Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Weird Day (a Mark post)

For three years, eight months and eight days I've been wondering what today would feel like.  Today is the day that Ivy is the same age as Vienne was when she died.  Today is the last day in a chapter of what I have often described as life in the twilight zone.  Today is the end of being on repeat.  Granted, there have been a myriad of differences in raising Ivy.  In truth, life could not be more different.  Ivy has two grieving parents, different parents than Vienne had, we live in a different house, I have different work, Ivy hasn't had a baby sister.  
But the general thing is that I've been a dad for over eight years and yet have one darling four year-old at home.  What happened to the other four years?  They are there in photos, videos, crafts with Vienne's name on them and even tattoos on our bodies but those years are ghostly just the same.
Imagine you're 19 again.  A lot has happened in the last few years.  You got a drivers license, definitely had a few crushes, maybe fell in love a time or two, did senior year in high school with sports and proms, graduated and probably moved out of home to a strange place called college.  Now God comes to you one day and says, "Oops, you're really only 15 and I'm afraid I'm going to have to send you back a little."  And there you go.  Fifteen again but with all these memories and experiences that will start to feel almost as if they belonged to someone else.  Luckily (in this story) God's not perfect and there are other people that get sent back from time to time so you occasionally find someone who get's your confusion from their own context.  But it's rare and no one's experience can be likened unto the other.  You are misfits and odd ones now.  And if you talk too much about your experience people start to look at you funny and avoid you.
When you're a teenager, losing 4 years is a quarter of your life, it's a big deal.  I lost a little person, my very best fried, as if those four plus years were roughly carved out and placed somewhere I can see but not visit or touch.  
I guess you can go back to past posts to really get how much time Vienne and I got to spend together.  I was a lucky dad.  The last 1,347 days have been spent regrowing that relationship with Ivy now.  She is my best friend the same way her sister was, maybe even more if that's possible.  Let me confirm for the thick-headed that Ivy is not a replacement, she is her own wonder, my precious 2nd daughter.  We compare Ivy's antics to Vienne's the same way any parent wonders in awe at the mysterious similarities and differences in their children.  The only difference is Ivy doesn't have a big sister to watch lead the way.
Anyway, that missing chunk of time will always be there.  When Ivy is 20, I will have been a dad for 24 years.  When she is 38, I will have been a dad for 42 years.  Simple math.  They are twilight zone years.  They existed, but the person who made them most real is not with me anymore.  Some parents go crazy trying to keep a firm grip on what is lost.  Some parents cannot stop grasping.  Here's my trick, while I cannot cling to those years in a death grip, I can still carry them with me.  Sometimes I hold them like an infant, close to my chest.  Sometimes I hold them with one arm on my hip, sometimes in a pack on my back but they are always with me.  If I carry them loosely like this, I don't turn them into something they're not and I can remember those years with my firstborn without always losing my shit.  
But today (or tomorrow depending on how you look at it) is a transition day, a sort of reconciliation and a new start, a new adventure. Tomorrow I will be father to the oldest daughter I've ever had in my whole life.
I thought this would be easier to write but the words seem to come out a little crazy.  Don't have me committed yet, I've got new adventures to start with Ivy.

*Disclaimer: I'm not overly mathematically inclined or superstitious on the timing of this day so if someone does a detailed calendar review and finds I missed a leap year day or something, it's okay if you keep that to yourself.  Gracias.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Vienne's 7th Birthday

This past Friday, May 1st, we "celebrated" what would've been Vienne's 7th Birthday.  This year was harder for me, leading up to it.  I had a very sensitive and emotional month.  There are just so many reminders that she is not here, during this season.  In April, we have Miriam's birthday (our niece), my birthday, and Easter…all while planning and anticipating Vienne's coming birthday…and then Mother's Day the week after.  

I just wanted to be planning a normal 7 year old little girl's party.  As I was planning this event, I found myself wondering what Vienne would be in to, now…for certainly it could no longer be dinosaurs.  Sometimes, I find myself tired of the dinosaurs because I know that if she was alive, she would be onto something new.  Who would her friends be?  What color cake would she have wanted?

