Again taking the cue from Mandi (and fulfilling the promise I made a few months ago), I am taking a moment to share the brief time I spent pregnant with Myla.
I had my period in the middle of June. I conceived Myla over Independence Day weekend (a string of weddings has that effect, I guess). I noticed my breasts were super sore around July 8th. I was suspicious, especially when I realized that after coming home from work I'd instantly take a 2 hour nap. I love naps, but I never take them during the week. John lets me sleep late on the weekends (I love that man), but we don't have time to nap during the week.
However, I remember waking up from those naps and giving John kisses on the head for letting me crash. I was confused by my sudden, inexplicable exhaustion. Again, I suspected pregnancy, but I didn't allow myself to believe it for fear of jinxing things.
Finally, as the days progressed, I noticed all of the other symptoms I'd had with Vincent - intense thirst (for someone who never drinks, that's a huge deal), super sore chest (seriously, the girls were on fire), insatiable need for cereal (at midnight - always at midnight) and other bodily signs that I won't bother to discuss.
Point is, by the 15th, there was no denying I was pregnant. I knew it, and I was so excited that I could barely contain myself. Seriously. I must've had the biggest, dumbest grin on my face 24/7. I began devising ways to tell the families. I began looking up "Big Brother" T-shirts for Vince. I even began devising ways to hide my ballooning belly long enough to do a "big reveal" around Christmas.
I'd of course taken a few tests, but just as with Vincent, they came back negative. I didn't think too much of it because Vince's tests didn't show up positive until well after my missed period. My missed period wasn't for a few days yet, so I figured I'd have at least another week or two to wait for a positive.
Finally, that Friday, July 19th, I visited my friend, Mary. At first, I tried to play off my excitement. But I couldn't. She asked me what the dopey smile was for, and I said I was 99.9% sure I was pregnant. Really, I was 1,000% sure, but again, I didn't want to jinx things.
Fat lot of good my superstitions did me.
Mary promptly asked how John would react. I honestly wasn't too worried. I knew he'd be freaked out, I knew I'd be hurt by his reaction, but I also knew he'd eventually be fine and my happiness could not be tainted - even with such a callous response to news of our baby.
En route home, I also asked for prayers from two spiritual sisters I've grown to rely on. I shared with them my news and asked that they pray for a positive test so I could finally go forward with my "reveal" plans for the family.
That night, when I got home, I made the decision to tell John. I honestly couldn't hold it in anymore. I wanted to tell EVERYONE. But I knew it would be a shock to John so I wanted to give him time to process things.
You already know how well that went.
But tell him I did and I was glad.
Unfortunately, the next day, July 20th, found me spotting. Implantation bleeding? I was hoping, but given I would be on the later end of the timeframe for implantation, I doubted it. I still hoped, though. I ignored the cramping and nausea. I put in a call to my OB (who I was scheduled to meet with on the 25th) and she suggested I just relax and see what came of it.
Sunday the 21st I knew for sure. All throughout the night I had been tossing and turning with terrible back pain. I was cramping and bleeding and fully understood what was happening.
It's odd. The physical act of miscarriage was my nail in the coffin. That was my final physical sign confirming what I'd known for two weeks - I was pregnant, and I was losing her.
In losing her, I fully gained her - and that might sound ridiculous, but it's the truth.
I went downstairs and told John. We had our niece's birthday party that day, so he didn't ask many questions. I didn't feel like talking, so that worked for me.
When we got to phase one of Alliya's birthday party (it was at a gymnastics place), I sat off by myself. I felt like crap and didn't want to be near anyone. I felt bad for seeming miserable, so I took a photo of my pink and sparkly flip flop to send to my friend, Theresa.
She had given me these shoes for her wedding (she's the one obsessed with pink). I jokingly wrote that I was wearing something pink and sparkly knowing it'd generate a chuckle and quite possibly an eye roll from her.
She didn't know about Myla yet. She didn't have to. I was just in need of some sort of friendly communication - something familiar to fall back on while I wrestled with the physical and emotional pain of what was happening. Everyone at the party was rightfully happy and excited to be celebrating Alliya. I felt terrible for not being able to feel the same. But I couldn't exactly go home without an explanation, and I wasn't ready to give that explanation. So I stayed, and I tried my very best to be social. However, when everyone was ready to go back to the house for the subsequent party and cake, I took a breather.
I dropped John and Vince off there and claimed I needed to pick up swimsuits from Walmart. In truth, I didn't need to do that at all. I could've easily brought them from home, but I didn't because I knew I'd need an out. So I spent about 45 minutes collecting myself and working through the physical pain of miscarriage.
