Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Story Goes On.....

Today is a day that I will never forget.  October 1, 2013.  I truly hope that I will never forget the moment the Doctor said, 'all looks great.  All is progressing and your baby looks healthy'.  Those of you that are aware of our painful journey to these words know I don't take these words for granted.  You may be reading this not knowing we are expecting. Today was our 20 week check up.  We have been silent because Sam and I have needed to take time to process going through this again and the fear, anxiety and large amounts of hope that creep in from day to day.  We needed to talk it out with God and each other and getting to a place where we could accept whatever may come our way.  It's been hard to not say anything, I love celebrating good news, but it's also allowed us such a sweet time to take this in as a couple and look for moments where we could move forward and connect through this miracle.  No outside voices to tell us what we should do or how to cope, just us.  I wouldn't change a thing about the last 20 weeks.

The moments that led me to the room where we received our 20 week anatomy scan were precious and marked with pieces of our sweet Juliette.  As I walked into the perinatal specialist office, I was overwhelmed with my first trace of tears.  All I could remember was being in this space before and the painful news we received that Juliette would not make it.   Her heart was in danger.  As we were called back to our room, the two nurses that settled us and did the initial ultrasound were both donning scrubs with butterflies all over them.  A reminder of our Juliette on the clothing of our nurses.  My heart suddenly felt at ease that she was with us in this precious moment and all would be okay.  The tears continued as we waited for our Doctor to come in and discus the ultrasound.  He was going through the organs development as a list you check off and kept saying, 'looks good'.  He ended with the heart and said, 'looks good, looks strong'.  Of course.  Again, my tears flowed.  Tears of  inexplicable joy.  Tears where my heart felt as if it might explode from my chest. Tears that dripped with the loss of Juliette and hope for this baby.  It's all so overwhelming in a truly amazing way.  Life from the very beginning is so very precious.

I can't stop looking at this picture. It is something I won't stop praying over as we continue this journey. We will not take one single moment of this for granted.  As we continue on this path to February 14th and beyond.

As Sam and I continue to allow Faith, Hope and Love guide us....I go back to these words from our wedding. 

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime. Therefore, we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history. Therefore, we must be saved by faith.Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone. Therefore, we must be saved by love." (Reinhold Niebuhr)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Comeback 3.3% (aka Strength & Beauty)

Yes.  It's here.  I vowed never ever to write about weight or my struggles with it over the last couple of years.  I vowed never to publicly put on a blog my frustrations with the 'baby weight' after losing Juliette in November of 2011 and my lack of focus in removing said 'baby weight'.

Until Now.

You see, I learned (again) …a goal without a plan is simply just a wish.  I had to remember my roots and where I come from.  I mean, I am a 2 time Ironmaiden who planned, trained and completed 140.6 miles back in 2008 and 2009.  Surely, I can take off 30-40 pounds?!?  I am an athlete who has played competitive volleyball, run marathons and trained for the impossible.   I got this.  I won’t bore you with ALL the details of how I got here. If you know me, you know the stress I was under during the last couple of years. Cortisol, known as the "stress hormone" is secreted in higher levels during 'fight or flight', and is responsible for several changes in the body.  This actually started for me back in August as I worked with the wonderful nutritionist Carly Pollack at Nutritional Wisdom and we discussed taking out all workouts that raised my heart rate.  My body can't see running a 400 m and lifting weights  as anything BUT stress and so I found myself on the mat, practicing yoga at my new home, Wanderlust Live.  I started to see a few of the pounds go away in small increments but then there is eating.  And I was emotional + eating= most of the time. In the fall I had a few friends that did a program called Strength & Beauty with CrossFit Austin and had great results.  When I talked with them about it they simply loved that it was a reset button for 28 days and also had great accountability. 

You had me at accountability.

So.  I made a plan.  I knew that they would have a program that would start up in January and that this was going to be my turn.  My time to reset and find the athlete under all the weight.  I set a reminder on my calendar to sign up on January 2 and was excited for the program to begin on January 13th.  I even took it one step further and made a few changes one week early....no sugar and only drinking water.  Now, before you all think this is some crazy, fad diet.  It wasn’t. 

