Sunday, April 28, 2013

Heather's Story: A guest post by Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy

Heather is on the far right. I'm guessing she's dancing up a storm in Heaven!

Wednesday, I got a Facebook message from a friend, she had messaged several of us from the gym, letting us know that the news just broke that the police found Heather. Heartbroken (I have overused that word but there isn't a better one), I posted the link to the news story. Seemingly within minutes, Ken sent me a crushingly perfect poem. I asked him to tell us about the process. I didn't expect his kind words, but I appreciate the encouragement so much.

I met Sharaze through my best friends, and over the course of the past year I've become somewhat invested in her story. As I've followed her blog and Facebook posts, I've been impressed with the way she's responded to the various events, both the dramatic and mundane, that God has brought into her family's life. During this time, I returned to writing regularly myself, especially poetry. I was privileged to write a number of pieces during their recent adoption saga, the first a poem of an adoptive parent explaining to the child how they came to be with them, and the final one a prayer to God about the loss of something hoped for but never received. You can read these here.

Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy
I didn't know Heather, Sharaze's friend, but Sharaze imbues her blog posts with so much feeling that it was not difficult to feel as though I were involved in this latest chapter as well, not the least of which is the feeling for a friend who is missing a friend. So when it came to an end, I was struck primarily by a thought for those left behind - especially those who would be most affected, the children. The thought of someone having to tell these kids what had happened to both of their parents captured me to the point that, like when I heard of the loss of Grant, I had to write something to be able to process the thoughts. The way I explore hard questions is simply as questions - and sometimes, questions just have no satisfying answers. When I first wrote it, I was unable to do anything with it other than send it to Sharaze; I finally did post it a few hours later here where you can read my early thoughts about the piece.

I wish I could say I hope this poem helps somebody, but I know it simply organizes some questions, and gives no answers whatsoever. I think the only thing it may do is bring a focus on the grief inherent in a situation like this one, and maybe help us to feel in a situation that leaves us numb. I hope at least that it becomes useful to those dealing with this situation in some way - that's why I write.

How Do I Tell You?
by Kenneth A O'Shaughnessy
How do I tell you
That the one who gave you life
Has had life taken away from her
Without taking your life too?

How do I tell you
That the one whose love made you
Inside the other one who loved you
Has now unmade that one?

How do I tell you
That the God who cares for you
Cares for you best by taking away
The ones who care for you?

How do I tell you
You are really and truly loved
When all you loved in the world
Is really and truly gone?

How do I tell you
When I can't even tell myself
And I just want to be held
Like I'm holding you?

Donations to The Connor and Ava Jones Charity Fund can now be made at any Regions Bank location nationwide or mailed to Regions Bank Germantown-Poplar Branch, 7744 Poplar Avenue, Germantown, TN 38138.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Heather's Story: A guest post by Melissa Cole

I know a lot of people who have been following Heather's story here are new to Passing Pinwheels. I started it in 2011 after the death of our son Garrett at birth. Grief is one of those things that, as a society, we have few rituals for and I thought that it would be healing for me to write about doing life after loss. I also thought others might find some comfort in our transparency. Last year, I hosted a series of guest posts about how Garrett's short life had impacted those closest to us. Each post was beautiful, heartfelt, and heartbreaking and, although I knew our friends felt our pain keenly, it really brought home how I'm not the only one who needs the catharsis of writing, of sharing my heart. Today, Melissa Cole, a fitness instructor, educator, and friend, is sharing hers.

Melissa Cole
Our loss is Heaven's gain. What I will remember about Heather Palumbo-Jones is her positive attitude in the midst of upheaval, her shining spirit as she danced (zumba) with her friends, her determination in muscle class to be better and stronger, and the devotion she had to her kids and those little ones in her kindergarten class.

When I teach a class in gym 3 or walk into a class being taught in gym 3 at GAC, my eyes drift to "her spot". I'm sure I'm not alone in this. Her absence is obvious. We, as a group, are a little less lively but we are there as we know she, too, would be there, if she could.

I'm sure Heaven will afford her the opportunity to dance again.

Dance on Heather. And know that you are missed, celebrated and loved by many.
Heather's memorial, built by her closest friends.

But many of us are left wondering what to do, how to help, and we are left searching for an answer as to why this happened to Heather.

For me, I can find solace in the fact that Heather left us all with a gift of great value. She left us her story. It is a story of friendship, courage, and the importance of listening to our fears. Perhaps the what, how, and why are not what we need to focus on now. I think we need to act. I think we need to pray.

