January 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Babies, football and house projects

Soooo....um, I have apparently been nominated for a Sheenazing Award! This took me by total surprise, and to be honest I didn't even know these awards existed until I saw Miss Heather from Mama Knows, Honeychild exclaim her total surprise and delight that she has been nominated for three of these schmancy things. And rightly so! If you've never read her blog (which, if you are the kind that likes a good laugh I doubt that's the case), then hop on over an give it a try. I just love her honesty and comedy. Love love love. Oh, so I was going to vote for her blog as "Funniest" Catholic blogger among other things. As I'm scrolling down through the categories I came to "Most Inspiring." And who's blog did I stumble upon? None other than THIS ONE! Oh. My. Gosh! I have never shaken in disbelief or surprise like I did yesterday morning. Totally humbled. Totally shocked. Excited. Just wow. So, if you like (and have a moment) feel free to vote for Blue Jeans Fancy Things before Monday, 9 PM CT.

My god-daughter is baptized! This is the second baptism I've attended since Samuel's baptism. Both times I have been moved to tears as these little ones are freed from original sin. As I blessed Cecelia with the sign of the cross, I was immediately placed back at Samuel's baptism. The memory was so fresh. I felt such a closeness to my son as we welcomed my goddaughter into the Church. As we prayed the Lord's Prayer to conclude the rite, I held back tears. Tears of joy. Tears of longing. Tears remembering how we prayed the Lord's Prayer over Samuel as he passed. The Lord's prayer welcomed Samuel into Heaven. The Lord's Prayer welcomed Cecelia into the Church. My prayers continue that this little one come to know God the way Samuel knows Him. With unconditional love and adoration. A steady faith that leads her, too, to Heaven.

Proud godmama and Cecelia :)

Godfather and Cecelia
The Seahawks are going to the Superbowl!!!! Even Cecelia was cheering them on! 

Isn't that headband just the sweetest? A woman makes them in a town near my house. I just couldn't resist bringing some Seahawks paraphernalia to Indiana! Her daddy very much approved :) The last time, and first time, the Hawks were in the bowl I had just met my husband. We were hardly dating a few weeks when I came over to his college apartment to watch the game. I was surrounded by a bunch of people I didn't know except for him. Oh, so uncomfortable! Smelly boy apartment, grubby couch :-/ (though I learned this was no representation of my dear husband). I clearly didn't grow up with brothers! This time I'll be in the comfort (and cleanliness) of my own home with my dearest friends, my St. Tommy's family. I am so looking forward to cooking some darn good football food, catching up with old friends, and beating the Broncos!

Good tunes: Avicii's "Hey Brother" Oh man, I just love the bluegrass singer's voice (Dan Tyminski). The folk sound. The uplifting melodies. Mmmm. Just some fine tunes. I've loved Avicii's "Wake Me Up" since I first heard it, and was thrilled to hear another emotion-filled song by them upon my hubby's recommendation.

I don't think I have yet mentioned that Samuel's grave marker is finished. I just love how it turned out. We spent such care in designing it, painstakingly creating draft after draft. I never would have thought I'd put so much as a dime toward thinking about my child's gravestone, but let me tell you. This project was so important for us to get just. right. After several (dumb) drafts, David and I decided that I should try to sketch David's hands so that they would hold Samuel's footprints. Both the sketch and the actual footprints were then laser etched into black granite. We feel the hands represent God's hands, carefully, gently, lovingly holding Samuel's actual footprints, which are actual size. We wanted to illustrate the poignancy of a baby's footprints on a grave, complemented by the peace of knowing our baby is in God's hands.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come...for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those such as these." 
Matthew 19:14