By the time I'd arrived back, the party was in full swing. I got into the pool with Vince because I hoped the warm water would help me feel better. In truth, it did, but I was also having to catch Vince each time he'd jump into the pool. It was heavy lifting, and in truth, I was really angry with John who left to lie down because he "had a headache."
If looks could kill...
Anyway, after the rain started, we thought it best to go home.
That evening, I sat down and typed out my feelings through a torrent of tears. That is where my "I Was Pregnant This Week" entry came from. I had just finished typing it when my Mom sent me a book entitled Cracks in the Sidewalk (great book, BTW, but a complete tear jerker).
She sent it with a message along the lines of, "I'm not sending this to pressure you or John about children - although I wish he'd reconsider. I'm sending it because it's a good book and I think you'd like it."
I read the first few pages and immediately realized what she meant. The entire first chapter deals with a woman only able to have one child and feeling guilty for being unable to provide more for her daughter.
I wrote her back that it was okay. She was just acting in the name of Divine Providence. I then attached my blog entry because I could not bring myself to say the words out loud.
In the coming days, I mostly felt numb. After the first day and a half of pain, I was fine. I just bled. I called my doctor and asked if I could just skip my visit on the 25th. She wanted me to come in so I could be checked, but I told her women miscarried without seeing their doctors all the time. Truthfully, I just didn't want to go in and be surrounded by a dozen other women with their full bellies and excited baby chatter. My heart wouldn't be able to take it.
She understood and simply said to call her if I developed fevers, increase in blood flow / cramping / etc.
Thankfully, I never had to call. I still haven't. Her office called me about a week later, but I never picked up and never returned the phone call. Terrible, I know, but I guess I just couldn't handle that.
About a week later, I no longer had any pregnancy symptoms. They'd all dissipated with the passing of Myla's tiny body. The realization that nothing was left almost sent me into a state of panic.
Again, though, God's grace abounded and cocooned me in mercy. Now here I am several months later. The emotional pain is still there. Sometimes my entire body rocks as I try to keep the waves of tears inside - especially at Mass when I know she's so close. Other times I feel elated and excited at the thought of having her up in Heaven to greet me one day.
In all things, though, I know I am blessed to have held her within me. Even for how tiny she was... how fleeting her soul was hidden in my womb... I am blessed.
Mandi over at Messy Wife, Blessed Life shared her personal miscarriage experience today. She, too, lost her child early on and as I read through her entry, I kept nodding my head in recollection of my own experience.
After reading her piece, I sent it to John with the a letter that basically said, "I'm sharing this because her experience is similar to mine. I want you to see this through the eyes of another woman - someone you don't have preconceived notions about."
I also was honest and said I was still hurt that he feels I tricked myself into believing my experience was real.
And it does. On so many levels, that bothers me. It bothers me in ways I can't even express.
A few hours after reading Mandi's experience, I came across this one by Sonja Essen. Vastly different from mine or Mandi's, Sonja's experience revolved around relief that the decision to keep her child was taken out of her hands. She miscarried early, too, just as Mandi and I. She, however, was grateful for the miscarriage because she felt unprepared to handle a new child.
Try not to judge her. I admit I recoiled a bit upon first reading it, but I can understand where she is coming from regarding the fear of being unprepared. Truth is, though, no one is ever really "prepared." But that's another discussion for another day.
Point is, her experience, I feel, somewhat mirrored John's. John was most certainly relieved that a child was no longer part of the equation. He, too, had fears and worries that stilled his desire to grow our family. For as much as I noted the similarities between Mandi's experience and mine, I noted parallel similarities between John and Sonja.
I very rarely bring this topic up between John and I because I understand it to be a sore spot for both of us. I don't like making him feel uncomfortable and I don't like the instant thickening of irritation.
However, I don't want to just pretend the issue doesn't exist. It does, and we need to deal with it, even if it's in little bits and pieces. I'm okay with that. These two articles today were beneficial in that regard. They both serve to broaden our scope of experience, even if that experience is gained through sympathy / empathy.
So I'm sharing both with you as well since I promised to chronicle my own experience for others. It is helpful to share these experiences - you never know who may benefit.
I had Vince try on some Spiderman pajamas on Saturday. At first, he loved them because he looked like Spiderman. Then he realized they were one-piece and he felt constricted, so they didn't last too long.
That made me a bit sad because I used to adore the one-piece PJs he'd waddle around in as a toddler. I guess those days are officially over, huh?
