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:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 2014

I realize the only time that I ever feel compelled to write (in these current days) is when I am not doing so well.  I don't want this blog to be a "woe is me, negative Nelly" outpouring…geesh, what a drag!  But, I have to remind myself over and over that this blog is not for anyone but for me and for Vienne.  And, during this stage of my grief journey, if I only feel compelled to write when I am down and struggling….well, then so be it.  Right?  No one has to read it anyway.  I just need an outlet.  Mostly because I don't open up and pour out to anyone these days.

So….all that to say….this September has been rough.  Man, I was just not expecting it at all either.  I mean, I know that the anniversary time is supposed to be hard but I figured that with my ability to find distraction and be numb that I would just breeze through this period.  In reality, I've had hang ups left and right.  Or so it seems.  You know…when like 2 things go wrong, it really feels like everything is going wrong?  Yeah, that's probably more close to the truth.  But, I really have felt like there's been a struggle each week of this month.

Here's my pity list:

1.  After all that awesome kickboxing that I boasted about in my last post…it all came to a stop with a neck injury from so much impact.  Obviously, kickboxing and martial arts are about impact…even though we don't really "hit" each other, we do hit the bags and strike pads.  The impact of my punches reverberated right down my arm to my neck and caused some pretty extreme pain.  I tried seeing my chiropractor and getting a massage while still continuing in class…but it was only to my detriment.  Things continued to get worse and worse until finally my doctor said that I need to take at least a month off to let my neck heal.  Boo.  The injury and the frustration were a literal pain in the neck!  Pun intended!

2.  Ivy had a cough for a month straight.  We eventually thought it was allergy related asthma because it only occurred while she slept.  We got her tested for all allergies only to receive clear results - no allergies.  Good news….but frustrating as we never figured out what that was all about.  The coughing has finally ceased…but it was a stressful and sleepless 4 weeks!

3.  The week after the 2 year anniversary of Vienne's passing, I received some hugely terrible terrible tragic news.  My sister in law, Kinsey (the one who takes all of our gorgeous photos) has a best girl friend named Davy.  Davy has 2 beautiful little girls and has been drawn to me ever since I lost Vienne.  She has been a dedicated follower of this blog and has written compassionate and heartfelt messages to me, from time to time.  Having 2 girls whom she is so desperately in love with, she has struggled in imagining what I have gone through.  Her heart has been severely broken for me.  I have grown to love her as an internet friend.  Well, all that to lead up to share this….Davy and her husband, Jake, received the most awful news regarding their younger daughter, Magnolia who is 3.  Magnolia (Maggie) was diagnosed with inoperable terminal brain cancer and given 9-12 months to live.  Oh I cannot even type it, still, without crying.  Horrible awful unimaginable.  My heart shattered for her.  Over these past 2 years she has watched me go through her worst nightmare imaginable….and now she is starting to have to face it herself.  I have been a wreck ever since I found out.  You can follow their page to pray for Maggie on FB - "Pray for Magnolia".  They are currently doing daily radiation sessions.

4.  Then 2 weeks ago, I was scheduled to go on my church's women's retreat.  My first solo time away in 3 whole years!  Mark has been nudging and encouraging me to take some time away ever since I weaned Ivy.  This was it.  I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend of quiet time and sweet fellowship with ladies that I love.  And a day before the retreat I started to get a fever…chills and sweats and aches…the whole thing.  It would come and go and seem to be eased by ibuprofen so when Friday rolled around for the retreat, I thought I was in the clear to go.  I went and stayed one miserable night, plowed through the day, and finally in a teeth-chattering full body shaking mess, gave in to logic and packed up and went home.  The fever turned into something awful….that lasted 9 whole days!  I came down with the strangest worst virus I have ever faced….but the doctors could not exactly name what it was.  By Monday, my fever spiked to 104.6 and Mark had to take me to the ER - for a 9 hour stint.  Blood tests and chest x-ray revealed nothing.  But I had swollen lymph nodes, swollen salivary glands (on my cheeks, by my ears!  WEIRD!), tight chest pain and difficulty breathing, a cough, no appetite, and of course the nasty fever that lasted 9 days.  I was in bed for 6 days straight.  Then after the fever broke and I started to recover, I developed a strange condition called ITP as a result of my viral infection.  The ITP has to do with low platelet count (which I had) - causing bruising that covered my entire lower legs as well as pain and tenderness in my feet bones.  It was the strangest thing I've ever experienced.  It took me a full week to recover and gain strength back.  Thankfully, this week I am much much better and feeling like myself again.  Phew!!