This year, I focused more on a hydrangea theme for Vienne's party.  I felt that was more suitable for a 7 year old little girl.  The decorations turned out lovely.  I don't have many photos from the park because once people arrive, I am swept up in the flurry of greeting and hugging everyone.  I love it and I hate it.  It is extremely overwhelming for me…but, of course, at the same time I want all those people there and I want to see them.  I wish I had a photo of myself in the lovely dress that I found - a vintage garden party dress with flowers in blues and greens.  It was so reminiscent of Vienne and her style.  Ivy wore a blue little dress that was her Sister's.  Ivy kept asking if Sissy was going to come down from Heaven for her party.  :(

It is the 3rd year we have celebrated without her and as time goes on, I can see how this event will become less important to others…but for us, this is the most important event of the year.  For some, I saw how it was almost an obligation to come - bummer….but for others, the new people we included in the invite, we saw a renewed excitement and that was refreshing.  We will carry this tradition on for the rest of our lives.  

We met at Summerlake Park this year - another one of V's favorites.  It was yet again another beautiful sunny day, just for her.  We had 75 people turn out this year!  

(I challenged myself to make blue and green hydrangea cupcakes.  I am pretty damn proud of how they turned out!)

part of the table set up

isn't this lovely?  Check out that awesome hydrangea paper I scored at an art store!

true to Portland-style - we provided a selection of grain free, gluten free, or vegan cupcakes.  Cuz that's how we roll.

Vienne's buddies had to try some bites.

hidden dinos

in the evening, we had a picnic dinner with family at Vienne's other park - the one with the bench plaque.

eating pizza in V's all-time favorite shirt!


then, the next day we drove to Cannon Beach and spent the entire day playing in the sand and sun.  It was a perfect day.

Miri and Ivy playing in the sand.  

horses on the beach!

I love photos of Daddy and Daughter walking together.  And, I love those little bunzers.

(do you see a resemblance??  heheh…these are Vienne's buns)  :)

That's about it.  Did any of you celebrate May Day for Vienne this year?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"Her Favorite Color Was Green" ~ a post by Mark

Here is another guest post by my highly gifted writer of a husband ~

There's this song that was shared with us shortly after losing Vienne.  "Her Favorite Color Was Green" by David M Bailey.  You have to listen to it to understand how perfect it is for Vienne.
It's perfect, right?  Every time I hear this song, I cry.  I imagine any father who has believed in Jesus and lost a daughter who's favorite color was green reacts similarly.  It's odd to consider this woe begotten, unknown brotherhood I'm in.  We don't know each other and yet we share this singularly powerful experience.  Knowing other fathers exist for which this song brings such strong emotion; well, it gets a little less lonely for a bit.
There is a line in the song, "I wanted to ask God the reason but I asked him what now instead".  I don't know if you have to lose a child to understand what a salient point this is.  It effectively divides those who would share grief into two camps from early on.  Those that seek reasons are already looking for healing, for a way to address this problem of pain in loss and re-engage with the world.  Typically, this is the accepted and expected way of dealing with grief.  But it is not the only way and, dare I say, not the right one.  
"What now?" is what came more quickly to me by default.  There was, there is, no reason I'd agree with for not having Vienne in my life.  Were the reason to fall from the lips of Jesus himself, I would remain violently unsatisfied.  If that sounds like sacrilege to you, you have my apologies but we accept things without agreeing to them every day.  "What now?"; embraces the change that has happened.  This mindscape reflexively accepts that life will never be the same again and there is no going back.  It embraces the pain as the pain is so great that the only other alternatives are trying to minimize it (reasons) or losing yourself to it (depression, addiction, suicide).  Unlike a broken relationship or an addiction, nothing can be done that provides restoration, not of self or 'the way things were'.   
The primary difference between the reason seekers and the what now's is the acceptance of the unknown.  
To summarize a very, very long conversation; we believe Vienne is joyful in heaven with Jesus.  We believe that by having faith in Jesus we may see her again.  We believe that having faith in Jesus results in working to follow the tenets of his teachings; showing others kindness, love and grace.  We want to raise Ivy this way too.  Frankly, everything else is up for grabs.
We want Ivy to also 'swim in an ocean of laughter' and to 'dance in a desert of grace'; and she does.
What's now for us this year is that we're trying to re-engage with people.  We aren't fixed, we are well enough.  We are trying really hard to have patience when we feel expectations from others to be a certain way (especially spiritually) but we also want to be honest.  It can be a lonely place and we deeply appreciate those that have chosen to stay close without expectation, without judgment, but out of love.  Thank you.  We are broken but we are functional and not entirely messed up if Ivy can be seen as a product of our new lives.
I write this approaching Vienne's 7th birthday.  This song paints a picture of the joy Vienne may be experiencing and what I want to remember her for on her birthday.  The verse that gets me to well up every single time is this, "I set her a place at my table and man, you should see that girl eat".  God's table must be filled with mac 'n cheese, french fries and goldfish crackers because otherwise V tended to peck at her food rather than inhale it as Ivy is sometimes prone to do.  Vienne is happy, Ivy is happy; that's what carries us on.

