekend to bring peace to those of us who needed it. This weekend contained 2 deaths that left my wife and I with such grief that we still talk about it to this day. For this post, I will only be writing about the death of Garrett Michael Colley and the certainty that one day I will get to meet him.

I barely remember what was going on that day, but I do remember picking up my phone and seeing that there was a message from Mike. Normally, when Mike calls, I look forward to the humorous verbal beating that I get whenever he leaves a message, but when I heard his voice I knew that something was horribly wrong. My mind was racing ahead of his words and all that I wanted to hear was “Sharaze and Garrett are doing okay...”, but instead what I heard was “Sharaze is recovering, but we lost Garrett.” The knot in my throat almost kept me from getting Mike’s message out to my wife, Cathy, but once it was out we both just stared at each other with absent looks on our faces. The news was absolutely crushing and weighed on both of us heavily.

Later on, my thoughts shifted to Mike. As men, when we hear the news that we are going to have a son, for some of us, we automatically begin picturing all of the things that we did as a child and we imagine our sons doing to the same thing. We think about all of the things that we want to do together that dads and sons usually do. Essentially, we live out our sons’ childhoods in our minds before they are even born, and we continue to do this even after they are born. I think about these things with my own son. I started wondering what Mike must have been thinking and feeling and it was almost unbearable. Knowing that Mike would never be able to have a relationship with his son on this Earth was, and still is, heartbreaking. That’s when I questioned how God was working in all of this, and how He could allow this to happen to my friends. I didn’t have to wonder very long, though because when Cathy and I arrived at the hospital to comfort and empathize and pray, God was way ahead of us (as he always is). We could see Him right there in the room when we walked in.

Now, I’m not saying He was sitting over in a chair off to the side on His iPad, nor am I saying that I physically saw him there with his arms around my friends, instead what I am trying to convey is that he was working in the hearts of both Mike and Sharaze and there was such a peace in their room that it was difficult to comprehend! Cathy and I fully expected to go into a room that felt heavy and full of sorrow, but instead we walked into a room full of peace and mercy. Sure there was sorrow as well, but a hopeful sorrow, if that even makes sense. They both proceeded to tell us about all that had happened and that God was working in the lives of every single person that came into that room, and He was working through them to reach staff members and touch their lives in some way. I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared to see God working in their lives in such a profound, unmistakable way through what we saw as a tragedy. He didn’t just allow this to happen and observe from a great distance, He was there, sharing in their pain and sorrow and holding them in His arms all the way through it. He never left their side. This reminded me that we serve a God that loves us through all of our pain and suffering and promises us peace and restoration after the pain has subsided.

Why did God allow this to happen? I don’t have a clue. I’m beyond asking questions like this, for I wouldn’t attempt to relay God’s thoughts to anyone. However, these are the things that I am certain of:

1. God knows what we need exactly when we need it.
2. He is always faithful to HIs Word.
3. He restores us after horrible tragedies.

The Mike and Sharaze that I see now are not the same two people that I knew before Garrett’s birth and death. Instead, I see two people that God has restored to a place beyond where they were spiritually into a new place where their faith is greater than before.

And the irony of this whole weekend? Not only will it be remembered as my worst weekend on record, I’ll also remember it as a weekend where I was able to see God clearly loving and caring for His children in the midst of their loss. I know all of us are anxious to meet Garrett and eager to know him, but I can’t help but wonder if he’s anxiously awaiting the arrival of all of us, too. So here’s to the day when Mike and Sharaze will arrive at their final destination to be greated by their Lord... and I’m personally praying that God will allow Garrett to be standing right by Jesus’s side for their greeting with 2 words: “Welcome Home.”

Saturday, June 9, 2012

In which we almost set the cemetery on fire...

I had it all planned out. A few friends would get together at the cemetery, we'd take some photos of ourselves gently launching the wonderful sky lantern Penny got us, we'd pray, and then we'd go get ice cream. I'd go home, post a photo and my friend Christine's contribution to the blog, and it would be lovely.