(this picture doesn't do the bruising justice…it was gross looking and each and every spot HURT.  I had at first thought it was a rash until I realized how tender each one was and that they were browning, like a bruise.  So bizarre!)

5.  Relationships and friendships are hard and currently challenging.  I'll leave it at that.

6.  I decided to join a Grief Share group in lieu of counseling.  My first session was last night.  Man, it is going to be hard!  It definitely drudges up emotions that I daily strive to keep buried.  I spent the entire time just trying to keep my emotional shit together and not lose it.  Of course, I am the only one who has lost a child.  I've called around and could not even find a group with someone whose lost a child.  That's how freaking rare it is!!  The group is full of older people who have lost parents…or a spouse.  So hard to relate to that.  I didn't speak up much at all last night.  But I did notice that the few times I did, there was certainly a hushed heaviness about the room.  I think they all acknowledged the gravity of my loss.  I mean, because come on….we're all going to lose our parents.  It's inevitable.  Of course it will be hard.  I canNOT imagine losing my Mom.  I will be devastated.  But nothing will ever compare to losing a child.  Ever.  But I will keep going.  At least these people know about loss…many of the counselors I've seen do not.  We shall see how it goes.  (And, we decided to just let me go alone because I think I might open up more with a group of strangers than if Mark is there and he doesn't feel quite ready to join.)

So.  Yeah.  That's been my shitty month.  I think all of this has contributed to me being especially sensitive and weepy this whole month.  If I am alone at night, I have been crying without fail, each time.  Crying without stopping until I finally go to sleep….waking with puffy crusted eyes.  That is so unlike me.

On a sweeter note to end this pathetic post, I want to share a beautiful gift that we received on the anniversary day.  We have a close friend who is a professional artist - Donald Masterson (look him up - his work is fabulous).  A year and a half ago, we had asked him if he would paint a picture of Vienne for us….using her ashes in the paint.  It turned out to be the hardest piece of work he's ever done and that is why it took him so long.  But I love knowing that this piece was painted through his tender tears…He was Uncle Donny to our Vienne.  She loved him so.

Here is what he created.  Isn't is wonderful?

(It is a re-creation of a piece that someone had found for us a year and a half ago.  The original is the same Jesus holding a little girl who looked very similar to Vienne.  We thought it would be special to have Vienne actually painted in her place.  Donny obviously used Vienne's favorite colors.  The whole piece is textured with her ashes.  It measures about 24x30.  It is signed "Uncle Donny" at the bottom.

We are not people who normally like religious artwork…at all…so it took me a day to grow used to it.  But now I love it.  We had decided to do this because we thought it would be good to have a visible reminder of where Vienne is and how safe she is…and I am very glad we did.  I look at it and kiss her face each day.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Apple Bomb" ~ A Post From Mark

Mark sent this story to me a little over a week ago.  It is a story of a sweet little game that he and Vienne came up with, during that last summer we had with her.  He felt it would be fun to share.  I agree.  ;)

At Vienne's Park, the one up a hill behind the Albertsons on Barrows up, Vienne and I invented a game called Apple Bomb on her last Sunday.  Of the many fond memories created at this park, this is one of my favorite.  I ran by here the other day and realized that rather than write pages about how I'm doing after 2 years of loss, I'd rather just share Apple Bomb.
First, find an apple tree that is dropping apples for which you won't get chased for picking up.  It will be beneficial if this apple tree is located in a park that is not overly attended and has a relatively large grassy area.  It will be even better if this grassy area is somewhat firm ground, soft and squishy grass will present challenges.
Now grab a fallen apple, one that allows a firm grip but will not squish in your hand.  
Line up with your co-game player. 
On the count of three (the youngest person has to count to three and shout Gooooo!) you throw the apple as high as you can, adding some little distance to the arc.
At this stage you have a decision on which way to play.  Vienne preferred to wait for the apple to land before chasing it down.  More adventurous players can run as soon as the apple is thrown however this introduces the caveat that all players understand the rules of 'red light, green light' as they may be required to stop suddenly depending on where the apple seems to be landing.  The oldest person is responsible for shouting 'red light!' if runners and falling apples appear to be on imminent collision.  An apple, even a soft one, really hurts when falling a any distance and landing on ones head.
Now, presumably, the apple has landed and (hopefully) exploded.  
It is time to engage in the science and learning portion of this game.
The first player to the apple has to find something interesting to observe and point out. 
The second player must find something as well but it can't be anything mentioned during any previous throws of the games session.
Be creative, your observation can be as varied as noticing the odd shape of one particular apple chunk, like finding shapes in clouds. In most of the games Vienne and I played outside, I tried to teach her how to observe the world around her.  By watching, by wondering, by engaging; a kid will never be bored.  
If there are still big chunks of the apple that have exploding potential, feel free to continue throwing until said potential has evaporated.
Then go get another apple and continue the cycle until the throwers arm is about to fall off.