Pray that Heather's story might impact those who find themselves in a similar situation. Heather was brave in that she sought to better her life. She was not afraid of the struggle. Her only downfall was that, despite her fears, she just didn't realize the gravity of her situation and therefore she did not take serious precautions.

Lesson learned: Seek what makes you happy but DO be overprotective of yourself and your little ones. If you are scared, don't ignore your fears or suspicions.

Kudos to Heather for telling her friends so much about her life. We, women, often keep our fears and dirty laundry to ourselves. Her ability to share her life is what helped solve this case. Who knows, Heather may just have saved the lives of her kids. If her husband was this unstable, the kids may also have been a victim at any time. And if I know Heather, she would do anything to protect her kids.

Share Heather's story. Do not let her death be in vain.

For those wondering how to help the children, a fund has been set up through their school. You can make checks payable to Riverdale Sunshine with Jones Children in the memo. All donations will be collected and deposited as a lump sum into their account. Mail checks to: Riverdale Elementary, 7391 Neshoba Rd., Germantown, TN 38138.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rest in Peace, Friend

Christina Rosetti
REMEMBER me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

The post I wanted to write started with, "well, I was wrong..."

But that isn't going to happen.

I just caught the news that Germantown Police found the body our friend Heather Palumbo-Jones last night. We all knew this was how it was going to end the back of my mind there was always that hope that she'd done something stupid and then we could all be mad at her and not weeping at the empty space she has left behind.

I called Mike so he'd hear from me first. Before, we prayed to find Heather. Today, we pray for justice. This is probably horribly out of context but I think of the verse that our church's adoption ministry took as their name: Isaiah 1:17:

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

I'm headed out to a friend's school to do some aikido with her PE kids. Please pray for me. I'm not holding together super great right now. If any more news or video comes up, I'll post it here when I get home. For now, here are some links:

While it's up: Live Stream of the Press Conference
Million dollar bond for Chris, he's been charged with second degree murder.
Our friends Melissa and Elizabeth were both on camera at the press conference.

Press Conference video clip is up:
Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Not Without Hope

Original Version from the Capture Your Grief project.

I haven't written much this week because I really didn't have anything inspiring, happy, or not depressing to talk about. There isn't much news to report about Heather, I'm sad to say. I have a few links, though. They just posted this on some news sites: apparently the police dragged a couple local lakes today. And this link will take you to videos and their accompanying articles from the last two or three days. The one with Heather's mom? Heartbreaking.

It's been a tough week, hasn't it? Boston. Heather. Waco. And this week was the 7th anniversary of my dad's death. I think that's part of what makes Heather's disappearance even tougher. The anniversary of his death and the memories of all the scared nights, the time my mom walked out and he made me leave these horrible, sad, crying messages on her friends' answering machines while he screamed at me, the day 7 years ago I got 9 frantic messages that he'd disappeared. I guess those are stories I'll tell you someday. Today, this week, my heart aches for the child I was. And for what Heather's children(and her students) are going through now. To top it all off, today is Heather's daughter's birthday. Please keep praying for all of us.

(I think of this as my dad's song.)

But today there is a little light, small though it is. Our church started a new sermon series called "Alone Together: Lessons on Friendship from David and Jonathan." I'll probably post the sermon link once it's live. I like it already because, as I have said many times, where would we be without our friends? It would be a lonely, terrible road to be alone. It reminds me of this quote, I know I've posted it here before but it's worth a second (or more) look:

“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

After the first section of music, there was a special prayer for the victims in Boston. Afterward, the pastor speaking said that we do not grieve as those without hope. I haven't the slightest idea why I haven't read that verse over the last almost two years but here you go:

 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Isn't that beautiful?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wednesday Gym Adventures: Heather and Friends

This isn't the post I had planned today. I was going to write about the people who make up their own class because, really, they are hysterical and the reason I don't, as Mike says I should, set up on the front row. Then I can't people watch. Also, I have some kind of martial arts etiquette block and I can't stand on the same row as the teacher.

Anyway, the last time we got together with the gym crew, I sat looking around in wonderment at the group of people we've become friends with. I mean, these guys have cheered me on with my physical recovery. They were one of our main sources of support during our brief moment in Grant's life. And really, it's not that amazing that we found friends at the gym. After all, I've collected my motley group of family and friends from various martial arts classes! Stephan is like a dad (or big brother now that he's dating, ha), Penny is my sister more than blood could ever make sisters (and she's married to one of our old instructors from back in Kenpo!), and recently I have acquired a "little" brother in the very tall Matt. So, it's not weird that we found friendship in a gym. It's weird because Mike started it all.

