2013 in pictures

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Happy New Year!!

Here are some of the highlights of this past year, in picture format.

01jan-01

Caroline’s baptism

02feb-01

Visiting with Beth

02feb-02

Valentine’s Day

02feb-03

Meeting John and Sherry from Young House Love!

03mar-01

Camping with the family

03mar-02

Dressed up fancy for the Birth Center auction

03mar-03

Easter Sunday

04apr-01

Visit to the beach

05may-01

Savannah’s last day of preschool

05may-03

Caroline at Drew’s 2nd birth party

06jun

Me with my girls

06jun-01

Gerig Hall reunion

06jun-02

Matching shirts

06jun-03

Several meet-ups with these lovely ladies!

06jun-04

Paul’s Father’s Day present

07jul-01

Summer Photo Shoot with Julie (Jules Photography)

07jul-02

New member of the family!

07jul-03

Baby Lilia is born! I threw my first blessingway for her mama, and was excited to light a candle when she was in labor

07jul-04

Climbing to the top of Stone Mountain!

07jul-05

Celebrating Caroline’s first birthday with a “Sweet Caroline” party

08aug-01

Visiting Pittsburgh with my sister

08aug-02

54 hour road trip – having fun along the way! Brief visit to Scranton, PA

08aug-03

Plimoth Plantation

08aug-04

Happy 4th birthday, Savannah!

08aug-05

Boston Public Gardens

09sep-01

Apple picking in the North Georgia mountains

09sep-02

Camping trip with Beth

09sep-03

Cracker Barrel

10oct-01

So excited about Halloween!

11nov-01

Someone’s excited for Thanksgiving Dinner!

11nov-02

Christmas photo shoot with Julie (Jules Photography)

12dec-01

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas!

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This Christmas season was busy, but good. I didn’t feel overwhelmed, and I felt prepared. There were a few little things that didn’t get done, but overall… it was a good day. The girls loved it and it was so fun seeing their eyes light up with all the magic and wonder of Christmas. There’s a reason it is my favorite holiday!

We had our family Christmas pictures taken by the lovely Julie with Jules Photography.

Family

Arches

Family

Paul and I

Beautiful girls

Pretty girl!

I love this picture

Caroline

This picture cracks me up… Caroline was really fussy that day, so we had trouble getting good pictures of her.
Why there are so few pictures of Caroline


in which I realized I didn’t blog for an entire month

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Tonight I realized that my last post was in October, and now it is an hour and a half into December. I don’t think I’ve gone an entire month without blogging before, and it makes me sad. Of course, seeing this neglected blog always makes me sad, but despite promises I haven’t seem to find a rhythm in my schedule that encourages me to blog.

So, it’s December! We just got back from Orlando yesterday, where we spent Thanksgiving with my side of the family. It was a lovely trip, though a bit cold. I had checked the weather before we left, and it promised several 80 degree days, but those were not to be. Of course, returning to Atlanta was even colder but at least we have winter clothes here. :-)

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now the year is wrapping up – I can’t believe it. Christmas is always my favorite season! Last year, I decided to start a new tradition of wrapping up Christmas books and opening one every night. Savannah loved it, but here we are again and I just realized I haven’t wrapped the books yet. At this point, I am not inclined to do so either… I’m thinking of just placing them in a basket. ;-) I don’t have 25 actually – only 16 I think – so I need to order a few more as part of their Christmas present this year.

Savannah is 4 this year, and as she gets older it’s fun to share more and more of the holiday with her. I hope she loves it as much as I do. Advent starts tomorrow (later today), happily coincidentally December 1st. I’ve been pinning a bunch of ideas but haven’t decided yet. I struggle with being tired and lazy, having a desire to do all the traditions but when it actually comes to it I am not up for it. When I look back, I regret not taking the time… so hopefully I can plan out exactly what I want without overwhelming myself.

And now, as I close, a few recent pictures. Savannah is now 4 and Caroline is 16 months. I can’t believe how fast they grow!

The girls

Caroline and Savannah


thoughts on Halloween

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Halloween-Savannah

Yikes, I don’t usually get into controversial stuff. Hopefully my readership is small enough these days that I can explain my thoughts without opening myself up to a huge debate in the comments.

