2.0 Round 2 Day 1: Measurements and getting back on the wagon

Hello friends! Are you as excited as I am? I’m pretty excited to be starting a new challenge. For me, there is something about the energy of being part of a big movement. Maybe it’s the daily posts, the words of encouragement on the Bikini Body Mommy page, or maybe it’s just a mental thing, but this last month between school starting and that learning curve coupled with every day busy life and my art starting back up, I kind of fell off the wagon both with exercise and nutrition. I got some exercise in, but definitely not every day. But you know what? Here I am, and this round will be bringing big changes! I’m determined to peel off weight this round. I am committed to keeping my meals small and frequent and doing each day’s exercise. Failure isn’t an option for me! I have goals and I have seen amazing changes in the last 9 months, now I’m ready to fit into a smaller jean size this Christmas.

I’m going to try to keep these short blog posts coming through this round of the journey too. They may not happen every day, but I’m shooting for at least 3 a week. I have been so inspired by all the love and support thrown my way and I will aim to love and support as many of you as I can too. I really feel that makes all the difference in success.

Despite having dropped off dramatically in between this challenge and the last, I was pleasantly surprised to see my measurements (except that pesky weight, of course) hadn’t changed for the most part, and where they did it wasn’t dramatic. It goes to show that 1) this is a lifestyle that builds healthy habits that stick with you even when you “cheat”, and 2) you can’t stop, you have to keep going and it is more than a challenge, it is a journey.

So in the spirit of short and sweet, here are my day one measurements, my first stepping stone into another adventure.

rnd 2 day 1

 

NOTE: I am doing a 15 point measurement this round, which is more than what Briana suggests, but these are the areas I want to watch change.

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Want to see where I began blogging through this journey? It starts here!

https://natasiachampion.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/my-newest-project-an-overview/

Don’t forget to hit the subscribe button if you want to get these posts right in your inbox and help me stay motivated by helping you stay motivated. 🙂

Written On My Heart

As many of you know, June of this year marked the beginning of something that had been the humblest of thoughts in my heart since my daughter died. From 2008 until this year, 2012, it slowly evolved until, in one day, the final light bulb moment came and my little dream was birthed into reality.

I’m referring to my Christmas ornament donation program at Skye Blue.

One of the first, only, and most cherished gifts I got in memory of Skye came at the perfect time. The funeral was over, she was buried, the mourning visitors had gone home, my husband (and I, for a short time) went back to work, life began as the New Normal. I was anything but normal though. Nobody talked about my little girl anymore, no more cards came mentioning her name. My memories had been stolen from me before I had a chance to make them with her, and winter descended like a vulture on my soul. There was nothing to look forward to, no bouncing baby girl, no milestones, even the Holidays promised pain and tears without my little bundle to show off, to cuddle, to open presents with, and mostly just to hold and love.

And then, in November, I got a little parcel in the mail. It was from the organization Hearts and Hands. We had been connected with them soon after Skye was sent up to Kosair. At first I didn’t understand who they were and why I was being pushed to meet with yet another set of people when I could be spending time with my daughter. In fact, I don’t think I understood who they were and why we were being introduced the whole 17 days I was there. It was only in the months following Skye’s death that they became the most invaluable comfort to me. You see, they are a group of people who deal with families who have babies that have a huge chance of passing away soon after birth. I guess this is why I didn’t make the fateful connection. It never sank in that I probably wouldn’t bring my little girl home. Nobody thought they should “burden” me with the gravity of her situation.

In the blur that night, when my daughter passed away, it was the sweet ladies from Hearts and Hands as well as one of Skye’s regular nurses that lovingly prepared her body, unwrapping it, dressing it in real clothes for the first time, putting baby lotion on her damaged skin so she would smell like a baby and not a hospital when we held her for the first time without her wrappings. They made the little molds of her hand and feet, they photographed her and us holding her. And they told us that they would be in contact with us over the next few months, we didn’t have to answer back at all, but they would send us some things in the mail. I barely heard this and remembered it at that time, I was too shattered and numb.

