The Grief Spinwheel

February 25, 2022

At the time I’m writing this, it has been one week since an ultrasound confirmed that my baby’s heart had stopped beating. Three days since the D&C surgery which left me empty and broken. It almost seems like the enemy took my bold attempt to “take joy” no matter the circumstances as a personal challenge. I am no stranger to grief, including this particular brand of grief. This being my fourth pregnancy loss, I (kind of) know what to expect from my grief and emotions.

You’ve probably heard of the five stages of grief (sadness, anger, denial, bargaining, and acceptance). I have absolutely flown through each of these stages in the past week. Which is not to say that I’m at the acceptance stage. The stages of grief are not something to be worked through in a straight path, because grief itself is not linear. One day we might find that we are doing okay, and the next day we may find it difficult to even get out of bed. With everything being so fresh, I find myself waking up each morning to play The Grief Spinwheel.

The Grief Spinwheel is this super fun game where I wake up and wait to see which will be my overarching emotion for the morning: debilitating depression, numbness, rage, or denial. Mornings are the hardest, because I wake up and have to face the day with the knowledge that my baby is gone and life for everyone else has just gone on. Each morning I am affected by this differently. For example, yesterday was a really hard day. I cried most of the morning and could barely manage to peel myself off the couch. Today, on the other hand, I feel frustrated and angry and like everything and everyone is annoying.

I think the key to managing life with The Grief Spinwheel is first of all to identify and acknowledge what I’m feeling and why. This morning, when I felt like screaming, I reminded myself that it was normal and okay to feel angry. Simply naming the feeling and allowing it to exist helped me feel slightly less rage-y.

Basically what I’m doing here is parenting myself the same way I parent my children. In our house, all feelings are okay. When a four-year old is having a meltdown, I usually say something like, “you’re feeling angry. It’s okay to feel angry.” This doesn’t always help but frequently I find that this speeds up the time until the tiny fury is calmed. The same goes for me – when I okay my own feelings of anger or depression, it soothes me. I know that what I’m feeling is normal and allowed. I don’t have to try to pretend to be okay. My feelings are valid and I’m allowed to express them in appropriate ways.

I think that I’m just sharing all this because I want you to know that if you ever find yourself playing The Grief Spinwheel, then you can at least identify what is happening, and maybe just doing that will help you to feel more in control. I hate feeling out of control in any situation, but particularly when it comes to my emotions. It’s a challenge on a normal day to be in control of our emotions (that’s really what started this blog in the first place), but add in the grief and the pregnancy hormones which are doing who knows what at the moment, and it can feel like a losing battle. But God. I know that I have the power to change how I feel, which doesn’t mean that I will not mourn and feel sad and miss my baby. Grief, of course, is love. But it does mean that God can help me feel peace no matter the circumstances. I take Him at His word and when He says that, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (That’s Phil 4:7). I have a lot of questions for God about these four little babies of ours (actually I just have a LOT of questions in general…) but the one thing I know to be true is that when I ask God to change my heart to be more like His, He always answers my prayer.

I have hope that He will somehow use these losses for good, for His glory. But I can’t pretend that it’s not awful. And yet tomorrow when I wake up and play The Grief Spinwheel once again, I know that He will be watching and waiting for me to ask Him for what I need, whether it’s peace, or strength, or just a place to rest my weary soul.



February 21, 2022

Whenever anyone asks me how many children Kit and I want, I always respond with “as many as the good Lord sees fit to give us.” In our hearts, we’ve both always thought four would be a good number for us. So one morning in early January when I took a pregnancy test that instantly turned positive, we were both overjoyed. Although I had a history of three prior pregnancy losses, I knew in my heart that this one was special. I refused to give in to the negative and anxious thoughts that tried to sneak in. I prayed in agreement with God that this little person was created on purpose for a purpose and I knew that He had mighty plans for this sweet one.

Because of my history, I covered this baby with prayer, and repeated positive affirmations for myself. I repeatedly told myself “it is safe for me to be pregnant.” I cleaned up my diet and started eating better than I probably ever have before, flooding my body with protein and nourishing foods to give this baby the best possible chance to survive.

When we told our three children that they were going to have a new brother or sister, their reactions were truly magical. I couldn’t believe how excited they all were and conversations about the baby that they affectionately dubbed, “Pocket,” and what life would be like once he or she arrived occurred multiple times each day. We discussed how we would rearrange the rooms, what the baby would do, and even how we would configure the carseats so everyone would fit in my mama-mobile. Their joy was contagious and they told everyone they saw about their new sibling.

