Breathing New Life into My Blog

Emerging flower

Remember that time more than 10 years ago when I sat down and wrote my first blog post? Well, you probably don’t, but I do. I was a new mom — my daughter Ava was just 8 months old — and I was on fire with a cause. The cause doesn’t matter much now, but my passion at the time did. I was a mom on a mission to make the world a better place and I had to start somewhere, anywhere. And so I did. I signed up with Blogger and “penned” my first post. And then my next post and next post and before long, I was hooked.

Over the years, I’ve shared so many stories with you — many of them very personal. I shared joys and laughter, so many firsts in my children’s lives. I shared my passions — my goals and dreams not just for myself and my family, but for our country and our world. And then I also shared the crippling sorrow of losing my sister in a car accident and the helplessness of trying to figure out my anxiety disorder and how to treat it.

And then…I kind of…faded away. After blogging for years, my children were getting older and life kept happening, and I found less of a need for my blogging outlet. And yet, it’s something that’s always been in the back of my mind. Calling to me softly.

And so I’m here now and if you are too then that’s all we need. Just you, me, some comfy chairs and a couple green smoothies (or a cup of tea if that suits you better). We’ve got some catching up to do, my friend.

Rather than write a lengthy post that sums up all that’s been going on in my life for the past few years, I will simply start blogging again — perhaps flashing back here and there, but also just recounting life as it currently is and writing, as always, about the things that matter to me. So that is where we begin. Stay tuned.

photo credit: Ava Gates

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Encouraging our Kids to Dream Big (Despite our Fears)


My friend Jill recently posted a link on her Facebook page to How to Mentor a Kid with Big (Possibly Unrealistic) Dreams by Lori Pickert from Project-Based Homeschooling. The article touches on something that I’ve struggled with in the past. What’s the “right” way to respond to your kids when they have dreams that are beyond what you think they can accomplish – either now or ever? Do you encourage them even though you *know* it’s not going to work? Do you attempt to let them down gently to avoid disappointment and tell them you don’t think it’s possible? Maybe we are trying to save them from embarrassment or even save ourselves from embarrassment. Maybe we are afraid of failure — either for ourselves or our kids.
What’s a mom to do?

For example, my 6-year-old son has often said when he grows up he is going to invent a machine that makes him become a kid again or he’s going to time travel or become a super hero that does X, Y, or Z. When he first started voicing these lofty goals, I wasn’t sure how to react. My first thought was, “that’s probably not going to happen, buddy” but I didn’t say that out loud. Instead I’d try my best to encourage him, even if I felt like his ideas weren’t based in reality, but it was a struggle for me. Was I doing the right thing?

Pickert says:

Before you move to stop your children from trying to do the impossible, take a breath and remember what your job is: to mentor and support, to brainstorm and listen, to remind and reflect. Your job isn’t to step in and tell them their ideas won’t work and their plans are doomed.
Remind yourself:
You don’t know what your kid can do.

One example shared in the article is about a child who wants to write a novel and have it published by a real publisher. Something similar came up for my daughter a few years ago. Unfortunately, I hadn’t figured this all out yet and rather than encouraging her and then (potentially, but who knows?!) see her fail, I thought I was being a good mom and tried to prevent disappointment by explaining how hard it would be to do or something along those lines.

Pickert points out that when you respond that way, “You haven’t prevented disappointment — you’ve only brought it from the misty future to the right now, and you also killed all the learning and skill-building that would have happened in the interim.

Choose to deliver your bad news — that her dream is statistically unlikely — and what will happen to her ambitions? What will happen to her idea of herself as a writer? Will she wait and start her writing career at 15? At twenty? Never?”

Had I encouraged her, who knows what would have happened. But I’m not beating myself up over this either. I live and learn, just like the next person. All I can do is hope to do better the next time.

There are a lot of great examples and quotes in Pickert’s article (and comments following it). So many that I want to quote here, but I will just recommend that you click over and read it yourselves. If you have a big dreamer in your life, it is worth the read.

You cannot predict the path an authentic, self-motivated learner is going to take. When you guess — and then decide to go ahead and pull the plug because you know it won’t work out — you eliminate all the learning that happens along the way.

It really goes along with the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” The journey is all about the learning, the trials and tribulations, the mistakes and the triumphs, the tears and the joy. When we tell our kids, “This just isn’t going to work,” we remove the opportunity for them to experience all of those things.

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Saying goodbye to 2010

This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is important, because
I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes,
this day will be gone forever,
leaving in its place something
that I have traded for it.
I want it to be gain, not loss;
good not evil; success not failure;
in order that I shall not regret
the price I paid for it.
–Author Unknown

I wasn’t going to write a “last post” of 2010. I haven’t felt inspired to write for a while and figured I’d just start off 2011 fresh — as fresh as I could anyway. However, as I reread past blog posts and thought about it some more, the more I felt like I should write something if only to have it to look back on later and for posterity. So here I am, writing something/anything with three burned fingertips.

I discovered this evening it’s NOT a good idea to grab a cookie sheet out of a 350 degree oven without an oven mitt. I’m 35 years old. You’d think I’d have learned that lesson by now, but that’s how my life has been lately. My brain is distracted — trying to process other things — and I’ve been making stupid mistakes like burning my fingers or thinking I’m taking a shortcut somewhere only to discover I’m going very much out of my way. It’s been weird and a little alarming.

But that’s my life — weird and a little alarming. Yet it’s also been pretty amazing too.

The past year was quite wonderful until the last quarter when all hell broke lose and life as I knew it was forever altered.

Some of the good things (though many nerve-racking in their own way) included:

  • Doing home improvements on our first home in order that we could…
  • Sell our first home.
  • Packing and moving to our new home.
  • Taking the kids hiking by myself.
  • Going to my second BlogHer conference…
  • which happened to be someplace I’d never been before — New York City!
  • Julian weaning completely on his own (a few months before he turned 4).
  • Starting home schooling with Ava.
  • Canning and preserving a lot of food.

And then tragedy hit when my little sister Carrie was killed in a car accident on Oct. 25. The day of Oct. 26 — from the time I received the news from the coroner (somewhere around 3:30 a.m.) until I went to bed many, many, many hours later that night — was the. worst. day. of. my. life.

The end of October and month of November are mostly a blur for me. I know somehow I helped orchestrate two memorial services — one here in Colorado and one in Michigan. I buried my sister. I somehow managed to get my kids and myself to appointments, classes, school, etc. I traveled to Michigan. I did a little catching up with some old friends, extended family members, and even my brother (whom I’d pretty much been estranged from for 15+ years). I’m not sure how everything came together, but with the help of amazing friends — both mine and Carrie’s — and supportive family members (and my higher power), it did.

My therapist is encouraging me to start moving more toward acceptance with regard to Carrie’s death, but it’s so very hard. I still want to deny that any of this happened. I still want to wake up from the nightmare. Yet I don’t. And I won’t.

And so I’ve started reading books about grief — about surviving the death of an adult sibling, about sudden loss. And I continue to see my therapist regularly and listen to her suggestions about how I can begin to accept this tremendous loss and soothe and support myself.

In the book I’ve been reading about a sudden loss, the author explains that anyone who receives news of the sudden loss of a loved one should treat themselves as if they are in intensive care for two weeks. While that sounds like a really good idea — I would’ve loved to have hid in bed for two weeks — with all of the details and arrangements that need to be made — as well as caring for one’s family — it’s not very realistic. That’s why my therapist wants me to do things that allow me to care for myself and really nurture myself — even though it’s been two months since Carrie died — during this time.

While billions of people around the world are celebrating the end of 2010 and welcoming in the new year and new decade tonight, it’s not something I feel compelled to do this year. Yet Jody, the kids and I still had a little celebration of sorts tonight. (I find that I have to carry on with some things like Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s — even though hiding under a rock sounds more appealing — just because I have kids. And honestly, that’s probably a good thing.) With wine in Jody’s and my glass and blackberry Izze in Ava’s and Julian’s, I gave a toast — to making happy memories in the new year — and we all clinked glasses. And then I proceeded to spill my wine, not once, but twice, and that was only after a few sips. (It’s that brain distracted thing again, I’m telling ya.) I’m happily drinking water now.

After cleaning up the spills and thinking about it a little more, I feel like the memories we create with one another are really the most precious gifts we have. It is through shared memories of my sister that she will not be forgotten. Even though my kids are only 4 and 6, they will hear so many stories over the years of the silly, courageous, funny, absent-minded, amazing, and inspiring things my sister did — not only from me and Jody and family members, but I hope also from her friends, that they will not forget her. Carrie’s spirit and memory will live on. Honestly, I don’t know how it couldn’t. When someone lives as full, amazing, determined and inspiring life as Carrie did, their spirit lives on in everyone who’s life they touched. And knowing Carrie, that’s a whole lot of people.

To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.

–Thomas Campbell, Hallowed Ground

While I don’t look forward to starting a new year without my sister physically present in my life, I know she is still around. I also know she would want me to continue to follow my passions and dreams. She was very supportive of my blog and my many causes. There were often times I turned to her for help with wording in a particular post and I’ll miss her fresh perspective (and so, so many other things). But I know she would want me to continue my blog, even though there are days I wonder why I still have it.

As I say goodbye to 2010, I wish you all a new year of happy memories — of cherished moments with those you love. Take the time to mend broken fences (or broken hearts). Take the time to enjoy the little things. Take the time to say I love you. Better yet, make the time.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo via: David Paul Ohmer

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Moving Forward

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving” — Albert Einstein

After 10 years of living in this house – the first house we bought together – Jody, the kids and I are packing up and moving on to our next home.

I’ve had a few recurring complaints about this house – namely that the kitchen is too small (I’ve nicknamed it “tiny kitchen”) – but I am so grateful for the time we’ve spent and the memories we’ve made here.

This is the first house Jody and I lived in when we moved to Colorado. Its the house we came home to after we got married. This is the house to which we brought Ava home from the hospital. Its the house where Ava had so many firsts – first steps, first words – and where she’s grown into an amazing 6-year-old. This is the house where Julian was born in our bedroom, at the foot of our bed. Its the house where Julian had so many firsts as well including taking his first breath. He’s now a vivacious 3.5-year-old. This is the house where we have memories of watching baby birds learn how to fly, finding snakes, growing a small garden, playing, and swinging on the tire swing all in the backyard. This is the house where Jody and I have begun to learn more about ourselves (through therapy, etc.) and what we need to do to improve our quality of life – that we can become better, healthier people.

This has been a house of laughter and tears, victories and learning experiences, frustrations and uncertainty, but most of all, love.

We’ve visited with the sellers of our new house a few times over the past week and as they reflected on their house and the memories they created there with their family over the past 17 years, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic with them and even got a little teary-eyed at the closing this week. They told us they feel good about selling to us. That we remind them a lot of themselves – moving into the house with young kids as they did many years ago. I think they see the sparkle in our eyes as we look at the house and begin to envision our family in it. They know that the swing-set they put in in the backyard, that has sat dormant for the past several years as their children grew too old for it, is going to get a new lease on life. They know that I’m excited to get settled into the large (to me) kitchen they remodeled. They know that I can’t wait to get my fruits and vegetable plants in the ground in the garden they used to cultivate. They know Jody has hopes of building a wood-shop in the backyard someday. They know that we are excited to move in and make it our home and create our own memories at that house, just as they have theirs.

I feel very good about this move.

We are at a point in our lives where moving forward and making a change like this – relocating to a new home – feels symbolic of the path on which we already are.

I don’t expect moving to change our lives dramatically, but I feel like this move signifies us moving forward with our lives and choosing to try to break the patterns of our pasts. We are forging ahead. I know there will still be rough patches and issues – who doesn’t have issues? – but as we learn to react to things differently and develop healthy habits, I feel like moving away from this old house is a good thing. Its like we’re leaving the past behind and opening the doors of new possibilities and adventures.

I’m ready to start the next chapter in our lives. Moving forward.

“Home is where our story begins.” — Author Unknown

Photo credit: Granny’s Basement

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Is there more to the Christmas “miracle” mom & baby “mystery?”

In what’s being called a Christmas “miracle,” a mother suffered cardiac arrest and died while in labor on Christmas eve 2009, her lifeless baby was born after an emergency cesarean section, and then “inexplicably, astonishingly” both suddenly came back to life. At least, that is the picture that was first painted by ABC News.


Photo credit: ABC News

Tracy Hermanstorfer of Colorado was without a heartbeat for four to five minutes while her husband Mike undoubtedly stood by in shock. “‘Half of my family was lying there right in front of me — there’s no other way to say it — dead,’ Mike Hermanstorfer told ABC News’ Colorado affiliate KRDO. ‘I lost all feeling. Once her heartbeat stopped, I felt like mine did too.'”

First I must say that I’m so very thankful that Tracy and her son Coltyn were revived and both are doing very well. I can’t imagine what her husband Mike must have gone through in those moments. I wish the Hermanstorfer family a happy, healthy and uneventful new year.

While the story of a Christmas miracle such as this warms one’s heart, many people, myself included, thought there must be more to the story than the media was reporting. Dr. Stephanie Martin, the doctor who responded to the Code Blue and performed the emergency c-section, said she cannot explain the mother’s cardiac arrest or the recovery. “We did a thorough evaluation and can’t find anything that explains why this happened,” she said. In the video linked above Diane Sawyer says, “To Tracy’s doctors, the events are still a complete mystery.” A complete mystery? Really?

If you watch the ABC News interview (below) with Tracy and Mike Hermanstorfer and Dr. Stephanie Martin it looks like the “mystery” may have been solved after all and there could be a very valid explanation for why Tracy went into cardiac arrest – the epidural. Cardiac arrest is a very rare, but very real possible complication of epidurals.

Tracy was pregnant with her third child and had given birth to the previous two without an epidural. However, after her membranes ruptured (water broke), she went to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs and was given pitocin to speed up her labor. She found the contractions were “a lot harder” than she remembered so she opted for the epidural. It was not long after she received the epidural that Mike noticed Tracy’s hand was cold, her fingertips were blue and a nurse noticed the color in Tracy’s face was completely gone.

Henci Goer, “an acknowledged expert on evidence-based maternity care” and blogger at Science and Sensibility, transcribed the relevant parts of the ABC interview.

ABC: Code Blue was declared, a scary thing in any hospital. [Dr. Martin arrives in response.]

Dr. Martin: . . . When I ran into the room, the anesthesiologist had already started breathing for Tracy. There were preparations already being made to start a resuscitation should her heart stop. About 35 to 40 seconds after I got in the room, her heart did stop and we started making preparations to do an emergency cesarean delivery right there in the room in the event that we were not successful in bringing Tracy back. Unfortunately, in most of these situations, despite the best efforts of the team, Mom is often not able to be revived, so we anticipated that possibility and when it became clear that Tracy was not responding to all the work that the team was doing on her, we had to make that difficult decision to do the cesarean section, primarily in an effort to give Coltyn the best chance at a normal survival and also hoping that it would allow us to do a more effective resuscitation on Tracy, and fortunately, she cooperated and we got a heartbeat back immediately after delivering Coltyn.

Henci explains her assessment of the situation:

So, according to Dr. Martin, Tracy is an example of how things can go suddenly and horribly wrong for no discernible reason in a healthy woman having a normal labor. All I can say is that Dr. Martin must have slept through the class on epidural complications. Tracy’s story is the classic sequence that follows what anesthesiologists term an “unexpectedly high blockade,” meaning the anesthesiologist injected the epidural anesthetic into the wrong space and it migrated upward, paralyzing breathing muscles and in some cases, stopping the heart. High blockade happens rarely… It does happen, though, and I am willing to bet that high blockade and its sequelae happened to Tracy.

The moral of the print version would be: have your baby in a hospital where you can be saved should this happen to you. The video interview, however, reveals a different picture. The real moral of the tale is that the safest and healthiest births will be achieved by avoiding medical intervention whenever possible.

Danielle from Momotics asks, “Why was there a need for pitocin? Because no one wants to be sitting around waiting to deliver a baby on Christmas eve?” She also wants to know why the possible correlation between the epidural and the cardiac arrest isn’t being talked about in the media. “Why is the mainstream media not reporting these things? Mass hysteria? Loss of money for the pharmaceutical companies that make pitocin and these anesthesia drugs?”

Jasmine who writes for The Examiner offered up her own take on the situation:

Knowing the side effects of both pitocin and the epidural, Hermanstorfer’s history of having unmedicated births, she probably experienced a dropped heartrate from the pitocin which may have caused her cardiac arrest upon administering the epidural. We all like the story of hearing “miracles” and they do happen, however, we have to know a little more about modern medicine and the side effects and dangers of modern drugs.

Nicole from It’s Your Birth Right speculates a few possibilities of what may have gone wrong. She admits that there is no way for her to say for sure what happened in Tracy’s case, but she wants people to know that having an epidural does carry risks.:

I just want it to be clear that Epidurals can indeed cause cardiac problems and can also stop a woman’s breathing immediately after administration. Does it always happen? NO. Does it usually happen? NO. Can it happen? YES. And did the media completely ignore the possibility of the epidural having anything to do with the cardiac arrest? YES.

Nicole adds:

Often when I tell people I don’t want an epidural they don’t understand why. THIS is why. The risks in my humble opinion are high for a procedure that is considered elective.

Often when I tell people epidurals carry risks that are not discussed with women resulting in misinformed consent for a procedure they know little about, I am considered an extremist. PLEASE if you want an epidural, that’s your choice but get INFORMED!!!

Here are the reported side effects of epidurals on both mother and baby.

Conspiracy theories aside, I think one of the reasons the possible cause of Tracy’s cardiac arrest wasn’t reported by the media is because it diminishes the feel-good Christmas miracle aspect of it. I think the media sensationalized the story to draw as much attention to it as possible. They succeeded.

The truth is we may never know what caused Tracy Hermanstorfer’s heart to stop beating, but it seems likely that the sequence of events – pitocin, epidural, lying on her back (which can cause “problems with backaches, breathing, digestive system, hemorrhoids, low blood pressure and decrease in circulation to your heart and your baby. This is a result of your abdomen resting on your intestines and major blood vessels (the aorta and vena cava).”) may have had something to do with it. While this story had a very happy ending, most like it do not. What can we learn from this? Educate yourself, learn about the risks of common interventions, and hire a doula.

Once again, I wish Tracy and Mike Hermanstorfer and their family all the best. :)

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Like. Dislike*. Love.

I dislike that I resort to putting my daughter in front of the TV whenever I’m trying to get my son down for a nap.

I dislike being around smokers when I have my kids in tow.

I dislike muddy paw prints in my house.

I dislike that I haven’t been the blogger that I want to be lately.

I like the smell of autumn.

I like the sound of a gentle rain.

I love seeing and hearing my kids laugh hysterically at each other.

I dislike it when I yell at my kids.

I love growing food in my backyard.

I dislike that my backyard doesn’t get enough sun to have a big garden.

I like that my backyard has so much shade I don’t have to worry about my kids getting sunburned.

I love the looks on my kids’ faces when they discover something for the first time.

I like the feeling of sand between my toes.

I like that now (after more than 11 years) I have a bike to ride again.

I dislike that sometimes marriage seems like so much work.

I dislike not having the answers to all of my questions.

I love living in Colorado.

I love Michigan (my home state), but only in the summer and fall.

I love that my sister and I have such a close relationship.

I dislike that talking to my parents isn’t easy.

I like that my parents and I are slowly but surely working on our relationships.

I like that I know how to make my kids laugh.

I like educating others.

I like writing.

I dislike that I don’t always feel motivated to write.

I dislike blatant consumerism.

I love watching my kids play.

I dislike early mornings.

I love to sleep.

I love that I’ve been able to breastfeed both of my kids.

I dislike ignorance.

I dislike that sometimes I am ignorant.

*I dislike the word hate, which is why I used “dislike” instead of it.

I love that my husband believes in parenting the same way that I do.

I love that my husband is a wonderful father.

I dislike my cluttered house.

I dislike addiction.

I love feeling like I’ve made a difference.

I love that I have a supportive group of friends.

I dislike that there’s so much suffering in the world.

I love that my children willingly eat so many foods that I was never exposed to until I was an adult.

I like that I’m allowing myself to feel for the first time in a while.

I dislike the way that those feelings sometimes make me feel.

I dislike fear.

I love that I’m learning to overcome my fears.

And I love that my kids make everything that seems difficult, or even impossible, worth the effort.

This feels rather meme-like, so I invite you to feel free to do this on your own blog if you feel so inclined. I found it to be a very enlightening, fun, and educational exercise. It’s especially interesting to see how many likes, dislikes and loves you come up with at the end. If you do this on your blog and want to link back to me, I’d appreciate it, but please don’t feel obligated. :)