Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Present for the Presents

I love a good play on words.
Well I really just love words period.
I love how much better I feel when I can simply release, get the words that are pounding on the door of my soul out into the atmosphere.
Not that they are always profound or meant to change the world.  But they do. They change my world. My little corner of space. My canvas.  My place...
I started this blog as a means to cherish and record the moments of my life that though seemingly small are significant in the big picture.
Then grief came. And the darkness descended on those moments and I wondered if I would ever see the beauty in them again.
It does that.  That monster.
 Grief changes everything.
I thought I understood it before.
 Back in those infertility years when God seemed to be with holding the very thing I just knew I needed to be who He had created me to be.  A mommy.  I grieved the years I saw as "wasted". That in between space where I spent hours consumed with the disillusionment I felt deep in my soul.
Then came the exhaustion of 4 babies in 4 years and the falling in love with each one as God gifted them to us.  The she died. And the grief I thought I knew all about became a silly side note in the overcoming deep ocean of continuous hammering on my soul. I had loved, opening my heart to a little soul who, despite the spunky annoyances she often presented, wormed her way into the deepest crevice of my heart.  My grief of yonder year was abstract, obsolete in the crashing waves of having loved.
Since then my crusade and mission has been to make the best of the mess, make lemons into sweet lemonade, see the beauty in the crap.  Sorry that may sound rough and uncouth. But its there deep inside and sometimes it just comes rumbling out.  I am like a broken record. I hear the sighs, the complaints, the mumble grumbling from weary mamas who think their season of hardships will never end.
The baby won't sleep......  I wish I had a baby to sit and hold.
Diapers are so expensive.  I am sure the kid will be in diapers in kindergarten......  I wish I still had someone to buy diapers for.
I can't wait till my kid goes off to school.......  I wish I still had my little someone here to bug me...
Now don't get me wrong.  I know mommy hood is among the most exhausting, frustrating yet freakishly awesome task.  I know the seasons that are ever so short seem like they take years.
I am no saint.  I still yell at my kids.  I still need breaks and mommy time. But my perspective has revolved into something I would not have come around to had I not experienced the love/loss cycle.
I have lost track of the amount of times I have challenged mamas to go hug their children.
But that is what it boils down to.
It's what counts. It's being present with our children.  Truly present.  Sometimes that is hard. Very hard.  A fellow grieving mama recently asked me if I can enjoy my remaining children.  Her words struck a core deep inside.  It has seemed like life is over shadowed. But we must go on living.
Not only do they, but we also deserve to live in joyful moments.  Life isn't pie in the sky.  Sometimes though the deliciousness of something sweet brings the reality of joy back around.
Those moments. They aren't always happy.
But they deserve cherishing.
They will soon be memories.
I wanna make them good ones....
So through all that rambling I get back to the whole play on words - I want to truly be present to enjoy the presence of the presents God has gifted me with.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

1 year in Heaven

This week has been a roller coaster of emotion.
If there has been a silver lining to the storm clouds the past few months, it has been that we were able to refresh ourselves away from the constant reminders of her death.  While we love our home, it is filled to the brim with her.  We remember what she did here and what she said there and how she was silly under there. And where she died. While the flashbacks still affected each of us while we were gone, the severity and intensity wore off a bit and we can or I should say I can feel like life is maybe just a tad bit more normal.  New normal.
We arrived home from Mama's on Tuesday which in our reality is the day she left officially but of course with the calendar life goes on...Lowell and I spoke of how Mondays and Tuesdays are still THE day and will always be. Randomly we cried and laughed as we drove along in Bessie remembering her the best we can.  Memory is changing.  If I close my eyes, I can still feel her soft skin but her voice is fading.
Wednesday, July 15 was cloudy and dreary most all day with intermittent sprinkles reminding me of all the tears that have fallen around our parts this year.  To me, I decided to let the day come as it may and to not hide away to shed my tears. We talked of her randomly through the day but it is seeming the intense emotion is beginning to dull for the children.  For me, I can cry quickly but it is not so fresh that I cry all the time and the crying is done and over more quickly.
 We talked of how Abby has been living with Jesus for 1 year now.  At one point, one of the children asked how old Abby is now. I never know what to say for sure as the whole time thing in Heaven is so different.  We wondered about if she will always be 3 or if she is getting ready to be 5.
Lex has been praying in her prayers at night that God would please give Abby a good day. I smile and let her express her heart and am glad that Abby's reality is always good unlike our life here.
The perspective of children is always refreshing....

