Thursday, April 19, 2012

Creative Outlet

I would be 27 weeks today, finishing up the last week of my second trimester and looking a lot like this:
Me at 27 weeks with Griffin
 And this:
28 weeks with Griffin
But instead, I'm empty and frustrated and missing my baby.  This just plain stinks.  I was just arriving at the super fun part of pregnancy...feeling movement all the time, showing more, feeling better, enjoying all the perks of looking pregnant.  And just as I felt sure that everything was going to be okay, it wasn't.  

There are some pretty terrible "extras" that come along with losing a baby in the womb or shortly thereafter.  First off, I still had my baby in my womb when he died, and I had to figure out the best way to birth him.  So, that likely translates into the majority of two days in the hospital at the very least.  IVs, drugs, tests, waiting, waiting, waiting, questions, hospital gowns, waiting, waiting, waiting.  Then, there is the physical recovery from delivering your baby whom you will never know on this earth, the physical recovery from pregnancy, the crazy hormonal changes, postpartum craziness, and everything.  And do all this whilst you grieve the loss of your precious child please.  Oh, and plan a memorial and figure out a burial "situation" on top of all that.  Down the road a bit, there is the aching and yearning, not only for the baby I lost, but for another...not to replace Levi, but to grow our family as we so desire to give Griffin a sibling close in age like I never had, to fill our home with more laughter, more cries, more memories, more family.  So, there's the intense longing for a baby....a baby.  Then you must face all the questions and fears...When should we start trying to conceive?  What happens if I lose the next baby too?  And the frustration...I just did the first half of pregnancy...I was planning to have my squishy, squirmy little newborn son in my arms in 3 short months.  3 months, not 12...or more...  And on top of all that, I suppose I better find the motivation and fortitude to lose the baby weight before getting pregnant again.  I hate to be so negative, but this is the reality...all the ridiculous extras that are piled on top of the typical grief of losing a loved one.

Enough ranting.  For the past month, I've really needed an outlet for all the pent up expectant, nesting energy I still have as Levi's mama.  So, without my Levi, I've turned to projects, projects, projects.  I don't remember the order I did most of these in, so in no particular order whatsover: 

We used to only use the left side of this cabinet as a pantry.  The right side we used as a "coat closet."  (We have a serious shortage of closet space in our trailer.)  Well, I decided the spaghetti sauce, canned goods, and peanut butter had fallen out onto my toes enough.  So, I moved the coats into a more appropriate space (the actual closet in our office/storage/craft/guest room), and added some shelves to the pantry.  And [sigh], isn't this so fantastic?  Look at all the S    P    A    C    E   !

We received some precious keepsakes from the hospital and from friends and family for Levi, and I had them sitting on a shelf in our living room for a while.  However, I wanted to find a "home" for his things.  He'll never have a nursery, a "big boy room", or his own shelf of toys, and I thought it would be nice to have a little Levi spot in the house.  So, I built a shadowbox for his things.  First, I bought a large, white frame on sale at Michael's.  Then, I got primed wood from Home Depot cut to make a box slightly smaller than the size of the frame.  After a couple coats of paint, I drilled holes for the shelf brackets and installed the shelf.

As for the frame, I took the backing off and folded the metal tabs meant to hold the picture and backing in place down to hold the glass in place.  (This took a bit of figuring out, because the tabs were up to high to hold the glass.  I just took a screwdriver and pressed down on the tab until it folded into an "L" shape against the glass...if that makes any sense.)  Then I attached the frame to the box using two little hinges:

After that, I installed a little magnet closure on the frame and box to keep the frame closed:

Then, all that was left was to hang it on the wall and fill it with all his precious things:

I think it turned out pretty well! 

I decided pretty early on to knit a blanket in memory of Levi.  I would likely be knitting or quilting a blanket for him by now, getting ready to wrap him up in it.  Although that will never be, I decided to do it anyway, in the hopes that God will give us another sweet baby in the not-so-distant future to put it to use.  I am a few rows from being finished with it now, and I just can't seem to actually complete it.  For some reason, all these little projects wind up making me feel the finality of losing my boy.  Each completed project, although it feels good in some ways, makes me feel one step farther from life with him in it.  I know I'm rambling here, but that's part of why I can't seem to go to bed at night until 2am...or later.  Each day coming to a close is one day further from him.  I suppose I could look at it as one day nearer to him, seeing as how he's in heaven.  But I must face the rest of my lifetime on earth without him.  Someday, I'll be saying, "It's been 20 years since I lost him."  And for some reason, that makes me so terribly sad.  I don't want 20 years without him....I want to live all the rest of my days and years with him.  Oh boy, I'm clearly in a rambling kind of mood.  Sorry.  If you read this entire post, you are quite kind.  So, the blanket....
I decided on an old pattern for the blanket called "Feather and Fan."  In case you're interested, here is the pattern written out:

Cast on a multiple of 18 st.
Row 1:  (RS) Knit
Row 2:  Purl
Row 3:  *(K2tog)3X, (YO, K1)6X, (K2tog)3X*, repeat from *
Row 4:  Knit

Isn't it pretty?  And so easy.  Really, I promise.  It looks much more complex than it is.