Vienne and I played this for at least an hour that Sunday morning when we should have been at church but it was just too nice a morning.  I can still hear her voice shouting, "Gooooooo", my signal to throw.  She would be standing in a runners start pose and as soon as the apple landed her little legs would churn the grass.  
I remember feeling a little bad about the mess we made but I taught Vienne about how birds would come eat and spread apple seeds all over our neighborhood for new apple trees to grow . . . . so all good stuff.  
I think we even brought Jenny & Ivy back that afternoon for a few more throws.  I naturally overdid it and could barely move my shoulder the next day.

By the way, this is the park we celebrated Vienne's 5th birthday.  We planted a hydrangea at the back of the park between two pines for her and since have thought that city park folk had torn it up since it 'didn't belong'.  Anyway, it's back.  Just a few little branches and leaves a couple inches over the bark but it's there.  It's so tempting to read into stuff like that, to over spiritualize or deliver some sort of homily about perseverance,  Truth is I'm just glad it's there.  Just being there is enough.  I wish Vienne was just here.

What I will say about this 2 year anniversary of sadness is that grief is the second most life changing emotion I think is out there, preceded only by love.  In the movie The Avengers, the characters wonder and doubt how the Hulk has learned to control his anger….they want to know his secret to hiding it.  Towards the end of the movie you learn he controls it by always being angry.  Here's the clip just because:

And that's what grief is like to me; learning to live with the dichotomy of having sorrow while still being a loving husband, an engaged father, a reliable friend and pleasant co-worker.  That's our secret…we're just always sad.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

In one week

Exactly one week from yesterday it will be the 2 year mark.  Two entire years of living without my beloved Vienne.  Two entire years of grieving.  Two years of learning a new self.  Two years of raising an only child all over again.  Two years of confusion, highs & lows, many changes, growths and set backs.

But there have been joys too.  Life is not void of joys and mini triumphs.  I do not like this life of mine, but I am finally trying to somewhat thrive in it.  I still battle with bitterness and that is something I want to address this next year…but I have also found ways to start caring for myself.  Baby steps.

Before I face the yuck of next week and the reliving of that horrific day, I thought I would jot down some updates from the past few months:

-Mark started a new career back in March.  He is finally back in real estate….though now he landed an incredible position as a broker with a commercial real estate firm in Portland.  The first year, establishing yourself and building clientele, is always a challenge but he is appreciating it and growing quickly.  I am very proud of him.  And, so relieved to watch him do something that he enjoys.

-Ivy is amazing.  She is an angel, of course.  Dare I say (even without bias), she is just as incredible and enchanting as her sister.  I don't understand how it works and I don't know what I exactly believe about all that…but somehow in someway, she without a doubt carries her Sister's extraordinary spirit in her.  It is bitter-sweet. I would have it NO other way, of course.  But, I certainly see Vienne in Ivy every single day….from the way that Ivy dances….runs…makes her silly squeaky playful noises…throws her head back in laughter…is gentle and patient and kind…is sensitive and loving…has never been rude or unkind or aggressive with anyone ever…has NEVER been intentionally disobedient.  Her face looks different from Vienne's, but her little baby body is exactly exactly the same….long torso, short little legs, bowed in knobby knees, pudgy tiny little feet, itty bitty little bum….everything.  Her body is exactly the same.  This little girl keeps me alive.  Oh my, I could devour her with my love.  She brings me to tears just thinking about how much I love her….how proud I am of her.  I could rave and rave and rave about her.
   ~She says "Thank you" to everyone for everything.  That sounds simple and silly….until you experience it from this little 2 year old and then you see how remarkable it is.  "Thank you for making a nummy dinner, Grammy." …"Thank you for letting me play in your bedroom, Aunt Katy" …."Thank you" to the chiropractor for adjusting me, her mama …"Thank you" for opening the door for her … "Thank you for opening the paints, mama" …."Thank you for closing my seatbelt" ….etc.  I'm not even exaggerating.
   ~One of our favorite things she does is say "I meed a hug" (need).  She says this whenever things do not go her way.  Instead of throwing a fit or yelling or hitting or crying hard…she sadly requests a hug with big alligator tears, brimming at the edges of her sweet eyes.  Like when she wants to get down from the table and hasn't finished her dinner…we'll say "you can get down when you finish these 3 bites".  She wells up and says "I meed a hug".  We lean over and hug her and then she finishes her bites. And that goes with everything.  If I gently correct her in public, in front of someone, she will get extremely embarrassed and lean into me, hiding her face, and whisper "I meed a hug".  OH my gosh, doesn't it just tug at your heartstrings??  And it's not in the least bit manipulative (most times) - but it is truly sincerely from a saddened little heart.  We would never refuse those hugs.