Sometime in 2011, Mike announced he was going to start visiting group fitness classes. I don't know how he ended up in Amy and Melissa's classes but he loved them and convinced me to go although I have to admit...I don't care for most group fitness classes for reasons I won't bore you with. But I enjoyed myself quite a bit and joined in as soon as I was healthy enough.

I don't know when we became friends outside the gym. One day Mike said that we were invited to a party and he wanted to go. Mike's gotten better about being social (my friends could probably tell funny stories about that evolution) but I really don't remember the last time he initiated going to an event. So we went and we joined them a few more times and then they came to our New Year's brunch and then they were cheering for us when we thought Grant was coming home and crying with us when he didn't. Even the equally stranger-averse Autumn loooooves the kids in the group, especially Amy's daughter, to whom I just loaned my favorite book.

Information and Links:
Crime Stoppers 901-757-2274
Commercial Appeal (fixed broken link)

Somewhere in there, we got to know Heather. Every single word that means outgoing, gregarious, friendly? That's Heather. I got to watch part of her journey and the last time we had dinner I was telling her that she should blog or at LEAST do a guest post here. She lost over 150 pounds, you guys. Diet, exercise, sheer determination and energy. Heather also taught in a rough part of town. Coincidentally? The part of town where I grew up. We talked a lot about parents, the trials of the inner city, and how to inspire kids who have little to aspire to. She was the kind of teacher who saved me, helped me believe I could be more than a drug addict's daughter. I always knew I'd get out. Those teachers gave me the tools.

Heather's daughter and Autumn have some of the same, um, quirks. We had a good time talking about how we have to go with the flow and laugh when we don't get it, whatever it might be at the time. And we agreed that it's not about coddling. It's about giving them coping mechanisms. I joked about how I have been teaching Mike coping mechanisms and that's how we came to be sitting at a table with people who were strangers just over a year ago.

I want to get to know Heather better. I want to sit in the circle of her energy because that's what I think of when I think of Heather. Energy, enthusiasm, love, passion. If anyone has ANY tips, if any one has seen anything, no matter how small, please call or contact anyone I've linked. Below, there's a video with information. Above, you'll find her missing poster and links to information, articles, and things you can link and relink to spread the word. If you are a believer, pray. Pray for her. For her kids. For her estranged husband. For her cousin who has suddenly found herself the (hopefully temporary) mother of two children. And pray for her friends.

Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

PSA: My friend is missing

My heart hurts today. I just got the news that my friend Heather's estranged husband Chris allegedly  kidnapped her early this morning* is missing. The "good" news is that the kids are safe. He, for some reason, took them to school. Family members have the children now but Heather is still missing. I have more details but they are a bit complicated so I won't bother with them.

I'm going to post her photo but first please, please take this to heart: most acts of violence are not between strangers. If you are ever afraid of a friend, family member, spouse or significant other, do NOT hesitate to get help! Listen to that gut feeling. I even have statistic reports: herehere and here.

If you are in a situation that is or could become dangerous, please seek help. This is not your imagination. This is not something where you're just being paranoid. Here are some resources you can start with: No Nonsense Self-Defense's Stalking and Domestic Violence Portal; Domestic Violence International Resources; and Signs of Relationship Abuse

Here's the information on our friend: Heather Palumbo-Jones. Missing since early morning April 16, 2013 from the Germantown, Tennessee area, a suburb outside of Memphis. Her estranged husband Chris Jones is a suspect in her disappearance. *Edit: Chris has been taken into custody and released. We are now concentrating on locating Heather. Contact the Germantown Police Department or Memphis Police Department if you have any information. 

Update 1:02pm: Police have located Chris. Still no sign of Heather. I'll update when I have more information. 

Update 3:26pm: Prayer vigil for Heather Palumbo-Jones at 1900 South Germantown Road - G'town Municipal Park Pavilion at 5pm. If you can't come pause with us at 5 and lift her up.

No word on where Heather is. Chris is still in custody and being questioned.

Update 9:25pm: Chris has been released. No other information on him yet although I believe they could not hold him because of lack of evidence. Still no Heather. Local news station WMC-TV 5 posted the beginning of a story. 