Paul and I both grew up not celebrating or acknowledging Halloween, and that is something we carried with us into marriage and Savannah’s first few years. However, I’ve since started questioning this stance… and, well, and tomorrow night we’ll be trick or treating with the girls for the first time. It’s been an interesting journey, and I want to share the various articles and thought process that led to me changing my mind, in case it is helpful to anyone else. I am not writing this to convict anyone in either direction – just sharing my journey.

I started with the belief that Halloween was evil and celebrating the occult, and that was dangerous ground for any Christian. I believed harmless “trick or treating” would lead to kids thinking it was okay to dabble in the occult and the overall evilness of Halloween.

I am not sure what made me question, but perhaps it was when a coworker first told me about the pagan origins of Christmas and Easter. That troubled me, because I really love those holidays, so I started looking into it. After a bit of time and research, I decided I was completely comfortable celebrating those despite any pagan origins. Of course, that made me question how Halloween was different than the other two. I actually started dialogs with several anti-Halloween friends about my thoughts, but their answers weren’t satisfying my real questions. I mulled over it for one October, and then put it aside when Halloween was over. But the same questions cropped up again the next year, and the next.

Here is something I wrote last year…

My quandary is, why is okay to dress up 11 months of the year, but in October it’s suddenly evil? Is it okay to go to a church festival? I am not into the scary stuff, but I really want to do costumes and meet the neighbors by trick-or-treating. I just fail to see the evilness of that… Does a holiday ever lose its evilness because culture and time have taken it away? Is it okay if culture and time have made it a family-friendly fun holiday that’s about dressing up and candy?

Some of the articles I read at the time addressed the pagan origins of Halloween. Some even dared to suggest it was a Christian holiday (based on All Saints Day and All Saints Eve).

In “Halloween: A Distinctly Christian Holiday”, the author James Jordan writes about the origin, that they are unrelated to pagan holidays, that the Pope simply established All Saints Day to honor the Saints and remind us that our work is not done.

In Where did Halloween come from? Can a Christian celebrate it?”, author Matt Slick disagrees with that, saying it WAS an attempt by the Catholic Church to cover up a pagan festival.

In “Halloween: An Orthodox Christian Perspective”, author John Sanidopoulos goes in depth with the origins of Halloween and the origins of the United States’ cultural celebrations of Halloween. (He also makes some interesting observations about Christmas and Easter.)

This debate over the origins is talked about in “The Diverging Views of Halloween” by Trey Owens. He writes:

Which is true? In some ways, this question is irrelevant. What matters for us is how our culture celebrates Halloween today. Though how we account for the traditional beliefs and practices associated with Halloween has a great bearing on our view of the Holiday, the question we must ask is not “What was Halloween” but “What is Halloween.” And not just what is Halloween, but if we choose to celebrate it, how do we celebrate Halloween.

That actually got me thinking a lot. Why do the origins matter, if they are not acknowledged today? In our vast world of diverse cultures, each with a long and rich history, and thousands of symbols that mean different things… when do we say “enough is enough – I’m only going to worry about here and now”?

In James Jordan’s article, he writes:

Symbols and decorations, like words, mean different things in different cultures, in different languages, and in different periods of history. The only relevant question is what does it mean now—and nowadays it is only a decoration.

He claims that our current traditions of dressing up and making the day fun is actually a form of “laughing at the devil”. I actually had heard this concept back in my anti-Halloween days, and scoffed at it, saying the devil is too serious to be mocked. But I understand that perspective now.

What is the means by which the demonic realm is vanquished? In a word: mockery. Satan’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us, we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this; the Bible teaches that he is the fallen Arch-Cherub. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us.

The whole symbols thing was something I pondered for a long time. Savannah was only two months old her first Halloween. We had a cute little bear outfit that she wore to keep warm. It was chilly so we dressed her in that and went to the mall. (We liked going to the mall to avoid Trick or Treaters.) Everyone thought her bear outfit was her costume. It seemed that the line was so blurry. Other people thought we were participating, but I honestly wasn’t – I was just dressing her in something warm, something I would have put her in without hesitation any other night of the fall/winter. So what should we wear? Should we dress down on October 31st? Doesn’t it seem that we were going a little far to avoid the devil’s holiday? Maybe there *is* something to be said about not letting him “have” the day?

Matt Slick brought up in his article a point that really was pivotal to my acceptance that Halloween could be celebrated as a Christian. I felt these verses were SO applicable here.