Rug shopping is SO. HARD! We have laminate hardwoods throughout the living space of our house, which means for the first time we need to buy rugs. We bought one for our sitting room. It's nice. 100% wool so it sheds. A lot (though I hear this subsides after the first four months of vacuuming it twice a week). Frustrating. It's also not super soft and cuddly for sitting/playing on the floor. We want to find something more comfortable for our family room without paying $4000. In fact, we don't even want to pay $500. Has anyone ever purchase a chunk of carpet and had it bound? We're thinking a 12x10' chunk bound would be perfect. Except we want it by next weekend when we have all our friends over...doubt that's going to happen. Hmm. Stay tuned!
Project of the day: prepping our master bath for vanity, counter top and sink installation! woo-hoo! This includes adding another coat of paint to all the walls and scrubbing the bathtub. Whoever painted that bathroom bright red managed to get that paint all over the tub. Which, as you can imagine, looks kind of creepy... Nevertheless, this weekend we'll have a fresh bathroom! Then it's just a matter of installing new baseboards and trim around the door. And I should probably stain that door before too long. Oh, the list is so long. But we'll get there!

Happy Friday, all! Check out some other lovely ladies' Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

January 23, 2014

Stuck in FBM

Full-Brain-Mode (FBM): (n.) 1. the state of being in which a person looks into a window of his/her own life rather than actually living it; 2. having a perception of too much to process, too much to feel, too much to accomplish, thus resulting in a static state; 3. the state of being so overwhelmed one cannot go on

Yes, people. I have decided this FBM must be a real thing (it's not. I made it up.) since there absolutely has to be a perfectly scientific, logical reason why I am struggling to check things off my list, to find motivation, to find purpose to my every day happenings. Back in August, I started to consider what it meant to be a mama with her baby, and I thought (and think) I figured that out, but that doesn't mean I still don't get stuck outside simply watching my life pass me by. That sounds so dramatic, especially since I have expressed so much gratitude for the many blessings I do recognize in my life. So let me clarify: when my brain is so darn full with things to do, things to process (a.k.a. analyze, I generally over-do that), and things to feel I intuitively distance myself--or leave the building--to stand back, hoping to catch a darn break! Seriously, can I please just have some peace?

**deeeeeep breeeeeath**

However, as long as I'm looking through the window avoiding the processing, the feeling and the doing, the brain continues to be full. I get stuck in FBM, going through the motions of the every day while I watch the time and people pass by.  

Sometimes, I watch the whole world below...

Occasionally, I'll step back into my life and really feel, really process what's going on. Living intentionally is something I hold very dear to my heart. I will sometimes compare the choice to live intentionally to walking into a fire. Letting the flames lick my legs. Feeling the burn, the warmth. It can be painful yet comforting. I may cry or shake with anger, but I accept this as relief. I chose to walk in that fire, so I embrace that fire. It burns for a reason. As that fire burns, the pain slowly becomes like ashes, disintegrating around me. Only then do I start to feel the warmth of the coals. I feel joy, love, passion as the glowing coals dance at my now raw ankles. 

Boy, that sounds gruesome. But it's true. Without processing and feeling everything, I can't expect to intentionally, actively participate in my life. I am just a spectator. 

The last three or so months have been full of things to do, things to process, things to feel. I've been trying to keep up with it all, but today...and yesterday, last week, last month...my brain is definitely in FBM.

Who would have thought saying goodbye to the house that was always known as temporary could be so hard? To say goodbye to the house where my first child was supposed to spend his first few months? To say goodbye to the house that provide a space to heal? To say goodbye to the house where my loved ones grieved with me, laughed with me, hoped with me? It was always just a rental, but this rental became the home that would hold so, so much of my life. David and I spent 90+ long, intentional minutes going from room to room, reliving each memory the night before I handed over the keys. For me, the master bedroom held the most poignant memories, memories I will forever cherish. Memories of Samuel's body laying in his co-sleeper. So tiny. So peaceful. So cold. Memories of my mom, dad, sister all standing in the room, crying. Not sure what to say. Memories of our dear friend and now brother-in-law, Pat, seeing his godson for the first time...and the last. I think about how strange that was. My friend from college, just a friend like anyone else, was experiencing a moment so intimate with us. When I met him all those years ago, just a year after meeting David, I would have never guessed in a million years that he would have become part of my family, someone with whom I'd share such joy and such grief. Then, standing in our room with Samuel's body. Crying. No words. I remember hugging Pat. Just not sure what to do. So many memories, it didn't seem possible to hold on to all of them if I left. If I said goodbye... Before we turned off the lights to our bedroom, David and I offered a prayer for the new family. We asked that the house provide them with many blessings, countless days of joy. That their hearts be made full of love in this home. For that is what this home gave to us. Hearts full.

The transition into the new home was much harder--is much harder--to experience. For me, that fire burns a little too hot at times. The change can feel too overwhelming. But as David reminds me on a regular basis, I have never been one to adapt quickly to change. :) In fact, when we were first married and moved to downtown Seattle, I hate. ed. it. Couldn't stand the noise. Couldn't stand the people. The lack of furniture in our condo. Everything about our new lives I hated. But I really didn't. I hated the change. I didn't want to learn how to live in the city. I didn't want to allow myself to like living in the city. Nine loooooong months later I started to really love our home. I loved my job, loved walking everywhere. I even loved the noise. So here I am, in another change. Our first home without memories of our first-born. Our first home we own. My first home older than one from 90's. With each month that we live here, I grow more fond of it. With each added bit of organization, with each accomplished project, with each decorated wall I find myself growing more comfortable in the space. But that doesn't mean I still struggle to adapt. That's a fire I'm not very comfortable accepting, let alone walking into.

Since we've moved into this house, the fire has burned steadily. The holidays added quite a bit of fuel to it. I had no desire to even acknowledge this hot monster. Nope. I'm just going to step outside and wait for it to die down. Well, apparently avoidance is just another kind of fuel. That fire burned and burned and burned, hotter than a hornet's nest (is that even a real idiom?). I managed to enjoy Thanksgiving, acknowledging who was missing. Accepting my sorrow over not actually having Samuel in my lap as I would have tried to eat my turkey without spilling gravy all over his cuteness (I guess that's what high chairs are for?). As soon as we returned home, Advent started. But instead of waiting in anticipation, waiting with a full heart for the coming of our Lord Jesus, I was anxious. I was tired of waiting for another baby. Tired of being patient. Tired of being so hopeful, being the strong, faith-filled wife. That fire was burning with such intensity I grew afraid of it. Instead of taking a seat next it, I ran for cover. I avoided conversations with David. I stopped talking to God throughout the day, let alone at any point during the day. I pretended everything was just fine, I simply needed to get through the holidays. I even convinced my grief therapist of this. My life was just a picture, and I was doing my darndest to paint it pretty.

One day, probably two and half weeks into Advent, I called my mom to for comfort. Instead, I ended up expressing my total angst about all this pretending. My perfect little picture was actually not perfect. Life was not okay. And I was tired of waiting for life to start again. Why did I have to be the mama who wouldn't have her baby at Christmas? Why did I have to always be the one to wait on people? Oh my goodness, this sudden burst of anger hit me like a freight train at full speed. Not even a whistle warning. When my mom sensed I was coming to a lull in my rant, she asked me a very gentle and very simple question: Beth, are you still angry that's Samuel's gone?

Well, whadayaknow. My mom can still deliver. Her simple little question was like an invitation back into the house. An invitation to come sit by the fire, I didn't have to walk into those flames if I didn't want to. I could just sit by it for a while. Get a sense for what was going on. So I did. She concluded our conversation with another bit of wisdom: as with every Advent, we are asked to wait. We are asked to be patient and to prepare. Perhaps this season is more important, more meaningful than ever before because you are not just preparing for Christ, but for having another baby. For healing in your family. For welcoming God back into your heart.

That conversation stayed with me throughout the holidays. It was that conversation and realization that helped me reconnect with David. Helped me reconnect with God. I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet for the first time in months, practically begging Christ for his mercy, begging Him to believe me that I trusted in Him once more--that I would trust in Him. All this begging was more for myself, begging myself to be open to Christ's mercy and to trust in him once more. I felt a shift of heart.

Even though I started to process this feeling of longing and anger, I continued to discover other emotions, other thoughts, other fears. Two more babies were born in my family.

grandbaby #29

grandbaby #30, aka my god-daughter

Our house continued to give us projects, not even waiting until we finished the first list.

David building my craft / sewing table 

Painting baseboards. Too cold to paint in the garage!

