2018 in Retrospect

This has been another crazy year. It never sounds like it until you sit down to post about it, but wow.

In typical fashion of a combined family as large as Tony and I’s, we had a wedding. We were invited to two, but were only able to attend one, my cousin’s. Don’t we look spiffy?

In what is becoming a sad tradition, we attended a funeral as well. It seems for every wedding we attend there is a funeral to pair with it. An amazing woman, who has been deeply involved in Tony and I’s lives since we were teens passed away unexpectedly over the summer and it is still hard to process that grief.

At the beginning of the year, we built our beautiful new kitchen, still not complete, even though we’ve been using it since March.

It has been just over a year since my brother, Josh, moved in with us and he has been an amazing addition to our home. Tony and I have been able to enjoy more nights out together, the kids have enjoyed him immensely, so there is really no downside to having him here as he attends school.

Half way through the year I adopted a habit tracker system to help keep me organized, which worked brilliantly until November rolled around. I’ve been taking the dog for more routine walks, which has been good for both of us. Getting out in to the air, spending quiet time with the silly Zuko, has been great for me personally.

I completed my first reading challenge on Goodreads, 120 books this year, with no rereading. I have found so many amazing series, Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorns and Roses, some embarrassingly delightful smut novels, etc. I’m looking forward to next year where I can continue my “no rereading” policy.

I was able to attend a Halloween book signing at Turn the Page bookstore, Nora Roberts, obviously, and the amazing Karen Marie Moning, another author I discovered this year. One more signing off that particular bucket list!

The family and I took a fall trip to New Jersey to visit Tony’s grandmother and had an amazing time. The boardwalk, the ocean, and time with family are always a fabulous addition to the year.

This year promises to be just as amazing. Italy coming this summer. Meet and greets with more authors I’ve fallen for. Putting the finishing touches on the kitchen, and who knows what else!

I hope your year was meaningful. Just remember that a year doesn’t have to be about checking off boxes on your bucket list, or visiting exotic locales. It can be about time spent with family, achieving a personal goal, or even something as small as how many books you read. Perhaps you survived another year at a job putting you through college. Whatever it is, celebrate the year that has past, and embrace whatever is coming. It’s going to be good, I know it!

September Habit Tracking

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Month two of habit tracking and it’s funny to see how I do with different activities. Last month I did amazing with exercising and doing my yoga almost every day. This month I really fell off the wagon with it.

My sweet Zuko

I did much better this month on taking my dog on a walks. We managed almost every day after a weekend away for a wedding. It helps a lot that we have been having some beautiful autumn weather here! Although we did enjoy a few light showers during some of our walks.

Maintaining my social media (Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, character accounts) has gotten easier to do since I use my lunch hour to take care of those things.

I found something on Pinterest that said, “instead of saying you don’t have time, just say ‘it’s not a priority right now’. See how that feels”

That hit me pretty hard because looking at how much time I spend writing, it’s clear I’m not making it a priority. New goals for the month of October will include making writing more of a priority. You have to write if you want to be a writer!

Are you keeping track of any habits? Do you notice a difference from month to month?

Life is Loss

Life is loss, but it’s better than this

Magnus Bane said this in City of Heavenly Fire, the this he’s referring to, being a false reality. I have to agree. Life is a series of losses. If you’re lucky, as I have been, the loss is balanced with love, friendship, and a sense of accomplishment.

This weekend a dear woman passed away. She was the mother of six, grandmother of 3, wife, Christian, and a mother to anyone who passed through her life. From the time I met her, at the age of 12, she treated me the way she treated her own children. Love, compassion, a firm hand, and a sense of fun.

One of the memories that stands out the most for me is the summer I was 14. My friends and I were skinny dipping in the river, with boys of course, and she just came walking down to the drop off and in her sternest voice, ordered us out of the water and back to the house. She made the boys get out first, staring in eagle eyed disapproval as they dressed and left. After we were back at her house, she told us what we did was wrong, then reminded us that the river ran through the back yard, and if we wanted to skinny dip, the smart place to do it was there.

How can you not love a woman, a mother, like that?

Her children became additional siblings to me. Her home was mine. Her shoulder was mine to cry on. The night I got engaged, she was one of the first people to congratulate me and hug me. It’s hard to believe that I won’t ever see her again, or hear her hollering at her kids, or the neighborhood kids, while they run tame, in and out of her front door.

