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Leaving Winter

Recovering from brain surgery is no joke. It’s been a lot tougher than I expected. I’ve not much made it out of bed over the past few weeks that I’ve been home. It’s easy for things to get dark when that’s the case, and add on this pandemic and the quarantine we are under, it doesn’t take long for things to feel like they’re closing in around me.

Today I managed to get up and go outside for a few minutes. My goal was simply to refill the birdseed at my window. The birds that come sit and peck at my window are such a beautiful source of joy to me. As I made my way through the backyard though, I noticed something. All around me, little colorful buds were standing proud on the trees and poking up from the leftover scraps of last year’s leaves. It took me by surprise. I guess in my sickness and discouragement, I forgot that Spring was coming. But just like the fluff starting to grow on the bald half of my head, new sprouts could be seen almost everywhere I looked!

I know a lot of people are feeling sad and scared and overwhelmed right now, so maybe that’s what we all need a reminder of. After Winter, Spring always comes. No matter how cold or how dark, those beautiful buds find their way back to meet days filled with sunshine. We may not know how long this hard time will last, but don’t forget the new beauty that is coming. It will be here. The hard Winter always forges the toughest stems and most beautiful blooms. Don’t forget to look for them.

New hair sprouts!

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Quiet & Brain Surgery

Thank you to the many of you who have reached out to check on me over the last weeks. My silence prompted care and concern, and my people reaching out to me has been heart nourishing when I simply haven’t known what to say. I am wrestling through a new season; one of discouragement and questioning, and it’s often left me grasping so desperately for my own hope strings, I haven’t felt anything left to offer.

As the days are growing longer and the tips of new blooms are beginning to push into view, I am in the quiet of home with my closest people letting this new season of hope-finding be one of rest and healing. Not so much of my own choice, but my recent battles have forced me into a time of convalescence.

I am recently home from a 35 day stay in the hospital two hours from home. It started as a cerebral spinal fluid leak because of the medication pump in my spine. Three spinal surgeries and one brain surgery later, I was finally stable enough to come home. Flu precautions kept my little people from being allowed to visit, which made the days exceptionally long.

My sweet friends and family loved on me as best they could from a distance, and when my stay kept getting extended, my fire partner from Colorado flew out to spend a few days at my bedside. Much of it is blurry, as I was medicated and exhausted, and more than a few people got text messages from me that were impossible to decipher.

I’m thankful to have been carried through on the prayers of so many, as my own strength and determination has been quite sapped for awhile now. Getting a shower is the triumph of my days right now, and the remainder consists of lots of sleep, fluids, and trying to figure out how to style half of a shaved head. My littles have just begun their Spring Break, and I’m snagging them to snuggle as often as they’ll allow.

Thank you for your loving care during this time. Surely when I find my bootstraps I will grasp them once more, and challenge my days with more adventure and sass. For now I’m here resting, healing, thankful for each of your kind messages, and looking forward to sharing life’s next adventures.

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July 14th

Today we remember those last moments we got to know our Ellianna. We were thankful this week of her anniversary to get to be in Colorado to celebrate her mighty life.

Our months with Ellie brought us so much love, we aim to always pass that on and continue to let her life make an impact on others. It’s not always we get to be in her hometown, so we took advantage of being able to continue her legacy here. Since we don’t get to shop for our little peanut we went shopping for another little girl who needed love and encouragement:

Looking for things to bless a baby girl, we were overwhelmed with the small reminders of our little one. Purple with rainbow stripes couldn’t have more embodied all that we remember.

When I looked for a card, we immediately saw one not only with the little Piglet that she was known for, but the quote on the front was the same as is written on her headstone. I melted at the tender reminders that God knows exactly what our hearts need.

We packed up our bag of love and headed up to Ellie’s NICU. Tears brimmed as we embraced one of the nurses who has become a lifelong friend. We asked her to choose a family for us, and she knew just who needed the encouragement. Standing in that familiar hallway, we got to meet the mother of another baby girl there fighting for life beyond the hospital doors. It was evident that God had placed her nurse on just the right day that a weary mama needed the love and hope we had to share. There we were, getting to exchange hugs and a gift of love because of the short and mighty life of our little girl. I will never stop being thankful.

After the hospital, we headed to the cemetery to remember. I know many people don’t see the point in visiting the cold hard stones, but for us it’s a tangible place where we can open our hearts and express our sorrow and joy as we remember the moments where we stood between earth and eternity and gave our girl back to the arms of the One who holds her. It’s especially helpful for our other children as they bring tokens of their love and remembrance for her. Little Colby had chosen a special shell on the beach of Florida for his big sister that he brought with him all the way to Colorado. We enjoyed a beautiful stormy sunset as we each wrote notes to our girl and then lit them, sending them floating into the sky.

