Feelin’ the Love?

You may have noticed that I’ve been playing with photos over here on the blog quite a bit lately. I’ve been incredibly inspired by an online course I’m taking called Blogging from the Heart with Susannah Conway. It’s my first go at an online course.  I was skeptical at first, but it’s proved not only to be inspiring, but an amazing value. 5 days a week for 6 weeks—30 classes, for 99 British pounds, which the day I signed up translated to about $157.

I came across Susannah’s work through Tammy Strobel’s blog Rowdy Kittens. Tammy is the author of the book, You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap) that took my “organizing-decluttering-surrounding myself with the things I love” kick to a new level. On her blog, Tammy often shares photos she’s taken. In a recent post she mentioned having edited her photos using Snapseed. I downloaded it myself and have had a ton of fun editing many of my photos.

Needless to say, my creative juices are flowing, and I’m getting geared up to make some changes to the appearance of my website to reflect just that!  I’m working on a new banner for the top and rather than having my picture up there, I thought I’d put a new one in the sidebar.

This is the one I’m considering…

What do you think?  Are you feeling the love?

Captured Moments

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Nest at neighbors.

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What remains.

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Eyeing The Tree.

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Book I am loving. More on that soon.

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Memories.

Being Prepared (Giveaway)

My mom had a procedure yesterday to remove a small, but suspicious looking spot on her foot.

“What should I do?” she asked me.

I knew what she was asking.  She meant, What should I do to prepare?  She knew that before anyone had any kind of “procedure” be it minor, major or somewhere in between, if it involved asking the body to heal, she knew there was work that could be done beforehand to expedite healing and mitigate fear.

Her timing could not have been more perfect.  I was writing a blog post on that very subject for Hand to Hold’s blog, PreemieBabies101.

Click on over to their site and register to win the free copy of the book I’m giving away.

Surviving Preemie Surgery and a {Giveaway}“Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster” Book

“Before my daughter’s final surgery, the surgery where the doctors would reconnect the piece of intestine they had originally looped through the outside of her abdomen, I was hanging on by a thread. A very thin thread that snapped long before that surgery date even came close to arriving.

At three in the morning I found myself in the emergency room with severe chest pain and numbness running all the way down my left arm. Tests were run, blood was drawn, oxygen levels were taken, but ultimately it was determined that I’d had a panic attack. Not a heart attack, not a stroke, but a panic attack.  I had hit rock bottom and didn’t know if I could pull myself up again.

But my daughter still needed surgery, so pull myself up I did.” 

I go on to write about the book that saved me and my daughter…

I always keep multiple copies on my bookshelf, ready to give a copy away to anyone I think might benefit from it.

Want one on your shelf?

Click on over to read the rest and log in to register to win!

Surviving Preemie Surgery and a {Giveaway} “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster” Book

By the way, my mom got the all clear!

The Haircut

(Excerpted from my book, Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood)

Lee and I were lying in bed when our bedroom door flew open, and Andie walked in. I gasped. Her beautiful blond hair was hacked into a jagged, horrible mess. Walking right over to my side of the bed, she ceremoniously delivered her shorn locks in a velvet purse from her dress-up box.

Tucker had cut her a set of bangs. But this time, Andie had managed to create the worst-looking haircut in history; nearly scalping her left side, cutting a crooked line across her forehead, and shearing the crown so her hair stuck up like a baby chick. She’d left the back long, like an 80s’ rock star.

My mom came two days later, and as we walked Andie toward her preschool door, she doubled over, laughing so hard that she had to wipe the tears from her eyes. “What’s so funny?” I asked.

She pointed to a sign posted on the door. “Today is Picture Day!” 

And so it was…

And I couldn’t be more grateful to have that TREASURE of a picture!

And, if you read my book, you know that’s when I thought I’d declared war with a ghost. But that’s a story for another day!

Dear to My Heart

I met Shonda Clements earlier this year. This was the Facebook message she sent me.

“I finished reading your book today. It’s the first thing I’ve been able to focus on since early February when we received a diagnosis that threatened our daughter’s life. I’ve documented a lot of our journey on a blog (judahandselah.com)—in short they were born at 27 weeks, my daughter growth restricted, weighing just 1lb 5oz at birth, my son 2lb 4oz. Currently they are in two different NICUs 30 minutes apart from each other and an additional 30-45 min away from my three year old daughter. Selah, my daughter is 2 weeks post op, surviving NEC. My son, Judah is 2 days post extubation. (one of five). I read your story with mixed emotions…Gratitude for the comfort of knowing someone else understood my fears. Anxiety over what I know we still have to face, but most of all…hope. Lots of tears fell for you, Lee, Tucker and Andie—and lots for me and my children as well as I embrace feeling terrified wandering down the path you’ve already faced. I just want to thank you for the days of your lives you poured into this book—for the sacrifices I am sure you made. It made a difference in my life, I can assure you. I have been told by a friend to look into Reiki and had put it on the back burner but now have a renewed interest in seeking more alternative healing therapies for my family. I hope your book brings you lots of success and peace. It has encouraged me to keep hoping, to stay positive and to be present. I believe Ariel leading me to your book was not an accident. Tell Andie she is an inspiration. Thank you, Shonda.”