(Ivy is on the left and Vienne is on the right - I put these side by side because of the clear similarities in their downward cast faces.)

(some of you already saw this on Facebook - but this was a precious moment I had to share again.  Ivy was watching videos of Sissy and came to this video of V reading a book…so Ivy immediately recognized the book and ran to her room to get it and read along.  The first time she could be read to by her big Sister.  It was an emotional moment for me.)

(just a picture of her being our joy….a constant joy)

(she has developed her own sense of style.  Purple is her favorite color and has to be worn almost everyday in some way)

(Just a glimpse at her sweet mellow nature.  When all is quiet in the house and Ivy is no where to be seen for the moment…she is NEVER making trouble…but is almost always surrounded by a pile of books, reading to herself….or cooking in her kitchen.)

(Ivy still loves her bed and does not like to leave it immediately upon waking.  She doesn't even cry when she wakes.  She quietly sits up and moves to the end of the bed and pulls her blankie up.  Thankfully, I know when she wakes and have a video monitor to make sure.  She will often request a snack in there and she is so clean and tidy that I can trust her with a snack in her bed!  When she was finished with this snack, she put her fork and spoon in the bowl and lined them up next to her cup at the edge of her bed in this orderly fashion.  I rarely worry about messes with her…for she will make a bigger deal out of them than I ever would!)

-As for me, I've been up to a few things…but then again, life is still pretty basic and simple and boring. I did start seeing a new therapist that I think I had mentioned a few months back.  I saw him 4 times….and quit.  OH man, I just don't think counseling is the thing for me right yet.  Besides not connecting with this guy, I just don't like the confines of a counseling scenario.  I hate that you are limited to 45 minutes to discuss what's one your mind.  I always feel a pressure to utilize my time as efficiently as I can, because I am also paying for this!  And, it's not cheap!  You spend that short 45 minutes pouring your heart out and then the time is up and you have to shovel and pack those emotions all back in and walk out the door and carry on with life.  I hate it.

-So, this fall I am finally going to join a Grief Share group instead.  I finally feel the need to be with others who can relate.  I need a setting that is not restricted.  And, I need to feel that I am NOT being fixed…but just being understood and loved.  It took me all this time to get to this place of feeling comfortable to join a group of other bereaved people…I, selfishly, have not wanted to burden myself with other people's sadness, for in my eyes my loss is the worst, of course.  That is normal.  But, now I feel ready - I see how appropriate it will be for me.

-Back in June (I think), I took some more tests for my health.  I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease (which means that my immune system has been attacking my thyroid), Adrenal Fatigue, IBS-C, and a strange condition called Chilblains on my feet (related to autoimmune diseases….look it up if you're curious).  Oh, and an allergy to the sun.  Yeah, not kidding.  Welts and hives on my chest after a few minutes in the sun (all related to the autoimmune disorder, which is Hashimoto's).  I was also officially diagnosed with PTSD by that therapist, before I left him.  So, this summer, I have been taking natural medications for all of those conditions (because I don't go mainstream with medicine if I don't have to) and…..finally have been feeling better!  Some energy has returned and my digestion has been getting much better…and the weird chilblains have mostly disappeared.

-Because of my pent up anger and anxiety, the therapist had suggested that I find a constructive way to release that negative energy.  I thought hard about this because I hate exercise and I am not athletic.  But, I knew I needed a healthy outlet.  So, you will be very surprised about what I have gotten myself into this summer.  I found a Groupon for a kickboxing class and decided to give it a shot.  Groupons are so great for trying new things out in an affordable way.  So, I showed up to this class to find out that it is not a typical "24 Hour Fitness-punch the air to music- Tai Bo kickboxing routine-class".  No.  This was an official martial arts studio and this was what is called Muay Thai Kickboxing and it's legit.  I stood there, with shaking knees, in a small small class of varied levels of skill, thinking "what the hell have I gotten myself into???"  Two months later now….you would not believe that I have officially signed up as a student of martial arts and have been addictively attending class a few times a week.  And, on top of that…..I am actually pretty good at it!  I keep getting incredible feedback from my instructor that he is so surprised by how quickly I've been picking things up.  It is hard and it is challenging and I eat tons of humble pie every time I am there…but surprisingly love it.  I even conquered a huge fear one time when I showed up to class and discovered that I was the only woman in the class of all experienced men - only 5 men.  I had to pair up with one of them and I even had to spar (meaning:  throw impromptu strikes/kicks and block the ones thrown at me)!!  And, I made it through.  It was crazy.  I wrap my wrists and I wear boxing gloves and I take it out on the heavy bags and thai pads…and I am feeling pretty bad ass!  ;)  It has been my big triumph this summer.  I am proud of myself.  I have found something unique and my own - something for myself that is empowering.  I have found a small community there, as well.  I am very glad that I took that huge step out of my comfort zone to discover this incredible opportunity for myself.  Obviously, it is my HUGE "distraction".