We are truly blessed to have gotten to be Ellie’s family. She has changed us in ways we all needed, and we will forever be grateful for every day she was with us. We will continue to find ways to share the hope we have, and spread the love she gave us, until we meet again.

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Different

This past March we celebrated Ellianna’s 7th birthday. I thought we pretty much had the hang of that down, but this year was a different kind of day. Since we had moved out of Colorado, there was no visiting the cemetery to leave notes and flowers or eat cupcakes near the etching of her beautiful name. It felt hard and sad and unfair to be so far away from the town where we were closest to her. There was still celebrating; there was cake and pictures and remembering her big eyes and her tiny fingers, and there was wondering over what our sweet girl would be like at age 7. But it was different. I had more tears and some angry feelings about being so far from all the tangible places of her.

In April I made a whirlwind weekend trip back to Colorado for a conference, and got to stop by her resting place to leave fresh flowers on my way to the airport out of town. I experienced deep gratitude to get to be there, as well as a downpour of guilt and regret, and sadness to have to leave again. In the months of not visiting that place, a multitude of emotions had built without the trigger of release. I boarded my plane with scratchy red eyes, and a rosy face washed clear of my morning makeup.

Now July is upon us again, and we are remembering the day that we sang over Ellie and kissed each baby piggy toe and watched her body give up its hard fight and her soul fly free of all the hurting. This July though, we are back at the foothills of our breathtaking Colorado mountain, on a brief visit to the city that holds the entire history of her short and beautiful life.

I wondered over what we would do to remember and celebrate our girl this July 14th; an exciting trip packed with joyous memories and reunions, punctuated by the difficult anniversary of one of our hardest days. In past years we have prepared care packages for other families with a little one fighting for life in the picu. We have escaped far from civilization to camp under the twinkling canvas of stars, and we’ve climbed sand dunes to release soft-glowing lanterns into the sky. We’ve had quiet days in at home, and have escaped for a night away to numb our minds with the unfamiliar.

I have some unresolved thoughts about the medical staff that cared for my girl, so I considered making care packages for the doctors and nurses and techs. Each time I started to collect items though, I came up a little bit blank and overwhelmed. The emotion connected to my interactions with the picu staff is strong and difficult to sort through. I decided to keep it simple; it was still a kind gesture of acceptance for these medical professionals, but without the intense process and emotional drain of gathering well thought out individual items for care packages. I called to ask how many would be on shift in the picu where we said goodbye, and brought down a yummy and filling breakfast for when they get to break away from the business of saving lives and tending to souls.

The healing for me was in the handwritten note expressing my thanks for this calling they’ve given their lives to. I know there are days it must feel like a thankless job, and it’s possible I was one of those parents who was so fearful and wounded that I came across as more critical than grateful. It helped me to at least say that I know they are human just like me, and are simply doing the best that they can with what they know.

I could point fingers and choose to hold a grudge for our experience in that picu, but I’m trying my best to instead remember the shining moments of grace and kindness that were scattered throughout those dark days. There was the tech who sat and talked with me honestly about what his job was like, and enthusiastically encouraged me to pursue my hope of a job inside the picu. There was the nurse who in the middle of all the chaos took notice of my wincing and offered me some Motrin from her own purse to help keep me on my feet in the marathon hours of standing at that tiny bedside. There were the nurses who went scrambling for the right sized hat to snuggle over Ellie’s hair when the fresh wounds on her head made me feel panicked while I was holding her. There were the kind nurses who gently helped me bathe and dress the breathless body of my little love, and carefully made treasured keepsake molds of her perfect hands and feet. Those are the moments I want to dwell on when my mind wants to wander and question and doubt and wonder how things could have been different.

As painful as it was to walk back through that slick-floored hallway to the picu doors this week, there was a bit of healing in getting to offer loving kindness to the very people that were part of one of my deepest wounds. I hope that our gesture will help renew their fire to keep fighting for the tiny lives that rely on them, and to keep offering gentleness to the parents who may seem ungrateful and unkind in the terror and pain of watching their little loves hurt.

Our visit to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains also allowed us the privilege of visiting the cemetery where our sweet girl was laid to rest. We soaked in the comforting warmth of the sun as we sprawled on the fresh grass surrounding her headstone, and arranged a masterpiece of flowers that only barely began to capture the miracle and the beauty that was our Ellianna Grace. My littlest scrambled around picking every dandelion he could find to carefully place by her name, just as he has done since he was barely crawling around. We reminisced about the butterflies, the rainbows, the family that came to link arms with us. One of my littles retreated in tears to the car, overwhelmed with the weight of it this time. It changes a bit each time; little pieces of the joy and the sadness and the beautiful and the hard to look on have different meaning as each of us grow and learn and experience more of this life through which we filter all of our deepest emotions. We were honored to get to remember our girl in this place this week, and we surely are the luckiest to be the family that calls her ours.