Here is what I removed:
Grains/Gluten, Fruit, Sugar, Dairy & Alcohol.

I know.  You are thinking I starved myself.  Nope.  I was quite satisfied with healthy proteins and copious amounts of vegetables with some of the good fats like almond butter, avocado…etc.  And about 7 days in I found the pounds melting away.   The other part of my plan was at least 7 yoga classes each week.  My return to veggies and yoga = my goal being met. 

I also found that why I am not a ‘let’s sit in a circle and share my feelings’ kind of gal, the group sessions were extremely helpful.  Hearing where people struggled and found success made you feel not alone.  It was a group effort.  I would be remiss if I didn’t say that shedding my weight was also like shedding some of the grief.  The weight was a reminder of the pounds I had put on when I carried her.  The weight was a reminder of depression, PTSD, losing your job.... But Juliette was also becoming the stark excuse that I wasn’t taking it off.  Not acceptable because I was stuck.  I was stuck not feeling good in clothes and stuck with a poor attitude at times.  And I was stuck in ALL the excuses.

So numbers don’t lie and when I started this journey beginning of January my weight on the scale read 180 pounds.  Heaviest I have ever been.  My final weigh in after 28 days was 163 pounds (!) losing 3.3% body fat.  A total of 14 inches lost in all places.  I could feel this is in my clothes, and I could certainly feel that every time I stepped onto my yoga mat.  Since then I have taken off another 5 pounds on the scale and I am more than ever committed to my daily practice of yoga.  I am slowly & safely working to my goal of 140-145.

So many have asked...what now?  The truly wonderful thing about Strength & Beauty is I found my true love of so many delicious veggies that I don't crave all the sugary, sweet stuff like I used to.  Do I indulge in a treat every now and again?  Why yes....Sam and I split a cupcake this past weekend after going to the Kite Festival.  And it twas delicious.   I watch my portions and I know where my triggers are that cause me to go off the path.  Be warned: I WILL get to my goal.  

I had a quote on my desktop during the entire 28 days that says, "If compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete."  That was my realization in all this...the weight had come on for whatever reason and I lost all compassion for myself.  As my good friend Andi always says......you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help others.  In this case, I had to cultivate compassion which first included myself, make a plan, achieve the goal and then start on my next dream.   One love, one heart, one destiny....Bob Marley, I could not agree more. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

THIRTY. EIGHT.

I  haven't been here in a few months, but no doubt I am hitting up my journal outside of the world wide web.  Much transformation happening, and all good things, it just seems I have my trusty notebook with me more than I have my computer.  I warn you...this post will start out a bit heavy, but stick with me....there is a bright light at the end. In fact, I think this could maybe help people see that staying the course and facing the shit, can and will eventually bring hope back into your space.

Yesterday was THIRTY EIGHT for me.  Yep.  38.  I know it is really just a number but let me take you back to one year ago at 37 and you may start to see why it is so momentous for me.  For myself and Sam.  Last year I was barely 2 months into having lost Juliette and didn't want anything to do with my birthday.  Nothing.  In fact, I didn't want anything to do with anyone's birthday.  I had a few friends over (Thank You Tristy and Crash!) to watch the Bachelor with me and have some dinner....this was my poor attempt at 'celebrating', watching some of the worst trash on TV.  Where was I in the world of depression?  If I couldn't celebrate birthday's with my daughter, then no one was going to have that side of me.  (and sidenote:  previous to this...I absolutely LOVE birthdays)  January 30th of last year was also the first time I admitted to anyone outside of my counselor that I simply didn't want to live anymore.  That my suicidal thoughts were heavy and very real.   I remember my beautiful friend Melissa taking the time to hear me say those words and then not judging, not telling me what to do, but helping me process that.   And then she stayed on me...walks, coffee, stopping by my desk and just provided a listening space.  Many things happened from January 30th to May 7th (the date that I lost my job.)  More depression, stress, PTSD, anxiety off the charts....in other words, a complete and utter hot mess.  After May 7th, I began to breathe again.  And I found the inhale and the exhale as a continual work in progress.  Could it be that an embarrassing moment of watching someone I used to call friend, 'let me go', be a large blessing?  Sure was and is and now will always be.

