Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Necessary Pain

“I hate shots.”  My five-and-three-quarters year old daughter informs me, eyebrows raised, head to the side, all business.

“You know why we get them, right?”  I ask her, reminding her of our prior conversations.

“So I don’t get sick.  But I still hate them.”

“That’s okay,” I reassure her.  I don’t like them either.  We held each other and cried together the last time she got them.  A little silly, I know, unless you know a mommy’s heart and how we seem to feel their pain 10 times over what they themselves are experiencing. 

Would I save her from that pain?  From the briefest pinprick of a needle whose contents could save her life?  No.  No, I must allow that pain.

“It’s not fair!  PLEASE don’t take away my ponies!”  She’s in tears now - real tears, not the wonderful crocodile variety she’s learning to whip up. 

And truth be told, I’m close to tears myself.  I don’t want to take her precious friends away either – if nothing else than for the extra time and pleasure it affords me in seeing her tucked away in the little world of play she so delightfully weaves around herself.

But it’s a consequence of her disobedience.  She loses favorite toys.  She loses favorite activities.  She stands in the corner.  She is punished.  Do I enjoy this?  Nope.  Not. One. Bit.  It pains me.  It pains her.  It would be so much easier to just give in and not inflict this pain.

But I must allow it.

“They just wouldn’t talk to me, and I don’t know why.”  My five-and-three-quarters year old daughter’s genuinely puzzled words bite and sink into my heart like a blade.

It is the phrase I’ve been dreading, almost since finding out my darling little peanut was going to be a girl.

“Well,” I manage, heart racing, words failing, “if someone’s treating you that way, just go find another friend – or make one, make a new friend.”

“But she’s my best friend.

“No,” I say quickly, “no, when someone is treating you that way, they are not being your friend.  We don’t treat people that way, especially friends.”

See, I not only live in fear that my daughter will be treated badly by other girls, I live in greater fear that my daughter will learn this treatment and then turn and use it on other girls.

Her name was Jenny and I just didn’t like her.  No, it wasn’t that I didn’t like her; I was just ambivalent about her.

“Hi Jessica!”  She’d unfailing greet me in the narrow hallway of our church. 

I’d march right on by.

Finally my mom took me aside.  “When someone says hi to you, Jessica, you need to say hi back.  It’s rude to ignore someone.  It’s unkind.” 

And so I started saying hi back.  Probably not very enthusiastically.  But I did it.  And Jenny was thrilled.  I can’t go on to say we became best friends or anything, but by going through the motions of kindness, I began to learn a valuable life lesson, a lesson that laid the foundation for my understanding of kindness, a foundation that was further built upon through the years when I myself would experience the unkindness of girls.  A sometimes bloodied foundation that would present me with a beautiful gift: empathy.

Of course, I was not perfect.  I have plenty of memories of myself indulging in unkind behavior, even in college.  And I’m sure there were even more times that I don’t recall when I did not exercise kindness towards a fellow girl. 

I have memories of being treated unkindly also.  Those are the memories that surface the most sharply - like ghost pains in a limb that isn’t there anymore. 

I naturally want to spare my daughter pain.  I want to swoop in and rescue her and make all the hurt go away.

But there is blessing in pain.  Growing pains.  Birth pains.  Pain that lets us know when something is not right.  Pain that serves as a reminder; a caution against things that might inflict it - like a vicious cycle.

As a young girl, the best lesson that taught me to be kind to others was when I felt the pain of a friend being unkind to me.  It’s sad, but true. 

Do I really want to “save” my daughter from this lesson?  This pain?

My emotional self pushes to the front screaming yes!  I see my daughter’s sweet little face and her happy expressions; I remember her as the little infant pixie that she was.  I remember the very first time she fell and hit her head and cried and cried.  I remember realizing I couldn’t make that pain go away, no matter how closely I held her and shushed her and cried my own tears.  I remember realizing there would be pain in her life that I couldn’t save her from.  And it cut me to my core.

I want to save my daughter from pain.  But even more do I want her to be able to save others from pain.  I want her to not be an inflictor of pain.  I want her to be a champion of those already in pain.  And my words, my urging alone will not teach her this lesson.  It’s one she has to learn herself.

So I left my little darling today, in a big, big room full of rows of chairs and unknown children.  I ignored that mother’s emotion screaming at me to stay and watch over her and make sure everyone treated her kindly – and make sure she treated everyone kindly.  Her little blue eyes followed my progress out the door; I waved once and blew her a kiss.  And left her to learn the lessons at hand.  And left her to the pain.

To sentence my daughter to a life without pain would mean causing her to become a shallow, selfish, one-dimensional little creature more prone to apathy than to empathy.  It would teach her that all pain is bad.  It would teach her to avoid anything that might cause pain, but it would go even further still – causing her to become afraid or suspicious of anything that may cause even discomfort: a new relationship, a marriage, schooling, a new job, even children of her own.  

To ensure my daughter’s life is completely painless will go very far towards making sure she never becomes the woman she can be.  To keep her from pain will very likely keep her from life.

I must allow it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hello Hurricane

This time last year, I didn’t know it yet, but a big part of my tide was about to turn.

It had been a year and a half since my last miscarriage, and Jason and I were longing for another baby.  And when I say longing, I am describing a deep, multi-layered and primal, aching desire that can hardly be understood except by those who have not yet had that desire met or who have had it in their grasp and felt it slip away.

After our last loss, we waited the required amount of time and then began looking for that next baby to come along.  But none came.  Months came and went and came and went at a grinding glacial speed, and no new baby was among them.  I struggled with the emptiness of heart and womb, trying to heal from loss while trying to fill with new life. 

Finally, Jason and I sought help.  Testing showed there was no problem at hand.  “Unexplained Infertility,” the doctor told me with a half-shrug that showed he understood no comfort would come from his words.  Our option was to keep trying on our own, regardless of the countless empty months behind us, or to begin taking a well-known drug that would increase our chances of conception.  One nurse told me, “If you can get pregnant, you will get pregnant on this drug.” 

And before I knew it, I was once again standing before the tide, waiting, willing, watching for any sign of its turning.  I understood it might not.  And I understood that even if it did, I could still be immersed in loss once again.  God doesn’t promise us that everything we want will go our way.  He says that He’ll work it all out for our good.  This is not always comfort in your moment of turning – but it is a quieter, deeper, more foundational promise of well-being than we can know in that moment.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear...  1 John 4:18a

I could never understand that scripture before.  But last year it was brought home to me.  Fear comes, it does - and it always will - but when we know that perfect Love of the Father - when we really understand that no matter what things may come along to hurt or scare us, no matter what, that He'll be there to work it all out for our good - then we can weather that Fear.  It comes, it howls and blows over us, and then it passes us by.  And still we stand.

Fear.  It’s insidious.  Even when the best things are happening for us, the things long hoped for, it lurks in the nooks and crannies of your mind.  I’m no stranger to Fear.   I knew it would come, before the hoped-for pregnancy, during the hoped-for pregnancy, and even after the hoped-for baby was born.  If we don’t deal with Fear at the beginning of the season, it will just keep returning – stronger and stronger – at the turn of each new season.

Hello Hurricane | You're not enough
Hello Hurricane | You can't silence my love
I've got doors and windows boarded up
All your dead-end fury is not enough
You can't silence my love*

So I stood on the brink of the turning of the tide, and I knew – even before I saw that the hoped-for child was on her way – I knew I had to plant both feet and wait to weather the storm of Fear that would be on its way.  Oh I knew I could just abandon this desire and run.  And I knew I could also allow myself to be tossed about by the storm of Fear, becoming a wrecked, ruin of a woman.  Or I could count the costs and stand on Love.

Sometimes I would lie in bed, with my hand on my abdomen, praying for new life, praying for health, praying for courage.  Being on the edge of such a life shaking force – the conception, carriage, and birth of a child, YOUR child – can be one of the most awesome and fearful places we will ever be.  The joy and fear are immeasurable.  And knowing the taste of both, I had to face them.  I had to count the costs and face the possibilities.

Everything I have I count as loss
Everything I have is stripped away
Before I started building I counted up these costs
There's nothing left for you to take away* 

So when we saw that little extra line on that beautiful test the morning of July 4, 2011, I was able to rejoice fully – knowing that no matter what would come down the road, Love would not be silenced. 
Hello Hurricane

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day 2012

Jason is Drilling from home this weekend, so although he didn't have to travel and we (happily) get to see a lot more of him than usual Drill weekends, he's still putting in hours either at the office or at our coffee table in front of his dinosaur of a laptop. 

We - well, I - decided to extend Father's Day into Father's Weekend and began making special things happen yesterday, starting with a big ole chocolate cake.  Pretty darn good, too, if I do say so myself - and I do say so.  Goodness knows I've made enough chocolate cake recipes over the years (it's Jason's tried and true favorite dessert), and this Black Magic Chocolate Cake recipe is pretty darn good.

This morning I made a big breakfast-brunch and managed to time it perfectly to coincide with Jason's return from the office (*insert synchronized golf clapping here*).  After her little fingers were licked clean, Siennalee presented Jason with his cards and first gift: a nifty water bottle and mount for his road bike.  His second present is due to arrive next week.  The girls and I did a little photo shoot project last week, and since the one hour photo places in our area evidently belong to the devil, I ended up ordering the prints online.  But I suppose that goes right along with the theme of Father's Extend-o-Weekend.  Let's just pretend I planned it all that way, shall we?

Jason and Siennalee just enjoyed a bike ride and we've made plans to go on a walk later once Avonlea wakes from her nap and Jason is ready to take another break.  It's been a lovely, low-key day so far.  These are the priceless little moments that make our blessings so very, very sweet. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Milestones: Last Day of Preschool

Well, at the risk of sounding ridiculously cliche - I'll say it: where has the time gone?

But of course I know where it's gone, it's been lovingly, purposefully, eagerly looked forward to, experienced, and then carefully tucked into memory.  The time has been taken and spun into gold with which we line these lovely moments, big and little, and treasure them up for years to come.

Today is my Sweetheart's last day of Preschool.  For her it's another day, nothing too special, except that Mommie did her hair very carefully and got her a new outfit to dress up in.  School might be coming to an end, but she'll still see most of her friends on playdates and at church, and even a few will be joining her at the local Kindergarten in the fall.

But for this Mommie, who remembers touching the milestones of many first and last days, it's one of those lovely little ordinary blessings that makes our life so extraordinarily rich.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


God uses innumerable, limitless things to aid our healing, no one way or thing more important or better than the other.  But in my case, Avonlea Jane has been one of the most beautiful little balms of healing that I have ever known, right next to her daddy’s immeasurable presence in my life.

From the first moments I knew she was tucked in my womb, I would whisper, in moments of solitude, “I love you.  I love you.”  And with all my inner strength I would will these words to somehow infuse into my blood and being and be carried down to her tiny little self, where no matter how long she stayed with me, be it only sweet, short weeks or the long, lovely months up to birth, she would feel and know the consuming depth and breadth of the love I already had for her.

Now here she is, right beside me, fighting the sleep which so loves to cocoon newborns, smiling up at me if I should happen to lean down and contemplate her little face – as I often do, working on cueing up her little voice so she can talk with us as soon as possible.  Here she is, being so different from my first baby, yet still so familiar.  Here she is, the tiny little creature for whom I held my breath to feel fluttering in my belly, now a snuggly, warm, smooshy little thing that loves to be held and talked to.

I’m so glad it was you,” I tell her, leaning down and smiling into her chubby little face as she reclines in the hand-me-down bouncy chair.  And I’m rewarded with the most precious, tender little smile that lights up her face.  She knows.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Avonlea Jane is Born

Four weeks and one day.  It's been four weeks and one day since my sweet little family added our most precious addition of sweetness since Siennalee McCall joined us five and a half years ago.

Avonlea Jane was born on March 12, 2012 at 7:42 am and weighed 8 pounds, 1.2 ounces.  She was born via c-section, just like her big sister was 5 1/2 years ago.  But this second experience was like night and day to my first c-section.  Where I had previously struggled through pain and exhaustion in a haze of painkillers, I was now clearheaded and able to make the physical and mental efforts necessary to speed my recovery along.  It was a beautiful experience - and one very welcome after my first difficult labor and delivery, and not to mention the long, long road of waiting for our darling Avonlea.

Since this post is 4 weeks in coming, I thought I'd give you a little peek at the sweet little face that my newborn has grown into so far.  Her eyes are deep blue, less and less of the slate blue of a newborn, and her little face is round with a dear little chin.  So far she has my ears and Jason's sweet mouth.  We are so enjoying watching her blossom into the special and unique beauty that will be Avonlea Jane Kantola.

March 12th had us arriving at Sacred Heart Hospital in the wee hours for a 5:20 am check-in.  I must admit, there are some very wonderful perks to the scheduled cesarean: I was able to shower (and shave!) before we left for the hospital - I even did my hair!  No make-up though.  Maybe next time.  :)  I was calm, at peace, and surrounded with love by Jason, my mom and then my mother-in-law Tricia and sister-in-law Cheri.  I walked into the Operating Room to deliver my daughter.

(Click on images to view larger)

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Today marks three weeks and six days that Siennalee and I have been in Albany.  It's been a simply beautiful time.  Three sweet weeks and six sweet days of relaxing, enjoying each other, meeting with friends, being honored with an intimate baby shower, making crafts, loving on family, and missing Jason terribly.  Three weeks and six days - all in anticipation of the big event happening tomorrow.

In the wee hours of tomorrow, Jason and I will pack up and drive to Riverbend Hospital, and after a few simple steps of checking in, slipping into a hospital gown (and scrubs), and undergoing a little procedure known as cesarean section, we will finally get to meet our second little girl.

These days spent in wait for this little darling have been so special.  Siennalee and I have truly enjoyed every moment, despite the bittersweet ones of missing Daddy and Husband.  We have been so blessed with family and friends.  It's beautiful and strange to be on the last page of a chapter - feeling so full of heart when thinking of the pages before and so filled with excitement and anticipation for the pages that are to come.  

It's nearly time for me to finish packing up my hospital bags and make sure my toenails are pretty (yes, I can still reach them!).  Below are some of my favorite images from these sweet days.  ...I have a feeling the next images I share in upcoming posts will likely also number among my very favorites.

click on image to enlarge

click on image to enlarge

click on image to enlarge

click on image to enlarge

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Inaugural Pin-A-Thon

 I'm in Albany now, and finally with just enough time and energy to do justice to a post that's been simmering in my blog's (rather crowded) back burner for some time now.

Pinterest!  Are you in?  I usually get two responses to this question:  
  1. an exuberant "Yes!" followed by details of a latest, greatest pin or 
  2. a quizzical "Pin- what?" 
So if you are in the camp of the latter, let me give you a quick rundown on what exactly Pinterest is.

According to the  iTunes App Store:
"Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard. It lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find in your life. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes."

Wikipedia describes Pinterest as:
"...a pinboard-styled social photo sharing website. The service allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections. The site's mission statement is to 'connect everyone in the world through the "things" they find interesting.'

Jessica Kantola sums it up:
"Pinterest: you just can't go wrong here."

Living in Klamath Falls has reinforced my understanding that life really is what you make it.  This little-big town of ours is somewhat isolated and can really begin to feel that way unless you take steps to make things happen.  And I am so blessed to have found a group of friends (and a church!) who walk this out daily and know exactly how to make things happen.  These girls know how to have a good time.

After having many conversations centering around the phenomenon of Pinterest, my new friends decided to throw a Pin-A-Thon party - and since it was right before Valentine's Day, it was decided it would have a Valentine's Day theme.  What fun!  And better and better - they invited me to join them as a co-hostess.  And of course I happily did.

Here's the little e-vite I whipped up to post on the Facebook Pin-A-Thon invitation page.

Each lady attending the party brought a yummy dish from a recipe they'd pinned from Pinterest and also a craft (or two, or three, or four) from a DIY (Do It Yourself) pin they'd found on Pinterest.


Many of us regularly pin the same pins - or at least see them - so to be able to sample certain recipes in real life was pretty darn cool.


The same can be said for the DIY craft pins.  Taking the idea from virtual "pin board" to reality is exciting - and I learned a lot from just watching the other ladies working on their crafts.


And of course, when you put a bunch of women into a room with fabulous food, lovely crafts, and vibrant fellowship - you really do get the best of all worlds.  :)



This party was such a success that it is now a monthly event, with the next one being March 3rd and the food theme is "green."  :)

My home church ladies' group is throwing their inaugural Pinterest Party this next week - and I am very much looking forward to being a part of it. 

I have been so blessed to be able to be a part of such dynamic groups of ladies - in my hometown and now my new town - fabulous women of action who know how to throw down and know how to party down.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Creative Change

I am sitting here at my computer, quite composed actually, sipping tea and getting a little thrill at the thought of actually posting a blog post after what’s been a very long (dare I even count the months) dry spell.

I am remarkably composed, especially in the face of the huge influx of busy-ness and change that looms a mere few days away.  My composure could, I supposed, be termed as repression.  Or perhaps denial.  But either way, I am – as I told a dear friend just this afternoon – feeling remarkably, strangely zen.

You see, on Monday – this Monday – after I pick Siennalee up from preschool, she and I (and Gunther the cat) will squeeze into the packed Acadia and will make the trip up to Albany to stay for the duration of my pregnancy.  Jason will join us the weekend before our sweet baby is born via scheduled c-section on Monday, March 12th

Our temporary move back home to the Willamette Valley allows Baby Girl to be delivered by my own doctor at Sacred Heart Hospital in Springfield.  It also, of course, allows us to be near family and close friends while I recuperate from surgery - which is a very nice place to be, especially when living in a new place farther away from said family and friends.

Planning and packing for weeks away from our home here in Klamath Falls has certainly taken over most of my regular routine.  (But seeing as how my routine has become a slave to my rapidly changing body, sleeping/eating habits, and energy levels anyway, it hasn’t seemed like too much of an ordeal.)  I have still managed to the make the most of the opportunities for friend outings and visits that have come my way – much to my happiness!  The joys of making good, kindred friendships here in Lands Unknown have been very welcome and make my eventual return something to look forward to, rather than something to dread.

And so, since I’ve been regrettably absent from my dear little blog, I’ll leave you with a photo of the latest and greatest creative project – yes, already in progress – that has taken up the majority of my months of blog-silence (photo courtesy of my lovely sister-in-law Anne, or course).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sweet Saturday Mornings

Siennalee is at her easel, thinking the deep thoughts of artists.  "Daddy!  I need you to come hold this flower."

Daddy is on the couch, contentedly watching football. "Why?"

"Because I want to draw a picture of you." 

It's said so sweetly, both parents let out an "awww," and Jason is off the couch in a blink while I grab my camera.  It has, after all, been a while since I've blogged.  And I do so love to capture these sweet moments.

(Photographer's note: Please enjoy the typical-Saturday-ness props in the background.  They are there purely for this Saturday Morning Photo Shoot.  Why yes, yes I am crossing my fingers behind my back...)

Daddy's always a good subject.  Aside from his Boy Hair and beard.

The artist and her creation.

"I don't really know how to do BOY hair," the artist confessed.

The artist posing with her subject.

Then the subject and artist then had to trade places.  (I love the look on her face.)

Not sure if the original subject's creation was what the original artist envisioned, but the photographer sure enjoyed it all.

Friday, August 26, 2011

CSA, I think I love you.

Yesterday Siennalee and I picked up our very first box of produce from our very first CSA subscription.

But let me back up a moment.

CSA, for those who don't yet know, stands for Community Supported Agriculture and basically it's when a local farm offers "subscriptions" to its produce.  For a set period of time, once a week you receive a box of whatever produce they happen to be harvesting that week.  This is a great way to support your local farmers and a fabulous way to get fresh, local, and often-times organic produce to your family.  And hey, if I can avoid a trip to the grocery store - I'm pretty jazzed.

I became very interested in CSAs after reading The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball (I highly recommend it) and since we are currently living in our little townhouse in Klamath Falls - and without my glorious raised garden bed back in Albany - a CSA seemed like just the thing for us.  I researched the area and after having a very disappointing experience with one local grower, I discovered Staunton Family Farm

Staunton Family Farm is just outside Tulelake, CA, which is about 30 minutes from Klamath Falls.  They have quite a few pick-up places in K Falls and once you designate your chosen pick-up spot, you visit each Thursday to get your little box of veggie-heaven.  We have been traveling quite a bit this summer, so signing on for all the cycles didn't make much sense, but I was able to get us signed up for the latter two cycles (8 weeks) of late summer/early fall.

This was my very first experience with a CSA (aside from my rather disappointing phone conversation with the other grower which really shouldn't even count) and I must say it was a pleasure!  Siennalee and I located our designated pick-up spot, a local church, followed the Staunton Family Farm signs into the church basement and there were greeted by three very friendly young ladies.  Behind them was a horseshoe configuration of three long tables all laden with produce.

As it was my first time picking up a CSA box, one of the gals showed me that one side of the horseshoe was for the half-boxes (which we had requested) and the other side for whole boxes.  She walked along with me and pointed out each different vegetable (all ready for you in bunches or baggies) and even gave me tips on how to prepare them - like fava beans.  She also suggested simple recipes for the odd items such as beets and pointed out the bin where you "donate" whatever veggie you're not interested in and then the other subscribers are able to take extra from the bin if they like.  I added my spinach and took an extra bag of salad greens from the bin.  :)

Siennalee was quite pleased to be able to pick out a small bouquet of Zinnias and shyly said thank you to the friendly trio.  What a lovely experience!  But even better was when we got home.

Behold.  The CSA box.

I just get giddy every time I see this.

Siennalee picked out the bouquet with the most red flowers.  Of course.  She also gave one to the little neighbor girl.  Not a red one though.  ;)

These carrots are so sweet!  They were perfect in the big salad I made as soon as I got the box home.

Lovely beets!

I wasn't sure about taking the beets until the gal walking with me told me how to blanch and peel them, then saute them up a bit with some EVOO and a sweet Walla-Walla onion, then add balsamic vinegar and goat cheese.  Well, I have to say I haven't been feeling so hot lately, so a lot of my favorite foods have been ignored - but in my normal state I absolutely LOVE goat cheese, sweet Walla-Walla's, and balsamic vinegar (all together or by themselves - no matter), and since I anticipate at some point having my normal state of taste returned to me, I took the beets on in good faith.

A zucchini by any other name... is pretty much the same.  :)

This lil guy's name I completely spaced, but it's a type of zucchini and it's grown a lot in France.  I took him because I thought he was cute.

Staunton Family Farm includes a newsletter each week with a brief note to members, a list of the current offerings, and recipes.  The girls were quick to tell me that this was a fun newsletter and not typical.  I wondered at this a bit until I got it home and saw the extra humor peppered through it.


Very cute.

This week's offerings were: lettuce salad greens, spinach, beets, carrots, green onions, zucchini, varied squashes, snap peas, snow peas, a sampling of cherry tomatoes, wax and string beans, baby potatoes, basil, and parsley.  Perfect.

Today I pulled up my big girl boots and ventured into the kitchen (a place that has not been my favorite haunt lately) to make some late-summer vegetable soup with a good portion of the vegetable selection from the box.  

One of my favorite recipes - and freezes beautifully too for those winter days when you miss the flavor of late summer.

Sorry Jason, there may not be enough left for dinner.

I'm already looking forward to next Thursday!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

8 Years and Going Strong

It's been 8 years now from this amazing life moment.

I've gone from looking like this:

to this:

And yet somehow, life and love have only just gotten better.

From our first date,

to our first child,

and all the wondrously precious moments in between,

it's been an awesome, inspiring, heart-stopping, breath-taking, beautiful and heartbreaking, miraculous, surprising, enchanting and enthralling, lovely, lovely journey.

And I'm so glad you asked me along.

I love you Jason.