Thursday, January 31, 2013

Snow, Snow, Snow

It's been one of those weird winters. It snowed around Thanksgiving, then melted and snowed but didn't stick until the first day of winter. Then it snowed through New Year's and suddenly melted again. There were a few warm days ("warm" meaning 35 degrees) and then it snowed 15 inches in one night. It would melt a little during the day and then snow more at night. 
As I'm writing this, it's melted again. We've had a rainy day and it was a very strange 55 degrees. It's supposed to be in the teens and snowing again by the weekend. 
Whatever. Since it's so crazy, we thought that pictures of us in the snow needed to happen. 
By the way, if you're looking for snowman pictures, there aren't any. 

Here's why: snow has to be a certain texture to make snowmen or it's just too powdery and you have a pile of snow and very cold fingers (Carson taught me this). And just when the snow get to be the right texture, it melts again and we're back to square one. 

Anyway, this was after church last Sunday:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Helpful Responses to a Miscarriage

I shared why we decided to be public with the news of our miscarriage here.
Now I'd like to share some helpful things I've gleaned from the experience. Things people said or did that were helpful... or not so much. There were more helpful things than not, and I feel like they're obvious, but in case this is helpful to others... here you are:

Disclaimer: These are obviously related to my personal experience. There are people who would like nothing said, and people who really need that. Remember that.

A lot of people said, "I don't know what to say", and I think that it was still encouraging. Knowing that they cared, even if they were a little freaked out to talk to me in fear of saying the wrong thing, was helpful.

"What can I do?" was another common response. I appreciated it, and if there were ways that people could help, I told them, but there wasn't a lot for them to do but pray. If I'd had other children, maybe a meal or something? I'm not sure.

"I'm praying for you". Very helpful. Nice and simple.

"I've been through what you're going through. I understand some of the emotions and I want you to know that I'm here for you". So encouraging. I usually cried.

"I don't want to push you or make you talk, but I'd love to listen if you need it". Also encouraging. I talked some people's ears off and said nothing to others. I think that this depended largely on whether or not I was in a talking mood that day.

"Your baby is in heaven". Depending on how far they took this, it was helpful. It could get annoying - I do not believe that my baby is an angel, has wings, or is looking down on me. I believe that my child is with God and that one day I will meet him or her.

"It's okay to cry". Helpful.

"Let me hug you". Helpful.

"Open your door, we're here with flowers and brownies". Okay, so there were two friends (old roommates), who did this, the day that I posted the story of the miscarriage on my blog. They didn't even stay five minutes, just hugged us, told us that they loved us and were praying, and left. I couldn't stop crying after this. So meaningful.

"Let me tell you the story of the person with 13 miscarriages who never had a biological child and had to adopt". I would love to adopt one day, but this was NOT helpful. I promise that I can come up with "What if" scenarios very well on  my own. Also, I don't believe that adoption's purpose is to be a last resort.

"Let me tell you the story of the person with a miscarriage who went on to have healthy pregnancies". I appreciated this, as well as stories from people with several healthy children who said, "I went through that too". Kind of a relief, really, to know that I wasn't crazy.

"It's okay to name your baby". This was not at all a bad suggestion and I got it several times, but I didn't name my baby. I don't love unisex names, and I'd feel a little silly naming a baby something for one gender and then always wondering what if it was the other one. But I do see how this would be helpful. I thought about it a lot actually.

Hearing about babies and new pregnancies was difficult. I was and continue to be happy for those people, but at first, I saw a baby and cried like one. I WILL say that I have friends who were pregnant at that time, and they were so great. They didn't say, "That was one of my fears" or "One day you'll have this too", or really anything other than" continually offer love and support. They didn't gush. A few did say, "Tell me how to be sensitive about this" which was nice. I guess the key would be to be really casual. Just be a friend.

"Maybe God is trying to teach you something". This wasn't just unhelpful, it sounded downright hurtful. I don't believe that this was the intent, so I don't hold it against anyone, but I really hate the way this sounded.

"Here's my number. You don't have to call, but if you need to talk, please do". I don't know that I took anyone up on this, but it meant a lot. (and you know who you are)

I wouldn't say things like "Are you sure? Maybe you weren't even pregnant". REALLY? Not helpful. Hurtful, and  I imagine that the intention was kind, but this shouldn't be said, it's insulting. There were a couple of people with this response. I didn't know them well, and I'm glad, because I really didn't want to talk to them.

