Friday, March 28, 2014


I use lower-case letters because all caps feels like it’s yelling at me.  It sorta feels like it’s shouting, ‘THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU’.  And I guess there is.  I just don’t like being yelled at.  J   

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I don’t really understand all of it.  But I’ve been told that during traumatic times, the brain maps things differently.  Learning of Elliana’s genetic condition and ‘poor prognosis’, carrying her, loving her, growing her, nurturing her, hoping for her, feeling her, fighting for her, delivering her, hoping for her… and letting her go – it was traumatic. 

There are triggers.  The light above my head when I lay down in the dentist’s chair.  The smell of pumpkin muffins/bread/cake.  Medical offices.  Pregnant women.  Calendar dates.  Blond-headed little girls.  Places – all kinds of places.  Songs.  All triggers – things that cause flashbacks.  And they aren’t just memories.  It’s like I’m ‘reliving’ a moment or an event.  It’s like it’s happening all over again.  Vivid images fill my mind and emotions well up inside of me, and I can’t stop them.

I’ve been seeing a new counselor over the last couple of months.  And although at first, it sounded like a bunch of bull*&$!, she has introduced me to a ‘healing technique’ that is supposed to be extremely effective for people with PTSD. 

And… I think it might actually work. 

I won’t go into the details of it here.  It’ll just sound hokey.  J  This counselor lady is a Christian, and she’s done lots of prayerful research into this technique.  Hokey or not, I’m desperate.  As long as she’s not asking me to put my faith into something else, I’ll do whatever she says.

I will say this:  I’ve been able to sit in a worship service at MPC for 30-45 minutes twice now.  Granted, I was pretty tense (a bit of an understatement), and I was listening to music through my earbuds the entire time.  But I sat there.

A couple months ago, I thought this whole ptsd thing was a bunch of crap.  But there really, truly is something to it.  My body actually physically responds to triggers.  Especially being in that room at MPC.

Every muscle in my body is tense.

I breathe differently.  Shallowly. 

My heart beats faster.

I am hyper-aware of the things going on around me.  All of my senses are heightened. 

Noises in the room sound 3 times louder than they actually are.  I find myself holding my breath if I hear (over the music in my earbuds) clapping or laughter. 

The movements of people around me, even if it’s just the woman in front of me picking up her Bible from the chair beside her, seem to be so much more dramatic than they really are, and seem to take twice as long as they actually do. 

The actual flashbacks I have while I’m in there bring tears to my eyes.  I have such vivid memories of that day - October 10, 2012.  I may write more about those another time.

It is work.  It is physical and emotional work to be in that room during a worship service.  Which probably makes no sense to most people.  Probably sounds crazy.   It’s exhausting.  And when I reach the point of just not being able to do it anymore, I leave the room.  And as soon as I get out of the room, especially when I get outside, I feel like I can finally breathe.  I feel like I’ve been under water, holding my breath, and as soon as I get out of the room, it's like I’ve come up for air.  And I feel the effects of all of it for the rest of the day.

It's very, very slow.  But I'm working through it.  I still want to throw things, but maybe not as frequently.  I'm working through it.  Slowly.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I *Might* Be a Little Competitive

First, corrections to my last post:

*The race benefits the Second Harvest Food Bank.  I'm all for that.  :-)

*The course didn't include Elam St.  :-(  I was kinda bummed.  But I took Elam street heading back to my car after the race, and I ran it then.  Mostly because I was so cold - and running warms me up!

K.  Glad I got those things cleared up.  Now, about the race...

The Running of the Balls was a 5K for runners and a walk.  Between both events, over 2500 people were registered.  That's important.  I'll tell you why later.  :-)

And I should say - I had to keep reminding myself that this was mostly 'just for fun'.  I'm SO competitive.  Even if I'm only really competing against my own time.  So throughout the evening, I had to keep telling myself to 'just have a good time', 'and enjoy the neighborhood lights', and 'quit thinking about what your time is going to be', and 'think about having fun'.  It was a bit of a battle - to stay relaxed about it.