Anyway, he was playing with a tabletop bowling set for a while. He'd set the pins up and knock them down over and over again. I looked over at one of his layouts and had to snap a photo - it was impressive!
He'd set up the pins in a very unique pattern, and when I asked him why he'd done that, he said, "Bigger level, Mommy!"
Playing games with John, he's learned to understand that things get harder and harder as you beat previous levels. So instead of the familiar triangle setup most of us are familiar with, he decided this would be the "bigger level" for himself:
Seriously! How creative is that? :) Subsequent levels were more of the same. I was so proud of him coming up with these "levels" all by himself. Patterns... the kid loves patterns. Math of any sort is like Christmas morning. :)
Anyway, when he saw me taking pictures of his levels, he wanted me to take pictures of he and I, then his next level, then him again. Definitely a fun activity for a cold weekend.
That's right, everyone!
Thanks for all the prayers. Little Isaac is finally home. He still has two hernias and is awaiting results from an MRI to diagnose a bulging cyst on his fontanel.
Otherwise, he's home and doing very well. Thank God, right?
My sister is adjusting quite nicely to having him home. She could still use the prayers, though, so please keep her and Isaac in them.
His big sister, Arianna, is also adjusting nicely to her new role. For the last two months, she was only ever able to see him through the NICU window. Now? Well... see for yourself:
Go ahead and take a minute to recollect yourself from the overload of "Awwwww."
I spent a few hours with them while my sister's husband went food shopping. It was nice to spend time catching up with her while holding Isaac and watching Arianna play.
While holding Isaac. Wow. He's now 2 months old and he wasn't supposed to be born until later this week. How crazy is that???
Oh, but God is good, isn't He? Isaac might be tiny, but he's proof of just how much we're loved... just how miraculous each and every life is.
So again, I really cannot say "Thank You" enough. I have no doubt that your prayers buoyed the entire family through a very scary storm of helplessness.
I love the above etching. It depicts Christ the King upon His throne of salvation - the Cross. The words above His crown translate as "High Priest of the Loving Sacrifice."
His wounds bleed forth mercy. His Sacred Heart, pierced, still burns forth love. He's wearing the chasuble and crown which denote His Kingship.
His facial expression is regal. Regal and yet still gentle - merciful.
This weekend, the pastor of a neighborhood parish pointed out something fascinating. During the homily, he repeated the final words of Jesus read from the Gospel reading:
"Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Father pointed out that these were the very last words we hear during the liturgical year. Are they words of condemnation? Are they words of despair?
No - they are words of hope... they are words of mercy.
What's more, they are words of the King promising His servant access to His Kingdom as He sat upon the throne that would open that Kingdom to us.
What a reflection. What a mind-blowing reflection.
These words were directed at a sinner worthy to humanity of crucifixion. Yet to God, He was a child worthy of Heaven.
We would do well to remember that.
See those beautiful gold flowers? They are the most beautiful reliquaries I've ever seen. These uniquely crafted flowers contain the relics of St. Therese and her parents, Blessed Marie-Azélie Guérin and Blessed Louis Martin.
We here in Philadelphia were lucky enough to have these relics sent to us as gifts from France. They were displayed for public veneration for a full week at the Cathedral Basilica. Just beautiful, right?
I ended up coming back again on Saturday with a friend of mine. John opted to stay in the car, but Chrissy, Vincent and I went in to pray before them one last time before they got sent to their final destination - a Carmelite monastery (also in Philadelphia).
Vincent had never experienced public exposition before, so I really wanted him to see this part of our faith while he had the chance. We waited our turn to kneel before the relics and I pulled him next to me. He wasn't quite sure what to do. I think he wanted to touch the reliquaries (which makes sense - they are super shiny!). I told him, "Those are special flowers that have kisses from Heaven in them. Can you thank Jesus for His special kisses?"
Vincent said, "Thank you, Jesus. I love you, Jesus."
He then blew a kiss to the box and I sent him back to stand with Chrissy while I said a brief prayer, myself.
You see, folks, I had asked God to send me a sign last weekend at Mass. Once and for all, Lord, just let me know I'm not crazy... let me know that Myla wasn't just a figment of my imagination. For as much as I believe in my heart that I held her within me, outside pressures kept making me question myself. So I begged God to just send me a sign one way or the other and I would leave it in His Hands. She was so tiny - only about 4-5 weeks.
When I went to the Cathedral on Monday, I had no idea these were there. In fact, when I went in during lunch, there was no identifying information. I looked in the bulletin - nothing. I checked the website for the Cathedral - still nothing. Finally, I called the rectory. The secretary explained that they were relics of St. Therese and they just hadn't gotten around to posting about them yet because it was a last minute thing.