Taking turns talking to and kissing baby Pocket

Despite my anxiety, I reassured myself that all was well because I felt good. I had no cramping or bleeding, but I did have nausea, sleeplessness, food aversions, and other pregnancy symptoms. Everything was going great.

In February, I had my first ultrasound. We arranged childcare for our youngest daughter Luna so that Kit could come with me and see his little one for the first time. The ultrasound tech placed the wand on my abdomen and began asking me a lot of questions about how far along I was, how sure I was about my dates, my prior pregnancies, and so forth. Then she said, “this is where we should be able to see the heartbeat, but I’m not seeing anything.” She explained that baby was measuring small and that it appeared that there had been a heartbeat but that it had stopped several days prior. I asked her if there was any chance at all, and she said “No, I don’t think so.”

You were here.

Sobbing, we were escorted to a private room to await the midwife. When she came in, she explained that because I hadn’t had any pain or bleeding and because we wanted to be 100% certain, the best thing to do was to wait and come back for a repeat ultrasound in a week. We went home that day completely devastated, and fully convinced that our baby was gone. The following week was somewhat of a blur, but over the course of the week I slowly began to convince myself that we would get a miracle and that when we went back the following week there would somehow be a heartbeat. We would be a testament to the power of faith.

At the next appointment, our ultrasound tech gently explained everything that she saw as she carefully measured and examined our small, still baby. No growth. No heartbeat. No hope. We discussed our options and plan with the doctor, and went home to grieve.

On February 15, 2022, our beloved Pocket, a baby girl named Celia, was born via D&C surgery. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and I am completely devastated. I have so many questions that I know I’ll never get the answers to on this side of glory. I don’t understand why this keeps happening to us. Genetic testing confirmed that Celia had Trisomy 13 and basically had no chance of survival. Is this what happened to our other babies? Will this happen again? So. Many. Questions.

My best girl who refused to leave my side when I came home from the hospital.

For now I just cling to what I do know: I know God is good. I know He cares for me and hurts with me. And I know that we will see all our babies again one sweet day.


Baby Steps for When Things Are Hard

January 18, 2022

Listen. I know. It’s not easy to reverse those negative thoughts when they come up, even under the best of circumstances. But it takes a certain level of mental fortitude to change your thought pattern when things get hard in life. Can I just encourage you that you have it in you to do this? No matter what is going on in your life, you have the power to change things simply by changing your thoughts. You can change the way you think. Seriously.

Self care = coffee and Tootsie.

In this world you will have trouble…

We are literally promised to have trouble in life. No matter how hard you work or how “lucky” you are, eventually trouble will find you. But Jesus tells us to take heart because he has overcome the world. To “take heart” means to gain courage or confidence or to begin to feel encouraged or hopeful. Don’t miss this – it’s Jesus telling us how we should feel regardless of what is going on in the world or in our lives. And the very fact that he is telling us how to feel shows us that we must have the power to change our feelings. The Bible empowers us to take control of our thoughts and feelings, and directs us how to do that! If you’re looking for a roadmap to a positive mindset, just open your Bible.

I have been through some really awful things, and I’ve lived through really challenging times where I struggled to control my thoughts. As a young woman, I don’t think I would have believed you if you had told me that I could change my feelings. I remember being depressed about a particular event and feeling like there was literally no way I would ever be able to climb out of that pit. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I embarked on this journey to take control of my thoughts that I really started to do the work and make the changes.

In case you think I have it all figured out…

In no world do I want you to think that I have this all figured out or that I never struggle with negative thoughts. Recently I was going through a very challenging time where I was struggling with a really complicated and heartbreaking situation. It was also the holiday season. And my entire family had been diagnosed with covid. I was not operating at my peak self levels. I was snapping at my family, letting my routines and rhythms fall by the wayside, and was just generally radiating a vibe of grump and funk. My thoughts largely consisted of, “This isn’t fair. Everything is hard. I can’t do this.” etc. I actually hung out at this level for a few days until I was finally able to pull myself out of it. Because I have been working so hard to challenge my negative thoughts and change them to positive ones, I could see what was happening. But because of the seriousness of the situation I was dealing with, I found it really difficult to actually do what I needed to do to feel better.

So what did I do instead?

I couldn’t instantly pull myself out of this funk. I knew it had to be done, but it was a STRUGGLE. I also knew that an all-or-nothing mentality had not served me in the past, so rather than feeling guilty for not being able to feel joy in the midst of my suffering, I focused on what I could change. What small actions could I take that would help me to feel at least moderately better? First I assessed my situation and figured out what things on my plate had to go right away. Anything that felt too heavy or like it was pushing me over the edge had to go immediately. Next, I figured out what small action I could add into my day that would feel like self care. One day it was talking with a girlfriend. Another day I got to snuggle in my jammies in front of the Christmas tree with my cat on my lap and a cup of coffee. Another day was a breakfast date with my husband. Finally, I named what I was feeling and why I was feeling that way. By identifying my emotions and what specifically was bothering me, it shifted the power dynamic back so that I felt I had control to adjust what I was feeling. Processing our emotions out loud with a trusted friend/spouse, in prayer time, or even in a journal, is ultimately what enables us to move on from those heavy feelings.

Neuroplasticity saves the day!

The work of changing our thoughts is not easy. Sometimes it seems downright impossible. But even if you don’t believe in God, science itself proves that our brains are capable of changing. It’s called neuroplasticity and it’s the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury. Basically, it means the brain can change and adapt. For example, perhaps you constantly feel like you’ll never be good enough. By regularly having these thoughts, you’ve trained your brain to think that way! So you’ve created your own rut that you’re stuck in by allowing these thoughts to continue. But don’t worry – neuroplasticity will save the day! By forcing yourself to challenge that thought and flip it into something positive, you can actually climb your way out of the trench you’ve created and form a new pathway for your mind. I plan to delve deeper into this in a future post, but for now, just remember that you’re not stuck feeling any particular way. There’s always hope. And when things are really hard, just remember to subtract and add: Subtract (remove) anything taking up your time that feels too heavy at the moment and add something that will feel soothing to your soul. With these two small actions, you’ll have taken two steps in the direction that you want to go, despite the difficult circumstances you might be facing.


When You Forget to Shift Your Mindset

January 4, 2022
Maybe every post is going to have a picture of Tootsie. Who can say? Only time will tell.

Yesterday was a fairly normal day. Nothing bad happened, and nothing particularly exciting happened either. And in my normal day, just like everyone, I experienced a series of ups and downs with my emotions. There were moments of laughter, and moments of frustrations. I don’t expect that any day will be without frustration, but my goal is to have more laughter moments than frustration moments. Since I can’t control my external circumstances, the best way to ensure more good moments than bad moments is to have a positive mindset.

If you are new to the practice of mindfulness or mindset shifting or whatever you want to call it, you may notice that it’s difficult to even remember that you CAN shift your thinking when you’re in the middle of dealing with a negative thought. A dozen negative thoughts might come and go long before you remember you were supposed to be changing your thinking. So how can we make this become natural so that we practice it more throughout our days?

My bedtime practice

I recently started this practice at bedtime where I take an inventory of my day and all its frustrating moments. I begin by trying to remember any times that I felt stress or frustration, and then I make myself reframe the thought to turn it into a positive one. This way, I know that if the exact same situation happens tomorrow, or even a similar situation, I now I have a tool to use to change my thinking and therefore change my feeling about something. Phrasing them as affirmations or mantras helps me apply and remember them.

How about some examples?

Let me show you a few examples from yesterday, which like I said was a fairly average day.

Frustration moment: I had just picked up the flatiron to start styling my hair when my daughter came in wanting to be picked up and held. At the time I thought, “ugh I guess I’ll just look like crap today.”

How to reframe: “I am so excited to spend time with my children! I welcome interruptions from them because I genuinely enjoy spending time with them.”

Frustration moment: As I was trying to read the older boys a bedtime story, they were acting silly, clearly not listening and it felt pointless. I didn’t get mad but I simply put the book down and went back to what I was originally doing before I had stopped to read the book. I felt disappointed that I didn’t get to read the story.

How to reframe: “They are behaving like children and that’s okay. We can try to read the book again tomorrow.”

Frustration moment: My daughter took only a short nap and so I didn’t get any of the things done that I was trying to accomplish.

How to reframe: “I release control over the timing and order of my day.”

It almost sounds silly to type some of this out because in a way it’s obvious. But the practice of listing out my frustrations and then purposefully reframing them after the fact has made such a huge difference in how my days go.

Practice makes permanent

My piano teacher used to say “practice makes permanent.” In other words, if you repeatedly do something over and over, even if it’s a mistake, then that’s the way you will always do it. It will become harder and harder to course-correct when that mistake is so ingrained in the way you’ve done things. So when I was misreading a note in Clair de Lune and playing it incorrectly over and over as I practiced, it became more difficult for me to fix it when I finally realized the mistake. Muscle memory is real y’all. But the same is true for our mindset. If we have negative thoughts over and over, then those are going to become our default. Conversely, if we practice positive thinking, then THAT will become our default.