Our sweet friends Sara and Hannah organized a memorial for us at Abby's grave the evening of the anniversary day.  My amazing friend Shawna (She is just launching a fab photography studio shawna marie imaging that you can visit currently on facebook...head over and like her page!) was there snapping away capturing the poignant moments as 75+ of our family and friends gathered with us to remember.
 Sara had gotten a gazillion balloons in shades of pink and red with special heart shaped ones for us 5. She took a pic of Abby and let the children and whoever else wanted to write a message on the backs and tied them to the balloon ribbons. Pastor Perry prayed a prayer and we sang Jesus Loves me just like we did at the funeral and then we stood and watched as they floated away.
Afterwards we all gathered in the basement and ate cookies and just plain sat and talked. It was peaceful, relaxing and fun.
Shawna put together a slide show which showcases perfectly the emotion of the evening.


I had decided not to go back to work this week yet.  I needed to settle back in. And I wanted to work on the Abby Memorial event, (Light up the night - remembering Abby) we had been planning to do this past weekend but due to mama's illness had to postpone.  
I am happy to announce that we have a date.  Friday evening, Sept 18, 2015 from 5-8 pm
We are still working on location and final details but my dedicated helper and event brain Sara has all sorts of surprises up her sleeves and the event will truly have something for everyone, for all ages including but not limited to children's carnival, concerts, tournaments, shopping and of course food! We are still looking for vendors for our vendor fair. We have quite the line up but would still love to have Tupperware, Wildtree and Pampered Chef. 
 All of the proceeds will go to Amanda the Panda family grief camp which has been a tremendous support for our family this year. I had written about them and our camp experience in my last blog (amanda the panda)   when we announced the date for the original date.  
Next weekend we hope to launch the event page and sign up page where anyone will be able to donate time and /or money towards this fun event!  Be watching.  You won't want to miss this.

We are indeed blessed to have the amazing circle of people we do to walk this road with us.  Thank you for continuing to walk this path with us....All of you!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Amanda the Panda Family Grief Camp Weekend

Our family was recently privileged to be a part of a wonderful weekend put on by Amanda the Panda Family Grief Center.  This wonderful organization was founded to help families deal with the loss of a child but has branched out over the years to include other loss as well.  Our counselor, Miss Kendra (Imagine Therapy Solutions)  had recommended this particular weekend to us months ago and we signed up right away.
As time drew closer, all of us at one point or another experienced cold feet and wondered if this was really for us.  It was. And we are all so glad we went. We came away feeling like God had orchestrated so many special moments just for us!
 I did not take a single photo.  Special thanks to the fabulous professionals who were there to preserve the memories of the weekend!

Amanda herself greeted us on arrival!  The children, especially Alexia were actually 
scared of her and hung back.  By the end they were hugging her every chance they got.  Lex told me
"Mama, Amanda is so sweet.  She was just there to give us hugs and high fives"

Hunter experienced terrible separation anxiety the few weeks proceeding and I called Carmen and Cindy, the camp leaders anxiously asking them if it would be ok if he needed us at camp.  They assured me the kidos would stay so busy and wouldn't think of us.  I don't think they did. 

Upon arrival we went to the huge common area where we all got tshirts and name tags and the kidos got to choose a new teddy bear from a massive stack of beauties.  

Then it was time to start the fun and they were whisked off to their dorms while Lowell and I went to find our cabin and meeting area.
From what I have gathered they spent some group time sitting and sharing about their loss.  They made beautiful crafts and played games and of course ate.  The big highlight was time with Amanda and the silly Crazy George who made random appearances all weekend. And they still talk frequently of their new friends and their group leaders. 

Crazy George "sneaking" cookies

We caught you Crazy George!

Kali described this as beautiful puff balls and says it represents all the beauty of God's creation 
around us and that as we notice that beauty we need to express love.  In other words when we love someone, let them know...

Who has camp with out Smores?

Alexia & Hunter's group - The Turtles

Kali's group ironically had the name Monkeys -how fitting!

Meanwhile Lowell and I were off with our own group.  Adults with loss.  A few of us couples had lost a child.  Several others had lost spouses, some friends, some parents.  But our grief tied us together.
We spent time the first day working through the yucky stuff like remembering the events of the day of death.  An activity that got to me was called the 5 senses where they asked us to put down what we remember "sense" wise from that day...that was hard.  But we went there together.

The first day also included all of us writing thoughts on the anger wall, us in our group and the children in theirs. After we finished we all trudged outside in the dreary afternoon, placed the poster board in front of a tree and took turns throwing eggs at it symbolizing the releasing of anger. I had quite the experience with that one.  It felt silly at first but then it got more fun.  One of the brave leaders saw how challenged I was with aim and held up the board so I could hit it. As the egg went sailing towards the target I gasped in horror as I realized that it was headed not for the target at all but straight for Tom's forehead.  I didn't live that one down all weekend and yes thanks to his quick thinking he kept his head clean.

As time went on the boards got uglier as the goopy smear washed down the words we had written.  The last thing before bed was actually burning the board in all of its ugliness on our campfire.
The next day we would focus on remaining blessings and the gifts of love left us from those we lost.  Those beautiful canvases are displayed at Amanda's house in Des Moines.

We were fed like queens and kings and waited on hand and foot.  The kidos got warm cookies.

We enjoyed craft time.  All of us especially enjoyed the Tie Dye

In the evening we took a hayride back to the beautiful pond (Wesley woods is a beautiful camp!) where we were given bunches of daisies.  As we plucked off each daisy and pitched it on to the pond, we were to reflect on favorite memories.  Lowell and I walked to a far corner and giggled and wept as we picked off our daises and watched them float away.  So beautiful.  So meaningful.  Wish we had photos...
On the way back to our cabins we were supposed to quietly respect the others in their own thought processes. However not one but 2 flat tires later amidst much laughter and kid like campfire ghost stories we were rescued by the big yellow bus and the mood stayed light through out the rest of the night.  Laughter is such a gift.
On Sunday we finished up our wall of love, which was just the opposite of the ugly anger board, and went to meet the kids for closing ceremonies and lunch. There each family was called to the front and given a white bird balloon and a marker to write messages on it.  I sat there in dread until "the family of Abby Miller"  then the tears came.  We got our balloon, wrote our messages and wept as we walked together out into the beautiful sunshine where the birds were released.

We watched them till they faded from view

There are so many more things I could write about.  A doctor came to answer our questions about death. We were given personal time to share our story.  There was a beautiful candlelight vigil where we lit red bear candles and shared photos of our loved ones. And we did have chocolate.  The food was amazing... O my. We are so blessed to have been able to participate!

Sporting our new tie dye

On the way home the children were talking of all the great memories and Kali says "Mama, I would like to raise money to help other families enjoy Amanda like we have".  
So our family is setting out to do just that! 
 We are so very excited to announce a memorial fundraiser in Abby's honor.  It will be simply titled "Light Up the Night ~ Remembering Abby".  
Our Goal is to use the first anniversary of her death to bring hope and joy to our family and to the lives of other families who have lost or will lose children like we have, not to mention bring some light to the darkness of July 15. (THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED TILL SEPTEMBER.  WILL KEEP YOU UPDATED! )  *****updated info!*****
This event will be held Friday evening, Sept 18, 2015 from 5 to 8 pm at a to be announced location in rural Kalona.  So many wonderful people are working with us to make this a beautiful celebration of the vibrancy Abby represents. It will hopefully be a fun night for people of all ages.  Our dear cousin Sara is helping me brainstorm and plan and has brought many wonderful gifts to the table.  Also key in this process are the fabulous ladies responsible for the camp we attended, Laura, Cindy & Carmen.

Amanda the Panda will be there as well as Abby's favorite princesses. Yup,  my sweet new friend Kim will be there with her fab team and special guests, Snow Queen & the Ice Princess (AKA Anna & Elsa) as well as Rapunzel who is the theme behind the grand finale of the evening, the releasing of beautiful Chinese Lanterns.  There will be food, raffles, a silent auction and hopefully live music as well as vendors so you can shop if that grabs your fancy.  (I already have Younique, Jamberry, Mary Kay, Norwex and Zumba coming) There will be a corn hole  tournament as well as volleyball and of course the Kid's carnival.  So there will be something for everyone to enjoy! 

Many of you have asked how you can help.  Here is a list of some things we may need.
  • We will need sponsors so as much of the money as possible can go to our cause.
  • We will need items such as food, drinks.
  • We are still looking for musicians to do 30 minute or so mini concerts.
  • We will need volunteers to staff the various events
  • We still have space for vendors.  I would love to see Pampered Chef, Tupperware, Wildtree and more!
  • We are hoping for a photographer to capture the evening in photos.
  • We need your prayers.  This is much larger then us already and will take some energy to pull off.

Amanda the Panda is a non profit organization that offers free grief services to people all over Iowa.  Free is key to people in grief. So much of our live is consumed with mere survival.  Not having to worry about cost for such services is a gift!

You can also join our FB page Remembering Abby for personal updates on our family and how we are coping with our grief.  I will posting updates about the big event there as well as on my personal FB page.

Once again, I can not thank you enough for walking this tough journey with us.  
You are loved!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

"Living" with Grief

"Only Grieving can release us from grief" - Joan Chittister

"Going on" with "normal" life since Abby has gone is one of the most challenging things I have ever faced.  What is normal? And just what exactly is the "new normal" everyone keeps referring to and how will it look for us and our newly restructured family of 5? 
At first in those nightmarish weeks that followed her death, I wanted to run from the grief and the numbing pain. Now at the 9 month mark,  I am learning to embrace it as I have come to understand that for me, embracing and truly feeling "it" actually facilitates healing. 
Watching my children grieve and trying to walk with them has been very interesting and enlightening.  Not only do they each portray their feelings VERY differently, they truly are all doing the process differently.  Lowell and I are like that.  What blesses me can sometimes be a huge irritation or painful reminder for him and vice versa. 
I write, hence the fact you are here.  It is soothing for me to pen words and send them out in to virtual never never land.  I have spoken my piece.  I have gotten pressure of words needing to burst out off my chest. And like the mentioned in the Bible, healing balm of Gilead, people respond.  You pray. You encourage.  You walk this most painful journey with me.
For my children, I am finding that our grief therapy with Kendra Bailey (Imagine Therapy in North Liberty for you locals who may need someone...) and the activities she encourages are most helpful.
For Kali, the most unlikely thing has been so very wonderful....a doll! Now for those of you who really know her, you will remember she has never played with dolls.  Never.  All of a sudden she took and interest and purchased the American Girl knock off from Target with her birthday money from Nana. Now I find her quietly playing, nurturing, healing with her Claire...She told me the other day how she is going to hurry with her school work so she can have longer summer days to play with Claire.

 I am seeing more genuine smiles.....

For Hunter who has always been my deep thinker, he loves to build and design and create. His quiet sweetness has shown much strength but recently as we drew close to the 9 month mark, he seemed to be showing some distress. What I did not put together right away was how very deeply the death of our pastor who was only 59, affected him.  He shared a birthday with pastor Don who often brought him a birthday card treat. Now Don, like Abby, is with Jesus and one by one the circle of our family and friends leave.  What does that mean to the 7 year old mind?  The same mind who has to reabsorb and ponder the terrible flashbacks he sometimes verbalizes to me. He misses her and now instead of telling jokes he is showing a deeper grief that some days consumes him. But he is resilient and soon is back to his jolly self and keeps quite busy with his challenges of creating, building and problem solving.

usual thoughtful pose with sucker or candy drop in mouth

My princess, Miss Alexia has seemingly been quite happy to take over Abby's spotlight.  She has not vocalized much and unlike her siblings who still thank God for Abby in their prayers, she does not usually mention her. It is like a part of her world simply vanished.  She too, at this 9 month mark has showed visible signs of grief in new ways for her.  She has come often with comments and sometimes objects..."mama, when Abby was here..."  She too has spent lots of time with her Josphina which Nana got her for her birthday.  It has been such a bonding force for her and Kali.  I can often hear them as I drift off to sleep putting the dolls to bed or braiding their hair or changing the outfits late into the night.  Healing comes in different and sometimes unexpected ways.  
She is also begging to learn and do school and is starting to write me notes like this one which came accompanied with the sweetest kiss, hug and I love you.

9 months has been more difficult for us then I imagined. Someone recently told me that 9 months is often when the reality of the finality sets in.  I think that is true.

My office is filled with plants from the funeral that are flourishing and doing well.  They bring me tremendous peace and provide tranquility. 

 The violets are brilliant in color and are in their second round of blooming.  The beautiful, ever so delicate, China Doll is growing by leaps and bounds as is the 2nd plant which I recently transplanted off of the original. 
While I am not always positive, I am trying my hardest to note the beauty in our pain. 
"Going on" is most certainly one of the toughest tasks I have faced but just as the gifts of beauty in the flowers mentioned and the small steps of healing each one of us is experiencing, I am confident in the strength of the one who continues to carry us through the day to day toughness. He is the reason we are able to keep living in the midst of darkness and grief.  Blessed be HIS name!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Nana's Biscuits

**this post is mostly just for my baby sis who lives 1000 miles away making it impossible for us to bake together as much as we'd like... but you are welcome to "tag" along!

This weekend has been the perfect time to make comfort food and snuggle up by the warm fire and watch the snow fall.
One of those things we made is a recipe I have been working on for some time, biscuits, like my mama makes.  Now getting a recipe from her is kind of difficult.  She puts a pinch of this and a little of that along with a whole lot of love into a bowl and out come 100% pure yummyness. I think she may have once upon a time kind of followed a recipe from my daddy's sister Sylvia so part of this credit probably actually belongs to her. There are those childhood favorites that we just must capture and pass along to the next generation....this is one of them!
  • 1 c. flour (she always used King Arthur)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 t. sugar (organic evaporated cane is what I use)
  • 2 t. bkg pwd.
  • 1 t. ground flax seeds
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1/2 c. milk
Now I am not a food photographer (wish I was...maybe someday!) As I stated before, I am mostly attempting a documented with photos recipe for my sis 1000 miles away.

Start with your favorite bowl.  Mine is an old antique find I got at a yard sale for $.50

Mix all dry ingredients with a fork

Cut butter into dry mix

With your hands or a pastry cutter make crumbs with the butter and flour mix

Gently add milk and mix with fork

You will have a moist, slightly sticky dough

Pat out into a small circle.  Mama always drops her dough onto the baking sheets 
so that works too.  But we prefer the rolled dough.

A juice glass works perfectly to make just right circles.
Place onto baking sheet and bake at 425 for about 10 minutes.  
Make sure to not overbake.

We love to eat them in many different ways, including hot with 
real butter!

We are also fans of topping them with jelly, honey, cheese or real maple syrup.

No matter how, they are always delightful to the last bite! 

Thanks to my 8 year old for helping me take these pictures.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


"He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Is 61:3"

6 months ago tonight I lay on a cold hard hospital bed surrounded by wires, stroking the sweet soft face of my beautiful 3 year old daughter.  I could only handle a few moments being there with her before the urge to flee took over and I would take a break out in the waiting area while our dear pastor Leon and his wife stayed faithfully by her side.  The stench of death tickled my nostrils while all the beeping from the many machines pounded like drums in my head. They were playing soft loving songs, lullabies..songs that you sang as you lovingly held your child and rocked them to sleep, not to be heard as one lay there waiting for one's child to die.
Here are some excerpts from my facebook post from that fateful night....
i really have no words for the pain and the giant hole in my very soul. My baby girl Abby Marie is laying in a hospital bed all full of wires and tubes and fighting for her very life. Around 11:15 i helped her get dressed in her swim suit as she wanted to go swimming with the big kids. The next moments are a blur and the horror of the day keeps replaying in my mind as I try to lay down to sleep.
Please rest they say...I can't seem to close my eyes.
In about 2 hours (4 am CST) they plan to take her paralytic meds off and then do a brain activity test. So far they are saying there is none there, tho her heart is beating on its own. I can not tell you how awesome your prayers and support have been so far. People have come from everywhere and a group of women (1/2 I had never met) arrived at 1 am to have a prayer meeting.
My brain is jumbled but I don't think I have ever felt such peace in the midst of such tragedy. We have repeatedly placed her into the hands of the one who gave her life and while we totally 100% that HE could really show off and do some major miracles we also know that Heaven could be so much sweeter with her there.
If you continue remembering us in your prayers, some specifics are:
**Grace, peace and supernatural strength for the moments ahead with the decisions we will be facing (we have been asked about organ donation and she is a viable candidate to gift someone with her heart at this point)
**Supernatural peace and healing of trauma for our 3 three precious ones who actually puled her out of the water and came to tell me she had (in their words) drowned.
**our continued ability to trust even when our world is crashing in around us....

