Monday, December 20, 2010
Today marks five months since Ellie was born and died. It seems like it's been forever and just an instant at the same time. Craig and I think about her so much, right when we wake up and before falling asleep and at all hours in between. We're settling into our "new normal" - life that on the surface should be the same as it was before we knew we were going to be having a child, but isn't. We made space in our heads and our lives for our daughter, and that space is still there. We expected it to be filled with her, but instead it's filled with her absence and her memory.
This holiday season has been hard. I've seen little "Baby's first Christmas" clothes, tv commercials with parents and their newborns, lots of family togetherness images in general. Just last week someone at a downtown store who hadn't seen me since I was pregnant asked me how my little one was.
But we're healing, little by little. We can think about our wonderful Ellie and smile, though the smiles are still shaded with sadness. The sun seems to be shining more often, even though it's winter now.
We have so much love for Ellie, for each other, and for our friends and family. And you guys have given us so much love and support. Thank you.
Our good friends Kevin and Katrina Graber surprised us with a beautiful bouquet today. This holiday season has been hard, but the love that we feel from you all has made it so much better.
Friday, December 10, 2010
A friend recently sent some writings she came across while reading for a class (Helen Wells O'Brien - "The chaplain as bearer and giver of blessing" in Spiritual Caregiving in the Hospital: Windows to Chaplaincy Ministry. pgs 78-79). One of the sections rang true for me—the Commitment to Remember:
Commitment to remember
In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
we will remember her.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
we will remember her.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer,
we will remember her.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
we will remember her.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
we will remember her.
As long as we live, she, too, shall live,
for she is now a part of us as we remember her.
I wrote this in response: “When we first lost Ellie, there was this little fear that I would forget about her as time went on and especially if we have another child. I have learned that this is definitely not true. She will always be our daughter and we will always remember her. There is no replacing her or forgetting her.”
Monday, December 6, 2010
We put up our Christmas tree yesterday. Well, I have to admit that Kathy did most of the work. I helped a little bit, but she did most of the work. We decided to leave off our normal decorations and go for simple this year. There are white lights and cranes, and I think the effect is quite nice. Another way to celebrate and remember our dear daughter.
Here is the whole tree:
And a close up:
Saturday, December 4, 2010
I have been doing a lot of reading about photography recently. It is a passion of mine that has been much neglected the last few years. Our library has quite a few books and I check out a whole big pile at a time.
In other words, you may see more thoughts about photography coming up on this blog. =)
The book I am currently reading is Andreas Feininger: Photographer (ISBN 0810909197) and I found this quote interesting:
This series seems to me to demonstrate particularly well certain qualities that a photograph must possess. They are: Stopping Power—some picture element must draw attention to the image. Purpose and Meaning—the picture must have “something to say.” Emotional Impact—the viewer must feel something when contemplating the picture. Graphic Interest—the picture must be well composed and present graphically pleasing design. In short, I believe that a good photograph must be more than simply an illustration, it must be an interpretation.
Mostly it is the last sentence that caught my attention. Illustration is easy enough: just point and click. It’s the interpretation of the subject, the scene, the lighting, all mixed together that makes a one photograph stand out from another.
Here is one of Feininger’s more famous images:
Friday, November 19, 2010
I was debating whether to post a couple more writings. We have gotten positive feedback from quite a few people saying that they appreciate the glimpse into our lives, into our thoughts, as we continue to mourn our daughter Eleanor.
Since I couldn’t decide, I let Kristi read them and asked what she thought about posting them. She pretty much echoed the sentiment that you readers would appreciate the frank emotion and short peek into our lives.
She also said she appreciated reading them in my hand writing. So I’m trying something new. I scanned the writings from the book that I have been writing in. It did not appreciate being squished into the scanner, but I hope you enjoy the results. If you have trouble reading the images, scroll to the bottom for transcriptions.