Full Lyrics to Her Favorite Color Was Green:

Her favorite color was green
That's about all that I know
Except she knew the Lord Loved her -
her Bible told her so.

She swam in an ocean of laughter
She danced in a desert of grace
The way she loved those around her
Was written all over her face

I was there the morning she left us
I heard every tear that was shed
I wanted to ask God the reason
But I asked him what now instead

What now, God would you have us say?
What now, God would you have us do?
Wasn't it clear she was faithful?
Wasn't that enough for you?

God said, how could you ask such a question? Surely the answer is clear?
Do I have to paint you a picture?
Is it not enough I am here?

I said God, that's not what I meant
But she was just too young to die
God said I know what you mean - Remember I watched my son cry
I said yes, but at least your boy is with you
God said right, and now so is she
I set her a place at my table
and man, you should see that girl eat

In fact, I wish you could see her smiling
then you'd know she feels right at home
She's been telling the angels about you
Just so you won't feel alone

Her favorite color was green
That's my favorite too
She's already sliding down rainbows
Right between yellow and blue

Friday, March 13, 2015

A faith shattered

**(I am starting to try to organize some old posts that were half-written and never published to the blog.  Bear with me as my thoughts are scattered.  A handful of posts might be coming out, solely focused on spiritual stuff and wrestlings.  Things I have not known how to get out of my head with eloquence.  But I am starting to roll up my sleeves and at least attempt to put some words to my thoughts and frustrations.  Here's just a small snippet….something I jotted down a while ago.)**

We all know that my husband and I have suffered an unimaginable loss.  Absolutely, the worst kind of loss there is.  I'm sure that everyone can agree with that.

It was once pointed out to me that I have also suffered another kind of tragic loss after Vienne passed away.  My faith.

Well, I guess I am not going to go so far as to say that my faith is completely lost…but it is most certainly shattered.  If you know me, then you know that I had always been a very strong and convicted believer in Jesus Christ.  I've never followed any denomination.  I've never related to "religiosity".  But I had always had a firmly rooted faith.  My faith was what I based many of my decisions and choices, opinions and convictions, my parenting style and lifestyle…etc. on.  I had never agreed with a "shove Jesus in your face" kind of Christianity.  Yuck.  But, I maintained my strong beliefs and enjoyed any conversation on the topic if anyone else was mutually interested.  I believe I had a personal relationship with Jesus and I gladly introduced Vienne to the Jesus I once knew.

This was my foundation…for most of my life.  I unwaveringly developed myself around this faith.  So, all that to say, for this foundation of faith to be shattered…I agree with the suggestion that this should be counted as another significant kind of loss.  (*and to other bereaved parents, I am not trying to say that my loss is more intense than yours.  We all know that it is all relevant to our own personal lives and experiences.)  I have a hard time admitting things like this because I hate sounding so "woe is me".

This is where I currently stand on God and Jesus….

I do believe in God.  I do believe that He is the only God and I do believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.  I do believe they are one in the same, yet separate. (That one is difficult to explain to those who haven't been raised with this belief:  The way I was taught was to think about how you are a mother as well as a daughter…or a Dad as well as a friend.  You are two different people in those roles, yet still the same 1 person.  That's how I've seen it, anyway.  Yes, it's a little weird and sometimes I still can't wrap my brain around it if I try to think too hard.)