Then came the morning and the moment we were dreading but waiting for, saying goodbye, which is truly more heart wrenching then can be penned with words. It is a feeling I will never ever forget and most sincerely hope God will not ask me to experience again. It makes me want to vomit just thinking of it.

Then she was gone. (You can read the blog here and see the funeral photo journals here)
Her 3 years went by way to quickly.  The time that has passed since drags on. 6 months.  1/2 of a year.  Forever....
 Grief is exhausting. All of us are grieving so differently. Lowell is quiet and pensive at times only occasionally expressing through tears.  Recently when someone mentioned her to us, he remarked later that he wondered why they didn't know we are only trying to forget and don't wish to be reminded.  I on the other hand am a constant fountain.  I cry to random strangers and tell them my daughter just died. I am all about hugs and remembering. I write and ramble in public ways and speak to groups when asked. 
 Her story must be told.  Her life is not meaningless and goes on and just as she did when she was here with us she goes on touching people's lives.  Recently someone commented to us how they still can not comprehend how someone so young and so small could make such an impression on everyone she met.  That was our baby.  That is our Abby...precious angel.

  Today our friend Janet brought roses, 6 of them in Abby's favorite pink in red vase which makes us all think of her fire and spunk.

This is the same Janet Abby named her baby doll after.  
How she loved that rather homely doll with the very strange eyes....

How does one get over death and those last moments, last kisses, last wishes and the dreams that went flying out the window (not to mention the creepy dead child photos)? 
 For Kali, the memories are almost to painful to absorb.  Some days we can be just fine, the next the world is dark and grey with no happy anywhere. She told me today "mama our house is just so sad...everywhere I look I "see" Abby."  Yes Honey, I know. I know.

I am thankful for the change of scenery, snow and our camper,  out the window, the last view I had of her.  I watched the little purple swimsuit make a wild dash to join her siblings and ignored the quiet urge to just go out with her.  What if I had?  What if I hadn't been so busy?...

But we can't go there.  What if's are a waste of time and energy. Time moves on. I say "I love you" much more freely though I am ashamed to admit how grumpy and impatient I get with my loved ones. 
Hunter is the easy going one.  Everything is factual and he is often off in his own little world recalling things randomly that I have no recollection of. He has recently started being a bit more expressive about his sadness but always rebounds in a quick way to his carefree happy self.
Alexia too remembers random things and talks the most about missing her playmate, bossy one she was. 
Daily we remember.

We remember her bright smile that lit the world around her and her loud rambunctious tone demanding what she thought was due her. And begging mama to take her photos...true treasures now!

We remember her little friends (this is one of the last photos I took of her) and how she prayed for them all by name every night. "Thank you Jesus for Maggie and Leah and Scarlett and Vidalia and Analiese...."

We remember that she is in a place of perfection and joy and we sure talk about Heaven a lot more then we ever did before.

We embrace the difference her life made and the legacy of her great big love for Jesus she left behind.  I am thankful daily for the number of souls that have been brought to Jesus as a result of her passing.  Her daddy's salvation has truly been a crown of beauty in the midst of the heavy grief and I am thankful for the joyous blessing and promise of Heaven in the midst of our mourning.  I may not be quite to the festive praise part yet but I am confident Joy will once again reign in our midst right on the coat tails of our remembering.

Missing you baby girl...

In case you missed it here is the Tribute played at her funeral.
We are also in the process of getting the funeral dvd put on You tube for anyone who is interested in seeing it.  If you care to follow my personal journey of grief on face book  Remembering Abby page. It is set to private/closed group so that I know you really want to be there.  Send me a request and I will gladly add you.  The page has grown much bigger then I anticipated and has been a huge source of blessing to me, bringing prayer support and providing friendship links I would not have experienced otherwise.

Thank you for your love and friendship and for reading my ramblings!