I’ve followed their story ever since, falling more and more in love with that family and the Momma whose fierce love knows no bounds.

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Judah ended up back in the hospital in December.

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“Judah will be undergoing a tracheostomy this afternoon. Although we do believe it will be temporary (months-year) it is still very unknown. This surgery will render him mute. He will not coo, laugh or cry. It will hinder his ability to smell and taste- there are a lot of things that it will make difficult for him however, it will help inflate his little lungs so he can breathe. Please pray for us.”

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“My dearest Trinity, This year I’ve not only watched you grow (and boy, did you ever grow!) I watched you transform from a toddler with perpetually sticky hands and a love for sippy cups and crackers to a brave little lady. My heart found new depths of love as I witnessed you unconditionally love and care for your baby brother and sister. Not a shred of jealousy have you displayed while our lives are turned upside down. Instead you blossomed into a child full of empathy and grace. You are so intelligent, your imagination never ceases to amaze me. I’m beyond blessed to be your mama. You teach me far more than I could ever teach you. Trinity, my first born, you are nothing short of a miracle. I can not wait to see you rise above the mountain of potential you hold. Happy Birthday, baby girl. May your fourth year of life be full of happiness and wonder. I love you always.”
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 “Leaving this year a hell of a lot stronger than I started it.” Shonda Clements.
You are my hero, Shonda Clements.

Birds, Trees, and Memories

I just took our tree down this morning! It was so beautiful and up until now, had barely lost a needle. I felt like it was a special bonus for all the organizing I had done.

This year I’d purchased the tree from our favorite local farm stand. “They’re all grown right here in New Hampshire,” the woman had said. “Most of them big places cut ’em down in August, cover ’em in burlap and keep hosing down ’til December when they load ’em up on eighteen-wheelers.”

Fa-la-la-la-la…

Walking among the trees I knew right away which one was meant to be ours. How? Birds were flitting in and out of the branches! At first I worried there might be a nest, but I checked. No, it was just a special tree. Watching the birds, Uncle Remus’ song from Song of the South rang through my head. Remember that one?

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The best part of leaving the tree up for so long, was that after all the hustle and business of the holidays had settled down, I could truly enjoy the beauty and magic of having a real tree in our home.

Just a couple of days ago, I once again tugged on a few branches only to find  that the needles were still not falling off.  In that moment, I took pause and really noticed all the beautiful ornaments hanging from the evergreen branches.  I thought about the stories behind every one and decided to grab my camera and share a few of my favorites with you before I pack them away until next year.

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A friend gave us this as an engagement gift. I love to give a big box of beautiful ornaments as a wedding gift.

 

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A gift from my dear friend, Shandy. Seems a perfect expression of the simplicity I’m seeking. How do you always know, Shans?

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One of the many ornaments from my classroom days. The Kindergarten boy who gave me this is now in his mid-20s!

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Andie’s teeny-tiny preemie hat. We hung it on the tree the year she lived in the NICU and have every year since.

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I love school-made ornaments. Is that the cutest picture ever or what?

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Another one of Andie’s “at-home” haircuts!

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My mother-in-law made this ornament out of two promotional postcards! What a treasure!

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Cardinals always remind me of Gramp, who I dearly miss.

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Angels always welcome!

So now our tree is back outside, just outside the kitchen window, where the birds can once again flit and flirt among its branches. And when the branches turn brown and no longer hold any needles, we’ll drag that tree into the woods where it can return to the soil from which it emerged.

What about you? Packed up from the holidays yet? Any favorite memories to share?

Word of the Year

Since mid-December, when It came to my attention that some people are in the habit of choosing a “Word of the Year,” I’ve been pondering mine.

I had a whole list of contenders—organize, inspire, simplify, balance, joy, serenity, pleasure, transformation, clarity, all close, but none sent that tingle down my spine confirming I’d found “The One.”

All the while I thought of potential words, another reel looped in my head criticizing me for all that I’m not, all that I haven’t done, and all that I haven’t been.  And the closer December 25th drew near, the louder the voice became.

“You don’t clean enough.  You don’t cook enough. You don’t write enough.  You don’t read enough.   You don’t blog enough.  You don’t tweet enough.  You don’t have enough blog or twitter followers.  You don’t focus enough.  You don’t try enough.  You’re not good enough.”

It was the last one, heard one too many times, that finally got me. “Enough,” I yelled out.  Enough.

As soon as the word left my mouth, I felt the tingle down my spine.  It was my Word of the Year.  Enough.  But Enough is a complicated, multifaceted word, and I wasn’t entirely sure how it was meant to apply to my life beyond telling that negative voice to shut the f… up.

It was on the Reiki table in early January that I finally understood.

Before every session, my Reiki Master, Libby and I sit opposite each other and talk about what I’m hoping to get out of the session – set our intentions if you may.  Sometimes I’m really clear as to what I’d like to focus on, while other times I just wait to see what emerges. That day I was really clear.

(If you’d like to know more about Reiki, check out Libby’s website. There’s also a chapter in my book that illustrates my first-hand experience.)

“I am so tired of feeling less than,” I told Lib. “Of comparing myself to others and feeling like I’m not enough.” Hearing my own words reminded me to explain that I’d chosen Enough as my Word of the Year, but that I didn’t really understand why.

“Why don’t you feel like you’re enough?” Lib asked.

I explained how I put myself out there as this writer and blogger, but that in reality, most of the time I don’t even know what the heck I was doing. I told Libby about these unwritten rules that seem to exist for authors and bloggers, and how I’m never quite sure if I’m doing it right, and most of the time I’m pretty sure I’m not.

We kept talking.

“The thing is that’s so weird,” I told her, “is that the voice that says I’m not good enough, is really not mine. It’s not the real me. Not the me in my soul.” I held my hand to the back of my head.  “It’s the voice that lives in the back of my skull, on the right side down by the base of my spine.  The real me knows that I do enough and have enough. The real me knows that I am enough.”

“So where do you suppose that voice comes from?” Lib asked.

“From outside, I guess.”  I looked out the window and thought a moment. “It comes when I look at what and how other people are doing things and think that their way is the way I should be doing my things, even if it doesn’t really feel true to me.”

Compare and Despair ran through my head.

And then, in the blink of an eye, I got it.

“When I do things my way,” I said, “I am enough.”

Libby clapped her hands together. “Say it again,” she said.

“When I do things my way, I am enough.”

“When you do things your way, you are Enough,” she repeated.

I remembered an appointment I had years ago with our energy healer, Karen. “You’re always looking to everybody else for all the right answers, when really, they’re right inside of you,” she had said.  And finally, I understood what she meant. If I’m true to myself, if I honor what feels right for me, then I am Enough.

I AM ENOUGH.

AND SO ARE YOU.

And so are you.

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A New Year

I just returned from a glorious snowshoe with my dear friend, Eleanor.

What a wonderful way to begin the New Year.

For days now I’ve been thinking about this coming year and what I hope it will bring.  I’m not one for making resolutions, but I do like setting intentions.  One thing I know for sure is that in 2013, I want to slow down. I move pretty slowly to begin with, but with the release of my book and the introduction of so many new social media avenues, I’ve found myself far too scattered. I hope that within the process of slowing down I’ll become more present in everything I do, whether it’s folding laundry, reading and responding to other people’s blogs, or preparing evening meals.  I hope to light more candles, listen to more music and invite time to languish and linger within the walls of our home.

And as you know, I hope to get organized.

And on that front I actually have some exciting news! For the past week I have decluttered and decluttered and decluttered some more, tackling one book shelf and closet after another, and by golly, I think I’ve actually made some progress.

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This photo shows what I’ve removed and will donate from our home so far.

 

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And that huge jumbled mess you saw in my pre-Christmas photo?

 

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It has been paired down to just this!

Can you believe it?  I can hardly believe it myself.  I know it really helped admitting to you that I was so deeply disorganized.  Saying it out loud seemed to set me free.  I also found another book that really helped.  Tammy Strobel, the author of You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)is part of the tiny house movement and is pretty extreme in her own lifestyle choices, but her suggestions and recommendations in the book are incredibly wise and profound.  The tip that allowed me to remove two contractor bags full of clothes from my closet was the idea that we hold on to things simply because at some point we paid good money for them, and even though we’ll never wear, use or whatever them, we can’t let them go.  After reading that, I looked into my closet with a new set of eyes and began mercilessly purging everything I didn’t love, including several items that still had tags on them.  With the holiday decorations, for the first time ever, it occurred to me that I didn’t have to keep all those same decorations that every year I pull out, and every year I put away, even those that we don’t use.

So a huge thanks to you for being there for me. I hope to do the same for you.  And a special thanks to all those who commented on my blog post about getting organized. I wish I could choose you all, but the winners for the giveaway (chosen by www.random.org) are Andrea and Dawn.  Andrea, you won the book, It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys by Marilyn Paul and Dawn, you won the glass storage set!  I hope you find these tools helpful on your organizational quest.  Please email me your addresses atprematurejourney@gmail.com and I’ll get those gifts in the mail.

I so look forward to spending time with all of you in the New Year and would love to hear from you!  Please leave a comment and let me know…

Do you make resolutions? Set intentions? Do you intend to? What are your hopes and dreams for 2013?

I’ll leave you with this afternoon’s view out my back door.

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Happy New Year!