Friday, February 27, 2015

beautiful things

post: why we camp,

This has quite possibly been one of the darkest weeks of my life.

It's difficult because it's almost entirely internal. I can write about it and try to express it, but I place a mask on my face every single day as I go to work and interact with others. I focus on small things and make jokes to my friends and watch comedy shows and movies constantly. It's a very lonely feeling, a very personal struggle. I tend to cry on my way home from work and before I go to sleep. Those are the moments when I have time to myself to grieve. To be quite honest, I have been listening almost exclusively to Enya (a sure sign of brokenness) at work and hardly getting anything done. These days are very blurry and strange. I feel very tired. But I also know that life must go on and time is passing by whether I want it to or not. I realize I'm taking this very hard, and I must pull myself out of it somehow. 
Grief, prayer, acceptance, tribute, hope, love. 

Back in November I wrote a blog post called Stamps of Life. Something led me to reread that piece this morning, and I am now a puddle. Oh, my little November self, if only you knew. Thank goodness you didn't, because you were able to write something that your February self needed very, very badly. 

Here are some of my stamps of life. 
Beautiful moments, scenes of love, colorful pictures of memories that last and transform. 

Oh, Lord, you make beautiful things. Beautiful things out of the dust.

chapel hill
post: wanderlust wednesday
fall in virginia
bazille and camille by claude monet
parliament building in london, england
spring in virginia
ceiling details in florence, italy
smokey the cat
post: cypress gardens
epcot center, disney world
bike in paris, france
blowing rock, north carolina
the cayman islands
post: to be a writer
animal kingdom, disney world
dalkey, ireland
kilkenny, ireland

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

no matter how small

This post is one of the hardest things I've ever had to write. I know I don't have to write it, but part of me needs to. I have struggled with these words for days. But in the end, I needed to write them down as a part of my personal grief therapy. Maybe I won't hit that Publish button, and this will simply sit in the archives of my unpublished posts until blogging is no longer a thing. It will simply be a long-lost cyber diary of my heartbreak.

But if you're reading this, here it is.
There is an ache that far too many women know: the ache of losing a child you never get to hold.

Part of me knows that miscarriages are incredibly common. I've been continually hearing phrases like, "they're completely normal", or "they're nothing to worry about." That breaks my heart. I also know that it's quite common for women that suffer through miscarriages to go on and have healthy, happy children. But even so, the statistical probability of having a miscarriage is crazy high, which is why I was always terrified of them. As soon as we found out we were pregnant, that fear gripped me like a physical force. It was something I dreaded and continued to pray against and lose sleep over. And then it actually happened, and I wished that I could go back to sleep and live in that world instead. I think a small subconscious part of me thought that if I was afraid enough, and prayed enough, that God would spare me from it. A very sad, naive thought, but it was there nonetheless. I felt betrayed and abandoned by my own body, grasping at smoke and screaming at no one in particular for the injustice of my absolute helplessness. I had no control, no ability to save my baby.

I didn't have any children until about one week ago. That's when that little miracle happened, and I received the promise of one. That positive pregnancy test (5 of them, actually, because I couldn't actually believe it) threw open the doors of dreaming and scheming and squealing. My husband and I had one perfect week of picking nicknames and slowly sharing our happy news with our family. I have a list on my phone of 21 little nicknames we called my stomach in those first few days. The name that stuck was Poppy Seed, because at 4 1/2 weeks that's exactly how big our teeny baby was. Indescribable, to think of life at that scale. 

On the morning of February 19th, about 80 hours after that first positive pregnancy test, I wrote this:

Sometimes I'll wish myself into thinking I have felt something in my belly. Oh my gosh there's a baby in there. But really it's just gas. It's a big letdown. I also love it, because it's mystifying that life exists in there, so small and invisible. I can hardly sleep and I'll wake up and shock myself by whispering, "you're pregnant, lady" and myself responds like, "WHAT".

There's also a lot of fear involved. We've told a really small number of people, mostly just family, and I'm terrified of having to tell them I made a mistake. That I somehow had a rather record-breaking number of false positives. I'm afraid that if I snore too loud or stand up too fast the baby's just gonna fall out. Peace out, mum. 

On a more serious note, we've known and loved and grieved with a lot of women who have been through miscarriages. That is a very deep fear of mine, one that I simply have to pray through. I was halfway through a turkey sandwich today for lunch when I had this crazy epiphany that pregnant women aren't supposed to eat deli meats, and I practically spit out my food mid-chew and proceeded to only eat the bread and tomato. I then Googled turkey deli meat for way longer than necessary, scaring myself silly with all of the horrors of deli meat poison. I guess it's a thing. I'm already making mistakes and I just have to remind myself that humans make babies. Therefore the process is never perfect. I am just another freaked out mother-to-be that is resting restlessly in the hands of God, hoping that I get to meet this little alien on this earth and love him for as long as possible.

