Thursday, June 29, 2017

Stitch Fix for Him? Stitch Fix for TIM!

You know how much I've enjoyed Stitch Fix for myself, but I've been meaning to tell you about Tim's B-day Present:

Stitch Fix for HIM! Ha ha! Now doesn't that look just like Tim?



Tim has been stuck in 10 year old clothes that are WAY too baggy for him. His pants are on the wide and short side, and his shirts look rumpled.

He does not like to shop, and although I don't mind throwing some socks or undies in the cart for him at Target, I long ago gave up on being his personal shopper. While I had success at getting him to cull out some of his no-longer-in-style clothes, I wasn't sure how to build his wardrobe up again.

Stich Fix for Men seemed like a great solution.

Margaret had fun helping him fill out a Stitch Fix profile, emphasizing trim and current clothes for a casual work environment, and before we knew it his first box came in the mail.

Our super-professional "unboxing" video was too large to post on this site, so a few photos will have to do! Looking Good!



They sent him this navy button down dress shirt for work, a henley-type heathered gray shirt, a short-sleeved button down by Woolrich, slim-fitting indigo jeans, and slim fitting khaki jeans.

Guess what? 5 out of 5, baby!

He LOVED 4 of the items, and liked one. He decided to keep all 5 to get the 25% discount, and ended up with a totally refreshed wardrobe.

Plus his new clothes even motivated him to get on Amazon and order 2 new pairs of shoes that were outside his comfort zone!

His next fix is scheduled to arrive in time for fall, and mine comes next week. While I love how Stitch Fix has worked for me, I think it's even handier for him. I know he keeps clothes for A LONG TIME, so the prices are completely reasonable, even low, when I consider how much wear they will get. And while I'm fairly likely to pop into Marshalls or TJMaxx for myself every now and then, I know Tim won't.

The convenience of having stylish clothes come to our door is HUGE.

If the man in your life wants to try Stitch Fix, I say GO FOR IT! I hope he has as much fun as Tim did!

#affiliate links included!


Friday, June 16, 2017

To Jack's Friends on Graduation


 I was trying write a speech for all graduates this spring, but I kept getting stuck. 

I wondered if it was because I was just too heartbroken to write about graduation, when Jack wouldn't be walking across a stage, collecting awards, and smiling for pictures.

There would be no party.

Then I realized that addressing all graduates, and trying to come up with words of wisdom was too much. How wise am I anyway? I really just wanted to address Jack's friends, the ones who knew him in the flesh. These are the kids who for a while would glance over their shoulders thinking he'd be there. They are the ones who likely can still half-close their eyes at a group gathering and picture Jack as part of the scene amidst the laughter.

To them, Jack is not an idea, a concept, or a cautionary tale.

He's just Jack.


To Jack's Friends on Graduation: 

Congratulations on your big day! We are so very proud of you and all you have accomplished! I'm not saying I couldn't have pictured all of this when you were goofy little kids, but I will say you've come a long way. You are smart, poised, generous and kind. 

You will always have a special place in our hearts, in honor of the place you had in Jack's life, and the big love he felt for you. As we've watched you grow and change, we've pictured Jack alongside you, and although that hurts, it is also healing.

I am so sorry that our family's struggle represented such a shift in your childhoods. You didn't ask for heartache and the harsh reality of death to crash into your lives at such a tender age. It was shocking and scary. It left you feeling vulnerable. I wish we could have spared you.

I am relieved those horrible days and months are far behind us all, but I believe there are fruits that have come from this hardship, things most people don't discover until they are much older, if at all. 

You learned so much.

You learned how to grieve and how to memorialize a loved one. You learned how to support each other and a hurting family in times of crisis. You learned that saying someone's name might feel awkward, but that it is a loving act. You know how to reach out, how to give a hug when all words fail, and how to persevere when life seems scary. I know the people you encounter will be blessed by this. 

You learned how important each person, each life, is to this world, so much so that when he or she is absent, the world feels a little different. Your life is important. You matter. Your presence is valued, valuable, and needed. There will be times when you feel insignificant, hopeless, or alone. You will wonder if you are heading in the right direction, or if anything you do holds meaning. Remember that you don't get your value from what you do, but from who you are, and whose you are. 

You learned to lean on your faith and to see things from an eternal perspective. Yes, you had heard your parents talk about heaven for many years, but now one of your own was there, and it became even more important to live a life that focuses on what's real and what's true, not on the petty concerns of the world. You know that this is NOT the end.