-As for my grieving heart - I've found a mostly consistent way to maintain myself at an "even keeled" level of emotion with the help of natural supplements and those distractions.  I get by in this life by finding constant distractions.  I've reached a point of recognizing that there is absolutely nothing I can do to change the "fate" of things - my daughter died.  It is horrific and I have to live with that truth.  And, there is nothing in this world that can change it or fix me or make that truth better.  I have to live with this.  I don't accept it but I have resigned to it.  I have spent most of the past 2 years fighting that..and the fight has done nothing for me but wear me down and make me sick.

I don't know what to think about as I approach next week.  We don't have plans.  We have decided to not do anything "special".  We do not want to be around people.  We want the day to just reflect and be sad.  We intentionally do not want to be distracted if that's how we feel.  So, we are not even doing a family dinner like we did last year.  We are letting Ivy stay over night with my parents (for the first time!  ah!) and Mark and I will just spend the day as we like it, together.  I had a hard time making the decision to let Ivy go on the day.  There was a small conviction that we should spend the day together as a family.  But, then I realized that that is what we do every saturday.  And, Ivy is our distraction.  She brings us constant joy.  I don't want to be distracted by joy on that day.  I want room for the sadness since I so intentionally avoid it all other days of the year.

September 6th is on a Saturday this year and I have progressively noticed how popular this date is for many events.  It's foolish, but I must admit that I have been frustrated by that…knowing that so many people will be having fun and celebrating something on this day that we will grieve.  There is a brewfest/tasting tour….the Warrior Dash….birthday parties…neighborhood parties etc.  I hope that most people who are close to us will, at least, take a moment to reflect and maybe even share with me a reflection.  I will need to know that she is not forgotten.

(Please never forget this Beauty of mine.  OH isn't she breathtaking????)

(age 3 1/2)

My Heart - she is a piece of my heart.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Heaviness all around

I don't come here very often anymore…actually, I pretty much avoid this blog lately.  Avoidance is my current key to survival.  Much can be read into that…but I prefer not to at this point.

Anyway, I still feel though…of course.  And this past week was one of heavier proportions.  So, I felt compelled to write it out, so that maybe some of the heaviness could be unloaded.

I have felt emotionally affected and burdened by all of the horror that seems to progressively multiply around us.  Doesn't it feel thicker and heavier and more abundant these days?  Like the horrible tragic things that happen in this world are hitting closer and closer to home?  Well, for me it's already hit "home"…so maybe I'm more aware of tragedy and doom.  I don't know.  Anyway, I just couldn't stop the tears this week….and for me, you know that is unusual.  I cried at least once every day this week….when I will usually go weeks or months without tears.  (I'm so weird).  

~The murder of the toddler and slashing of her teen sister by their mother, in the Cannon Beach hotel…..the town where my marriage was born….where Vienne was born and spent half her life….the hotel where we held our wedding reception.
~The missing mom in Newberg whose body was finally discovered and revealed evidence of suicide.  This one hit very close to me.  It really felt like a blow to my stomach.  I battle with icky thoughts of not wanting to live this life…..every.  single.  day.  And, then to actually watch a story of a local mom who followed through with those horrible haunting thoughts, most likely because her life was too hard….was very real to me.  (please know, I do not conjure up thoughts of my own suicide….I don't think about ending my life….I just think about how I don't want to live this life.  There is a difference.  I wouldn't be the one to take my life.  I couldn't.  But sometimes I surely wish it would end.)
~The missing little girl in Washington whose body was found this week.
~The genocide in Iraq….the beheading of the children….the fleeing of the Christians and their consequential starvation and deaths in the surrounding hills.  Horror.  Unimaginable horror….horror beyond what I have even known.  
~A friend's father whose fight with cancer is not looking good.
~Another friend's newborn baby Girl suffering from seizures and spending time in the hospital undergoing tests…when she should be home nursing and sleeping and acclimating to life outside of her mommy's tummy.