This pattern looks a lot more intricate and lacey with smaller weight yarn, but I wanted soft and fluffy and went with this yarn:

It is delightful.  But here is what the pattern looks like on a smaller scale using cotton yarn:

I have been so perplexed with my incredibly long, boring, very yellow hallway since we moved in almost 6 years ago.  What do you do with a gigantic wall in a hallway?  I tried putting up a collage of pictures, but even that was dwarfed by the length of the hall.  It would cost a small fortune to buy the size and number of frames and prints I would need to buy in order to make a photo collage look right and fill up the space adequately.  ANYway, I saw this idea for a giant clothespin art holder on Pinterest and thought I would give it a whirl.  I found these giant clothespins (already painted...bonus!) at Michaels for $1 a piece:

I then bought an extremely long, already primed board (or is it considered "trim" in this size?  I am clueless.)  at Home Depot.  Thank goodness the thing fit in the van!  Once I painted the board and got the spacing of the clothespins all figured out, I turned everything over and screwed the clothespins to the board through the back:

All that was left to do was to screw the entire contraption onto the wall, hang up Griffin's artwork, and enjoy!

As I've written about before, we were a week and a half from moving to Michigan when Levi died.  So, a lot of our belongings were in boxes and most of our house was in total and complete upheaval.  Since then, I've been trying to get all the boxes unpacked (we knew we needed to stay here while we grieve with and in our community) and get our house in some kind of functional order again.  While I have needed and enjoyed lots of unnecessary, superfluous projects like decorating and crafting, I cannot begin to tell you how unmotivated I am when it comes to doing necessary and important tasks.  Like feeding myself.  Or showering.  Or unpacking kitchen boxes so we have glasses to drink out of and pots to cook in...  Which leads me to cooking...ugh.  I think I've cooked 5 decent/acceptable meals since Levi died 7 weeks ago.  Bills?  What are those?  Anyway, I was pretty proud of myself for finally getting the vast majority of the boxes unpacked.  Most people move boxes into a fresh, empty space.  But when you need to unpack boxes into a lived-in disaster zone, it's another matter altogether.  First, the space that you are putting things into must be undisasterized.  [I just made that word up, in case you didn't catch it :)]  So, it's got to be cleaned (at least somewhat) and organized a bit so everything fits and whatnot.  Well, this is a lot like squeezing toothpaste out of the tube and then trying to shove it back in...It just doesn't all fit anymore.  So, I've had to be creative, get rid of stuff, and reorganize things to make it all work.  Here is an example...I don't like having cleaning products where Griffin can reach them, and they were all stacked crazily atop the dryer and in random spots throughout the house.  I found this idea on....[drumroll please].....Pinterest  (and it is so brilliant)  of using an over-the-door shoe holder for your cleaning supplies.  I'm loving it. so. much.

Other non-essential household improvement projects include painting our coffee table light, light blue.  I would have picked a different color, but I wanted it to be as close to free as possible, which meant using paint we already had in the shed.  What a ginormous task painting this table turned out to be.  Just know that if you ever paint a heavily used table, avoid white because there is simply no good way to seal the top of it really well without turning it yellow.  I tried the Polycrylic and spray acrylic that specifically advertise that they won't yellow things.  Some tips I learned the hard way through this project:
-Use a good primer.
-Sand surfaces you want very smooth with fine sandpaper between coats of paint to make it as smooth as possible.
-Wse a foam roller and foam "brushes" for a smooth finish.  (bristle brushes always leave streaks, no matter what techniques you use, and regular rollers add far too much least for a table like this)
-Use clear finishing wax on white or close to white pieces to seal to avoid yellowing and stay away  from from anything with "poly" in the name. (although this isn't ideal or very durable for surfaces like a heavily used table)
-If you are painting a table, let the paint dry for several days or even a week before applying the several coats of sealant. (I was impatient with this and am now finding that the surface of the paint is easily dented....meaning it still hasn't cured.  I'm hoping that it will harden completely over time; but since there is already a sealant on there, I'm nervous it might not...ugh)

I also decided that the curtains in our living room were too dark and depressing.  So, I made white ones out of a $9.00 sheet set from Walmart.  The fabric is ridiculously cheap and definitely not suited for sleeping on...but it's just lovely for plain, white curtains.  I also finished the bolster pillow on the trunk in the photo below.  It's very lumpy, and since I'm not sure what to do about that...I just don't really care.  Also in the below photo is a poster I designed of the lyrics to the song, "Be Still, My Soul," which we sang at Levi's memorial service.  It's also on the bookmarks we passed out at the memorial service, and it's so very meaningful to us.