I had a little trouble with packet pick-up - wound up in 3 different lines, and it took F O R E V E R.  So by the time I got to the starting line, it was almost 6pm, and there was a really big crowd already there.  My competitive self pushed me to try to get as close to the start line as I could - because I didn't want to be slowed down by all those people in front of me.  My rational self kept saying 'just have fun, Shannon - it doesn't matter how fast you run this one'.

The race started late, and I didn't even hear the official 'GO!'.  The crowd just started moving.  So I moved with them.

At a snail's pace.  It was torture.

I spent the first mile (which, thanks to MapMyRun, I know took me at least 2 full minutes longer than my typical 'first mile') trying to get past all the slow people (and I mean that in the kindest way possible) AND arguing with my competitive self to *just.calm.down* and have fun.

Pass a few people.  'Just have fun, Shannon.'  Get stuck behind more slow people.  'It's just about having a good time, Shannon.'  'WOULD YOU PEOPLE GET OUT OF MY WAY ALREADY?!?!'  'Shannon, you've GOT to get a grip.'  Pass a few more slow people.

This lasted about a mile.  The argument between competitive me and rational me.  And then, the crowd thinned out a little, I was able to run a little faster and freer, and I thought this:

You know what?  I might be doing this race just for fun because I love my Ella Belle.  BUT... *this mama* (Elliana's, Seth's, Missy's, Levi's and Elijah's mama) is competitive.  I'm done 'just having fun'.  I haven't changed THAT much!

So I ran.  And (I don't *think* I'm saying this arrogantly.  Just... well, it was just so fun!)... do you KNOW how many people I passed??  A LOT.

This is where the 2500 registered participants part is important.  :-)

Not all 2500 were runners - a bunch of those were walkers.  I'm not sure how many were actually running.  And of all the ones running, less than 150 were 'chip-timed' runners.  I was one of the 150.  Cuz... umm... *competitive*.)

Anyway, like I said, I'm not sure how many people ran.  A bunch.  But.. I know where I placed among all those runners.  :-)

I'm kinda proud of this.  It's not specTACular or anything, but... I was happy with it.

You ready for this?

I placed 45th overall.  I was the 45th person to cross the finish line.  And that made me happy.  Kinda feel like I kicked butt in that race.  And that girl... *the competitive, get-outta-my-way, I'm-gonna-KICK-YOUR-BUTT girl*... THAT girl - is Elliana's mama.  :-)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

That Beautiful Street

Hey there, Diary.  It's been a while.  :-)

So many things to write about.  A counselor observed several weeks ago that I (and I'm probably not going to say this like he did) tend to keep a lid on my anger - and I'm still *pretty angry* about losing my daughter.  Every once in a while when this counselor and I are talking, he'll say something that stirs up that anger. And with him, I know it's 'safe' to go ahead and say the angry things.  So I'll (usually politely) interrupt him something like, 'You know, when you said ------, it made me think...

!!!asdoiruuonmbvnm,z.reywauieljdfkjnmz,vhueyriusadkbmvhuiysuielafjldksbvkjcyuairyeuiadfsjkalvmcsladfhuieyaiuroehwkdnl!!!!  AND &^%#@@$$%^&**&^^%$$$%.'

And the angry words just kind of spill out.  For a brief moment, I feel better.  Then I put the lid back on, and my reserved self is back in control.  Counselor-man has suggested that I might actually move somewhere in this whole grief thing if I'd go ahead and just say the angry things more often.  Which I have been able to do.  Some.  A little.  Ok, twice.  Not enough.

Anyway, the point of all of that - writing helps.  If I can't actually say the angry things, maybe writing about them would be a reasonable alternative?  Writing helps me think through things - I can think of several times that I've started blogging, not really knowing why in the world I felt the way I did.  But by the time I finished, I was able to see the 'what's going on behind it' stuff.  Helpful.

So, Diary - you may be seeing more of me.  But that's not why I'm talking to you today.

