Let’s Make Inauguration Day (1/20) a Random Acts of Kindness Day, Shall We?

january-18-2017-2It’s January, once again.

Five years ago on January 27th, our first daughter, Callie was born.  And five years ago on January 28th, she died.

Fast forward to the present and as you can probably see, things here on the blog have been pretty quiet.   I assure you that my life has been anything but quiet.  I never made it blog-official that…guess what?  We are having another baby!  A boy!  (He is our third rainbow to be due in April- fun fact!)  I also didn’t tell you that I took a break from teaching this year to stay home with the girls and focus on photography.  I haven’t written here about any of our ups, downs, and in-betweens.  In fact, I haven’t written (at least here) in 9 months!

Because by the grace of God, I’m busy.

The luckiest kind of busy there is.  I’m a mom.

A mom to two healthy little girls and a little boy on the way.

But I’m also an angel’s mom.  And sometimes I feel really badly that I haven’t sat down lately to use this space in the way that I originally intended- to share my love for her and to share her story so that it may impact others.  Does Callie know that through all the busy, hustle-bustle, that she is still there?  In my mind, in my heart, echoed in my actions?  I hope so.

I also know that it’s ok.  My writing is at its best when I’m feeling it, when my words are bursting out of my heart and have to be heard.  And usually, that’s also when I’m feeling pain and heartbreak.  So, it’s ok- it’s actually a good thing.  My moments of pain and heartbreak are still there- just quicker, faster- and the next thing you know, someone needs a snack.  (Doesn’t someone ALWAYS need a snack?!?)  So it’s a good thing that I haven’t written in a while… it means my heart and arms are full.

But… January.

The memories, the pain… it all bubbles up to the surface again.  Just right there, quivering and shaking right below my skin, like an overfilled balloon, stretched to its breaking point.  The slightest of things can poke holes in my fragile January shell and let the pain escape in jagged bursts that takes my breath away.  The feeling leaves, and my balloon fills back up again, but inevitably something else happens and I pop all over again.

This is how January goes.

I wanted to write today for myself, to have a little relief from the build up.  But I also wanted to ask a favor.

Every year, John and I wear yellow on Callie’s days -her birthday, Jan. 27th and her angel day, the 28th- and we always invite others who feel so moved to join in.  We also like to do random acts of kindness during that time period too (Kindness for Callie) and we love hearing from other people about the nice things you do for others.  It means the world to know that her little life can impact the world in such a meaningful way.

But this year, I thought that maybe we could move it up just a little bit.

Zero percent of me would like to engage in a political discussion, but I do think that we can ALL agree that no matter what you believe in or who you stand behind, that this last election was pretty ugly.  I really can’t think of many aspects of it that showed off the BEST parts of our country.

So let’s make up for that now.

On our nation’s Inauguration Day- January 20th-, I’d love it if you would join me in doing some random acts of kindness (and wearing LOTS of yellow!!) to show the kind of love that our country is really all about.  I can’t think of a better way to kick off a new presidential term than to spread love, kindness, and smiles.  For one day, it would be really awesome to not see a nation divided- red and blue.  How about a country, joined together….in yellow!

My sweet friend and I will be delivering the signature smiley cookies (pictured above) that I give to all of my photography clients to a local women’s shelter on the 20th.

What will you do?

Feel free to spread the word.  🙂

Nov. Kindness for Callie

NovemberK4C

 

Oooops!  Half-way through November…how did that happen?  Please join me in thinking of those who are less fortunate this month by doing a Kindness for Callie for those who are homeless or going through a hard time financially.  This is a month where so many of us pause to reflect on what we are thankful for.  Don’t forget to give back!  🙂

Sept/Oct Kindness for Callie

September K4C.jpg

Oops!  Totally forgot to post September’s K4C theme with all the back to school craziness…and guess what??  The theme is SCHOOL!   It’s not too late to do something really nice for the teachers, principals, and other staff members at your local school.  They work hard all school year, but the beginning of the year is so unbelievably stressful and they do their work with such patience and love.  Show them some love!

 

While I’m at it, I thought I’d go ahead and post October’s theme as well since I have the tendancy to be a *little* late with these.  I chose “Fight Cancer” as the theme for October because that is breast cancer awareness month…but I’m certainly thinking of so many others.  When I sat down to write these monthly themes, I didn’t know that September was Childhood Cancer awareness month and I probably would have changed things around a little because of that because of a special little guy we know who is so brave and for his brave mommy and daddy.  Please consider buying a Team Trevor shirt 🙂  I’m also especially thinking of a good friend who is fighting her own battle with colon cancer and has the most amazing positive spirit.  Thinking and praying for you every single day.OctoberK4C.jpg

August K4C: Children & Update on the Garden

Thanks to Carly and Mark for donating Callie's marker.  It's beautiful.

Thanks to Carly and Mark for donating Callie’s marker. It’s beautiful.

 

When Callie passed away, John and I had to make the most heart-wrenching decisions.  I can’t even begin to describe what it feels like to contemplate things like burial vs. cremation when it comes to your baby.  We felt sick, drained, tortured.  What was the right thing to do?  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a “right” thing to do…no rules, no instruction manual, no guide for the path we were walking.  Ultimately, after discussing it with our pastor, we decided to have Callie cremated and buried her ashes in the prayer garden at church, which we later redesigned in her memory.  We marked her resting place with a rock with the inscription, “Sunshine Angel”, because it was just too cruel to see her name and short life written in stone on a grave.

As time has gone on, John and I have gone on a roller coaster of emotions when thinking back on these decisions.  A lot of times, we wish we could go back and change our minds.  We miss her and wish we could be close to her again.  But we know that no matter what we would have decided, the outcome would still be the same.

She is in heaven.

On Earth, her soul dances in the sunlight on wings of yellow butterflies, or floats to the ground on the back of a feather, or pops up when you least expect it in a million different forms.  I see her all the time everywhere I go.  But I know she truly resides in heaven.

Yet even with this knowledge, I began feeling empty when I looked at the spot where she was buried in the garden.  That part of me that had not wanted to see her little name in stone began longing for just that.  I needed to see it.  And I needed others to see it too.  She mattered, she was here, she was loved, and she will never be forgotten.

We put Callie’s new marker in the garden last month.  Just this past Sunday, we visited her after church and after watching John and I put a kiss on the stone, Charlotte bent down and touched her big sister’s rock just as sweet as could be.  I’m not sure she will ever understand just how meaningful that was for us but it was a beautiful moment that I wanted to share with you.

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AugustK4C.jpg

This summer is going faster than the blink of an eye.  I’ve loved every sweet moment of being home with Charlotte.  She is so active and fun and her smile lights up a room.  This month for Kindness for Callie, the theme is “children”.  I’ve always had a soft spot for kids, but even more so after becoming a mom.  I hope that you can find a way this month to do a little act of kindness to brighten a deserving child’s day!

 

 

 

June K4C: Animals (Really Late!!)

June K4C

 

Well, since June is almost over, I thought it would be a great time to share the June Kindness for Callie theme which is ANIMALS!  Man, I feel so badly that I didn’t post this earlier, but the end of the school year is always a busy time for our family.  I’m going to have to double up on my acts of kindness next month!  I’d love to hear your ideas for random acts of kindness that involve our furry (or feathered! or scaly!) friends 🙂

Kindness for Callie: April is “Special Needs” Month

What if?

What if her heart had not stopped?  What if they had revived her sooner?  What if we had known beforehand?

I can’t help but think about the ‘what if’s’ often.  Of course, our life is so different now because of Callie’s death.  There is no way to come away from something like that untouched.  It affects our very being, our core beliefs, and of course, changed the trajectory of our life path.  Without Callie, Charlotte would not be a part of our lives.  I cannot even fathom that possibility.  No, as much as I wish the cruelty of it all had never happened, I would not trade this place I stand today.

Yet… there is that voice of wonder, of curiosity that whispers (it used to shout) to me.  What if?

I hear the voice when I lay down to sleep sometimes and I am talking to Callie.  In my mind, I talk to her.  Ask her about her day.  Tell her about mine.  I tell her I miss her and that I haven’t forgotten her…even on the hustle-bustle days when her memory is deeper in my mind than I like it to be.  I try to picture her in those moments, our conversations.  Sometimes she is the newborn I knew for such a short time, too short…sometimes surrounded with medical equipment, sometimes just bundled in my arms.  And then there are the other times when I try to imagine what she would look like today.  Right now.  Two years old.