So knowing they were relics that would be gone by Saturday evening, I made sure to get back to properly venerate them and say prayers to Myla's namesake.
Myla was named after St. Therese of Lisieux (Myla Therese). Not only did St. Therese send me a rose to answer my plea for confirmation, God allowed her to come in person to deliver the message. I didn't even realize that until typing out this entry, and I'm crying all over again at the realization that God is so loving and merciful.
All of my nightly prayers and kisses between Myla's guardian angel and mine have not been in vain. My little sweetie is safe and in Heaven and I will not allow outside naysayers to cause me to doubt God's grace again.
My little miracle, only a few weeks on this earth, already lives in Eternity.
Bless the Lord for His faithful servant, St. Therese. Bless the Lord for His gift of Myla.
Best part about this experience is that on the way home, Chrissy was asking me all sorts of questions about St. Therese. I explained a bit about her life, her death (and the shower of roses from Heaven) and how at the end of a novena to her, she lets you know she heard your prayer with a rose.
Chrissy asked me if I'd ever gotten a rose, and I actually said "NO." Granted, I've never done the full novena to St. Therese, and I explained that to Chrissy, but stupid me, I didn't realize that I had just been delivered (TWICE) my first rose from St. Therese.
God must be laughing at my blindness. He must absolutely be laughing. *Grin*
I love you, Lord. Laugh away. <3
I posted this on my FB page yesterday:
No matter the circumstance, no matter the inclusion of hypotheticals, the word "disability" used in reference to my son will always be like a cattle prod to my heart. He is not disabled; he simply goes about things differently. I'd like to think he's just got things figured out better than we do.
Right now, he's playing with a litany of children and they're all following him in a ridiculous game of "Run-to-the-top-of-the-slide-and-scream-your-head-off." His joy gives me joy, and no label can take that from us.
We had just finished the first part of our whirlwind day - the Child Study Team. John and I were thoroughly displeased with the results of that meeting; absolutely nothing was accomplished. As I had feared, it was simply an introductory meeting that established the need for evaluation.
I hate the backwards way our system works sometimes. I had specifically stated I wanted him evaluated when scheduling the appointment. I didn't need to be introduced to their program because I had read all about it online and had asked the case worker about 100 questions before even agreeing to come in.
I get not all parents are as prepared and pro-active as I am, but geez. Don't make me wait a month for a meeting only to tell me that I'll need to wait another three months for the evaluation I specifically said I wanted to begin with.
That sorta thing makes me so frustrated and angry that I'm tearing up just thinking about it. This backwards method is basically saying, "We realize you're in a tough spot and have no real options outside of us, but ya know what? We don't really care. You're on your own until after the New Year because we're legally given this amount of time to twiddle our thumbs."
WHY WASTE MY TIME with a meeting that's sole purpose is to schedule a secondary meeting? WHY?! Tell me what sense that makes!
ARGH - that sort of bureaucratic nonsense makes me want to stab forks through my temples. I hate having my time wasted. I took off from work to attend this meeting only to be told I'll need to take off again three months down the road.
And while this brilliance was being passed back and forth in a tiny room crammed with 5 other adults, my son was happily coloring and showing off his art skills to anyone willing to listen. Everyone politely humored him, but they started throwing out words like "disability" and "special issues" and I instantly felt my stomach clench. I wanted to lash out at them and say, "No. My son does NOT have a disability. He learns just fine and is able to do everything other kids his age can do - even more if we're talking about math or basketball! He does NOT have a disability. His abilities just need to be arrived at differently than you might be used to."
I didn't, of course. It's not as if they were accusing Vincent of being slow or deficient, but how can I not instinctively throw my heart in the line of fire when such labels imply he is somehow broken... something less than other children?
He is not broken. He is not deficient. When the teacher asked him how many beads were on her string, he said "11."
She said, "No, Vincent. Let's count. One, two, three, four, five. Five beads."
Vincent pointed to the other necklace she was still wearing (with matching beads) and said, "Eleven."
That's right. There were 6 more beads on the other necklace that she didn't account for.
Vincent's not deficient. He's not disabled. He just thinks differently.
And God bless him, he was so good throughout the 45 minute meeting. The speech-therapist was surprised he spoke so well given the 2 years he spent mostly deaf. Obviously he's behind his peers, but he picked up in two years what those same peers took four to master.
He's NOT deficient. He's NOT disabled.
Just hearing those words be used - even hypothetically about him (since they hadn't done an eval)... I just hate being thrown into a world I don't understand. I feel like my son is being looked at as a list of pros and cons on a sheet of paper. They see such things as "hyperactive," "loud" and "impulsive" and miss out on his constant affection, his zest for life and his desire to experience 5 things at once because he's just so excited to learn something new.
It makes my heart hurt to think there is anyone in the world seeing him as somehow defective... as something less than the perfect little boy I've been so blessed to have grow up before my eyes.
And maybe it's all just in my head. I'm sure these folks aren't out to get him. I guess this is more a venting post than anything else. I'm venting my fears and frustrations at a system that I don't trust can help my son. And maybe that's because right now, I'm a deer in headlights and the glaring light is distorting my perception of escape routes. I just want to do right by him, and I am terrified that I'm just not going to figure it all out fast enough.
The Pastoral Center of the Philadelphia Archdiocese does something really cool each month. I think the Director of Liturgy, Fr. Gill, sets up a small corner of the lobby to reflect the Liturgical calendar. In May, for example, a beautiful statue of Our Lady was perched atop a column with a gorgeously embroidered Marian banner as her backdrop.
This month, a tryptych-reliquary is open and exposed so that passerby can prayerfully reflect on those saints who have gone before us. Beneath the reliquary is a placard denoting each theca's contents.
I just found the entire set-up to be beautiful.
Sorry the photos are hazy. I was snapping them with my phone.
But you still get the idea. I love that our Church has such a rich history and such beautiful sacramentals. I love even more that we have the Holy Souls who have gone before us who continuously offer prayers on our behalf. I can always rely on my Heavenly family.
May God rain down immense blessings upon the Holy Souls and bring them all closer to their Eternal reward.
So a really sad, but ultimately beautiful, thing happened last week.
After storming out of Vincent's daycare on what proved to be his final day, I realized I'd left his sleeping bag and extra pair of clothing behind. Eventually I'd have to go back to collect them.
Well, I finally made my way back to their building just before close on Friday. The remaining children were all huddled in one room around a TV playing a cartoon. When I walked in, I saw William. He saw me, too, and instantly looked around for Vincent. He said, "Don't bring Vincent back. I don't like him."
Again, my heart hurt. William was sitting off by himself, having been removed from the other children for God only knows what. I said, "Vincent says 'Hello,' William." He turned his face away from me, so I walked over, dropped to my knees and hugged him.
He instantly bristled. He pushed me away and turned his body around in his seat. One of the teachers sorta laughed (either at me, or the situation, I have no idea). I was so, so sad again, because I just had this intense feeling that he doesn't get enough physical affection. So I released him from my hug and walked across the hall to find Vincent's stuff.
When I came back to say goodbye to the staff to let them know I was leaving, William was still sitting at the back table but he called out, "Vincent's Mom!"
I looked back and he said, "Tell Vincent I say 'Hi," too."
I'm not ashamed to admit I drove home crying.
Just a little love. That's all this child needs. Just a little bit of love. Isn't that all any of us needs?
When I showed up for the photo shoot, I was nervous and felt really, REALLY silly.
I mean, who goes and gets pictures taken of herself all "glammed" up?
Turns out I do.
When I walked up to the counter, I didn't know what to expect. The two women inside were beauty people. Nice hair, flawless makeup and cute outfits. Read: intimidating.
Really. That's intimidating to a person like me. You're lucky if you can find me in jeans anymore. I'm a pajama bottom girl. And cute tops? Please. Toss me one of John's old T-shirts and I'm good to go.
Such is the glamours style of Gina. *Grin*
And I'm not even wearing glasses in these. I try really hard not to get photographed in my glasses. I hate the way I look. Annnnd, proof of the glasses and general frumpiness:
So when I say I'm not glamorous, I really REALLY mean that. Even for my own wedding, I wore glasses, did nothing special with my hair, and had a whisper of makeup.
Me and girly stuff just... I just don't know what to do with it.
Imagine my wonder, then, when stylist, Ashley, effortlessly made me look glamorous. I instantly felt at ease with her. I could tell she'd dealt with my type before, because she sorta laughed off my fears that she might have a tough time getting my hair to do anything fun. After years of boring, my hair knows its place, and its place is in a crinkled bun-thing at the nape of my neck.
Not with Ashley, though. She expertly maneuvered my locks around a curling iron. A CURLING IRON, people! Do you know how many stylists have complained about how healthy my hair is? No one could ever get curls to stick because my hair was too soft to hold shape. Ashley didn't even use hairspray.