David and I started talking about our own little family again, talking about Samuel, about future brothers and sisters, about our marriage. We shared our fears about what it would mean to get pregnant again. Fears I had yet to address. I explored these fears as my shoulders shook, my chest heaving and face swollen with tears. Was I even capable of having a healthy baby? What if the baby is once again affected by a genetic disorder or a chromosomal mutation? Could I handle yet another hurdle? Could I love this baby, or what seems less likely, could I still love God if he gave us yet another baby with challenges, rather than just a plain ol' healthy baby? Isn't raising a healthy baby challenging enough? I fear that I will distance myself from this potential next child just to protect myself from future possible challenges. I fear the next pregnancy will not be as beautiful, as peaceful, as perfect as my first with Samuel. I fear the next baby will go through a long labor full of complications unlike my labor and delivery with Samuel. I fear our medical team might not know how to best support David and I, thus alienating us rather than encourage us through this painful first jump. I fear that my fear of complications will hinder, will distract from the beauty and miracle that is the creation of new life. I long to have my days of innocence back, the days that I didn't believe anything could go wrong. I don't want the burden of knowing that things can go wrong.

Must I carry that cross? If only I could be more like Mary, offering a freer YES to accept and embrace the path on which God has set me upon. I envy those mothers who have never experienced such pain, complication or tragedy in their lives. I would never wish such things upon them, ever. But I do envy their more care-free paths, their seemingly simpler paths. I took my care-free path for granted. I regret doing that. Maybe that is why we had Samuel, why we had our T13 baby? To wake me up to the realities of humanity? To realize life is truly, TRULY a miracle? This fire is burning a little too hot for comfort...I want to step away. If I stand in it a little longer, the pain will subside.

That pain will always be a part of me now, whether I choose to accept it or avoid it. It will always be there. Through that pain, with that pain, I can see all the beautiful blessings I've received as a result of Samuel's passing, his becoming a saint. I have come to know God's will, his mercy, his providence far more clearly than ever before. I have felt the Holy Spirit in my life, working through David and me, gifting us with courage and wisdom, sending us the fruits of faith and peace. God's grace has been beyond abundant, flowing like a river just after the spring thaw. Vibrant, powerful. I've learned that while we are born with many virtues, it is only by the grace of God that we can receive the spiritual virtues of faith, hope and love. Three things I have experienced FULLY and TRULY in the last nine months.

And yet...I still get stuck in FBM. Life feels so much heavier than it did a year ago. I cannot escape, break from the static life, the empty life of FBM without God anymore. I thought that I used to be able to. But now, without His grace, his mercy I truly struggle to find joy. When I stay focused on Him, I am focused on getting to Heaven. Focused on reuniting with my first-born son. Focused on being with Jesus. There is nothing more in this world that I want than to be with Jesus and all the angels and saints. Free from the chains of humanity. When all seems lost, when no one else can provide the words to bring me back to the present, it is this focus on my Creator that can pull me back into the house. It is this focus that allows me to then, and only then, see more clearly. To sort through and accept my pains, my crosses. It is this focus that can help me break free from full-brain-mode and breathe.


Oh Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in you!

January 14, 2014

Abundant Family. Abundant Blessing.

Oh boy, so many babies in the last year! Since my little highlight of our dear friends' first child, Savannah, more babies arrived and are on the way. For me, the two most significant arrivals were those of my two new cousins, sweet baby Colette (my aunt Lisa's fourth, yes, FOURTH GIRL!) and beautiful little Cecelia (my aunt Susan's first little one!).

Colette is the 29th, and Cecelia the 30th grandchild of our family. THIRTY! Isn't that amazing? I have so much joy and gratitude for my big, giant family. This milestone just adds to it. I am reminded of how God has worked in our lives, providing us the blessings of plentiful friends, plentiful caretakers, and plentiful diversity in perspectives (a.k.a. opinions; this blessing is likely the number one reason I've developed/am developing thick skin :). Listening to my grandpa talk about his love for all his 10 children and his now 30 grandchildren is inspiring. For me, it's God's love in action.