Now, so has WREG

Update 4/17: New blog post

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sweet Girl

In the middle of singing a song that mentions Heaven, she stops and says, "I don't want baby Garrett to be dead. I want him to be here." She talks and pours out her soul and my heart breaks again. And again. She goes inside when we get home, walks into Mike's office, and just lays her head on his arm. He says goodbye to my brother, they were playing a video game. She and Mike talk. I hear her giggle and everything seems okay again.

After bedtime prayers, she wants to know why she couldn't feel Garrett in my tummy anymore. And why my tummy took care of her, but not him. She wants to know why Grant's father didn't want us to have him and why can't we see Grant anymore because his hair was so soft and his skin was so soft and she wants to feel him again. And she wants to know why God hasn't given us a baby we can keep. I tuck her in, Mike kisses her and makes her smile and she seems okay again.

Walking down the hall, I hear her call me. She is in tears and she says she can't stop thinking about Garrett. I lay down with her and hold her because what else can I do? There aren't any answers. I offer to lay with her until she falls asleep, like we did when she was a baby and so new and so sickly and so hard to comfort. She counts to 100 in her head with her eyes closed. I scratch her back. I tell her to listen to the water of the fish tank and finally, finally she grows heavy and says, "I think I can sleep now, mama. I will see you in the morning."

And I wonder when I will be okay again.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wednesday Gym Adventures

We belong to our community gym. I've mentioned the gym more than once here, I did my personal training there and I take some fitness classes from a couple of instructors I like a lot. My Facebook friends have gotten to hear about the craziness that goes on there but I just realized I've never really talked about it on the blog! Oh, man. I love all the characters. Someday I'll tell you about the knitting yakuza lady...ok, so maybe she isn't a former yakuza member but I have the best storyline in my head about her because, seriously, she's awesome. Like, in her 60s and works out in yoga pants and a sports bra!! I love it! I pretend she knits before class to keep her hands busy. That way her old assassin ways don't suddenly take over her muscles.

Ahem. Anyway, a couple of months ago, I had a rough morning. It was walk to school Wednesday so Autumn and I walked the whole way instead of part of the way like we usually do. There was this overzealous PTA mom at the crosswalk who stopped us--even though we already stopped because the crossing guard had the traffic going. Then, the mom started telling us all about how the crosswalk works! I mean, really! I let her go on a bit and tried to stop her with, "we do this every morning, we know" and a smile. It didn't work. She kept on going. And going. And going. HOW MANY CROSSWALK INSTRUCTIONS CAN THERE BE?? Finally, I leaned over to catch her eye, she was at that point talking to Autumn, and said, "I am her mother. We can handle the crosswalk. Like we do every. morning." She backed off and then some more kids came up and she started telling them all about how the crosswalk works.

No makeup, standing next to Autumn. You'd think people have never seen a short person.
Then, in the line where they sign in as walkers, a mom came up to me and said, "aww, what a nice big sister to walk her little sister to school." OMG. One, how about not talking about me in third person. And two, "I would be her mother." It was far to early for this. Besides, if I were a teenager, the local high school starts at like 7am! There's no way my parents would have let me skip school to walk a sibling somewhere.

So. Rough morning. Class was great that day, though. Afterward is when it got weird. This elderly woman came up to me after class. She was one of the zumba people--they like to come in as soon as our class is over and stand in their spots which is fine but it makes it hard to put away equipment when they are on top of my stuff! This elderly (emphasis on elderly) woman asked me, "Honey, should you be in here?"

I AM A GROWNUP, DANGIT. Also, Autumn took this photo. Not bad!

At this point, my head was about to explode.

I closed my eyes and very patiently said, "Ma'am, I assure you. I am an adult."

She said, "No, that's not what I meant, you're just so tiny and this teacher is such a drill instructor."

I burst out laughing and told her that I love the class and that I am totally fine.

But the thing is, every week since then? She's come to check on me to make sure I survived. I mean, she's genuinely worried! Lately, she's been asking me if I need help putting away my weights! I promise you, my weights probably weigh more than she does! The instructor saw her offering to help me and was dying of laughter because, seriously, this lady is soo frail looking that I am afraid she might break a hip in Zumba!

For a second, I wondered if I was hypocritical by thinking she could break a hip in Zumba when I'm a little amused and irritated that she thinks I'm too frail to do my class, but, really, keep in are some adjectives my husband has used to describe me: sturdy (I AM NOT FURNITURE) and healthy as in, of a healthy size. There's another one but I can't remember what it was now but I've had a few talks with him about choosing his compliments better!

