Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Joan of Arc

Tuesday was ordinary, maybe even a little less than ordinary because I was multitasking in ways that had me frazzled, not quite present, edgy even. Ballet followed by lunch with friends was a nice retreat from the craziness I had created that day--a lost to-do list, papers scattered on my desk, clothes thrown on the floor, an unmade bed. It wasn't a bad day. It just wasn't, well, great. I'm okay with that. They can't all be fireworks.

By late afternoon, I lost such direction that I stood in the middle of the room not once, but twice, and said out loud, "What was I just doing?" And somewhere around mid afternoon, when I noticed the long shadows in the driveway and the sun's arrival over the back woods where it begins its nightly retreat, I decided I wasn't letting the day go down without a fight.

I still had things to do, a house to tidy, mouths to feed, but suddenly at that moment the most important thing was finding a way to resuscitate life back into our day. Like it was hidden in a game of hide-and-seek and my challenge was to find it.

No brainer. It's at the beach. I didn't really have the energy to pack up pails and shovels and head out, and I knew Brett wasn't in the mood either. But maybe those are the times you need it most--when it's work. It started begrudgingly--our quick preparation to take the girls to a beach sunset--but by the time we drove the four miles and caught that pink horizon from our windshield right before we pulled in to the parking ramp, everything settled and my lost direction was suddenly clear.

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We arrived just in time as if that heavy pink sun hung still right before it hit the water line, waiting for our arrival.

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Onlookers clapped like they always do once it finally fell, and we stayed and relished its afterglow.

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Nella walked the beach for the first time, her little body confidently trudging right toward the gulf. It knocked her down a few times, and she shuddered as the cold water lapped over her legs and diaper. I pulled her back into dry sand, away from the intimidating waters, but that didn't stop her. She trudged forward, like Joan of Arc, again and again and again. To conquer the water, to seek the thrill.

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Yesterday, ABCNews.com did a story on Living with Down syndrome and Nella. Cara, the producer, did a beautiful job, and I felt so humbled and honored to have the opportunity to represent this amazing community of parents and share what I believe to be very important--that we all have a choice in how we embrace hardship, and that it can open the door to living a bigger, better life. It's a story we share with many. But, for some reason, I read the first comment after the post--nothing I haven't heard before, a bit of a *yawn* by now--but still, the presented concept pissed me off at that particluar moment. That, my God, a story of a family living life to its fullest and celebrating their child who is doing great is ridiculous because our kid is two and it's going to get so much worse. Here's the thing--this person is completely right in the fact that it's going to get worse--more hardship, far more difficult challenges than, say, occupational therapy. My opposition to the comment really has nothing to do with Down syndrome or negativity in a comment--we deal with both on a regular basis, and we tend to forget about them respectively.

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The problem I have with it is the theory that happiness and perspective and grabbing life by the balls is somehow discredited if challenges are still ahead. I got fired up, something I don't often do anymore over a silly comment. Because if there's one thing I have a problem with, it's joy-suckers. Don't suck my joy. Don't suck someone else's joy. You think I don't know what's ahead? You think I don't have moments where I put myself there--ten years from now, thirty years from now, fifty years from now? You know what statistics say? I know damn well it's a hard, hard road and there will be tears. But I trudge forward. Like Joan of freaking Arc, and I embrace the challenges and choose to be happy. Knock me down, Waves. I'll get back up. I do cartwheels, okay? In my driveway. Sometimes in my nightgown. And I will never stop trying to live life this way.

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There is reason for everyone to be unhappy. There is reason for everyone to be happy. What's your focus?

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I've been thinking a lot about adventure seeking. How people choose to climb Mt. Everest knowing it's a brutal challenge. How my friend, Melina, slips in a kayak and paddles through life-threatening rapids because she wants to feel the thrill. How runners train for marathons when, certainly, a 26-mile run doesn't promise a pleasant experience. How surfers suffer concussions and yet get right back out there because there's something bigger on the other side. Adventure, victory, adrenaline, the self-awareness that comes from conquering something difficult.

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You can look at this big picture or small picture; it works both ways. Heading to a beach sunset even when you don't feel like it. Pulling the craft bin out in search of glitter, knowing it will make a huge mess. Signing up for an African Drum class even though it's one more thing on your already busy schedule (I'm thinking about it). Choosing to embrace the heartache of raising a child with Down syndrome and being happy, exhuberant, determined in spite of it.

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My point? You cannot wait for Life to come to you. You have to go get it--pursue it in a wild, passionate chase that includes the foreboding depths of challenge and heartache just as much as the ecstacy of triumph and success. You have to want it bad enough to seek it not only when things are rough and the pursuit of it brings the hope of change, but when things are comfortable and easy, and the quest for more living--more purposeful awareness--might even make you scared. It is in that fear--that breathtaking exhileration of "What If?"--that you rise to the occassion.

You step out of your comfort zone and experience the thrill of taking risks and the possibility of believing that, sure, things might be good, but if you stretched a little further, they might be great. I want to know great. And I will work hard to find it.

...and that's why we went to the beach.

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*****

Introducing new sponsor, Thirty One Gifts Independent Consultant, Nicki Kusek. Thirty One Gifts has a brand new catalogue out as of yesterday, and it's chock full of some great organizational totes and storage options.

Our new utility bag is like Mary Poppins' bag--you can fit a house in it. Perfect for the beach.

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And Lainey & Nella's personalized cinch bags came in handy when I organized everything they'd need while I was in NY last week.

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Totes are affordably priced, and there is a great variety of sizes available. Happy Shopping.


*****

Also joining Enjoying the Small Things this month is Mom Colored Glasses, a site dedicated to inspiring moms by providing ideas and information in a fun, well-organized way. One click on their site will lead you to a great collection of articles, recipes, crafts, forums, and little things that will surely make you happy. From ideas for better living to suggestions for both the best kid and mom books, it's a colorful, lively place to be--a great source for motherhood inspiration.

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*****

I'm chasing life this week. Planning Nella's little party this weekend is helping.

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Tea Party in the Woods to come. We will announce and celebrate the closing of Nella's 2 for 2 Fund after this weekend.


And in case you lost that beautiful piece ABC News did in my fiery sermon, you can watch it HERE.

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451 comments:

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astrogirl529 said...

Gorgeous photos, some people just want to be unhappy. I'm glad you are choosing to live a joyful life, your children will grow up very happy.

Erin said...

That last photo brought tears. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!

Girlies,
You picked AWESOME parents!! God bless your sweet little hearts.

Sharon @ Hiking Toward Home said...

I absolutely LOVE the last photo. so beautiful.

Laura said...

love this post..you are so honest and I love it...this is a side of you we don't often see but it was great! you amaze me every time I read a new post!

We went to the beach this morning it always makes my day so much better!

We are making some huge changes this year with a move across the country...life is good now so I hope this move will make it great.

Brenna said...

Oh my goodness. That last photo of Nella is just precious. She is SO beautiful!

~F~ said...

I'm usually just a blog creeper but this post tempted me too much. As someone already commented, you are like a spiritual guru - your words move people. And the last picture of Nella...it's magical.

P.S. You would totally rock a "Don't suck my joy." shirt!

Bri!!! said...

Looks like joy sucker deleted her comment? I tried to find it, but it wasn't there. I LOVED this post mama! You are truly incredible, and I'm in love with Nella bean!

Michelle said...

I read this quickly yesterday and loved it. I read it slowly today and loved it even more. Thank you for the good perspective and for the always gentle push to be more of who I want to be. :o)

Rachel said...

Thank you for this post. I want to be a mom who lives life like the woman in Proverbs 31:25 "She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come." Not afraid of tomorrow but happily embracing it! But at the same time recognizing the need we will have for strength and dignity to face the hard things that inevitably will come our way.

Shel said...

WTH!! I feel so sorry for people who have so little joy in their lives that they try to steal the joy of others. Our perfect little girl Chloe has Down Syndrome, and of course we know there are challenges ahead, but we focus on the now. She has already far exceeded my expectations in her 9 years, AND survived ALL Leukemia, she is a freaking ROCKSTAR and nobody can take that away from me by telling me that its going to get worse. We lived in "worse" for awhile...it is only getting better :) Hugs to you guys! Thanks for always bringing joy to MY life by sharing your beautiful family

Caringbridge.org/visit/chloemalena

Fresh Mommy said...

YES YES and YES! And Amen too :) Love this whole post.

~Tabitha

Aleisha said...

Kelle following you through your journey of motherhood has been a complete pleasure. The video you posted brought tears to my eyes as you talked about your first few days. I was told at Ava Faith's (Mush as we nicknamed her! Yes...she will hate me for it when she is older! Her name Ava Faith was because we need to "Have Faith") "sex reveal" that she was either going to be born with Downs or Trisomy 18. I grieved for about 2 months after that. Like I had already lost her. What would life be like for my other 2 kids. What had I done to my family? Did I cause this? etc. It wasn't until the month I was about to have her that I felt like I could conquer anything. YOU helped me feel that way. I can't imagine all those that give up and decide to change their fate at the U/S findings (we refused amnio as I didn't want to risk losing her, no matter how small the chances were) when they pulled Mush out (I have to have c-sections) I kept asking...how does she look? Is she ok? We found out the perinatologist's were WRONG...although my baby had utero signs of downs. I grieved the loss of a child that did not have what they say she would. I felt guilty, and like the worlds worst mom. Why didn't I just cherish every moment of that pregnancy. I felt like I lost 2 months. AND worse yet...I felt guilty to even admit that I grieved her. I know now I could do it. Our family WOULD be fine if the next one did in fact have downs. And I look at Mush and think about all the poor innocent BEAUTIFUL babies that were diagnosed in utero and not given a chance to change the world...Thank you Kelle. I read your blog weekly and you are who turned my grief around. Watching what you experienced...helped me to know that I COULD do it. I hope sharng my story with you was ok! Love & blessings to your beautiful family

Sian said...

Oh Kelle you are are so right! This post right here is why I love your blog. I love your photos, I love you and your family but what I get most out of you blog is how to really live. How to enjoy when its good and how to fight for it to be good when things dont go as we expected. And there in lies real joy right? It may get harder for you, but isn't that the case for everyone? We have no idea what life is going to throw at us in the future. All we can do is keep getting up and doing those cartwheels (or playing in the sea with our clothes on, hee I loved that post). Thanks for being you kelle! We shoule all take a leaf out of your book Sian xxx

elina rose said...

"There is reason for everyone to be unhappy. There is reason for everyone to be happy. What's your focus?"

This line really resonated with me. It's so true, in whatever season of life you find yourself in, you can choose to dwell on the negative, or keeping marching on toward a brighter tomorrow. I honestly don't know how people survive in this world without a sense of hope.

Thank you for bringing all your readers such joy & positivity!

deacon said...

I just watched the ABC video and it made my cry. Simply beautiful!

Shangela said...

Ok, I don't often comment because I don't usually have anything different to say than the other 400 commenters but I felt that this post needed a shower of support. Standing ovation, girl! If you think wonderful, positive thoughts you will have a wonderful, positive life. If you think depressing, woe is me thoughts you will have a depressing life. Attitude is everything. We are the makers of our own fortune, whatever that fortune may be for us. You are enjoying every last drop of little girl that you were given and the naysayers are just jealous of your ability to put aside the worries and "what ifs" and live here, right now, in this present moment where all is quite wonderful.

We can worry and dwell on what might happen but what good does that do? And why am I preaching to you because you already know this stuff!!! :-)

So like I said, standing ovation! Keep living in the moment, keep sucking the marrow, keep enjoying every moment with those sweet babies!

To the commenter, I'm sorry but I sure as hell don't want to read Kelle's blog if she changes the title to "Dwelling on the Dismal" so go piss on someone else's parade!

Lisa @ Heaven Sent said...

Good for you, Kelle! I love the fire in this post. Your perspective is contagious...unicorns and all. Life is certainly not what you are given, but what you do with it. And, girl, do you know how to do it! You have inspired thousands to (dare I say) "bloom," and I know that once your book comes out, that will only multiply. God bless you, Kelle, for putting yourself out there and for showing us how to live the heck out of this life!

P.S. That last photo of Nella is too gorgeous for words.

Jillian22 said...

This post, those pictures, and your story on ABC left me in tears three minutes before I had to leave for work. You and Nella are an inspiration to me... I have been struggling with issues of self-confidence and self-esteem, but your posts always give me strength. We can't let anyone bring us down in this world... we are too busy living our wild and precious lives!

Jodi Ann said...

I don't comment often, but everything you write resonates with me, this one in particular. I love the joy you have, that you embrace the challenges. Forget the joy-suckers. :)

Jodi said...

Amazing post.

Erin said...

Too funny...I declared my addiction to Instagram to my friends just yesterday.

Kimberlee said...

Kelle,
You have written what my heart has thought for years about the joy suckers and their response to the life that my daughter Ella is leading us through. Whoa to the next person who tries to suck it out of me, or her.
Carry on, girl. I'm right there with you.

JulieBGreen said...

I just found your blog. I haven't seen the special on tv and I've only read one other post but you spoke to me. Right to the core of my heart and soul. To see the the good in every situation speaks volumes of what kind of parent you are and what kind of person you are. Of course its going to be hard, but its infinitely harder when you're negative and thats what you focus on. So glad I found your blog. I have a feeling I'm going to spend a lot of time reading it!

http://mylittlehappies.blogspot.com said...

Well said! I learned a quote a few years back and have held onto it: "hurting people hurt people". Joy suckers are hurting and they deal with it by hurting others. Unfortunately, they'll continue living life this way until they figure it out and sadly, I don't know if most do. You are a rock star and I love your unicorn-and-rainbows spirit. Keep on it because its people like you who know what the real deal is--LIVE-ing life and all of its ups and downs that make it truly wonderful and adventurous. Its all perspective baby!!!

MsellWrites said...

You are officially the most quotable blogger I have ever read. Thank you. So much.

Pimajess said...

Hmmm, why do I read your blog? It's that upbeat, positive attitude that always make me think am I doing everything I can in my life to make my life happy?

Sometimes life bites the big one but that doesn't mean we have to let that take over. I admire your ability to take that lemon and make sparkling lemonade.

Don't allow someone who feels the need to wallow in what MIGHT be steal your positive view of the world.

Book_Fanatic said...

I absolutely ADORE the last pic of Nella! Curl, crazy hair, checking herself out in the mirror. I love how you're posts always leave me aspiring to live and love every second of my life, both the agonizing moments and the glorious ones. Thanks Kelle, you're one heck of a mama and a woman!

es said...

That picture of the birds in front of the already-set-sun is gooorge. Truly. I love how focused you are in drawing the nectar out of life for your babies. I come here to get inspiration to do the same with mine.

Erin said...

I love reading your posts, but especially love this one. I too want great... Also, the picture of Nella at the end, SO beautiful!

julesandbelles said...

YOU GO GIRL!!!! you tell those joy suckers just what LIFE is all about...heck, maybe they'll even learn something:)

Crazy Me said...

"There is reason for everyone to be unhappy. There is reason for everyone to be happy. What's your focus?"

Thank you for that. That phrase stopped me in my tracks, how very true it is. We have to choose the happy over the unhappy. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not, but either way the happy is worth it.

Sonya said...

Kelle, you are a rockstar. Just watched your piece on ABC and my heart was full of joy just seeing the love you have for your Nella and Lainey. You are amazing and your purpose in life is just unfolding...and will be bigger, I daresay, than you can even imagine. Likewise, for Nella and Lainey and Brett. I've been a follower of your blog since right after Nella was born and to see her blossom is a blessing...and your take on life is truly refreshing.

Allison's Daily Drama said...

Your post made me cry. I couldn't agree more - I think everyone has a choice to be happy, no matter what has happened to them in the past. It is unfortunate that some people are so unhappy that they try to ruin it for everyone. We are so lucky to have life and I appreciate your openness with the world about YOUR life, sharing your highs and lows. It's an important job you are doing.

Lyndsey said...

I know this is a bit late and you don't need anyone to tell you that you are doing a great job but because I like positive reinforcement.... I am so proud of/inspired by you. You have taken a situation that many people wallow in (trust me I see it a lot even with children who have something that is not a life long and will probably enter school with no memory of early intervention) and complain that no one is doing enough for them and they focus on their child's weaknesses instead of highlighting the strengths. I have been overwhelmed time and time again how you take it all in stride and are giving your children a wonderful childhood. And you are using your experiences to promote awareness and help others! The future may hold challenges that will be more difficult but that is no reason to let that ruin today. You have met and defeated every one so far.

charla beth said...

gosh, i just love reading all these comments on here:)

you are amazing, kelle. inspiring. your heart just shines. and your words have an impact...they change people, they mold hearts. mine, included.

i couldn't see the comment that person left, but i find it incredible that you can take something negative and make it beautiful. you always make me want to be better. thank you for that.

p.s. that last picture of nella is just stunning.