Later on today, I'm running my 3rd 5k.  I started running at the very beginning of September, and I'm still running.  Which is rather amazing, since I have never been athletic.  Ever.  Ask my parents.  They would wholeheartedly agree.  :-)

This 5k is taking place at night.  The nature of this particular race isn't really 'competitive'.  It's just fun.  *I'll* be competitive.  :-)  I'll have the little running chip, and I'll want to know my time, and I'll have the MapMyRun app running on my phone during the race.  But from what I hear, there are going to be 2500+ participants, and most of them are there for the fun.  Here's the fun part.  :-)

It's called 'The Running of the Balls' (yeah, it is).  Part of the race takes place on a street that is beautifully decorated at Christmas time - Elam Street.  It's gorgeous at night.  I think it'll be kinda fun to run down that street.  :-)

But this time - running this 5k - isn't really so much about the competitiveness.  It's not really about beating my last 5k time.  And it's not really about how pretty the street is at Christmas.

It's about my baby girl.

Throughout my pregnancy with her, I drove Elam St dozens of times.  It was the way I took to get to my doctor's office.  And Elam St is a pretty street anytime - not just at Christmas.  Big beautiful old houses, huge trees, porches - it's just a pretty street.  And I drove that street so many times last summer and early fall.  Before 18 weeks, I remember driving down that street smiling, having just left my doctor's office, and having heard her little heartbeat - which made me so happy.  :-)  After 18 weeks, I remember sitting at a stoplight or two on that street, on my way to an appointment, being anxious about what I was about to hear from the doctor.  I remember leaving appointments, driving down that street, just sobbing - because I'd heard that same beautiful heartbeat, and my heart was just broken that I was going to have to say goodbye to her FAR too soon.

I have memories on that street.  I remember driving down that street with a friend or two who came to an appointment with me.  I remember driving down that street with my mom after my last pre-hospitalization ultrasound.  I remember feeling her kick and squirm.  I have 'Elliana memories' on that street.

So tonight, I'm going to run that street.  Sort of my Christmas thing to do 'with/for/because of her'.  Which sort of doesn't make sense, but... *I* get it.  This race doesn't benefit anything, it's not raising money for a cause - it's just... fun.  And beautiful.  I hope it'll be beautiful not only because of the Christmas lights, but in other ways, too.  It helps to see the beautiful things that have come from her life.  And I think 'me', Ella Belle's mama, now a runner, the person I'm becoming, *might* be one of those things?

Might be.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Concert

So I've been rather quiet lately, due in part to just being Way. Too. Busy.  But if I'm being honest (and I will be), I've been ignoring my blog.  Don't think I've been ignoring grief - I've been in several situations where I've just had to talk, and think, and work through 'stuff'.  Writing about it seems like more work.  Good work, but difficult.  Therapeutic.  But draining.

My last couple posts have been mostly about fears and anticipation surrounding upcoming 'events'.  I wanted to write about how those events unfolded.

The first event - the concert at our church fall festival about a month ago - almost exactly a month ago, actually.  It was so much fun.  :-)  SO MUCH FUN.  It was also pretty cold since it was outdoors, but it didn't really matter.  It was just fun.  And overall, I thought it went well.  I did *butcher* one Crowder song because the piano keys were kinda sticky (from being outside in the cold), and my fingers were cold and not moving as fast as I was trying to make them.  And I'm always afraid that maybe I just shouldn't sing - especially by myself.  But, other than my usual being-critical-of-myself kinds of things, it really did go well.  I LOVED IT.  And want more of it.  :-)

One of the things I was more keenly aware of that night was my tendency to feel 'reserved'.  Us reformed people can be pretty 'stiff'.  And... reserved.  ;-)  I'm not thinking that I'd like for that to change drastically or anything, but I think my face and posture ought to reflect what's going on in my head and heart.  Something to think on, I guess.

Yes, overall it went really well.  And I loved it.  :-)

I'm not sure how to 'transition' into where I want to go next.  Doesn't feel right to say 'However...'.  Or 'There was only one thing that...'.  Because where I want to go next is not just a 'However' kind of paragraph.  It's so much bigger than that.  So much bigger than just 'There was only one thing...'.  It was a cold splash of reality.  A wave of grief - someone else's as well as my own - that caught me way off guard.

