June 3

I am fully aware of my desperate attempts to forget. I don’t want to think about the horribleness of where we were 7 long years ago. I don’t want to think about her vital signs monitor that we’d so hopefully stared at for 15 sleepless days and nights — now dark. Turned off. I don’t want to think about how she rubbed her arm across her itchy little nose one last time. Or the sound of her last breath while a lullaby rendition of a Journey song tinkled softly in the background. I don’t want to remember hospital smells. I don’t want to think about any of it – yet it is inescapable. No amount of staring mindlessly at my phone, or cleaning and organizing and straightening things will make it go away. Each year I brace myself, try to somehow make it more “comfortable” and never can. A lot like labor pains. Ain’t NUTHIN you can do to make those come on a little easier or gentler. And sometimes you say mean things, and you can’t think straight. It’s hard to think or care about anything or anyone else because F*#K!!!!!! This. Hurts. There is absolutely nothing to do but weather through each grief contraction. And they’re very strong this time of year.

Just as in childbirth, each “contraction” is one step closer to holding that baby in my arms. I know with every fiber of my being and all of the love and hope in my heart that I will see and hold Nora again. God has given me glimpses and hints of what that will be like through the physical births of each of my four children, and then especially through the euphoric reunion with my birth daughter 10 whole years ago. THAT, amplified. We will ALL experience that someday with the ones we’ve loved and lost. Breathe through the pain, stay focused. No, it’s not so easy – but I try.

Today in memory of Nora, I donated blood, which I do regularly. I will be forever grateful for the blood donor who gave us some extra time with our sweet Lade. I also visited the cemetery. I cleaned off her pretty headstone and played her favorite song on her hipster baby music box.

“Happy Birthday” on the day you were born in to heaven, my sweet baby girl. My heart aches for you. Lots of hearts ache for you. You profoundly touched so many lives, and continue to do so many years after you’ve left us. What a legacy you’ve left behind. I breathe through and endure the pain of your loss. I know it will all be worth it someday. Thank you for being such a special part of our family, always and forever, sweet Stinky Cakes. Mommy loves you.

Birthday Baby

I think I’ve spent the past 7 birthdays fretting over how best to celebrate, commemorate and acknowledge such an important baby while simultaneously grieving that she’s not here with us. I don’t just mean “important” because she’s MY baby and I’ve experienced that profound maternal love for her. She really was important to so many people. Every so often I step back, slack jawed at the masses of people that became captivated with her story, her sweetness and her extraordinary personality. She touched A LOT of lives.

I think for the most part, we have adjusted to life without Nora’s physical presence, but that is not to imply that it is easy. We talk about her and think about her every single day. She still is and always will be very much a part of our family.

In the days leading up to and on what would have been Nora’s 9th birthday (WHAT?!?), I received some pretty amazing winks from heaven. The first were the 3 geese that flew over the highway and right “through” a rainbow spot in the sky as I was about to pass the cemetery. Were I not driving I would have tried to have taken a photo. But perhaps that was one of those winks that was meant for only me to see. The next happened again while I was driving, but I had to circle back and get a picture — because I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I was driving along, thinking about Nora. I audibly sighed, “I miss you, baby girl.” At that EXACT moment, I glanced over and saw a tenant panel of a sign that said, “MILK & BEANS”

My eyes flooded with tears. I imagined us talking for her in her voice, “Dat place sounds kinda nice! I kinda like milks n beanz!!” Yeah. Milk and beans. She loved her milkies and her Tupperware container of dried beans. She loved to swipe those beans off of her Bumbo tray and all over our living room.

Mmmmm. Milks in Michigan!

Seeing that literal SIGN at that precise moment was inexplicable and brought me so much joy! I bet she has all of the best milks and beans that she could ever want up in heaven!

Yesterday on Nora’s actual birthday Gavin went with me to the Bonbonerie to pick out a cake for the party. On the way there Gavin commented, “We should have angel foodcake for her!” I agreed that angel foodcake would be perfect, and said we’d have to remember that for next year. It was later in the day, so I wasn’t expecting a huge selection to be left at Bonbonerie. Upon seeing the line out the door when we got there, I figured we might have a chance at some pretty cookies and that would probably be about it — which was totally fine. We didn’t have to wait too terribly long. (The “socially distanced” lines always appear longer than they actually are.) Once inside, it was indeed slim pickins. My eyes were immediately drawn to the tray of beautiful bluebird cookies behind the glass — those would be perfect! Gavin made his way over to a shelf of prepackaged cookies and tarts and pastries. “Hey look!” he exclaimed, “Angel foodcake!!” And there they were, only 4 little cakes left, dusted in powdered sugar with pretty yellow icing flowers on top. How absolutely perfect. An angel foodcake and two sets of 3 little birds were purchased before we made our way back home. Thank You, God! 🌼 What a sweetly specific surprise!