Aysha said...

Well said Kelle! That last picture of Nella is gorgeous.

Party of Ten said...

Just love it. Love it all. God Bless you :)

A Chicken Wish... said...

Thank you. This comment - There is reason for everyone to be unhappy. There is reason for everyone to be happy. What's your focus? - stopped me in my tracks. My mother in law is fighting stage 4 cancer and I've had a hard time focusing on anything but the negative lately. THANK YOU for reminding me to embrace the happy.

Johnsons said...

Just found your site and I love this post. There is so much truth to what you've said...we all have hardships ahead of us...it's life, but embracing life and living in the "now" is how one can be happy and how a mother can give her children a wonderful life. Your Nella is beautiful and I'm sure many will learn a lot from her.

VeryGratefulLife said...

I read the ABC story and LOVED it. Tears down my face at work...I have followed you for years and knew your story and outlook but was SO HAPPY to see the mainstream media pick up your story and tell it in such a powerful and authentic way. I then saw that dreadful comment and I DID let it suck my joy. I was angry and wanted to punch that person right in the nose. I almost posted a reply but then decided that he or she was such a phenomenal idiot that he or she was not worth my time. Your response here was perfect. You are amazing. You are an inspiration. I adore you and am so grateful to know your story and have a glimpse inside the beautiful, imperfectly perfect life you are living.

dig this chick said...

Late comer here, catching up.

I LOVE:

The problem I have with it is the theory that happiness and perspective and grabbing life by the balls is somehow discredited if challenges are still ahead.

I also love your comment about focus. I read this yesterday:

Whatever you’re thinking about is literally like planning a future event. When you’re worrying, you are planning. When you’re appreciating you are planning . . . What are you planning?
-Abraham Hicks

Annie said...

Fiery can be good - and is in this sense.
LOVE the last pic - Nella is beautiful.

Annie said...

Wow. I just watched the video from ABC News. So incredibly moving and beautiful. Really amazing. Your honesty is brave and true.

.:Heather:. said...

LOVE those cinch bags & LOVE this post! :)

Amanda K. said...

I just watched the ABC segment. How beautiful.
I also watched a link under yours, about a young lady with DS getting crowned Homecoming Queen. Her story embodied your rally cry for Nella -- that she is special, beautiful, loved, and brings joy to others...to the world.
Don't ever give that up.

ktjune said...

I have been reading your blog since 2010, this is my first comment I have made, but I just wanted to say after reading countless entries from you, gazing at your beautiful pictures and feeling like I am actually part of your intimate family, I applaud you. The video from abcnews.com left me in tears, you are taking your journey on strong, and you are such a determined and inspirational woman! Thank you Kelle, for making me smile everyday!

alphabet momma said...

I love how you live in the present. And how you choose joy! You live with no regrets. You are such a beautiful person and your girls are so blessed to have you for their mommy! Thank you for sharing your life and experiences. What a testimony you have!
Blessings to you!
jamie

Shelley said...

What a great post. My two attend a school named for Joan of Arc...it has been a wonderful experience (so far!)...I still remember one of early parent meetings and the principal saying - "Forward with Courage like SJoA". My daughter Hannah (who has DS) is one of the most courageous people I know - and she makes us brave - cos she is right. It is the way of the light, the hardships can't possibly outweigh her presence in our lives.

Amber Ellen said...

Thanks for the awesome reminder that life is worth chasing down and tackling :)
Thanks for sharing, your words and photos always help me fill my glass full

SETHER+ONE said...

Good for you, babe. Keep it up. :)

themarm said...

Oh Kelle~ I never buy ebooks (I am a cheapskate), but when I discovered your blog recently, I had to buy "Bloom". What an incredible book- you have talent! I have 6 children of my own, and though we have not experienced DS directly, I have a nephew with it. You are so blessed!!! Sure it's hard- but hard things are good things, and God gave precious Nella to you, because He knew your heart was big enough for her. Nella is such a lucky girl to have a stellar mommy like you. Of course you will have pain in the future, all parents do... but you are on the right track with choosing to see the good. The same day I read your 'birth blog', I came across a quote from a famous poet that ended with "Take Joy". Thanks to you, from this day forward, I vow to "Take Joy". God bless you!

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