To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankful Anyway

Holidays are tough. I forever think of our daughter who will never be at our table. Never be underfoot in the kitchen as I make the holiday meal. Never be arguing with me over how often to baste the turkey or question why I make stuffing from a box. (Because Stove Top is amazing. Just saying.) As I feed her baby brother pureed foods, I wonder what morsels she would favor this year. Would she like sweet potatoes as much as I do? Would she like mashed potatoes with or without gravy? Would she sit and chew forever on a single piece of turkey like her big sister does? Every holiday, and this Thanksgiving is no exception, I find myself thinking of her incessantly. Oh, Harlynn, how I wish you were here with us.

In that despair of not having her here, I'm able to still find myself in the spirit of Thanksgiving. I'm still grateful for all we have, all we've learned, and all we've gained.

I drove to the cemetery the other day to spend some time sharing with Harlynn. I often take the long way home so I can visit with her about whatever comes to mind. I brushed the snow off her headstone and looked around. I saw a gorgeous, big, buck muley. He was quite handsome, and he was a sight to behold. A nice six pointer, he stared my direction and our eyes met. I saw his breath slowly rising up from his nostrils as he measured my potential threat level. I stood still, holding my breath in my throat, wondering if he was the least bit impressed with my stature, as I was with his. Soon enough, he grew tired of our stand-off, and continued on his way. Did you see that, Harlynn?! Eventually, I loaded myself back into the car and drove around to the gate, where I was greeted by a flock of tom turkeys. They patrolled the grounds searching for morsels and purpose.  They strutted confidently by as I slowly drove past.  I'm thankful when I go to the place that represents the worst time of my life, there is still beauty. There is still a majestic peace. There is still always something to appreciate.

Last year, I made an executive decision regarding our holidays. I decided we would spend them without company. Thanksgiving, Christmas - we were by ourselves in our little home. And I loved it. I needed it. This year, I'm opening myself up again. We're going to be with others. I'm tentative, I'm hesitant, and I'm unsure. But I'm also ready. We'll be with people who love us, and if I get choked up or despondent, they'll understand. If I have to check out for a bit, they won't hold it against me. I'm thankful for their understanding.

And in those moments where I miss my baby girl, I have moments still that pull my heart in the other direction. Moments that fill me even as I am reminded of what I ache for. Being able to spend every morning at home with my littles has given me experiences I will cherish forever. I've been so sick so much recently - the latest bout having me on the sofa with the flu. My home is in shambles all around me because I was too weak to get up, let alone clean or put anything away. Little Miss wanted to entertain herself with music. The Lion King soundtrack, to be exact. I sat, perched in my sofa spot, and witnessed the following. I cannot tell you the joy it brought to me. Sick as I was, my heart swelled as I watched her full of life, completely embracing her moment. 

Our holiday table, and every meal we have, will forever have one person missing. But I'm thankful she is not forgotten. I'm thankful she has two siblings here who give me more joy than I'm worthy of receiving. I'm thankful I got to hold her precious body in my arms for those fleeting moments after her birth. I'm thankful I'm Harlynn's mom. I'm thankful we get to be the family to love her forever.

Friday, November 21, 2014

1,000 Words Worth

I have this thing about becoming overwhelmed. I'm not sure how the expectations or pressures seem to stack up, but they do, I feel like I'm failing somehow, and then I just shut down. Then, something happens to knock me out of my slump, I kick some productivity butt, and then the downward slope starts again. Maddening.

Lately, though, I've been able to counter the feelings of failure and shortcoming by focusing on the blessings I have. I "pause and reflect" (that's for you, Tiff) and really try to soak in the moments going on right then, so I can be present and appreciative of what's happening now, rather than fretting about what may or may not be in the future. As such, I take a lot of pictures. So, as "a picture is worth 1,000 words", allow me to post the longest blog in history - using the stories of pictures.

Elsa and her ice gloves, watching some Veggie Tales
Elsa, holding on to her coronation items, with her ice gloves
Heston's dedication, he reached his hand to my face, I kissed it, and our friend snapped this photo.
She's wearing her "Instruction Thing" so she can give instructions.
At lunch she asked, "Want to take a picture of me praying?" Duh!!
He does this thing when he's mad, where he tries to eat his right arm. Always his right arm, never his left.
Snuggling with me, so I went to take a picture, and she resorted to posing.
Gymnastics wore her out.
Gymnastics wore brother out, too.
He is not a snuggler, so this was extra special morning time!
My two favorite goofballs. Every time she hugged him, he would turn and look at me like, "Are you seeing this?"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

~*Heavy Sigh*~

This morning I woke up with a sore throat and achy ears. No warning, no gradual decline of health; I just opened my eyes and realized I was down for the count. The burning in my throat felt as if I could have produced fire when opening my mouth. I suppose there are worse things than being a dragon... I was supposed to be on nursery duty at church, but since I'd never forgive myself if I got one of those littles sick, I stayed home. 