Which, BTW, I loved. She understood how much care I took with my hair because of donation, so she made sure not to put any sort of product into my hair. Everything you see in the photos was all her. I don't know how she managed it, but she did, and I loved it!
Regarding the makeup, she used an airbrush machine. I've always been curious how they worked, and I was surprised at how quickly foundation went on. It felt like Vincent was blowing into my face after eating a popsicle. The air was cold and a bit soggy if you catch my drift. When I opened my eyes, I looked like a recent victim of Dracula; I was so pale! Ashley had given me fair warning, though, so I wasn't worried.
She quickly layered blush and bronzer to give me color and brushed some eye shadow over my brow while suggesting I should stick with browns to complement my blue eyes. When she attempted to use eyeliner under my eye, she didn't judge my freakish fear of eyeballs and let me line, myself, under her direction.
The entire make-up / hair session went by super fast. Ashley kept the conversation going and didn't think twice about the questions she genuinely seemed interested to know the answers to.
Believe it or not, readers, she asked why John and I only had one child! I was really surprised, but pleasantly so. She reminded me a lot of myself. She can't wait to have children. She couldn't understand why John didn't want more, and I laughed as I tried to explain that society just doesn't value children as much as those of us who do. We view them as fun and rewarding. Society? Hurdles to personal pleasure.
She was just so sweet. I even opened up a bit about Myla. Surprised the heck out of myself. I felt comfortable enough with her in such a short span of time that when she asked if John would accept things should I get pregnant, I told her he would because he did with the little girl I'd miscarried in July.
To think I would have that tentative conversation with a stylist I'd just met. Wonder of wonders! That just goes to show you how amazing she was.
Once the makeup was applied, she told me to get changed into the first outfit. I had brought two vests with me and she helped me pick out the best one to suit the dress I wore with it. How nice was that?
She set me loose in the studio which is, itself, ingeniously designed to save on space and maximize efficiency. One studio had five different "hard" backdrops that you could move through quickly to match a certain style. The next studio had "soft" backdrops that could quickly be unfurled for a change in scenery. There were plenty of props tucked away into every corner that could be pulled and used if the photographer thought it would add to the shot.
Over all, I was really impressed with the set up. Moreso, though, I was impressed by the professionalism and warmth that exuded from the staff. Everyone was genuinely sweet and helpful. They shower you with a thousand compliments because, frankly, they do good work. Each time I was told how beautiful I looked, I shot a nod towards Ashley whose fault it was I looked so flawless.
The photos, themselves, were great. All of the things Ashley had me do ("drop your shoulder, drop your shoulder, always drop your shoulder!") looked natural. That, in itself, is a miracle, because I kept laughing at myself being placed in what felt like super unnatural poses.
Put my arms up? Scoot my butt against the wall? Raise my chin?
My favorite was when she said, "C'mon. Let's try a sexy pose."
I actually laughed. Hard. Miss I-Wear-PJs-and-Old-Tees doesn't do "sexy."
She said, "No, you can do it. It's all in the eyes."
Within a few clicks of me staring up into her camera while trying to keep my hands placed exactly where she'd put them, she nodded to herself and said, "Yes. That's a good one."
I remember thinking Oh, good. She caught me between blinks that time.
Turns out she actually captured the most beautiful photo I'd ever - EVER - seen of myself. I wouldn't call it sexy, because again - I don't believe I can ever pull of "sexy." But I did look beautiful, and I gasped when I saw myself.
When I saw this after the photo shoot was over, I was so taken aback I almost couldn't speak for a quick second. That's not me. She looks nothing like me. She's wearing my wedding rings, she has my blue eyes, and she's even wearing my clothes, but that woman is not me!
And yet she is. She's the woman I sometimes forget I am at 3 in the afternoon as I'm trudging through payables. She's the woman who is hidden under the peanut butter kisses I'm given on the weekends. She's the woman I hope my husband still sees hiding under his favorite wrestling shirt.
I never put much stock into what I look like. Looks aren't important to me. However, seeing this reminder of my femininity when I haven't thought about myself past "Mom" in so long... it was startling. Startling and refreshing. I really did gain a confidence boost, and I didn't even think I needed one.
Ever since seeing myself through her lens, I've made a conscious effort to pay more attention to my feminine side. I haven't started donning makeup or curling my hair, mind you, but I have distanced myself somewhat from the harsher tones of "being one of the guys" and began embracing the soft and gentle ways indicative of women.
So to all you fabulous ladies out there - I do think you owe yourselves this experience at least once in your lives. See yourself through the lens of another... someone who can expertly see who you are and capture it on film. At Glamour Shots, it seems like they've got the process down perfectly. I had so much fun, and this experience really did gently shift my vision of who I am and who I want to be. I appreciate so much more the gift of being a woman.
