Friday, July 27, 2012

Death Talk: Regrets

I think regrets get a bad name. I often hear people say that they have no regrets, and that if they could go back in time, they wouldn't change a thing because their past made them who they are now.

I don't agree with that. There are a lot of things I would like to change in my life, and if I could go back in time I would try to change them. As a result, I would be better/happier than I am now because I could have learned things the easy way.

Regret is a tool. It goes along with guilt to help us recognize mistakes and motivate us not to make them again (and fix them if possible). It only becomes a problem when we can't learn from them and move on with life. Some people poison the rest of their lives by holding onto regret/guilt etc. instead of learning from it and letting go.

I have found for me that prayer and relying on my relationship with the Savior and Heavenly Father has really helped me let go of these feelings and move forward with a positive outlook on life.

Here are some regrets I have from my time with Peter that I will learn from and remember moving forward. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes as well so you don't have to make them yourself- or at least consider them if you are ever faced with similar choices and make the decision that is right for you with this additional information.

1. Funeral- For Peter's funeral we had a viewing an hour before the service started. The open casket was set up in the overflow area between the chapel and cultural hall. We stood a few feet away from his casket to meet people as they came in to see him. My regret is standing in the viewing area itself. Some people would have liked to come up to us and talk to us, but were uncomfortable seeing his body, so as a result they didn't get to talk to us at all because we were in there the whole time.

Next time: I would stand in the foyer right outside the door to the viewing area, so that people can come up to us and talk without having to go see his body if they didn't want to.

2. Funeral- After the funeral service at the church we left and had a private graveside service and grave dedication and watched his body being lowered into the ground. I had decided beforehand that I didn't want to go back to the church to socialize and have a luncheon, so then we just went home after the burial.

I have mixed feelings here. At the time I didn't know how long I would want to stay at Peter's grave site and I didn't know if I would want to talk to anybody after the funeral and burial. I think it was smart (for us) the way we did it, but I do regret not being able to visit with some of the people who got to the funeral right as it started (we were already seated in the front) or who were not comfortable coming into the viewing area.

Next time: Not sure- maybe the solution was already stated earlier by standing in the foyer to visit before the service instead of the viewing room where not everyone was comfortable. Also, maybe I would go back and have a lunch afterwards in order to visit. It's hard to say. I don't know the solution to this one, but it is something to consider.

Another idea I have considered is to have a memorial on Peter's birthday and invite friends, family and nurses, etc. to our home and remember his life and have the opportunity to visit and talk about him and celebrate his life and memory. I think that would be nice. We will see.

3. Lock of hair- I regret not getting a lock of Peter's hair. His hair was so short I'm not sure if it was really possible to cut some, but I wish I had some looking back on it now. It would be so nice to have a little bit of him still. Clothing, stuffed animals, and/or jewelry from the person is nice, but I really wish I had a little bit of him too, to put in a locket.

Next time: Don't be shy. Ask the funeral home to cut a lock of hair for you- they all do it. Just ask.

4. Home- I regret having Peter's bed in our bedroom the first week he was home and while my dad was still here to enjoy him. Once we moved Peter's bed into the living room he was much more involved in our every day activities instead of sleeping peacefully all day and night in another room. It was also nice for me to be in the living room visiting instead of having people come back into our room, or me just being alone in the back while guests were in the kitchen or living room.

Next time: Make the living room his room- incorporate him into our active lives.

5. Video- I took a ton of pictures of Peter, but I wish I would have taken more video clips. Especially at the end when he was so sick. I don't know why, but I wish I could go back and remember what he sounded like near the end- even though it was awful and made me cry even then, (and made me pray to Heavenly Father to release him from his pain) I wish I could remember and see that time with him again.

Next time: Take video of all the times and moments, not just the pretty or good ones.

6. Pictures- I wish I had taken pictures of all the people that had the chance to visit and meet Peter. I have a few pictures of friends holding Peter, but I wish I had taken a picture of everyone who had the chance to hold him. It would be nice for me, and several people have told me that they also wish they had a picture of themselves holding him too. I especially wish I had a picture of our Hospice nurse holding Peter. She was such an important person to us and impacted our lives so much. I wish I had a picture of them together.

Next time: Even more pictures!

This is the night before Peter died. This picture makes me cry, but I am so glad I took it and have it now to look back on. 

Anything you would add to this list from your experiences?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Friendship Brunch

In our part of Texas we have a lot of people move in and out of our area and it can be hard to step out of your comfort zone and make new friends. 

We decided to make things a bit easier for everyone by having a Friendship Brunch to help ladies get to know each other and introduce themselves. We had name tags for each lady to fill out and put on so that we could all learn and remember each others names. 

We had an amazing crepe bar with delicious crepes with all kinds of fillings. My favorite was fresh strawberries, cool whip, cherry pie filling, chopped pecans, and powdered sugar. Mmmm. 

After we were done eating we had a get-to-know-you Bingo where you had to have each lady sign a square where they fit the description. For example I could sign the following squares: lived in another country, went to BYU (I), plays tennis, loves to eat, loves to cook, etc. 

Next we had a lady share her experiences learning how to love like the Savior loves, and seeing each other as sisters and children of God. Another lady shared different kinds of friendship and her experiences making new friends and putting herself out there to make connections.

We finished the afternoon with Speed Friending (like speed dating) where you sit across the table in two rows and after two minutes one side of the table slides down and talks to the next sister sitting across from them. We had prompts and questions written out for each lady in case they needed help knowing what to talk about for the two minutes. It was a really great way to make sure you got to meet each lady there and learn something new about them.

Lastly we had each lady write on the back of their papers two truths about themselves and a lie and have the lady across from them guess which was the lie. A few ladies read theirs out loud and we had a great time learning about them and guessing what they had done. 

This activity was a great success and I think we will do similar activities in the future. 

What kinds of games or activities do you like to do, or has worked great for you in the past to get to know people? Suggestions for future get-to-know-you activities? 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Death Talk: How many children do you have?

When people first meet us there is the eternal question of what to say when they ask, "How many children do you have?" 

I have done it two ways.

1. Say, "Two. Lucy, who just turned two, and Peter, who was born in October and died in November."

2. Say, "One. Our daughter Lucy just turned two."

Now, there are obvious problems with both approaches I've used. In the first approach there is an immediate need to clarify and explain that your second child just died- it was a chromosome abnormality, but it's okay, thank you for your condolences, but really, it's okay- we're okay.

This is really awkward for everyone involved and then you have to decide whether to go into the whole story  (which can be a bit much), or just change the subject. They don't know what to say, you don't know what to say, but at least they know now. You got it out of the way and you can move on with your lives and friendship/conversation.

The second approach is probably more appropriate etiquette-wise, but it is so hard emotionally to not count that missing child. You have a pressing need for them to know about him, that he existed, and that he is no longer here, and that it all happened so recently. You almost feel that not counting him is an insult to his memory- you don't want to forget him and go on like he never existed. He mattered and still does. He counts to you.

The second approach leaves it up to others to find out about your missing child as time goes by. When they become facebook friends with you and notice pictures and posts about your dead child, or when it comes up during a discussion about picking baby names and you mention a child they don't know about. Or when you give a talk in Sacrament meeting on Father's Day and talk about your experiences with Priesthood blessings, the blessing of eternal families, and the importance of the Temple.

What should you do if you are the friend and find out the second way? I would suggest mentioning it to them later and expressing a short, "I'm so sorry" and then letting the grieving parent take the lead and decide if they would like to continue that conversation. That way it gives them an opening to talk about it if they would like to, and for everyone to acknowledges the loss and life and not feel like it is a topic that has to be avoided or is taboo.

It makes sense to use the second approach and let your dead child come up in a more natural way as a friendship progresses and you invest in one another. But to me it feels like this underlying conversation that needs to be had if the friendship is going to progress very far.

One way I deal with it is to have pictures of Peter and our family of four up in our home so that when people visit they can see them and it can be an opening for them to ask about the picture and in turn, ask about Peter.

I also wear my locket when I am feeling particularly down, and missing Peter. People almost always notice the necklace and comment on it, sharing a thought or memory about him, or even telling me how much they like it and how cute Lucy and Peter are (which always makes me feel better).

Mother's Day 2012

I also write about Peter here on my blog and post pictures of him so that as I meet new people and share my life with them, they can explore the blog and learn about Peter themselves and even feel like they have a safe place to post comments if they are not sure what to say in person.

I try to make it easy for people to ask me about Peter and give them openings to talk about him if they would like to.

What other tips do you have? How would you answer this question?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hula Party

We attended a fun-filled Hula themed birthday party. Lucy loved the bounce house and seeing all her friends. We loved the delicious pineapple burgers and Hawaiian pizza. Yum! 

Happy birthday, A & B! Thank you for inviting us to celebrate with you!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Art Lesson: Clear Glue and Oil Pastels

Inspiration for this project found here.

Clear glue
Oil pastels

1. Draw picture using clear glue. Overlap objects to create depth.

2. Let dry over night.

3. Choose a color for a section and fill in paper area in between glue lines. Draw darker on the outer sides of the egg, gradually getting lighter as you get to the center to create the illusion of roundness. Use white in the middle, gradually blending with the original color as it gets closer to the edges. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What to Say When: A Baby Dies

One of my favorite topics these days is death. I am really interested in it, and like talking about all things pertaining to it. Part of my grieving process involves talking about Peter and what happened. I like sharing Peter's life with others and remembering him.

I recognize that this makes most people uncomfortable and that most people don't like talking about death, so I try not to bring it up. Nothing like talking about your dead baby to kill a party.

I found this Youtube channel randomly a few months ago and it came at a perfect time.

When Peter first died and we went to the funeral home to see  his body before the viewing and funeral, I was curious about the process of embalming, clothing the dead, etc. but knew that I was completely unprepared emotionally  to learn more about it at that time. I couldn't think about those processes being done on his little body right then.

Fast forward a few months and I had come to terms with the idea of his body decaying (which I wrote about here) and was ready to hear the details that the death industry has to offer. Enter: Ask a Mortician.

Ask a Mortician is a video series by Caitlin Doughty that answers questions submitted by viewers about death. She takes a humorous and light-hearted approach to it, and I appreciate that she doesn't take death (or herself) too seriously. I find it fascinating.   It also lead me to her webpage and blog which I follow and read.

I don't agree with every view expressed in her blog, but I appreciate being able to "talk" about death and our own mortality. I have also had many questions answered by watching the videos and reading the blog, as well as had my vision broadened when it comes to future choices and decisions made when someone I know dies.

In the church we talk about our mortal experience, but to me it has always been so closely connected with immortality and eternal life (ie. the resurrection), that I didn't really think too much, or dwell on, the dead and dying (decaying) part of it before having my experience with Peter.

While I have considered sharing Ask a Mortician on my blog before, I kind of thought people wouldn't get it, and wouldn't be interested.  A new video was posted today sharing really good advice on what to say (and not say) when a baby dies and I couldn't resist any longer!

Here is the link.

If you are intrigued at all by this video, I strongly suggest watching the other Ask a Mortician videos in the series. 

Am I the only one fascinated by death and these videos?

Does thinking about death make you uncomfortable because it reminds you of your own mortality and impending demise?    Not me! :D

Gilded Sketch Book Tutorial

I finally got around to adding a "gilded" edge to my sketchbook.  I used gold paint as a thrifty way to get the pretty effect I was going for.  

Here is my attempt!

Gold paint
Sponge brush
Binder clip

1. Make pages as uniform and clean cut as possible. On my rounded corners where the paper doesn't match up perfectly, the effect doesn't look as nice. 

2. Use binder clip to keep pages lined up as you paint.

3. Squirt a small amount of pain onto a plate and drag it out to make a thin line of paint on the edge of your brush.

4. Dry brush the paint onto the end of the book taking care to keep the book cover out of the way. Keep the brush fairly dry and use stipple to get an even coat. 

5. After doing a section on one edge, slide the clip down and finish that side. 

6. *Important! After finishing one side completely, open the book and gently separate every page so that they don't dry stuck together.

7. After top side is completely dry, rotate and repeat steps all around the sides of the book. Make sure to separate and dry each side completely before moving on to the next side of the book.

Stipple until you have a uniform amount of paint on the edge of the brush.

Separate each page as it dries so that they don't get glued together.

I love the addition of the gilded edge on my sketchbook. It elevates it, giving it a little extra something, and makes it a little bit more special.

This would be a great way to add a personalized touch to a journal or book as a gift.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lucy Lately: June

Going in to change Lucy's pull-up before heading to bed ourselves, and we find this.

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