The last uncanny wink happened as I was in the car in the driveway waiting for William. He decided to come with me for a last minute trip to the grocery before guests arrived. I picked up my phone to check the time. It was not only 4:17 on 4/17 — but the random song that was playing took my breath away. “Thinking of You.” Of course I was thinking of her — but was she thinking of me too? Wow. My eyes welled up with tears again.

According to Timehop, it happened last year too – although I can’t remember what song was playing…

As in years past, we decorated the kitchen with the same decorations we used for Nora’s two birthdays while she was here with us. The invitation to family was last minute, so not everyone could make it, but those who were there made the day extra special. We talked about Nora, sang Happy Birthday to her, watched some cute videos, and we laughed and we cried.

Two candles because I can’t imagine her as any other age. Forever 2.

Such a special and important little old soul she was. Her time on this earth was brief, but she left behind so so much. Sooo many life lessons, so many precious memories, all while pointing us in the right direction, toward the Author of her life, of all life and of LOVE.

Happy birthday to you, my squishy Lady Baby! Enjoy your heavenly milkies and beans!

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Happy Birthday, Nora Rose!

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Happy birthday, my sweet Lady Baby. Often I have to do the math in my head – you’d be 8. In my heart you’re forever 2, just as I remember you — your sweet fuzzy hair, your delicious baby chunk, your blue, knowing eyes with a heart-shaped pupil. The smell of your sweet, soft skin filed carefully away in my important memories archive.

April 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm you breathed your first breath into your tiny, fragile lungs. The sounds of your first cries permeated the very depths of our hearts and took our breath away. You forever changed the trajectory of so many lives, including your own Mom’s. You were PERFECT, my baby girl, exactly who God designed and created you to be. Only with that extra 18th chromosome would you have been able to accomplish your life purpose. At the time, however, it was hard for us to grasp this. To put it bluntly, we were terrified. It was impossible not to fall head over heals in love with you. The threat and thought of losing you at any given moment was unbearable. Ever so gradually, we gained our bearings. We acclimated to the very new and very different life that a medically fragile baby brings.

I don’t know if you can see us down here on earth right now or not, but the whole world is a scary place right now. The threat and thought of a virus has us all in quarantine, living a life none of us ever could have imagined. We find ourselves asking how we have become a part of something that “only happens in movies… to other, imaginary people…” Deep water, fear of the unknown / unseen, life interrupted. This old, familiar road that we walked down while you were here – but on a global level. We’re afraid of losing losing those we love the most, or even falling prey to the virus ourselves. Some of us have lost our jobs, our businesses and have no idea how we’re going to pay the bills, or put food on the table for ourselves and our families. The economy has gone to hell in a hand basket. It is unsettling, to say the least, not to know exactly what is around each corner. It is scary not to have any kind of definitive solution to the multitude of problems at hand right now. I remember these feelings of fear all too well, my sweet girl.

One of the many things that God taught me THROUGH YOU is that fear is a liar. I wasted so much time dwelling on all of the “what ifs” – imagining all kinds of horrible worst case scenarios. There are pictures of me holding you in what should have been a beautiful moment… but I see my swollen eyes, my tear-streaked face. I can almost feel my racing heart while Satan whispered fear and lies into my thoughts, “What if she dies tonight…” Instead of soaking in all of your sweetness and marveling at your soft shocks of dark hair, your tiny little face, I was debilitated with crippling fear. I’m sorry for any millisecond of time I wasted in fear. Many of those fears were worse than actually losing you. Why? Because I wasn’t meant to experience those scenarios at that time. When we actually did lose you on this earth – God MET US RIGHT THERE in inexplicably miraculous ways to comfort us and to bring us peace. None of that comfort or peace accompanies Satan-authored thoughts of fear. I try to remember those lessons in this present day when fear and uncertainty seem to always be on the menu with each news headline. I don’t have to have it all figured out right here, right now. Sometimes that’s not even my job. It’s God’s. So today, on your birthday, in honor of you, I’m going to be still, soak in peace and TRUST that God is going to make beauty from this mess we’re all in. He always has, He always is, He always will.

I hope you’re having the grandest of parties up in heaven, your favorite song “Happy Birthday” on loop, lots and lots of hot pink, toga party baffs and milkies on tap. You are so so very missed and loved!