First, a letter to Ellie:
And, a poem to Kathy:
Transcription in case you have trouble reading my writing. First, a letter to Ellie:
I hope you know how much you mean to me… Even though you only lived briefly outside of mommy’s tummy, we fell deeply in love with you. In the 9 months leading up to your birth, we got to know your squiggles, your movements and kicks. We would sit on the couch, me with my hand on mommy’s belly, feeling you move. At night I would read you a story—usually Fox in Socks. We thought the rhythm would interest you and even comfort you after you were born.
I had many expectations for you. And at the same time none. There were many things I wanted to do with you, but I would have been so happy to let you be you and develop into the person you would become.
You died an hour after you were born. One expectation every parent has is that their child will outlive them. This did not happen for me and you.
But really, even that does not matter. You are still my daughter and I loved every minute I got to spend with you! I just wish there could have been more.
With deep profound love,
And, a poem for Kathy:
I like being close to you
feeling warm skin on warm skin
laying my head on your chest
You remind me of our little one
who we loved and nurtured
as best we could
Your love makes
our heavy burden
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I think this graph might explain the past time I have picked up this year:
I got my first Nike+ sensor in 2007. There were a few times I used it between 2007 and 2010, but they were barely blips. And then there is this year…
Next year is looking to be more of the same since I signed up for the Kalamazoo marathon in May of 2011.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Posted this to Facebook, but thought I would share it with the rest of you who might not be on Facebook!
My Ellie crane getting ready to dive in to the box with all its friends. We have been folding one in the morning and one in the evening, making space to remember our daughter.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
We miss you, Ellie.
View Track 33 in a larger map
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Our small group has decided to have a candle for Ellie when we get together. We were hosting tonight so we were the first to have a candle for her. We were looking around at Ten Thousand Villages today and noticed this wonderful candle holder. It seemed very appropriate to us. I think we'll start lighting it when we fold our cranes, too. Someday we'll have some of the cranes strung up and will send a photo.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
For my birthday he bought me a camera connector, so that I can download pictures straight from my camera onto the ipad without having to go through itunes. I can then email them from the ipad.
For example, pictures of me playing with fire.
It's been great working on these.
Craig's been taking some photos of Kristi's work while I've been playing in her studio. They both do excellent, excellent work. I'm sure he'll post samples at some point.
The last week or so has been a mix of good days and harder days for me.
Last night as we approached our house, returning from Kristi's, workers were flushing the fire hydrant in front of our next door neighbor's house. There was a city truck with bright white flashers on the back parked on the street beside the hydrant. I was reminded of this commercial - the water was shooting out in an arc that was perhaps 20 feet long, and when the lights would flash you would see that the arc wasn't solid water, but a myriad of tiny droplets that caught the light like diamonds.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Some days are better than others, of course. We're having fewer periods of the crippling grief, where all we can do is cry because we long for Ellie to be with us, to hold her in our arms. Some days I don't cry at all.
Life these days has a ground state of sadness and loss. I find myself unconsciously doing a mental check, finding that I'm sad, and trying to figure out what's wrong so I can fix it. Then I become aware of my thoughts and realize again that Ellie's gone, and that there is nothing that I or Craig or anyone else can do to change it. All I can do is continue to continue on.
So that's the base state of my emotions. But there are also periods of intense grief, where I literally cannot stop crying because I miss Ellie so much. Her absence is incredibly painful. I find myself reliving the hours around her birth and death amidst other jumbled thoughts and feelings. The emotional and rational sides of my brain have little discussions: "It's not fair! Life is not fair and you know that you can't expect it to be." "Why did this have to happen to her and to us? There's no answer to that question; it happened and now we have to live with it." "I never got to hold her in my arms when she was alive. I never got to hear her cry. I never got to feed her or care for her. I won't get to see her grow up. I know, but that's just the way it is." "How are we going to make it through the evening? The next day? The next week, month, year? We just are. We just keep moving forward."
When grief overtakes us so strongly, it's impossible to remember what it feels like to not have the pain crushing us. But then, after a while, it wanes and fades to a murmur. And then, the rest of the time, we can't quite remember how it feels to have the knife of grief twisting in our hearts. We know we felt it, and we know we'll feel it again, but it's a little unreal.