My grief usually processes differently. I pin that fact on my reading. Diving in to a fictional world so easily allows me to handle my grief until the funeral, where I cry at saying goodbye. It didn’t hit right away, but my grief over this loss is coming in waves. Loss is painful, as it should be when you lose someone you love. All you can do is hold on to the happy when the sadness comes. That’s what I will try to do as I say goodbye to this amazing woman.

Goodbye Doris. I love you for being a mother to me, always loving and believing in me, and for finding joy everywhere you look. It’s the most inspirational thing you taught me and I’ll hold on to that the tightest.

In this house we do Geek

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I know I just did a Disney version of this, but both apply to our family, so yes, I did both! They were both so much fun, and they perfectly describe me. After all, how many people are out there that love both Disney and the Fandom life?

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This one features the following movies:
We believe in Magic – Harry Potter
We go on Unexpected Journeys – Hobbit
Going where no man has gone before – Star Trek
In galaxies far, far away – Star Wars
We assemble and defend – Avengers
We know the answer to everything is 42 – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Family don’t end in blood – Supernatural
We’re all mad here – Alice in Wonderland
The odds are ever in our favor – Hunger Games
All the stories are true – Mortal Instruments
We aim to misbehave – Firefly

I had the second frame from Goodwill, so now I have a beautiful pair of pictures, just waiting for me to find the right spot on my walls…..

What fandoms inspire you? Which quote would you choose for your print?

In This House We Do Disney

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Another Pinterest success! I love things like this, and I’m happy that it suits our family. I can’t provide credit because my pin tells me the Etsy listing is no longer valid. I did change a lot of the sayings to suit my own preference, so here’s what I ended up with:

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Just keep swimming – Finding Nemo
Let it go – Frozen
All it takes is faith and trust and pixie dust – Peter Pan
We’re all mad here – Alice in Wonderland
At last we see the light – Tangled
Never lose sight of what’s really important – Princess and the Frog
To infinity and beyond – Toy Story
Giving up is for Rookies – Hercules
Want adventure in the great wide somewhere – Beauty and the Beast
The right path isn’t the easiest one – Pocahontas
Hakuna Matata – Lion King
Bear necessities – Jungle Book
Makes the world go ’round – Sword in the Stone
Life’s no fun without a good scare – Nightmare Before Christmas
Our fate lies within us – Brave
There’s always a way to turn things around – Inside Out

Yes, I did use fun fonts. I went to fontspace.com which has a ton of amazing fonts. I think I downloaded about 15 different fonts!

Then it’s just print it out, I used some very fancy paper I had leftover from my Happily Ever After couples project, and frame it up. I raided some thrift stores this afternoon and found two like this. There were some flower paintings in the frame, but I cut those right out. Now I have this fun project to hang on the wall, I just need to find the right place…..

If you decide to make your own, feel free to use my wording, or make up your own. What from Disney inspires you?

Gabriel Michael

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I’m sure many of you have seen the posts on Facebook about October being pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to write about this, as it is very personal to me and can make some people uncomfortable.

What do you say to someone who has lost a child? There is nothing you can say to help, so all you are left with is “I’m sorry”. That doesn’t help, but it’s all you can say.

I got pregnant in December of 2008. I knew right away, as I had always been hyper aware of my body, I knew almost right after Arthur was conceived and had to wait two weeks to take the test. I waited until I was actually late to discover I was pregnant this time too.

I had used a midwife with Arthur, one attached to an actual doctor, and I loved the relaxed way of dealing with my pregnancy, but having the comfort of knowing a doctor was on standby for any problems. It was such an amazing pregnancy and birthing experience that I found a doctor in Ohio with the same ideals.

Everything seemed to be bopping right along, I was growing the way I should be, the heartbeat was strong when they did the checks, so we had no worries.

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It’s hard to tell in this picture, but I was just over three months pregnant. Arthur and I flew out to CA, with my doctor’s ok, for my brother’s boot camp graduation. That’s why I’m wearing the Marine hat!

April rolled around and it was time for my ultrasound to get approximate size and weight and maybe discover the sex of the baby. Tony and I went in, ready to know if we were having another boy or getting our little princess.