What has changed for me now…is that I do not like God anymore…or right now, at least.  I do not want to worship Him.  I do not thank Him for my circumstances.  I do not agree with His choices.  I do not believe that He is entirely "good" in our human understanding of "goodness".   I don't, however, have a beef with Jesus, for some reason.  I know that sounds odd.  I can't really explain it.  Jesus is more personable to me.  I admire the Man that He was, here on earth.  But God makes me angry…makes me cringe.  I believe in Him…but I do not like Him.

I don't fully understand, anymore, if He is fully in control of all things, here on earth…or not.  I have a VERY difficult time, now, understanding that an "all-powerful" and loving God would allow sooooo much ugliness and hurt and horror and tragedy on this earth.  I feel like more prayers against those horrors in our world go unanswered than answered.  Meaning, I see more tragedies than miracles.  The only question I have come to from this perspective, now, is that maybe He has more power on His side of Heaven than on this one?  On the earth side?  Because why??  Otherwise, why??  I have a hard time wanting to worship a God that could intervene but rarely does.  I don't like that.  So, I almost want to resolve that….maybe He just can't.

How to reconcile all of this??  I have no clue.

(I think I'll tackle the topic of prayer and religion in another post….so many thoughts)

Friday, March 6, 2015

2.5 years

March 6, 2015.  Today it has been 2 1/2 years since she's been gone.


Sometime, I sit and ponder about where we would be in life if Vienne were still here.  …"where would we be?"…."what would she look like?"….:what would she be interested in now?"…etc.  It is still so mind-boggling how quickly your life can change…how it can so easily be snatched away from you.

**Never take your life for granted!!**

I had a conversation with someone a while back about the differences between siblings.  This person was sharing how they realized that they are different parents to the second child than they were to the first.  The second time around your attention is now divided:  you can't give as much one-on-one attention to the second as you could when you just had one.  You are more relaxed and less cautious or paranoid as you were the first time around…you have to be.  You have to let certain things go.  …Thus you are a bit of a different parent.  And, therefore your two children turn out differently (that mixed in combination with their specific traits and characteristics.  Nature+Nurture).  It was interesting to me as I started to think about our two girls.  How more similar to each other they are, than dissimilar.  And, this conversation seemed to point out why.  We are back to having an only child again.  Since we liked the way we did things the first time around, we do them the same with Ivy.  Our attention is not divided, though, and so she gets all of us…we do things the same and our attention is the same as it was for Vienne.  I think that, in conjunction with Ivy's obvious nature to be gentle and cautious and fun and creative, insightful and sensitive, meticulous and clean…has made her to turn out to be very much like her sister.

{Top:  Vienne about 22 months.  Bottom:  Ivy about 2 1/2}

I watch Ivy every day and I just see Vienne more and more.  In most ways it is a gift, yes.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  Sometimes I find myself even wanting Ivy to like things that Vienne liked.  But, then at the same time I am slightly irritated by it…as if it were God saying to me "see….I gave you Vienne back…just in a different, yet similar form".  Yeah, I don't like that.  I know that's not the case…but it's just the irrationality that runs through my head and makes me angry.  Nothing could ever excuse how Vienne was allowed to be taken from me.  Nothing.
But, Ivy certainly does things in ways that reflect her Sister.  She has her own unique preferences, of course, her "way" about her is what is most pronounced to us.  Her demeanor, her sensitivity, her eagerness to please, her joy and imagination, the way she says "fligilator"!….etc.

{Ivy - her hands so patient and waiting to blow out her birthday candles}

{Ivy daintily eating a birthday treat.  Her outfit looks silly because the shirt was a gift that she had just opened and loved so much that she put on over her bday outfit!}

{Creative, gentle, and sweet.  These critters on her arms are 2 of her buddies.  When I put this shirt on her, she got very excited about the straps that hold up the rolled sleeves.  She exclaimed:  "I can carry my buddies in these!!".  Silly Doodle.}

{proudly wearing Sissy's boots.  What a treasure.}

Looking at Ivy and how she carries Vienne's traits so closely to herself, I oftentimes wonder "what if?".  What if Vienne were still here?  What would Ivy be like, then?  What would Vienne be into?  What would she like right now?  What would be her new favorite movie?  What would she like to play with?  What things would interest her?  What areas would she be excelling in, in school?  Would she finally be interested in academic-type subjects?  Would she be artistic?  What would it be like to watch both of my girls dancing around the living room and singing "Let it Go"?  And, what would Ivy be like?  Would she be as gentle?  Or would she be tougher because she'd have to vy for our attention…and share with her big sister?  Would she be as meticulous and orderly?  …etc.