Enough already.  And this was all just in the past few weeks (that I found out about).

Then yesterday.  Yesterday, I knew I was emotional so sometimes when I'm in that place, I decide to just delve further into it, rather than try to run from it (since I spend most of my time in avoidance).  So, I decided it might be a good day to take Ivy to one of Vienne's favorite places (click this link to read further on that)….a place we have yet to return to since the summer that Vienne was last with us.  The Smith Berry Barn in Scholls.  We have so many memories of just going there to hang out in the grass and feed the goats…..pick berries…purchase local honey.  It is one place I have avoided….kept sacred, maybe.  So, I took Ivy there yesterday morning.  We picked blackberries and raspberries.  She's such a good little companion….patiently standing in the aisle, next to me, as I would hand her a few berries at a time.  She would inspect them for any red spots (on the blackberries).  As we were chatting and filling our bucket we heard a LOUD "BOOM-CRASH"….almost sounded like a gun went off.  Everyone in the field gasped and froze.  We were next to a side road.  A car accident had occurred….it looked like a head-on collision.  A man burst out of one vehicle and ran around and shouted at everyone in the field to call 911.  My eyes welled with tears as I reached for my phone with trembling fingers….and….I froze. I couldn't do it.  The last time I dialed 911 was for my Vienne.  It was a serious post traumatic stress moment.  Thankfully another man in the field had a phone and made the call.  Then suddenly a dog erupted from one of the vehicles and bolted down the road….straight to the busy traffic street up ahead.  We all, in the field, started screaming….screaming at the dog and then at the people to try and alert their attention.  That's when I lost it.  I stood there screaming and just seeing in my mind's eye, this dog running straight at an oncoming car and getting killed.  I just started crying.  It was too much.  All just too too much.

Thankfully, the dog veered from traffic…though it ran far down the road and I am not sure if he was found.  A fire truck and paramedics arrived.  Even though we spent the rest of the time distracting ourselves with the goats and chickens, our time there was overshadowed by this sad event….with the flashing lights of the trucks and loud blaring of the sirens.  What a way to return to a special memorable spot…..on this week of heaviness.  Of all things.  Of all times.

It's just been too heavy for me.  And, I needed to unload this.

Here are some photos of Ivy at the special farm that we love ~

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mornings ~ {A guest post by Mark}

*Since I am very obviously not currently interested in blogging these days, Mark saw an opportunity to fill the void and share his heart.  He has been hesitant to do so for some time…but I am so very glad he did.  I love my husband's heart.  And so will you.  (The photos were chosen and added by me)*


I never fully realized what a charmed life I had when Vienne was here, particularly the mornings.  The first two years of V's life I was a realtor in Cannon Beach.  The last two and a half years I was in sales for a heating/cooling company in Portland.  With both, it was rare that I had to be out the door before 8:30.  To some people, that means you get to sleep in until 8, or even 8:15.  But not if Vienne were living in your house.

From the very beginning V was an early riser and though I'm sure it happened I can't remember a day when she slept past 7!  As I recall, she was typically up around 6:30 most mornings.  And because it takes me a whopping 15 minutes to get ready for work, I almost always had an hour or two with her.

In Cannon Beach days, before she turned 2, we (I) would eagerly wait for the clock to strike 7 so I could pack us up and walk down to our favorite bakery Waves of Grain.  Often in misty morning coastal fogs, we'd stroller on down and spend 45 minutes hanging out on their cozy couch.  When she was tiny she'd just sit next to me on this old couch that you'd just sink into, nibbling on snacks and watching people come and go while I read the Gazette.  As she learned to walk she used the walls, chairs, display cases and occasional strangers leg to scale the circumference of the common area.  I always felt like the staff and owners came to look at her as a little mascot.  In fact, as I write this I remember that Waves of Grain Bakery is the first place I took Vienne a couple weeks after she was born.  For those who like details, V's favorite treat at the time was the espresso bran muffin; I would steal the espresso glazed top and she would mine the muffin bottom for all the raisins.  We complimented each other fairly well in this manner.

Waves of Grain has since moved to Portland (yay!) and the space in CB is now called Sea Level Bakery.  Through some odd providence, the new bakery owners are connected by family friends and very familiar with Vienne's story.  When they started remodeling the bakery this Spring they invited us over and asked if we had any ideas or thoughts on how they could honor Vienne's memory at the new bakery.  I mean wow!  Who does that?  I haven't been back yet and haven't asked them what idea they landed on because I envision just walking in one day and smiling at whatever I see.  The new owners are also the people who assisted Jenny's Mom in making her dream of  Vienne's bench plaque a reality.