You learned to persevere and to thrive. To trust even though things felt scary. To let yourself laugh and be kids. You saw us persevere as well, and this helped illustrate to you Luke 1:37-- "For Nothing is Impossible with God." Not even a new little baby-- eek!

I know we haven't seen each very often over the years. We were too new at grief to know how to navigate it and how to keep you integrated into our family life. I especially missed you as older brother and sister figures to Margaret, as I know you be if Jack were alive. I didn't know how to articulate what we needed, if I could have even figured it out. Yet you showed up again and again for special events and milestones. You snuck out in the wee hours and hung blue ribbons near our house for Jack's birthdays and crapiversaries. You culled your memories for any stories of Jack you could share with us. 

It would have been far easier to pretend we didn't exist, but you and your families didn't give up on us. You held a space in your life for our joys and our sorrow. We never once doubted that you still love Jack and you love us. THANK YOU!

I've mentioned some things we all learned from Jack's death, but what about from his life? Remember when Jack's Auntie came up with these at his funeral?  They are the way Jack lived, and I believe they are applicable to you today as you head off to college and to new adventures:

Be Kind.
Pay Attention.
Think.
Play.
Never Give Up.
Share Others' Joy.


Friend, we share in your joy today. 

And I know Jack does too. Remember in the Bible where it talks of a great cloud of witnesses cheering you on? Well, please know that wherever you go, you always have someone cheering you on. He's no longer the 12 year old boy you knew, or even the young adults you are now, but a soul with more knowledge, wisdom, joy and perspective than we will be able to get until we are with God. 

He wants the best for you, and so do we!

You have so much to offer the world, and we will watch with pride and anticipation to see how God uses you and your gifts. 

Love, The Donaldsons

Micah 6:8
Joshua 1:9


Thanks to my friend Carolyn, also a bereaved mom, for modeling this letter writing for me. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Grad Week

Just checking in to you to let you know this would be Jack's graduation week.

So far, we are doing well, even though it hurts. Andrew is keeping me active chasing after him in this intense heat, Margaret is wrapping up sophomore year, and Tim is busy at work. Tomorrow I am hanging out with another bereaved mom whose son should be graduating as well. We feel a strong kinship as we both lost our sons in freak accidents. We have no agenda. Just support and conversation
during Andrew's babysitter time.

photo credit: doriehowell.com

On Sunday, Father's Day, Tim will board a plane for San Diego for work. It will be his first trip there since his trip with Jack to Legoland.



So, we are doing well. But, as always, we appreciate your prayers and support!

Thanks, Loves.

p.s. When Tim gets back, I'm heading to a blog convention in Orlando. If you will be at BlogHer, be sure to say hi! I'm usually the one holding up the wall or looking awkward.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Before and After

On Friday, I was looking for an easy meal to make, so I pulled this recipe for Tortellini Soup out of my recipe binder. It's basically just a list of ingredients to dump together in a pot and bring to a boil.

My kind of cooking.



When I looked at the date, I was taken aback. My sister-in-law sent this to me one day before Jack's accident. At that point, I was gearing up for the new school year, planning quick meals I could make on busy weeknights of baseball, soccer, and scouts. I was wondering what it would be like to have a middle schooler in the house. On the bottom of the page, I'd scribbled a note about an upcoming field trip for Margaret's class. Nothing too exciting.

September 7-- mundane.

September 8-- shattered.

Oh how often there is a clear before and after in our lives! I remember looking through my mom's check register after she died. There she was paying bills and doing the routine tasks of life, until she wasn't.

Sometimes before and afters are positive. They can denote a marriage, a decision to take care of your health, a career change.

Other times, they represent the day the world came crashing down.

If there is a clear before and after in your life, due to death, illness, or a time someone harmed your body or your heart, I'm sending you love today.

After is different. After is often hard.

But after doesn't mean over.

Hugs.


Monday, May 22, 2017

God Wink: Doves

I went down to the basement with Andrew early Sunday morning. Toys were everywhere from his playtime with Daddy the night before. I picked up dozens of Hot Wheels cars, tossing them back into their bin. I knew that cleaning up didn't make a whole lot of sense because the day was VERY young, and the toys would be used again and again in the next 13 hours.

Is it terrible to already be thinking of bedtime before you've had your first cup of tea?

The plastic train bin was dumped as well.

I'd debated pulling out all of Jack's trains for Andrew. I remember what a HUGE deal it was to anticipate and plan for each one. Each new train represented a holiday or milestone in his young life. If Andrew started out with a complete set of Thomas trains, all jumbled in a bin, they would never be as special as they were to Jack, who slept with the train catalog under his pillow. When things come too easily for us, it's hard to appreciate them.

I remember how Jack would quiz me on each train's name and number, and after all these years, I still know them. The funniest memory was when he convinced us there was a train named Scarbuffle, Number 17. Scarbuffle was one of the gang and was included in all of our Jack's quizzes and train stories, but he existed only in Jack's mind. It was fun to realize that such a structured, orderly kid had an imagination too.

I decided to give Andrew all of Jack's trains, because I know something else will take hold of his passion-- whether it's trucks, superheroes, or something else entirely. To him, the trains can be just regular toys.

Sunday, after I tossed all of the trains back into their plastic bin, I felt something sharp under my bare feet. I wasn't surprised to see that there had been debris in the bottom of the bin. We haven't been in baby mode for many years, so I've had to be vigilant about sniffing out tiny vehicle tires, screws, and legos from our old toys before Andrew can put them in his mouth.

I bent down to scoop up the tiny sharp objects, before they attracted his attention. They were small and white, shaped like hearts or birds, but what WERE they? Puppy teeth? Mouse bones?


Immediately it clicked.

They were the white DOVES that come out of sand dollars when they are cracked open. Technically, they're the sand dollar's teeth, but according to the legend of the sand dollar, they represent doves that  stand for peace or goodwill.

Jack's trains had been closed up in a bin for a very long time, perhaps a decade or more. I assume the doves are from when I must have shared the legend of the sand dollar with the kids at some point. I'll have to ask Margaret. She remembers everything.

How interesting and fun to discover these little doves when Andrew dumped the trains.

Years later.

A different house.

Same love.


Birds. Peace. Trains. Jack.

Thanks for the God-wink!










Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Graduation

Prom and graduation are approaching fast.

It's weird and hard being in the throes of toddler parenting when I thought I would be planning a graduation party and have a house full of teenagers soaking up as much time together as possible before scattering for college.

Tim and I are ragged out and on edge. Interrupted sleep isn't helping. Thank you to An Inch of Gray readers on Facebook for the gentle advice on helping Andrew sleep past 5:12 a.m. We've had a bit of progress this week, but we're still so darn tired. "Andrew liked the, um, bread. You know, the brown kind," Tim says. "Wheat." I reply. We talk about, "that thing" and "that other thing" and do a lot of pointing because our brains are mushy.

But guess what?

Jack and Margaret's high school asked me to be a graduation speaker!

I was overwhelmed with gratitude because that means that Jack is remembered, even 5 1/2 years later. Through Jack's death, the students have learned important lessons about grief and being supportive, and I believe those lessons and their kind hearts will have positive consequences in the world. They didn't think in terms of "Dead kid, how depressing! Let's not drag down our big day by listening to his mother speak." Instead, perhaps they remembered what it was like in 7th grade to have their moms and dads stop, hug them extra tight, and give them a naked glimpse into the fierce love of a parent that goes way beyond grades, achievement, or even likability-- a sacred glimpse brought on by death of a boy just their age somewhere across town.

I thought about the offer for a few days and then declined. Yes, it would have been difficult, but I often surprise myself by doing the next hard thing that comes my way. Speaking is one of my favorite things. However, when I pictured what it would be like to go to the beautiful venue and be surrounded by happy parents and kids I've known forever, but then have to drive away alone, I decided to cut myself some slack and decline.

Sigh.

Would you do me a favor these next few weeks? Would you remember Jack this prom and graduation season? I know it's hard to picture him as an 18 year old, but let's try to do it anyway.

And while he doesn't get to graduate from high school and I don't graduate from missing him, there's still a place for him in the festivities, in our town, our world, and in our lives.

Love never dies.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Heirlooms

Grandma's Blue Willow platter and a painting of our family sent by a blog reader

I have a brand new article up at Aleteia about how to manage heirlooms and keepsakes from loved ones.

My motto has always been, "The Most Important Things in Life Aren't Things," but so many objects do hold special meaning, especially when they belonged to a cherished loved one. Having them in our homes can bring us joy and comfort. Please check out the article and leave any strategies you may have for enjoying things passed down to you.

Special thanks to Denise Fleissner from Soulfuly Simple for her expert advice.

Grandma's saucer used as soap dish in powder room

Our gallery wall includes a baluster from my family's early 1900's house in WV