I believe the first thing I got was that package in November. I had pretty much forgotten that they had said they would be sending anything, so when I opened it I was a little puzzled and wondered what it was. As I pulled the little tissue paper parcel out of the mailer and unwrapped it, I burst into tears. There was a little pink and white candy cane ornament and it had Skye written on it. Not Elizabeth, her first name and the name so many people used because they didn’t know her, but the name I had chosen so long ago and given to my precious baby while she was still a tiny hope.

We didn’t even put up a tree that year, but that ornament was so precious, because somebody cared. A virtual stranger cared enough to send something with my girl’s name and a hand written card telling me how sorry they were that I’d be spending the Holidays without her at a time when everybody had stopped talking about her for fear of “ruining the season by reminding me”. As If I could have forgotten her!

To this day, that ornament and the others we have accumulated each year are among my most precious earthly possessions. Pulling them out and hanging them on the tree with my family is a cherished moment each year, remembering, and making new memories with my children here on earth, telling them about their sister they have never met and why they are even more special to us because of how special she is.

That is the story behind my donated ornaments. They are a labor of love, not to families that are monetarily needy, but to those who are in need emotionally of someone, anyone, remembering their children. I want you to know, those of you who have requested an ornament for your child or children who have passed, I am touched and humbled as I sit at my table and shape the clay with my fingers. I contemplate your child who was and is and will always be. I say their name, I marvel at the beauty of their names, I think about the dates you have chosen to record, whether birthdays, conception days, due dates, their date of passing. I think of the colors that you choose to represent your child, I think of the short stories some of you send with your email request and I grieve with you, I truly do. Sometimes, when the house is very quiet I even shed a tear as think of these beautiful little lives and the people left behind to mourn them for the rest of their lives. I consider it a great honor to have my finger prints mingled in the same clay that bears your child’s name.

I felt like all this needed to be said, and now it still seems inadequate to convey what I feel, but I will post any way. God bless you all, thank you for letting me be a part of your remembering.

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For information about my program and how to request an ornament, please visit this link on my Facebook page.

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151009575456271.479378.362725131270&type=3

 

Capture Your Grief Day 31: Sunset

I am posting this a day late as last night I was busy making memories with family and friends. I have to say, it was perhaps the most appropriate way I could have ended this tender month.

When I started this project, I had the great desire to post every single day, using every subject. However, this month has been very busy, especially the weekends, and I had to skip a few days as they got away from me.

I have taken so much away from this project. I have cried and cleaned out my soul, remembered, mourned, rejoiced, freed myself of inhibitions, made friends, reflected, found strength, discovered things inside of me I had not even known were there. Not being lost on me is the irony that as I cried for my first child, I am pregnant with my last, and the cycle of living life fully while continually grieving has been an epic journey. I suspect it will not be over until I reach the distant shore of eternity. I’m ok with that.

Last night, as I spent a carefree evening with my husband and daughter and some dear friends, I kept in the back of my mind that I needed to snap a picture of the sunset. Since we were walking outside Trick or Treating, I figured it would be easy to capture a perfect picture. The evening sky was clear with just a few clouds that added to the aesthetic value and I was once again envisioning an epic photo much like the one I had envisioned at the beginning of the project. However, when the moment came to take the picture, I realized we were on the eastern side of a hill and could not see the setting sun horizon because of houses and power lines, etc. So I did the best I could, snapping a shot of the evening sky. At the moment, it did not seem very epic at all, but I wasn’t bothered as much as I had been with my sunrise shot at the beginning of this project. In that moment, I felt happy and carefree, I had the people who mattered most spending time with me and making precious memories. Perhaps the deep cleaning done to my soul has helped me more than I realize, all I know is something really is different at the end of this month compared to when October started.

Letting yourself grieve is a good thing, friends. Don’t be afraid of the memories and the tears they bring. Let yourself feel the pain, allow yourself to be hurt, admit that you have wounds. You have them anyway, acknowledging them is just the first step in the direction of healing. Denying your wounded state just keeps the wounds festering. Don’t kid yourself, they are there whether you cry or not, whether or not you acknowledge them, and most of all, they are there whether or not others acknowledge them. Grief is not to be feared, use it as a tool for healing your soul and getting stronger.