Take a look at the Christmas tree. It was originally an ancient fertility symbol. Yet, it has become a representation of Christmas and the place where gifts are placed. Are the Christians then paying homage to an ancient pagan fertility god? Not at all. They do not consider it pagan and are simply joining in a cultural event and giving no honor to anything unscriptural.

Think about this. In the Bible in 1 Cor. 10:23-33, Paul speaks about meat sacrificed to idols. This meat was often sold in the meat market and the question arose, “Should a Christian each such meat?”

Paul said in verse 25, “Eat anything that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions for conscience’ sake.” This is most interesting. He says it is okay to eat the meat bought in the market place even though that meat may have been sacrificed to idols.

Then in verses 28-29 he says, “But if anyone should say to you, ‘This is meat sacrificed to idols,’ do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; 29 I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience?” (NASB). Paul is saying that if you find out the meat was sacrificed to idols, don’t eat it — not because of you, but because of the other person. In other words, eating that meat won’t affect you. But, it may affect the attitude of another who does not understand the freedom the Christian has in Christ.

Is it any different with Halloween (or Christmas)? No. Even though Halloween has pagan origins, because of your freedom in Christ, you and/or your kids can dress up in costumes and go door-to-door and just have fun. However, if you are not comfortable with doing this, then you should not. If you know of a person who would be hindered by doing it, then you shouldn’t either.

Once I came to this conclusion, I moved on to: How will Halloween look in our family? I still don’t have any interest in haunted houses or being scared silly or practicing things that I do consider dangerous (witchcraft, ouija boards, etc). But what about fall festivals? What about Trick or Treating? Could it actually be a positive, community-building thing? I don’t think I really considered that aspect of it until we bought a house in a neighborhood that we wanted to invest in. TroubleFace Mom explains it better on her blog post “On Halloween” – Trick or Treating is a great way to show Christ’s love to our neighbors. I also liked A Musing Maralee’s blog post “A Practical Theology of Trick-or-Treating”. She talks about some instances where she and her husband chose not to participate in Halloween due to the background of people they were working with – which I do think is important. I also think it’s important to realize that not every country celebrates Halloween like we do here in the United States, and that it’s something that would change depending on the culture you’re currently in.

I liked this point made by John Sanidopoulos:

There are no rules how to celebrate Halloween, so any disagreeable element can be ruled out. One need not go to a psychic on Halloween or participate in any pagan ceremony. It is not a rule to take on a persona of evil or become over-sexualized, or to vandalize and attend drunken parties to have fun on Halloween. Halloween is about expressing one’s self in whatever way one chooses, and costumes have come to reflect this. Christians are not compelled to do what they don’t want to do on Halloween if they want to have some participation in it. It is alright for Christians to go trick or treating and give out candy on Halloween, because such practices have no evil element. In fact, I would argue that it entirely falls in line with the Christian attitude of showing neighborly love. All Christian homes should turn on their lights and welcome their neighbor’s children on Halloween, and even more so should Christian churches. I’ve often thought that the darkest element of Halloween are those homes and churches that refuse to turn their lights on for trick or treaters.

I wrote this after I dressed up the girls last year and took them to a Trunk or Treat at a local church.

I have found that since making this decision, it’s made this time of year a lot less stressful for me! I didn’t realize how much time I spent trying to ignore Halloween. I don’t tense up at decorations, or when people ask Savannah what she’s going to be, or when my friends all post pictures of their kids’ costumes. I am much more relaxed about it all and that’s a nice feeling. In some ways, I feel like before I was spending way too much energy on a day that I thought belonged to the devil. Now it’s like, I’m taking back the day. I do think I will always draw a line at the scary and satanic stuff. But there was always a line drawn about Halloween – it’s too pervasive in our culture to not draw a line – so I simply moved my line to include what I believe is harmless fun.

Sallie over at A Quiet Simple Life posted today a timely post that I think did an even better (and more concise!) job than I have about why they changed their minds about Halloween. I appreciated her four points, and I noticed her first point (“Not celebrating Halloween made me hate October”) was very true of me as well. Releasing that has been such a relief for me.

So that’s where things stand for me right now. We’ll see how it changes as God convicts me in the future. I hope these thoughts are helpful to someone who is questioning (in either direction) – that’s why I wanted to write them. I probably will not engage in debate in the comments so keep that in mind. :-)

Halloween-Caroline


miscarriage: a pain like no other

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Originally written October 15, 2012 for Atlanta Birth Center’s blog.

