Monthly Archives: September 2018

It Takes a Village

I had the joy of talking with my friend Bri Luginbill today for her Compassionately Yours podcast, which focuses on self love, compassion and body image. When she first reached out to me to be on the podcast, my initial response was a little hesitant.

Why in the world would she want me to talk about body image self compassion. So many times I’m hard on myself and feel at my weakest — mentally and physically. I am a work in progress. 

But I decided to do it — to share my weaknesses, my struggles, as well as the things I’ve learned about being hard on ourselves and giving ourselves the same grace we’d give to others.

I think that’s one of the things that’s hardest for me — showing myself the same flexibility, compassion and grace that I give to other people. I feel like all the advice I’d offer someone else about giving themselves room to be human is advice I should really give myself in the mirror every single day.

Another bit of advice I need someone to send back to me is that I need to learn to let people in. Ask one of my closest friends, and she’ll tell you that it’s hard to get me to open up about certain things — and she’s known me for almost 15 years. This fact may be hard to believe since I share so much of myself on this blog, but I promise you there is a lot beneath the surface. I hold some of my stuff close.

And talking with Bri during the podcast and after, it made me think a bit. It helped me realize something that’s not all that shocking or surprising: we need our “people.” People who get “it” and who get us. Whether it’s through shared experiences or shared history, we need people around us. I need people in my village, even if I’m more comfortable spending my free time in a quiet corner with my nose in a book.

As I sit writing this post while Dorothy is in ballet class, I’m feeling contemplative and thinking about ways to build my village, to build my family’s village. Sometimes when I’m writing, I’ve been known to look at the wall for a bit while the thoughts find their way to my fingertips. When I looked up a bit ago, I saw a picture that makes me think the universe is trying to tell me something.

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Isn’t that always the way with the universe?

Bri and I talked about so much during the podcast and after that has made me think — and rethink. It’s so nice chatting with another mom who’s going through many of the same things I am and who knows my story.

I won’t go into detail about what else Bri and I talked about — because I want to save that for you to hear when the podcast airs. But I will say this: after the podcast, I kept thinking about all sorts of additional things I wanted to share. That means I’ll have to share those thoughts in a post after the podcast comes out — a sort of addendum, I suppose. Stay tuned.

And, in the meantime, I urge you to check out what Bri’s doing. It’s pretty great.

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5 years, a beach and a cupcake

Yesterday, we celebrated what would have been Penelope Joy’s 5th birthday.

Penelope Joy on her birthday

One of our first family photos with Penelope Joy.

For some reason, we always find ourselves headed to the water on Sept. 9 — whether it be the lake or the river — to honor our precious girl’s memory. There’s just something about the water that always calls us back for her birthday, and yesterday it was exactly what our souls needed.

Family Photo on 9:9:18

On the way to pick up our traditional Penelope Joy birthday cupcakes, Dorothy asked us when she’d get to see Penelope: “I just really miss my sister Penelope and I want to see her and eat a cupcake with her.”

We talked, then, about how sometimes the people we love and miss the most live in our hearts and in the stars. And, if we want to talk to them, we don’t even have to see them — we can just look up or hold our hand on our heart and talk to them whenever we want. And we can feel them when we think about them because our hearts will get warm.

And Mr. B and I assured her that we missed Penelope Joy very much, too. We want Dorothy and Hobbes to know how much their sister was loved — and will always be loved, just as they are.  What’s more, we want them to know it’s OK to be sad and feel emotional when we think about people we miss.

After picking up the cupcakes and a deep, emotional conversation with our 3-year-old rainbow, we headed out to the lakeshore. On the way there, Mr. B got quiet and thoughtful and said, “You know, it’s not just Penelope’s birthday; it’s the anniversary of the day we became parents.”

So, on the shore of Lake Michigan on a blustery-but-beautiful Michigan morning, we celebrated our parent-iversary as well as the birthday of our beautiful star.

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You won’t see a lot of tears or sad faces in these pictures. Now, don’t get me wrong: Mr. B and I each took some time yesterday morning to cry our tears. Mine were particularly ugly. But once we got to the beach, we spent the time filling each other up with love and enjoying the antics of our wild and wonderful kids, grateful for every mouthful of sand and shriek of laughter — for they were reminders of the gifts we’ve been given.

I’d been particularly nervous about this birthday — this 5th birthday. In my mind, since she died, Penelope Joy has always been 5 — skipping around, pigtails bouncing, wide smile grinning back at me from a face full of freckles and a pair of laughing emerald eyes sparkling in the sun. What would happen when she actually would have been 5? Would my thoughts and dreams and visions of her disappear? Would I no longer be able to call her to mind? Would she suddenly be 10 or 18 or 30? Would I lose my little girl all over again?

Leading up to this birthday, my nerves have been shot and I’ve been preoccupied with the what-ifs and what-nows. I am happy to report that I woke up this morning, Penelope Joy still a joyful 5-year-old skipping around in my mind.

Penelope Joy’s death still hurts, and my heart grieves daily for her. But, living in the light with those who love us most dulls the pain and brightens the sky.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re a West Michigan local, definitely check out The Salted Cupcake in Grand Rapids — as Dorothy told me, “the cupcakes are deeeee-licious!”

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