Okay but like, I forgot to try to think positively about that situation…

This is where the bedtime inventory comes in handy. Because you are consciously making the effort to reframe thoughts after the fact, it’s like intentionally practicing that piano piece correctly. You can take your time, the stakes are low because the day is done and the situation is over (at least in the immediate sense), and you are now in full control of your thoughts. I’m also a big believer in doing things right before bed if you want to remember them. In law school, one of my biggest hacks to study for exams was by reading my notes on a particular subject in bed right before I fell asleep and then sleeping with those notes next to me so that I could pick them up and they would be the first thing I looked at in the morning. I’m sure there is some science to this but when you bookend your sleep with whatever it is that you’re trying to learn, you learn it quicker and easier. Try it! You can do this in your head or even in your journal. Just list out your frustrations from that day, and then write out affirmations or mantras to combat those frustrations. When you wake up, review your new affirmations and you will be amazed at how easily they come to mind without as much conscious effort the next time a similar struggle arises.

Let me know if you try it! And remember, I am always in this with you.


But What Does Taking Joy Even Mean?

November 29, 2021

Hello invisible internet friends! This is the first post in what will hopefully be a prolific blog about my journey to find and take joy wherever I can (and how you can too!). As I am writing this, I am picturing you, dear friend, who has stumbled on my site a few years from now and who has decided to go wayyyyy back into the archives to glean as much information as possible from me. I have a vision that this tiny little blog and the woman writing it will one day be helping thousands of women every single day. So if that’s you, my futuristic friend, welcome! I can’t wait to help you! Or maybe you are one of a few people actually reading this close to when it’s been written (hi husband!). Hello to you too! I hope you stick around, because there is so much good to come. But first let’s talk a little about how I got here.

Let’s start at the very beginning…

I was sitting in my car one July day having just strapped my one year old daughter into her carseat as tears streamed down my cheeks. We had just left our most recent therapy appointment for feeding and swallowing, meant to get our girl on track to be able to eat solid foods on her own. She’d had surgery two weeks prior and my expectation that this would magically fix everything had (unsurprisingly) not been met. At home, I knew my home was a wreck and my older two boys, aged four and six, were likely alternating between fighting and running completely wild through the house. I pictured the pile of dishes sitting in my sink, the pillows strewn about the living room from their latest fort creation, and the cracker crumbs that were surely dusting my floor. I thought about the many nights ahead of me waking up several times a night to nurse my daughter since breastmilk was still her main source of nourishment. I thought about my job and the string of unanswered emails I still had to get to that morning. Also I had contracted shingles which were incredibly painful and like, gross. And I felt overwhelmed. But as quickly as my eyes filled that morning, my heart was opened and the Lord spoke to me.

“…yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:18

I had been listening to a podcast on the way to our appointment that morning, and the host had quoted this verse from Habakkuk: “…yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” The words TAKE JOY jumped out at me through my car speakers. Take joy, God? You mean joy is not just going to fill my heart automatically? I have to work at this? Actually, that’s kind of a relief. A huge one, to be honest. Because in combining those two words, take joy, we see that we don’t have to wait for the perfect circumstances to be joyful. We aren’t expected to just automatically feel joy at every moment of our day. But what’s great is we are empowered to take it for ourselves, in every circumstance and at every opportunity. Talk about good news. God had laid this sweet message onto my heart and He did it with such love and tenderness. In that moment I knew that this was something that He wanted me to not only receive, but to share as well.

I’m a bit of a control freak.

I really like being in control. It’s something I’m working on (and will probably have to continue working on for my whole life). Over the years in my quest to become less of a control freak, I’ve learned that there are a lot, a LOT, of things that are completely out of our control. Other people are at the top of that list. What has amazed me and changed my life, however, was learning that some of the things that I felt were out of my control were 100% within my power to change. I’m not a slave to my feelings and thoughts – I can control them just as much as I control my choices and actions. What?! This is the very core of Taking Joy.

What’s Next?

My hope for this blog is to show you what I’ve learned and teach you how to do it yourself. To take control of your own mind – your thoughts and your feelings – and in doing so, change your life. I pray that today as you read this, it’s your first step in your journey to taking joy at every opportunity. I’m in this with you. Let’s take joy together.

Tootsie, who takes joy in biting unsuspecting visitors.