The ultrasound tech had barely started when he called in a doctor. The doctor took a quick look and said he wanted to refer us to a specialist. We didn’t think too much of this. While pregnant with Arthur I was referred to a specialist too. That had been because he was so cramped in there that one of his tube was a little more kinked than it should’ve been. He came out perfect, so no worries, right?

It seemed a little odd that they wanted us to go directly to the specialist, but still not a big deal in our minds. We made the drive to the specialist, a little miffed that we didn’t know what we were having, but not worried.

This doctor was a very straight shooter, which I can appreciate, even though he ripped my world apart. Their tech did a check, didn’t say anything and then we were put in the doctor’s office.

Our child, sex undetermined, was not going to live. The first words he actually said were, “This baby has a serious problem and will not make it.” What do you say to that? He went on to explain that there had been a blockage in the baby’s ureter, the tube that goes from the kidney to the urethra and it had burst, leaving waste inside the babies body and polluting the amniotic fluid as well. There was nothing we could’ve done to prevent it, again no comfort in that, and we should induce and deliver right away.

Leaving the hospital that day, after agreeing to set a date very soon, Tony broke down in the parking garage, devastated. He was fixated on the fact that even though we were losing the baby, we didn’t know what it was.

We made the calls to our parents, also determining the date of April 8, so that my mom could come and stay with us. It also allowed us a weekend to go and see Tony’s parents for more emotional support before we had to do this.

Before making the quick trip to NY to see Tony’s parents, I had to go back into the doctor’s office to sign paperwork. This was it’s own tragedy. Inducing labor at 20 weeks, constitutes abortion. I had to sit through all of this paperwork, they had to show me by law, and sign that, yes, I understood that this could kill my child, yes, I had been informed of the option of placing the child up for adoption. It was killing me. I was also given the horrifying decision of going through normal labor and delivery, giving me a baby to at least see and hold, or abortion procedures, meaning my baby would most likely be in pieces. I chose labor and delivery.

While in NY, I didn’t even want to be around anyone. My brother-in-law’s bride-to-be was having her wedding shower and I couldn’t stand to go. I laid around the house, cuddling my almost two year old.

When we got home, it all went so fast. My mom arrived and suddenly it was April 8th. We left Arthur with our sitter, made the drive to the hospital and began the medicine necessary to induce labor. They came in at one point, while mom had gone to check on Arthur, to check the baby’s location through the heartbeat and drain some excess amniotic fluid to speed up the process. The baby’s heart had stopped. That was when I had to stop hoping for a miracle.

The hits just kept coming as they probed my stomach with a giant needle. If you’ve had an amniocentesis, you know what I’m talking about. The drained a large amount of fluid.

My mom returned to me in tears. My baby was actually dead inside me. Not dying, but already dead.

The delivery went quickly after that. My child was born and taken from the room so they could get him cleaned up for me. They brought him back in a little basket.

They were able to tell me it was a boy, my little Gabriel Michael. He was 10 1/2″ long, 1lb 5oz. Half the length and a tenth of the size of Arthur at birth. I could hold him in one hand. They warned me before hand that he was discolored. When he died, his oxygen levels depleted, changing his color.

This image may be disturbing, but this is my son, the only way I’ve seen him, so please be kind:

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Here was this tiny little boy that I would never get to raise. I would never breastfeed him as I did Arthur. He would never grow up and replace this one image I will always have of him.

The staff at Akron General was amazing. They gave me a memory book, containing his stats at birth and his footprints.

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This and a few other things are in my Gabriel Box. There are hospital bracelets that he never wore, a blanket that he was never wrapped in and a hat that never sat on his head.

I had the option to stay overnight in the hospital, but all I wanted to do was get out of there. I wanted to go home to my living child and hold him tight. I wanted to grieve in private. Before leaving the hospital there was more paperwork to sign, allowing the funeral home to take Gabriel’s body for cremation.

After a night at home, we went to Things Remembered to find a container for his ashes. I found a beautiful container, intended for first communion.

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Inside this tiny container are the remains of my son. It is engraved with his name and the day he was delivered.

The grief is hard enough to deal with. Unless you have lost a child, either a stillborn child you have held in your arms or a living child who has been lost, please do not tell anyone experiencing this that you understand. I’ve had a miscarriage, before Gabriel, and that is a sad and terrible thing. I would never take away from someone’s grief over a loss. A miscarriage is still a loss of a child, but to me it was the loss of the idea of a child. Tragic, yet undefined, is how it felt to me.