{Left:  Vienne age 2.  Right:  Ivy age 3}

If Vienne were still alive…

~ We would've stayed longer in the townhouse that we loved…until we needed more space.  Maybe the girls would've shared Vienne's bedroom until we moved.
~Mark would've continued pursuing establishing his Portland presence in residential Real Estate.  Real Estate is Mark's career of choice and what he did in Cannon Beach.  We had to leave it and the house we were buying when the economy turned in 2010.  He took a position at a heating and cooling company in the Pdx area, to provide for us.  After 2 yrs of doing that, he was pursuing real estate again, on the side - the summer that Vienne died.  That all stopped abruptly when Vienne passed.  How could he happily sell homes and put on that "face" after losing a child?  He couldn't.
~We would've eventually moved into a bigger rental and started saving to buy a home again.  Instead, these past 2 1/2 years have just been about surviving…and now just trying to figure out what we are supposed to do with this life.
~Vienne would've started 1st Grade this past fall!  I was looking forward to enrolling her in a private school in the area.  It fit so perfectly into our needs.  The school is a "hybrid" school, blending the best of private school and homeschool.  I always dreamt of homeschooling, though I quickly discovered that V wasn't all that interested in learning from me.  I learned that she thrived with peers, an organized setting, and an "official" teacher to follow directions from.  This hybrid school was perfect for both of our desires and needs.  It runs 3 days a week (MWF) and then you supplement at home on the other 2 days.  I could still be involved, but she could still get that socialization and orderly environment that she thrived off of.  We are hoping to be able to send Ivy there.

{me and my sweet Girl working on some preschool workbooks…a week before she passed}

~Ivy would probably not be so needy because she would have a constant best friend and playmate.
~I know that the past few years would've had some experiences in more swim lessons and other extra curricular activities as well as an attempt at horse-riding lessons - Vienne's dream.
~We would've continued going to play groups with friends.  I would be more social.
~I wouldn't have lost friends and my relationships would've continued to grow…instead of change as they have.
~But, I also wouldn't have gained many new friends, like all of you.
~I know I wouldn't have struggled with my health like I've been.

Our life now…

~Ivy is our WORLD.  I thrive off of her joy and the distraction that she constantly provides.  She is all that I can care about right now.

~Mark is no longer managing the heating and cooling company….though he is not in residential real estate either.  Last March, he joined a commercial real estate firm in downtown Portland.  Commercial real estate is an entirely different ball game from residential.   Back when he was pursuing residential, he had no idea how different it would be from working residential real estate in Cannon Beach.  You can make a career out of it there and still have a family life with residential real estate in CB.  Not so much in PDX.  I don't know if this commercial real estate opportunity would have come to him, though, if our lives were on that previous path.  But, commercial real estate is a huge career opportunity and I am proud of him for getting into it.  Of course, we would ALWAYS prefer the previous path.   This is the bitter-sweetness to his new career path.

~We have hopped around to two different homes, now since V passed….and we still are not settled in where we're permanently meant to be.  I don't even know what or where that is.  We spent the first year without V in a rental that was taken on immediately after she passed.  My family found us a quick home because I could not return to ours after Vienne's tragedy.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be the worst renting experience of our lives.  And now, we are in a condo/apartment.  We are back in the area we were in when Vienne was alive.  We love this area.  It is rich with memories of Vienne…which can be bitter sweet…but I am sooooo ready for a house and a yard.

~I struggle to care about much outside of my small little world of Mark and Ivy and our home.

~I thought this would make me more compassionate (and maybe it will one day) but I feel actually less compassionate.

~I still struggle with my health.  Probably both mentally and physically.  My anxiety has become much more manageable…though I have very limited ability in handling frustration.  It is embarrassing to me.  My tummy issues are still a battle - always trying to figure out what I can and cannot eat/tolerate.