Here are some sweet memories of your past birthdays with us – the day you were born, your Little Girl Birthday and your Big Girl Birthday ~

And just because we could all use a good laugh right now… here’s your famous rap songs “Kinda Stinky” and “What Time Is It?”

I love you, Nora!!!
I hope and pray all of Norns’s fan club is doing well through this difficult time. If you are so inclined, we would love to hear how Nora affected or changed your life in some way. Each and every account, no matter how big or small reminds us that Nora was sent here for such beautiful reasons and we would LOVE to hear or be reminded of them! Love and blessings to each of you and your families!

(And now, as I conclude this blog post – how crazy that “Praise You in This Storm” comes on the radio in the background… )

May 18

Today started out with the typical routine of getting the kids up, ready and driven to school. I went about my day, oblivious to its significance until I opened up Timehop. It was as if I had been mindlessly jogging along when suddenly I was clothes-lined at the neck, knocked down, choked. Nora is always, always so close in thought, but I hate to think of her in the place that she was 4 years ago today.

Today is the day that we casually strolled in to the ER at Children’s expecting for Nora to get some IV fluids and then we’d be on our way back home. In the terrible, awful blink of an eye, the true gravity of the situation was revealed.  One minute we were checking in at the desk, the next we were in the shock and trauma bay. I kept getting glimpses of her sweet skin through the mob of doctors and nurses surrounding her. A very controlled and professional dire urgency assumed the room, but for me standing in the corner about to lose my mind, being literally held up by my husband. I always knew back in that dusty corner of my mind that our time with Nora was limited, but I never dreamt it would end like this. And then it didn’t end. She was stabilized. She survived the surgery to correct her stomach that had somehow flipped and cinched off the blood supply. Gastric Volvulous, as it was medically termed. And all the while, where the FUCK was my maternal instinct warning that something was terribly wrong?? How could I have let her go through the night like that?? I was (still often am) tortured with guilt. “There’s no way you could have known,” the doctor with the soothing voice explained, “This type of thing is such a fluke, especially in children. This is something that usually happens to little old ladies.” Little old ladies, huh? This sweet baby girl with such knowing wisdom in her eyes, well beyond her years. This baby who didn’t care much for cartoons or baby shows, but who loved to watch Matlock and Texas Walker Ranger with her afghan across her knees. This Lady Baby with the old soul.  Her stomach flipped. Yeah, okay, God.

May 18, 2014 was the beginning of the end. It wasn’t Nora’s heart or her lungs that we kept such special watch on. It was something that was completely under our radar, and I suspect that God planned it that way. While I was pregnant with her, we prayed, begged and pleaded to be able to have just SOME time with her, “Even if it’s just a couple of hours, God!” Instead we were lavished with 18,633 hours, exceedingly more than we had asked for.

“I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Birthday 6

My heart is heavy as Nora’s birthday approaches. It’s so hard to imagine what she would be like as a 6-year-old. I last knew her, held her and loved her as a chunky little 2-year-old. Instead of putting together a collection of little girl party favors and wrapping up special presents for her, I am on a beautiful walk by myself here in Georgetown, Texas. We are all down here for the Big Kids’ Spring Break. Gavin & Greta are off having fun with their cousins while I grab a moment of solitude on this gorgeous day. From a seemingly endless winter back home, this WARM, picturesque walk along the San Gabriel River is a gift.

Yet, each step takes me further and further down the path I’ve been on since she left us. The magnitude of the grief has never really gone away. I’ve just adjusted to the massiveness of it. I am somehow strengthened by it whether I want to be or not. I have no choice. It is a part of me.

The perfect imprint of a leaf in an aged slab of concrete catches my eye.

How very like Nora. She too has been gone for many seasons, yet she left such a lasting impression on this world — in ways I never could have imagined. Perhaps it was the softening of our hearts, or her adorable illustration of how important EVERY life is. Or maybe it was just her sweet, sweet disposition, endearing her to everyone who set eyes on her. I love the quote: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Evidence of her love lingers here with me. Maybe I read too much into these things, but I like to think they’re little glimpses of heaven; reminders that each day is a step closer ~

Three ducks suddenly paddle up alongside me, swimming with me as I walk.

Reminiscent of the print of those three ducks featured in the hallway of Children’s Hospital after we held her for the very last time.

and the hearts are such physical reminders of the abundance of love that once was, still is and will always be. Only love remains.

The brief lives of the beautiful, fragrant wildflowers ~

We’re back home in the cold now, but so thankful for the brief respite in the company of our sweet family. Thank you Jill & Chris for a wonderful visit and for all the delicious meals you lavished us with! We arrived home late last night, walking off the plane and up the jetway as the clock rolled over to midnight, April 17, 2018.