What is it they say about the plans of mice and men?

It was a little windy so there was some discussion about whether or not we should do the lantern. Of course, we decided to give it a try because it'd either be really cool or high comedy. We should have known it was going to be high comedy when it took this many matches to light it!

Frank is the one who finally lit the fuel patch. I lit the paper they had wrapped around the fuel but that just fell off and had to be stomped out. In my defense, I thought that paper was, like, kindling or something. And maybe it is when it isn't windy? I dunno.

It started out really well but then Mike started looking at this big tree in the distance and wondering if the lantern could get enough height before it got caught in the limbs and we became a 6 o'clock news story. So he, Emily, Penny and Frank walked it over some. Looking pretty good, huh?


So Mike batted it out of the air and he and Frank, again, stomped out the fire.

And then we prayed and went to get ice cream. No sky lantern. But also no conflagration, as Mike so eloquently phrased it.

All in all, I can't complain. We had some of the friends who have really been there for us all together, we got to laugh, and Mike prayed a wonderful prayer of thankfulness for our friends and for how many people Garrett's short life has touched.

And, I'll thank you all, too, for walking this journey with us. I had an interesting conversation with a friend about how someone who doesn't know us thought it was odd but cool that we've grieved pretty openly this year and are commemorating Garrett's life today at the cemetery and this week on the blog. But, you know, although I do hope that Mike and I have grieved well, I think we're doing more than grieving. We're celebrating that I'm alive. We're thanking God for our support network. We're getting to hear our friends' stories as part of the guest post series. We're marveling at what God has done in our lives and the lives of people around us--even some people we don't even know! Thank you for reading and for praying with and for us. I hope that our story touches your life somehow because Mike and I are beyond amazed at how many of you have touched us this past year.

Tomorrow we will return to our scheduled guest posts!

Friday, June 8, 2012

One Year Later, the Guest Posts: Penny

If you did a search for the name Penny on this blog, I am certain she'd have more results than almost any other person you can think to search for because barely a week goes by when we don't see each other. Anyone who can count Penny as a friend is incredibly blessed because they have someone who will always, always be there supporting, cheering and fighting for them. To tell you how "there" she's been for us: Penny is the person I called to stay with Autumn when I went to the hospital last year. I thought I'd only be there a couple hours but Penny ended up being with Autumn for over 7 hours and then immediately came to the hospital to check on us in person after Mike's parents took Autumn to their house.

Penny is Autumn's aunt and my sister, not by blood but certainly by love. Blood runs thicker than water? I don't think so. Not with Penny. She even calls my mom her "Filipino Mom" and tells people she's part filipina. Penny, it's hard to do anything for you because you're so busy doing things for us so let me say thank you here in a very public way. I am so happy you walked into the dojo and into my life back way back in 2004.

Penny and Autumn at Jerry's on June 4, 2011.

*     *     *
My year since Baby Garrett came into this world has been life changing. I have seen two people I love (Sharaze and Mike) go through a loss so deep but somehow manage to find strength and courage daily. They have helped me grow as a Christian by showing me how strong Faith can truly be. I am honored to call both of them my friend. I feel such a privilege to be part of their lives.

Autumn has shown such strength and has become such a big girl. I love it when she talks about her baby brother. She is always so sensitive and sincere. I know she will always hold a special place in her heart for Baby Garrett.

Baby G (what I like to call him) will forever be part of my life. I love him so much and miss him all the time. I often think about what he might look like today. I know he is in a special place in Heaven (only babies could be). One day I will meet him and it will be nice to hear him call me Aunt Penny.