People who sent cards and letters. Very thoughtful. Also, many of them came from people I don't know that well, and that was touching.

Facebook messages and emails. I don't think it matters if there was handwriting or something typed... however people chose to say, "Hey, I care" meant a lot. I got one specifically that said, "Tell me if you want me to ask you about it or ignore it. I want to be sensitive" and that one meant a lot. I appreciated that she cared but wasn't trying to be invasive.

Phone calls. Helpful. There were a lot of people that left voicemails that said, "I'm praying, I'm thinking of you, and that's all I wanted to say. Call back if you feel like it, but there's no obligation". I don't know if I did call those people back, and if that was you, thank you.

"I am still thinking of you and praying for you". One month later - three - seven: people randomly contact me and let me know this. There aren't many (and it would honestly be a little weird to have 80 people calling me all the time), but it means a lot to know that people remember. In fact, Carson left these flowers (tulips are my favorite) and this short note at the house on the six-months-since date. It was a rough day anyway, a rough day at work and it was so touching. I saw them and burst into tears. It wasn't a huge gesture, but it was very, very meaningful.

Bottom Line:

If you're put in the awkward position of friend-of-a-person-who-lost-a-baby, I would encourage you to say something. Seriously. Don't ignore the fact that someone has endured a personal tragedy. Don't avoid them in fear of saying the wrong thing. Even if you do say the wrong thing, if you say it with a hug and intentions of love for the person, they likely will appreciate at least the thought and the hug. They will know that you care. They will be thankful that you cared enough to give a hug or to say, "I have no idea what to say and I'm sorry". They will feel that they can trust you. Just don't avoid the situation entirely (unless they ask) and then go with that but still give them a hug. Let them know that you care and let them know not just at the moment, but even if you think about it three months down the road.

And one more thing, you don't have to feel like you need to shield your friend from unpleasant things. Don't shush people when they talk about babies, or say, "Hun, you okay?" and give puppy-dog sad, sympathetic eyes in every conversation. That's just awkward, and you'll end up making things a little strange there. Just be a real friend. Keep it simple.


I'm probably leaving things out, so feel free to ask. I promise that it's not weird.

Monday, January 28, 2013

On Smells.

One of the strangest things about me, in my opinion, is my sense of smell. It's always been so incredibly strong that there are certain things in the morning (bananas in particular) that I cannot be near. I always smell milk before pouring it, even if I pour it again later. I smell books. At work, I know that certain customers are in the store without looking up because I smell them.

Carson, poor guy, has to deal with this on a daily basis. I'll wake up in the morning and know that we need to empty the garbage that's in the kitchen downstairs.
This is an actual conversation:
"You ate onions today". "No I didn't, I had them for lunch yesterday!" "Well, I smell them!" And I do... it's really that crazy. Had I been a dog and not a human, I could have done some serious tracking down of dangerous criminals.

(I don't know why I drew that conclusion either)

Going along with this, and certainly a more normal thing: for years, certain scents have brought back memories, good, bad and random.

I'll walk into a place, sniff and think about the place where my cousin, sister and I took art classes when I was six. I couldn't tell you what the place looked like, but I think the smell has something to do with a paper mache thing we made.

A certain lotion (it was this one) reminds me of my first semester in Spokane. Burnt food reminds me of a certain roommate (as does the sound of smoke alarms, but that's another story). 

There's a scent that reminds me of my first year in Ukraine: the smell of the body spray Kristine used. Other smells that remind me of Ukraine include the smell of cows (driving through Iowa brought back those memories vividly), diesel fuel, and candle wax... 

Saltwater reminds me of home. Even the eggy, pluff mud smell brings back good memories. 

It didn't occur to me until recently that maybe there was a tie between my sense of smell and one of my favorite passages, Second Corinthians 2:14-17. I'll type it out in case you don't know it:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.   

So, God uses us to spread the smell of Jesus "in every place".
We are a fragrance of Jesus, ultimately to God, in the world.
We represent Him, acting as little puffs of perfume or the smell of cows, depending. We spread the aromas of death or life to those whom we're around.

