Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Toddlers are Weird and Fabulous

From the Toddler Files:

Andrew woke up from a nap and was pretty attached to his Lovey and Pacifier. He wanted a snack, but didn't want to relinquish either. In the absence of pockets, he found his head to be a great place to store Lovey:

This continued outside as he played with the dogs and explored the yard.







I can't even deal with the cuteness.
video


Monday, August 28, 2017

Friend Level Platinum

I was talking to a young person recently who had experienced the death of his mother. He mentioned that he thought some friends were just around because they felt sorry for him, and that it felt weird. When I asked what he meant, he said they hadn't really been friends before his mom died, maybe just a grunt in the hallway now and then, but now these teens reached out to him, commented on his social media, and wanted to get together.

His feelings make sense to me.

Teens crave authenticity, and if anything has a whiff of disingenuousness, they will sniff it right out. No one wants a pity friend, because it feels out of balance. We want to be liked for who we are, not for what we've been through.

But here's what I said to this teen, since I'm a bit farther down the road, grief-wise, than he is, and I've got 30 years on him of seeing the complexity of life.

I told him I, too, had people reach out to me after Jack died, and my friends list is vastly different now than it was before Sept 8, 2011. Many people came into my life, and yes, it was a direct result of what happened to our family. However, those friendships are not based on pity now. A one-sided relationship is not sustainable in the long-run, but a friendship with someone who has already PROVEN a willingness to reach out despite awkwardness, is a treasure. Empathy and generosity are amazing qualities in a friend. How great is it to know up front that a person has those?

I also told him many people exited my life, never in an overt or hostile way, but because things became so complicated after Jack died. How impossible would it have been for us to hang out with baseball parents immediately after the accident? What about families from youth group, when we no longer had a middle schooler? Friendships shifted. We changed churches, jobs, schools, and neighborhoods. We had no energy, and some relationships faded away.

I believe many friendships are for a particular season in life, whether it's due to having babies close in age, working on a project together, being in the same school, or even in the aftermath of a tragedy.

I told the young man that if his loss led to his being placed on people's hearts, and they reached out of their comfort zones to express sympathy or be a friend, that's never a bad thing. There is a level of intimacy that comes from experiencing hardship together, while it could take years to get there with friends who don't know what you've been through. Some of the new friendships will stick and grow, while he will remember others just as a warm light in this dark season of grief.

Both are okay.

I've learned so much from the people who rushed toward me, rather than away from me in 2011, and I'm still learning today.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Summer 2017

Summer is winding down. 

School starts for Margaret on Monday, and Andrew will go to Mother's Day Out (yay!) in mid-September. For those who aren't following An Inch of Gray on Facebook, and who may feel a little neglected in the Miracle Baby Photo Department, here are a few to catch you up. We didn't have a very active summer. I'm really not sure what we did except chase Andrew around, eat a lot of ice cream, and watch Netflix, but we did make it to Connecticut for a week to see cousins and grandparents, and to WV for our annual camping weekend. Another highlight was Margaret's getting her braces off just in time for back to school.

Family time in CT. Andrew was in the front yard when a BEAR lumbered by!


This year we included Jack in the group cousin picture. I wonder how tall he would be.


 After a loooong break, the grandparents had to buy baby equipment again.
 Happy 4th!


Camping trip. Too young to tube on the river, so he tubed on the grass!
 My big brother made sure I had ample fried food, as usual. Andrew slept well in a tent for the second year in a row. Bonus: Our new tent took about 2 minutes to set up!
 Big hike up the mountain! Tim carried Andrew on his back. Whew! I stayed back and read a book.




 My dear aunt and siblings
Braces off! 
Back-to-school and off-to-college pictures are filling my social media feeds right now. Thank you for praying for me and for others who are missing someone special in the photos this year.

Love and Hugs, Anna

Monday, August 21, 2017

2000

2000.

That's how many words I've written then deleted about the disgusting rally in Charlottesville, about the state of our country, about the level of division I see that feels almost cosmic in nature.

Cosmic, because how else could people see the same things so very differently? How could people tack the words "BUT" onto verifiable first-hand accounts of white supremacists with flaming torches shouting disgusting, hurtful words about African Americans and Jews? Honest to God NAZIS on US soil? How can we say, “We will never forget?” yet dismiss the significance of this kind of behavior? 

I know I have friends, family members and readers who believed they were making a moral stand by voting the current administration into office. I loved you. I love you now.

Some of you voted on one issue and felt that the ends would justify the means. Maybe you didn't feel like you had a choice to make. Maybe you believed one person couldn't do that much damage.

Maybe today feels like a time to dig in, again, especially when that is the example we see from the highest levels: name-call, accept no blame, call righteous anger "Hate" and dissension "Fake News!”

Or maybe it feels like time to reflect and reverse course. 

 What’s going on in our country feels evil and cosmic, while on the other hand earth-bound and base. 

Even though my words seem small, and they have been slow to come, the day of another cosmic event, the eclipse, seemed an appropriate time to pledge that I will not let myself get lulled into thinking any of this is okay: racism, sexual assault, hate speech, exclusion, and lying. I will speak out against it when I see it being condoned and encouraged by our leaders, and when I see it in my own sphere of influence. I will stay engaged and alert, even when it feels like my head is spinning. I will look to my own role in any of this, even if what I find is painful or ugly. I will listen to the stories and experiences of those who are hurt and in danger, rather than trying to come up with something to say myself, in order to make myself look or feel better. 

That’s all I’ve got today. 

With LOVE to each of you,
Micah 6:8


  

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Junk Drawer

When I designed our new kitchen, I included 2 junk drawers. The contractor pointed out that an extra drawer would encourage extra junk. I agreed, but that's what I wanted.

Junk drawers are a jumble of scissors, small tissue packs, bobby pins, matches, and sticks of gum. Batteries, a measuring tape, ear buds,  phone chargers, and random keys. Patches for river rafts and air mattresses, a tiny screwdriver for eyeglass repairs. Andrew's pacifier clip, and multiple lipsticks.

They are also the landing spot for things that serve no practical purpose, but have no other place to go.

In our home, those include a small plastic eagle we bought on a coal train ride in West Virginia. A  key chain with Margaret's and my photo on it. A tiny Magic 8 ball. Jack's kindergarten ID. A Darth Vader pen. Assorted novelty erasers. A headless Lego guy. Tim's first Blackberry that Margaret used to play to with, pretending she was a spy.

I straighten the junk drawer every now and then when it gets out of control. This gives me a chance to sift, sort, and remember. If these little things were packed away in a box, I'd likely never see them again, and I appreciate being able to touch them and move them about.

I know they will always be there because it is proven that no one ever cleans a junk drawer except for Mom. Sure, Tim will sigh and claim there are NO MORE NAIL CLIPPERS when he is looking right at them; he'll shuffle some stuff around, but he's not going to toss anything.

I like order as much as the next person, but I also love the little family museum I root through every day.

Now were did those scissors go?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Novagratz Tufted Sofa Verdict

My Novagratz Tufted Sofa from Walmart came and I've been meaning to give you an update. Here's what it looks like in the ad:

I'd seen this sofa around the internet, especially in the emerald green, and I was intrigued. It looked so pretty and feminine. I needed a new sofa like a hole in the head, but I justified this purchase because this sofa is also a futon, and we don't have a guest room. I thought it would be nice to turn my office into a guest room when the need arose, especially because I'm not getting a lot of work done in there anyway. 

Delivery was free and fast (2 days)!

It came in a flat box, with the components (legs, arms) tucked in a zippered compartment underneath the upholstered seat.  It was Ikea-level assembly that involved minimal cursing on Tim's and my part.

I selected the dark gray:


I like that the tufts do not have buttons, because in my experience, those pop off.

The reviews said the couch itself is firm rather than cushy, and I agree. It is not a "sink into" couch by any means. The fabric is very pretty but does NOT look as durable as what I'm used to. For instance, our microfiber living room couch is third-hand, given to me by a friend, who got it from a friend, and it has had numerous spills on it, plus many napping dogs. My basement couch (yes, I have a couch problem) has a nice tweedy/chenille-type fabric that has lasted us 17 yrs without issue. The fabric on the Walmart couch, however, is a non-stretchy velour that resembles velvet. It feels pretty thin and looks like it will not be very forgiving for spills, snags, or dog toenails.

Reviews also pointed out its small scale. It definitely as a lower profile than my other couches. Think futon.

Here's what it looks like in my office:




Pardon the lack of a rug.

My sister spent the night last night and tested out the futon. She is our most frequent house guest, so is the best person to judge the new set-up. She got up extra early with Andrew today (is she a saint, or what?) and gave me her verdict when I dragged myself downstairs. She says it was indeed firm, but that she slept well. There is a bit of a gully where the two pieces come together, but she was not bothered by it. She emphasizes it is a futon for ONE person only, not two. Twin sheets fit on it.

Here it is opened flat, a simple process that took a few seconds:

And made up with twin-sized Laura Ashley sheets, circa 1985:


Does it really solve my guest room problem? No, not if we have more than one guest at a time.

Did I need it? Not really.

Other complications: It didn't look good with my existing rug, so now I'm on the market for a new one.

Am I glad I bought it? Yes!


Grade for Novagratz couch/futon:

B or B+

Would I recommend: Yes.

p.s. This is not a sponsored post.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

My Weekend plus A Giveaway!

What a wonderful weekend at the national gathering of the Bereaved Parents of the USA. I was honored to be asked to speak twice: 1 keynote, 1 workshop. I was stressed going into Friday because I wanted to honor each parent's experience, and be a light if I could. But with Andrew having a scary accident in the driveway last week (he's fine but oh my!) and Tim being out of town, I was afraid that my talks wouldn't come together. Fortunately, prayer helped, and by the time I got up in front of the amazing parents of BPUSA, it flowed.

It was awesome spending time with online friends I know from support groups, and Tim even made it back in town to join me Saturday night for a long-overdue date night. If you had told me a few years ago that our date night would be at a convention for bereaved parents, or that I'd be asking my 40-something girlfriends for overnight childcare for a TODDLER, I would have thought you were NUTS!

One of the highlights was meeting and talking to Pam Vredevelt, author of the well-known book, Empty Arms. She has helped so many grieving parents over the years after baby loss. We know a bunch of the same people in the Christian publishing world, and it felt like I'd known her forever.

I was able to take look at her latest project, Empty Arms Journal: 21 Days of Good Grief Exercises for Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or the Loss of a Baby and was so impressed. Pam also offers an Empty Arms Online Course.





I'd love to mail a copy of the Empty Arms Journal to a reader for herself or a friend who is experiencing baby loss.

If you would like to enter this giveaway, please do so below. There are no requirements other than leaving a comment on anything you wish.

Love and Hugs,

Anna

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