Baby Garrett

One day we will all finally see,
Why your life was was so short and now you are free,

You are missed in so many ways each and every day,
There are no words to describe what we really want to say,

As we pass a pinwheel, we can feel secure,
Knowing God has you in His arms and is keeping you pure

Thursday, June 7, 2012

One Year Later, The Guest Posts: Cathy

Next in our guest post series, we have my friend Cathy or, as Autumn says, Aunt Caffey. We have known each other for, gosh, 14 years now? It's pretty incredible how quickly time goes by...we met when we were pretty much kids and now Cathy teaches Autumn in her pre-k class. I cried a little when I read what Cathy wrote because she also encourages me as I watch her become a warrior for her son. I love that we have been able to support each other through years of happiness and trials--some of which go hand in hand. Thank you, Cathy.

*    *    *

When Sharaze asked me if I wanted to add anything to her incredible blog, I immediately thought back to the time in my life when precious Garrett entered the world. My husband and I had just learned that our son was diagnosed with Autism and I felt like my little world had crashed in from all sides.

When we got the call from Mike that Sharaze was in critical condition and that Garrett had passed away I wondered how something so horrible could happen. I have to admit I was already asking God a lot of “why” questions, and that took the cake. I didn’t know how to face them, and I had no idea what I could say that would be of any help or comfort to them.

When I walked into Sharaze’s hospital room, instead of being the comforter, I was comforted. I can’t explain it, but it was if the very presence of God was in the room and I had such a peace just knowing that He was there. Seeing that Mike and Sharaze still trust and hope in God, still cling to His promises, has been a testimony that has helped me to remember that God has not abandoned me, and that He never abandoned them. Searching His word for hope, I’ve found that He doesn’t promise a perfect life, or one without pain, but He does promise that He will never leave us, that His mercy never changes, and that there will be a time when everything will be perfect, and there will be no more tears.

I still don’t understand why Mike, Sharaze, Autumn and everyone who cares for them have had to say good bye to Garrett for now, but I am thankful that those who love this precious family will see God’s grace and love shown through them as they walk this difficult road.

C.S. Lewis said that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world…”. I am thankful that God is so near and that He cares so deeply for us.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

One Year Later, The Guest Posts: Mike

Autumn with the memorial fairy garden Cheri made for us as a gift from Mike's siblings.

It's a beautiful day. We met Nanny and Boppa and Lainey and P'd at Memorial Park and put a balloon and some flowers on Garrett's grave. Lainey brought balloons to release but Autumn wasn't having any of this letting go of balloons so we didn't do that and they are in her pink room now. Mike prayed one of the most beautiful prayers I've ever heard and then we had lunch, surrounded by some of the people we love the most. Saturday, more people we love will go with us and we'll release a sky lantern and get ice cream. As far as celebrating loss goes, we can't ask for much more.

Mike is our next guest blogger. Mike has been wonderful through all this. I don't really have many words for all Mike has been and done...for how he has grown and how he has lived in a way that makes me proud and I am sure pleases God and our son who waits for us in Heaven.

*    *    *

I think I’m a fairly simple guy. Probably the most important thing in my life that I try to make my ultimate goal is simply “Love God, love others.” Honestly though, I’m not very good at it. But I can tell you right now that God is awesome in His ability to love us.

In the year that has passed since we lost Garrett, I’ve seen the Lord raise people up around us. Dozens & dozens of people who have poured love onto us! People that were right there during those terrible moments and people that have just entered our lives these past few weeks. People right next door to us and people all the way across oceans. People that have sent cards, mowed our lawn, prayed for us, cleaned our house, helped us to strengthen our many people have given so much love & blessed us.

There is so much about losing Garrett that I don’t understand & likely never will here in this life. I will always feel the loss of not getting to know him. Of not kissing him more. Of not holding his hand again. Of not hearing him call me Papa. I only got such a small short moment with him! So much I will miss...  

But despite this hurt and confusion I have an odd feeling of comfort. I know that one (awesome!) day I will meet my son Garrett. I’ll get to hug him and hear his voice! And even here now I see God doing great things! I see his amazing love in action around us through everyone that has come up around us. It doesn’t make the hurt disappear. But it does draw me closer to Him & somehow I am comforted.