We will be known by our smell. Jesus will be known by our smell. We have been given the role of ambassadors of Jesus Christ to the rest of the world (Second Corinthians 5). Through us, people will see Him.

Instantly, I think of my life. I think of the interactions I have with co-workers, with people I see every day. And I wonder, What do they SMELL? And more importantly, Do THEY KNOW what they're smelling? Because they might very well see that oh, I don't curse. But do they know why? Do they know that the most important thing in my life is Jesus?

I sat there for a little while with the cursor blinking after that last sentence, just thinking.

Do they smell Jesus? 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why We Were Open

As you know, I've been fairly open about my miscarriage this summer. I was thinking about all the events of this summer recently, and decided to share some more thoughts about why I have been open, some of the responses, and maybe even some "things to say or do" tips, since that was one of my number one questions. I've decided to try and share a lot of those things over the rest of the month, so feel free to share your own thoughts or ask questions.Why

In this post, we'll tackle the WHY.

There were several reasons that we decided to tell people:

- I was in another country, supposed to be there for another few weeks, and I was coming home early. I didn't want to lie and tell people that I just missed Carson or something, because that wouldn't have been true (ps - I did miss Carson). In another situation, we probably wouldn't have been so public.

- Secondly, while I wouldn't have been so public, I would have told the people who are close to me. Friends and close family members would have been informed either way - I'm not sure how you go through a huge personal tragedy and manage to keep everyone out of it. I wanted and needed their support and encouragement.

Why we told people in person: 
Before I returned to the States, we decided that it would be good for Carson to let the leadership of our church know. I believe that they mentioned it at the prayer-time during the service on Sunday morning. Again, one of the reasons that we did this so publicly was because I'd publicly said that I was going to be gone till mid-July, and there I was, home in mid-June. I think that doing this was really helpful. People knew, and didn't have to feel terrible when they said, "So, why are you back early?" I wasn't afraid to tell them, but honestly "I had a miscarriage" is NOT the anticipated response and people just feel so bad for asking.

Why I shared it on the internet:
This is the same reason that I was incredibly quiet about my whereabouts until I posted about the miscarriage on the blog. If I were to mention the fun things I did one weekend, then have someone comment on Facebook and say "Wait, I thought you were in Ukraine?!", I would feel really bad telling them in a private message, or, worse, right there on my wall. I wrote the blog post for several reasons: I had a ton of feelings and I wanted to record them, and because I didn't want people to be caught off guard.

Thinking back...
In retrospect, I think that being open was good because it let people know, but from a distance. I wouldn't say that this is for everyone, but I will say that it was helpful in my situation. I received many, many responses from people who said that they were praying, or that they had been through similar circumstances. I was mostly encouraged by the response that I got, and I felt that sharing publicly allowed for a buffer for those who would rather avoid the awkward situation and say nothing, which by the way, I completely, completely understand.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cold Weather

Icicles. Very pretty, but so chilly. 
In addition to this, over a foot of snow fell during the night. 
It was eleven degrees at noon. 
It is windy. 
Sure, it's pretty but brrrrrr... wishing the South Carolina beaches were just a little closer these days.
Oh, Cleveland, you're showing your true colors.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Virginia Weekend

Back in November, Jillian texted to ask if I was available to meet up. She said that Emily was coming for a visit mid-December and that it would be fun if we could all meet up as a surprise at the halfway point between Cleveland and the D.C. area. After realizing the the half-way point had pretty much nothing but a Ruby Tuesday restaurant, Carson suggested that I make a long weekend of it and just drive over to Virginia, which would allow us more time. 

Plans changed, and since it was right before Christmas and a little hectic at the time, we settled on January. We picked a weekend where all three of us were free and went for it! I drove over on a Thursday after work and didn't leave until the following Tuesday morning before work (I worked at night).

It was a lovely weekend, and we got a lot of quality time in, got to see our capitol city, attend church with Gary and Jillian, see White Christmas at the Kennedy Center, look at old pictures (yikes), make trash candy... and little Graceanna got to meet her two "crazy aunts". Our time was so very full. I left refreshed by good friends and with a camera card full of pictures. There were many more but I did my best to post just the essentials :) 

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Year Picture

On December 31, 2006, my family was doing absolutely nothing for the new year. This wasn't a new thing, but I had always wanted to have a party or at least stay up to midnight with someone. If I remember correctly, I called Brooke, the only other person I know who's wanted to do something great for the new year, and she came over at about 9pm. We watched a movie (I really have no clue) and the news coverage of the New York City ball drop on low volume, so as not to disturb anyone. In our excitement of the new year (and since the family wouldn't have liked us to cheer loudly), we took this picture as the year changed:

To keep our egos in check, this is how we looked that evening.

The following year, we were at a college conference at church, and were praying as 2008 began. We stopped a few seconds before midnight and quietly whispered "Happy New Year" before praying again. We took this picture post-prayer.

I think that we were both in Beaufort to ring in 2009; in fact I'm certain that we were, because I have pictures of us during that time. We weren't together for the new year for whatever reason, so we took this picture in church one Sunday in January before we went back to our respective colleges.

We weren't together to ring in 2010 either, but I was able to spend a night in Brooke's dorm when I was visiting Virginia that January and we took our picture there. We discussed re-taking it at our weddings (I was engaged; Brooke was nearly engaged and we were married 10 weeks apart that summer), but we forgot.

We didn't see each other in 2011, so we took pictures on our phones and texted them to one another (disclaimer: I'm pretty sure that mine was from last new year, but I couldn't tell and couldn't find the real one).

Though we intended to see one another before 2011 was out, we had made it to the very end of 2012 before we actually were able to take the picture in person. This was our texted picture for 2012.

And this was the "in person" picture, taken two days before the year was out. Jury's still out on whether or not it counts.

Here's our official 2013 picture, taken moments after the ball dropped in Times Square. I'm hopeful that this is was just one of many more New Years Eves together to come!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Last Weekend of 2012

I've always wanted big plans for new year's eve. I dreamed of sequined dresses, snazzy shoes, a dress-up party with friends, something glamorous. The problem is that I am not especially glam myself, and that large parties aren't my thing (come to think of it, they aren't my friends' thing either, so I'd have to go alone). Anyway, needless to say, my new year's eves have always been a little lackluster. 

Fortunately, I have a friend who feels exactly the same way about December thirty-firsts, and they've been our unofficial holiday for six years now (wow). Since our new home is about six hours from hers in Virginia, and since that's a lot closer than however many hours Washington was, we've been meaning to get together. A quick call a few months ago confirmed that our schedules were both wide open for the new year, so we decided to make plans to spend it together. 

Brooke and Levi made their way to Cleveland on Friday after work and arrived a little after midnight, so we basically said hello, introduced Carson and Levi, and went to bed. 

After brunch and a very late start, we headed toward Chagrin Falls. We went there a few weeks after we moved to Ohio in the summer, and it looked completely different. It was a very cold and snowy day, but the little town was picturesque in the snow. 

We browsed a few shops, and then decided that we'd spent enough time in the cold for one day, so we went to the movie theater there. Brooke and I saw Les Miserables, which greatly exceeded my expectations (and I cannot get the songs out of my head!), while Levi and Carson watched Jack Reacher, a more manly option. The lighting was pretty bad there, but here are our pictures with the cast:

The next day, we went to church, had lunch, took naps, and then Brooke and I took our annual year picture (more on that in a later post) before heading to the mall.

The next day, Carson and I abandoned them to work, and then I came home and made cookies for my co-workers. They were chocolate mint and I used this recipe.

Later that day, Brooke and I went to the store, then came back and got ready to ring in 2013.

I set my timer as there were ten seconds left until the ball dropped in Times Square, so this was taken at midnight.

This was shortly after

And still later, we toasted (for the camera). Cheers!

Took the 2013 yearly picture

Kissed under the mistletoe

And wore ridiculous headbands that we made (from existing $ Store headbands)

You may have noticed that we donned sparkly attire for the new year, just because we could. 
We got the party we wanted: a weekend-long one, while wearing sequins and ridiculous headgear. We saw one another in person for the first time in almost 2.5 years (not quite that long, as Levi pointed out), and we resolved to see one another soon. 
Welcome, 2013!  
Related Posts with Thumbnails Follow Me on Pinterest