Aerial view of Cincinnati

How have all these years passed?! It was incredibly hard waking up this morning, not only because I had gone to bed just 4 hours earlier, but because it was all still so fresh in my mind. The alarm sounded this morning to get the kids up and out of bed, ready for school. Six years ago that same alarm went off to get us off to the hospital in time for my scheduled induction. There were two very intense outcomes before me that morning six years ago. I had no idea which one, but I had to get out of bed anyway, because time never stops for anyone. The strong sense peace was completely unnatural and I marveled at it almost laughingly. After about 10 or so hours of uneventful labor, the sweetest cry that I ever did hear filled the room. She was alive!!! And then she was on my chest gazing up at me with the most lovely blue eyes. We imagine that Nora was saying (in her voice), “Ummm. Scuze me… um… are you my mom n dyad? My names Nora.”

Ohhh for heaven’s sake, I was completely smitten with her!!!!! She got “smashed” with kisses.

There were some very frightening moments immediately after that, but her sweet little body finally figured out this new world she was in. She was stable and we got to bring her home a couple days later. It was the very beginning of two extraordinary years!

Happy birthday, my sweet baby. I hope you are having the grandest of parties in heaven – maybe a bubbly hot tub party with all of your chubby baby friends. I wish I was there to squeeze you in your “babing suit”!

You won’t have to ask because they’ll already know how you like to hear your favorite song sung multiple times. We’ll be down here celebrating you and the day that you fluttered down into this world leaving your mark on all who knew you and read about you. Happy birthday, sweet baby Norns. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

Scenes from today:

Butterfly Effect

I set off on a solo kayak excursion Friday afternoon, on a quest for some pretty rocks at the tip of Government Island. However, the water from the big lake was aggressive and volatile.  Billowing swells and white caps warned me not to go any further with my lack of experience. I paddled back along the edge of Government’s shore back to kinder waters.

A sandy section of beach beckoned me in for a rest. Once on shore I breathed in the beautiful sunlit pine, and gazed in awe at a cluster of wild daisies set against the backdrop of crystal blue water.

I stood there attempting to capture it in photos, hopeful that maybe just one shot would do it justice. As I glanced down at my feet in the sand, a fleck of orange caught my eye. Clinging to a pine sapling, dangerously close to the lapping waves was a beautiful monarch butterfly. I moved slowly closer and discovered that his upper right wing was badly torn and tangled under his lower wing, rendering him flightless. To have once soared the crisp blue skies, there he sat awaiting certain death.

I carefully removed him from the tiny branch, as he flapped his broken wings in vain. I placed him in a sturdy pine tree on higher ground. It was all I could do… (?) Or was it? A quick consult with Google revealed a complicated, but feasible solution. There was hope! I poured out the rest of my coffee, gave my trusty Yeti a quick rinse in the lake and dried it out with my bathing suit coverup. It served as the perfect transport carrier for the butterfly as I paddled full force against the wind back to the cottage. I made it back in about 20 minutes. The beautiful monarch “chilled out” in the fridge for 10 minutes while I ran off to the store to acquire toothpicks, super glue and baby powder. The cooler temperature and the darkness lowers their metabolism and puts them in a restive state. I was nervous and skeptical. This was my first surgery without any training whatsoever. All I had to go by were the detailed instructions typed out on livemonarch.com. But I had to at least TRY!! Gavin & Greta offered their assistance in the laundry room that we had converted into the Butterfly OR. Towel and surgical tools set out on the ironing board, we were ready for the patient.

Greta held the procedural restraints in place (tweezers) while Gavin was in charge of the surgical lamp (my phone flashlight). Ever so extremely carefully I positioned the veins of the wing parts together and adhered them with dabs of super glue on toothpicks. I held them in place at length, careful not to involve any other of the wings with the glue. The 5 second dry time as promised on the glue packaging was much to be desired. 🙄 After the glue had finally set at the crucial points, I set about repairing the small hole that remained in the middle of the wing. Livemonarch.com suggested using a small bit of sturdy paper. I cut out a small spot of very lightweight cardboard and glued it beneath the wing, successfully patching the hole. After it had all dried, I did as instructed and coated the fracture lines with a light dusting of baby powder using a Q-tip. At long last we were ready to bring the patient back outside.<
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e offered him a napkin soaked in sugar water while he flexed his patched up wing in the  sunlight. I had resigned myself to having done the very best I could. I wasn’t hanging too much hope that this poor butterfly would successfully fly away, but he DID!!! A quick flutter of his wings, and he lifted up into the air and settled up into a nearby cedar.

He sat there for a couple of hours perhaps wondering what the heck had just happened, wondering how he was suddenly able to fly again. And then of course the moment I wasn’t looking, he flew off into the sky for good. I’m so thankful that I found him and that information was available to fix him. #butterflyeffect #thelittlethings


I’m sitting here wrapped up in a warm fuzzy blanket all by myself with a fancy Sam Adams Rebel Grapefruit IPA that someone left in the fridge, listening to Boston and looking out at the freezing cold channeled waters of Lake Huron.

It was a beautiful warm day, but it is starting to get chilly again as the sun gets lower in the sky. I’ve been up here in the Les Cheneaux Islands of the Upper Peninsula, Michigan since Monday evening after an 8 and a half hour drive. I have come up here to start writing my book that perhaps, maybe, might get published someday. The rest of my family has taken this opportunity to go visit William’s family down in Texas. This is the longest and the furthest I’ve been away from my husband and children since I’ve been married. While I certainly love and appreciate my introvert’s heavenly solitude when I can get it, it’s been quiet and even just a little bit lonely at times. This place is usually so bustling with activity and laughter when I’m here. It was strange at first to adjust to the quietness! I’m excited to see my hubzbind and my kids next week and I hope they’re all having fun without me! It turns out that ten days is a long time!

I’ve had very productive days of writing and being active. It’s so easy to go for 5 mile walks when there is just endless beauty to look at. The mostly flat terrain and cooler climate is also a huge bonus! It has been bittersweet to reminisce about the walks we had gone on with Nora along much of the same route. A lump welled up in my throat as I approached the intersection I had been at with Nora when an elderly couple approached the stop sign in their car.

They smiled so big and craned to look into the stroller at the sweet sleeping baby. There was no pity in their eyes at the sight of the portable oxygen tank dangling from her stroller. In that moment I was just simply a mom on a walk with her baby. That scene did not contain any extra 18th chromosome, no anxiety, no prognises, and no grim statistics. For just in that moment, everything was perfect. I remember tearing up, and stopping to kiss Nora as the sound of their tires crackled along the gravel in the distance, taking that moment with them.

I’ve gone on walks, I’ve gone on bike rides on my sweet Oma’s old bike, and I’ve taken the kayak out a couple of times, Norns Doll always with me.

Yes, I’m that weird lady seen around with the doll peeking out of the back of her drawstring pack pack. I don’t even care.

On Wednesday, my birthday, I kayaked from Island 8 over to Government Island. There are no houses on Government, just a collection of trails and more serene beauty. Once I was on the island I had it in my mind that I wanted to cut across to the other side instead of going the way that I was used to.  I started off on what appeared to be a trail, but it gradually faded. Fortunately I had worn my creek boots. The next thing I knew, I was sloshing through mossy marshes, climbing over fallen trees, literally squeezing in between pine trees, trying to untangle my hair from their branches, wiping spider webs off my face and getting scratched to hell and back. “This is not fun anymore,” I commented to the curious little chickadee in the tree.

Imagine this ALL around, except even worse. I didn’t get pictures of the bad parts!

I started to get a little bit nervous and eventually got my phone out. I had been tracking my hike predicament on Map My Run and I was none too happy to see the big red trail making a horseshoe shape. I was basically heading in a circle, and not the straight line I had imagined. It felt like I was turning around to go back the way I came when I set myself back in the direction I was supposed to be heading. I hadn’t realized how easy it was to get disoriented in that type of environment, but yeah! Isn’t this just like life, I thought to myself, specifically our time with Nora. We received her diagnosis and from that point on, we lost the trail. We thought we were heading in one direction, only to get thrown completely off. There were moments of panic as we tried to regain our bearings. There were times of struggle, terrible discomfort and fatigue as we unknowingly walked in circles. We tripped and we fell several times along the way, but we would get back up, dust ourselves off and continue on. We greatly appreciated the clearings when they popped up, but just as soon as we grew comfortable with the lack of obstacles – there we were again trying to snap branches out of the way, sustaining more scratches and bruises. We got to spend so much time in the lush and beautiful meadow — much longer than anyone ever would have guessed. But then we were thrust back into the tangle of forest again. It was interesting that even in the scary, painful parts — if we would just stand still for a second and stop fighting our way, there was still beauty. There were beautiful carpets of moss, sprouts of wildflowers never before seen by anyone else, tiny pine saplings bursting forth from the lush soil, and the skittish little birds that warbled up in the high branches. We missed all of that when we were so focused on getting to the other side.

Eventually I could hear the sound of the water and saw the sparkle of sunlight dancing off of it through the trees. A few more hurdles, leaps and scratches, I was finally there. Hot, sweaty, bedraggled, with twigs in my crazy hair and covered in cobwebs, but I was there!!

I stood there for a moment and looked out at the expanse of the Great Lake, Huron. It was beautiful and the breeze felt so good, waves lapping at the shore.

AAAAAhhhh!!!! I rested for a moment before continuing on along the southern shore of the island. I was familiar with the rest of the way, but took careful steps over the rocky terrain so as not to twist my ankle. No Service popped up at the top of my phone — not that there was anyone close by to come and rescue me, but I could have at least updated my Facebook status about it and my friends could have felt sorry for me! (LOL) The rest of my hike was uneventful. I stopped to absorb the beauty from to time along the way back to my kayak.

There is this really cool tree that has this crazy curved branch that just begs to be sat on. I couldn’t resist and set the timer on my camera. Hurry!! 10 seconds to jump up there in big clumsy boots… and GO!

I literally went out on a limb for my birthday!

It’s funny to look at that tree. If someone were to draw a picture of it, you would look at the drawing and think, “Well that’s not right. Tree branches don’t look like that.” But here is proof that they can and do!

Since it was my birthday, I accepted the invitation to have dinner with my Uncle Roger and Aunt Mary Ann, and Pat and Terry L. later that evening. They were also up here at their beautiful places for a visit. I had joked that I was just going to be by myself on my birthday blowing out a candle on my sad sandwich that I would then eat aaaalllll alone. LOL. That seriously would not have bothered me, but it was actually very nice to be in their company. We had delicious homemade pizza and salad, and then (“eenen“) they sang Nora’s favorite song to me with a fabulous chocolate cake! It was the perfect ending for my birthday — a day that can’t help but be tinged with sorrow, as it is also the anniversary of Nora’s funeral. However, I got some incredible happy birthday wishes from heaven throughout the day, and a gorgeous sunset on the drive home.

Zoom in closely to see the 3 birds! I followed their path of flight and discovered the rainbow that had been placed in the sky behind me!

Thursday I finally got into the groove of writing. I had been writing lots, but nothing flowed. I found that my words streamed so much more smoothly from my pen than they did from the keyboard. I had even tried writing on my Grandmother’s old manual typewriter that I had brought up here.

After about 7 lines and yanks of the return carriage, I had to give up. Oh. My. Goodness, how spoiled we are with our neat, smooth-stroke, ergonomically designed computer keyboards and ability to backstroke, edit and revise on our word processing programs that will even correct our grammar and spelling without so much as a second thought!!!! My pitiful, weak finger muscles could NOT HANG, especially my poor scrawny little pinkies who were expected to exert about 10 lbs of force with each shift stroke. And we don’t have to growl at any ink ribbons that keep dislodging every time we hit the shift key. We are seriously, seriously so spoiled with this!!! So yeah, that did not work so well, but my pen and notebook have been great and are easy to travel / kayak with. The typewriter will just be here as nostalgic ambiance.

Today I kayaked over to my Uncle Greg and Aunt Paula’s house over on the mainland. They weren’t there, but I figured they wouldn’t mind if I parked my kayak there for a bit.

From there I walked down to Fox Lane where the cottage that once belonged to my Great-Grandma Bohmer sits. I had planned on just peeking by for a quick visit to reminisce. But there was no one there, and the urge to sit down at the familiar old picnic table was too much to resist! I hope no one minds! I opened up the digital albums I had archived on Google Drive and scanned through all of the old photos that were taken in that very place.

Many of them dated all the way back to 1951 which is when Grandma Bohmer purchased the cottage. I was astounded by how much was still the same — a treasured time capsule of not only my own childhood, but also of my Mom’s and her brother’s childhoods. There were pictures of us as babies through different eras on that very porch where I currently sat all these years later in 2017.

And then I came along, hungry for hotdogs! ~

I gasped with wide-eyed wonder to discover the picture of Uncle Joe & Aunt Nora, my Grandma Bohmer’s older sister sitting in the very spot that I had sat as a little girl and was now sitting today at that very moment.

I took some current day pictures for comparison and then sat there with my pen and my notebook and wrote for 3 hours. Writing came so easy. I imagined that all of these old souls were still sitting around this table, sharing this beautiful moment in time with me as if though they’d never left at all, infinitely connected by our strands of DNA across all time and dimensions.

I mean, even the chairs on the left are positioned the same exact way!! I did not pose them!

June 3

Over these past couple of weeks I took on the daunting task of organizing Nora’s closet. After she had died we placed everything organized as best as we could in the closet of the room that was supposed to have been her bedroom, but never was. Putting her things away was in no way an attempt to get her out of our minds. It was all just too painful to look at. It was as if a deep gouge had been scratched into a record, interrupting the beautiful song that had been playing. Terrible static ensued and then those last few notes kept playing over and over and over and over again. All of Nora’s things sat dutifully in place ready to be of service, waiting for the song to continue just as it always had. And now it was abruptly over. My way of turning off the record player was to put most of everything away. The heavy pall of silence that fell over our home was of no solace either. It was a stark reminder of all that was lost.

I was taking on the task of the closet not to get rid of anything, but to make some semblance of it. I had gone in there so many times trying to find something and accomplished nothing other than making an even bigger mess of her things and of my emotions. I had prepared myself for much of what was behind those sliding white doors – her toys, her books, some of her clothes, burp rags, blankets, wash clothes, hooded little towels, her Bumbo and her beloved nest. I took it all out of the closet piece by piece. Then there were the things I had forgotten about or didn’t expect to see. These were the things that just completely annihilated me. A dried pack of wipies with one wipe standing at attention, ready for duty (“doody”), and then the boogie sucker with her boogies still in it. No one ever imagines that they’d be standing there weeping bitterly over dried snot, but there I was — my lungs constricting in lengthy jagged bursts, tears streaming down my red cheeks. The spot of blood on an IV bandaid. HER blood. The pink teddy bear that played a recording of her fetal heartbeat. These are all just THINGS, I reminded myself. Myself snapped back, “All JUST things?? All of these stupid, insignificant things?? How is it that they are all still here and she is not? How is it that the f#$%ing batteries in her toys and her birthday cards are still alive and singing, while the most important ‘thing’ is dead? These THINGS are ALL that we have left tangible.” I continued to weep. I took breaks from time to time, to go outside and gaze up at the sky, or to pound my fists into the carpet in a rage of tears. I appreciated the day of thunderstorms. It was comforting to have the weather match my own tumultuous climate. I organized it all, put it in labeled bins and boxes. The padded and ribboned box from the hospital that contained the rose that I had brought from home. Although now dried up, it had looked so pretty behind her ear for that moment in time…

And then the last pair of pajamas she ever wore with the emergent cut down the middle. There had been no time to even remove her pajamas that horrible day in May. The box of mementos from her birth – the tag from her bassinet “NORA”, our hospital bracelets. I marveled at how tiny her little wrist once was as I slipped her bracelet over my thumb.

I smiled as I thought about the fat rotund little wrists that she had when she left us. She has come such a long way. I even saved her first teeny tiny nail clippings, taped to a piece of dark paper. I saved those, but I couldn’t save HER.
After I had neatly labeled everything and put it all back into the closet, I went through the boxes and boxes of cards, notes and letters that we had collected since January of 2012. I saved and treasure each and every one of them. I sorted them out in categories: pregnancy, birth congratulations, holidays and birthdays, and then the cards of condolences. I sat in tearful awe over all of the lives Nora had touched before she was even born and continues to do so now 3 years after her death. If I could stack them all up, I would have about 2 feet of cards. I cried tears of gratitude over the drawings from kids and read through each and every card and letter. Nora had captured the hearts of so many people, young and old. It didn’t matter whether you had met her here in person or if you only knew her through pictures. You cheered us on, encouraged us, prayed for us, and then in the end you helped carry this debilitating burden of grief. Nora wasn’t just MY Lady Baby. She belonged to all of us, bringing with her a message of faith, hope and unconditional love, pointing us all toward heaven. She was everybody’s sweetheart.

I think about and remember my sweet Lady Baby every single moment of every single day, but today is especially painful as I remember how we had to say goodbye to her during the fresh early morning hours of this day. I give so much thanks for the precious gift that we all were given. Sweet Nora, what a privilege to know and love you.

On Monday I leave for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’ll be there for 10 days all by myself (!!!! #introvertdreamcometrue) with my laptop, my pens, notebooks, sketch pads, my paints, my Grandmother’s typewriter and a great big story to write. The book. I’m going to try to be “off the grid” as much as possible with maybe some updates on Instagram (@aleisaak). Thank you all for being a part of this epic journey along with us. Thank you for all of your texts, phone calls, messages, posts and comments throughout the day today. You made my heart smile.