So as I mentioned earlier, even if I stink at truly loving Him & others I am so incredibly grateful that He is awesome at loving on us!

Thank you to everyone for loving us! And most of all, I thank you Lord for all of these wonderful people & the love you have worked through them! Please give Garrett another kiss for me and tell him his Papa loves him & misses him.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One Year Later, The Guest Posts: Tamara

To commemorate our loss of Garrett a year ago this week, I have asked several of our friends to write some of their thoughts to share on Passing Pinwheels. If you are interested in contributing, please send me an email.

A year ago today, Mike and I went to the hospital because I had a bad backache and we thought I might have a kidney stone. Three nurses, two doctors, and a lot of ultrasounds later, we found out that my placenta had abrupted, I was massively bleeding, and Garrett had no heart beat. They couldn't tell us if I was going to live either.

Tamara, one of my closest and oldest friends, gave me the idea to ask friends to share their view of this last year. From the day they got the breathless call from Mike to today. I didn't give them any parameters other than, "please write whatever you want about us, yourself, Garrett, grief, God, anything." Tamara's contribution is particularly fascinating to me because it's excerpts from her journal. And because I either didn't know or had forgotten a lot of this. This is a long post but I couldn't bring myself to split it into two posts. Thank you, Tamara.

*    *    *

From Tamara's Journal, June 2011

Mentally composing my thoughts surrounding this terrible week, the thought struck me, “A week ago, she was pregnant. None of this had happened.”

Sunday, June 5, 2011, 1:30something in the afternoon
I’m singing along to the radio, sunburned and chigger-bitten, returning home from three days camping. Sharaze calls. I don’t pick up in time. I call her. The lines cross; no connection is made. She calls back.


“Tamara?” a distinctly not-Sharaze voice asks.

“Mike?!?” I reply. Thoughts flash: What’s wrong? Is she alive? Was there an accident? Hope springs eternal. Did she have the baby? 

Mike breathes audibly and says, “I, just, wanted to let you know that Sharaze is okay.” Mike’s breath catches, and my stomach sinks in apprehension. “But we lost Garrett,” he says, in a voice that conveys what this man has been through in the last few hours. 

I say the right things. He tells me he’ll call me again when she can have visitors. We hang up.

I didn’t ask which hospital. 


The traffic blurs in front of me.


Target on Colonial, the previous Thursday night
I wander the baby aisle, picking up various things and putting them down. These are cute onesies, and they’re on sale! I put the onesies down, deciding to wait until after my camping trip. After all, he still has a few weeks to bake. There’s no rush.
Guilt bubbles up. For being cheap. For assuming that there’d be more time to buy him gifts. For assuming there’d be any time at all.


Memphis Zoo, the semi-distant future.
I sit on a bench, a precocious boy half-covered in ice cream and at least three types of animal hair sits with me, eating, slightly strung out from sugar and excitement. “You know, Garrett, I named you.” So begins my planned conversation, my intentions only to make myself appear cooler than I am to a small child, and, of course, to tease my friend. After all, only truly good friends can hype each others’ children up on exotic animals and cotton candy, tell them something outlandish-if-slightly-true, and then send them home to their parents. I also have a tendency to buy children loud toys, or even worse, games requiring two players.

My apartment, June 5th, 9:30pm
I can’t get a good sob on. My nose runs, my eyes leak, but the big cacophonous boohoo doesn’t come. I look at my phone. Mike hasn’t called back. I’m anxious to hear news. The Colleys probably swarmed. She’s probably worn out from visitors. She’s probably doped up. It’s been eight hours since I heard anything.

Facebook chat pops up. Stephan (my second favorite aikidoka) and I talk about our respective phone calls. I relate my feelings of helplessness; he of his bewilderment. We cry; miles apart and locked in mutual grief. The wonders of technology.

Monday, June 6, 2011, work
I pretend, mostly successfully, that life is normal. I leave work early, and drive an hour to the hospital, stopping to get Sharaze’s requested cherry limeade from Sonic. 

Upon my arrival at the hospital, the ICU Gatekeeper takes away the cherry limeade, because Sharaze can’t have it. But it’s clear liquid. What on earth...? She’s been in here a day already, and still no Sprite+cherry flavoring? My anxiety increases. I just want to see my friend, take the stupid drink. The Gatekeeper eventually directs me to her room, where I finally see my friend. My beautiful friend, a network of tubing and machinery surrounding her. Pale. Swollen. Sick. Very sick.

She sounds deceptively normal. We speak of Garrett’s death, everything from the moment when the third nurse couldn’t find him on the heartbeat monitor, to wanting him to be buried at a certain cemetery, among the prettiest in the area, beneath a tree.

Sharaze hands me several snapshots. All ten fingers. All ten toes. Perfect. The tragedy takes on a razor-fine edge. My eyes leak. I feel my chin do that crumply thing it does when I’m about to cry in a less-than-respectable manner. I breathe. My chin de-crumples, temporarily.

A nurse comes in to tell her they’ll need Mike’s consent before they can operate. An operation? What, why?! What’s going on? A specialist comes in, and then her regular doctor. Then Penny. Sharaze hands Penny the same pictures. “He’s beautiful, Sharaze.” Sharaze and Penny share a brief, intense exchange about her health. Sharaze calmly calls a sleepy Mike, who starts back on the path to the hospital despite his Benedryl-fueled drowsiness.

The same nurse brings in a bag of blood, and rests it on Sharaze’s bed for a moment while she fights to organize all the tubing. Its label reads, B POSITIVE. Hah. Be Positive. Divine command or terrible joke? I don’t know. I still don’t.

Penny and I leave. She relates the bits I don’t know about, don’t understand. She says things to me about blood pressure, placental abruption or abulsion or ab-something (Sorry for the abruption, tune in next week for your regularly scheduled pregnancy), about who has visited, and about her own feelings, somewhat. Penny is . . . angry. Angry that they didn’t operate earlier. Angry that our friend had to sit with her dead child within her for hours and hours. Angry at the world. And yet, Penny is thankful. We discuss our mutually selfish prayers, “Oh God, let Sharaze be OK,” and various versions thereof. We wait for Mike to show up. (I never know if I’m supposed to leave or stay when people are in the hospital, but following Penny’s lead proves fruitful.)

From the elevator pours Colleys; Mike, Lainey, Mike’s lifelong friend Frank. Mike flashes a wave at us. His hair is flat. How peculiar. Mike gestures at the ICU Gatekeeper and she lets him in. I need to try that next time. Stupid Gatekeeper. Lainey and Penny go some distance away and talk; both women nod at each other. Frank and I look at each other.

“Indiana Jones?”

“I’m never going to live that down.”

We talk. We talk about our respective friendships; mine with Sharaze, his with Mike. He talks about the Colley family, and how he was just one more kid at Lainey & P’D’s table. One more chick in the nest. They’re a pair of the nicest human beings I know. Frank agrees, his admiration of the prior Colley generation—and this one—evident. Frank and I talk about his life, his daughter, Olivia. We talk about Sharaze’s current operation. I relate what I know, which isn’t much, and is probably loosely correct at best. I glance at Lainey and Penny. More nodding, more emphatic gestures. Penny is obviously crying. Lainey’s back is to me, her head cocked at a slight angle. The body language is telling; it’s been a rough time for us all.

Mike lets us into a spare hospital room. He leans back on the hospital bed, laces his hands behind him, and sighing, says, “That poor woman cannot catch a break.”

Penny and I leave. The various Colleys hug me and thank me for coming. Where else would I be? What kind of friend wouldn’t come in times like these?