With neonatal Marfan syndrome.  

I see her when I see other children with Marfan syndrome.  I picture her when I see news stories about children with disabilities or special needs.

I know how different our life is because she died, but often I think about how drastically different our lives would be if she had lived.

Countless doctor appointments.  Scary surgeries.  Physical limitations.  The cruelty of others who do not understand.  The fear that we would have been living knowing that at any minute that we may lose her.

How would we have handled it?  What would we be doing right now, today?

We’ll never know.  Callie was spared many of these difficulties and that thought gives me comfort most of the time.  But, I have to say that I feel mad for her too.  Mad that, even though she would have faced hurdles and difficulties, she was robbed the opportunity to experience the joys of this life on Earth.  And those dreams were stolen from us too.  I know I would have loved being able to take care of her, no matter how difficult it would have been.  Even a difficult life is one worth living.

Life is love.  Life is joy.  Life is hope.

I just have to hold on to the knowledge that the eternal life she is living in heaven is filled with the same love, joy, hope, and the riches of being with God, filled with peace, and surrounded by angels without all of life’s pain and hardships.  That’s what keeps me going.

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K4C-April

This month for the Kindness for Callie project we are honoring those among us who have special needs or who love someone who does.  Clearly, my heart will always be close to these types of causes and I hope that we can all work together this month to bring love, joy, and hope to someone else who may be facing great challenges in this life.

Ideas for April:

-Offer to babysit for free for the parents of a child with special needs so they can have some much needed time to themselves, whether it be to go on a date, take care of errands, or just take a nap 🙂

-Sign up to be a Special Olympics volunteer.

-Send in flowers, a special lunch, or Starbucks to the special education team at your local school.  They work SO hard and care SO much!  In fact, while you are at it- throw in something for the classroom teachers, specialists, assistants, and principals as well.  Education is a team sport! [without the multi-million dollar contracts 😉 ]

-Research a local animal/pet therapy organization and volunteer, donate to them, or train your animal to be a therapy pet.  In the northern VA area, here is a center for equine therapy.  I can personally attest to the power of watching highly trained dogs (so many are Goldens!! love them!) working with children and adults with special needs.  It’s a beautiful thing.

-Organize a team for a local walk that benefits a charity such as Autism Speaks.   (April is Autism Awareness month!)

-Sponsor the cost of medical equipment or a wheelchair for a person with special needs or physical limitations.

-Make a financial contribution to organizations that help those with special needs and their families.  Here are a few excellent nonprofits that I’d like to throw the spotlight on:

GiGi’s Playhouse:  is an established series of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers, serving children and adults of all ages providing educational and therapeutic programs at no charge to families

Autism Speaks:  has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families

The Morgan Project:  promotes awareness and facilitates support of parents caring for their children with special health care needs, and to enhance the quality of life for these special families

United Cerebral Palsy:  educates, advocates and provides support services to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities

I could go on and on, but I’d love to know if you have a charity or nonprofit organization that benefits people with special needs that is near and dear to your heart that I didn’t list above.  Leave the name (and website if possible) of your favorite one in the comments below!

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Thanks so much to those of you who supported the March K4C “Seniors” theme last month.  I heard from LOTS of people who shoveled driveways for elderly neighbors with all of the snow we had this winter.  Another friend told me about buying bus tickets for a senior citizen who relies on public transportation.  My sweet friend, Mabby, took a different spin on the theme by giving a neighbor’s ‘senior’ dog some fancy dog treats.  LOVE IT!  Thanks so much for the incredible support.  Can’t wait to hear all of your K4C’s for April 🙂

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Callie’s garden update:  This year we will not be doing one big garden spring cleaning.  Instead, we are meeting once a month along with some church members to garden a little bit at a time.  We’ll be gardening on Saturday, April 12th and already have 3-4 volunteers signed up.  We could maybe use 1-2 more if you are interested!  The next gardening date is Saturday, May 17th.

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By the way, I’m sorry that I’m posting this a few days late!  I’ve been working hard on my photography skills lately and it’s kept me pretty busy lately:)

Check out my photography sites:

http://kristincornelyphotography.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/kristincornelyphotography

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a rainbow birthday party to plan for!  😉