I think it has to be that way. We couldn't go about our lives, make a living to pay the bills, get through the days and nights, if that debilitating grief was always there. I think it must be like that for everyone, a survival trait that lets us feel the pain and emptiness of loss in waves, so we can tread water and recover our strength for the next time the water rushes over our heads.
Craig and I are a good team. We support each other, and after the first couple of weeks have been able to sort of take turns - when all I can do is cry, he is there for me, to hold me and offer strength and comfort just by his presence. When grief overwhelms him, I do the same for him. It doesn't make the pain go away, or even really make it even less, but it's somehow a promise that it will pass, and that we'll survive.
And, of course, we talk to each other. It's been incredibly helpful to be able to talk about the future. It doesn't diminish our pain, and we know that we will always grieve the loss of our little girl, but sometimes we just need to talk about what we want later on, to remind ourselves that there will be a later on when we won't hurt as much.
Being able to be open and vulnerable with each other about how we're feeling in the moment has also been key. We can say how we're feeling and know that there is someone else who understands perfectly, who loved Ellie so much and now feels her absence all the time, consciously or unconsciously.
We fold a paper crane together every morning and evening. It's a quiet space we create for ourselves to think about Ellie. We usually write a little something to her on the back. I sign my notes "Mommy" and Craig signs his "Daddy" so that we can remember that we are parents, even though we don't have a child to parent. And, as Craig mentioned, we also take a walk together every evening to give ourselves space to talk about the past day and about our dreams for the future.
We also want to make space for others to remember Ellie. Craig talked about that a little at small group last night, and we decided that we will have a symbol for Ellie present during our meetings. We'll start with a candle and see how that feels, and maybe stay with that or move to a different symbol. We know that others are grieving for her, too. Our pain is different, but that doesn't dismiss the loss that others who love her feel. We know that, and acknowledge it, and would love to talk to you about her if you want to talk to us about her (though we will certainly tell you if it's a bad time and we need to postpone the conversation for a later time).
Ellie was in my thoughts almost constantly during my pregnancy, especially in the last few months. She still is. But I want it to be because she’s still here, not because she’s gone. I miss her so much.
Our grief is like an inverted mountain, which makes sense since our world was turned upside down. We started climbing at the peak, the steepest part. It’s gotten less steep, but we're still climbing. There are parts that are steeper, parts that are easier. There are ridges and dips and crevices and scree and beautiful views, like our community which has held us up so well. Some days are sunny and some are windy and some are stormy, all while climbing the mountain of grief. Even when we reach the foothills, someday, it will still be there, we know, a constant presence in our lives. But that’s ok, because Ellie is our daughter, and always will be, even though she’s gone.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Kathy and I went to an Ultimate tournament this weekend, and again discovered how hard mourning is. We were expecting to go to tournaments with Ellie, and now we won’t be able to do that. Many places where we expect Ellie to be we experience enough to adjust to her absence. For example, walking past her nursery room can still cause pain, but I have done it enough times that I usually don’t even think about it. This is only the second tournament without her and the experience is still new, opening up raw wounds of grief.
It doesn’t help that someone on our sideline had a little baby about Ellie’s age.
Besides missing Ellie at the tournament, neither of us have been working out hard or regularly. We both felt our lack of shape on the field. I am used to playing all day and feeling tired by the end, but still being able to push. Instead, I felt a lack of drive, a lack of competitiveness. And a body that is used to a slower pace.
Since the day was not going well, we decided it would probably be best to head back home. Home meant sleeping in our own beds and having time to discuss our feelings from the day.
To that end, we went for a walk on Sunday. When we got home we found two hours had passed since we left. A quick calculation gave us an estimated five mile walk. It was a lovely day and we had great conversation. Those are the reasons we enjoy walking together these days.
Another factor in our decision was Kathy’s parents. They were in town for a concert and we would not have seen them if we stayed for the entire tournament. We ate brunch together and hung out for a few hours before they headed back to Ohio.
Friday, September 10, 2010
What People Give You
Long-faced irises. Mums.
Pink roses and white roses
and giant sunflowers,
and hundreds of daisies.
Fruit baskets with muscular pears,
and water crackers and tiny jams
and the steady march of casseroles.
people give money these days.