I call my sister. I explain what Penny told me. The sobs finally come, a pitiful crescendo to a terrible moment. I cry. For what might have been. For Sharaze. For Mike. For myself, in that I nearly lost my friend, and had no idea and no control and no opportunity to say those things we all hope to get to say before someone dies. Things like, “I love you. I regret not making more time for you. For assuming we’d always have more time for more stories, more conversation, more analysis. I admire you—your grace, your patience, your different approach. But most of all, I love you.”

You know how you feel when you nearly catch a glass that’s falling? When you almost had it, and thought you’d won the battle versus gravity, but despite your efforts, the glass fell and broke into a thousand pieces? It’s very similar, only, a much larger scale. Birth. Death. Gravity. Love. Some things are elemental, undeniable, and despite our earthly efforts, often uncontrollable.

I pull up to my house. Landon is visiting. Again I explain what happened, what Sharaze and Mike have endured, what is to come. And, again I cry, splattering his shirt with big, ugly tears while he pats me, awkward and uncertain how to comfort his normally-formidable girlfriend. Pat. Pat. Pat.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I return to the hospital, and visit with Sharaze and her mother Nema. I understand more of what happened and lament that there’s no person to blame—her care has been exemplary, her condition completely unexpected, unexpect-able. Damned near unexplainable. If it had happened thirty years ago, she might be dead. If she were in worse condition prior to the placental abruption (which sounds like a femme-punk band), she’d probably be on dialysis.

Nema and I step out of the room while a nurse checks various things about Sharaze’s person. Another nurse passes us in the hallway and Nema asks, “Why is there a little lamb there?” pointing to Sharaze’s room number, directly under which hangs a line drawing of two lambs. The nurse, obviously uncomfortable, replies in a quick, precise, matter-of-fact voice, “It means the baby died.” With that, she continues down the hall.

Nema leaves. Sharaze and I talk more. Sharaze gets to sit in a chair, which is indicative of her vast improvement. We talk for a while, a joke or two is cracked, a tear or two leaks out. Mike comes, and a few minutes later, I leave.

Things continue along this line until Sharaze is released from the hospital. Keep in mind that she’s been in there since Sunday morning and wasn’t allowed to leave until Friday.


Saturday, June 11, the funeral
What I remember of the funeral is that Stephan and I stood in line, Landon behind us, at the “line of friends & family” thing that people do at funerals. And we talked about ukemi and his efforts at teaching me. At some point, the conversation became more zen, and he said something like this, “It’s a lot like what Sharaze is doing right now. Watch. It’s ukemi for life.”

The point of ukemi is so that when someone throws you, you don’t get hurt. Instead, what happens is a transfer of energy and rather than being flat on your back with the wind knocked out of you—the force of the fall travels a path along your body and in spite of the efforts of your attacker, you’re whole. You can stand.

Stephan’s words have proven correct. That’s what she’s done. As much as the last year has sucked, Mike and Sharaze have largely rolled out of it. And truly, look around. Is this such a bad legacy? Mike and Sharaze are closer to one another, and to God, and their church, than they might have been without Garrett’s death. Sharaze started the Pinwheel blog, and charted her course from sickly-to-not, sharing with others what she’s gone through—and this blog has the ability to touch millions of lives. Her etsy shop with its stillbirth baby announcements, too. This happens to millions of women per year. Millions of families and friends mourn as we mourn. And here’s some help, just waiting for whoever needs it.

I’ve always been a bit fuzzy on the “Do dead people hear us when we talk to them?” point, because, you know, they’re supposed to be singing hosannas all day and being ridiculously happy and everything. But, assuming that they do hear us (even if they can’t, it’s a pretty comforting thought), if I could reach Garrett, I’d say something like this: “Garrett, I know it’s silly, but, I hope you understand about the onesies. I love you. I wish you were here, selfishly. And, again selfishly, I’m glad you didn’t take your Mama with you. I know you’re in a far better Place than this one. Soon enough, Garrett, we’ll meet for the first time. I’d like it to be a sunny spot, with a bench. And ice cream. I’ve been meaning to tell you something.”