**just a wee bit saddened by the fact that I don't have a picture of every, single grandchild at this point**

I love that my big family provides a wide variety of friends and shoulders to lean on as relationships ebb and flow. Sometimes, I may feel incredibly close with one of my cousins close to my age. At another point in my life, I may find more connection with one of my younger aunts (Susan is actually a month younger than I, and Lisa is only five years older). And then there are moments when I received bits of wisdom from one or more of the "older six" aunts and uncles in surprisingly perfect ways.

I love that my big family helps each other accomplish great things. A couple summers ago, just a few weeks before David and I moved to the east coast, the family spent half a week re-roofing my grandparents' house. Farmers never hire out--they can do it themselves! That is, with a bit of help from the folks down the road, or in our case, the 40 some-odd sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters and in-laws. :) What better showcase of love than to serve one another?

Scraping the 30+ year old roof, the roof my grandpa originally laid on his house.
I love how my big family continues to evolve. Little ones (including myself!) grow up. Those who were once little are having little ones of their own. I am watching my aunts and uncles adapt to growing older, providing us younger ones with more wisdom and always a good laugh. I have watched my grandparents change. My grandpa is much softer, more open than I remember him as a child. He offers his experience, wisdom and love gently. He provides comfort and a level head. He gives unconditionally. My grandma--always a strong lady--continues to demonstrate how tough she truly is. Her independence and determination (some might call this stubborn as an, yeah...) has been an example to all of us girls--daughters and granddaughters alike--that we are more than servants to the family. We are leaders. We are listeners. We are caregivers and hard workers. We are teachers, entertainers and mediators. 54 years my grandparents have been married. It is the love between them has created this family. That love continues to grow as the family grows. 54 years. 10 kids. 30 grandkids. 3 great-grandkids. Truly amazing. We are so blessed.

The farm that my grandpa built with his own hands
(and with the help of one of his uncles :)

Remnants of a tree my uncle cut down on the farm early last summer
One thing I can struggle with, though, is the physical distance between families and coordinating 50 different schedules. :) I always wish we could all be together--ALL of us--once a year. But it's hard. Fall of 2012, while we were living on the east coast, I was able to visit my aunt and uncle in Boston. I have such fond memories of them from when I was a very little girl (under the age of 5) living in California. I hadn't spent much time with them since then. What a blessing to be able to once again spend quality time and create new memories! If only moments like this, moments of connection could happen more often.

Now, my aunt Susan and uncle Joe have moved to Indiana. I grew up with Susan. We are practically the same age, only a month apart, so naturally we were paired together by our loving parents as best buddies. So I fought with her like a sister. It wasn't often we could find common ground. She is the baby of the kids. I am the oldest granddaughter. She liked make-believe. I preferred doing projects. She was the aunt. I was the niece. We couldn't be more different, but somehow as we grew older we have found so much in common. And now she's halfway across the country! Our babies won't grow up together (easily). Guess we'll have to make a better effort at using Skype :) I know we'll always keep in touch. We'll be able to pick up where we left off any time we do get to see each other. Plus, I have a little extra incentive to keep in touch now. Susan and Joe asked that I be the godmother to Cecelia, a responsibility I didn't fully understand until I had Samuel. Now I know my constant prayers will help us to stay connected as I strive to provide Cecelia the best spiritual parenting possible.    

So, this weekend I will kiss my dearest hubby goodbye as I leave for Indiana to celebrate Cecelia's baptism into the Church! One more little one welcomed into our family here on earth, and into our Catholic faith. We truly do have abundant blessing through our abundant family. God is good!

The amazing people who started it all 54 years ago. ♥    

January 10, 2014

Happy new year!

I always dread the first post after a long hiatus.  I never know what exactly to write, how to write it, how much to update my readers on the ins and outs of my life... It's not that I haven't wanted to write in the last three months, or that I didn't have any thing to say (me, have nothing to say?!).  Rather, blogging apparently is shoved so far down the priority list while in the middle of the move, planning/hosting a baby shower and the holiday season! So, I'll keep this first post back short and sweet:  HAPPY NEW YEAR! May 2014 be filled with abundant blessings, open hearts and God's grace! 

After Christmas Eve mass at the church where David &
I were married. FOUR years ago!