Here is the design, since the glare is so bad in the pictures.  Notice my little baby boy's footprints down in the lower right:

Our good friend (and fabulous musician), Howard, led worship at Levi's memorial and did such a great job.  I put together a playlist on my iTunes in memory of Levi, but I just could not find a decent version of "Be Still, My Soul" least nothing that compared to Howard's version that he sang at the memorial.  So, I asked if he would record it for me, and I am so glad I did.  It will forever be precious to me, and I listen to it all. the. time.  I encourage you to take a few minutes, listen to this beautiful song, and mediate on the deeply meaningful lyrics:  Click here to listen to Howard's version of "Be Still, My Soul" [get some tissues ready too...I know I do]

I saw another idea on Pinterest that I had wanted to do once Levi was born of family handprints all in different colored paper, stacked on top of one another according to size.  I had no idea how terribly soon I would have Levi's handprint.  Oh, little one, you had so much growing left to do...  Now, no matter how many children we have, Levi's little handprint will always be the smallest (please, Lord, please).  My surgeon was able to give us Levi's hand and foot prints after he was delivered, and so I used tracing paper to trace his little fingers and toes.  I decided to to both our hands and feet in different frames.  Here is how they turned out:

Sometime a couple weeks ago, I became frustrated that I did not know how to crochet.  I'm not sure why that suddenly became an important skill to me...I mean, how many dishcloths, scarves, and blankets does a person/family really need?  But, I'm not the kind of person who backs down from a challenge.  Apparently, challenges like organizing our finances and figuring out what on earth is going on with my student loans take a back seat to things like suddenly needing to learn how to crochet.  I seemingly cannot live for much longer without a blanket like this (not a blanket I have made...just a picture I saw a while back):

So, I promptly began an 23 lesson, online "crochet school," complete with instructional videos.  It is fantastic.  If you even slightly interested (and even if you're really not), you should check it out here.  I loved every second of it, minus the initial complete befuddlement at to hold/work everything at first.  After completing most of the course, I made a couple of simple, easy, quick dishcloths, which are fairly ugly but allowed me to practice a lot of different skills:

But then, it was time to tackle what I really learned to crochet for:  a granny square blanket.  But, I'm not interested in your traditional granny square.  No, I have to make things a zillion times more difficult for myself.  Instead, I wanted to use a rounder looking pattern on the inside like this:

So, I tracked this pattern down, and it is called "Sunburst Granny Square" by Priscilla Hewitt.  The pattern can be found here, in case you're interested in suddenly teaching yourself how to crochet in order to make a blanket, of all things.  ANYway, I have made 18 squares so far according to her pattern and using the needle size she specifies, but I have also started a second blanket in the same pattern but using a much larger sized needle for a bigger square and a softer blanket.  So, now I apparently think I need two granny square blankets.  My rationale is that I will want one as a throw for adults in the living room or something and one for my future babies.  Yes, plural.  Please, Lord.  So here are what my squares are shaping up to look like.  Here is my very first one:

Isn't she lovely?

See how the second row puffs up a bit?  I love that.  It's called the "puff stitch", and she explains how to do it in the pattern.  It's part of what gives this pattern so much more dimension than the granny square you typically see.

I plan to do an update soon as these pictures are already way behind where I'm at with the blanket.  I can't really explain why it's fun or what I'm getting out of it.  I suppose I'm sort of using it as an escape, sort of using it to vent my feelings, sort of using it to busy myself, sort of using it to redirect my energies to something more productive than wallowing.  But, you know, sometimes it's impossible not to be absorbed with it all day, no matter how much you pray, no matter how much you want to be okay, no matter how thankful you are for what you have or how much you rationalize things.  Today has been one of those days.  I want to warn you, I can sense that I am about to go on a very long ramble of venting.  If you don't care to hear negativity or wrong-thinking, please stop here.  My heart is very heavy, and I've cried on and off all day.  Sometimes, when I think about how life is for others, I get extremely jealous, even covetous to be honest, of how light their hearts are, how nonchalantly, easily they get to go through their pregnancies, how so many hearts have not tasted the bitterness of losing a baby, how so many's greatest concerns are things like where they're going to go out with their friends that night or what color carpet to install.  I know everyone has issues, problems, burdens, and I don't mean to demean them at all.  It's just that when you are suffering, it seems as if the vast majority of the people you know are not.  It seems that way...I'm not saying it's true.  And it feels so unfair to be the one singled out in this way.  I would never wish anything like this on anyone I know, but why does it seem like only we are struggling like this?  It feels so...lonely.  And even though I know intellectually this isn't true, I'm just venting what it feels like.  This past year has been so terribly bitter that I hardly know what to expect for our future.  On top of a crippling anxiety disorder struggle, a very difficult terrible twos season for the past 8 months, Oliver going from job to job to terrible job, and losing our baby halfway through my pregnancy, we have to be continuously, never-endingly drowing financially.  Drowning.  Constantly.  I blush to even think about the late notices and overdue bills.  It's been almost 10 years of this, and it is just getting plain old.  The burdens are so heavy and so plentiful right now that I feel myself growing despondent in the midst of it all.  Oliver has his 3rd interview for a decent job tomorrow morning, and we are praying he will get it.  Neither of us wanted to get our hopes up, but alas, somehow we still have the ability to Christ alone.  But we are so, so afraid of what will happen to our hearts if he doesn't get the job.  If God says, "No.  Suffer more." once again.  

