Dry Toast-Guest Blog by Jeni

Sunday was a pivotal day–for what reason I cannot explain, but pivotal just the same. I had a retreat this past weekend. All girls who like to scrapbook or quilt, love their families, are such sweet and unique individuals. It was nice. Hard. Different. Cathartic. Nice. Everything is that way these days, Nice….but. There is a bit of a BUT, but I don’t worry about that BUT as much as I used to.
On Thursday, the scrapbook weekend started off with a bang. I had been preparing–for scrapbooking-layouts, photos, journaling, color schemes, stamps, brads, buttons…oh my!! I was prepared.  What I wasn’t prepared for was grief. For telling my story. It is something that you cannot prepare for. No matter what you do. No matter how hard you try, your feelings are unknown. It’s like when you are 9 months pregnant, you know this baby will arrive sometime….you just don’t know when!-it sometimes drives people like me crazy who kind of like to know about what the day will bring. Grief and feelings are not like that. Life is not like that. And it is ok.
I got all set up and began to scrapbook, looking at my detailed list, eager to check off items one by one. I was starting with our California trip, such a fun time. And really a journey of growth-a FIRST vacation without our girl.  Though like so much these days, a study of opposites.  SO very glad to be with Ayden and Joe and very dear family, yet also SO missing my girl and knowing she would have loved so much about the vacation too.
As I got started scrapbooking, more girls began to arrive, each of them with crazy sets of luggage that matched the amount that I had just brought in. All eager to begin…and so we did.  As the day progressed, we continued with the “getting to know each other” chats, and with it, questions about family.  Although I should have known this part would be hard, it seemed that I had not really prepared for these feelings. As I shared a little bit about Kyanna and my loss, tears filled my eyes. I no longer knew what to say. I did not know what to do except squeak out thank you to their very kind condolences, a small smile, nod, and tears, as some of the girls found out about this very dear girl that was now missing in my life.
I continued on with my scrapbooking, trying to swallow down the grief. All the preparation-journaling and planning, and lists-and this so very important thing-that I am different-that a big piece of my family, a chunk of my heart is missing….I couldn’t prepare for that–or know these emotions I would feel, at a place with all these kind, fun-loving ladies, who hold dearly their families so much that they lovingly spend 16 hours a day for 3 days looking at photos, arranging photos, perfectly putting down on paper or digitally their love for their families, their children, their pets.
For the rest of Thursday, I choked on my grief. I swallowed it like a dry piece of toast. It was stuck, yet I didn’t really want the discomfort of it coming up, so I politely ignored it, and continued to do so for the next day, even when after dinner we played a conversation game.  I got a “chat stack” game card that invited me to tell my story–the card I got said–if you could ever write a book, what would you write about? I proceeded to tell a light-hearted, sort of cute story about a mouse in our car. My piece of toast just got stuck a little bit further inside.
Oh well, you go on. you just DO. Then Saturday morning, someone asked me to see photos of Kyanna, she asked about what I was scrapbooking. She asked.  She wanted to hear about my girl.  She maybe could see the crumbs of grief sprinkled all around me. Maybe not. Maybe it was just a simple question.
Well, that was all it took. What I didn’t expect was how this grief looked as it rose out of me.  Yes, it was tears, maybe ugly tears, but with it was beauty.  Questions.  Loving and kind words.  Understanding, connectedness.  Not what I expected or what I prepared for–nothing at all.  Something better.  I talked about Kyanna to people who didn’t know her at all.  But who wanted to hear–and she was alive, if but for a moment in time.

One person asked me about how I see Kyanna since she has been gone-an animal or symbol or image…I couldn’t answer-even though I somehow knew the answer deep inside.  Well today, it hit me on the head.  Literally.

I got home from the scrapbooking retreat.  I unpacked.  I talked to Ayden and Joe about their weekend.  I put my stuff away, watered plants.  Task.  Task.  Task.  One more task-to go for a run.  While I was running I thought about these ladies I met and why I was so emotional.  It dawned on me.  This was the first time I really told my story.  Like for real.  Like not to people who already kind of knew.  But to people who had no idea, and then you give them this glimpse of you.  Like the real you.  The different you.  And they were ok with that.  They accepted that.  I am thankful.

Well, as I ran, I cried. I choked.  I made those horrible gasping sounds that usually you try to hide.  The gravity of opening up this weekend was exhausting.  Cathartic.  Exhausting.  Good.  Difficult.  Again, a study of polar opposites.  Paradoxical.  A piece of dry toast that got stuck.  As I ran, it all came out and I knew I needed to write my story down.  As I got nearer to home, I cried more and let myself go more, gasping and choking and crying.  I got near my neighbor’s house and that was when it happened.

Something BIG hit the brim of my baseball hat.  It startled me…what was THAT!  I ducked and moved, quite ungracefully, to the side of the sidewalk.  I SPAZZED and flailed my arms.  But then I looked up and I saw it–an enormous, beautiful dragonfly had given me a gentle reminder, a little nudge on the brim of my Brewers baseball hat…. then floated it’s way up and over my neighbor’s house… and into the woods.

There’s the answer to that question.  Thank you Kyanna.  I will tell this story.