Cards, of course:
the Madonna, wise
and sad just for you,
Chinese cherry blossoms,
sunsets and moonscapes,
and dragonflies for transcendence.
People stand by your sink
and offer up their pain:
Did you know I lost a baby once,
or My eldest son was killed,
or My mother died two months ago.
People are good.
They file into your cartoon house until it bows at the seams;
they give you every
except your daughter back.
"What People Give You" by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, from Slamming Open the Door. © Alice James Books, 2009. (buy now)
Of course it is even better if you listen to Garrison Keillor read it. The poem starts at 3:00:
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I wanted to try to capture how close we were. She is kind of hard to see but there is a little green blur by the feeder!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I'm slowly trying to get back into taking a photo every day. Here is one from yesterday. There won't be one every day to start, but I'm going to keep posting and get back into it--at least a few photos a week.
Maybe I'll officially change it to a few photos a week instead of a photo a day. =)
Friday, August 6, 2010
Someone told us about a legend that hummingbirds carry messages between worlds. The little bird has become a symbol for us as we grieve the loss of our daughter Ellie.
We appreciate all of the support and care that we have received from family and friends. It has been simply amazing.
Word has spread far about our loss. We realized this as we received cards, Facebook messages, and emails from various friends and acquaintances.
However, the most surprising was an email from our SST hosts. They have made several moves since we lived with them for a couple months in 1999. We have not had any direct communication in many years. They are currently living in Sao Paulo, Brasil, and sent us an email to say they are thinking and praying for us. We are awaiting the full translation since it was in spanish, but we were able to figure out the general message.
We’re not sure how they found out about our loss; maybe our little hummingbird carried the message down to them.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
We received quite a few cherries in our CSA delivery this week. So many that we didn’t think we would eat them before they went bad so we decided to make some pie.
I pitted them all while Kathy made the crust. We make quite a team! This is the first latticed pie that Kathy’s made, and I have to admit it was delicious.
We had some friends over this afternoon to help us eat the two and half pies that we made.
Here is a delightful a la mode piece I had after supper:
Thursday, July 1, 2010
A little while back I started making bread and found a no-knead recipe that is simply delightful, with a thick crunchy crust and delicious insides.
Well, I ended up buying the book (My Bread by Jim Lahey—Amazon). I had noticed the section on pizzas and vowed to try them someday. The first attempt last week was such a success that I also made some last night for a special date night with Kathy. Since Kristi is out of town we could give the mushroom pizza a try.
The crust is wonderful and crispy, and the toppings get baked to perfection. The best part is there is no sauce to get in the way of the vegetables or other toppings and no pile of mozzarella to cover every flavor. The veggie recipe calls for some parmesan to be sprinkled over the top, but it leaves the toppings in control of the flavor. Really, I didn’t miss the red sauce and cheese at all!
I have to say this is some of the best pizza I have eaten. We made extra to see how the leftovers reheat.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Today is full-term day! That means that we can now birth at the birth center. Three more weeks until the due date, but it feels like we get closer every day. =)
We took this photo in the nursery where our little baby will be sleeping. Kathy painted the bird and there are a few other friendly creatures on the walls, thanks to her siblings.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
still at the hospital for some routine monitoring, but baby and mother
are doing well!
Now we can wait the last few weeks of pregnancy without worrying about
a c-section. That is assuming the baby stays head down, but we are
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
I made some bread yesterday and took this photo while it was "singing." You can see a little bit of steam rising from the bread. Well, I could in the original photo; it kind of gets lost in the JPEG compression. Right after I take it out of the oven, the crust starts cooling and shrinking. The warm bread inside is creating steam, which escapes through the small cracks. You can actually hear it cracking, which is where the singing comes from. I found out that this is actually part of the baking process so you shouldn't cut open artisan bread immediately after taking it out of the oven.
While the bread was baking, I was working on computers downstairs--go figure. This set up was unique enough that I decided to share it. The laptop keyboard isn't working quite right so I took it off and started using an external USB keyboard. A replacement keyboard is on its way.