Friday Finds: Pretty Prints

1. Chaotic Abstract Art Print by Ashley G | Etsy
2. Shine On by Victoria Homewood |
3. Sweet Spot by Lindsay Megahed |
4. Bulls Bay by Olivia Rae James |
5. Queen Anne's Lace by Lauren Matsumoto |
6. Ferris Wheel by Mat3photography |
7. Kalae Road by Kiana Mosley |
8. Nightingale Watercolor Print by Fin and Feather Art | Scoutmob Shoppe
9. Sarah B. Martinez 5 Feathers #5 Art Print | Urban Outfitters 
10. Folkish Art Print by Lisa Congdon | Etsy
11. Cera no 1 by Kelly Ventura |
12. Citrus Composition Watercolor Art Print by YaoChengDesign | Etsy
13. Swimmingly by Katie Craig |
14. Succulent Art Print by Idlewild Co. | Scoutmob Shoppe
15. Hope  Fine Art Print by yellena | Etsy
16. Abstract Painting Fine Art Print by siiso | Etsy 
17. Chalet Archival Art Print by Lisa Congdon | Etsy
18. Drift Away Print by Irena Orlov|

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What I want you to know about suffering the loss of my sister

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Andrea

On October 28, 2013 (which was my 39th birthday) I woke up and got my kids ready for school. I dropped off my older kids at the elementary school and put my preschooler in the car. Halfway to his school, I got the phone call I had been dreading for 7 years. All my brother-in-law needed to say was, "She hasn't taken a breath in 20 minutes. She's gone."

My best friend, my beloved older sister, was gone at the age of 47. She left behind her four children, ages 15, 14, 10, and 8, her husband, her mother, and two loving sisters. Our lives shattered into a million pieces.

My sister had been diagnosed with both an immune deficiency and an auto-immune disease called Sarcoidosis. Neither of these are usually fatal, so her gradual but complete decline over 7 years didn't make sense to us or to her doctors. They always thought she had another diagnosis that was missed. She lived through countless invasive tests, each with the same result: nothing.

I have been to grief counseling, support groups, and cried for days on end. I had friends stay away from me because they didn't know how to respond. I've had someone tell me that she understands exactly how I'm feeling because she is going through menopause. I've had people compare my loss to the loss of their favorite cat. I've had someone, just a few months after her death, comment "I can't imagine losing a family member! Can you?"

I have had a hard time with my loss. Most people understand the severity of someone losing a parent or a child, but the loss of a sibling seems to confuse people. They want to put the loss into a category of "not as bad" as other loss.

What I want you to know is that this is bad.

My sister would call or text me every day. My phone doesn't ring much anymore. My sister and I used to talk about every little detail of raising our kids (I have four kids too), I don't know who to talk to about these things now. There is a gigantic hole in my life. I wake up sad every day, as each morning I realize yet again that she's gone. And I don't even know where to start about the fact that I'm supposed to celebrate my 40th birthday this Fall on the very day my sister died, one year ago. The people in my life have lots of advice about this too.

I want you to know that I have to get through this my own way, in my own time. I really appreciate the friends who just let me say whatever I need to say, without judgement. I am so thankful for the people who just show up, check on me, don't try to "solve" my grief, but just let me live through the hard days.

I am working really hard on my grief. I am trying so hard to live my life the way that would make her proud, but it is a daily struggle.

I want you to know that I miss my sister. I want you to know that the fact that she was sick for so long and her death was not sudden does not mean it is easy. I want her back. But since I know she's not coming back, I need room to work though how hard this is. I don't know how long I'm going to struggle with this, but I think on some level it will be for the rest of my life.

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#TBT Drama (you give me fever)

On Thursdays I post something from the archives. This is from February 2011.

My kid (as most kids do) use some vocabulary that is uniquely their own. The funniest to me by far is the way Jafta refers to Karis's frequent spit-up as "drama". I have no idea how he picked this up, but he actually thinks this is the correct term for it. Of course I don't correct him, because it cracks me up. Nearly every day I hear him say "Uh-oh, Karis is having some drama right now". Or "There's some drama on the floor over there." Or "Burp her so there won't be any drama." Hilarious, right? I mean, why would I want to correct that hilarity?

India, on the other hand, says that she is "spitting up" any time she actually pukes. I know this, because she throws up quite a lot. She is my little carsick sweetie. A couple enthusiastic pushes on the swingset, and she is sure to lose her lunch. It's so bad that I actually have a technique for protecting her clothing on airplane rides, that involves tucking a blanket into her shirt and then suspending the other end from the seatback tray. Pretty effective.

Another of Jafta's unique colloquialisms is that he claims to have a fever any time something hurts. I'm sure it's based on hearing me say that he had a fever when he was sick. But now, any time he hurts himself, he will hold his head or stomach or knee and say "I have a fever! I'm getting a fever right now!"

Last night, we managed to have a perfect storm of drama, fever, and spitting up. India took her usual nap around 2pm. She had a rough morning, but I didn't suspect anything. I've been so focused on trying to keep the asthmatic and the infant healthy that India kind of slipped under the radar. When she was still sleeping at 4pm, I thought it was kinda nice. At 5pm, it seemed a bit curious. At 6pm, I actually started to worry a little bit. I went in to check on her, and she was burning up with a fever.

She obviously had some sort of flu bug, and when I woke her up she told me she had "spit up". Which she had, all over her bed. Which Jafta discovered and called "drama".

India then proceeded to have "drama" about seven more times last night, all over the house. Despite the puke bowl we hovered under her chin for the better part of the night, she managed to catch us unawares and spew her "drama" on every square inch of the house.


Fortunately, this morning she is back to her usual self, evidenced by the fact that she made five costume changes by lunch, and then kept lunch down. But Jafta - Jafta has been pointing to his tummy and saying he has a fever, which might actually be correct. And I woke up with the scratchy throat, sour stomach, and body aches that seem to hallmark half of the winter when living with kids in preschool.

Hmmm . . . must be flu season.

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Wednesday's Child: Jordan

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday's Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.

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What I want you to know about losing my mother to Anorexia

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Anonymous. 

I recently lost my mother to a lifelong battle with anorexia. I am a young mom in my 30’s, and my entire life has been lived under the shadows of my mom’s mental illness. I watched someone I love and care about waste away farther with each life struggle, and I could do nothing as she suffered and slowly starved herself to death. Anorexia affected every aspect of my mother’s life, and so little is understood about this disease.

I want you to know that anorexia affects more than upper middle class, white, young girls that typically come to mind when one thinks of Anorexia. Anorexia crosses all gender, ages, religious and economic barriers. Approximately 5-20% of those affected will die from the disease. My mom rarely admitted she had a problem and never thought her illness would kill her. My mom never pursued treatment, but even if she had, as a low income single parent, who lived most of her life without health insurance, there would not have been many options available to her. When someone doesn’t want to get better, as is common in most Anorexic patients, the options for help become much more limited, especially when the patient is an uncooperative adult. One week before she died, my sister fought with the hospital for hours in order for them to admit my 70 pound mother, who was too weak to stand.

I want you to know that just as a cancer patient can’t choose to no longer have cancer, an anorexic patient can’t just choose to start eating and “get over” it. Anorexia is caused by a mental illness. The core of anorexia is control. When a patient’s life begins to feel out of control, severely limiting their intake becomes a coping mechanism for some.

The relationship that my mother and many anorexic patients have with food was very complex. While her goal was always to eat as few calories as possible, she hoarded extreme amounts of food, to the point that she would retrieve food from the dumpsters of grocery stores. Her house was literally filled with thousands of pounds of food, stored in crates in the bedrooms. While she couldn’t feed herself, she was driven to feed her children, pets and friends excessively. She spent her free time volunteering in food pantries or rescue missions. While a typical family might spend the extra free time between errands, hanging out at the park, we wandered the grocery stores. Her small and rundown house was filled with many high end kitchen appliances and cookbooks, while she did without many items that were needed.

Consequently, my mother’s illness had an extreme impact upon her children and those closest to her. I once read that many times an anorexic patient fails to properly bond with their children, because their relationship to food holds the highest place in their life. For me, this feels true. At the core of anorexia is the need to control and a drive for perfection. My mother had a good heart, and she loved us, but she loved food more. She was very difficult to please, as her illness drove her to be the ultimate perfectionist. For my entire life, I was always made to feel that whatever I had done was not good enough. Sadly, she also felt the same way. Her illness made her incredible controlling. As I became older, I quit trying so hard, and eventually pulled away from her, once I had my own children. Sometimes I regret that, but her illness forced me into a survival mode.

Obviously her food issues have affected me also. I have minimal memories of my mother ever eating a normal meal with her kids. Instead she would guzzle black coffee and eat lettuce in the kitchen, while us kids ate by ourselves at the table. I remember coming home from Kindergarten and doing exercise videos with my mom. When I was in the 5th grade, I watched a TV special about the life of Karen Carpenter, and I cried, knowing that this was my mother’s story and her future. My mother found her joy in feeding people, so I was overweight my entire childhood, a point which would bring great embarrassment upon my mother. But, in the complexity that is an anorexic mind, it was incredibly insulting to her if a person did not eat all of the food she prepared. As an adult, I have learned to eat and live healthy, but even though the rest of the world considers me tall and lean, I still feel fat. I have to tell myself that my perception in this area of my life is simply not accurate.

As much as I understand that my mother couldn’t just decide to eat, I still struggle with anger that she inflicted her starvation upon herself. In some ways I feel that this must be how a family member of someone lost to suicide must feel. I feel angry that I shouldn’t have to deal with her loss and the closure of her estate, and try to have to explain it to my young children. I feel jealous of the other people my age, who have healthy parents and strong relationships with their children and grandchildren. I feel cheated that I never got to know my mother when she was so full of potential, and instead lost my mom to the clutches of Anorexia years ago. I feel sad that now that she’s gone there is no hope of a regular relationship. I feel guilty that I did not do enough to help her. I feel heartbroken that her disease caused her to miss out on so much of the joy and happiness in life. And, I feel relieved that she is finally happy, and at peace, no longer suffering and angry from this disease. I understand that these are normal feelings and that I couldn’t have helped her.

Many times you cannot reason with a person suffering from Anorexia. She had every excuse as to why she couldn’t eat something. She had countless self-diagnosis to explain all the related pain and complications that not eating was causing her. My mother was brilliant just sick and sadly, Anorexia is the one disease in which those afflicted do not want to get better.

I want you to know that Anorexia shouldn’t be a shameful condition. It is not a character flaw, but a mental illness that can be tamed, and those afflicted can lead amazing lives.

For most of my life, no one would talk about the demons that my mom was facing, not her, not her family and generally not her doctors. Yes, Anorexia is a complicated illness, but if talking about it will help someone to seek treatment, then I will never shut up. And so, I will hold close to the pockets of happy memories and resolve to enjoy every second of life that is given me, in honor of my mother who had so much joy taken from her.

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