That day, I left Levi's soccer game early so that I could go home and get ready for the concert.  I stopped on the way to pick up a pizza for the kids and our sitter to have for dinner.

When I parked, I read a text from my friend, Maria.  She told me that her Jaxson had died that day.  I think he was born on September 23, and he lived almost a month.

Heart. Broken.

Reading that text - hearing that another sweet baby's life had been entirely to short, and that another mom's deeply aching grief was beginning - it did a number of things.

It made me cry.  Weep.

It pissed me off.

It made me want to throw things.

It made me wonder how in the world I was going to go play and sing that night.

It made me wonder why in the world I was going to go play and sing that night.

It made me not nervous (about the concert) anymore.

It made me play and sing with a little different perspective.

It made me want to play and sing - with Maria in mind.

And then it made me cry some more.  And get angry some more.  *sigh*  It's a vicious cycle.

Maria, I love you.  I wish I could hug you and cry *with* you.

I started writing this morning intending to write about this concert as well as that Saturday morning choir rehearsal.  But I think I need to stop here.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Need To, Want To, But...

It's been almost 2 months since our church transition from GF to MPC.  It's gone really well for the kids - they seem to be enjoying the new routine and new friends.  And Jason has been Super-Daddying every Sunday and Wednesday for 8 solid weeks, taking the kids to their Sunday School classes and the worship service and dinner on Wednesday nights.  He's a pretty good guy.  Think I'll keep him.  ;-)

I, however, am having a really hard time.  MPC is where Elliana's funeral was held, and I have such vivid memories of that day.  I have vivid memories of a lot of things - doctor's appointments, conversations, the pool, walmart, band, my phone, the hospital - so many things.  Going back to some of those places has been ok - after a little while.  All of my doctor's appointments, as well as the hospital, were in another city.  I don't go there often.  I'm at MPC regularly, usually more than once a week.  And when I'm there, the memories just kind of 'happen' all over again.

So at MPC, there's a door I can't walk through (all the front doors, actually), a spot in the parking lot where the hearse was parked, there's the room where the service was held, there's an aisle I can't walk down when anyone else is in that room with me, there's the spot where her casket sat, there's the row of chairs where Jason and I sat with my family, there's the area on the stage where the band played and the spot on the floor where a keyboard was set up for me to play.  It's like an image or series of events that is burned into my memory.

This is what I can do at MPC.  I can go to choir practice on Wednesday nights.  And for a while, I was going to band practices in that room on Wednesday nights.  I can walk into the main building through the side doors or the kitchen door.  I can sit on the bench outside of the adult wing a look at the door I can't walk through and the spot in the parking lot where the hearse was parked.  I can walk down other aisles in that room to get to the front.  I can play the piano in there.  I can stand up at the front of that room and talk with other people about how to arrange the choir and orchestra for the cantata.  I can go to the offices and 'talk business' or 'visit'.  

But I can not go into that room, the one where Elliana's funeral was, the one where weekly Sunday morning worship services are, during an actual service.  Or when there are more than, like, 10-15 people in the room.  I'm good with the band people and the sound guys.  And there are a few other people I'm 'ok' with in that room.  

I don't think it's the people.  Well, it is - but it's not that I don't like the people at MPC, or that I think badly of them at all.  I love them, and I'm pretty sure they love our family.  

I think it's... lots of physical bodies in the room.  During a worship service, lots of people in the room feels a lot like the funeral service.  And on a Sunday morning, there are more people in that room than there were at the funeral - it just feels like too much - too overwhelming.  Any other time when there are lots of people in the room, I think the atmosphere would feel too 'relaxed'.  Too loud.  Too 'fun'.  I think that if I were in that room with a whole bunch of people, it would sort of feel like my heart is screaming, but nobody would be able to hear it.


I want to be able to go to MPC on a Sunday morning.  I really do.  And I'm trying.  I've taken a couple of steps.  (By the way, my blog usually feels like 'insight into the crazy lady's mind'.  And this post is definitely par for the course.)  One Sunday, I rode in the van with Jason and the kids to MPC.  I never got out, but I made it to the parking lot.  Another Sunday, I drove over to MPC after the worship service had already begun.  I knew that it was unlikely anyone would be wandering around outside, so I went and sat on the bench outside the adult wing for a little while.  I was ok on the bench.  And then I went in through the kitchen door and up to the sound booth during a little bit of the sermon.  I was not ok in the sound booth.  I really thought I was ready to do that - to be in the room for a short time during a service.  But it was significantly harder than I thought it would be.

This past Wednesday night, I had to go into that room to talk through stage arrangements for the cantata.  And I remember thinking, 'Why does everybody seem to feel like this is... urgent?  Why do we need to decide this tonight?'

And then it dawned on me.  

'Because the cantata is only a little over a month away.'

My sense of time is a little whacked sometimes.

The realization that in one month, I need to be able to stand in that room, during a service, with a whole bunch of people in it, and direct a whole bunch of musicians made me almost panic.  I still can't go on a Sunday morning, and being able to do that feels like a long way off.  I'm going to try to play one song on the 10th (I think) during a service, and I really want to be able to do that, but it is work - it takes energy - and it is emotionally draining - to think about being able to do that.

There's a choir rehearsal in that room on Saturday morning.  I'm not sure what that's going to be like. Maybe it will be fine.  Maybe it won't.  Maybe I'll be in my bossy music zone (I do like to be in charge. (-:  ).  Or maybe I'll fall apart at some point.  And if I do, I know it'll be ok - the choir is a sweet group of people.  I just don't want to fall apart.  Not in front of a crowd.

I need to be able to do this - to get through rehearsal tomorrow, and to participate in the cantata services in December.  And I want to.  I hesitate to admit this in such a public place - I have no idea how many of the people involved in this Christmas thing read my blog, and I'm afraid for them to... ???

What am I afraid of?  It's taking me a minute to figure this out.

I think I'm afraid for them to see my weakness. 

But here it is...

I need to be able to do this Christmas cantata, and I want to.  But right now, I don't see how in the world that's going to happen. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Song

This is the most excited I've been in a loooooong time.

MPC's fall festival is tomorrow, and there is a post-event concert (and bonfire? - I don't even know.  I should, but all I've been thinking about is the concert.) at 5:30.

And I get to play.  :-)  :-)  :-)  :-)  :-) 

So tomorrow evening is the fall festival concert.  (I'm about to ramble.  Don't think I've ever 'rambled' on my blog.)  It'll be on a stage outside, and the sound system is supposed to be really good, and we've been practicing an awesome line-up of music, and we have acoustic, electric, bass, drums, piano :-), a little banjo here and there, and... I could go on and on.

I am so excited.  Almost embarrassed at how excited I am.

I've been thinking this morning about my life's purpose.  I know (and believe) from the Westminster Shorter Catechism the answer to the question 'What is the chief end of man?' Answer: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

So what's my purpose?  Me - wife to Jason, mom to Elijah, Levi, Missy, Seth, Elliana, and 4 little glories I've never held.  Me - this girl who now runs at least a couple miles at least every other day, has a part-time job, likes jewelry & pretty purses, and spends time at a cemetery.

I think I have a few purposes.  Wife and mom are 'givens' - I'm here to love and take care of my family.  Happy to do those things, by the way.  :-)

But I think - and I don't know why I'm so hesitant to say this with certainty - that doing what I'm doing tomorrow night at 5:30 might be one of my 'this is why I'm a human being on this planet' purposes.  Playing, singing, communicating through music and song.

I think that this is what I was made to do.

I think I was made to help lead worship.  As Louie Giglio puts it, 'leading people to an encounter with Jesus'.  I think I was born for this.

I absolutely love it.

It feels somewhat contradictory - hypocritical, even - that what I absolutely love to do is to help lead people in worshiping the very God that numbered my daughter's days.  The God that I'm still pretty angry with.  How is it possible to enjoy leading worship so much and at the same time want to take a sledgehammer to the communion table that sometimes sits in the same spot as her casket did?