Tune in next week for more Wednesday Gym Adventures!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Get Up Again

Last week was kind of weird. It's finally spring here and I love it. Even though I cannot stop sneezing. Autumn had a great week at school, Mike's work wasn't too bad, I got a lot of things done, but I guess sometimes things just jump up and knock me down! But I'm not out of the fight yet.

Autumn had a rough spot around Easter. I think it's all the talking about Jesus dying. On Good Friday, she started leaking tears after we read about the Last Supper. She wanted to know what would happen to her if Mike or I died before she did. Or Molly the Cat. The three of us chatted a bit and I think she felt better. We generally talk about how because Jesus came back to life, we come back to life in Heaven when we die. And that while we're here on earth, we can have hope even when sad things happen. I was pretty concerned that reading her Bible is what got her so upset but then Lainey told me that Autumn asked about "mama and papa" dying before her on Thursday afternoon, so I guess it's been on her mind, poor thing! But, Lainey also said right after asking about it, she moved on to a new subject. Dying Easter eggs or something. Hooray for childhood resilience, right?

I had my own rough day Easter morning. It's so silly but seeing my friends post their kids in matching Easter outfits, that's so hard. I'm sure any friends dealing with loss or infertility know exactly what I mean, though. And then we got to our church's service and there was this really freaking adorable baby in front of us and she kept staring at me and grinning! I'm not exactly what anyone would call a "baby person" but, man, I told Mike that the baby was taunting me with what I don't have! I was mostly kidding.

Kind of the worst moment of the week, though, came on Thursday. Right before my preschool class (I'll tell you something funny about that class this week), I got a text from A, Grant Jaden's former caregiver. He has a new caregiver because, apparently, he's going to be in interim care for several months. We'll call her J. J needs to put Grant Jaden on WIC and wanted his hospital bracelets which I forgot I had. Sigh. And A mentioned that she was going to have Grant Jaden this weekend and did we want to visit him. And the answer is absolutely not because I cannot under any circumstances handle that. Mike is on the same page, thank goodness. So, I got Grant Jaden's baby book (wah!) out of the pile on my desk and pulled the bracelets out. I was going to take them to Bethany but I decided just to mail them to our social worker. And then I put the baby book with Garrett's funeral things.

It's just little things, you know? Like yesterday I was working on my big painted rug project (I think I bit off more than I can chew on that one!) and Mike was clipping holly tree runners. Autumn mostly played near us but at one point she was the end of the driveway, staring at her Aunt Lindsay's house, hoping she'd bring Ellie out. Autumn has a great "only child" personality. Probably because she is an only child for all practical purposes. But still. She'd love having a sibling so much. And she looked so very lonely. Mike and I sat down and watched her. It's a hard thing. We love our little family. I am happy with Autumn. And I miss Garrett. And I miss Grant Jaden. It's strange to feel so blessed and so bereft all at once. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013


This was me yesterday:

Seriously, I cleaned the WHOLE HOUSE; rearranged the living room;

finally finished Mike's art wall;

and hung the painting (the one on the right--I already had the one on the left) I bought at Heart of Memphis which, by the way, went very well.

I'm not sure what was responsible for my burst of productivity! I guess it was partly because Wednesday is my morning workout. BUT I think the herbs my acupuncturist friend gave me might be partially responsible, too! It all started with this series of Easter photos. When I went through them Sunday night, I thought, holy cow, my neck is looking worse! (click here for the background on all that) I emailed Chuck and told him about about my Endocrine Clinic saga. Basically, the doctors ran every test possible and found nothing abnormal except for a swollen thyroid. Chuck said that since I've done all the testing to come by and he'd look me over and give me some herbs that will probably help.

I went in Tuesday and it wasn't my imagination that I had some major swelling. So, a consult, a bottle of herbs and a bag of herbs later, here I am. I started taking everything Tuesday. The bagged herbs aren't, happily, the worst tasting thing Chuck has ever given me! I think the morning sickness herbs were worse, but that may have been because I had epic morning sickness and pretty much everything was gross.

Chuck also told me to take some pictures of my neck for comparison purposes. And I was all "sure! no problem!" Wrong! Taking pictures of my own neck was hard. But, I think I got some decent ones. This one, for example, really shows the sides of the swelling. As a side note, I have always wished I had a smooth neck without all the wrinkles. :P But my mom has them so I guess it's genetic. Isn't that a silly thing to be all self conscious about?

So. Goiter is such a gross word, haha. So have a palate cleanser: