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Following Directions

When I was 16 years old, I tried to ignore the sleek black antique Mustang my best friend drove to school. I looked over the roof of my other friend's brand new Mustang convertible, gleaming brightly from its parking spot. I pretended I was completely okay sauntering up to my nice Reliant K automobile with its faded blue interior and cracker box shape. I pretended I didn't mind the fact an 80-year old woman had driven this same car maybe two miles a week for the past fifteen years. But the truth is, I did mind. I thought I deserved better.

Never mind the fact that my father labored for hours in a too hot, dimly lit, loud factory for more hours a day than I worked total in a month in order to get me that car. Never mind that my daddy searched for the safest car he could get me for the money we didn't have. Never mind that there were four of us kids crammed within 5 years of each other, which meant cars every year and overtime every chance it was offered. No, I thought I des…

Travelling to Haiti

It's funny; when people are alive we do a lot of relating through the things we have in common with them. We find that common ground and cling to it. It's comfortable. It's enjoyable. It's what we know.

When someone precious to us dies, we frantically try to figure out all that stuff that we didn't have in common.

Who were they really? What thoughts did they have before falling asleep at night? Why did they enjoy so much the things that we couldn't relate to?

Although, as my daughter, I knew her very well, I didn't know Avery as a classmate, or as a friend, or as another kid in gymnastics class. Who was she when she wasn't my daughter?

I had always known that Avery felt called to help others. She was drawn to the kid who sat alone, felt the need to protect the kid who was made fun of for being too nerdy, felt it her duty to extend her hand to those who had fallen. 

I just didn't understand why.

I knew that she would spend her life quietly fightin…

The Things That Stick

I've always been sensitive. If there is a slight breeze, I'll feel it. If there is a whisper of an odor, I'll smell it. If there comes a chill in the air, my body feels it. And if there is a word or deed that hurts, my fragile soul will begin to crumble.

I understood at an incredibly young age the power of words. Not just the words themselves, but how they're delivered. The passive aggressive comments that are meant to attack. The back handed compliments whose only purpose it was to damage. And while, of course, when directed at me, my heart would break and I'd start to cry, it was when I heard things about my children that the pain  I felt would just about almost crush my spirit into nothingness. 
I have been so stuck lately on a comment that was made many years ago about Avery. It hurt the first time I heard it, but the remembrance of it makes me angry. And I can't understand why. 
And so it is that I write. Because for me, I don't know what I'm going…

The Dance

When Avery died, all the dreams and expectations I had for her died, too. Of all the things she wouldn't do, the fact that she wouldn't attend prom was one of the toughest for me to accept.

See, I had always wanted to be that mom who drove to the big city (in my case, Milwaukee) in search of the perfect prom dress for my baby girl. We'd shop and eat and laugh and shop some more. We'd make a big deal over getting her hair and nails done and I'd take no less than 117 photos the day/night of the infamous prom.

I'd stay up ridiculously late reading and not watching the television just waiting for my baby girl (who was growing up way too fast) to come home, fall onto the couch with a huge smile and announce that she had just experienced the best time of her life ever.

Jadrian had little interest in prom. She had even less interest in sharing that experience with her mother. And so, in a way, everything fell on Avery.

And then she was gone. Just like that.

One mi…

Breathing In

About thirty-seven seconds after finding out one is pregnant, comes the rush of realizing that somehow this human life form will need to exit your body. And that it will  hurt.

Pregnant women hear a plethora of tales from used-to-be pregnant women detailing the horrors of childbirth (whether they want to or not). Woes of failed epidurals, the horrors of the Ring of Fire - "don't worry, it's just your flesh tearing" -  thirty seven hours of torturous labor; all will be told.

And yet, no matter how many stories are heard, each delivery is as unique and individual as the person giving birth. Yours may be better, or worse, or eerily similar, but never exact.

The thing to remember is that every ache, pain, and sensation will only be felt by you.

Others can try to empathize. They can rub your lower back, remind you to breathe, spoon feed you ice chips - any myriad of ways in an attempt to ease your pain, but they can't do it for you.

Funny thing is, enduring the c…

Why Year 2 is Harder

I made it to the One Year Mark. Actually, I made it beyond the One Year Mark because that was October 24th and we're past that now. Preparing for the One Year Mark is like experiencing the anticipation for the worst dentist appointment on the planet: you get sick and fidgety, you can't sleep, you have awful nightmares - and yet somehow you make it through the appointment with little awareness how you even arrived at it. You wake up and it's suddenly Day One of the 2nd Year; the clock flips over and a new countdown begins.

I made it through because I was busy. I was busy planning and celebrating the First Anniversary of Her Death.

I made it through because over one hundred balloons were released in her honor. Not just in the cemetery in our small town, but all over the world.
 



I made it through because little children laughed and played just like normal kids do - and I can't tell you how good it feels to be around kids who just say it.


I made it through because the…

The Journey for Bread... and Brighter Days

If you take one cup of flour and mix it with two cups of water, you'll create a globby, grey paste. It's sticky. It's messy. It doesn't look good and you can't eat it.

What good is a sticky glue that hardens across your hands? That leaves your stomach empty?

Put that flour and water aside and go search for some oil.

Maybe you have some in your pantry.

Maybe not.

Maybe you have to drive to the super market.

But your car broke.

So, now you have to walk.

And it's cold.

And rainy.

But you set out anyway.

And as you walk your body gets tired because it's cold and wet.

But you don't stop.

You keep walking.

And then you finally make it to the store, only to find out they're closed.

So you pull up your hood a bit tighter around your ears and set off for the next store.

And maybe the wind picked up and you kind of want to just fall to the ground defeated.

But what good would that do?

So you keep walking.

And your feet are starting to hurt.

But you keep o…

A Thousand Drops of Sorrow

I'm always learning something about grieving - mostly that it's never done, but people want you to be.

I'm well aware of the awkward glances between people if I dare to mention Avery. The flick of the eyes that say here we go again and aren't we done with this yet? I suppose that makes sense, especially the way I was brought up. In our family you don't dwell on things you can't control. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get going. You don't stand around talking about how sad something made you feel or how you ache with every fiber of your being. You're not the only one with problems, the world is filled with people with problems, so what makes yours so special? In our family you move on.

I suppose it would be easier if I were quieter. Didn't talk as much. Didn't put my stuff out there for everyone to read. I suppose it would be easier if I quietly slipped out my front door and into the Land of the Living trying my hardest to blend in …

The Letter Back

If you've been following this blog, you know about the letter to Alphonsine.

Twelve days before Avery's death we attended a Christian concert in Madison. Jamie Grace was opening and tobyMac was headlining. The lobby was filled with tables of merchandise - artist t-shirts, posters, CDs, bracelets - anything and everything you could think of! There were also some tables from the Food for the Hungry network. Pictures of starving children from third world countries smiled up from every surface. Avery told me we needed to sponsor a child. I suggested we look at the CDs.

She insisted; I relented. We walked out of there the proud sponsors of a 15-year old girl from Rwanda. I thought, all these beautiful faces of little kids and Avery picks a fifteen year old.

You see, I was spending a LOT of time trying to undo what God placed on Avery's heart. I thought I knew what was best... you'd get more for your money purchasing a music CD than you would a printout of a child's f…

Choosing Sides

I was pretty young when I first heard the saying, "Love is a choice." I thought it was stupid. I thought there is no way to simply decide to love someone; that you either did or didn't. It wasn't as simple as choosing to make meatloaf for dinner. If you choose to love this person then you will. Also, you will be eating meatloaf.

I had a lot to learn.

You see, the saying isn't "To Love Someone is a choice" - it's "LOVE is a choice."

Love.
It's right there.
All you have to do is choose it.

And to understand that you have to understand what all your other choices are: love, yes. But also hate. Or cruelty. Or indifference. Or  avoidance.

See, at any moment, in any given situation, you have sitting before you a table dressed in emotions. It's yours for the taking - what are you going to pick?

Standing in a line that's way too long, in the hot sun, tired and sore, just wanting a drink of water, and you see three women nudge their…

Giving Thanks In

The other day I posted this on Facebook attempting to be encouraging, inspirational and faith-filled:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18] It's hard to give thanks in ALL circumstances, yet this is what God calls us to do. Sometimes, it's easier to give thanks in all the GOOD circumstances - and to complain about the yucky ones. But God tells us to give thanks ALWAYS. No matter what we're going through.

Some nights, getting a three-year old to bed leaves me feeling anything BUT thankful. I'm frustrated with his excuses, exhausted from my busy day and ready to fall into bed. It's hard to feel thankful when battling for bedtime.

Yet, there is so much to be thankful for! I have a spirited child who is healthy and strong! I have a home that keeps us warm and thick blankets to keep us warm. And I am able to use this time to practice something God always seems to remi…

A TROAST TO AVERY: The Most Epic Birthday Party Ever

Sorry, kids, I don't do birthday parties.

Once upon a time, I had imagined I would. I pictured coordinated decorations and pleasant conversation and smiles and laughter and everyone getting along... and then I hosted a birthday party for Jadrian when she turned 5. Or 6. I don't know - I blocked it out.

That was it. First birthday party hosted. Last birthday party hosted. End of story.

Avery never had a birthday party.

Avery always wanted a birthday party.

And so here I sit, wondering why I never gave her a birthday party. Avery deserved a birthday party. Avery deserved the biggest, bestest, most awesomest birthday party ever! Avery deserved epic.

Instead, Avery had to settle with a mom who just didn't want to deal with the complex characters of small children. And so, I protected my sanity and decided I would not do birthday parties. End of story.

Oh, but how she asked.

Instead, I tried really hard to make up for the lack of party. Each birthday she received a handma…