Over the last 8 months my daily prayer, intention and path has been to just return to and find that better version of myself.  To allow God to heal my heart and my pain.  I don't need or want it to go away completely, the pain also carries my love, and I know now, that loving that recklessly will always be worth it.  To let people in and allow them to help me heal was also a valuable part of the process.  Not easy for me, I like to prove I can do it all my own.

This week, more than ever in the last year, I have found my soul smiling and seeing that better version as my husband planned my birthday evening, as I met up with friends, as co-workers celebrated my birthday and as I found myself on my yoga mat with my new family at Wanderlust Yoga.  Yesterday.  I celebrated.  I celebrated 38 years old.  I laughed with my husband,  I enjoyed reading every text message, voice mail, email and facebook message from friends and family.  I celebrated.  I celebrated the path from the year before, even the tough stuff, because the tough is what gets you to the party folks.  I didn't see that when I was in the middle, how could I?  how could anyone?  My heart and my soul are singing again and as my husband so beautifully put in the card he gave me last night, "Here is to a new year that will be surely be full of new adventures, awesome moments, much laughter and love."  I didn't know if I would ever believe in this again.  But I do.

As I was in yoga class this morning, the final song was Idina Menzel singing 'No Day but Today', which resonates with me, especially these words:

There's only us
There's only this
Forget regret--or life is yours to miss.
No other road
No other way
No day but today

I pray, hope and want this for everyone I come into contact with.  Whatever today is for you, there is only today.  Good or bad, work through it, trust the process (I know, so cliche').  And if life hands you lemons, you do NOT always have to make lemonade.  That is crap.  Be real with the moment, find people you trust and work it out.  Ask God the tough questions, just because.  I am so glad that I had that conversation with Melissa one year ago on my birthday, because of that....I celebrate, dream and hope.

Namaste friends.  Namaste.



Thursday, November 15, 2012

It Takes a Village...

Today is one year we let our entire circle of friends in on what we had been walking through for almost 3 weeks.  November 15 is when we found out her heart had stopped.  Over the last year I didn't know what I would say on this day but then I have kept a notebook where I have written down the kind things that happened along the way.  The unexpected friends that lifted me up.  The unexpected strangers that came across my path, that God sent to us to help move forward. The moments that I couldn't walk and someone carried me.  I thought I would share them here.  When days were tough I would go back and read things that I didn't ever want to forget.  It simply took a village, and I am thankful that we had that.  (please know, there may have been more than listed....but these are what I found in my notebook)

I will never forget first hearing the bad news and grabbing onto a friend from work.  Melissa helped me navigate telling staff and seeing the road ahead.  She is also someone that sat with me on my birthday as my tears poured out and never judged.  never.  any of my process of grieving.

I will never forget how our OB stayed on her day off to deliver Juliette.  She couldn't leave us with a stranger, not for something like this.

I will never forget Liz coming to take pictures of our family shortly after I delivered and the way she extended her hand of friendship to me.

I will never forget text messages from Red while I was in the hospital having troubles delivering.

I will never forget Vernon calling and praying for us and we held Juliette for the last time.

I will never forget my kind, caring and patient husband.

I will never forget the care package that arrived from Shannon, my sister and  her kiddos.  It warmed my heart even over the miles. It was like receiving hugs in a box.

I will never forget Anthony putting together a swarm of people for food, groceries, lunches...to move us through the painful days that were the Holidays.

I will never forget the calls, texts, emails, letters that arrived for us.  I have saved them all to go back and read this Saturday.

I will never forget the kind message left by Tim Tracey.  An unexpected message that brought tears to my eyes and that he would take the time.

I will never forget Devon bringing over a Thanksgiving meal for us and looking down and seeing Eloise sucking the turkey juice out of the box and towel in the box.  I think it was the first time I laughed.  Devon left the towel with us and I always think about that moment.

I will never forget Leeah Taylor helping me to step on the mat and just breathe.  And always being ok with my tears in any of her yoga classes.  I gained such an amazing friend.

I will never forget walks with Desiree.  There was no pressure to talk or be anyone except for who I am.  That is priceless.

I will never forget New Years with my sister and her family in Virginia.  Her kiddos had endless hugs for me and snuggle time.  We had many great laughs around Just Dance and many tears over our loss.

I will never forget sitting with Brian and Angie Davis while in Virginia.  A family that has suffered much in the world of cancer and health. But took the time to sit with me and Sammy.

I will never forget Deniece.  I sang with her at Disney.  She was pregnant with her daughter, Akemi.  We reconnected over having just a facebook friendship for a few years.  I will never forget her allowing me to send some of Juliette's things for Akemi.  It helped clear out memories and helped me move on.  It made it better that these things were on another little girl.

I will never forget Tracie.  A college friend who just made herself available.  All the time.  I feel lucky to have reconnected with her just a few years back only a short time after I met Sammy.  She consistently reminds me that God can handle whatever it is that have on that day...including my anger and asking why over and over again.

I will never forget the card that arrived from my sister Erin on my due date in March.  She remembered and it meant a lot to me.

I will never forget Andrea Canny always being available by phone, always.  Thankfully...she's a night owl and so I know I can always ring her at the oddest times and she will pick up.  And she never tries to solve things, she just lets me get it out.

I will never forget Aunt Becky and her daughter, Andrea.  Aunt Becky rarely missed a 15th or 17th of the month to call me and she always made herself available.  Andrea sent me a beautiful necklace, and has often written me kind words.

I will never forget meeting Nicole at the mall in Orlando, FL.  She asked me about my tattoo and then I shared our story.  We talked for almost 30 minutes and are now friends that stay in touch.

I will never forget my first day at work at ZACH and turning the corner and the Juliet balcony being shown to me.  Insignificant to some.  Extremely significant to me.  My Juliette showed up, showing me that the arts wanted me back.

And even today...I will never forget a walk with a new friend, Claudia, that I was able to connect with through her sister, Maria.  Both of these women encouraging me to hope and wish for a different ending.

All of these people's.  All of these actions have pushed me, have pushed us to walk this very painful journey and see hope at the end of it.  It's true, the grieving never stops, it just gets a little less.  The pain in my heart will hang there forever and I am ok with that.  Juliette changed me.  Her heart changed mine, and for the good.  The small stuff, is just the small stuff.  Life is simply too short to not love recklessly and with total abandon.  You can hold me to that.

November 15, 2011.  Juliette, your heart stopped and I had days where I wanted mine too as well.  I kept my promise to you that I would take care of myself and I would look to love and faith to see us through.  My love is no less today, in fact, it is more.  Saturday, your Dad and I will remember and celebrate your brief but beautiful life and the 8 hours I was able to spend with you.

Thanks friends for seeing us through this first year.  We love you.

Colleen & Sammy

 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stillness, one year later

It seems very strange to write this.  It's been one year since we lost Juliette.  Tomorrow is the day we found out her heart had stopped.  Saturday will be one year since I delivered her at 9 am on November 17, 2011. I learned a new term this week, the death of a baby after 20 weeks is called 'stillbirth'.  The term couldn't be more appropriate.  I remember everything being very still once I delivered her.  The side of the hospital we stayed on was still, the nurses, Sam, and even myself.  We knew there would be no cry that came once I pushed her tiny body out.  At that moment, in the stillness, all I wanted was time.  Sometimes I would give my right arm to have those 8 hours back with her and make them last that much longer.

I think over the past year I cried out for....understanding, compassion and support.   My answers?  I will never understand, compassion comes in many different forms and getting through this takes a village.  I needed time to grieve, and time to adjust to the gaping hole in our family, in my heart, left by the death of Juliette.

It seems odd to write that in all of this there has been tremendous blessings.  I have seen that on the other side of suffering, blessings are revealed.  That doesn't make the pain easier, and as I continue to move through the grieving process with a willingness to be open to myself and God, I have become more aware of the blessings.  The losses and the grief that we bear are the means through which we grow more fully into our true selves and into God.  Today, this week, I can honestly say that I embrace my entire life with more love and gratitude.  To embrace ourselves with love in the midst of life’s suffering is to heal the heart.  I still cry over Juliette and the loss but my tears are not just about pain but also about intense love.  Love of her and love that has been woven in my lives through friends and family that have walked me through a very difficult year.

I am not sure when it happened but somewhere in this journey I started listening to things deep inside me, and when I became willing to the world of memories and feelings that exists in my depths, I started to have the capacity with God's love to heal what is wounded and understand that this particular wound will never be completely healed.

I write this to ask for just a few more prayers and love sent our way over the next few days.  Tomorrow will be hard.  Her heart stopped, there was nothing we could do.  Saturday will be hard.  That day was supposed to be different for us.  Delivery wasn't supposed to end in stillness.  Whatever it is that you do, send it our way this week, I will take any of that.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Good Grief.

Well.  It happened.  I got a surprise visit from grief today....she is a fickle bitch. I started to feel it a little last night in leaving work.  Felt extra weight on my shoulders, I could feel myself holding back tears, and then I realized that today would be one year from our anatomy scan when we found out that Juliette's heart was in danger and through many tests was diagnosed with Turner's Syndrome.  I will never forget sitting in the perinatal specialist office and hearing our genetic counselor say, "this will not be a good ending for you all, her heart is in serious danger.  It will only be a matter of time and you will need to come back every 2-3 days for us to listen for the heartbeat."  And so began our 3 week journey until they couldn't hear her heartbeat any longer.

I got up this morning and made my way to 715 am Yoga at Wanderlust Live.  The first 30 minutes of practice I felt strong, I felt like today wouldn't be so hard.  And then...out of nowhere...tears flooded out of my eyes.  The good news is there happens to be crying in yoga.....(and maybe in baseball because my Cardinals lost the NLCS on Sunday night) My breath became short and I couldn't place myself in one more pose.  My physical practice was done and my emotional/mental practice had to take over. I moved into child's pose oddly enough and let my tears fall.  Everyone once and again I would return to Ashley's (teacher) instruction but would find myself not able to handle any physical movement.  One of the things I love about Wanderlust is they are music first, yoga always.  About 45 minutes into class, Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah starts to play.  Yep, done.  I knew I had to surrender and just try to breathe.   As I sat with my tears I realized that I have come a long way from one year ago.  My natural tendency would be to leave class and escape before anyone saw me.  I wouldn't possibly want my tears to make anyone uncomfortable. That didn't happen today.  I stayed on my mat, I cried through the last 30 minutes of class, Ashley came over to check on me and make sure I was okay and I leaned so freaking hard into the pain that was happening that I was exhausted when the class finished.

I was reminded of something Anne Lamott wrote:
"You will lose someone you can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken, 
and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved.  
But this is also the good news.  They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up.  And you come through.  It's like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly- that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp."

It was Martha Graham who said that dance is the hidden language of the soul.  You may see a limp in my dance over the next month....and hints of it forever, but never doubt...I will keep dancing and face this grief as I remember one year ago.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kramer's lullaby....Bernadette Peters

Last night Bernadette did an encore that I will truly never forget.  This was a lullaby for her dog as she is a huge supporter of Broadway Barks.  She shared this also for us to remember to hold those close to us, to squeeze your children.  Here are the lyrics.


Good night my pal
Good night my friend
Tomorrow I"ll see you again
Close your eyes, don't worry
There's no need to be in a hurry
Sleep deep my friend 
I am here

You are my dream
You are my wish
Tonight you'll sleep in total bliss
I will send you moonbeams
I will send you angels in your dreams
Sleep deep my friend
I am here

I always dreamed I have a friend 
Someone to love me who would send 
away my bad dreams, away my fears
Then suddenly you appeared
Goodnight ol' soul, goodnight my dear
I am smilng now from ear to ear
I will always love you
I'll always protect you
You are in my heart forever
Always in my dreams together
and tomorrow when you wake up 
I'll be here


As one can imagine, this set off the water works for me.  But it was powerful and cleansing.   I love how music continues to heal my soul and my grief.   I feel at some point I will get to sing this song.