(Did I just say that out loud?)

I am not thankful that Elliana had such a broken little body or that she died.  Those things are not good. They are awful.  They're a result of the curse, and I SHOULDN'T like them, and I SHOULD grieve the fact that she's not here with me.  This ISN'T the way it's supposed to be.

But I do know that my Father will take the horribleness and the awfulness, and somehow, He will redeem it (tears).  What has happened is not beautiful.  But I think that today, I can see a little bit of beauty somewhere.  Can't describe it very well.  The concert tomorrow night might describe it better.

A song can rise from the ashes of a broken life.  Even if I don't actively, wholehearted, enthusiastically believe all the truth in the song, at least for today, there is a song.  A whole bunch of them actually.  And I can't wait to sing them.  :-)

I've read through this several times, and I still don't feel great about hitting 'publish'.  But I'm gonna.  Because this INSANE worship leader/grieving mom is so excited about tomorrow night.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Day She Died, The Last Time I Held Her

I'd had c-sections with both Levi and Seth (only times in my life I wished that I had bigger hips), and my experience had been that 12-24 hours after the surgery, the nurses want you to get out of bed, start moving around, and take a trip to the bathroom.  It's miserable and hard and painful.  But... you hear the sweet little squeaks and cries of the newborn behind you in his daddy's arms, and it's totally worth the misery and pain.  :-)

The day she died, I hadn't been out of a bed since about 9 or 9:30pm on her birthday - the last time I threw the monitor cords over my shoulder and waddled to the bathroom.  And that day, October 6, nobody was making me get out of bed.  My nurse didn't say anything about it.  I remember her using the phrase 'special circumstances' in reference to how long they were waiting to get me to move around.

So I laid in the bed with Elliana on my chest the first half of the day, into the early hours of the afternoon.  Jason held her some.  I tried to share.  :-)  

I couldn't see her face well when she was laying on me.  I could see her little blond head, and I could pick up her hand with my finger and look at her tiny little fingers, but I couldn't see her face.  I don't think I realized that until I moved her as we got ready to put her in the bassinet and let the nurses keep her when Elijah came.  I remember that Jason left the room to go get the bassinet.  That's when I pushed the button to raise the head of my bed.  I moved her from my chest to my lap.

She was so cold.  And so limp.

I remember that as I moved her to my lap and could see her face, the ache just got deeper, and there were more tears.  Aching because I never got to see her eyes open.  Aching because I wanted to see her eyes open.  I wanted the nightmare to stop and for my little girl to just wake up.

And aching because I knew that she wasn't going to wake up.  I remember seeing how her color had changed even more.  Her skin was darker.  The extra fold of skin on her upper lip looked different.  

I remember seeing Elliana and whispering to her, and bringing her close to my face so I could kiss her forehead.  And wishing that I could just make her warm again.  Longing to do something to make her warm again.

Seeing her and seeing how her appearance had changed - I felt like I could finally decide on a time for Funeral Home Man to come.  

6:30pm.  Jason and I decided that he could come at 6:30.

After family left that afternoon, we had a couple more hours with her.  We just held her.  I stroked her hair with my finger - a lot.  

Why didn't I think to ask them to cut a lock of it for me?

I remember looking at the clock several times.  Dreading 6:30.

Funeral Home Man arrived at 6:37 carrying a basket lined with blankets.

I don't think there's any way to describe that last moment holding her, and then handing her to Jason.  And I don't think I can describe what it was like watching Jason put her in the basket, making sure she was snuggled carefully and tucked in.

Pain.  It was just pain.  

It's still pain. 

I remember asking if I could see her one more time.  I just wanted to look at her once more, and touch her one more time. 

And then she was gone.  

And I was stuck in a hospital bed, sobbing, not being able to comprehend what had just happened or imagine how I was going to survive.

One more time.  I just wanted to hold her again.

I know I will hold her again.  And it won't just be once more.  It'll be for eternity.  

But I miss holding her now.