I debated whether or not to share this because it is so deep and so...unflattering, but I think it's more important to be honest and expose these thoughts to the light rather than keep these thoughts hidden in the darkness where they are most fed, most comfortable, and most damaging.  So, here it is...and here come the tears...[sigh] I feel like a dog who has done something naughty, say peed on the carpet, and the owner comes over and yells, "Bad dog!  Bad dog!"  And to drive the point home, the owner takes the dogs nose and rubs it in the puddle of wet carpet.  Then the dog looks up at the owner, knowing she's done something terribly wrong but is not sure what.  Cowering, looking to the owner with a confused mix of fear of what he's going to do next, the dog out of instinct yet trusts the owner, yet loves him.  Okay, so I realize that sounds a lot more messed up than I intended, but there it is.  I know theologically and biblically it's a very wrong perspective on myself and on God.  I'm not saying that I believe God is a heartless, cruel, abusive despot.  I'm just saying that that is the image that keeps popping up with what has happened.  A lot of times I feel like I'm being punished or at least being forcibly sanctified, refined with fire.  And a lot of times, it feels like I'm having my nose rubbed in the harsh reality that my baby is dead with seemingly everyone being pregnant or having newborns and everything just going swimmingly well.  And I'm supposed to keep a good attitude about it as a follower of Christ and to honor God.  I'm not supposed to covet.  But I am so fallen, so twisted, so sinful, and I just cannot always maintain a proper perspective.  And when I am weak and sliding around in slippery, misleading emotions, that image of the dog and the owner pops up.  It is so embarrassing that something so ugly is burrowed so deep in my heart, but I needed to share it so it would be exposed, confessed.  Clearly, the abusive dog owner would not lay down his own life for the sake of his dog.  And clearly I am not as innocent as that dog.  

If anyone has, by some miracle, read to the end of this excruciatingly long post, I thank you.  Thank you for letting me share some of my ugliness with you.  I'm sorry this post was such a roller coaster, from lighthearted to dark and serious in a sentence or two.  I suppose that gives a pretty good picture at what a person's heart does throughout the day in grief.  


  1. Thank you for sharing this, Katie. The projects you've been working on are beautiful.

    I read these posts and wish I had something profound to say. Words fail me, but I wanted to let you know that I am reading.

  2. It was easy to read and didn't seem all that long. I've wanted to write to you for weeks, I've started several times on Facebook only to delete what I typed for fear of not saying the right thing. I'm sorry for being so stupid. Ive wanted so badly to feel connected to you, a wanting to be there for you but not knowing how from far away. I'm an "acts of service" girl. I'd love to bring you dinner, help you unpack and just cry with you. So, reading you blog makes me feel close to you. Im impressed by you and your journey through your grief. My heart aches to hug and cry with you and to one day meet you in heaven and see Levi in your arms. I love you so much Katie, and Im praying for you and crying with you.

  3. Katie, I just read throught your blog. What a journey you and your family are going through. Thanks for being so articulate. Even after working in labor and delivery for so many years it never got easier to help couples through this incredibly difficult time of losing a baby!! There were never words to express our sympathies. And because of that people just expect you to move on. Your description of all your feelings and experiences so vividly paints the reality of all you must pass through. But you are using your energies and grief in such productive ways. I hope many will benefit from this blog. I'm sure God will use this experience in your life to bless many. Thanks for making little Levi's short life so impactful. Blessings to you , Oliver and Griffin.
    Laurie Jipping

  4. Thank-you for sharing, Katie. I too am at a loss for words. Just want you to know we are thinking, praying, and grieving with you.


  5. Dear Katie- While searching Pinterest for a shadowbox project, I came across your blog. I'm reading this almost 2 years after it was posted, but how it touched my heart as a fellow believer. In the Psalms, David often questioned God and asked why He would hide His face. And sometimes we will, too. But I pray that in the last 2 years, God has given you the strength, faith and patience you've needed. And I pray that he has touched your heart and blessed your family.