My husband and I had recently started trying for our first child when I got the positive pregnancy test. We were thrilled! I immediately made an appointment with my OB-GYN for a few days later. At that appointment, though, she looked concerned. I was confused, not understanding what was happening. She had me give some blood to send to the lab, and told me to return in two days for another blood drawing to see if my hcg levels were doubling, as they do in a normal healthy pregnancy.

I was still waiting for a phone call about the results when I discovered one evening I was bleeding. I started crying. I wasn’t even yet 6 weeks along, and I had only known about this baby for a week, but it didn’t matter. All I knew was that I was losing my little one, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

That was my first miscarriage. I did go on to have a healthy pregnancy 6 months later, and my daughter recently turned 3. However, I always say that miscarriages rob something from you – they forever robbed me of that early pregnancy excitement and joy.

All total, I’ve had four miscarriages and two live births; my younger daughter was born this past July. I spent the first four months of her pregnancy incredibly anxious about losing her, and I hated that I couldn’t seem to just relax and enjoy the excitement of growing a little one. I’ve been both angry and so sad about my losses. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to hear about a friend’s loss without going through all the emotions again myself?

Miscarriage: a silent loss

A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss before 20 weeks of gestation. Most losses occur in the first 7 weeks of pregnancy. This is a unique situation in that many times, you have no physical baby to hold. You have no experiences with your baby outside the womb, but yet you still feel that throbbing ache deep in your soul. Life around you is moving on, but for some reason you can’t understand why the sun is still shining and why people are still smiling.

A sculpture in Slovakia, commissioned by a group of young mothers and sculpted by Martin Hudáčeka. This sculpture resonates  beauty, pain, sorrow, and hope. Source.

There are several different types of miscarriages, which I hope to go over further in a future post. For now, I want to focus on emotional healing after a miscarriage. No matter what type of loss it was or how far along you were, it still can be so painful.

You didn’t do anything wrong

When I lost my baby, I mentally went through my last few weeks, wondering if I had done something to cause it. Oh no, I took that Excedrin when I had a migraine! And it has aspirin in it! Or maybe it was the glass of wine I had? Oh I shouldn’t have gone on that hike – surely that was too much physical exertion for my body.

Some of the most encouraging comments for me were hugs of sympathy and reminders that it was unlikely that I did anything to cause my miscarriage. There are some risk factors that increase a woman’s chances (like smoking), but rarely can one single act be the cause. Any woman can experience a miscarriage – you are not alone.

Feel what you feel

For me, my miscarriages carried with them intense feelings which startled me. What am I supposed to be feeling? Is this good? Should I be forcing myself to feel something else?

I learned that it is so important to just feel what you feel. Women’s responses to their loss fall on a broad spectrum, from deep grief to almost nonchalance. Don’t feel guilty about what is going on in your head or try to force yourself to feel something else. Some women struggle to get out of bed in the morning, mourning deeply for the baby they never knew. Some women fall in between – sad, but after a time are able to move on with their lives. Some don’t feel that sense of grief at all and wonder if there’s something wrong with them. All of these things are okay, though no matter where you fall on the spectrum, it never hurts to pursue support through a support group or professional counseling.

The grief you feel initially won’t always be crushing. You may struggle to have positive emotions toward your spouse/partner or other children. Time will heal those raw areas, and gradually you will be able to move on. I would highly suggest finding support or counseling if you’re struggling to do so – it can be healing to talk through things and to learn coping techniques to help you get through this time.

Moving on after a miscarriage can vary from woman to woman as well. Some grieve deeply for a few days and are able to move on, while for others the grief might hit weeks or months later. I don’t dwell on my losses now (or even consciously remember their anniversaries), but every so often the wave of pain washes over me, and I feel everything again – usually when hearing of the loss of a friend’s baby. I hope one day to have healed to the point where I can be a support and encouragement to women who are struggling with their own losses.

I found my response to each of my miscarriages was different, because I was in a different place with each. After my fourth one (3rd consecutive), I was beginning to wonder how many times I could even do this, whether we should stop trying so I didn’t have to go through the pain again.

