Goodnight Sweetheart

goodnight-sweetheart-1

The majority of orders that I fill are custom, which is the reason why I really haven't updated my etsy since before Christmas. I'm still climbing out from under a mountain of custom orders without much time to create stock for my shop. While it's time consuming to create each piece to order, it's a privilege that I wouldn't trade to create pieces that are uniquely significant to each customer. The amazing thing that I've found is that more often than not, the quotes end up having special significance to me as well.

It always seems like I'm working on the right thing at the right time. During a particularly hard week right before Christmas I pored over these words from Joshua, "Be strong and courageous, do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." It seems there's a pervasive providence that delivers the perfect quote to meditate on at a time when it's most needed.

And then there are stories that just tug the heck outta my heartstrings.

Stories like this one:

An old friend from the church I went to growing up wrote to me with a request for a custom piece. Her grandmother had just passed away and she wanted to give her grandfather a gift to honor his wife. She explained that for the last few years her grandmother was in a nursing home and her grandfather would visit her faithfully every day to take care of her and make sure she got her meals. And each night before he'd leave he would sing to her.

Goodnight sweetheart
Til we meet tomorrow
Goodnight sweetheart
Sleep will vanish sorrow

Tears and parting may make us forlorn
But with the dawn a new day is born

Goodnight sweetheart
Though I'm not beside you
Goodnight sweetheart
Still my love will guide you
Dreams will enfold you
In each one I'll hold you

Goodnight sweetheart, Goodnight

If you got through that without crying I need to shake your hand.

Isn't that the most touching thing you've ever heard? Kirsten asked me to handletter those lyrics to give to her grandfather with a picture of her grandparents when they were young and another picture that was taken more recently. It was such an honor to be able to help create such a meaningful and tender gift, and the story is so beautiful- such a testament of love and dedication that I couldn't keep it to myself. 

goodnight-sweetheart-3-marigold-and-aster

Memoirs of a Liver Surgery

This morning I got out of bed. I let the dog out, drank a glass of water, made some coffee, vacuumed, put the dry dishes next to the sink away and read for a while. It was a normal morning. Nothing to write home about, despite what I'm currently doing.

One year ago I woke up from a night of fitful sleep crammed in a hospital bed next to my husband. His IV was in and he was ready to go. We grabbed the bags that were packed in preparation for the long post-surgery hospital stay coming up and headed to the surgery wing. We shared nervous goodbyes, said a prayer, and I went down the hall and into the waiting room with Tim's Aunt Emily, who had just shared a similar experience with her own husband. 

johns-hopkins-shadows

And then we waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. We watched shadows dance across the walls of John Hopkins' surgical waiting room as the sun climbed in the sky. I took phone calls every few hours from the operating room updating me on the progress of the surgery and  reassuring me that Tim and his Uncle Mark were doing well. That the surgery had begun, that Tim's liver had been split, that they were removing Mark's diseased liver, that they were preparing Tim's liver to be transplanted into Mark, that Tim was being sown up. That they were okay.

We sang and prayed and ate. We played card games. We passed the time and tried our best to distract ourselves while we waited for the surgery to end. And then it did.

After 8 hours of surgery, Tim was woken up and sent to the ICU. Man. You can try to prepare yourself to see your loved one in the ICU but try as you might, it's pretty freaking crazy (to put it eloquently). There lay my husband, a tangle of wires and beeping machines, donning a hospital gown and oxygen mask in a little hospital bed with blood stains on the sheet (the nurse messed up his arterial line and it bled on his bed. It wasn't a big deal, but it's not exactly what you want to see in that situation). True to my character, the tears began flowing. True to Tim's character, when I walked over to him and he drifted out of his post-surgery stupor, he comforted me.

Tim post-surgery

Tim post-surgery

Uncle Mark post-surgery

Uncle Mark post-surgery

The next hour or so was full of tears on my side and hilarious opiate induced quotes on Tim's. "I'm really fine, if you want to go clubbing you can." "I'm on top of the world!" "Lunch was good, but the service could have been better." (what?) 

The liver transplant surgery that I had nervously anticipated for months was over. Mark had a new, healthy, young liver. Tim had a sweet new scar. Through Tim, the doctors, nurses, techs, Mark, Emily, and myself had all witnessed a powerful act of sacrificial love and bravery. We saw God's faithfulness, power, and providence a little more clearly. 

We stayed in the hospital for the next week bouncing between the ICU, step-down unit, and transplant floor. It felt like a strange combination of hospital, hotel, and college dormitory. Despite the gravity of a major operation and a painful recovery, the four of us and those who visited for support shared so many laughs, tears, delicious meals, and precious memories in those little hospital rooms. 

Aunt Emily, Tim, Me, Aunt Michele, Uncle Mark the day after the transplant.

Aunt Emily, Tim, Me, Aunt Michele, Uncle Mark the day after the transplant.

It's been one year since that surgery. Tim is doing well, his liver has completely regenerated (crazy, right?). Mark is also doing well, aside from a few post-surgical complications, with his 24-year-old-un-cirrhosed liver, free of primary sclerosing cholangitis. I can look back on November 3rd, 2015 and be sure of two things: I married a good man and I believe in a great God.

 

(Also, a few weeks ago Tim said that his scar was hurting and I asked if he thought Voldemort was near. I hope that doesn't undermine the rest of this entry, I was just proud of my joke.)

This One's for my Babies

I turned 24 on May 14th, 2014. 24 was a big year for me. I got married in August, in October I was promoted, in December we visited my husband's family in Cambodia for Christmas, and in February we found out that we were expecting. 

