Friday, July 20, 2012

For Better Or For Much, Much Worse

Since Liv was born, I only coordinate a handful of weddings each year.  Well, since Carpenter was born, only two.  Honestly, when Carpenter was born, I tried my best to get out of doing the weddings I already had booked.  But I couldn't leave people in a lurch, and I muddled through the best I could.  This past weekend was the blessed day for the second of the two couples.  

Now, I know we all say it over and over, but I'm not the same person I was before February 2012.  So, I was pretty concerned about my ability to jump back on such a big horse.  But, doing the flowers, it all started to come back.  Everything felt a lot like my old normal.  

I arrived far too early at the church and began directing people here and there, making sure the photographer got all her shots before the rain clouds moved in.  It was as if I hadn't missed a beat.  People followed my instructions and we kept moving very smoothly.  After I sent a smiling bride down the aisle, I snuck out into the dressing rooms to clean up everything.  It wasn't until far into the ceremony that I had a moment to peek in on the celebration.  

This was the sweetest couple ever.  Still in college, green as they come, but knowing they wanted to be together forever.  I felt myself tearing up (as I always do) during the vows they wrote for each other.  I thought at first that I was just reliving the happiness I felt when Mike and I were married.  But, honestly, I found that for the first time, I truly got the meaning of our words.  

Mike and I are pretty traditional, so we stuck with traditional vows.  For the life of me, I can't seem to find a copy anywhere of our Order of Ceremony, but I do know one statement that we said that day, but I never truly understood:  "for better or for worse."  

We promised each other that "for better or for worse," we would stick together, work it out, and be a family--forever.  And we knew what "better" meant.  "Better" is obviously the easy part.  But "worse?"  Well, "worse" can get so much worse than you ever imagine while you're standing up there, looking lovingly at one another. 

No one tells you that "worse" can mean dealing with your child's death.

There were are days, especially in the first two months after Carpenter died, that I have felt the strain.  I remember one day, I looked at Mike and I said the most hurtful thing I can remember ever saying to him:  "I'm not happy."  And I wasn't.  I was depressed, felt horribly alone, and could barely find any reason to get up in the mornings.  We couldn't find common ground in our grief.  But no one had ever promised me happiness.  He had promised me that no matter how bad it got, he would be there for me.  And that's exactly what happened.  

That "I'm not happy" opened up a whole new side to our relationship, where we realized that we were going to have to work to keep our promises.  Where we realized that "better" had been fun and easy, but when "worse" comes around, it's time to strap in and make sure we get through it.  I can't lie and say I did the most work.  I didn't even pull my own weight most of the time.  Mike carried me through the darkest days, and he's the main reason I can stand to write this today.  

He's sitting behind me right now while I write this, watching a stupid video, with no clue what I'm doing.  So, I'm sure he'll be embarrassed/emotional when he reads this.  But I want to make him a promise now.  Now that I really have a clue what I'm promising.  Mike, I will always be there with you, for better or for worse.  For much, much worse.  Thank you for always being there for me.


Liv's birthday party was last weekend, and as I was choosing who to invite, I found that my friends fall into two main categories as an adult:  family (which includes friends who have been there so long they are now family) and people I've met through my kids.  I think that's pretty much the same for every parent.  Your kids just introduce you to their friends' parents, or their teachers, doctors--whomever.  And out of proximity, frequency or necessity, your introductions blossom into friendships.  But I suppose the strange thing about this process is that even after your children die, they just keep introducing you to new people.  

Carpenter has been a busy bee, increasing his mommy's social circle on almost a daily basis.  

First, I met his nurses, who held my hand through the first weeks, and who I will always consider friends.  Then, he introduced me to Heartstrings Support.  Through them I met Carpenter's angel-friends' parents.  We have dinner once a month.  I talked about Carpenter on Facebook and ended up meeting more of his friends' parents there.  I talk to these women daily, and some of us share calls, texts and letters.  I signed up to receive a hankie from Lil Angels Hankies, and now I'm part of the team!  And a few months ago, while taking Liv for a check-up, Carpenter introduced me to another friend.  

We were supposed to see Liv's original doctor from the hospital nursery.  He's a great doctor, but was on vacation at the time of her 6-month check-up, so we switched.  The match with Dr. A (a woman) was so perfect, we just kept coming back.  At her 9-month check-up, just a few months after Carpenter's death, I was wearing one of my "1 in 4" t-shirts.  Dr. A walked in, stopped, and immediately asked me about my shirt.  Then she confided in me.  Carpenter used his little sister's check-up to introduce me to yet another angel-mom.  

Fast forward to today, and we're back in the doctor's office.  Dr. A, as always, is the sweetest ever, and starts asking me how I'm dealing with my grief journey and tells me about hers.  We had a normal check-up and she left us so the nurse could give Liv her shots.  But before the nurse came in, Dr. A opened the door again.  This time, she brought a different nurse with her.  Carpenter was introducing me to someone new, using Dr. A as his voice.  

I made a new friend today.  A mother who is hurting--just days after her second angel went to heaven.  

I know my son is sending these people to me, or pointing me in their direction.  I know I am supposed to befriend these mothers.  I feel immense pride that my sweet son feels I can be entrusted to help these women in some way.  That maybe I can help make a small difference in how they experience their grief journey.  But most of all, I feel grateful, because I know that for every hand I hold, there are hundreds more holding me up, being my support.  And Carpenter introduced us.  

Love you all, love your angels, and love my sweet son.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

DIY Keepsakes - Screenprinted Blankie

I was so excited when my "boss," Tricia, over at Lil Angels Hankies told me I could do occasional tutorials on keepsakes people could make themselves!  I've got so many ideas I'm really excited about!  Anyway, without further ado, I present the no-sew DIY Screenprinted Blankie!

Wait...Just to let you know, I will always try to keep the keepsake costs under $20.  Okay, done.

You will need:
...a husband who isn't OCD and throws away receipts. to dumpster dive.


You will need:

Modge Podge  $2.99 for small bottle at AC Moore
2 Sponge Brushes $.10 (ACM)
Wooden Embroidery Hoop $1.69 for any size at ACM, so I got large.
Fabric Paint $3.79, but the bottle I got was WAY bigger than I needed. (ACM)
Paper and Pen (or print something out!  Much easier...)
Scissors (which I forgot to add to the picture here.)
Ladies Hose $1.50 at Family Dollar, and I got size Q so I'd have more material.
Fleece $4.80/yard at Hancock.  I suggest getting something on the dollar table to save much more.  (I only got one yard to make a baby blanket, but 2 yards would be a 3x5 feet blanket, and 4 yards would get you a 6 foot x 5 foot blanket.) 

SO, you're spending about $19.65 plus tax if you go with two yards of fabric.

Step 1:  Draw whatever you want to print on your blankie.  OR print it out in black and white.  I chose to do my son's monogram because I think they're super-classy and cute.  :)
 Step 2:  Cut it out!  There's not much I can say to help you out here.  :)  Use scissors. 
 Step 3:  Grab those hose and cut 'em up!  Just slice straight down one leg so it opens nicely.
 Step 4:  Stretch the hose over the hoop.  WOW, did this take forever (ie: 2 whole minutes which is painful in my mind).  Keep stretching and you'll get it. 
 Step 5:  Cut off the excess nylon that's hanging off the edge.
 Step 6:  Put your paper on the nylon. 
 Step 7:  I actually had to use tape to get it to stay.  This worked fine, which leads me to believe a sticker would work pretty well instead of paper if you wanted to do that.
 Step 8:  Use your foam brush to apply Modge Podge EVERYWHERE besides where the paper is... NOTE:  DON'T paint the Modge Podge on the nylon where it will hit the hoop.  That will make the nylon stick to the hoop, which I figured out much too late.  Oh well.  I'll buy a new hoop.
 Step 9:  Figure out just how long this is going to take and lose patience.
 I actually pulled the paper up after I finished outlining it and just finished the rest of the nylon.
 Although I was a nervous wreck this wouldn't work, it was totally fine.  I kept obsessing over "thin" areas, but it all worked very well.  Let your nylon dry for about five hours.
 Step 10:  Cut your fabric so that you have TWO pieces that are the same size.
 Step 11:  Cut slices about 3-4 inches into the fabric, all the way around.  I lost interest in measuring about a minute into it, so I just guessed.  You'll be fine.
 Here's what it looks like. 
 This is what the nylon looked like after about an hour.
 Step 12:  Take the slices and tie them together, bringing together both the top and bottom pieces of fabric.  Go all the way around, but leave a foot of space untied for later.
 This is what the nylon looked like about five hours after...  It's FINALLY finished when it's all clear.
 Step 13:  Lay your blankie out on the floor...  Or if you're fancy, on your scrapbooking table. 
 Step 14:  Stuff a bag into the hole you left earlier.  This will keep the paint from leaking through.  I doubt it actually would seep through the thick fleece, but it did on my test cotton, so I decided not to risk it.

Step 15:  (FIRST, which is where I messed up, unhook your hoop and flip your nylon over so you can lay it flat on the fabric.  You see, the way I did it, my design was basically held about 1/2 inch off the fabric by the hoop.  It worked fine, but I imagine it's easier the other way.)
Lay your hoop on the fabric where you want to paint the design.  Yes, mine already has paint on it.  I had to test it before I did it on the fleece.  Just ignore the paint.
 Step 16:  Squeeze the paint onto your design.
 I just basically drew right over the design.
 Step 17:  Drag a sponge brush over the whole design many times, pushing down to make sure the paint goes through the nylon.  Don't DRAG the nylon, or it will paint more than you want.  Just go slowly and apply medium pressure.
 Thank my husband for getting home so he could take pictures of this part.
 Step 18:  Pick up the hoop!  Let the fabric dry according to the paint directions.  Mine needs to dry about 4 hours.  So, in about two hours, my daughter will enjoy her little brother's keepsake blankie!

Please, if you do try this, share it on the Lil Angels Hankies Facebook page here.

And if you have any questions, just comment below!  I hope you enjoy!
Annie (Carpenter's Mom!)