Finding Support

teddyI talked openly about my first loss after it happened. The next day, I received flowers from a faraway friend. That simple act had such an impact on me – she had put a visual with my grief. I don’t know where I’d be today without the support of friends when I was struggling. (For more ideas of how to support a friend going through a miscarriage, please read Adrienne’s post about friendship and support,) With the exception of that first time, I largely kept my losses to myself, only sharing with my husband, my midwife, and a few friends. However, I found strong support through an online forum community. Many forums have a place to talk through pregnancy loss, and there are also several that are specifically geared to that. You can find links to them at the end of this post, under “Online Support and Resources”. There is something healing about being able to talk through your pain and emotions with other women who have been there and really get it.

There are also several support groups around Atlanta that specialize in pregnancy and infant loss, as well as some that are geared toward grief in general. You can see the links to those at the end of this post as well, under “Local Support Groups”. It is important to have a safe place to talk, share your story, and find comfort in others’ stories.

After my miscarriages, I met with a licensed counselor for one-on-one therapy, talking through my experience and all the accompanying emotions and feelings. This was very healing for me, and she helped me through my anxiety with my next pregnancy. You can find a counselor by asking your care provider, local friends, or through your insurance company. It never hurts to have someone to talk to – even if it’s just a few sessions.

You also might want to seek out a bereavement or loss doula to support you through your loss. These doulas are specially trained to come alongside and support women in their loss. Many are moms who have experienced a loss themselves. Please see the links below to locate a doula in your area.

Remembering your baby

When a loved one passes away, we like to have a way to memorialize them – a gravestone, a statue in the garden, a lit candle. A pregnancy loss is no different. Many women find it helpful to remember their baby by having something tangible they can see and feel. I hope to have something one day for my four babies, but I am not sure yet what I want.

I have come across several websites that sell miscarriage and infant memorial keepsake items. I also think that Etsy.com is a great site where you can find handmade and customizable items. There are some beautiful necklaces or pendants you can get, often with a name or date if you choose. Other ideas could be a carved stone for the garden, a special keepsake box, a shadow box, a painted canvas or a sculpture. You also don’t have to decide on something like this right away – there are stages to processing your grief, and you should take this step only if it feels right.

You might also wish to make something yourself – using that time spent in creating as a way of processing your grief. I had one friend who crocheted squares for an eventual quilt – she worked on it whenever she felt sad, and that process really helped her emotionally.

Some women choose to name their baby, even if the loss occurred too early to know the gender (sometimes you might feel in your gut what the gender was, or you choose a name that is gender neutral). Don’t feel that you shouldn’t name your baby or having something tangible in remembrance simply because your baby never lived outside the womb.

Moving On

One day, you’ll realize the pain doesn’t sting quite so hard. The sun is shining a little brighter. You’re able to muster a smile in return to others you encounter. Perhaps you’ll never be fully healed from that hole in your heart, but you’re on a brighter path now. A friend described it to me this way: when you lose your baby, you have a huge gaping hole in your heart. Over time, that hole heals over, but the scar is always there. Just like how people with old injuries notice an ache when it rains, you too will feel the ache at times. It’s not an actual pain, but more of a memory of that pain.

I’m not sure I’m completely there. I moved on from my first loss, but the most recent ones are still fresh, even though I have since had a successful pregnancy. Grief takes time, but women are strong. We will eventually make it through.

Resources

For further resources, please check the links below. Some of these may be more geared to late-term loss, but in many ways grief is grief and the process is still the same.

Local Support Groups

  • Northside Hospital Perinatal Loss Office (Support and assistance to families dealing with perinatal loss. Free services and meetings through Northside Hospital.)
  • Rock Goodbye Angel (Peer support group for families who experienced pregnancy or early infant loss, with meetings around Georgia.)
  • SHARE Atlanta (Grief support and services for families who experience a pregnancy or newborn loss, with meetings around Atlanta.)
  • Face2Face Metro Atlanta (Social group for women who have experienced any type of pregnancy or infant loss, with meetings in Atlanta.)
  • The Compassionate Friends (Atlanta) (Grief support after the death of a child, with chapters around Atlanta and a Facebook group for support.)

Bereavement or Loss Doulas

  • Loss Doulas International (Advocates who help parents minimize regrets and maximize memories when a loved baby dies. Search to find one in your area – currently, none are listed for Georgia.)
  • Stillbirthday Bereavement Doulas (Doulas who provide support prior to, during and after the birth of your miscarried or stillborn baby, as well as be birth doulas for subsequant pregnancies.)

Online Support and Resources

Books

Miscarriage Information