We fell more in love with our growing babe each day. In April, at my 12 week checkup, we heard the best sound that I've ever heard to date - our baby's beating heart. It was loud and fast and really swooshy. The sound of life that I was given the privilege to carry.

Over the next few weeks we shared the exciting news with everyone, and now that we were out of the first trimester woods, we started to plan ahead. We checked out strollers and crib bedding and ordered maternity clothes since finding clothes that fit was quickly becoming a thing of the past. 

Then in May, a week before my 25th birthday and a few days before Mother's Day, I sat back on the exam table where we heard our baby's heartbeat for the first time a few weeks earlier and sobbed in silence. At 17 weeks pregnant, we were told that our baby had died.

It was a heartbreak that we were unprepared for, one that I'd never wish on anyone. We were naive and innocent, never imagining that this could happen so late. The next few weeks were filled with postpartum hormonal breakdowns and a grief that we had not yet been acquainted with. I don't know for sure if you ever fully recover from losing a baby, but I do know that if it does happen, it happens very slowly.

We packed up the maternity clothes, unsubscribed from all baby related mailing lists, and tried to wade through the pain of this new reality. During that time I clung to words of encouragement, to promises and songs and verses that reminded me that I was not alone and that things wouldn't always be so painful. I began to use my burgeoning calligraphy skills to create physical reminders that we could and would get through this. 

"This time I will praise the Lord."

A few months later we were given the go-ahead from the doctors and we began hoping and praying for another baby. Month after month we rode the roller coaster of "maybe" and "what if" only to be met with "not now" and "maybe next month". Then, in January, almost a year after that first positive pregnancy test, I found myself looking down at a second.

I was ecstatic. After a late loss and months of trying I feared that we would never be able to conceive again. I cried as I read the words of Leah in Genesis 22, after giving birth to Judah, "This time I will praise the Lord." I didn't know how long this baby would be with us, but I would praise the Lord for every minute with him or her. 

Just two weeks later, I waited on a stretcher to undergo emergency surgery for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Once again, just like that, our baby was gone.

When we lost our first baby, who we later found out was a little boy, a sweet friend gave me marigold seeds. Having gone through two miscarriages herself, she learned to honor and celebrate her babies by planting their birth flowers. Marigold is the birth flower for October, the month our little boy was due. Our second little baby was due last month, in September. The birth flower for September, as you may have guessed, is aster. 

The pain from losing our babies catalyzed my desire to leave my job. I needed time and space to heal in my own way. In the midst of this process, I began to create Marigold & Aster, an opportunity to heal and grow and express myself, and do something that I really love.

About two weeks after giving my notice at work, we found out that I was pregnant again. I was delighted and wholly believed that we would take this baby home. But once again, our joy was short lived as we learned that I was either miscarrying or the pregnancy was ectopic. After many trips to the ER we learned against all circumstances that our third baby was right where it should be with a beating heart. It was a miracle to have that information, and to know that our baby's heart was beating. Unfortunately, despite the good news, all signs pointed to miscarriage. A little over one week later we buried that little March baby, our sweet daffodil, next to his or her brother under my parents' magnolia tree.

"I like to think that I took the sourest lemon that life had to offer and made something resembling lemonade." 

A couple on a show (that I won't name for the sake of spoiler alerts) loses a baby during birth in the first episode. The wizened old doctor comes out to break the news to the father and then commiserates with him, saying that he, too, lost his first baby during birth. He says that the main reason he became a doctor was because of that baby, and he hoped in so doing he could save other babies. He offers the new father some advice, saying "I like to think that I took the sourest lemon that life had to offer and made something resembling lemonade." 

So there it is, the story behind "Marigold & Aster". This one's for my babies. And I hope that it's something like lemonade.

 

 

Awww, here it goes!

It was time to call it quits. You know, the old "office break-up". My time working at a 9-5 job as a graphic designer was coming to an end, I could feel it. It was one thing to come to that realization, but quite a bit harder to break it to the coworkers I had grown to love. But I did it. I mustered up the courage to leave my job. I gave my notice and there was no turning back.

I was (very) tempted to fly with abandon into the Netflix-laden, bath robe clad world of unemployment. After all, I had spent the last four plus years in offices, and cubicles, on commutes, working for clients, and meeting deadlines. Surely I had earned a little break, right? But it turned out that a three month pajama party full of "Friends" binges just wasn't truly what I wanted or needed. There's a big part of me that has to create.

I began practicing calligraphy about a year and a half ago. My husband and I were living in a tiny little apartment and winter was taking its sweet time thawing into spring. If you've ever lived in the northeast you may know that from December til mid-April the outdoors are an unwelcoming tundra of inactivity. So I stayed indoors and with the calligraphy starter kit that my husband had gotten me for Christmas I started to write. 

A few months later our lives changed, when in spring we suffered through a painful miscarriage. The calligraphy that I had been practicing in the warmth of that little apartment became a way to express myself, to meditate on truths, and to begin to soothe some of the deep pain that I had experienced in losing our baby. It began as a hobby and grew into a passion. Something that I loved and gave me life. 

Starting a small calligraphy business seemed like the natural next step once I felt ready to leave my job. The perfect intersection of practicality, opportunity, and passion.

So this is where it begins. Fresh out of the office, caring for a fledgling dream. My heart is brimming with excitement and ideas and inspiration, my head is a little overwhelmed with the logistics of this unknown territory. But here I am, trying to use this drive to create and share the fruits of that with as many people as I can in hopes that they can experience the same inspiration, encouragement, and healing from words that I experienced last spring.

Here I go. A new season. A fresh start. I can't wait to see what happens.

 

P.S. If you're not a 90's kid you may not get the reference in the title of this post. Educate yourself.