Losing Gabriel, knowing his heart stopped before he came into this world felt like a failure on my part. It didn’t matter what the doctors said, what my friends said or even other parents who had dealt with this said; this was my failure. My job as his mother was to let him grow, safe and warm inside me. My son never developed beyond 20 weeks. What had I done wrong?

There is no answer. It has been 6 1/2 years since I held Gabriel in my arms and I can tell you there are no answers. If you’re going through this, wondering when the grief will stop, it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s supposed to stop. Don’t worry, it doesn’t destroy your life.

I don’t think about him every day, not even every month anymore, but every once in a while, I will see something and he’ll pop into my head. It could be someone with 2 boys the right age, or it could even be meeting someone named Gabriel. Anything can trigger it and I don’t know what will bring it on.

You reach a point where you don’t want to talk about the loss. People don’t want to hear it, not out of meanness, but because they don’t know what to say. You learn to bring out those memories and grief in private. I’ve recently added to my back tattoo, the one with my children’s names, it now includes Gabriel.

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The Celtic owl is the Guardian of souls, so that is why I chose that image, but it felt empowering to put his name on my body. He is my son, not was, but is my son. Whether he is here with me now or already gone from this world, he will always be my son.

If you have lost a child, I can sympathize with you. Do not let anyone tell you how to grieve. Do not let anyone even imply that you should be moving past your grief. If they have not experienced the loss first hand, and are offering anything other than sympathy or condolences, ignore them.

For all the parents dealing with loss, my condolences. You are not alone in your loss.

Fili and Kili

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How many of you have seen The Hobbit trilogy? It’s amazing! If you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend it! The world that J.R.R. Tolkien created is vast, rich in both detail and history, making all of us long for a chance to visit Middle Earth. Preferably after Sauron has been defeated anyway!

One of the most amazing things about this works, at least from my perspective, is the characters and the relationships they form with each other. While there are love interests, Aragorn and Arwen, Kili and Tauriel, most of the relationships in these stories are those of family and friendship. In particular, I’d like to talk about Fili and Kili.

These are two brother dwarves, they are part of Thorin Oakenshield’s company, on a quest to reclaim their home of Erebor. They are descendants of the house of Durin, Thorin’s nephews.

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When we first meet these brothers, it is at the home of Bilbo Baggins, during Gandalf’s arranged party. I love this picture because it shows Fili, completely confident, ready to do what comes next. Kili on the other hand looks almost nervous, which we quickly learn is not his default. He’s usually self assured and ready with a joke.

Kili was a personal favorite of mine, partially because of his love of Tauriel, but mostly because of his upbeat attitude. Even when locked in an elvish prison, he’s making jokes and flirting. Fili is a little less in the forefront of the movies, but he is a steady presence, always there for the others in the company and especially his brother.

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When the company arrives in Laketown, Kili is deathly ill after being hit with a poisoned arrow. Even though they are so near their destination, the home of their ancestors, Erebor, Fili refuses to leave his brother.

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Then here we have one of there last moments together.

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IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIES OUT READ THE BOOKS, STOP READING NOW!!

On Ravenhill, where Thorin has brought his best fighters, including the brothers, to hopefully kill their enemy, they’re still a team. They are ready to face whatever danger there may be together. I was devastated when Fili was killed, his body tossed to the ground like it was nothing. Seeing his brother dead, Kili leaps into a fight he can’t hope to win alone.
Luckily he is not alone, Thorin and Dwalin joining the fray, along with Tauriel and Legolas. Of course Mr. Tolkien and Mr. Jackson give us enough hope, so much that we think he may survive, only to have us see him die, right before Tauriel’s eyes.
The only solace I can take from this if that he would not want to live on in a world without his brother. Even with Tauriel’s love, he would have mourned the rest of his life.

SPOILERS OVER
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So many books or movies today focus strongly on love stories, there are of course exceptions (Harry Potter), but being so rare, it makes these tales so much more endearing. Out lives, after all, are not strictly about romantic love. Or lives are the sum of all the love we have, from that we feel for our parents, love of siblings and friends. Romantic love should be important, but not all. Fili and Kili are the perfect example of how love can be all consuming without being romantic. Would you be willing to die for your brother (or sister)?