Monday, November 19, 2018

Holidays and Empty Chairs

This piece by John Pavlovitz really spoke to me, so I thought I'd share it with you. I've been thinking of so many people who will face an empty chair these holidays, through death or estrangement. And, with the devastating fires in CA, many, many people won't even have a home, or a chair this year. How traumatic and disorienting that must be. If you are struggling to be grateful or to "make merry" please be gentle on yourself.


Undated Hand Turkey From Jack:
Dear Mom and Dad
Thank you for:

            Being great parents,
              Taking care of me, 

            Loving me forever.

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Hug from Heaven Release Day!


November is Children's Grief Awareness Month, so it seemed like a most appropriate time to release my children's book A Hug from Heaven.

If you preordered the book, it should arrive any day now! If you haven't ordered it yet, keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open for any grieving children in your midst who might be comforted by the book.

People often ask me where they should buy my books. This is a great question, especially since I chose self-publishing this time around. What I usually suggest is that people who know me (family, blog readers like you) order directly from the publisher. This helps me earn back my investment.

I direct other people to Amazon because it's so simple. This helps me get reviews, which then introduces the book to people who are unfamiliar with me and might find themselves wading through many books in the middle of the night, not sure what would be a good choice. I make very little money through sales on Amazon, but it is good exposure for the book.

Either way, my hope is that the book will get "out there" and touch lives!

Speaking of reviews, if you have read the book, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon, whether or not you purchased a book there. I wouldn't buy a can opener without reading reviews first, let alone a book for grieving children.

Well, that's about all for now. Andrew is sick again with the croup, so it could be another long day and night. Thank you, again, for your continued support. It means the world to me!

And remember: If you are local to Northern Virginia, please come to my book party at Caffe Amouri in Vienna, VA on Nov 7 at 7 pm. We'll have coffee, tea, wine, and goodies to eat. I'll be selling and signing books. 

P.S. If you didn't see it on Facebook yet, Andrew was a scary monster for Halloween. Here he is with his grandma:


Monday, October 29, 2018

When it Comes to Supporting Grieving Children, Parents Need all the Help They Can Get



When our son Jack died in an accident, our daughter Margaret, had just turned ten. I was not sure how to help her navigate her grief as I dealt with my own. Some things felt instinctual: helping her feel safe, staying close to home, and being as stable as possible even though the world seemed upside down and terrifying. I chose not to drink alcohol for several months so I could be fully present, and my husband and I tucked her little frame between us each night even though we had not been a bed sharing family before. 

Our loss left us reeling, and beyond the basics of eating, sleeping, and working, we had little energy left to figure out how to best support our daughter. Bereaved parents in our community reached out share about support meetings and books that helped them when their own devastation was fresh, but few had resources specifically for our daughter. Well-meaning friends asked us whether we were getting her therapy. We were, but it was an epic struggle, and we questioned each step we took— was this the right therapist? Should we persist when Margaret pushed back? What kind of support would be best for her?  

It never seemed fair to me that when someone is newly-diagnosed with cancer or another disease, family members and the patient himself must quickly become experts in subjects that were foreign to them just moments before diagnosis. Understanding the science, protocols, and the mysteries of insurance policies seemed to rest upon already-weary shoulders. Likewise, we found ourselves on a crash course in grief in our most depleted state. The loved ones who became our primary support after Jack’s death were grieving as well, so it was difficult for them to connect us to help.

In the years since Jack’s death, my work as a writer and speaker has introduced me to many resources available for grieving children and families. Camps like Comfort Zone Camp and Camp Erin, support groups, retreat centers and numerous grief organizations such as The National Alliance for Grieving Children do amazing work to cultivate resilience in young grievers. Often, what they do stems from needs they encountered while mourning a death in their own families.

