That Was Different

April 9th was a beast. That part was the same. It’s always harder than the 10th for me, and this year was no different.

My friend and former Harlynn’s Heart board member, Justin, summed it up exactly when he texted, “Weird roller coaster of emotions today for you, I’m sure. If I’m not mistaken, today was the day you found out Harlynn’s heart stopped beating. Pair that with the resurrection of Christ, and you hit the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

Continue reading “That Was Different”

To Harlynn, With Love

Harlynn love

A week ago would have been Harlynn’s fifth birthday. For months, the weight of the number five loomed above my head, and I felt burdened with an awkward responsibility of having been a bereaved parent for that amount of time.

Five years ago, our lives were forever changed. Five years ago, we said goodbye before we ever had the opportunity to say hello. Five. Years. Continue reading “To Harlynn, With Love”

The Emotional Dangers Of Decorating: Grief & Holidays

I walked into her room and asked if I could talk to her. It was one of my [many] humbled-mother moments.

Earlier, I had been getting the Christmas decorations out and situated, and in her excitement, she wanted to hand-make, and display, her own decorations throughout the house.

I drew the line firmly – maybe a little too firmly – when she brought out a string with pink, purple, and white ribbons stranded across it. Continue reading “The Emotional Dangers Of Decorating: Grief & Holidays”

Harlynn’s Gift To Mama

I’ve really been struggling.

I’m leaving for a business conference, and it’s a high-energy, intense 3-day event. The last day of the event is April 9th, and I leave a room of 1,000 of my new best friends to fly home on April 10th.

Which should have been our daughter’s 4th birthday.

I’ve been wrestling with this, as probably only other loss-parents might understand. And I’ve been wrestling with the fact that I’m wrestling with it.

It’s a little messy in my head with all this wrestling going on. Continue reading “Harlynn’s Gift To Mama”

Happy New Everything

Another year is fresh before us, full of excitement, anticipation, hope, and motivation. For what, though?

Yesterday I had to be at church early to sing. A late night in combination with a head cold and an early morning had me sounding a little like Jack Nicholson after a long drag of a cigarette. I didn’t think I could pull off a morning of singing.

I drove to church, continuously trying to clear my throat, and watching the peaceful frozen, frosty flakes of morning falling to the ground. I had arrived early, so admired the morning flurry and the strange beauty it gave the bare trees. I started praying an earnest, overflowing prayer.

I sense it, y’all. This is the year. This is the year I didn’t even know I’ve been waiting for. I have no idea what it holds, but I know I’m ready. I have to be. Happy new everything.

After rehearsal and some coffee, my voice started to turn around and I sounded like myself again. I made it through church and as Hubs took the kids home to get them fed, I detoured to the cemetery.

I wasn’t going to go. It’s a hard line to walk sometimes, wondering if I’m doing the right thing by going. If I go too long between visits, I’m pained with guilt. If I go too often, I feel like I’m a bit needy. So I try to balance my time there, to where I won’t feel anything other than like a loving mother.

I wasn’t going to start my year with the mental battle of what a visit after church would make me feel like, though. So I wasn’t going to go. But I felt this urgent need that could only be met by a cemetery visit. I made the drive down the snow-covered street, turning in through the looming iron gate, and down the path to her spot.

I sat there, silently wishing her a happy new year. “Get out of the car.” I felt my spirit nudging me. But I was wearing church shoes, and nothing at all appropriate for snow-traipsing.

“Get out of the car.”

I hesitated. Eventually, I got out of the car and walked gingerly over the snow to her spot. Her angel solar light and purple metal flower were marking her headstone beneath the snow. I stood there, unsure of why I felt such a need to go visit, then to get out of the car.

“It’s your year, Mama.”

My stomach fluttered. I know, I feel it, too. But Harlynn… We might move. Far away, even. It’s a possibility.

Tears stung my face as the wind hit them rolling down my cheeks. This was why I was supposed to come. I had to reconcile the possibilities of our future with the events of our past, and the reality of our present.

I can’t take it all with me. And that has to be okay.

I wrestled with that, standing there at her gravesite. It’s become a comfortable spot – a place where I know I’m allowed to let any overflow grief work itself out. No one can judge me if I cry while standing at her headstone.

But it’s a new season. It’s a new year. It’s a new everything.

I have to find a new way.

“Happy new year, baby girl.” I blew her a kiss before carefully making my way back to the car. I drove through the cemetery, feeling less weighty. I wished the deer a happy new year, as they bedded in the trees. I wished the turkeys a happy new year as they strutted across the lanes. I wished the squirrels a happy new year as they scampered around.

Back through the iron gates, I drove away in a state of wonder.

What does it mean? When will it happen? How will we know?

I don’t know what this year holds. I know what I want to happen. I know what could happen. I know what might not happen, or what we might have to do instead.

I don’t have a single answer, and I don’t have even the slightest semblance of a plan.

But I know the start of this year means the start of a new everything.

Whether we move away, or stay nearby… whether we pursue big dreams or baby steps… whether my business succeeds a lot or only a little… nothing this year will stay the same as it always was.

The thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10


See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. ~ Isaiah 43:19

I’m trusting the Lord in a way I haven’t before, and in a way I can’t rightly put words to explain. He’s going to make all things new. This year especially. I feel it.

Happy new year. Happy new everything.

The Dirty Truth About PMDD

Many moons ago when I was away at college, I called my parents in the middle of the night, crying. Dad answered, obviously still half-asleep. I asked to talk to Mom and as he handed her the phone, he sleepily told her it was my sister. After I made sure she knew which child she was speaking to, I told her I hadn’t been able to sleep at night, but always wanted to sleep during the day. I was sad and crying all the time, and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I alternated between having no appetite and eating all the things, and I just wanted to be normal again.

“Well, it sounds to me like you’re depressed. I’ll make an appointment for when you’re home at Christmas.”

Fast forward a couple of weeks, I sat in front of our family practitioner who asked me several questions and looked me over. After listening to my answers and spending some time in deep thought, he gave me a formal diagnosis of “PMDD.” Pre Menstrual Depression Dysphoria, or as I call it, Heavy hitting hormonal hell. He wrote up a prescription for an anti-depressant and that was that.

I understood it to be “just like PMS” only “a bit more extreme”. Not a big deal, I thought, but I looked forward to getting back to my old self. It took a little while, but I did notice slight changes. Everything revolved around my cycle. I was able to sleep at night again, though still slept heavily during the day. As time went on, I knew it would get better.

Except it didn’t.

Bear in mind this isn’t a post I want to write. Sharing this deep dark secret wasn’t on my agenda this week. Or ever. For some reason, however, I feel compelled to share my story.

While my sleep regulated and I was breaking into sobbing puddles far less frequently, I was – what we’ll call – “subdued in my anger”. I was mad, always, but not to the point of acting out. A followup appointment increased the dosage of the medication.

What I noticed with the medicinal increase was a decreased desire for most anything. I was waking up, doing what I had to do, and being miserable through most of it. I wasn’t crying every day, and I wasn’t shifting my appetite. I was simply existing in the subdued, angry state. Acceptable, right?

Eventually, the subdued anger grew over time and gave way to fits of rage.

I’m not talking about yelling. I’m talking about having an out-of-body-experience, watching myself fly off the rails in total fits of RAGE. One morning after my shower, I walked out to find one of our cats was chewing YET AGAIN on my clothes in the laundry basket. I don’t remember exactly what ensued afterward, but I know if I had caught her, I would have killed her.

That is not okay.

As I walked to the top of the stairs, Hubs gently cupped my shoulders and asked, “Do you think…. maybe…. it’s that time?” He meant PMS. But PMDD is PMS to the 100th power. This is something not a lot of people understand.

Irritability during PMS is one thing. I desired to roundhouse kick people in the face. For any reason. Or no reason. That’s not irritability; that’s rage. I would blow up at the smallest of things, and the more others tried to calm me down, the angrier and more defensive I became. I was more than irate, and it didn’t matter that I realized how out of control I was. There was no reigning it in.

Something had to change.

What makes PMDD worse?

In my experience, sugar is PMDD’s best friend. It feeds the crazy. When I eat foods high in sugar, and processed foods at that, my ability to manage my PMDD erodes significantly. Along those lines, fast food and fried food exacerbate PMDD’s symptoms as well. This is tricky, because the only thing I want before good ol’ Auntie Flo comes each month are foods high in sugar, the faster the better, and dropped in a vat of Canola oil is icing on the cake, so to speak.

Food is medicine. Or poison. These kinds of food absolutely feed the severity of my PMDD, and it’s to everyone’s best interests when I steer clear of them.

Also on Team PMDD, lack of movement. You’ll be hard-pressed to find people who hate exercise more than I do, but it’s an incredible detriment to me (and those I live with) when I don’t exercise. My mind stays clouded and hindered, and my body works to process what I won’t stop eating rather than to clear my mind.

Lack of sleep is a big one, too. I’ve always loved sleep. My sister has some funny stories about what it was like to try to rouse me from slumber. No one wanted that job. If I don’t get proper rest, everyone suffers, but my mind and body especially. It adds fuel to the PMDD fire, and a perfect storm begins to brew.

What makes PMDD better?

Obviously, proper diet and exercise make PMDD far easier to manage. When your body is being cared for, it cares for you in return. It may seem insignificant, but how we feed our body determines how our body treats us in return. Crap food produces crap ‘tude. Garbage in, garbage out.

Believe me when I tell you, everyone notices when I’ve been eating right. I look good, feel good, and I’m not trying to chase down any precious kitties.

Consistent, regular chiropractic care is critical to my PMDD management. When I go more than two weeks between chiropractic adjustments, it’s bad news. If I did better with my food and exercise, I’m sure I could scale back on my chiropractic visits. For now, though, they are my saving grace. I’m a strong believer in chiropractic care, and can tell you my PMDD treatment depends on it.

I also use a few essential oils to help mellow things out. I have a daily regimen I use, and definitely have my favorites. I use Young Living oils, (or as Hubs calls it, my “hippie voodoo”) and though I was skeptical at first, 18 months after starting using them, I’m a firm believer in their benefits as well.

I’ve not been on anti-depressant medication since 2008. While I didn’t stop it in the wisest way, my doctor agrees with me I don’t need it now. That may not be the case for everyone, however. Absolutely adjust your diet and exercise, and schedule some chiropractor visits (and a few sprinkles of oils here and there), but keep your doctor’s recommendations close at heart.

I’m not “cured”. It’s important to note this is a management regimen I have to stay consistent with. After delivering three babies in five years, my body started doing weird things, and for that matter, so did my brain. Being in my mid-30s, experiencing the trauma of our daughter dying, and having my body go through an intense restructuring three times in five years, all started to work against me.

Why am I writing about this now? It’s been on my mind a lot lately. I turned 36 this year, and while I’m not in the best shape of my life, I’m far more keen on the steps I need to be taking to make sure my family doesn’t suffer for having to live with me – but also, so I don’t have to suffer.

I’ve noticed this holiday season I’ve turned to more and more sugar and used gatherings and events as excuses to fall off the food wagon. As a result, PMDD is standing at attention.

I share all of this to offer encouragement. If you’re a woman, and your PMS seems a little tricker than most, I feel you. PMDD is a treacherous condition and another betrayal by our own body. I’m thankful for a doctor who recognized my situation all those years ago. I’m more thankful for having found treatment options I trust and have benefits far beyond managing my PMDD.

I’m especially thankful I didn’t kill my sweet (though naughty) cat.

I’ll be more mindful of what I’m eating, how I’m moving, and the appointments on my calendar. My mind, body, and especially my family, will thank me for it.

What If I’m Not Thankful?

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It’s the time of year when everyone is preparing to gather ’round a home cooked meal and tell, one by one, everything they’re thankful for.

For some folks, the thought of having to share thanks stirs more angst and anxiety than thankfulness.

You’ve lost a loved one. You had to bury your child. You’ve received a terminal diagnosis. You’re going through a divorce. You lost your job. Your car stopped working. Someone stole your wallet. You’re immersed in negativity. You’re stuck. Your past haunts you.

“I’m not thankful. I’m hurt. Angry. Sad. Grieving.”

What if I’m not thankful?

I resonate with those feelings. That despair. Resenting the holidays because while some were skipping around in “the most wonderful time of the year”, I was realizing more and more what wasn’t, and what would never be.

In the same breath people were telling me they were sorry for our circumstances, and either quoting scripture (to try to pipe me out of being sad) or another cliche phrase they assumed would magically make everything better.

It is true, scriptures says, “In all things, give thanks.” (1 Thess 5:18) There is an important clarification to make note of here, however.

The verse says IN all things, not FOR all things. Even when you’ve been dealt the worst possible hand in life, while you don’t have to be thankful for that circumstance or situation, the premise is – though you may have to dig really deep to find it – there is still thanksgiving to be found. No matter what situation you’re facing, there is always appreciation or joy in something else.

There are things I will never be thankful for. That doesn’t mean, however, I can’t find something else to appreciate.

If you find yourself in the throes of thanklessness and if you find yourself resenting this holiday season, I want to encourage you to take baby steps.

Maybe you’re not thankful – for so many things! – but your breakfast tasted good. Start there.

Try to find one thing, one day. Two things the second day. And don’t confuse being thankful with being happy! You don’t have to be giddy about anything to be thankful. One little step at a time.

I’m thankful potatoes were on sale.

I’m thankful for cashews.

I’m thankful I choose my own holiday traditions.

I’m thankful the sun is shining.

I’m thankful for indoor plumbing.

I’m thankful it’s almost January.

Wherever you have to start, start there.

If anyone is trying to force you to be bubbly, or over-the-top enthusiastic because they somehow deem this is what this period of life is about, be thankful you’ve got more depth than they do.

I know this time of year is challenging, to say the least, for so many people. I know while the hustle and bustle of gatherings and food and decorations has everyone else occupied, you’re trying to figure out why you have to get out of bed in the morning. No matter what you’ve been through or are wrestling through still, others have decided it’s time for you to “buck up and be thankful.”

They’ll never get it. Don’t expect them to understand. They can’t, and a lot of them won’t allow themselves to.

Be thankful for the people who do, and who are, supporting you right now, where you are. For those along for the journey while you grow, taking one step at a time.

As we head into Thanksgiving, and then into Christmas, I want you to take the pressure off yourself. If you’re not thankful for what you’ve suffered through, no one can blame you for that. And if they do – find new people.

Try, though, to find one little thing – anything – you can be thankful in. I promise you, there will be things that present themselves that may surprise you. You’ll be thankful for things no one else will realize or notice for themselves.

Work through your feelings. Work through your issues. And simultaneously, look outside of those feelings and issues to find what you can appreciate. It will bless you. Somehow. His way.

I’m pulling for you. You can count on that.