I wish I could say I was able to relax and rest, but that was not the case. It was no different from any other day at home with both children, save for the fact that I felt like doo, and was not necessarily up to life-per-usual. Little Miss wanted to play out very scripted scenarios, ("Mama, how about you are the Queen Mother, and I am the princess and you tell me.... how about you tell me that... tell me that you're going to plan a royal ball, and then I have to buy a new dress and shoes, and then when the....when the um.... when the prince....when the pri - when he comes, then you tell him to.....") Little Man fussed and rolled, and pivoted, and rolled, and fussed, and whined, and ate, and fussed, and wanted to be held. Not entertained, just held. Upright, facing forward, and able to reach something with which to put his slobbery hands all over. So I treated myself to some Airborne.

My Airborne cocktail. 

Someone has not slept all. day. long. 
Even though I was worn totally ragged, Little Miss was being adorable. And this happened. And it makes me giggle, even though giggling hurts my throat. It's hilarious, even if it is the 2348702938740298374th video we have that ends with, "Can we watch it now?"

~*Heavy Sigh*~ Even when I'm feeling overwhelmed by life, these moments are just too precious to not appreciate. Thank you for the giggles, Little Miss. Mama loves you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

To Our Friends...

This morning the surrounding areas were covered with snow. It was weird to hear all the reports of snow covered yards, roads, travel delays, etc., and look out our windows and see the cold, bare concrete, the yellowing grass, and the swing set out back - all without snow. On one hand, I was incredibly relieved. On the other hand, however, I was a little saddened by it. I had hoped, in some strange way, a fresh snowfall would somehow blanket the weekend we had, and provide new ground for us to begin our week on.

Friday afternoon, just as I was starting dinner, I started to feel horribly sore, achy, and generally unwell. As an experienced veteran in this feeling, I knew just what it was. This would be my 13th episode of mastitis. Within a couple of hours, I had spiked a fever, had chills, and was incredibly sore and tender all over - my chest especially. My 13th time. I had it nine times with Little Miss. Why I kept breastfeeding is beyond me. Now, after four times with Little Man, I'm ready to be done. It's too much for me to be down for the count with this, as often as it crops up. Soon enough, I'll be done breastfeeding. I'm comfortable with this because we have an ample (ample) supply stored up in a couple of freezers, and I know he'll have enough milk to sustain him until at least his first birthday. However, it's the end of an era. This realization makes me incredibly sad.

We won't be having anymore children. With what we've been through, and how we know my body works (or doesn't work) in pregnancy, it would be playing with fire to end up pregnant again. Little Man is my last baby. While it's a decision I know as the only right one to make, it's still a difficult one, and still one that invokes incredibly strong emotion. As I wind down breastfeeding for my last baby, it ends a chapter for us. I am deeply saddened and incredibly discouraged by it all. 

That said, I couldn't be sad today when I saw there was no blanket of snow in town. I have a new friend I met a couple of weeks ago. She's the friend of a friend (I have a few of those...) and her daughter was life-flighted here from the other side of the state three weeks ago. Thanks to social media, I felt like I knew her, and asked if I could come visit in the hospital. Our first in-person meeting was in the PICU, but it might as well have been in one of our living rooms. We sat and visited for a couple of hours, catching up like we were long-lost friends. And maybe we are. We have a lot of similarities in our life experiences, and are certainly kindred spirits in those regards. I went there to meet her, encourage her, and pray over her daughter, but I was the one who left encouraged. When I prayed over her daughter, I had this incredible sense that Natalie knew more about God and Jesus than I ever would this side of heaven. I felt like she had an in. She knows. She already knows. It's hard to explain, but I couldn't shake it. It was incredible.

Saturday, while I was holed up at home, I got a message on Facebook from a complete stranger (to me), who happened to be a really good friend of Melissa's (Natalie's mama). She asked if I could help her orchestrate a surprise pedicure for Melissa, to get her out and about and boost her spirit a little bit. I, of course, was excited to help. I was taken completely aback, however, to learn that Melissa wasn't the only one getting pampered. This friend of hers wanted to treat me, as well. A stranger! Wanted to spoil me! I couldn't believe it. In my fresh-broken-fever-state, I did what I could to express my thanks and gratitude, and got everything lined up for today.

What's incredible to me, is how God uses people to show love. Not only was my friend being loved on immeasurably by her friend back home, but that love spilled over onto me as well. I get notes from people all the time with little snippets of encouragement. Little pushes to keep going. We have friends who have anonymously mailed us grocery store gift cards. We have friends who have ordered custom jamberry nails for me to remember Harlynn. We have friends who watch our children on last-minute calls, for no reimbursement, because they want to help us. We have friends who offer themselves up so I can stay home and rest and recover from mastitis. Again. We have strangers who lend a helping hand. We have people placed in our lives, whether for a moment or a span of time, who do nothing but love on us. All. The. Time.

And then I sit and pout because of decisions we have to make. And you know what? Even when I sit and pout, I get loved on. Just this morning, I got a message from one of my favorite people saying she thought she just needed to check in on me on this wintry day. I told her about my weekend battle with mastitis, and her reply was nothing but love and understanding. Even though I was pouting. 

Earlier today as I was driving around, I was listening to Charles Stanley on the radio. He was talking about friendships, and the importance of having a friend who will tell you (in love) what you need to hear, hold you accountable, and steer you back to truth in your thinking, and living. He then posed the question, "Do you have a friend who does that for you?" I could think of a few. He followed up with, "Are you that friend for someone else?" Gulp

I don't know what kind of a friend I am, and I'm sure I could be far better to almost everyone who is in my life. What I do know, however, is we are surrounded by people who love us immeasurably, unconditionally, and without bounds. 

I may be on a roller coaster ride still in my grief. I may pout because of what my life is, or has become, or never will be. I may struggle, daily, in being the person I want to be. But I do not lack in being loved on by others. 

And to all of you who are a part of that circle ~ I cannot thank you enough. Thank you for your love. Thank you for continuing to love me, love us, in our worst. In our darkest. In our best. In our brightest. Your reward is in heaven.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November Rain

Remember the song? It's like the longest Guns 'n Roses song ever. It's not at all related to my post today, other than the title. Today is November 5th, and it's raining outside. Profound. It felt weird not to preempt my post with a {31 Days}! November 1st I had to nearly physically restrain myself from posting about nothing for the sake of posting something. I am so thankful for the 31-Day-Challenge, and that I was able to complete it, though. Tough as it was, it was worth every keystroke. 

Anyway, I'm thankful it's raining today. You've heard me talk before about my need for lots of sunshine, but I'm thankful it's raining because that means it isn't snowing. Not yet, anyway. As much as I feel like I'm ready for winter, I'm not. The cemetery shortened their hours at the end of October, as they do every year, and having three less hours during the evening to go visit Harlynn makes me feel so limited. Silly as it may seem, I don't like only having the hours of 8 to 5 to go see her. That said, I'm glad they close up at night to keep vandals at bay. Even still...what I wouldn't give sometimes to just pack up in the middle of the night and go sit at her site. 

No....more than that. What I wouldn't give to have her call out to me in the middle of the night, because she's had a bad dream. What I wouldn't give to groggily comfort her and lull her back to sleep. What I wouldn't give to crack open her door, tip toe in her room, and pull her covers back up over her to make sure she stays warm. What I wouldn't give to have her come barreling into our bed in the mornings. What I wouldn't give to watch her poke her big sister, and tackle her baby brother. No matter what I give, though, those things will never happen. So instead, I sit here thankful it's raining and not snowing, and her grave goes one more day without being covered by a blanket of white. 

I sit here thankful, because even though we didn't get to keep Harlynn, we're still able to keep the hope of seeing her again. I sit here thankful because there are things that have happened, and keep happening since losing her, that remind us of how loved we are - and are therefore an absolute reflection of how loved she is, every moment of every day. Not just by us. But by, and because of Him. 

There have been a lot of changes in our home over the last couple of weeks. I started working a few hours a week as a virtual assistant, which has given me a boost I didn't realize I needed. I wake up to an alarm every day instead of sleeping as long as possible and getting up when Little Man decides he's hungry. I start my day in the Bible instead of in a rush to get ready. I have a schedule and a routine, that so far I've been able to manage pretty decently. I cook actual meals for my family instead of throwing a frozen pizza in the oven as my culinary contribution. (Though, I still will be cooking frozen pizzas from time to time.) I'm feeling purposeful. It's been a while since I've felt purposeful.

Looking over these last 19 months, I don't think anyone could have convinced me I would be in this spot - emotionally, mentally, spiritually - after losing Harlynn. Feeling a sense of accomplishment, purpose, and having the reward of simply being productive, has carried me a lot further than I would have imagined. Having Little Man here to slobber on my face has not only made me feel closer to my husband and to Little Miss, but to Harlynn as well. Even though we'll forever have an empty chair at holiday meals and she will forever be missing from our presence, I feel a strange sense of completeness. She isn't here, but she is. We're missing her, but we aren't. I feel like I'm finding her every day, all over again, in everything I do. In every part of our family. 

I also feel like I have to type fast, because each time I pause to look out the window, I see flakes of white infiltrating their way into the rain. Just give me a few more days, snow. Just a few more days.

Today, I'll be thankful for the November rain. For one more day without cover on her grave site. And for the simple fact that life, as I know it, is still life.