Moon Bath

The thrust of warm water hisses through the pipes. My chilled skin welcomes the initial sting as its warmth surrounds me. I lean back on the bath pillow, clasping my broken heart, pretending for just a moment that you’re still here. I Imagine that someone is about to bring me your fat naked little body. That at any moment you’ll be immersed with me, an excited smile on your face. Weightless, warm, cherished and loved, I’d stroke water through your fuzzy hair, kiss your cheeks, squeeze your naked baby bum and sing to you how much I love you. The water continues to splash out from the faucet, coalescing with my tears. Only your faded mermaid sticker smiles back at me. Your bath towel and the precious imprint of where your sweet head used to lie. No kicky, squealing baby to place on it, covered in 1,070 days’ worth of dust. The moon and Jupiter peek in through a gap in the curtain — reflecting the sun’s light over great expanse to this little spot in the world where I used to hold you and love you. The bath is lonely and sad without you, but just like the sun, no time and no distance can diminish the intensity of my love for you.

In Thanksgiving

Just over three months ago I was contacted by a family friend asking if I would be interested in doing a painting for her. The painting was to be based off of a photograph of a woman standing on mountainous terrain with her arms outstretched and her face radiantly lifted up to the heavens. The woman in the photograph was Jaime’s sister, who sadly had taken her last breath just the day before Jaime had written to me. Tammy had lost her 18 month battle with pancreatic cancer at just 54-years-old. I never had the privilege of meeting Tammy here on this earth, but from what I’ve heard and read about her, she is nothing short of extraordinary!

It had been quite a long time since I had done any large scale portrayals of real people, however I immediately agreed to do this for Jaime. If my God-given talent could bring some fraction of peace to her shattered heart — then yes, of course I will do this!

I shopped that weekend for just the right sized canvas and splurged on some durable “real artist” paints and some new fancy brushes. (The little artists in my family don’t always rinse Muthr’s brushes out properly.) And then I set to work.

The large blank canvas sat before me in my quiet, empty house.

“Lord, I thank you for this talent. I pray that you guide each brush stroke, that each dab of paint will bring honor and glory to You and to this beautiful life you created, Tammy — who was on loan to us for only a short time. I pray that the paint on this canvas will bring peace and comfort to Jaime and to the rest of Tammy’s family. Amen.”

I took a deep breath as I dipped brand new bristles into the fresh dollops of paint on my pallet. Large sweeping strokes of blues, grays, and whites, cirrus whispers of pinks and yellows, the sky, an ever changing moment in time.

The rest of the painting would come to life over the course of the next 3 months, usually on quiet uninterrupted afternoons (except for the occasional cat visit) while the kids were in school. I smiled as I contemplated the original photograph. Tammy’s face simply radiated with joy as she looked up to that sky on that day. She was in beautiful Hawaii for the gender reveal of her grand baby due in a few months time, I was later told. There was such hope and promise on that breathtaking horizon. Tammy’s terminal illness hadn’t been diagnosed, yet it had already established itself, silently and cruelly stealing her away from all that she loved and all that loved her… or so it seems from this side of heaven. There were some afternoons that I cried bitterly, especially while painting Tammy. How unfair and fragile this delicate balance of life and death is — and has always been. It’s not until someone we love deeply is torn away from us that we fully comprehend this.

The last two days I spent working on the final touches of this painting were such a gift. Summer would never have to bid its farewell, if I had anything to say about it. The gift of 76 blessed degrees in late November, little butterflies and sweat bees still lingering about… It would have been a tragic lapse of judgement not to drag everything outside onto the back deck. My makeshift outdoor studio overlooked Autumn’s majestic trees dressed in splendid finery of reds, yellows and blazing oranges. Wisps of feathery clouds coiled and whorled above me against the backdrop of God’s cerulean blue hue canvas. I turned on some nostalgic 70s music, and vowed to soak in the last of these perfect weather days, as was forewarned by the forecast. It certainly wasn’t Hawaii, but my rendition of Tammy, with her arms outstretched seemed to revel in the treasured warmth out on the back deck right along with me.

The blustering cold had snuck in during the night shortly after the final strokes of my signature had dried. The painting was finished. I tearfully hoped and prayed that it would bring comfort to Jaime.

And It did. I eagerly brought it to her the next day, just in time for the difficult, bittersweet holidays that loomed off in the short distance. As I presented the painting to Jaime this past Monday, we held each other in a tearful embrace. I had absolutely no idea, but this day, Jaime explained, just so happened to be the anniversary of her mother’s death. There could not have been better timing.

As we endure the empty space in our hearts and around the tables this Thanksgiving and Christmas, let us be reminded of all that is still good, and all that was once “perfect”, and all that WILL BE perfect once again, in the very true sense of the word. Love and blessings to each of you this Thanksgiving.

“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭106:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬)