inspiration

One Step: A Photo That Says It All

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Parenting is quite the ride. There are up’s, down’s, pukes, poops, sobs, and I will be the honest parent here: moments of pure misery.

(Really? 6 AM? I’m not interested in Legos. I’m interested in sleep – I just have to be honest, kids).

Yesterday we celebrated the first birthday of my youngest, and last, son – Jonah. His story of how we almost lost him at birth was posted last week. I have a hysterectomy scheduled on April 3, 2014: he’s it. My last and final. I remember when my first son was born – I photographed, videoed every single moment. It was like – OH MY GOSH A POOP IN THE POTTY GRAB THE SONY!

But when you really come to the final realization – this is it – there are little moments we cherish, there are big ones, there are the ones in between where one of them decided to puke on my new pair of pants.

(My fault, I gave you 6 Oreos)

We decided on a whale theme – nautical. You know, the fun favors – sunglasses, curvy straws, kazoos, stickers – fun stuff any kid (and adult, I admit I was digging in) – we had it all going. We catered it from a special restaurant. We set it up to be all “yay he’s 1” (Okay really, the store didn’t have the whale theme I wanted in birthday – they only had it in baby shower but I was Hell bent on it, so … I bought baby shower decorations. Everything said “baby boy” … still technically true, right?)

Maybe not. It’s been through this past year, and juggling three kids, watch them each hit their milestones, that I’ve wondered why am I trying to rush them to grow up? Because I want to sleep, or a stiff drink while they’re awake, or to watch what I want, and not cartoons?

Yesterday I decorated as normal – a normal party. Cake. Food. Fun.

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I wanted to enjoy this – these moments. Despite the cake going everywhere, a few signs of a slight belly ache, and a hell of a mess afterwards, there were smiles, laughs, and love.

But the biggest moment of all – hit me out of the blue. We were opening gifts. One from my Aunt, a framed poem she wrote for him. I could not read it out loud, I began to cry. Someone else took over.

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Yet through the tissue paper, new toys, new batteries – something else occurred when we least expected it. Jonah, with no even hint of having the ability, took a look at me with curious eyes, smiled, pulled himself up, and stood unassisted for the first time.

My last baby – my special miracle – he was looking at me. My hands on my mouth – my husband’s hands over his. The crowd in the background like the last shot of a basketball game “GO JONAH GO! GO JONAH GO!” (I wish we had pom poms and a tuba)…

For the record, he stood for 15 seconds and stared. He smiled at the waves of encouragement, he giggled. And in his very predictable, yet cute fashion, fell right onto his behind. In mommy language “Go boom!”

Despite that the first step was not taken – that milestone meant the world to me. I don’t want to rush it, but the beauty in it was so compelling. And the best part – my uncle was taking pictures. He caught the exact moment my son stood for the first time – and my husband and I watching in awe as our once, fighting for his life little baby boy, stared for those 15 seconds like a drunk little man.

A picture is worth a thousand words they say. I cannot describe what it means to look at this picture – there’s memories, there’s that feeling in my heart that my little boy really is growing, my real last baby – is soon to be taking on the world.

Here we have a cherished memory. One I will never forget – and am so thankful – someone had their hands on the “push to take” button – while my husband and I covered our mouths and held back tears. We will never forget this – and I’m sure we will use it at a slideshow for Jonah’s graduation someday, or his wedding. But let’s not think about that. I will start to cry again.

He’s still my baby boy to me – who am I kidding? He always will be.

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A Heartfelt Thank You

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Have you ever felt like just sitting down to thank somebody?

I mean sure – I thanked the bagging guy today at the grocery store for dealing with me while I slipped over patches of ice to lock my son’s car seat in while he held two carts of frozen junk food with a short sleeve shirt on…

That’s not what I mean.

Saying thank you to my husband, or my children, or my family really is not appropriate – they understand that what they do for me, nobody else can do. There’s a love and inspiration there that cannot be described, understood, or for that matter, appreciated in the form of verbal words on a blog.

Allow me to take time out to give my heartfelt, genuine, thank you – to a specific person that I feel deserves credit where credit is due.

(Fun Fact #2,164 about Jenn: I invest in the concept of the paranormal. I believe in ghosts, spirits, the after life. I’ve read books, taken classes, done investigations, dealt with my own hauntings, own my own equipment…)

Sidebar: Skeptics laughing, feel free to continue to. Or you can simply press skip in your reader, either way, blah.

For all of those who are believers (AWESOME SAUCE) – you get me, I know. But becoming a parent also brought another level of belief into this spiritual resolution, afterlife, concept of apparitions, EVPs … (I could go on – if you do not understand my terminology I apologize. I know, I know. It’s like reading “stereo instructions”.)

When I became a parent – I looked into the eyes of these little beings and realized I had just given life.

When you give life – you automatically become the person or force that has subjected that little soul someday – to death.

Now, now. I am not being morbid. Think about it. I have 3 amazing, wonderful children. Each of them when they were born immediately had my heart and every bit of love I could have ever dreamed of mustering for a human being – wrapped into each of their sweet, tiny, quivering lips. They reach for me – a simple “mama…” “I want a juice box…” “I love you…” or in the case of my 1 year old … a bellowing “WAHHHHHHHHH” when the bottle falls with such force under the bouncy chair that milk goes splattering into his deep blue eyes.

These cherished moments in the mind of any parent are ones you cannot describe to those who do not have children.

“You had to be there” really fits in here.

But I realized once they took their first breaths – that someday, they will take their last.

Knowing that I accomplished such a huge step as a human – I mean, I MADE HUMANS – in the bottom of the deep depths of my often overthinking heart – I remember – someday, they will no longer be alive. That the life I provided to them – will no longer exist.

Unless -if you’re a believer like me – you choose to believe that it will continue to exist past the ability of their living bodies.

I choose to support this notion.

This belief comforts me. It brings me hope. It makes the joy on their little faces when I say “yes, you can have chocolate” feel much more like a happy moment instead of “someday – I may never see them again.”

Yes, I will.

This brings me to my point. There’s a group of people who dedicate their lives to investigating, , and I guess I could use the word PROVING – that this concept actually exists. Okay I take that back – there’s MANY groups. However, one in particular has a way of taking evidence, proof, undeniable, concrete “You just CANNOT SAY IT ISN’T REAL” type of study and brings it to the forefront of public attention. This group spends many hours, upon hours, upon hours – doing what some think is simply for entertainment – but I take it as a sincere path they are meant to be on that they intend to share with all of us. It just happens to be on television where we can see it.

Thank you – from the bottom of my heart-  to Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, and Aaron Goodwin (as well as the others involved with Ghost Adventures). If you have not watched their original documentary – well, then you are probably a boring person.

(I’M KIDDING! Stop glaring! Get Netflix and watch!)

If you happen to tune in like me to the Travel Channel every Saturday for new lockdowns, well then hey – let’s wave our lassos together – yee haw for meeting other fans of the show.

This thank you, however, is deeper. I’ve always wanted to believe that the after life existed. Since I was a child and have had my own dealings with the paranormal, supernatural, whatever term you wish to use – I have wanted to be more involved in understanding its realm of possibilities. But now – my own children in my arms – I cannot bear the thought that the moment any of us take our last breaths as a living human – that we simply see black. That we will never see each other again.

It is this crew that has put so much heart, soul, time, and persistence into proving the existence of life after death – that has helped me cope as a parent with the idea of someday ever losing my babies that I gave life to – because the evidence they have provided is clear – some of it, to me, indisputable – that we will continue to move on in spirit past our human shells of skin and bone.

To the GAC: you have put so much effort into this. You have put your health at risk. You have taken time, energy, faith, passion – and used it as a device in bringing forth how the paranormal really does co-exist in the human world, and how there is life beyond what we know here and now. Thank you. In tears I say this – because it is with this belief that I can put my little ones to bed at night and know, no matter what, no matter who goes, and when – that I am not responsible for providing life merely to someday, provide death.

I am responsible for providing life – to someday provide a road to another one, where we will come together again, and never be apart.

Quite a feat, GAC. I felt it was worthy of saying thank you.

Although I feel I could say a million more things in adoration instead – I will leave it at that.

From this mother’s loving heart: really. Thank you.

You are appreciated. I hope someday you read from my own words how you have touched my life – and that you will continue to touch that of others that you continue to stun and awe with the beauty of the evidence you present.

I was already a believer.

You just made me more of one.

Much love.

My Jonah’s Journey: A True Overcoming

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Meet Jonah. He appears to be your average, sweet, curious, hungry, loves to poop his diaper 11 month old, right?

Would you believe that, on the day he was born, March 12, 2013 – this was Jonah:

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Jonah Anthony is my son. This sweet, precious boy came into the lives of my husband and I by surprise.

I thought I had the flu. I struggled for days wondering why I kept getting sick – and then there’s this little clock inside your mind that only women understand that goes “ding” – and the light bulb brightens. You take that walk through the drug store aisles almost hiding your face thinking so many different racing thoughts. You see, I already had two children. I was divorced then re-married. My husband already has 3 children. We weren’t planning it – but after that little walk through the CVS I came home and I waited. Then it happened.

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So of course. It began over again – pregnancy ,the cravings, the weight gain, the constant need to barf while sitting at my work desk because somebody decided to microwave fish for lunch (I curse you! I curse you!)

We finally saw his little heartbeat. My belly grew. We found out he was a boy. We named him almost right away. We saw him in 3-D.  We waited for our due date: April 5, 2013.

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Out of the blue after months of anticipation – growing into the idea of being a mommy again, feeling his kicks, wondering about him – what would he be like, falling in love with the way he would roll around and cause me heartburn – wake me up at midnight before he was even born – something we did not see coming – happened.

On March 12, 2013 I went into labor on my own after long day at work. When I went to the hospital I felt for sure they would send me home. Within an hour – I was told it was time to go. Heading for C-section. It was his time, 4 weeks early.

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Jonah was born on March 12, 2013 at 8:15 PM. He weighed 7 LBS even. I heard his first cry and I began to sob. I could see his red hair from the operating table. His sweet, tiny legs were kicking…

Then I noticed something different than what happened with my other two.

Jonah stopped crying.

I immediately knew something was wrong – I got to see him for about 5 seconds. I gave him a kiss. I cried at how beautiful he was – he looked just like his father but with my mouth. It was happiness – yet anxiety. I waited for word while in recovery.

My husband came in about 2 hours later. Jonah was not breathing well. He had been taken to the NICU. He had Respiratory Distress Syndrome due to being premature. His lungs were not ready to be born yet.

It was not until the next day at noon that I was allowed to see Jonah. I was taken by wheel chair to the NICU where I went to be by his side. I only had one picture of him since he had been born – this one:

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I immediately broke into tears when I got to his side. The picture I had seen was not what I saw when I first came into real contact with my son. This is what I saw:

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My beautiful boy – the one that had been kicking me, that I had wanted so bad to meet, that innocent little being – was covered in tubes, wires, monitors that kept blaring. I sat by his side and I sobbed like I have never sobbed before. The nurse came up to my husband and said “that is a normal reaction from mothers”…

What mother would not sob at the sight of her son in a tiny box – his eyes barely open, his skin pale, his hands penetrated with IV needles.

I started to wonder if it was something that I did wrong. Why did I go into labor so early? Was it because of the pneumonia and flu I had two months prior? Was it the medication I had taken? Was I not healthy enough to hold him inside?

Now this wonderful creation of ours – was suffering. I was not allowed to hold him immediately. I was, however, allowed to stick my hand inside his incubator and touch him. His skin felt so soft to mine. My heart was alive with love – yet petrified. A terror I cannot describe.

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Jonah had to undergo a procedure where a breathing tube was inserted and lung suffactant was entered into his lungs artificially to help him learn to breathe on his own. It was 4 AM – on March 14, 2013. We waited and waited – my husband sleeping on the couch, my mother sleeping on a cot at my feet. The doctor finally knocked on the door – Jonah was doing well. He had taken great to the procedure and was learning to breathe. I could finally hold him.

Our first moments were full of blaring monitors and difficult wires – meandering around his heart leeds in order to get him to my chest. Yet it was beautiful. He raised his head. He recognized my voice. I immediately began to cry.

I was to be released a few days later. We were informed Jonah would not come home with us. He was losing weight, he was still unable to breathe room air without the help of Oxygen. He also became jaundiced.

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Days passed. We would often come by the NICU in the middle of the night. We simply could not sleep wondering about our little boy. If we happened to time it right – we were able to stick our hands in and actually feed him ourselves.

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Slowly, at least it felt to us, better updates were coming in. At first his blood oxygen level was only 40%. He was coming into the 70’s. His oxygen eventually made it into the 90’s. Whenever it would lower, the monitors would go off, and naturally, we would jump and wonder why. Each day meant, if progress was made, another wire would come off. I remember that I could start to see his actual features – he had been so covered, I could not see his mouth, nose, or cheeks.

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Then there was the beautiful moment his father held him for the first time. I cried watching. He cried and smiled and laughed.

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I left the hospital on March 16, 2013. I left on the elevator with no baby carrier – just my luggage, my husband, and a heart drowning in pain and an ill feeling in my stomach. I was leaving him behind. How could I? There was no space at the hospital for me to stay – so we would journey up each day to see him and be with him for hours upon hours until we knew our little boy could come home. I could not wait to introduce him to his siblings.

My hands were cracked and bleeding from washing with hospital grade soap each time I even wanted to merely brush my skin with his.

Then on March 20, 2013, we walked into the NICU and found this:

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He was breathing on his own. He was free of monitors, tubes, leeds. His sweet face was so clear to us now. We could hold him at will, take his temperature, change his diaper, feed him, rock him, sing sweet nothings to him.

Lullaby…and goodnight…go to sleep little Jonah …

Our little trooper never gave up. From the moment he cried when he came out of me – to the moment he stopped crying because he could not breathe – through each moment we reached through a tiny hole just to touch our baby – grasping at a tiny bottle hoping he would eat even 10 little mls – this little boy fought to survive.

Jonah came home with us on March 21, 2013 – 9 days after he was born. In thinking of what we had been through – which we never expected – we were so blessed. Some wait months, some do not come home at all. We prayed and prayed. We said so many thank you’s, took so many crying breaths just wanting our son home in our arms.

And he came.

The Lord blessed us with this sweet surprise. From that moment that I saw the two pink lines (so not the flu)  to today – Jonah is such an inspiration. Our sweet, beautiful boy is thriving. He is high functioning – and registers on a full term scale – not a premature scale of development. He is trying to take steps. He says Mama with his face bright as he reaches for me in the mornings.

He plays peek a boo with dada.

These are the moments that for days we thought – we may never see. Somehow through it all, God blessed our lives with this sweet boy that was able to fight almost the impossible – when he had just been born. Our hearts hurt for other families that never get to take their babies home. After going through this and seeing my boy through glass and wires – I pray nightly for others in the same position. We are so thankful to the amazing doctors whose knowledge, compassion, and care brought our son back to mommy and daddy’s arms.

In just 9 short days, Jonah will be 1. We are celebrating with a whale themed party for Jonah and the Whale. We joked I looked like one when I was pregnant with him. He will have cake. He will have love. He will be hugged, and kissed, and cherished. For this is the boy that came into the world and fought to live. This is the boy that to this day – inspires me to be a better person, mother, friend. This is the boy that has taught me to cherish ALL of life’s moments – big and small.

This is our Jonah. Our miracle. Our overcomer.

Happy Birthday, Baby. We love you.

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Listen Up: A Song I Wrote (and I’m PROUD!)

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Back in January – I wrote a post entitled “Memory That Moves Me: Co-Writing a Song.”

It just so happens that today’s prompt is asking me – have I ever written music or been part of a band?

I should mention, and sometimes I laugh about it, I was once the bane of my choir teacher’s experience. She knew I couldn’t sing – heck I knew I couldn’t sing. I would often lipsynch during performances – every once in a while a note would come out of my mouth and you would hear somebody in the alto section yell “SOMEONE IS SINGING SOPRANO!!”.

Yep. That was me. The tone deaf one who simply wanted to find her way somehow into the music world – but I could not sing. I could play the piano. I was also a poet – but a singing voice?

Uh, no. If I showed up at an American Idol audition – I would likely shatter a window or Ryan Seacrest’s make up.

Music does not fit me well. This is where having a dream – and believing in it – is powerful and important.

My favorite artist is a rock star out of Brooklyn, Ariel Aparicio. I learned about his music on Twitter – and I was hooked from the beginning.

We developed a friendship via Twitter and e-mail and I found myself helping him promote his music by showing up at his performances or by working on his website and promotion materials. One day I got the guts to ask – would you perhaps entertain a dream of mine – writing a song together? Color me excited when he immediately said yes.

I wrote the lyrics. He wrote the music. He presented me with the recording for my birthday back in 2010. I will never forget the moment I heard it. For today’s prompt I share with you the only involvement I’ve ever had with a band or with writing music. The song is entitled “I Need You” – and the brilliance behind it still brings tears to my eyes to this day.

I took that wish my heart held true for so many years – and found a way to make it happen. With the wonderful, generous personality of the oh so talented Ariel, and the poetic side of me – we came up with this wonderful rendition of what I will forever call “my song” – because I helped write it.

Introducing the dream I never gave up on – “I Need You.”

I Need You (Lyrics by Jennifer Stephens, Music and Vocals by Ariel Aparicio)

This lonely heart, it cried alone.

These tears, they dried – dried to stone.

This bed it, it felt no soul – of my – my very own.

 So lonely. It tore my life apart.

 

In truth I never knew

My life and then came you.

These scars are fading.

These scars are fading.

 

My scars are fading.

 I need you.

 

I spent so many days waiting

For a hand to take my soul sayin’

You’re not alone in your corners prayin’

I will take your – your pain away

 

In truth I never knew

About peace and then came you.

These scars are fading.

These scars are fading.

 

My scars are fading.

 I need you.

 

Lesson learned by knowing you

The way your words they teach me truth

I can’t go on, I can’t be new

These lessons learned by knowing you

 You only can mend my broken heart

 

In truth I never knew

About peace and then came you.

 These scars are fading.

My scars are fading.

 

In truth I never knew

My life and then came you

 These scars are fading

These scars are fading

My scars are fading….

 

I need you.

I need you.

I need you.

I need you.

I am An MD: Master of Determination

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Very soon I will be guest blogging for Dancing with Fireflies. This blog is very dear to my heart as I appreciate the writing, topics, and challenges that come along with it. Having been sick the past few weeks I’ve been missing her Weekly Writing Challenge. Today, I am partaking. The question: what is your expertise?

I would love to be able to have an actual MD. The truth of the matter is I actually have a Masters degree in Counseling.

But I love to give myself credit as being an MD: Master of Determination.

My expertise is in never giving up. Life can hand me the most unusual, difficult, and emotionally draining situations and it’s my strength, persistence, faith, and determination that help get me through these plights.

It would take me an entire novel or memoir, pages and pages of blogging to explain every life event that I have gotten through and learned from. It would take me years, I suppose, to explain each of the ways I have gained strength from not giving in to the worst of experiences. I have not only become a wiser person – my ability, or should I say expertise, as a person who persists to believe in miracles, second chances, in the idea that failing at something does not make you a failure: it is a lesson learned to benefit from. Failing never makes a person weak. Failure is an opportunity to become stronger – to overcome (thus the purpose of my blog – to empower myself and others to never give up or not allow the curveballs that life throws at us to become strike outs – yet home runs).

So, my friends, in response to this challenge I give you a new bumper sticker idea…

(Sidebar for new followers: I love to come up with bumper stickers – I find the humor and creativity almost inspiring in itself.)

Imagine the back of my Prius with the following:

“I’ll be Back: I am the Determinator.”

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