Thanks, Ashley... and the whole Glamour Shots team.
This is a franchise, so I'm assuming you guys can find Groupons near you! Do it, and then link back here to share with the rest of us!
I was there for about three hours.
Yes, their prices are expensive, but given the amount of work they put into it, I don't mind (especially since they put such great deals up on Groupon!).
They do have a sales pitch at the end, but again, I went in fully expecting that. They weren't pushy, but they definitely know exactly how to make you want to walk out handing over your life savings. :)
They do everything from maternity and family portraits to school and modeling shots. They also do boudoir (which is what my Groupon stated), but obviously you don't have to show up with lingerie to take advantage of their offer.
(Yes, I just blushed while writing that.)
Yes, I do plan to go back. I also purchased a Groupon for family portraits through them and can't wait to see how the family pictures turn out. They did such a great job with me, I can only imagine how they'll capture Vincent and John!
If you have any other questions I missed, feel free to leave 'em below (or message me). :)
Simply because this is one of my favorite parts of teaching Religious Education, I'm going to start a Question of the Day via Facebook.
Each class, I allow my students to try to stump me. They're allowed to ask me any question about Catholicism that they want to. Thus far, I've only been stumped once. It took me a full week to figure out the answer.
This year, the kids have come out swinging, but I've been able to keep my head above water. I'll be posting some of their questions up on the FB page because I've found them to be good refreshers for basic Catholicism.
Yesterday, I asked folks to name 6 of the 12 Fruits of the Spirit. No takers.
Today I asked about one of our Eucharistic linens. A wonderful reader named Georgina made short work of it.
However, I'll keep tossing out random questions. I've got a shoebox FULL of them from my kids. :) We can answer them together!
"Don't come back to school ever again. Nobody likes you. I hate you."
Let the words settle in your ears.
For me, they bypassed every sense I had and cut straight into my heart.
Those evil, terrible words were directed at my little baby boy - a kid whose only crime is wanting to be friends with everyone.
These words came from another little boy in his class - William. Day in and day out, Vincent cries to me about how mean William is. Every night at bedtime, Vincent tells me he doesn't want to go to school because William hits him. Each time I speak to his teacher, it's about William bullying my son.
Yesterday when I picked him up was the last straw. I watched as William shoved Vincent. Vincent, for his part, did not shove back. He only cried and screamed out for a teacher and came running to me saying, "Mommy, see? William hit me. He hit me so bad."
My heart broke. When he cried out to me, it was almost with relief. It was like he was happy William shoved him in front of me so I could have proof that all the mean things he told me about William were true.
I never doubted him. He had the bruises to prove it. Bruises I confronted his teacher about. Bruises I was told resulted from regular child's play.
I knew better, and I was never going to let him be hurt by this child again.
As we were leaving daycare, William snarled at him with the words above.
"Don't come back to school ever again. Nobody likes you. I hate you."
In that moment, I wanted to tear that little boy to pieces. He had the audacity to say such a mean and hateful thing with me standing right next to Vincent! However, God was good. It was as if my persona grew to encompass and protect Vincent. None of the words he said were heard by Vincent because they simply bounced off my protective cocoon. Instead of giving him a death stare, I told him that his words were very mean. Good little boys don't talk so mean to their friends, and bustled Vincent out of the class, never to be seen by that horrid child again.
On the way to my mother's, it was all I could do not to cry. I was so angry that this child had been so mean to Vincent. I was so upset that Vincent had spent a month with him... I felt guilty that I'd had no other option.
But no more. I didn't care if I had to quit my job the next day, there was no way I would ever allow Vincent to walk through those doors again. It was obvious his teacher didn't take William's malice seriously, and it was obvious the other staff didn't care that Vincent was so upset by him.
My husband and I both witnessed him throwing blocks at other students, and John saw him slap a little girl.
As I was stewing over how terrible this child was, I realized that he had to have learned this behavior somewhere. All of my anger and disgust for him translated instantly into disdain for his parents. My heart then broke for William who was obviously the brunt of this behavior at home. No child is born acting this way. No child wakes up and thinks, "I can't wait to terrorize another person."
No. That behavior is conditioned into a child by someone they look up to... someone they trust. And the fact that he acted so hateful in front of me, Vincent's mother, was like a punch to the gut.
Did he not understand that I would shield Vincent? That such mean words would be met with some sort of reprimand?
Not if his own mother doesn't protect him... if his own mother isn't reprimanding a boyfriend or husband or sibling who is saying such things to him.
Do I know if it's his mother? Of course not. But it's obviously someone close to him that has bred such anger within him.
The rest of the car ride to my mother's house was spent in tears for this child. How terrible to be only 3.5 years old and have been influenced by hate to such a degree.
For now, Vincent is being watched by a friend who has a little boy, herself. God was good to give us this option right when we so desperately needed it.
I love this meme.
I have little doubt all of you are well aware, but in case you're not, today is a great day to pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy. It's also a great day to pray St. Gertrude the Great's Purgatory Prayer.
Jesus, in a vision, assured her those who pray this prayer devoutly help release 1,000 souls from Purgatory each time it's said. 1,000 souls. It's the very first prayer I teach to my class each year, and I usually assign - as homework - that they teach it to their families. They feel like little superheros (as well they should, because again... 1,000 people get saved each and every time you pray to God in this manner)!
These souls return our kindness by being some of our biggest intercessors in Heaven. I call on them constantly in times of trouble. They are our brother and sisters who root for us from beyond. So return the favor of their prayers with some of your own. We will very likely need the same one day.
For more information about Purgatory and the blessed souls who temporarily reside there, I suggest this wonderful selection of blurbs - it's one of my favorites!
So aside from the Prayer of St. Gertrude and the Divine Mercy chaplet, do you folks have any particular ways to commemorate the Feast of Holy Souls?
So what possessed me to go have an entire photo session focused on me, me, me?
Truth be told, I was wondering the same dang thing as I walked sheepishly up to the photo studio this evening.
But I was there, Groupon in hand, and there was no turning back. This family photographer was turning in her T-shirt and pocket cam for dresses and smiles.
I do, however, have good reason. Every three years or so I donate my hair to Locks of Love. For those of you not aware, Locks of Love is a non-profit that helps children suffering from hair loss due to illness. They take hair from donors like me and create unique wigs so these darling children can feel just as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside.
So month after month, year after year, I take ridiculously good care of my hair. I'm not vain by any stretch of the imagination, but I am extremely careful about what goes into my hair. I've never really used hair spray or gel, I don't color my hair and I don't cut it into layers. Why? Because all of those things damage hair (or shorten it).
So, in my mind, my hair is sorta like a garden. I treat it with a lot of care as it grows so that when I cut the bouquet, the recipient is able to enjoy it as much as possible. Most people don't even realize I'm doing it because 9 times out of 10, my hair is in a ponytail or messy bun.
My hair is finally getting long enough to donate. I typically wait until I can donate between 20 - 25 inches since that's the length most "in-demand." It takes a long, LONG time to grow out because I go in for regular trims (so as not to donate split ends).
Welp, I just turned 30 this year. The next time my hair would be long enough to donate would be when I'm about 33. That's why I chose to do this photo session.
When I'm 33, I might not be able to donate. Why? Because premature graying is part and parcel for the ladies in my family. I have little doubt I've only got a few months - maybe a year- left of my natural brown hair. I've noticed that in the past several months, my hair has gone from its normal shine to a dull, almost brittle root. My guess is that my DNA is finally beginning to nudge my chestnut locks with a walking cane.
I'm okay with that. However, since my natural hair will likely never be this long again, I wanted to get some photos taken before I chopped and shipped it off.
Also, after my cancer scare a few months ago, I have a nagging fear in the back of my head that should I die, Vincent would forget about me. Since I'm normally the one taking photos, I'm very rarely IN any of them. When I realized that, I got a bit scared that he might forget me - or worse, think I wasn't there for him because it looks like I'm never there with him.
So when I came across a Groupon special for Glamour Shots, I figured at $39.99 I'd be stupid to say no. They do hair, make up and 3 outfit changes. For someone like me (who only puts her hair in pony tails, is uneasy around makeup and isn't the most fashion-forward person ever), it was like hitting the jackpot!
Stay tuned for the surprises my session had in store for me!
So several of you knew I was going in for a photography session tonight. I was a bit nervous because I'd never done anything quite like this before. It was a photo shoot completely focused on me - head to toe. An artist sets you in a chair, sets out your clothes and accessories, does your hair and makeup, then turns you loose in a photo studio with a ridiculous amount of backgrounds.
The experience was simply incredible - on multiple levels.
As promised, I'll be following up with a complete review, an explanation of why I did this in the first place, and, of course, a few more photos. You ladies (and gentlemen) have GOT to hear all about it! I'd write it now if it weren't for the fact that I hear Vincent moving around in bed.
To be continued soon!
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