~We have decided that we are not going to try to have any more children.  Yes, after 2 years of giving this serious thought and consideration - we are in agreement.  It is a difficult decision and I think we will always wonder which way was the best for us to go…but this is what we are sticking with.  We have 2 daughters.  We always will.  I always only desired just 2 children.  I never wanted an only child..so that makes this very hard.  But, there are many reasons as to why this decision works best for us.  To be frank and honest, I just don't think I can handle the stress and anxiety that comes with having another newborn and those first two years.  As great of a mother as I am, I am not a huge fan of the baby stage.  Shocking, I know.  In knowing those things about myself, I just fear that I would not be the best mother that I could be if I took on another baby, right now.  And, I am not getting younger.  I turn 37 next month.  It gets harder the older you get.  And, I realize that all of these "reasons" are very me-centric…possibly selfish excuses…but this is the decision we feel most comfortable with.

2 1/2 years….so so so many more to go.

{always just a family of 3…}

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Have you heard this crazy story yet?

This story will give you goosebumps.

I was set up for a coffee date to meet another local Mama who lost her little girl 12 years ago.

The only thing we knew about each other, going into our coffee date, were our girls' coincidentally similar names - Vienne and Vivienne.  Little did we know, that that was just the beginning.

We very quickly learned that both of our precious daughters died from viral myocarditis….on September 6th!!!!  Exactly a decade apart…Vivienne died exactly 10 years earlier, on Sept. 6, 2002.

Vienne was born on May 1st and Vivienne was born on May 31st… Vienne was 4 1/2 and Vivienne was 2 1/2.


It is a crazy coincidental story.  We have kept in touch.  But, even though it was so similar…what do you do with that?  Not much.  Just another Mom who suffers as severely as I suffer.  Now, even 12 years later, she is still trying to figure herself out…still trying to find peace and joy…still struggling.

So, there's that story.

(oh, how I miss this beautiful face)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


A guest post by Mark:

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Love is easy.  At least it's easy to grasp why this is the greatest.  God loves us.  He sent his Son Jesus who loves us.  I love Jenny, Vienne and Ivy in ways that I don't fully comprehend; with a fierceness and dedication that defies explanation.

I grew up learning about faith.  Believe, believe, believe.  For awhile I believed because I was supposed to and then when I got a little older I had the opportunity to challenge my beliefs.  I chose to continue believing in Jesus and his message.  I learned to pray.  I practiced praying. I believed I was a good Christian if I was continually communing with God.  I believed in prayer and that God heard me.  I still believe he hears me.  

Hope.  This word, spoken in a soft, fierce whisper.  This word, echoing in my car as I shout it while hurtling down the highway.  This word, hope, brings tears to my eyes.  I never knew.  I never really knew what it was to hope until Vienne died.  I hope so much now that my body aches.  I hope so deeply my bones vibrate with longing.  

Here is the raw truth - for me faith & believe used to equal knowing.  I can't say that anymore.  Heaven always had this mythical quality that seemed like the setting for a fantasy novel.  I hope in heaven now.  And truly I say, my hope is drastically stronger than my belief ever was.  What does that mean?  It means that I can't speak with the same confidence I used to about . . . well, pretty much anything.  Vienne is gone.  My daughter.  No reasons.  No explanations.  Just gone.  How can I possibly speak with confidence about anything but my hope, this new iron kernel of desire lodged in my throat that makes it nearly impossible to talk about.

So there it is.  Love is the greatest but hope is what I live for.  Hope is the smile on my face (as I am notorious for always smiling).

Hope for seeing Vienne again.  Hope for Jenny and Ivy as well.  Each day I hope for their peace, love and joy but each day is also a question mark.  Each day is filled with doubt, wondering and some fear.  So many times I look at my phone and am thankful it's not ringing because no news is good news.  Hope is that I never have to live through a moment like losing Vienne again.  And yet this is the life we live, this is the world we live in.  Awful shit happens.  Tragedy happens.  If not directly to us there is our world of loved ones, there is always someone enduring.  Not to oversimplify but it seems like every time I hear of something awful I believe less and am forced to hope more.  

Here is the greatest hope of all: Jesus, please be true.  I don't need answers if you are true.

I hope this Christmas is full of meaning for you.  Caleb, our 8-year old godson, and one of Vienne's best friends, drew this just the other day and I think it sums things up pretty well: