Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Spotlight #12


I am in the second week of my photography course.  This week asked me to focus on light - in my pictures and in my life.  What does light mean to me?  My photos also were to focus around one object that means something to me.  A few weeks ago, an old friend was able to get me a ticket to Disney World and we went for the day.  While we were in EPCOT, we came across a collection of various colored owl figurines in Japan - much like those Lucky Cat figurines, where each color represents luck in a different aspect of life.  Red symbolized good fortune in heath and children.  Obviously, I needed that one.  So, my pictures this week contain that figurine in different lighting scenarios.  

      Flat Light  / Natural Light

There are days when my life seems gray and flat.  Where there aren't true shadows, but there isn't really any true color either.  I feel a blanket of dullness wrapped around me.  Not sharp, jagged pain or profuse bleeding of my soul - but a steady sense of sadness.   Heavy.  Unyielding.  All encompassing.  I search for joy in these days and I come up empty handed.  These are the days where I am the least productive.  These are the days where I can't write or paint or create at all.     

These are the days when I feel truly stuck in my grief.  Bogged down by a feeling of nothingness, these are the days when my stare is empty and my mind is blank.  These are the days when I am truly just a shell.  Human on the outside, hollow on the inside.  Sometimes, I feel like these are the worst days.  Even when I am in my greatest anguish, at least I am feeling something.   These flat days of gray are the most frightening to me.  Where I haven't only lost my daughter, but also myself.  


  I often feel pigeon-holed in my grief process.  I feel like some people think I should be in one place, when I am in another.  I feel trapped inside a cage I made myself.  That's what happens when you are so vocal with your journey - people start paying close attention to your steps - and often wonder why you are taking them.  The light in this picture is harsh and glaring.  Scrutinizing.  Part of the anxiety I am beginning to feel about going back to work is a result of feeling watched.  

There is a spotlight on me now:  Mother of  Loss.  I lost my baby.  I am grieving.  How am I dealing with it?  Can I do a good job handling my grief and teaching my class at the same time?   I dread the sad eyes of well-meaning people.  I dread having to say "I'm ok" when I'm really not.  Or "No, seriously, I'm ok", when I actually am.   I hate feeling like I have to explain myself all the time.  I wish I could just magically beam how I am directly into the brains of other people.  That would solve so many problems.                                                                                                      


When I took this picture, this entire branch was in direct sunlight.  The shadow is my arm and hand blocking the sun.  This picture is one of protection.   I am very protective of Kenely's memory.  I want to shield her from harsh words or misconceptions.  But, at the same time, I want to share her with the world.  That is a really hard balance to achieve.    I hear other mothers of loss talk about being reluctant to share pictures of their babies - to talk about their babies - and I totally get that.  
The world does not understand that babies die.  Our grief is often swept under the rug.  People get shifty when we talk about our children, or when we are visibly upset about our loss.  So, sometimes, we hold back.  We shield ourselves and our babies by staying silent because seeing someone cringe at our grief breaks our heart almost as much as the loss itself.  I try to be as honest as I can in this blog, but I will admit, you don't read everything.  There are some things I don't share because I just can't.  It's too much for me to process - and I fear if I write it down, it won't be taken the way I intend it to be.  So, I protect her and I protect myself from the harsh glare of a world that doesn't understand.


                                                                             Low Light

In this picture, the owl can barely be seen.  She is surrounded by blur and dark.  Even though there are patches of light near her, she is not in them. She is lost.  She sees the light, but isn't sure how to step into it.  And when she does, it is still too dim.  She still can't really see in the darkness.  
This picture is the best representation of where I am right now.  I am trying so hard to work through this tangled mess that my life has become.  With all honesty, I can say that I have never worked so hard at anything in my entire life.  This is the most difficult thing I have ever done, and I imagine it will be the most difficult thing I will ever do. 
It's hard to search for light when your life is so dark.   It's hard to accept that finding light and joy will not negate your feelings of loss.   I think so many people stay in the darkness because they feel that being happy again is betraying their child's memory.  How dare I be happy again?  How dare I try to find hope and joy and light?   The only way to show my love is to commit to suffer.   It's a huge hurdle to overcome, but I am trying my best.  I want to step into that light, while still remembering the dark.  I am working on honoring her memory through things that bring me joy.  I am trying to hold on to that joy for as long as I can.  For now, light is short lived.  I am in the dark a lot.  But, every day, I try again.  Every day, I reach for the light.   One day, I will hold on to it.  One day, it won't slip through my fingers.  

In my life, light means many things.  It is a spotlight for scrutiny, but it is also a feeling of hope and joy.  Like everything in life, it has more than one aspect.  Right now, my journey is walking that tightrope between light and shadow, publicity and privacy, hope and despair.  Like always, I do my best with what I have.  Day in.  Day out.  All day long.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

Boston Bound

I am caught up in a whirlwind of traveling this summer.   Tomorrow, I am embarking on yet another trip.   Thanks to the generosity of my parents and my little sister, I am heading up to Boston for a few days.  Two things are exciting about this event.

First, I will get to spend some time with my sister in a great, big city.  We haven't had any time together since the week Kenley died, and that week was filled with shock and sadness.  Everyone was in pure survival mode.  It will be so good to see her when we are not so full of sorrow.  My sister and I have been close off and on for our entire lives.  Growing up, four years separated us, but it might as well have been a lifetime.  When you are sixteen, you don't know what to do with a twelve year old, except yell at her for wearing your clothes without permission.   When I went off to college, we finally both saw each other as human beings - and not as the World's Greatest Annoyer.  We became extremely close throughout both of our college years.  Then, she went to med school several states away, and distance and stress levels took a toll on our interactions, much to our regret.  We didn't have any sort of falling out - we just kind of lived our own lives for a while.  Looking back on those years, I really should have tried harder to keep her closer.   My marriage was a life event that brought us back together the way we should be.  When I got engaged, she was giddy and excited, and we planned and hashed out details together.  She flew down for the wedding and it was like old times again. We talk, we text, we joke, we conspire.   I will proudly tell you that she is my best friend.  
When Kenley died, my sister was devastated.  She still is.  It's hard to realize that my grief is not my own.  Other people share it with me.  During that week of horror, she was right by my side.  She worked with my friends and my parents to make necessary arrangements.  She got the tree memorial organized.  She was on fire.  I was humbled and honored to see her do so much for me.   She really is the very best sister anyone could ever ask for, and I am so glad that she is mine.   I am looking forward to spending time with her when we aren't both so clouded with grief.

The second reason I am excited to go to Boston is that I will get to see one of my good friends - Hunter's mom, Kelly.   I met Kelly through a mutual friend who put us in contact with each other after I lost Kenley.   Kelly quickly became the person whom I could vent to - and who would completely understand.  Our bond of loss quickly became a bond of actual friendship.  When I told Kelly about my trip to Boston, we arranged to have lunch on Sunday.  I said to her that I feel like I am meeting up with an old friend - while at the same time going on a first date, and she agreed.  I am excited to meet her in person - and to give her something special I have been hanging on to for a while.  (Surprise, Kelly!)     I know it comforts both of us to think of how Kenley and Hunter's little brothers or sisters will play together one day.

So, I am off to Boston.  I'll be back Wednesday, and I have posts scheduled through then.  I wish everyone a great weekend.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

More Mangoes

Something amazing has happened.  Yesterday, Mike was outside doing yard work because the weeds in our grass were waist high.  They had actually formed a small government and were in the process of organizing their militia.  Something had to be done to get them under control.  I was inside cleaning the kitchen because the dishes had been watching the weeds and were developing mobilizing plans of their own, when Mike came in through the back door and smiled at me through the kitchen window.   "Come outside," he said.  "I have something you'll want to see."

I followed him through the back yard to the north corner.   There, behind the gardenias, was my dead and withered mango tree.  Except, it wasn't dead.  The original tree was still brown and dried, but down by the grass, two healthy shoots of leaves have started to grow.   Two new branches sprout from the shriveled trunk.  It's not dead!   Life still remains. 

 As you know, that mango tree reminds me of Kenley's life.  We planted it the weekend I discovered I was pregnant.  It died at the same time we lost her.  And now, it is growing new leaves.   The main tree was beyond saving.  We had to cut it down, so now those two little sprouts are growing alone.

I can't help but point out the symbolism with this.   That tree was dead.  At least everything above ground was dead.  There is no question whatsoever.   

For some reason, seeing these tiny shoots spring from the base of a dead tree  takes away the sense of desperation in having another baby.  It's not "I have to", it's "I will".   I don't feel like I am scrambling to fill the emptiness - not anymore.   Instead, I feel like I am capable of creating joy out of sorrow.  I feel like I can carry on.  Like the happiness I procure is a result of her existence and not in spite of her death.    Trying for another baby feels like it has more purpose now, but with a sense of calmness and not panic.  

I know it's just a tree.  I know there really is no deeper meaning, but I want there to be.   I want this new growth to signify moving forward.  Healing.  Living.  Thriving.   Trying again.   Not to replace, but to honor.  

There is always hope.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Big, Fat Zero

Yesterday, I was filling out paperwork to return from leave.   As I entered my tax exemptions for payroll, I got to the part for children.  How many dependent children am I claiming?  Zero.

I should be writing a 1 in that box.  Instead, I had to write a big, fat, hollow zero.

That action cost me about 10 minutes of tears. After which, I folded up the paperwork, slid it into the envelope, and got it ready to send out to human resources tomorrow.  Life goes on.

Life goes on and it is full of constant, tiny reminders of what I don't have.  I'm not talking about the glaring ones - the baby department in Target or the commercials on daytime TV.   I'm not talking about the obvious triggers I have learned to avoid.  I'm talking about all of the details that no one really notices - but are always there to just slap me in the face.

The tax exemption paperwork that requires me to list myself has having no children, even though that is very much untrue.   The baby seat in the back of the man's car who helped jump our dead battery the other day.  The box containing one leftover pregnancy test in the the bathroom cabinet.  The junk mail that comes addressed to The Wood Family.  A dropped pacifier in the grocery store parking lot.  

Every day, it is something.  Every day, I am reminded in the smallest and cruelest ways that the life I am living is not the life I am supposed to have.  And there is nothing I can do about it.  As much as I would like to, I can't crawl into a hole and ignore this life.   I have to life it.  I have to face it.  I have to deal with it - with every single bit of it.   

I can't go back in time and save her, and I can't go forward in time to a moment where there is another baby and a lighter heart.   I am here.  Stuck in the middle of a big, fat, terrible life full of big, fat, terrible zeroes.  A life where the only thing I have to cling to is the love I have for the people in it.

And I need them all more than ever.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Four Months

I sit side by side with my broken down soul
while she cries shining rivers of tears
Her hands are too small for the pain she must hold
Pain she feels she's been holding for years

She's tired and weary and can't catch her breath
and she bleeds from a wound that won't heal
What she thought would be hers belongs now to death
What should be a dream is too real

As I look in her eyes full of sorrow and rage
my heart breaks and splinters in two
One piece remains with me in this cage
The other is taken by you

My body is healing, my days come and go
Underneath, I am cracked full apart
Without you, my spirit crumples and folds
For now, we must share half a heart

My soul and I clutch the other's cold hand
As we stare at what is to come
A lifetime without you is so hard to stand
But it's something that can't be undone

Our only recourse is to rebuild the walls
Of this rubble that used to be strong
So we pick up the pieces, the big and the small
And we learn to sing a new song

My soul and I sing of the piece we have lost
Of what's missing and forever will be
We sing of a meadow covered in frost
We sing of a caged bird set free

We sing through our sorrow. We sing through our pain
We sing, though we don't know the words
We sing to the sunshine in spite of the rain
We sing notes that may never be heard

We are broken and bloody and losing our voice
But we refuse to give into the night
Without you, we are left with no other choice
We use our love to make our own light

Monday, June 24, 2013

Never Alone

There is a saying that goes something like, "You come into this world alone and you go out alone, yet it seems to me you are more alone while living than while coming or going."   I disagree with this statement.   When you come into this world, you are far from alone.   In fact, you are the least alone you will ever be. You are actually physically connected to another person.  You and your mother are tied together.   You shared blood and oxygen.   Not too long before your birth, her food choices affected your activity level.   Her voice echoed within her own body to reach your ears.   You were in no way alone.   

In a way, this comforts me regarding Kenley's death.   When she died, she was not alone - she was with me.   She died surrounded by warmth and comfort.   She died connected to me -  to the sounds of my breathing and beating heart - maybe even to the sound of my voice.   She did not die alone.   

The second part of that quote talks about being alone while living.   While, ultimately, we all face our challenges and successes with only our own consciousness controlling us, we are still not truly alone.  We are only alone if we specifically choose to be.   If we push others away.  If we refuse help.  If we are callous or condescending.   I have learned many things in these past few months - one of them being the nature of human beings.   We need each other.   Like a house of cards, we lean on and support each other throughout our lives.   In the early days, we depended on each other for physical survival - like food and shelter.  Although we still do that today, it's not on such a personal level.   But, we do depend on each other for moral support.  Family, friends, lovers, we all need at least one other person in our lives to keep us going.  Even though we all fight our own battles, we still share the same war.  

Sometimes, it's hard not to feel alone.  It's hard when you feel like you are the only one who really knows your pain.  When you don't think that anyone truly understands what it's like to be you.  While it's true that no one has 100% comprehension of the inner emotions of others, we all want to understand each other.  We do.  We just don't always know how to navigate the walls we all put up in protection of ourselves.  

We have to remember that everyone is really just doing the best they can.  To work through their own pain.  To understand the pain of someone else.  We are all working hard to find our path, to stay in the light, and to find others who will travel alongside us.  

And when it is time for us to take our exit, the connections we made throughout our lives are still with us.  The memories of all the people we've met along our journey swirl in our hearts and souls and wrap around us as we make our way out of this life.  If we are lucky, we live on in the thoughts of those who stay behind.  

So, in my opinion, even though there are moments where we might feel alone and deserted, we are not.  We just have to be willing to see the hands outstretched in the darkness.  We have to be willing to be one of those hands for someone else.  That quote is wrong.   

If I were to rewrite it more accurately, I might say something like this:
"We come into this world completely connected to another human being.  If we work hard enough, we will never lose our connection with others, and when we leave this world, our connection is not severed because those we leave behind carry our memory with them into eternity."  

I know it's a hard feat to accomplish - staying connected.  Feeling connected. I have learned the hard way that life isn't easy and nothing is guaranteed.  My daughter lived her entire life connected to me.  She was never alone.  Neither am I. Neither are you.   And that brings me peace.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Right Now

It has been 117 days since I lost my daughter.  2,808 hours.  168, 480 minutes.  10, 108, 800 seconds.  10, 108, 801.  10, 108, 802...

Where am I in my grief?   I am lost.  

So many metaphors can be used to describe this journey.  Swimming in a stormy sea.  Climbing up a rocky cliff.   Navigating through a winding labyrinth.  Right now, in this moment, I feel like I am scrambling through a dense, dark forest.  

Everything looks the same.   All of the trees tower above me like prison guards.  They grab at me with gnarled fingers.  When I try to run, I stumble over the jagged roots that shoot from the dirt.   I am covered in grime and debris and I am so, so tired.   So unbelievably tired.   I don't want to run anymore.  It's dark and cold and I just want to go back home.   I think of my warm, well lit house.  Of the fire that is burning in the fireplace.  Of the soft, cozy bed and the cup of steaming hot chocolate that awaits me there.   And I would give anything to just make this forest disappear so I could find my way to where my heart is.

But then, I remember that nice, crackling fire sparked the blanket on the bed. And, my entire house was quickly engulfed in flames and burned to the ground.  I can't go back because there is nothing to go back to.  My home - and my heart - are gone, so I have no choice but to keep going forward.

Right now, I am overwhelmed.   Right now, I am exhausted.   Right now, I am so angry that I can't change anything - that this is my life.  Right now, I am lost inside this forest, inside the darkness, trying and fighting as hard as I can and for some reason, it is still not good enough.  I am not getting anywhere.  It's not getting any lighter and I'm not getting any warmer, and I am pretty sure I have passed this same tree twenty times already.  

I have heard stories of women finding their way out of the forest.  Or at least to parts where the the foliage isn't so thick, where the roots aren't so twisted.   To parts where there are even clearings where the sun streams through the canopy and there are soft patches of ground to rest.  But, I can't seem to get there.  I am stuck in the dark and the cold.

There has never been a moment where I wasn't giving every ounce of myself to this fight - and there will never be one.  I will always, always keep going.  No matter how dark it gets.  No matter how exhausted I feel.   I owe it to my daughter to live a life of joy and light - and I will do whatever it takes to find my way.   

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Spotlight #11

In scrolling through my newsfeed a few weeks ago, an interesting blog link caught my eye.   It was an online photography course directed to mothers of loss.  The woman who created it did so because when she lost her baby, she searched for some sort of outlet to help her explore her emotions.   She didn't find what she wanted, so she designed her own, and now she is sharing it with others.  You can find information about that here.  

Anyway, I am completing the first week.  This week focuses on self portraits.  I was to take a few pictures of myself that showed how I felt following my loss.   Then, I am to write a letter to my daughter explaining those emotions. I've written several letters to Kenley already - and I explain my emotions almost daily in my blog.  So, what I am going to do is to post these pictures in dedication to Kenley and write her a letter telling her (and you)  why I chose to take them.   

Dear Kenley, 

It's been four months since you left me, empty and broken.  The cloud of grief that surrounds me isn't as thick as it used to be.  I can see through the haze to the outside world, but I am still cloaked in sadness.  I still miss you more than anything I could imagine.  I know for certain I always will.   You were a part of me.  A part of my body, of my heart, and of my soul.   In some ways, you still are, but it is not nearly enough.  There are still some roads deep inside me that I still do not venture down.   There are still some dark places I have yet to bring light back to.  There are still moments where I have to calm the rising storm of sobs that swell within me.   No matter what I do or how I try to heal, I am still sad.  I still mourn for you, baby girl.  I still ache for you.  I still feel sometimes that I cannot live without you.  I still feel hollow inside.  A hollow shell filled only with the sloshing water of a million tears.   I tried to capture those feelings of sorrow in this picture.  

You're in this picture too, my little ninja.  A little owl I wear around my neck at all times.   You are always, always with me.  I just wish you were here in my arms instead of a tiny charm on a chain.   I wish you were in your nursery, laughing and squealing.   I'd even love you to be screaming and crying and pitching a fit.  I would gladly have you colicky at three a.m. just to have you here.  I hate that you are gone.  I never knew how much I could love until I felt you growing inside of me.  I never knew how much a heart could split open and spill out with such raw force.   Everyone has good days and bad days, but until I lost you, I could not have ever imagined just how terrible my days could get.   The person in this picture is a patchwork of missing pieces.  She is not whole, nor does she aspire to be.   She knows that she will never be whole again.   What she strives for instead is a life where the pieces that are left come together in some sort of working order.  She aspires to make change and do good in spite of the chasm left behind.  She aspires to be the person worthy of being your mother.  

When you died, I felt like my entire life derailed like a runaway train.  Screeching wheels, ripping metal.   The moment I found out you were gone, my world split into two.   One world where I live now - and one world where I could have lived with you.  I feel like I have been torn away from the life I was supposed to lead.  Carried away against my will, my arms stretched out before me - reaching and grabbing at you as you disappear from view.   Sometimes, mostly when I see other mothers with their babies, I think about that life we should have had.   The life where you showed that cord who was boss.  The life where I get to hold you and love you.   The life where your father has his little girl.   This next self portrait is of me in those quiet moments where I think about what was supposed to happen.   The glimpse of a life I so badly wanted - and is not mine to have.  

If you look closely, you can see the reflection of my fingers in the glass.  Those faint images represent the other me.  The me I can't be.  The me who doesn't exist because you are gone.  But the me I miss almost as much as I miss you.

Every life is nothing  more than a series of defining events.  Had you lived, you would have had several milestones.   Your first everything - from tooth to kiss.  You would have gone to college.  You might have gotten married and had children of your own.  Your mama was a late bloomer.  I didn't really have very many "oh my goodness, this is huge!" moments in my life for quite a while.   One of those moments was my wedding day.   The other was your baby shower.   On both of those days, I wore the same shoes.  I have never worn these shoes on any other day.   There's really no special significance to this.   I wore them on my wedding day because they were comfortable - and to your baby shower for the same reason.  Plus, they matched.   The initial reasons are not important.  But, now these shoes symbolize the start of something wonderful.   My marriage to your father - and becoming your mother.  Even though there is sadness woven through my motherhood, I still stand strong.   I am still your mother even though you are not here.  I still love you even though you are gone.  

I don't know what the future holds for me, baby girl.  I want to think that I am creating some sort of meaning for your death.  I want to think I am making myself a better person than I was.   I am trying so hard to hold myself together in spite of it all.   I have never tried harder at anything in my entire life.  Some days, I think I am doing a pretty good job.  Other days, it's all I can do to just get out of bed.   But know, that whatever happens in my life, however much I change or grow or learn - a few things will stay the same.  How much I love you.  How much I miss you.  And how much I think about you - every day.  

I'll love you forever.  I'll like you for always.  As long as I'm baby you'll be.  

Love eternal, 

Friday, June 21, 2013

You Are My Sunshine

Today, I was looking at updates from Return to Zero and I saw someone posted a picture in memory of their child with a verse from "You Are My Sunshine".   The line that says "The other night dear, when I was sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms.  But when I woke dear, I was mistaken.  So, I hung my head and I cried."   And I lost it.   Fell to my knees and cried.  Seriously and completely fell apart.   It was not pretty.

You can imagine why.   However, an underlying reason was that I sang that song, at least the first verse, to Kenley every day in the shower while I was pregnant.  Every single day.  It just made me happy, soaping up my belly and belting it out to my little girl.  Mike liked to try to sneak in with his iphone and record me in all of my off-key glory because he thought it was hilarious.  So, this song reminds me of a joyful and innocent time.  But now, it is as if that second verse has been added to my life now.  And the song means something completely different.  It is a song of what I have lost.

After pulling myself together this afternoon, I pulled out my ipad.  I downloaded a pretty version of this song and I coordinated it with some photos to create a movie.   I used photos from the beginning of the pregnancy all the way through to last week.   Throughout the entire process of creating it, I cried.  It actually felt wonderful to do so.  A cleansing of sorts, I suppose.  And now, I am sharing it with you.   Fair Warning:  You will likely also cry.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What You Don't Know

You might think you know what my life has become.    You might imagine some residual heartbreak on the edges of my days...but hey...I'm going on vacation.   I'm posting fun pictures from my trip.   I'm making jokes and witty comments on status updates. I'm spending time with friends.   Things must be getting better.   I'm back to my old self again, right?    No.  

 My old self is dead.   

 I said goodbye to her when I said goodbye to my daughter.   I will never be back to my old self because there is no "old self" anymore.   Nothing remains of her.   Nothing.   

When Kenley died, everything I was imploded and then turned to dust.  That dust scattered into the winds and is irrevocably gone.    What remained was a hollowed shell, the insides charred and scarred, the outside blank and vacant.   And so, I was left to rebuild.  Everything.   Everyone who has walked in these shoes knows that rebuilding yourself after the death of your child starts from the outside first.   We learn to appear normal again.   

 We learn to smile, not just with our mouths, but with our eyes.  That's what makes it believable.   We learn to convey some sort of spark of life behind our eyes, even if its not really there.   We learn to recreate realistic laughter.   The kind that comes from the gut and not the throat. It involves more air and effort, but the results are worth it in the long run.   We are conscious of where we put our hands...keep them away from the belly and keep them steady so that no one asks questions.   We learn how to interact with people again.   Make eye contact, keep them wide and bright.   Turn up the corners of your mouth, just slightly, so your features look softened and relaxed.  Try to make light physical contact if appropriate.  Don't cringe when someone touches you uninvited.   Turn toward and not away when in conversation.   Ask questions about their life and respond in kind.   (Remember...everyone means well.  No matter what they say or what they do...everyone means well. )

Everything that used to be routine is now calculated and rehearsed.  What would a non-grieving person do in this situation?  How would they react?  We think about it and then we do it.  Carefully.  Methodically. To the very best of our ability.  We assess all situations before allowing ourselves to get fully involved - to make sure it won't be too much for us to handle.   You can imagine the amount of effort it takes to live life like this.  It's enormous.  

Then, you might want to say to us, " don't have to pretend.  You can just act the way you feel.  We will all understand."   The fact that you think to say this shows that you, indeed, do not understand.  We DO have to put on this mask.  We DO have to work hard at showing the world that we aren't dying inside, when we are.   If we allowed ourselves to act the way we feel, we would be coming apart at the seams.  All the time.  We force ourselves to look normal so we can feel normal - so we can have some sort of order to the chaos our insides have become.   

So, yes, I am going out with friends.  I am taking trips and standing behind causes.   I talk.  I smile.  I hug.   And it is all very, very hard work.   I work hard at functioning just so I can continue to function.  Every.  Single.  Day.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Green Eyed Monster

Mourning the loss of your child comes with more emotions than anyone could ever expect to handle.   Devastation.  Denial.  Guilt.  Anger.  Fear.   None of them really surprised me.   The intensity of them often caught me off guard, but all of these emotions seemed very normal when given my circumstances.   I was not, however, expecting to experience the level of jealousy I have been.  

Sometimes, when I see another mother in public with her child, I immediately scrutinize her every move.  What would I have done differently?  What would I have done better?   How is it that she is awarded the privilege of having a living child, and not me?  When I catch a glimpse of a baby being cradled lovingly in her mother's arms, or pushed in a stroller,  I think to myself that I should have that.  That baby should be mine, not hers.  Lady Justice clearly was on a smoke break the day Kenley died.   Someone owes me a baby!

The greatest bane of my existence right now is Kim Kardashian's daughter.  I am so jealous that Kim Kardashian has a baby and I don't that I seriously cannot see straight!  My judgmental side rears its ugly head and terrible, catty thoughts spin through my mind.  Thoughts I am not willing to put into print because they are really not nice at all - and they are also undeserved.  She's probably not a bad person, but I can't help but think why does she get to have a healthy baby and I don't?  The rumor is that her daughter's name will start with a K as well.  It's enough to make me scream.   Imma let you finish, Kim, but I had the best baby of all time!  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Oh, It's Her Again

I have become a thorn in the side of many a newsfeeds.  I realize this.  At first, I was worried that I was posting too much about my loss.   I thought maybe people would get sick of hearing about the causes I was suddenly so immersed in - and worse - they would get sick of hearing about Kenley.   That was the worst thing I could imagine - desensitizing people to my daughter.  "Oh great, here she is again.  Posting some random link or picture."   I was careful not to be that person who posts every five minutes.  (We all have one of those Facebook friends.  The ones who post so often, we just keep scrolling past whatever random new thing they feel so compelled to share with us.)   I didn't want to be that person because I didn't want anyone to ever scroll past any of my Kenley posts.  I didn't want what I had to say about loss to lose it's sparkle from overuse.  And I also didn't want to be a constant downer in everyone's online lives.   "Oh Yay, Sarah got married!  Hey look at this adorable picture of a kitten smelling a flower!  Oh, yeah...Rebecca's daughter is still dead."   

I'm not stupid.   I suspect some of my posts, links, and pictures have been selected to be "hidden" from some people's newsfeeds based on a few clues I have put together.  I also know for a fact that certain people who used to be on my friends list are no longer there.  One person actually had the "good manners" to tell me in advance of my defriending due to it was all "just too much sadness." for them.   Ok, fine.  If you don't want to be a part of this, don't.   But, by no means expect me to hold you in the same regard as I did in the past.  (This paragraph is fairly moot since none of those people are going to read this, but it needs to be said)

For those of you who are either still my Facebook friend or who have "liked" the Kenley's Krew facebook page, you already know a few things I have become passionate about.  The most pressing one at the moment is the Return to Zero pledge drive.   The details of that can be read here. (While you're at it, go ahead and share it!)   If you have already pledged to see the movie, thank you!   If you've shared the link with your friends, thank you, thank you.   Keep it up.  We have until midnight on Thursday to get all of our pledges in for the first round.   Depending on the results, we will either get to move closer to distribution or will be shut down. 100,000 pledges are needed.   At the time of this post, 73,000 have been collected.   I am working very hard to make sure this movie gets released.  Yes, it might make people "uncomfortable" to see.   Yes, it might be disturbing.   It will definitely be emotional.   But, the story needs to be told.  The public needs to know how it feels to walk in our shoes.  

I have finally come to the point where I just don't care what people think about me or what I choose to write about, support, or post.   I don't care if it makes people uncomfortable or squirmy.   I don't care if they are tired of seeing it on their newsfeed or of hearing me talk about it.  I'm going to do it anyway.  What I have to say is important.   It is important to me, to the people who care about me, and to all of the women I have met or have yet to meet on this journey I have been forced to take.  It is important to the millions of women around the world who share this path with me.   Maybe not my exact personal details are important to them, but the fact that I am willing to be vocal about my loss - that I will not be silenced just because talking about the death of my daughter makes other people upset.  If it makes someone upset, good!   I'm glad it makes you upset.  It should make you upset.  I'm pretty darn upset myself!   And I have no intention of shutting up about it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What's in a Name?

Even before I got pregnant, I was thinking of baby names. We all do it. One of my friends has had a baby girl name in her back pocket since high school. She had boys. Mike and I are both fairly unique. We don't follow the norms exactly the way everyone else does. We tweak it a little. We don't necessarily turn completely off the path of normalcy, but we do wander to the side from time to time. So, we both knew we wanted a unique name. As a teacher, I wanted my child to have a name that was easy to spell - and pronounce. (I once worked with a child named Seachelle. Like sea shell. Seriously?)

We considered several names. I knew Evelyn was going to be the middle name, after my maternal grandmother. She died when I was very little, so I never really knew her. But my mother always said we would have really gotten along. The way my mom talked about her mother and how I would have loved her, really made me feel like I knew her. Sometimes, I had a sense she was there with me. I wanted to honor her by giving my daughter her name. I somehow felt that by doing so, I was giving her life again. It is even more heartbreaking to think about how I failed to do that.

As far as first names go, Mike and I ran through a few we liked, but didn't always feel right. We loved Sophia. Mike had a way of testing names, which was shouting them through the house. "Sophia Evelyn Wood, get in here now!" We thought that sounded beautiful. But then, everyone and their brother started naming their girls Sophia. And as soon as Disney named its new princess Sofia, we were out! We also liked Amelia, Harper, and Ava. As the popularity of those names increased, our love for them did the opposite.

I wanted a name that would be only hers. But not too weird that people would say " where the heck did you come up with that?" Spelling was important too. A name had to be spelled the way it sounded. Otherwise, the poor girl would be correcting strangers her entire life.

I think I was flipping through a baby name book when I found Kenley, but I can't be sure because when I checked later, it wasn't there. I tucked the name inside my mind for safekeeping. When I brought it up to Mike, he loved it. "Kenley Evelyn Wood, go clean your room!" Perfect! So, Kenley it was. If you google Kenley, you'll find links to a quirky girl from Project Runway and to a town in England. My mom and I had plans to take her there one day. When she was 10. Kenley to Kenley. Maybe I'll go there myself one day. I would really like to.

On top of all of this terrible mess, I have to admit I am really upset I can't raise a daughter named Kenley. I will never see it scribbled in a three year old's handwriting. I will never see it on an awards certificate for a second grade spelling bee. I will never hear it called at a high school graduation - or across the house. I lost so much when I lost her. Her name was just one of them.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday Spotlight #10

Once again, my past self is writing on behalf of my future self.  Most likely, right now, I have just wrapped up a week in New Orleans and am driving to Pensacola as you read this.   Our plan is to visit family friends tonight and then visit the Navy Museum in Pensacola on Sunday.  Hopefully, Sunday - Father's Day - won't be as emotional for me as Mother's Day.   We shall see.  After the museum, we are stopping in Panama City to see Mike's dad and his family.  We will probably continue on home Monday or Tuesday.   We are playing this part of our trip by ear.  

Anyway, I am sure I had a fabulous time in New Orleans.   I love the rich history of the city.  We booked a jazz cruise on a steam boat and a ghost tour.   I added to the Flickr set for Kenley's Travels here.  

UPDATE:  While in Seattle, I felt like I didn't quite belong.   It was beautiful, but things felt "off".  Maybe it was the chill in JUNE, or the excessive amounts of daylight, but as soon as I stepped out of the Orlando airport into the warm, muggy night, I realized what I had been missing.  Humidity.    Say what you will about hating the heat and humidity of the south, but it's all I know.   And to me, it's a piece of home.   The heaviness of it is a comfort to me.   I've struggled with this identity for quite a long time, but, friends...I have finally come to accept the truth.  I don't say "ya'll" and I don't wear camo, but I am a Southerner, through and through.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Kenley's Playlist #7

Next to Me

This is a relatively new song on my playlist.  I heard it for the first time about two weeks ago, and I instantly loved it.   It's uptempo and has a positive beat and melody.   It's fairly impossible to listen to this song without moving some part of your body to the rhythm.  (Try it)  There's really no mystery about the meaning of the lyrics.  She has a man who stands by her no matter what - and she is confident in that fact.  Of all the unsavory things he could be doing - he isn't doing any of them.  He is right there next to her.   The verse that really hits home for me is this one:  

 When the skies are grey and all the doors are closing
And the rising pressure makes it hard to breathe
When all I need's a hand to stop the tears from falling
I will find him, I’ll find him next to me

Kenley's death is a closed door for me.   And sometimes, I really could liken this time to standing in a dark hallway - anxious and alone and wondering why all of this happened.  Paralyzed with grief.  But, with Mike next to me, I can do this.   I can get through this because he is here with me - and I am secure in the knowledge that he always will be.    He is my oxygen in this void.  With him next to me, I can do anything.  Even survive the death of our daughter.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kenley's Playlist #6

Everyone's Waiting

So, the first time I heard this song, I had recently written this post.  Two minutes ago, I watched the video on YouTube for the first time so I could link the song here and then write about why it means something to me.  After watching the video, there's nothing else I need to say.  I already said it.   Read the post I wrote two months ago.  Watch the video I found two minutes ago. (Watch it all the way through) Try not to be blown away.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kenley's Playlist #5

Keep Holding On 

One of my friends posted this song to my wall when we first lost Kenley to let me know I wasn't alone.   Of course, she posted the Glee version because she's weird like that, but I know she meant well.  (Oh, I have nothing against's just my natural instinct to hate things that are popular.  I've been that way since New Kids on the Block and slap bracelets.)   I had never heard this song before, and when I listened to it, I cried.  Big, fat, salty tears.   It meant so much to me that my friend, who had no idea what I could possibly have been feeling, wanted me to know that she was here for me.  She knew she couldn't do anything to make it better.  She knew she couldn't change anything.  She couldn't fix anything.  There was nothing to say other than "I'm here for you."   This song says that.   It reminds me that I have people surrounding me who love me and care for me - no matter how bad it gets.  Even though they don't understand what it's like, they are still here by my side.  That's all any of us want, really.   We don't need fancy words or grand gestures.   We just want someone to say "Hey.  I have nothing for you except my friendship - so here it is."   And that's enough.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kenley's Playlist #4


I admit it.  I love Kelly Clarkson.  I have loved her since the very beginning.  She's just on this side of Bubblegum pop, so it's still okay.  There are actually a few of her songs on my playlist for many different reasons.  Originally, this song was on my Ipod from last spring when I was trying out jogging.  My mother and sister had just finished the Princess Half Marathon at Disney and had convinced me that running was fun and I should totally start training to run a marathon with them!  I wasn't convinced, but they bought me fun workout clothes and new running shoes.  I started out with the Couch to 5K app, which let me add songs to a running playlist.  I actually researched songs that had an appropriate beat per minute that would set a pace I could keep.  Stronger not only had a good beat, but also a good message.  "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."   As a runner, that's an inspiring message.   As your feet hit the pavement and your heart beats in your chest, you are exhausted, but you imagine yourself growing stronger with each step. Today, that message still rings true.  Every beat of my heart takes so much more effort than it used to.  Everything takes so much more effort than it used to, but I am not dead.  And I will push through the pain.  And I will come out of the other side...stronger.   This song is a song of determination - of the refusal to let the other side win.   It is a song that makes you punch the air in the shower.  (Not that I have ever done that)   Now, I didn't run for very long.  I ran several times a week from March to June of last year.  Then, I got pregnant and used that as an excuse to stop.  I'm not a runner, and that's ok.  But while I was running, this song pushed me forward.  It still does.

Monday, June 10, 2013

On the Airplane

I am sitting in my window seat 35,000 feet above the earth. Somewhere near Montana. I look down at the ground below me. Ground I have never seen before. Flat, gridded, and brown. Man made rivers snake across the patchwork quilt, cutting through the right angles of the fields. As we fly, the flat land gives way to raised mountains. Ripples in the sheets. A thin gauze of cloud covers everything. Light and airy near the plane, but then thickening as it reaches the horizon. The blue sky and the white clouds meet at a straight, crisp line, grayer and darker than the clouds fanning out from it. I look out the window at a world that is silently majestic. Still and beautiful so far below. And my mind is bombarded by only one thought. This is the world my daughter will never get to see. She will never see mountains rise out of the earth like the knuckles of hundreds of buried giants. She will never see the sunlight glistening on the smooth waters of a shimmering lake. She will never know how the color of the sky shifts seamlessly from a bright, white blue into a deeper softness as it expands into space. She will never know this world. And I will always know it without her. The unfairness of a life lost so early lays heavy around me. A weight of palpable sadness. She should be here. She should be able to see this world. She should be able to feel the warmth of the sun and the cool drops of summer rain. There is no reason for her to be gone -but she is. And I can't help but feel that all of this beauty in the world is wasted because she will never see it.
The world below me passes by so slowly. I know, in reality, we are going hundreds of miles an hour, but from my window, it looks like we are creeping at a snail's pace. That's kind of how all of us go through life. We feel that nothing is fast enough. Nothing is ever enough. We think we are creeping through life, when we are actually zooming through it. Our lives are just a blink in this world. This world that has been here for millenniums before us and will be for millenniums after. It doesn't care. We are not as important as we think we are. The only thing important in life is who we share it with. And I can't share it with her. So, what now?  Don't give me a list of all of the people I still have to share my life with.  I know exactly who they are.   If anything, I am more grateful than ever for these people.  I am more grateful than ever for everything I still have.  And I will never take anyone or any aspect of my life for granted ever again.   But, that doesn't make it better.  It's not enough.  She is not here.
She will never be a part of this world with me.   That's a hard pill to swallow, and I choke on it every day.  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

She Is Gone

My last day in Seattle was cloudy and gray.  Although this is fairly common Seattle weather, it was not common for my trip.  Up until that last day, the skies were blue and bright.  Everywhere we went, people commented on how beautiful the weather was - almost as if they couldn't believe it.  As we wandered the city, we saw people sprawled across any available green area, enjoying the sunshine.   I loved it...I felt as if Kenley and I had brought the sunlight with us.   And when that last day dawned with the heavy softness of clouds, I knew it was time to go home.   That last day, we ventured into downtown Edmonds - a small suburb of Seattle.  The downtown area was just a few cross streets of small shops and cafes.  Very quaint and adorable.  The chilly, gray afternoon added to the ambiance of a pacific northwest town square.  We walked in to a small stationary shop - the kind full of journals and thank you cards, fountain pens and knick-knacks.   As I browsed the shelves, I came across a book entitled " Better Because of You".   The title and the bright yellow color enticed me.   I always want to think that I am better because of Kenley - and not worse because of what happened.   I picked up the book and opened to a random page - as I tend to do.   The book turned out to be a collection of quotes, stories, and poems relating to a smattering of topics.   The page I randomly opened to started the category "Death".   This poem was the first entry.  

She Is Gone 
By, David Harkins

You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all she has left

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want; smile, open your eyes, love, and go on

Now, even though I like to think that when I see Owls, Kenley is saying hello to me,  I really only half-heartedly believe that.  I realize I am just clinging to her memory through tangible reminders, and I am usually only a believer in signs when they comfort me.  But, this moment in this store made me take a minute to pause.   On this gray and melancholy day, this is what I needed to see.   This is the message I needed to hear.  This poem embodies everything I am trying to do in the wake of her death.  And, even though I don't truly know if someone was trying to tell me something, I still am grateful I was able to hear it.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Saturday Spotlight #9

So, I am flying back from Seattle today, where Mike will meet me at the airport for the second leg of my travels.   Crescent City, here we come!

I am writing this a week ago - so I am assuming that I have had a wonderful time with my friend Tracey.   It's possible I have taken lots of fun pictures on my trip, which I may have posted here.  


I have been trying to upload my photos to my blog directly from my ipad, but apparently, technology hates me.   So, instead, I have created a flickr set of photos from the trip.   Check them out here.   These are just iphone pics.  Once I get home and unload the camera card, I'll post more.  Enjoy!

I was not expecting the enormous amount of daylight here in Seattle.  Besides the fact that it was sunny and beautiful the entire time I was here, (while my home state was pelted with a tropical storm) the sun doesn't set until about 10:30.   And it rises around 4:45.   That's AM, people!    When your body feels like 10:30 pm is really 6:30 and 4:45 am is really 7:45, it really messes you up!   I did not sleep much at all in Washington.    That's okay though, it left me with more time to do fun things.   Like go to Pike's Place Market and Pioneer Square.   

I took my K with me everywhere.  It was nice to have Kenley on my trip with me.   

Friday, June 7, 2013

Kenley's Playlist #3

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

No, not the one sung by Judy Garland, although that one is nice too.    This is the Somewhere Over the Rainbow sung by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, a Hawaiian singer who does magical things with a Ukulele.    This song is relaxing and soothing and it reminds me of the early stages of dating Mike.  Somehow, we discovered this song together and listened to it often.  It makes me think of a simpler time.  A time when we would take a spur of the moment trip to St. Augustine just because we could.   A time when our greatest problem was wondering whether or not the milk should be used today or if we could stretch it till Thursday.   And, obviously, it reminds me of our honeymoon, which was, despite how cliche it sounds, the best time of my life.   The video I pulled from Youtube really shows the natural beauty of the island.   If you haven't been, start saving your money now.   Some people say Hawaii is over rated.  I think those people need to get over themselves.  Those are probably the same people who dissect the plot of romantic comedies or sci-fi movies in order to find unrealistic events or characters.  Or who will rattle off the calorie count of the delicious meal you are enjoying just to prove their point that restaurant portions are too big.   Shut up and enjoy yourself, geez!   Sometimes, you just need to take a breath, close your eyes, and recognize your life for what it is.  This moment - right now.   That's what this song does for me.  It gives me a moment of peace and joy, and that is exactly what I need.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Kenley's Playlist #2

Brighter Than The Sun

This song played while Mike and I walked down the aisle after we were married.   It's a happy, bouncy song full of light and joy, which is exactly what I wanted at my wedding, especially the first celebratory walk as husband and wife.  We gleefully strode down that aisle hand in hand.   The chorus of the song goes "Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart, it goes off like a gun.  Brighter than the sun.  Oh we can be the stars, falling from the sky, shining how we want.  Brighter than the sun."   To me, this is what our love was like.  We knew right away that we were the one for each other.  We both fell fast and hard - and have been falling ever since.   Our love is bright and shiny and is  - now - lighting the way in this darkness.   This song is on my playlist because it reminds me of the happiest day of my life and of the joy I felt in marrying my best friend and true love.   It makes me dance and smile - two things that are not as prevalent as they used to be.   

Here we are, Just Married.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Kenley's Playlist #1

Since I am on vacation, I thought I'd do a series of "Kenley's Playlist" posts.   Over the last few months, I have formed an itunes playlist of songs that have come to mean something to me for one reason or another.  Maybe it cheered me up.  Maybe its lyrics touched my heart.  Maybe it made me feel stronger or less alone.   Maybe it made me cry.   For whatever reason it touched me, I added it to my playlist.   I listen to this playlist in the car, in the shower, while cleaning the house - wherever I want music.   When I listen to these songs, I feel connected to Kenley.   Here's the first one:

Across the Universe 

Although the Beatles' original can't be beat, the one that is on my playlist is from the Across the Universe soundtrack.   I like the instrumental opening on this one.   I have had this song on itunes since the movie came out in 2007, and I have always loved it for its flowing melody and beautiful lyrics.   I played it at Kenley's memorial service when I released her balloons.  

"Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup.  They slither while they pass.  They slip across the universe."  To me, these words symbolized Kenley's independent spirit and the words I chose to remember her by.  Those words I spoke at her memorial flowed out of me and into the universe.  Like her balloon, those words rose into the sky and carried her home.    
"Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy are drifting through my open mind.  Possessing and caressing me."  As much as I was devastated to not have my baby in my arms, I was filled with the joy of my love for her.   It was a paradox that wouldn't  - and still hasn't - let go of me.   
"Nothing's gonna change my world"   These words remind me to hold on to who I am, in spite of what has happened.   I will not let this make me bitter...I will let it make me better.  
I could analyze every bit of this song to tell you how meaningful it is to me, but I won't.   Some of that is mine - and you can't have it.   For the rest of my life, this song will remind me of that cold, winter's day in early March.  The day I said goodbye to my baby girl.  The day her pink balloon broke away from the pack and the day her life broke away from this earth.   As long as I'm living, my baby she'll be.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Leaving home for this trip is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I have actually been anxious about it for a while. I've been anxious about a lot of things for a while. Things that never really bothered me before make me jittery. When your entire world is ripped apart at the seams, stuff will do that to you. I know it is good for me to get away. I really am looking forward to seeing Tracey and her family in Seattle - and all the sights. I'm excited to take pictures of Kenley's K wherever I go. And there it is - the bittersweet thought that is the crux of the matter.
The truth is, I should not be on this trip. As happy as I am to see friends, I am so sad that I am able to go. I should have a three month old. I should have a baby in a carrier, not a K in my purse. I should be at my house, surrounded by rattles and blankets. Overwhelmed with piles of laundry. Kenley should be napping in her crib. I shouldn't be here. At the airport. Waiting to get on a plane for a trip I am only able to take because my daughter is dead.
I know I can't let this attitude get the best of me. Usually, I am able to overcome the negative thoughts and face my moments with strength and courage. But, it's hard this time. I am away from Mike and Darwin. I am away from my living room where her paintings are. Where her ashes are. In just a few hours, I will be the farthest away from her I have ever been. And that makes me anxious.
Airports are hotbeds of human activity. So, of course, babies and pregnant women are even more prevalent. As soon as Mike dropped me off, I got in line to check my bag. In front of me was a young mother and her infant daughter. Of course it had to be a girl. The baby was all snug in her stroller. Mom doted on her as we waited in line. For twenty minutes. Twenty minutes, I had to watch this mother and her daughter interact with each other. Away from all of my comforts for the first time in three months - that twenty minutes felt like an eternity. I must have looked ridiculous with my sunglasses on inside the airport, but I had to hide the tears somehow.
Just when I think things are starting get easier, BAM. Life sucker punches me again. Nope! You are still here without her. She is still gone. She will always be gone and you will just have to deal with it. And I am so sick of "dealing with it". I hate dealing with it. I hate that I spent time this week painting a wooden K so I could take pictures of it on my trip. I hate that this morning, I said goodbye to a tiny pink vase in my living room. I hate it all. It's not fair. It's not fair. It's not fair.
I sit here, alone, waiting to board my plane. Watching all of the families organize themselves for their trip. The kids playing on their ipads. The moms arranging the snacks. The dads checking the game scores. And I wish I could be a carefree traveler again. A carefree anything again. Someone who doesn't have to walk through life carefully avoiding anything that might cause me to cry. Or being caught off guard by something I wasn't expecting.
I know once I get there, I will see Tracey and we will immediately start having a fantastic time. Is just this transition time that is hard. I am not home. I am not there. I am in between. Missing everything I don't have with me - and missing even more what I will never have back.