In good weather we would sometimes take our bakery treats to the beach or just continue walking.  V loved the fresh ocean air.  Whenever the wind wasn't too crazy we'd walk the sand or sit on one of the  old driftwood-made benches at the end of nearly every street in Tolovana Park.  I have some great "selfies" (before they were called that) of V & I one day when there was a negative tide and she was just solid enough to totter around on her own.  We explored tidal pools and she discovered how fun wet sand can be.

Our Beaverton mornings were just as adventurous in their way but I'll save that for another day.

I don't have this freedom of time with Ivy, at least not on the weekdays and I feel guilty for it.  When Vienne passed I swore to myself that work would never trump time with family and I have become a classic hypocrite on this.  I work ten hour days in order to establish myself in a new career in commercial real estate.  I tell myself that in a year or two I'll have a better foundation set where I can blend working from home in the mornings and spend time creating stories with Ivy.  And yet, who knows more than us that we never know what even the next hour will bring?  Jesus spoke of this fruitless future planning and I think of those words often on my way to work.  Are the sacrifices today worth what tomorrow may bring?  Last year I would have unhesitatingly said no.  Take as much as can be gotten out of every day and as much time with those you love as possible.

Yet as time has passed we have new dreams as a family and I have new visions of how I want to grow with Ivy.  Those plans involve professional freedom and so in my subconscious scales I have weighed and determined that not having mornings with Ivy like I had with Vienne is worth the future I may have with Ivy that I'll never have with Vienne.
Right or wrong, I love Ivy with a fierceness that borders on insanity.  Every, and I emphasize every, morning they are heavy steps and an aching heart that have me walking out the door and away for the day.

And, now this is Mark with Ivy.  She has Vienne's smile, as you can see in comparison with the photo above~

Monday, May 19, 2014

Caleb's Dream of Vienne

Caleb told his Mama (Lacey) that he had another dream about Vienne.  If you don't know the history between Caleb and Vienne, read about it here and here.  This is not the first dream he's had about her in Heaven…though, I failed to remember to share the last one I heard.  Maybe Lacey can remind me.

Here is his dream from this past weekend:

Caleb (7 yrs. old) said that he went to Vienne's new house which was like a little castle made of lots of colors and was built of giant blocks.  They played outside on the swings and while they were swinging, Vienne told Caleb that she loved him and she thanked him for being her friend.  She was wearing a beautiful rainbow dress and he said she was happier than he'd ever seen her.  The sun was shining brightly and he said it was his favorite time that he has ever gotten to play with her.


and more *tears*

can't.  stop.  crying.

This one broke my overly hardened and embittered facade today.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Vienne's 6th Birthday

Well, exactly one week ago from today, we celebrated Vienne's 6th Birthday.  I just realized today that Vienne was actually born on a Thursday too.  This was the first Thursday since her birth that we celebrated her day.  

As I promised last year, I have chosen to be happy on her Birthday each year.  I kept my promise last week.

This year's celebration was just as great of a turn out as last year's and I am thankful for that.  I am very thankful for all the help we received and for all of the participation and support.  

This year, we chose to celebrate Vienne's birthday at another one of her favorite parks - Barrows Park in Beaverton.  Vienne called this park "Dragon Park" for the concrete dragon sculpture that is there, which she used to ride on ~
{Vienne at age 2 1/2 riding the dragon}

This special park was also chosen because we were gifted with a beautiful bench plaque that we scheduled to have installed on the morning of her Birthday.  The plaque was gifted to us by my Mom and Stepdad along with some dear friends of theirs who have fallen in love with Vienne, Ann and Doug Menke.  Doug works for Tualatin Hills Park and Rec who helped make this happen.  The pictures are below.

We continued the tradition of planting wildflower seeds at the park.  I incorporated a new activity for the children, which will continue as tradition in every year following this one.  I filled a basket with tiny dinosaurs for the kids to hide around the park and leave behind for another child to find.  Each dino had a little tag with a note on it for the child when it was found.  You will also see these below.  

The day was another HOT (90 degrees!!??) sunny day, like last year.  A perfect day for the park.  We invited our close friends and family and people who knew Vienne.  