My new children’s book, A Hug from Heaven, is something I wish we’d had for Margaret when Jack died. It’s a book for a child who has experienced the death of ANY loved one. It shows that a range of emotions is appropriate, it models healthy grieving, and it encourages memorializing and celebrating the loved one who died. What makes it unique is that it encourages kids (and adults) to look for “hugs from heaven” -- signs from their loved ones that show that even if a person dies, their LOVE does not

Your child may not be grieving, but I’m guessing you know a child who is. After all, 1 out of 5 children will experience the death of a close loved one by age 18.Perhaps you could be that person who sees a need and steps in with specific resources when it seems too overwhelming for immediate family members to figure out. Buy a book, give a ride, connect them to a local grief center, find the name of a great therapist for them—and maybe even make the call to set up the first appointment. Not everyone can do everything for a grieving child, but whatever you do will show that you care and help make a devastating time more bearable. 

To order A Hug from Heaven ($14.95), please email ahugfromheavenbook@gmail.com or purchase through Mascot Books or Amazon.



Friday, October 19, 2018

Pain: Royal, Growing, and Otherwise

When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced their pregnancy on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, it struck some as quite insensitive. I get that, I do. Social media can be a mine-field when you are grieving, and seeing such happy news all over the place when you are feeling the pain of your own loss can be devastating. I have felt that many times.

It reminded me that even in our depleted state, grievers are often the ones who must educate others about being aware and sensitive. People don't know what they don't know. Those who shared their pain about this topic helped spark important conversations and encourage future understanding for not just the royals, but for society in general.

It sure would have been helpful for a trusted advisor to have suggested the royal couple wait a few days to announce the pregnancy, but on their own, Harry and Meghan did not know enough to know better. In fact, I would hate for them to know better, because if they did, perhaps that would mean they are one of the many, many couples who have found out the hard way what so few talk about-- that miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss happen. A lot.

But what about me?

I can't give myself a similar pass. I was so excited about Meghan and Harry's news that I posted it right away on my An Inch of Gray Facebook page. About a minute later, upon realizing the date, I took it down. I didn't want to cause grieving parents more pain on my page, a page that I hope is a safe place. In the same way, I understand if some bereaved parents have had to step away from my Facebook page because of frequent Andrew pictures, something I didn't "get" before Jack died.

My wish is that NO ONE would know the pain of child loss. But since I DO KNOW, it is my responsibility to do better. To be more sensitive. To acknowledge. And to help educate those who just don't know.


***
Children's Book Update:

A Hug from Heaven is available NOW from Mascot Books and for Preorder on Amazon! It is a wonderful gift for a child grieving the loss of any special person.




Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Things I'd Rather do than "Play Cars"

Yes, he's a miracle.

Of course, he's adorable.

No, I don't want to play cars 12 hours a day with a toddler who has his bossy-boots on.


Things I'd Rather do than Play Cars: 

1) Receive a dental cleaning after not flossing for 6 months
2) Hand-wash a sink full of dishes, lasagne pan included
3) Fill out camp forms and physicals
4) Attend Traffic court
5) Go to the gyno, pap smear optional
6) Watch an Adam Sandler movie
7) Do laundry
8) Whip up a Greek God costume
9) Sort my sock and underwear drawer
10) Order a yearbook online











Friday, September 28, 2018

Sneak Peek at A Hug from Heaven!

Hi Dears!

The new children's book is READY! I have held it in my hands, and it is big and beautiful. It even smells good!

Mascot Books is already taking preorders on their site.

If you would like a SNEAK PEEK of the entire book TODAY, I have set something up on my author website just for you. You just enter your first name and email HERE, then I immediately send you an email with the PDF of the book! I hope that you will agree to be an Advance Reviewer and leave an honest review of the book on Amazon on Nov 6, RELEASE DAY! I know a PDF doesn't take the place of a big, beautiful hardcover book, but I hope it will give you an idea of what the book is like and help you start thinking of kids you know who will benefit from it.


It is my prayer that this book will comfort many children who are grieving the loss of a loved one, and with your help, we can get the word out!


Friday, September 7, 2018

Seven Years

Tomorrow, September 8th, it will be 7 years since Jack's accident.

Sometimes it feels like a thousand years, and other times a blink of an eye. If you are newly bereaved, I know the thought of someone writing about child loss SEVEN YEARS LATER may seem frightening and distressing. It's too much and too scary to think too far ahead, to let the collateral losses of what is to come pile up on the acute loss you are feeling right now. It's hard to imagine enough strength for the journey of weeks, months and even years ahead.

Today is the one day you need to get through.
To breathe through.
To drink enough water to rehydrate after your tears have run dry.
Today only.

It seems like I don't write much about my own grief here or on Facebook these days, preferring to share what others who are deep in the muck capture with such naked eloquence. There is so much wisdom out there. One of the reasons I wrote Rare Bird so early on, was to capture raw, early grief in real time. I wanted to capture it, but I didn't want to stay there, and I wasn't sure if I'd want to revisit it again and again. I didn't know if I could ever say, or if I even wanted to say, that I was healed, especially if that entailed leaving Jack behind, but I knew that I wanted to be able to say,  even early on, that "I'm healing." In those early days, as I wrestled and wrangled and poured out my heart on this keyboard, you showed up day after day to bear witness to my pain. Thank you.

Now, I feel more like a coach, an ear, or even a light-- illuminating a path up ahead that while almost too scary for the newly bereaved to contemplate, provides more than a degree of hope.

Shortly after the accident, a wonderful fellow blogger sent me this painting one of her friends made for me. It captured the closeness of our family, with a big nod to the numerous signs of comfort we received related to birds.  Jack is reaching out to the sky, to the future, his future. I see this small painting every day and I love it.



Now that our family is no longer in the cloud of grief, I consider this painting anew.

While I used to think it represented our family: Margaret, Tim, Anna and Jack-- with the bird bringing us comfort from above, I now wonder if it now represents Margaret, Tim, Anna, and little Andrew, with the bird being our rare bird, Jack, who continues to comfort us, guide us, and cheer us on, even after all of these years.


For those of you who look at grief as a LIFE SENTENCE-- a life sentence of sadness and pain-- I'd like to suggest reframing it as a LOVE SENTENCE. Your love for the one who died, and his for you, will never diminish. It will stay real and vibrant all the days of your life and beyond, and eventually you will be able to think of him with a love that is no longer tainted by the LACK that feels so strong right now.

That is my experience most days at 7 years in, and it is my hope for you, for me, for all of us.


Monday, August 13, 2018

A Welcome Balm

Thump, thump, thump.

I could hear the balls hit our basketball hoop and then the ground. I couldn't see them from my kitchen table a few feet away, because I'd taped temporary paper shades on the glass in the door and over all the windows.

One by one, my new friends-- friends who had each had a son die-- turned the handle and came inside. They'd parked in the crowded driveway we shared with our neighbors, dodged the basketballs in our carport, and come to our grief support group.

"I don't know how you do it!" they each said to me.

This was a phrase they'd likely heard themselves many times. How did they make it through multiple rounds of chemo with their precious boys? How did they tell their sons they weren't going back to school? How did one go into her son's bedroom to wake him, but find him dead?

They knew they were not made of stronger stuff than other moms. They'd just been thrust into unwelcome, nearly untenable situations that they couldn't run away from. They knew that grieving moms are just people doing the best we can.

But that night they said it to me, quickly piecing together that the boys playing outside my door were the ones who were with Jack when he had his accident. While I'd never experienced hospitals, blood draws, invasive tests, toxic treatments, and having Jack lose his beautiful hair, I was experiencing something excruciating as I saw Jack's best friend, and his new best friend, bond and live and play right in front of me, day in and day out. The stark contrast between these living children and my dead son was almost too much to take, and these mothers' hearts recognized that in an instant.

I talked about this with my pastor and friend, Glenda. I felt terrible for feeling angry and uncharitable toward children-- so jealous and petty. My magical thinking would have one of them die, while Jack would live. This was so far from how I wanted to be-- Anna The Super Griever who spread her love and warmth like fairy dust-- but it was real, and raw, and exactly where I was.

There would be no warm and fuzzy tv special about how I'd taken the boys in as my own, cultivating a surrogate mom role to make up for losing Jack.  Nope. So, I piled guilt on top of my anger and grief.

But I wanted to feel my pain and anger and not cover it up by pretending like everything was okay--faking kindness and compassion that wasn't yet there. Grieving Jack felt too holy for anything other than truth and light and 100% honesty.

After hearing all of this, Glenda touched my hand and rubbed it gently. She said, "If your hand is raw and in pain, there is nothing wrong with finding a balm to soothe it. To coat and protect it as it heals. That's not weakness. You don't need to feel guilty. That's just taking care of yourself."

I honestly couldn't think of one thing that could be a balm in the colossal missing and longing for Jack. But as those early days turned into months, and then into almost 2 years, a balm came into view.

I was healing, I could tell, but the pain of seeing the two boys multiple times a day continued to be incredibly painful. I made the difficult decision to move our family to a new house, even if it meant dragging Tim and Margaret along with me. It was not a savvy financial decision. It was very hard on Margaret as it represented her leaving her childhood behind. It meant driving over the creek where Jack was found multiple times a day. It meant leaving Jack's room behind.

But it was a balm.

Of course I still felt grief and pain while I healed, but that rawness, that fresh pain anew every single day, was coated by a bit of distance, just as ointment buffers and protects a wound.

This month it will be 5 years since we moved. Our windows are bare and the light streams in.

I was not a bad griever, or a bad person, for recognizing my need and doing something about it. For letting myself off the hook of being the comforter for everyone else, including my neighbors.

If you are hurting right now, feeling the sting of loss and disappointment or dreams unrealized, perhaps you, too, could find a balm. Something unexpected and sweet that doesn't numb you from your experience, but gives you a bit of a buffer of protection.

Is your balm to decline from going to baby showers or weddings? Is it to walk away from a friendship that causes you nothing but pain? Is it to log off social media for a good long while?

I don't know, but I send you love as you consider it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Help Grieving Kids and Comfort Your Heart Too

As you know, I've had a bunch of t-shirt ideas bumping around in my head. I created a few awesome shirts to sell on Amazon, and while the shirts are gorgeous, I've been less than thrilled with my ability to communicate with the company when the need has arisen.

So when I got a new t-shirt idea, this one VERY CLOSE TO MY HEART, I decided to look into alternatives. I chose to use a fantastic company, Custom Ink, and it has been the perfect fit.

My friends and I have used Custom Ink for years to design cool shirts for sports teams, family reunions, and concerts, and it has been a 100% awesome experience. I remember last year when we were on a time crunch to get Margaret's field hockey T's ready for Senior Night, and a real live person at Custom Ink made sure they arrived with a few days to spare.

But what I didn't know was that Custom Ink also has a fundraising platform

I could design a t-shirt (or have Custom Ink's artists do it for me) and have people purchase it online as a way to raise funds for a cause I believe in. I wouldn't have to worry about inventory or shipping either, because Custom Ink would take care of all of that for me. Thank goodness.

In honor of my children's book about grief coming out this fall (A Hug from Heaven), I knew I wanted to raise money to help grieving kids. 

I chose Comfort Zone Camp as the recipient of any profit these shirts make. Comfort Zone was a safe place of healing and growth for Margaret and our whole family after Jack died, and being with other grieving kids helped Margaret feel less strange and alone. There are so many grieving kids who need our support. Did you know that one in five kids experience the death of a close loved one before age 18?

Many, many of my readers have experienced the death of a loved one, and I hope this simple t-shirt speaks right to your heart the way it does to me. Love Never Dies. 



It comes in a variety of colors and styles, including kids' sizes, and is super soft and comfy. 

If you decide to purchase it for yourself, or for someone else, may it be an encouragement to you that death ends a life but not a relationship. Your purchase will help spread hope to the kids aged 7-17 who attend Comfort Zone Camps each year. 

Thank you for your support of this campaign! And if you are looking for an easy and enjoyable way to spread your message and raise funds for an important cause in your life, check out Custom Ink. They made this process a breeze.

This post is sponsored by Custom Ink. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Shoulder Taps

I shared a short video on Facebook about "Shoulder Taps" last week.

Generally,  I DO NOT LIKE strange men coming up to me and commenting on my appearance-- ICK-- but I believe this man was moved by the Holy Spirit to approach an elderly woman, and it ended up being exactly what she needed to comfort her in her grief.

Several times in my life I have felt a strong urging to say something to someone, to pay for someone's meal, to give a word of encouragement, and I pushed through the discomfort because somehow I knew the urge did not come from me.

I thought I'd share an example of someone reaching out to me, that I don't think I've written about before.

Lady Jennie, a writer who lives in Paris, supported me big-time following Jack's death. She is now a dear friend, and we've had the opportunity to spend time together in NY and in my home (alas, not Paris-- yet!)

Shortly after Jack died, Jennie was studying her Bible and praying when she felt a nudge to share something with me.

It was a rather obscure Bible verse from the book of Isaiah. Weir-d.

But not so weird that I wasn't open to it.

Remember when my little Margaret felt a similar prompting? If you go back and read this post from before the accident you will be BLOWN AWAY when you consider it in light of what happened a few weeks later. (Note: I used to call Jack and Margaret Jake and Molly on the blog for privacy)


This is what Lady Jennie sent to me, a stranger, after feeling the strong urge to do so:

"Though you were ruined and made desolate
and your land laid waste,
now you will be too small for your people,
and those who devoured you will be far away.
The children born during your bereavement
will yet say in your hearing,
'This place is too small for us;
give us more space to live in.'"

Isaiah 49:21


Lady Jennie and I didn't know that within two years we would move, an action that was painful and would make zero financial sense but would get us out of a difficult living situation and allow us space to heal. No, our house isn't much bigger-- but our world has grown to include new friends and new opportunities.

She and I didn't know that in 4 1/2 years I would have an unplanned geriatric pregnancy that would result in sweet Andrew joining the family. And yes, in light of this verse I did wonder if Andrew would be twins!

While the verse didn't make sense to me at the time, it helped reinforce what was becoming clear even in, no, especially in, those early days of raw grief-- there was more going on than I could see and understand. In Virginia, in Paris, in Heaven. In many ways this helped me stay still and just TRUST, even when life felt desolate and ruined.

Trust that the right people would reach out to comfort me.
Trust that there was a plan for my life, even to expand it when it felt so diminished and depleted. Trust that somehow the deep, deep pain I felt would not always be so sharp.
Trust that the same God who told Margaret "You are MINE" and kept her safe by the creek, attentively loved and cared for Jack just as much.

We hear a lot about people making unsolicited comments to others, especially about parenting.

Ugh.

I think a good test could be whether we feel compelled to say something because it makes us feel superior, powerful, or it serves us somehow. Believe me, now that I have a toddler again, I am in situations regularly for people to HOLD THIER TONGUES when they see me parent in public.

I'm guessing Jennie didn't feel superior when she sent these verses to me. She probably felt vulnerable and a bit weird.  But she reached out anyway.

Whether you want to call it a nudge, a shoulder tap, or a prompting of the Spirit, I'm so glad she paid attention.



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Children's Book Cover!

Introducing the cover to my new book for grieving children, A Hug from Heaven!


I hope you LOVE IT! The artist, Andrea Alemanno, is from Italy. I picked him from hundreds of illustrators, and am so pleased with how the illustrations throughout the book turned out. In the coming weeks I will be sharing Facebook live videos about how the whole process has been such as:

Deciding to go with a hybrid publisher
Choosing an illustrator
Deciding how to translate the words into pictures (harder than I thought!)

I pray that this book will fill a real need for the "forgotten grievers"-- children. When I managed a church bookstore, I kept searching for good grief books for kids, but kept coming up short. Then, of course, I wished there had been one for my own family when Jack died.

One of the neatest things about A Hug from Heaven is that it is told from the point of view of the person who died, speaking directly to the grieving child! A child experiencing the loss of any loved one, from grandparent, parent, friend, sibling (born or unborn) will be able to find comfort in these pages.

Can't wait to share more with you!

I'll let you know the actual release date as soon as I know it myself. It's looking like mid to late September. There will be opportunities to PRE-ORDER, which is extremely helpful in positioning the book to "find" more people, and to leave reviews. In the meantime, please start thinking about someone in your life who might be helped by this book.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Camping Round-up




Last weekend we made our annual trek to the mountains of WV for our family camping trip. This is Andrew's 3rd trip, even though he's not yet 2 1/2.

I had more concerns this year as Andrew is more mobile, more curious, and more vocal than ever.  Fortunately, he had a wonderful time and we avoided the numerous hazards all around us such as ticks, hornets, the river, boiling oil, etc. He kept saying he had to sit on the potty, when the potty was a fly-filled latrine, and I was reminded of how fun potty training is going to be. A huge bonus was that I didn't have to milk myself like a cow the way I did on Andrew's first trip.

Andrew LOVES being around people, and having space to run around. He was already thrilled with being outside, so the throwing rocks in the river, staying up late, and eating all manner of junk were the icing on the cake for him.








Speaking of cake/food, we had our annual Fry-day Fried Food Fest, but we added some healthier options this year as well.

Some favorite deep fried items:

Dill pickles (cut into thin rounds)
Shrimp
Wild Turkey
Potstickers
Fish (for fish tacos with cilantro mayo)
Mozzarella sticks
Sweet potato fries
Okra
Chicken strips
Nutter Butter cookies (OH MY, YUM!)

Some favorite healthier items:
Cole slaw
Black bean and rice salad
Chipotle Corn Salsa (copycat version) RECIPE HERE
Pasta salad

6 dogs at our campsite provided entertainment, and my sister's addition of a brand-new camper was a great place for Andrew to nap, or as he says, "Have a moment."





My Aunt was able to drive over and see us for the afternoon:


And, of course, we had a great rare bird sighting with this bald eagle:


It was a lot of prep work and schlepping for 2 days of fun, but I'm grateful for time with family.

p.s. If you've never tired a honeybun cooked over a griddle, you are missing out.


Monday, July 9, 2018

What if the Underdog is your Under-WEAR?

I've always rooted for the underdog.

Maybe that's why I like sports' movies so much, even though I'm not into sports at all. I know it's why I brought a handful of flowers to the creepy shirtless guy who hung out in his yard next to my elementary school watching the children come and go. I'd heard he once had a job and a family, but now he just had his great dane, my crooked smile that was sure to make his day, and a lack of shirts.

I remember my mom telling me that while my gesture was nice, I didn't need to do it again.

My whole life I've had a heart for the bruised and lonely and a way of putting myself in others' shoes. Like a heat-seeking missile, I can foist myself on someone who looks uncomfortable at a party, whether or not they really need or want the attention I give. Even thrifting furniture is a small way of rescuing something from the dump and giving it one more chance.

Today I took this love of the underdog to a new level.

A new low, that is.

I've gained 15 lbs this year, mainly from M&M's and Netflix, and today I decided to suck it up and buy new underwear that fits. I grabbed a pack from a peg at Walmart, because I'm fancy that way. One pair had been pulled out and unceremoniously shoved back in. I pulled it out again, held it up to see if this new, improved size would work for me, then dropped the whole pack in my cart. The Undie-Rumpler had done me a favor by taking the guesswork out of sizing. I could have then looked for a neat, intact pack to purchase, but I was concerned no one would buy this rumpled one, and it would be relegated to the clearance bin or worse.

I'm home now, and I just pulled all 7 pairs out. The crumpled pair still looks like the right size, but the other 6 are gigantic. HUGE. Someone must have done some swapping in the store, and not only did not worry about leaving a disheveled pack as the underdog, didn't give a hoot about some poor shopper like me ending up with the wrong sizes. Sure, I've opened a pack or two in my time, to check sizes, but mix packs? Never. Clearly, this person is heartless and has watched neither Radio, Rudy, nor Remember the Titans.

With the high cost of babysitting, and my desire to never take a toddler shopping with me again, I guess I'll just keep them all. Shoving them back in the pack now would all but guarantee no one would buy them. Besides, I did just purchase two family size bags of Peanut M&M's, so I'm guessing  the undies won't be too big for long.

Monday, June 25, 2018

A Generosity of Spirit

We enjoyed spending last week at our friends' vacation home in the Northern Neck of Virginia. My brother, sister and their families joined us. Andrew became a proficient driveway scooter-er, and blueberry picker, Margaret caught her first fish (and threw it back!), and we basked in the generosity of our friends opening their home to us yet again.





As you may remember, this was the first place we vacationed after Jack's death, when we couldn't bear doing our usual beach trip without him. It's also where I started writing Rare Bird on a cold winter's day, and experienced the radical generosity of a local tow truck driver.

If you don't remember that story, please read it here! It continues to inspire me, and convict me, years later.

I want to be generous, too.

But what if I don't have a beautiful vacation home to share, or a powder blue Volkswagen to lend to a complete stranger? How can I be generous to others, especially when it doesn't come naturally to me?

What about showing a generosity of spirit?

Our world seems so angry and ugly right now. Lots of yelling. Name calling. Divisive, dehumanizing language. Unfiltered thoughts coming out in ALL CAPS. It's almost too depressing to write about, so it quiets my voice sometimes, when I want to speak up, when I need to speak up. It's easy to feel helpless in a world that seems topsy turvy.

The phrase generosity of spirit made me think of the fruits of the spirit in the Bible. I think they are a very good measure to hold up against our leaders, our policies, and ourselves:

But the fruit of the spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Announcing My T-shirt Shop!

A few weeks ago I told Tim I'd started designing t-shirts. He looked at me like I had two heads. A pained "Why?" was all he could muster.

Next, I told Margaret and she responded, "That's weird."

So, with a huge vote of confidence from the home team, I thought I'd share with you my latest endeavor:

An Inch of Gray T-shirts on Amazon!

I absolutely LOVE typography t-shirts, and I've had a couple of ideas knocking around in my head for a while, but I didn't know how produce them for myself, or for others if they were interested.

A friend I met at a conference this spring talked me through how to open up an online t-shirt shop, so I jumped in and got creative. I now have variations of 5 designs available.

I am thrilled with how they turned out, and I hope you love them too!

And as for Tim's WHY, here are my top three reasons for designing these t-shirts:

1) It's a way to feel productive and creative when I can't seem to find enough time to devote to writing and other creative pursuits right now.

2) I now have the cool typography t-shirts I wanted that pertain to different aspects of my life.

3) I hope to earn income to help with blog-related expenses such as web hosting.

Here I am in my first design.

Geriatric Mama: I can't read this without my glasses




Yes, I crack myself up. 

Do not, I repeat DO NOT buy this t-shirt for someone else as a joke. Sure, you can send a friend the link (please do!!!!)  but make sure SHE wants the shirt, or you could end up getting hurt. 

All bets are off for the counterpart, Old as Dirt Dad, which would make a super-fun Father's Day Gift. It's a terrible double standard, I realize.

See all of my designs here! They are available in a variety of colors.

Let me know what you think, and please share them with anyone you think would like them.

Size note: These are premium t-shirts made out of super-soft, thin fabric, not the bulky t-shirts of yesteryear. They are slim cut. I bought several samples to see what Amazon meant by SIZE UP in the instructions. In the women's cut, which is quite fitted, I wear a Large, when normally I'd be a Medium, and they only go up to XL. In the men's cut I wear a Small or Medium, and they go up to 3XL. I like both cuts for different reasons. The men's cut is roomier, with a bigger design, but it is NOT BULKY,  so don't hesitate to buy a men's size if you want some extra room.


























Monday, June 4, 2018

Playing Cars

I am very much in demand to play cars, morning noon and night.

I've never quite known how "playing cars" works, so I do a lot of zooming in a circle, hoping not to get dizzy.

There's a process and there are rules, but I'm not sure what they are. Sometimes it seems as if they are in flux. I only really know the rules when I break one.

If I stop moving for too long, such as to sip my tea or check Facebook on my phone, I get reprimanded. Not sure if this is how Keanu Reeves felt in the movie Speed, but I won't stop long enough to find out.

Friday, June 1, 2018

INVITATION Healing Your Empty Arms after a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or the Loss of Your Baby or Child

Last summer I spoke at a grief conference and was honored to spend time with Pam Vredevelt, professional counselor and author of many books, including Empty Arms and The Empty Arms Journal. Pam's caring nature instantly put me at ease, and I could understand how she has helped so many hurting moms over the years. 

When I found out she was conducting a new LIVE, online class to help mothers work through grief, I wanted to partner with her and let my readers know about it. I know words like healing and grief work can sound scary-- they sure did to me-- but don't let them stand in the way of your learning to experience joy again after facing such a devastating loss.

Healing after the loss of a child is a scary thing to look at from behind the starting line. It seems 
like an overwhelming process full of deep sadness, frustration, guilt, and many unknowns.
...so I completely understand why it might seem easier to just set the whole reality of your loss 
aside and focus on other things.
...or to put off working through your loss until later.
You can try things here and there that don't add up to real results, or take a proven path that delivers.  That’s why I’m sharing this wonderful, Biblical and Brain-science based proven path for 
healing after a miscarriage, stillbirth or the loss of your baby or child. 

Much of Pam's work centers around 
pregnancy and baby loss, so I reached out to her to see if this course would also be helpful for those who 
lost children after infancy. She says absolutely, but feel free to reach out to her if you have specific 
questions about that.
I'm going to tell you more, but you can take a shortcut straight to the source and learn more about the 
process at www.myemptyarms.com,  a six-hour LIVE interactive online experience with 
Professional Counselor, Pam Vredevelt.  (Pam has a genuine gift and personal experience with 
this subject, having lost her first baby half way through the pregnancy and years later a sixteen 
year old son after a car accident.  Pam leads this life-changing experience LIVE, in real time, so 
that you can interact with her in the comfort of your own home via her video conference room.

You don't need to spend years stuck in the heartbreak, anxiety, or guilt that steals your joy and 
leaves you feeling exhausted. . .


You don't need a huge amount of time to effectively work through the impact of your loss when 
you have the right guidance and support. . .

and

You DEFINITELY don't have to try to find your way through the darkness alone.
In fact, in Pam’s ONLINE transforming experience you’ll be surrounded by other women who 
‘get it’ because they too have lost a baby/babies, and are eager to gain the essential skills to 
effectively heal.
Here’s what I’m inviting you to do. Give yourself a fresh start.   

Join Pam on a proven path through grief into brighter, more meaningful tomorrows.
1.      Learn the The 'Good Grief' Path.  Discover and practice a scientifically proven ‘Good Grief’ 
pattern that rewires the brain, promotes healing, and prevents you from getting stuck in painful 
unresolved grief.

2.      Learn how to Give Grief a Voice. Discover how to tune-in to grief and compassionately listen to your 
heart. Learn skills that help you feel safe while you label, sort, and give grief a voice.

3.      Learn How to Let Go of Overwhelming Sadness. Learn and practice the skills that empower you to 
compassionately explore and release your sadness, discover meaning, and awaken joy.

4.    Learn How to Let Go of Anger and Frustration. Compassionately explore and release the 
anger around your loss that may be harbored against yourself, others, or God.  Discover the key 
connection between fear, anxiety, and anger, and practice skills to manage your anger so that it 
doesn’t manage and overpower you.  Learn positive ways to respond to the insensitive things 
people say after the loss of a baby to protect against energy drain and bitterness.

5.      Letting Go of Guilt and Shame. Learn and practice the skills to compassionately explore and release 
guilt, shame, and self-blame.

6.      Create a Personalized Plan that nurtures ongoing healing and awakens joy.
During the 6 one-hour LIVE sessions on Saturday mornings, Pam will walk you step by step 
If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't worry. Pam will make it simple by giving you detailed 
instruction with each step, plus live coaching to make sure you get to USE and DO the things she 
teaches you.
This is an amazing opportunity to learn from an expert who has helped thousands on the path of 
healing to fully recover.  I hope you're able to participate!
Much Love, Anna
P.S. Pam is purposefully limiting the number of participants, so she can deliver a high level 
experience to all attendees. If you are in need of hope and healing after a miscarriage, 
stillbirth, or the loss of a baby or child, this could be the very thing you’ve been praying 
would come along.