It turns out that my wishful "as long as possible" was just that one perfect week. In the wee hours of February 22nd our Poppy Seed went smoothly to be with Jesus. I am now a mother with a ripped-away promise, like a rugged square of quilt torn away from its center. Some people may think that a single week isn't long enough to be so attached to a child, to fall in love, to actually be a mother, but I disagree. I think that's the core of the tragedy for me, this absolute emptiness I feel, the sharp and painful halt to all of our hope and love. I am torn between loving and hating the comfort I have received from beloved friends that have experienced this same pain, knowing they share and grieve my loss but also wishing that none of us had to. I felt an instant connection to a teeny, tiny life growing inside of me, and that baby will be a part of me forever. A person's a person, and Poppy was our person. I don't know if she would have looked like me, if she would have had Dusty's eyes, if she would have loved cats. I have no answers, about gender or anything else. I just know that I loved our week together, that it was far too short, and our hearts are broken without her here.

My husband and I have been clinging to each other. Through the pain and the sadness and even the embarrassment that I feel, which is silly but it's there. I have never felt this close to him, this intricately connected in the complexities of happiness and grief. Our dear Poppy was the flower that brought us immense joy. We were completely unprepared for this goodbye, but are doing our best to embrace the stages of it. It's so important to us to grieve her as a person, as our child, because that's what she was and will always be.

My sweet brother said, "Praise God for the hope we have in Christ. Our family in heaven is growing."

That is as solid a promise as I could ever possibly hope for. Poppy, my darling, we will never stop waiting to meet you. This world is dimmer without you in it, and heaven is blessed to know you first.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

mixing florals

I absolutely love mixing prints, and florals are one of the best prints for mixing and matching. They go perfectly with polka dots and stripes, and sometimes even with other florals. Mixing patterns can be incredibly intimidating for some people, but once you get the hang of it you find the rules that work for you and your style and can mix it up like a pro.

Ruche's print-mixing feature Spring Floral Edit premiered this morning, and it's one of my favorites so far. I love the polka dot top layered over golden floral print. That green daisy print top with the black and white stripes is also fantastic. I just had to share. 

In addition, Ruche is having a Style Steal sale for today and tomorrow only, with many of my Novel Dress feature dresses included in the sale for 50% off! See if you can find the dresses for Wizard of Oz, A Wrinkle in Time, The Lies of Locke Lamora (which I love and am currently wearing), and Anne of Green Gables. My Valentine's Day dress is also included in the sale. 

Happy Friday Eve, friends. The weekend is swiftly approaching!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

novel dress: classics

romeo and juliet by william shakespeare // forbidden romance floral dress

I'm not sure how I unlocked this strange fascination, but I cannot get enough of matching dresses and literature (see my first and second novel dress posts!). I tried to keep it classic with these choices, which was a fun challenge. So far I've only included books that I know and love, but this collection includes two stories I haven't actually read yet -- Little Women and The Wizard of Oz. Looking through book lists, especially of classic books, always heavily reminds me of my ever-growing to-read list. I'm sure my life will be spent constantly adding to that list, which is both exciting and depressing considering the time restraints on life. I hope there's a very big library in heaven.

This post is partially inspired by Ruche extending their sitewide Perfect Match Sale for 1 more day! It ends tonight at midnight. Which means that every dress in these posts (including the sale dresses!) is an extra 25% off. Shopping is a great way to fight those midweek blues.


the adventures of sherlock holmes by sir arthur conan doyle // night at the theatre dress
treasure island by robert louis stevenson // marcelline printed dress

the great gatsby by f. scott fitzgerald // constellation sequins dress
the wizard of oz by l. frank baum // pebble lane colorblock dress
little women by louisa may alcott // trixie polka dot dress
moby dick by herman melville // jemima dress
emma by jane austen // leanne lace dress
a tale of two cities by charles dickens // love in bloom floral dress
the hobbit by j.r.r tolkien // winter solstice dress

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

hey, girl

There is seriously nothing better than the all-encompassing thrill that comes with true kindred spirit friendship. It's da bomb. It seeps into the cracks of your insecurities and blossoms in the shadows of your true self. You suddenly unwind and get weird and laugh a lot and share too much. There's a level of comfort and rest that exists in that place that is precious and rare. It's a place of peace and girl power. Friendship between women can be one of the most delightful, inspiring, freeing, encouraging, and empowering things on the planet.

But it can also be one of the most depressing things, and I really wish I knew why. Girls can be just plain cruel to each other. You know what I'm talking about, too. I think everyone does. It's a known image - the catty, selfish, b*tchy group of girlfriends that manipulate and degrade each other in a vicious cycle of "friendship". It's the Mean Girls syndrome. We're drawn to it somehow, maybe because our claws are naturally sharp and easily tempted to evil deeds. It's an absolute mystery to me though, especially when genuine love and friendship can completely change your life for the better, forever. 

Now, granted, this isn't entirely exclusive to women - I've seen my husband and other guy friends used and abused by their friends as well, they just go about it differently. I think my husband was often blind to it, because they were just "being guys" and messing around. He was definitely affected by it, but he had always accepted it as the norm. It wasn't until we gained really solid, edifying friends that we were able to take a deep breath and say, see? This is what this is supposed to be like. 

I have no problem with sarcasm - it's actually one of my favorite languages. I think the problem comes when that's all there is. I remember being really confused when I was entering junior high and high school during the trend of best friends calling each other slut and ho-bag and other lovely nicknames. I just didn't get it.

I couldn't bring myself to connect to that type of closeness, because it didn't seem real. Even after high school, when those monikers typically died away, I felt incredibly alone in my desire for kind, loving friends. People I could actually like. (Crazy, right?). I saw a great emptiness in the friendships I knew and eventually began to accept that a friendship like Anne Shirley and Diana Barry's just didn't exist. Hang it up with the other fairy-tales. 

Luckily, I was proven wrong. It took some time, but I feel incredibly fortunate to now have friendships that I cherish and am proud to invest in. Friendship is hard work and there are always ways to be more attentive, more forgiving, more understanding and more intentional. It's worth it because the relationships in your life change you daily. The ones you choose to nurture throughout the course of your life are especially momentous.

Friendship shouldn't be so competitive. Why do we so easily bristle and poke and one-up and belittle? It's this ugly gut reaction when a friend has good news to find some way to redirect the praise and excitement to ourselves, or to ruin their good news by belittling it somehow. We're always fighting the urge to make it about us, to turn inward instead of pour ourselves outward. That immediate WAIT NO MY LIFE IS BETTER is a really stupid inclination to have. Where is the genuine joy when someone experiences something great in their lives? There is so little gratitude and congratulations among friends. Words of affirmation should be insanely rampant, I think. It should be out of control, even. 

Of course, personalities vary and some people are simply less comfortable with endearments, and less likely to communicate vulnerable emotions. Some struggle with affection - I'm actually one of those people. I do not generally enjoy hugs. But there has to be something, right? It's hard to be friends with someone when you honestly don't know whether or not they even like you half the time. By nature, sarcasm is an erosion tool - it can and will begin to chip away at you. You can't live exclusively in that zone forever, it's exhausting! There needs to be a balance, and above all a foundation of love and trust. If the core of the relationship is flippancy and casual meanness, the friendship will die. It probably should die. 

My dream friendship is this. Being unafraid to share a true flaw, because you know they'll help work you through it and point you to better things. Being able to vent and cry and whine while they just listen - and then they'll tell you lovingly that they're on your side even when you're crazy. Trusting them with secrets and memories because they'll never use them to embarrass you. Making big decisions and having incredible news that you can't wait to share with them, because they will be over the moon for you, always. Feeling comfortable with honesty and familiar with thoughtfulness. Knowing that they see you, appreciate you, understand you, love you. 

I think women are fantastic. I'm a little bit biased, but I think we're cool. But I also think we can be really, really scary and mean. We have a lot of power over each other, which is the best and worst thing about us. Let's use that power for good, superwomen. We don't need to travel in packs, doing our best to destroy others to heighten our own weird status of lady royalty. It's an evil cycle I'd love to see end. Everyone is self-conscious, and everyone should have friends. Real ones. I want to be one of those to the women in my life. A genuine source of happiness and light and laughter. Someone my friends are proud to know and love. Not because I'm worthy of it or particularly special, but because I see them, appreciate them, understand them, and love them. That's all it really takes.

Let's hear it for peace and girl power.

Monday, February 16, 2015

floral valentine

Looking forward to special occasions always inspires me to go dress shopping. There's something exciting about wearing a dress for the first time on a special date night. While I wear a dress almost every day, I very rarely get dressed up to this degree. When I saw this floral dress over at Ruche, I knew it was the perfect fit for Valentine's Day! (P.S. Today is the last day of their "perfect match" sale for 25% off sitewide!).

This weekend has been so refreshing. On Friday I had completely forgotten that I had Monday off, so it was a really pleasant surprise to leave work with 3 whole days off ahead of me! Our Valentine's Day was delightful, and we spent all of Sunday with Dustin's family. Today is my bonus day of pajamas, Posie-making, Friends-watching, and coffee-drinking. There's nothing better than a Monday spent doing nothing. (Introverts unite!).

Saturday, February 14, 2015

be mine

Happy Valentine's day, everyone!

I'm currently all fancied up and getting ready for Dustin and I's date night. We're seeing Kingsman: The Secret Service and going out to a new restaurant, Olive and Ivy! I can't wait.

Yesterday's outfit was definitely due to my novel dress series. This dress was inspired by The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, and once I posted about it I couldn't help but buy it. That series has been so much fun to read and even though I'm the one that named it a Lamora dress, I needed to own it anyway. I'm really glad I took the leap, because I love it. It's much silkier and brighter than I originally thought, which is totally fine by me!

Overall, this post is just a quick note in honor of one of my favorite holidays. There are plenty of valentine naysayers out there, but I think it's beautiful that there's a day set aside for love every year. Of course, we should always show our loved ones we cherish and appreciate them, but Valentine's Day brings with it sweets and chocolate-shaped hearts, little cartoons of cherubs and Disney characters, Galentine's Day (cutesie term for honoring besties), and so many other fun ways to celebrate. Whether you're dating someone and dressing up for romance or simply dressed in pink and red to go out with your best friends, it's a day worth celebrating. We are lucky to have so much love.

Dress (shop!): Ruche