Here are the photos:

{this is a horrible photo, but this is the little bag of seed bombs that were made for our church family.  My friend, Jessica, helped and organized a seed bomb making party.  We rolled seeds into air-dry clay, mixed with fertilizer.  Jessica took them home and put them in these darling little bags.  She enlisted, Andrea - a graphic designer at our church - for help, who designed the darling cards, which were attached.  If you notice on the card, the T-Rex is holding a blue hydrangea!  And, then a dino was also included in the bag…..my church family totally rocks.}

{a dino in the bag, with seed bombs and shredded crinkle paper filling}

{the back side of the card.  This bag and card was only handed out to my church.  I made something of my own for our party.  I just wanted to share what was done for us.  We are so thankful for the continued love and support from our church family.}


{Tualatin Hills Park & Rec were also amazing in helping us to celebrate Vienne.  We scheduled the installation of the plaque for her Birthday, so THPRD offered to set up the canopy as well as provide chairs for the party!…and then come and pick it all up when the party was over.}

{And, here is the plaque!!  How freaking amazing is this??!!  The "photo" is actually in color.  I have NEVER seen a plaque like this.  We are so touched and amazed by this incredible gift.  There are no words.  If you live in the Portland area, please go and visit the bench.  Leave Vienne a flower!}

{We suggested that if anyone wanted to bring a gift for Vienne, they could bring her a bouquet of flowers, to set on the bench.  Here is a photo of the beginning of that collection of sweet bouquets, along with Ivy and her sweet cousin, Miriam.}

{We moved the canopy over the picnic table and set up a few things that I had planned for the party.  Here, in front, are remembrance cards, printed on handmade seed paper for the guests to take home and either keep or plant in their yards.  In the basket behind, are the seed bombs…just to grab and toss into the wetlands that line the edge of the park.}

{Seed bombs.  They either looked like poop balls…or chocolate truffles.  Actually, most everyone thought that they were truffles!  Good thing there was a sign. ;)}

{in the basket on the left are the tiny dinosaurs with little tags tied to them.  The dinos were for the kids at our party to hide anywhere at the park and leave behind for another child to find.  On the tags, I printed this little saying that Mark helped to create:  "Hi!  My name is Dino and I like warm hugs!  I was left here for you to find in memory of a little Girl named Vienne who loved dinos and adventures and making friends.  Today, on May 1, Vienne would be 6 - give Dino a hug and send her a sweet wish.  xo"}

{Made two types of cupcakes again - Grain/dairy free and Gluten free.  True to tradition, honoring Vienne's last birthday request, the chocolate cupcakes are decorated with green frosting and purple polka dots.  And I added a few candy dinos here and there.  (Thank you to my Sis, Kate, for making one of the batches xoxo)}

{I was pretty proud about how they turned out}

{the melted gluten free version}

{Vienne's Aunt Kinsey, my dear friend and sis in law, made Vienne this gorgeously creative dino and gnome garden.  UUHHHH-Mazing!}

{check out the little door and the hiding dinos…there are little honey bees and flowers…oh the pics don't do it justice.}

{sisters and cousins}

{it was a great turn out of dear friends and family}

{me with Asher and Elijah - two of Vienne's good friends}

{in a social gathering, you can ALWAYS find Mark playing with the kids.  ALWAYS.  He tends to veer from adult socializing.  He says that kids are way more fun and entertaining.  I love my husband.}

{Ivy Girl}

{look how big she is getting!}

{Cousin Elliott down the slide and Jenna watching on}

{Caleb and Ivy.  Caleb is of one Vienne's best friends and there is a true connection between these two already}

{long time friends - Donny and Mark}

{I love how Ivy loves Uncle Seff (Seth)}

{Cutie girls - Ivy and Sophie}

{Isn't she a beauty??}

{Me with Emily - one of Vienne's old dear friends.  I was so so touched that Emily could come.  She gave me some of the sweetest hugs.}

{Our dear friends, the Atienzas.  So glad they were here this year!  Last year, they were in Hawaii and missed the park celebration.  Love you guys.}

{Ivy loves her Auntie Eileen}


**Now, here are some photos that were submitted to me to share.  Photos of seed plantings for Vienne.**

*The Hernandez Boys*


*The Daggett Family**


*The Kerns Family*


*The Goetze Family*


*The Villalobos Family - another grieving family with a new angel in Heaven * 


*The Miller Family*


*Laura Green*


*The Browns & The Stricklands*


*The Partridge House Preschool!*


*Pam & Ryan!*


*Maddy Pierson*


*David Piscitelli*
 {Mark's brother, who couldn't make it down for the day so he visited the duck pond where he had taken Vienne and Elliott, one time, to feed the ducks.  Revisiting an sweet old memory on her Birthday.}


*Brittani Morton, Brittany Hill, Erin Cowen, & Cassie Boyd*
{A group of Vienne's friends and their mommies gathered at a nearby park and celebrated Vienne's birthday together.  They released balloons and shared cupcakes.  So sweet to my heart.}