I hope each person reading this finds peace, where ever they are in their healing process, whether beginning, mid way, well into the thick of it, or maybe even having yet to encounter deep grief in your life. My hope is that you always have blessed memories being made along the way, and that you are never afraid to pull them out from time to time, even the painful ones. Every memory is precious.

Day 31: Sunset
Mt Pleasant, Tennessee, USA, about 6 pm October 31st, 2012

Capture Your Grief Day 22: Place of Care

As I’ve said before, I was pregnant with Skye out in Colorado and she spent her entire life in Kentucky, but we now live in Tennessee and I have no pictures of her place of care or birth, none that I’d like to represent this post any way. Instead, I’m going a little outside the box and posting a picture of the place that held her the longest and cared for her the most tenderly and lovingly.

My womb has held 3 babies since Skye, one is with me, one left this world before I even got a chance to process that it had been here, and the third is tucked safely inside as I type, awaiting his entrance into this world from the safety of the womb that held his sister. This picture is actually a recent one and I’m pregnant with Gavin, but somehow it is fitting to use a picture of my (hopefully) last pregnancy to illustrate my very first.

Day 22: Place of Care

Capture Your Grief Day 19: Special Project

They say one of the best ways to find healing in your grief is to reach out to someone who is going through something similar and offer help, sympathy, compassion – in other words, minister to them and you will actually be ministering to yourself. I have found this to be true. I have had the honor of meeting so many beautiful people on this sacred journey, all traveling a similar path. It’s not something you hope for, but since I’m here, I’m glad I have had so many opportunities to love, help, share, and bless others.

This past June I had the honor of embarking on a project that is very personally dear to my heart.

When I first started out on this loss journey, I could not possibly know that one of the hardest things about losing my baby was that I lost all the potential memories we might have made. Those little things like her first tooth, or her first taste of ice cream, or trying to keep her from tearing the wrapping off the presents under the Christmas tree before Christmas, or splashing in a mud puddle after a Summer rain – you don’t realize all the things you say goodbye to forever when you say goodbye to your baby.

Like many other families, I began collecting keepsake Christmas ornaments each year beginning the year I got married. My favorite part of getting a tree and decorating it is not making it picture perfect or color coordinated. My favorite part is putting on the tinsel and remembering the first time I helped my Grandmother decorate her big tree when I was a girl. Its putting on the lights and remembering how my dad used to get so frustrated with untangling all those lights, but he and my mom would work at it, bickering back and forth, and the finished tree was sparkly and glorious. Its pulling those ornaments out and remembering having my little sisters (who are all but grown now) painting little childish designs on simple ball ornaments so we could have unique keepsakes to hang on our first tree as a married couple, or seeing “Champion 2006” and marvelling that it has already been 6 years we’ve been married, or pulling out the little pink and white candy cane and remembering how when everyone else had all but forgotten I was spending my first Christmas without a baby in my arms, the wonderful people at Hearts and Hands had not and they sent a hand written card and that ornament to me in my darkest, loneliest hour, several months after everyone else had gone on about their lives and I was stuck in a Hell I could not escape.

My project has been several years in the making, an idea and a wish mostly, but this year it materialized into “In Memory Of” an ornament donation program. Many people who don’t understand loss, especially child loss, think the last thing you want to do is “dampen the holidays with grieving for a loss” but what so many don’t understand is, we don’t stop grieving. Holiday, ordinary day, everyday, you don’t stop thinking of your baby and wishing for those memories you never got a chance to make. I personally think the holidays are even worse, that’s when you think of them the most.

Each year when I pull out those precious ornaments, its like pulling out the memories, and since I had such a short time to make them with my baby, the few memories I have concerning Skye are the most precious. Since she has died we still get her an ornament each year, or I make one. I do this for all my kids. Hanging them on the tree each year gives me the opportunity to remember and even to make new memories with my family as my kids here on earth begin to learn about the sister they never met, how special she was, and why that makes them even more special to me and Daddy. It is beautiful.

My ornament donation program took off from the very start, showing me that so many other families felt the same way I did. I have cried over tender, heart-felt emails telling me how I have touched them with my work and how I don’t know what that ornament means to them. Yes, they are free, but it is not the cost of the item that is the blessing. Most of my recipients can easily go and buy their own ornaments, make them, or even buy the ones I make that are for sale. I believe the magic is in the fact that someone cares enough to hand make this little token, knowing acutely how inadequate it is to fill the void, yet how beautiful it is to truly care days, months, even years after you have lost your baby, by someone who knows first hand how precious the memories are. The word donation simply means filling an emotional need rather than a financial one.

I have a waiting list for bereaved parents, specifically parents that have suffered loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death, or early childhood death (basically children 5 and under) because these parents got so little time to make memories, and that is ultimately what my program is about, making and enjoying memories. To find out more about this program you can visit my Facebook page.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151200439886271&set=a.10151009575456271.479378.362725131270&type=3&theater

Ornaments from my “In Memory Of” donation program.

Capture Your Grief Day 10: Symbol

I have to say, this one was a thinker for me. Butterflies are a huge reminder of my girl, but usually in art more than nature and blue ones because of Skye’s eyes.

More than blue butterflies, though, I’d have to say a clear, deep blue sky in the Fall is even more symbolic of my girl. No matter where in the country I am, I usually see the perfect blue sky only a few times a year, either in September, October, or November. Like my daughter’s eyes, it is a hard color to describe because you aren’t just seeing the color, you’re seeing the depth and transparency and feeling the coolness, sensing the crispness, smelling the Fall smells. It is more like an experience. A picture can’t really capture an experience, so I guess that has been my trouble today. However, here is my picture for today’s post, I took it in 2011 at the end of September while driving to Tennessee on our move last year. I have yet to experience my Blue SKYE this year.

Day 10: Symbol
Experiencing the perfect blue sky in the Fall.

Capture Your Grief Day 5: Memorial

There are several memorials scattered around middle and western Kentucky, Skye’s head stone on her grave, a memory brick in the Bi-Centennial Garden in Salem Kentucky, the place of her Daddy’s family roots and the tiny town where she is buried, and of course the hearts of her family, especially the few people who got to meet her while she lived.

Josh and I have moved so much to pursue career opportunities for him that we have yet to settle down and really feel like we’ve found a home and put down roots, so I’m very glad Skye was able to be buried in Salem in the little cemetery shared by family. It is a place we will always make at least an annual pilgrimage to no matter where we move or live because that is where we celebrate the Holidays with his side of the family.

However, I believe the greatest and farthest reaching memorial I have is one that travels with me no matter where I am and that is Skye Blue, my online store and community on Facebook that has supported my art. Everything I make at Skye Blue is inspired by my daughter, even the name is inspired by her. I make a lot of grief and child loss related items and custom memorial items for grieving parents as well as every day home decor and non-grief related art. Even the regular items are inspired by her though, she taught me many things, but one of the biggest things I carried away from losing Skye was that you can’t wait for a convenient moment in life to do anything, if it is important to you, seize the day and do what you love.

Making art, working from home, and being an everyday part of my kids lives as a stay at home mom – those are all dreams I had long before my daughter lived and died, but she was the one who helped me realize that things that important to me couldn’t wait, I had to jump in and make it happen, the details would work themselves out.

Every day as I sit at my table creating, or pack up an order, or post pictures to Facebook, or even just take Faith to the park or lay and feeling Gavin kicking in my belly, those are moments I think of Skye. I’m thankful for the things she taught me. I’m glad that I’m young with lots of time ahead of me, but if my life were to be shortened unexpectedly, (nobody is guaranteed one day or hour) I would go with peace knowing I lived every day being alive, not just going through the motions, and I tried to remember what was truly important. That is a grand memorial, her legacy, and it touches many people every day. I am humbled by the messages from people who have been touched in some way by Skye Blue. It comforts me to be reminded that Skye is more alive right now than she could ever be in her mortal body and that gives me hope for my future also. This life is just the beginning friends.

This “Beauty From A Broken Heart” sculpture is just like the ones I make at Skye Blue, this one bears her name and birth date etched into it. The base is a broken heart and the peace lilies grow from the broken cracked middle.