Grief…and Learning to Ride Again.

Today is gray and rainy. I knew it would be a harder day the moment I woke up despite my attempts to turn it around. I will always try and sqeeze the bitter lemons into sweet lemonade, but sometimes, no matter how many scoops of sugar you add, you taste your concoction and it’s crap. I have my girls…and that’s what matters. Crappy days are inevitable.

I scrolled down on my blog today and reread some old entries…when I was pregnant and reading “you’re gunna be a big sister” books to Lainey. It hit me hard again…even my header photo. And my mom leaves tomorrow. And Brett heads to Chicago for ten days, and I already miss him so much, my heart aches. I love him so much more through all of this…I didn’t know it was possible.

We got our chromosome tests back today. I was expecting the call all day, and I knew full well what we would be told, but my throat still constricted, my eyes still welled and I felt that bottoming out of my stomach I felt so much of last week nonetheless.

Dr. Foley gave it easy…”Sweet ‘Lil Nella has Down Syndrome…just like we thought.”

I liked the “Sweet ‘Lil” part. They were like spoonfuls of sugar in my crappy lemonade today.

She is sweet & ‘lil.

Many have wondered or assumed this would be easier if we found out early. I opted not to have the Triple Marker test so many do to rule out ‘abnormalities.’ Her heart was perfect. And, regardless, A: We wouldn’t have done anything ANY differently had we found out, and B: I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the way this happened. I wouldn’t have wanted to know.

I am a person of hypersensitive emotions. I love like love is a drug and I am an addict, and I grieve deep, concentrated grief. It’s who I am. I know if I found out earlier, I would have put up a barrier. I know I would have been depressed for weeks. I know I wouldn’t have sucked the joy out of my beautiful pregnancy like I did, and that in itself would have been a terrible loss.

I needed to find out the way I did…to grieve hard and heavy. I needed to hear the news the moment she was handed in my arms so that my love at the sight of her could help heal my broken heart. She fixed me.

But, like every other fix, sometimes things temporarily break down again, and I found myself shaking a bit today. It’s not her ever. She is not a disappointment in any way, shape or form. In one week, my soul–the one that has Lainey all carved in her spot–has been chiseled away to make room for my sweet Nella–and she fits perfectly…right in her spot–and they both are locked there to stay.

It’s ideals. Dreams. Expectations I had for life. I keep telling myself that our old life didn’t die…it’s just different. Erase and Replace. Every day, there is something I think of and, slowly, I erase the old memories and replace them with new ones. Different ones. Good ones. And you know what? I cannot wait to take our new family to Isle of Capri. I am dreaming of tiny little swimsuits and Nella-izing the place like Lainey already has. I want her footprints in those sands, the grooves of her walker wheels carved into the old wood floors, a dollar bill with her name on it stapled to the beams above the bar where others have gathered under the thatched palm roof. There are such happy days ahead. And that’s not just sugar talkin’…those are our lemons. And, they are sweet.

So, real life has begun. A new life. It’s like learning to ride a bike again. I fell off a couple times today and the damn chain breaks loose every once and awhile, but it feels good to ride. To pedal slowly on this steep incline. It’s a hard ride, but I know I will find beauty…in the flowers on the side of the path, in the breeze that still exists. The incline will even out soon, I know. I’m not alone on this bike. I’ve got my babies strapped to me. And then there’s Brett and the boys who ride along…and, well…hell, last time I looked back, there’s like a trillion of you all attached. World’s Longest Tandem Bicycle. …that’s what we’re riding.

There’s beauty in our new real life.

~ The introduction of our new girl to the waiting hearts of friends at a ‘Welcome to the World’ brunch Sunday hosted by my friend, Heidi (everyone needs a Heidi in their life. I’m lucky I found mine).

Friends, when you love my children…you are loving me. Thank you.

~ Our first outing alone…to Costco to pick up some pictures. And my big girl huddled in the back over my little girl, protecting her, loving her while I pushed the cart.

I picked up the pictures and then felt all Supermommish and ventured further in the store to challenge myself. Maybe some papertowel. Some cheese. I can do this. But then I saw crowds of people and long lines…and I screeched the crooked wheels of our cart into a 180 and got the hell out of there. I can be Supermom another day. Not today.

~ We give baths and change diapers.

…and do loads and loads of laundry. Tiny little pee-stained laundry that seems to multiply like rabbits. We clean and cook and scrape up dried play-doh off the couch. Because that’s what every mom does.

~ We take breaks to soak up the most important thing we have…our family. Last night, we huddled over candlelight on the big coffee table…all of us…and played Yatzee. Brett kicks our butt every time, but it doesn’t matter. It feels good to be together…to laugh as I attempt a full house once again only to deal a crappy roll and bottom out on the scoreboard every time. I held my sleepy girl and watched as Lainey fought for the dice between every player, demanding, “mine turn.”

~ We nurse our babies…she figured it out…I knew she would.

And, for the record, Nella “gave” Lainey a new baby at the hospital when Lainey came to meet her. It was a beautiful moment–cameras flashing, tears streaming. She opened the present and smiled at the sight of the new baby. I kneeled next to her and whispered, “what are you going to name the baby?” The videotape rolled as the room grew quiet and we all waited her response. I expected something beautiful. Something profound. And she replied with…
Hot Tub.
You can actually hear on the video this quiet pause and then someone pipes up with, “Did she just say HOT TUB???” And she did. Been callin’ her that ever since.

~ We paint faces once again. And it seemed appropriate…today, on her own, she asked to be…
…a bunny.

~ We move on. In our Chinese food delivery the other night, I dug for the fortune cookies, expecting something beautiful. Certainly, this week calls for a beautiful fortune. You know what I got? Some crap about my “executive abilities.” So, I dug for another only to get some confusing line about some “iron constitution”…and I had to laugh. This is real life. Our fortunes will not always be beautiful. Things don’t always make sense. But we move on.

Lainey’s cookie held the last fortune. And it said, “You have a lively family.” And then my mom broke a dish (for the third time this week).

Yes, we have a lively family. A lively, beautiful family that will move on with time. We have to…’cuz all these people are pedaling our tandem bike and we have no choice. We’ll let you pedal for us for now and when we’re ready, we’ll stretch our legs back down and cycle through those rhythmic turns. We’ll learn to ride again.

…these beautiful little souls we created make it pretty easy…

Totally…Madly…Deeply…in Love. ~k


Leave a Comment
  1. Perfect, beautiful post again! Remember, Carie and I are really good at cycling. We’d love to help out. So glad you feel comfortable enough to call. It means the world to me!
    I think Heidi’s done a century ride or two from the way she’s been pedaling! We can all learn a thing or two from her.
    You’re doing great.

  2. I was directed by my wife to read this. She got the link (I guess) from a friend of hers. My wife very rarely tells me I have to read something. She did that tonight and I’m glad she did.

    What an amazing piece of writing this is. I was at the edge of my seat and fighting tears the whole way. Thanks for writing with such honesty. I really enjoyed hearing your story.

  3. I need a waterproof keyboard–I’m talking the type that can be used underwater. But the tears are changing, distilling, pasteurizing like something purely good. Tears of pride in my baby and her babies. With “It’s Gonna’ Be Alright” echoing here in my solitary room I breathe Nella in and remember, She is not broken…on the contrary, she heals my brokenness. Today, I had a funeral at noon. My dear friend at the funeral home who knows Kelle–who in fact is sending Kelle money to cover the costs of announcements of this glorious arrival–gently warned me that among the family I would, in moments, meet, was a boy with Down Syndrome–a grandson. I scanned the crowd upon entering…to find him…and watched him as I saw him woven into his family, knowing grief as he came to say goodbye to his grandpa, and keenly gifted in comforting those around him. After the service, I watched as he lavishly shared hugs with all his family…I watched him and secretly wanted one of those life-restoring hugs…and as I looked at him…he looked at me and our eyes locked like a tracer beam to my heart and he walked to me–a stranger–and enveloped me in such a hug I trembled with tears as I am again now,,,did he know? Could he feel the depth he had reached? Could he see the bunny that called us together. Thank you, God. I love you. I love your friends who help a distant dad sleep better and live with a quiet heart. It was her…all along…it was Nella.

  4. Keep those beautiful pics coming!! Absolutely gorgeous! Can’t wait to see scrapbook pages!!!!!

  5. rik-no words. love you though.

    i love you so much.
    today sucked, maybe tomorrow will be better. of not,
    i’m bringing a bunch of mich lights and a bag of limes:)

    all the photos are beautifully stunning.

  6. She really is the loveliest, most beautiful little girl. Just love the way Lainey looks at her!

  7. I love the “sister” pictures!! And I can’t believe how big Lainey looks next to Sweet little Nella! Love the worlds-most-gigantic-tandem-bike image too! :)

  8. Mondays, I’m coming to realize, are never easy. Please know you’re not the only one who had a sucky day :)

    Loving you,

    PS – What is that crazy bright-colored quilt Nella is laying on? LOVE IT!

  9. But at the end of the day we have love and … “the beautiful little souls we created.” Love that line! Okay, really, going to bed now …

  10. You light candles in mason jars, too? I spied that in one of Heidi’s posts, too. (Or maybe that’s a southern thing!?)

    For real now, g’night …
    (my hubby’s a callin’.)

  11. Poppa’s post; beautiful. I love the tandem bike analogy….yes we are all behind you. Peddling hard! Love the picture of Lainey breastfeeding who I am assuming is “hot tub”! :) Big smiles to you! M.

  12. I shall return….

  13. Kelle,

    A friend of a friend here again. (Join the club, right?) Seeing Nella makes me want another baby. (Mine is almost nine months and busy investigating the world. It seems ages ago that she slept in my arms.)

    Nella is sweetness embodied. And Lainey has the glow of a child who has just been given a wonderful present. And she has.

    Glad this day is over. Here’s to tomorrow.


  14. Yes! That first trip to the store with both babies is EPIC. I think I did the exact same thing: filled up a cart at Costco and just wandered out, leaving it there. Moms need some slack sometimes, especially in those first weeks! I can’t get over how beautiful she is and these gorgeous shots! Hugs and prayers.

  15. so in the same boat as you. jeremy left me and the girls alone on saturday to go back to work. me. alone. with two big sisters and a 5 day old baby. mom stayed with me for another night … and then …
    i cried those big heavy sobbing tears as she drove away and the nurse called with jaundice levels that were higher than we wanted …
    and then … monday just felt overwhelming and scary and raw again …
    tuesday has got to be better. right?

  16. What an amazing and strong person you are…..I hope you believe it more and more everytime someone tells you that! Although we have never met, I feel compelled to share my thoughts and feelings with you. I’ve been reading your blog for the past few months and often get teased for going on your blog as much as I do…yep, everyday. It’s hard to contain the urge….your words, energy, and photographs are truly captivating!!! You are inspirational….more than you will probably ever know! I can’t explain or articulate it, but am moved by you and how you express yourself. I am a firm believer that the challenges in life make us more whole and shape us into humble individuals. The strength you possess and colorful life you live radiates through your pictures. God truly will never throw anything in front of you that can’t be handled. Nella and Lainey are angels…an absolute blessing. You exemplify PASSION to me….you are a shining example of what it’s like to seize every day and every opportunity. Because I love quotes, here are a few of my favorites for you to read:

    Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.

    The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

    Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.

    Looking forward to more updates and pictures…..of you and your girls conquering the world!


  17. I could just feel the chorus of “Yeay!”s from your readers as we read that we’re on that tandem bike too. I think all of us, reading along, have just wanted to be a part, somehow. You give us that opportunity :-)

    Love the way you deal with the sucky day. Ride the tide. I just told someone the other day, “I’m going to be weird for a couple of days,” because I could just feel it comin’ on. I’m finally figuring out how to just GO with it. Seems you’re figuring it out way earlier than I did :-)

    love you.

  18. Just checking on you before I am off to work. Hoping today is a better day for you.

    I would imagine your mind and body would be pretty depleted by now. I hope you are getting enough sleep to allow for rejuvenation but either way bad days are normal and OK for anyone.


  19. Dear Kelle,

    Your words and photos are so honest, and so real – and so very special.

    Remember we’re all on the bike with you – peddling as fast as our little feet will go. And, it’s such a privilege to be coming along for the ride.

    The Isle of Capri? It’s one of my most favourite places in the whole world. I must look back through your old posts and read all about it.

    Poppa – you write so beautifully. Your words always touch my heart, and are a life-restoring hug in themselves.

    Take care Kelle,

    Linda in New Zealand.

  20. scottnaples says:

    So many amazing photos, but I think the last photo speaks volumes . . . Sweet ‘Lil Nella nestled against you thinking “I SO love my Momma!” Total contentment! There has been such a transformation in your eyes Kelle. Your beauty shines through!
    And for Poppa . . . I’ll be doing a little research myself on an underwater keyboard. Will keep you posted! xoxo Deb.

  21. Once again I am in awe at your ability to articulate what you are feeling…and to one minute have me at the verge of tears and then the next minutelaughing. Hot Tub! I love it.

  22. I am cracking up watching Lainey feed “HOT TUB.” I told Jon the story about HOT TUB a few days ago and he was in hysterics! Such a great story. Love the new pictures and of course, the story which follows. So sorry to have missed Sunday Brunch with all you ladies. Hopefully we can all get together again soon. Oh yeah, maybe Rayna’s next wknd? Hope your day is better for you, Lainey and Bunny :) smooches to all,
    XOXOXO Suz

  23. If nothing else…it’s Tuesday…one day down. I love your perspective on life…always have! Thinking of you as you continue to grieve and transform your world…especially in the absence of Brett and your mom. Wish I lived close. I will push my pedal extra hard this week!

  24. “Hypersensitive Emotions” wow – not everyday is going to be a “great” one. You have some big things coming up with your mom and Brett leaving . . . remember those great friends you have and the wonderful family and friends who are only a phone call away. You are only approaching week 2 and are still healing physically also. Give in to your emotions and remember the tandem bike – we’re all riding with you. love, roberta

  25. I don’t know how you do it all…the beautifully decorated nursery, the beautiful photos, the photo shoots, and your kids are healthy and clean and well fed and dressed AND you have time to write tear jerking blogs….if I can manage to shower twice a week, I’m lucky!
    I have to tell you- now in my 29th week, I’ve declined all the “abnormality” tests too….for the exact same reasons. If they found what? We would go right along, but I would probably obsess over it and it would cripple me until the birthday. I would rather not know, and if something is there, like you, I want to just jump in and deal with it instead of having it loom over me in this happy time. The docs still look at me, and then back at the chart, and then at me and say “so you denied the tests?” and I always look right back and say, “Yes, I did.”

  26. and oh ps. Penelope wants to name the new baby “Bubba”, and Jaxon wants to name it after himself. What is it with kids and baby names? The more i think about it though, “Hot Tub” makes perfect sense. Who wouldn’t want to name their baby after one of the most incredible places in the world?

  27. I have great admiration for you, Kelle. Honesty is, honestly, the most beautiful thing, and you demonstrate it with grace, humility, humor, and that special Kelle-osity that just nobody else has. You’re doing a big thing here – for everyone who reads your posts, but I think for you, too… I think all of this raw honesty is beautiful and serves so many purposes.
    I remember when the twins were only about a month old (I was still b-feeding and enjoying zero sleep), my parents had just gone back up to NY, and Ang had to go away for a business trip. I was like, “Umm… is this LEGAL? I am unstable, sleep deprived and, quite frankly, pissed!” Sucked. I really feel for you. But you have a bigger friend support system surrounding you of anyone I have ever met… That said, I’m not sure what I can do for you, but if you ever need ANYTHING, I would be so happy to help.
    Lila loves looking at your pictures. She says, “Oooooh, baby, baby, baby, mama! Need milk, mama? Need hugs? Kisses?” [kisses/hugs the computer screen] And AJ, in his usual AJ man-of-few-words fashion, just says “pretty.”
    Thinking about you…

  28. You know there are two mottos in this household, my husband’s…”travel light” and mine…”always be prepared”…he does and I am! I am telling you this because I am the one on the tandem who will be prepared to give you what I can when that chain breaks.

    Love the photos Kelle……

    Bug & Ruby’s Gram

  29. So I snuck on to check out my girls and laughed so loud at “Hot Tub” that I got a strange look from my class. No, I don’t normally surf the net while in class but my Tuesday is looking like your Monday and I needed a pick-me-up. I have officially switched to water-proof mascara.

  30. Kelle,

    Such beautiful words, and amazing photos of your girls! Thank you for opening this little window of your heart, and for allowing us to share these moments with you!

    We’ll all continue to pedal this tandem bike. We’ll kick it into high gear every now and then in order to get over those little bumps in the road. Soon enough those pedals spinning like crazy below your feet are going to entice you, until then, just sit back and enjoy the breeze blowing through your hair and the love that’s swirling through the air around you.

  31. oh your killin’ me with cuteness! that 2nd picture is too much! she looks like lucas, like she’s half asian!

    i think you can make “iron constitution” fit. you have found strength you didnt know you had this past week.

    sorry your having a bad day (great, now taylor swift is stuck in my head).

    having 2 sure is different than having 1 thats for sure. i thought it would be alot easier. as for supermom – she’s highly overrated. :)

    the sun’ll come out tomorrow! xoxo!

  32. Christina says:

    Isle of Capri…funny,as I have read your beuatiful story these past days,I envisioned your lovely family there, soaking in the beauty of just being…I will look forward to this springs posts of Lainey & Nella, bikini clad and sunglass wearing!
    Love to you, all of ya!

  33. Good Lord Girl!! Just when I think it can’t get anymore beautiful, you come back with this. Kelle you just ooze beauty!!!! I look forward to the blog updates everyday and more pics of these two little bundles of perfection.

    And Poppa,
    I have always noticed that little loves with Down Syndrome have a sixth sense; a little extra love and kindness, a closer presence to God, and an ability to lift those around them, knowing them or not. Since Nella’s arrival I have thought about all the little blessings I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and I was so joyful in realizing God has put me in the presence of many kids with Down Syndrome. My life is better, more pure, blessed, and full of overflowing love because of them. Kelle and Poppa, you get to LIVE in this presence….forever. Lucky, lucky, lucky you!!!

    In God’s Mighty Grip,

  34. You make motherhood look so beautiful with all of its love, pain, anxiety, and hope. From one momma to another, please know that you and your girls are loved.

  35. My heart dropped a little when Gary called me with the bittersweet news of Nella’s birth. It only lasted a second because I instantly knew it was meant to be, the way it was meant to be when I traveled my journey to my Josh. It all made sense – the ovarian cancer, the infertility, the long wait for adoption- when I held Josh in my arms. I wouldn’t have traded a thing, it was my only path to him. My only regret is that I didn’t have the wisdom to write a journal about it as we went throught it all. Thanks for sharing your jorney with us. By the by, the day I shared Nella’s news with Josh, he was working a fundraiser for Special Olympis in Annapolis MD. God’s hand is beautiful. (by the way, this is Gary’s sister)

  36. I think the way Lainey looks at Nella in these photos is just absolutely priceless! What a great big sister she is already!

  37. Wishin’ and hopin’ you’re having a better day …

    Smile now!

  38. Dear Kelle,

    Bad days come and go…I truly wish that you will feel better soon and that your lemonade will taste very sweet again! And I absolutely love your pictures – Nella is such a doll!

  39. How do you always write beautiful posts? You have made the most delicious tasting lemonade in all of Naples with the lemons you have. You may not see it yet, but friend you will. My favorite picture of little Nella is with the colorful quilt.

  40. you’ve helped me love my family in a new way simply by photographing them! And I can see already how your craft is beautifully capturing Nella and family for you!

  41. Grief is managed and not cured. Some days you will rock it out in your usual “get your DNA checked” way, some days you wont even be able to pick up the drumsticks to rock on. Some days will be in between. All are OK and normal. Love will be there thru it all.

    Rik sign me up for a waterproof keyboard. Think you’re onto somethin’.

    OMG did I just write a ” drumsticks” analogy? ?? That’s for u car-car.


  42. Anonymous says:

    Once again….amazing! Love, love, love the pics. Want to jump through my computer screen and eat Nella up. Love that Lainey is such a protective big sis. It’s so cute. Also, love the name “Hot Tub”. I think it may be the hottest names of 2010. It’s catchy! Love you!


  43. These pictures and your words are absolutely beautiful!!!! I love the pic of your too girls, sooooo precious! That beautiful bond between sisters…oh yeah, they already have it. It happened the moment Lainey walked into the hospital room. I love the family game night pics, too! Awesome! And that pic of Nella on the quilt ROCKS! ~xoxo!!

  44. *two* girls…lol! That’s what I get for typing on my iPhone!

  45. Anonymous says:

    Among others, I am a stranger to you. I am a PICU nurse in Peoria and word of your writing has spread like wildfire between the nurses. YOU MAKE ME WANT TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLIST! YOU FIND THE BEAUTY IN SCRABBLE DICE!!! Thank you for letting us “strangers” in your world. WE are the better for it. Your family and YOUR SMILE are the most beautiful things I have seen in a long time. MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS YOU AND YOURS.

    Ann Neavor
    Children’s Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Peoria, Illinois

  46. Oh wow this post and these comments! Your dad’s comment? sheesh. Oh Kelle. When you have a bad day, log on to blogger and away we go. What a lovely, loving world. Hot Tub! Of course. LOVE IT.

    When Lainey, Margot, Sister Born and Hot Tub meet it will is a glorious day.

  47. Special Moms

    Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen?

    Somehow I visualize God hovering over earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, He instructs his angels to make notes in a giant ledger.

    Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a handicapped child.” The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”

    “Exactly,” smiles God, “Could I give a handicapped child to a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”

    “But has she patience?” asks the angel.

    “I don’t want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she will handle it. I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I’m going to give her has his own world. She has to make him live in her world and that’s not going to be easy.”

    “But, Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.” God smiles, “No matter. I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.”

    The angel gasps, “Selfishness? Is that a virtue?” God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she will never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a ‘spoken word.’ She will never consider a ‘step’ ordinary. When her child says ‘Momma’ for the first time, she will be present at a miracle and know it! When she describes a tree or a sunset to her child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.”

    “I will permit her to see clearly the things I see … ignorance, cruelty, prejudice … and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.”

    “And what about her patron saint?” asks the angel, pen poised in midair.

    God smiles, “A mirror will suffice.”

  48. Sorry you had a sucky day.

    Of course every new mom has those days, and you are dealing with a load of other emotions on top of it all, so cut yourself a huge helping of slack. I love your raw honesty through it all, but what really emerges in your words and photos is how incredibly much you love your babies.

    You are loving that baby like no other Mama could, and Nella is one very lucky child.

    Whenever you need help pedaling that beautiful bicycle, I’m here.


  49. I was directed here by a birth club I’m a part of on Baby Center. Your story is beautiful. Your family is beautiful. Thank you for your courage to share, it has been inspiring to visit with you.

    PS We’re using Baby Bee products on our wee one, too. :)

    I’ll be coming back.

  50. Dear Kelle,

    Well today was another gray, rainy day in FL ~ but the sky did clear this afternoon. Hoping your Tuesday was better than yesterday and that tomorrow will be even better still. Realize today had some tough “good-byes”. Know your “WLTB” team will peddle extra-hard in these days.

    Thank you for another beautiful post. I love your precious girlies. You are so good for them. Teaching every minute of the day – even when you don’t realize it (Hot Tub can testify to that). And sweet lil Nella will have all the stimuli needed living life with her big sis, Lainey, & her loving Mama. It’s good … it’s beautiful.

    Love, ((hugs)) and prayers.

    PS And extra prayers for Brett while he is away – that won’t be easy for him either. But Kelle, with your “iron constitution” and “executive abilities” you’ll keep things a humming. =)

  51. I am not good with words and nowhere near as talented with them as you but I wanted to simply say your story is BEAUTIFUL and INSPIRATIONAL and I, a stranger, am terribly glad you wrote it to share. Your strength as a loving mother is AMAZING and your story teaches me to be happy with what I have in my life and that we can choose to be positive and handle what life throws our way!!! THANK YOU!

  52. I posted about you on my blog–can’t find any words, but just a link. Praying for you today.

  53. Another beautiful poetic post.

    The pictures are just breathtaking.

    Your family is beautiful and you are so blessed.

  54. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never met you before, but I think you are an amazing woman with two amazing, beautiful, perfect daughters. Thank you for sharing your story. Your writing and your photos are beautiful and touch my heart. I hope you have a better day. Bless you and your family.


  55. this is a post every mommy can relate to. thank you for your honesty. i have fallen in love w/ yet another post of yours. xo

  56. Anonymous says:

    As the mom of another daughter with DS (18 years down the road)I can assure you it will mostly be a journey of joy.You are blessed ! Enjoy!

  57. Thank you so much for sharing your story of Nella. I also am the mama of child born different. I have an almost 4 year old son with Prader-Willi Syndrome. You have expressed so clearly and eloquently the emotions and joy and grief that come with an unexpected diagnosis. The grace that God gives is so overwhelming and incomprehensible in times like this. Blessings on you and your family.

  58. gorgeous pictures, thank you for sharing with us!

  59. I should know by now not to read your blog while I’m at work but I couldn’t resist – had to take a peek.

    So glad I did and I’ll just have to hope none of my students walk in right now and notice the tear-stained face.

    Thank you for sharing – the good times and the bad. Bless your babies!

  60. Sarah Rush… Sarah Rush is 23 now and she has Down’s Syndrome. I promise you, you will learn more from Nella than you will from any other person you know! She will teach you things about strength and love that you would never have known otherwise. In this way, and so many others, she is a true gift.

    p.s. I found my way to your blog from Dig This Chick.

  61. Kelle,

    So far three people have told me of your blog and your story. I smile and cry when I read your entries, because I have been in the same place that you are right now. My daughter, Cara, is turning 5 this Monday and everyday I think how blessed I am to be her mother. Cara has Down Syndrome and she has taught me so much in her life, more than anyone could. She hugs me(and anyone that will let her) and all the stress of life melts away. I know that you have been given my cell phone number, please call me if you need to talk to someone who understands the path you are on. Welcome to Holland – it is a beautiful place! Gini Phillips

  62. I was a student a Pelican Marsh when you taught there, but I was never a student of yours.

    Your writing is amazing, and inspiring. I’ve been sitting here, reading Nella’s story over and over again. I’m still young, so its difficult for me to understand the emotions, but reading this sure makes me feel strong emotions of my own. I feel love for your family, your perfect baby, Nella, your sweet little one, Lainey, and I love them without knowing them.

    Your story is a great one. And I can feel the love and support of all the people who comment, and all the people who surround your heart with their thoughts and prayers.

    Thank you for writing this. It has touched my soul and the souls of many others.

    All my love for you, your husband, Lainey, and sweet baby Nella,

  63. Your new addition is beautiful! Such a lovely family you have! My little Bennett has something (that little something extra) in common with your Nella:) So far it’s been a wonderful journey for us and I’m sure you’ll find it is for your family as well.

  64. Ok..came back for like the billionth time, no joke. I just can’t get enough of your beauties! These photos taken by you & Heidi are PHENOMENAL!! I know I said this earlier, please excuse me for being redundant…but your pictures breath life, real life…and LOVE, so much LOVE. We can feel the love you have. Your love for your girls, your husband, your family, your friends, your love of writing, and your love of life! LOVE is such a beautiful thing….I am so glad you are capable of loving so much, so hard, so deep. Don’t ever stop.

  65. Those footprints in the sand on the isle of Capri will be more beautiful than any footprints you could ever have imagined. Your Nella will amaze you and will fill you with awe and gratitude every day of your life together. I know it is all a little overwhelming (adjusting to a new reality and making peace with shifting dreams, hopes and expectations), but I can’t help but be excited for you and this new life…and excited for the rest of us that we get to watch as this beauty unfolds.

  66. Wow! I have only read two of your posts and I am addicted! Your writing and photos are just so beautiful and eloquent, and an absolute joy to read. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

    You are such a lucky lady to have such a beautiful life, a loving husband, and magnificent children. If every day was perfect and happy then you might just take it for granted. Bad days are just here to make us appreciated the good days.

    I got on to your blog as someone posted a link to Nella’s brith story on Facebook!
    I am in Australia and I will be checking back often!

    Allison :)

  67. What beautiful words and pictures…thank you for sharing yourself and your family with us!
    God Bless!

  68. Anonymous says:

    A friend of mine shared your blog. God bless you – you are amazing. Your family, your heart, your words are simply beautiful…

    My dream child, my longed for daughter, is also one of Gods’ special angels. I,too, grieved over her birth and had a hard time.

    Someone shared this with me. It was exactly what I needed:

    Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful daughter!

  69. Just wanted to tell you, Nella’s beautiful birth story has touched so many people. I shared it with my special needs mom group, as well as with my son’s therapists and teachers (my son is autistic), and it took their breath away. I just wanted to let you know how many people you’ve touched by sharing your story.

  70. Your girls are gorgeous! You have an amazing family, and I love how much you love them and show it.

  71. That was beautiful…the birth story, this story, and the many chapters to come.

    THANK YOU for being so real and honest. I am not sure I would have been brave enough.

    You inspire me.


  72. You have a fabulous way of expressing yourself–I am in awe! Such a beautiful family!

  73. Hi Kelle, I found your blog through Bridget’s Light. I loved your birth story…it definately brought me back in time to the weeks after my Emily was born with DS (5/18/09). I was also 31 when I had her and had chosen not to do any testing, as like you said, it would not have mattered anyway. I am thankful for your bringing back to those raw, stripped down, yet beautiful moments after her birth…since Emily is just a little bit older than Nelle, let my blog give you a little glimpse of the beautiful, not so distant future :-)

  74. Kelle and Brett, congratulations to you and your family on your beautiful, brand new, baby daughters birth.
    She is precious and your photos of her and Lainey are breathtaking!

    We are here – ready to embrace you with love, and laughter, tears and strength when you need us.
    Those crappy days will come but on those crappy days remember you are not alone.

    You are not alone.

    Sweet ‘Lil’ Nella is so beautiful, and perfect in every way. Take all the time you need to hold those dreams close and then let them go when you are ready-the new ones are going to be filled with so much more..

    ~Sari, Mom to Samuel(3yrs)

  75. Wow. This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. I recently had a baby, and always wondered how I would deal with an unexpected thing like down syndrome. After reading your blog I realized that your baby isn’t that different than mine. Beautiful, peaceful, amazing works of art hand crafted by The Creator himself. You and I are not that different, mothers, totally in love with our precious little gifts..wanting all that God can give them in this life, wishing they would know the fullness of th greater things in life. I cried with your words, understanding that the beauty you describe runs deep inside the hearts of many women. I remember the hospital such a short time ago and all the emotions you feel..the joy,the anticipation. Watching my baby sleep, hearing her breathe, watching her smile. Wr are all on this planet together, but this story has touched so very close to home. I wish you and your family all the best-

  76. Someone shared your blog with me today and said it was one of the most beautiful birth stories that she had ever heard. I have to agree . . . and as I was drawn further into your story and read more about you and your wonderful little addition to your family, the more I realize that the beauty has only just begun to unfold in your lives.

    I’m sure you have heard plenty of anecdotal stories in the past few days, but I just wanted to share that my mom’s sister had Down Syndrome and while there were certainly struggles and pain (she was the third of three children under three and was born in the 1950s when there was not nearly the support for special needs kids and their families), that girl was the light of their lives and she filled everyone whose life she touched with unspeakable joy. The way I KNOW your little Nella will do.

    Thank you so much for your raw honesty and candid words, the way you bring your family’s story to life with your priceless photographs. Your words have touched me and reminded me to take a step back and see the simple treasures in this world.

    Best wishes to you and your family as you begin the journey of the next phase of your lives.

  77. I agree about how we found out. At birth. It was how I was meant to find out. As painful as it was. I would have not have had it any other way.

  78. Anonymous says:

    Count me in as an avid reader of your experiences. We are about to celebrate our Catie’s 5th birthday. I am walking with you through your journey, re living the moments and thrilled at your courage and candor. We didn’t know about our Catie and would not have had it any other way. She and I are in this for life, partners, friends, and nothing will stop us.

  79. Hi. I came aross your blog, through a friend. Nella is an amazing little girl, and the way you express your emotions is beautiful. I am a new mother of twin girls, and one of them was born with a rare, severe brain condition. I have felt every single emotion you have described. Unless someone becomes a parent of a child with a disabilty, that person will never really know how it feels…good and bad. My girls are 10 months now, and I still have hard days. Today was one of those days. However, there are days where I feel so lucky, to have such a precious gift. I often use my blog as therapy, too. If you ever want to check us out, and read about a family who can “relate” this is our blog address…


  80. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this story… yes you should write a book soon!! I pray God will continue to bless you and your family’s life!! I had a million things to do today but now I just want to sit and thank God for His awesome Blessings!!!Julie

  81. That was my biggest hurdle too (after getting our daughter’s diagnosis) … getting over the fears of the future and whether or not my daughter would be accepted by society. At the end of the day, I had to tell myself not to worry about the future until I had to. I needed to enjoy my baby and so I did.

    We already did not find out until our daughter was born. I wouldn’t have wanted to know either. :)

  82. i found you through a blogfrog link. read your birth story and sobbed like a baby. i am not an emotional person but it was so beautiful so honest and so touching. Above all I thought I would tell you, your precious gift from God is beautiful! (I have 3 babies) and I think she is cuter then they were when they were born and they are pretty cute! What a blessing and amazing way to share God’s love with others. May He continue to bless you and your family.

  83. Kelle – I came over from a friend’s blog. Take it one day at a time. Some days are better than others, but when I am at my weakest moment I look into Parker’s eyes and it all fades. We didn’t find out until 1 week after Parker was born (no mention of DS at the hospital), but I wouldn’t have wanted to know during the pregnancy either. Try not to dwell in the grief, I missed too much and now I crave those newborn days! Parker is now 8 months old! God has a plan and a purpose for Nella! Trusting in Him and anticipating God’s best! Lara

  84. You have so beautifully exposed my deepest worries. That I would be given a gift and not realize the love it held. That I might be too consumed with how the gift might affect me, rather than see the love I have to give. That I would freeze in that moment, and possible forget to move forward.
    I have no idea what lies ahead for me, or for my family. I hope that the words you have written stay close enough to the surface that I will be able to recall your strength and honesty if there comes a time when I need them.
    Thank you for your raw honesty. You are a beautiful person, clearly full of love and an ability to embrace the moments.
    PS. I need to learn to paint my childrens faces!

  85. I still remember the day we got the call about our daughters chromosome tests. I had convinced myself the doctors were wrong. I have small ears, my husband has a lazy jaw, the doctors were wrong. It was like hearing those words for the first time. “The tests are positive. Your daughter does have Down Syndrome.” That was 25 years ago. DS has not defined our family. We are normal. As normal as any other family! Who can define normal anyway? :)
    You are in for the best ride of your life!!

  86. Just wanted to say your words are amazing. You have a true gift of making emotion come off the page and splash the reader in the face. I think you have a beautiful family, and feel blessed to have the privlage to peek into your world. If only through pictures and words, you have reminded me how precious life truely can be.

  87. That has got to be the most beautiful baby girl I have ever seen, and being a mom of 7 children with 5 granddaughters, I should know a beautiful baby when I see one. You give her a big hug and kiss for me and don’t ever let her go.

  88. Anonymous says:

    I have never read anything so beautiful or looked at anything as magical as your older daughter holding your baby. Those that don’t even personally know you will carry this story with them and pray for you and your family. Thank you for shaaring. Thank you for being an agent of God and reminding me what life is about.

  89. I think your blog is the most amazing I have ever read. The love that pours out is palpable. I feel lucky a friend told me about it.

    Your daughters are stunningly beautiful, in every way. I can see they’re sisters already. And Nella’s smiles are so darling. She knows she’s found the perfect family for her.

    I had always thought I would have wanted to know about our daughters diagnosis of prenatal stroke during my pregnancy, so that i could start reading and learning, preparing myself for her entrance. I changed my mind today after reading your words. They made complete sense to me. We found out when she was 6m old. Now I don’t need to wish we had found out earlier, I can be fine with finding out when we did, you’ve given me peace.

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  92. What a perfect mom you are for t hese girls. I understand your grief. But even grief can be part of a love story. Yours is beautiful. Thank you for writing it down. M

  93. Kelle,

    i don’t actually know how many degrees of separation there are between us – a friend of a friend (maybe?) posted your story on Facebook…and I saw the word Nella and clicked…because it is too one of my favorite names and songs…

    i am traveling through unknown territory in my life right now and trying to find the lessons and the beauty… the things i am facing are not as epic or raw as yours, but they are mine to do for now…

    And your story, unabashed and raw and alive…has infused me with truth this morning. what a powerful, soul-rocking quest you are on….and with such integrity.

    you don’t know me…but from one woman who needs truth, and beauty….and depth, passion, authenticity and meaning….to another, may you feel lifted up by the support of thousands of love thoughts…sent into the universe on your behalf, wrapping you and yours tightly in blankets of grace. may you walk forward with confidence that even on the bad days when the clarity slips or you are frustrated with yourself, your cloud of witnesses is around you. and they see your beauty and value and will continue to remind you…even on days when it is hidden for you.

    may god heap more blessings than you can stand on you and your husband and your stunning children…

    thank you for your process and for your openness in sharing. i am but a drop in the bucket of those who have been moved, but know that even the small details, the beautiful aesthetic and your unpretentious and emotionally honest writing….they have added immeasurably to my day and my reflections. as i pass your blog on, please know my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  94. your pictures are beautiful! and your outpouring of love makes me want to love a little more and worry a little less.

  95. I have been down this emotional roller coaster before. You are so sweet to share with us. What a gift it is to me. Live each day one by one and don’t worry about tommorrow. One day at a time is all that is a reality. Be aware of God acting in the present moment and focus on that. Tommorrow will come and treat it the same way. Try not to look back and try not to look forward. You are being given great gifts to experience God’s perfect love. Do not worry about the clothes you wear or the food you eat. Look at the birds of the sky they neither reap nor sow nor gather into barns yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than they are? These imperfections in life bring us to spiritual perfection. Things of the world will no longer be important. Faith, Hope, and Love will come through Nella and your family and nothing else will matter. You are so wonderfully made and your sharing is so wonderful,too. You help me to remember all of the trails I have been through and how I learned to trust in God through them and the true He gives to us all.

  96. Lovely!
    And this is also to say that my eldest daughter still to this day “nurses” her dollbabies. :)

  97. You are a truly beautiful person. Tears roll down my face as I read your words. You are your family are inspirational and your girls are breathtaking.

  98. I love your stories and I love your pictures even more because they show me what you are writing about. You have two beautiful girls, they will become wonderful women because you and your husband love them. I have a son, his story (because he has a story that started before I gave birth) is wonderful and emotional too. One day I will tell it like you do yours.

  99. My little girls keep looking at me in the mornings when I come to read your blog wondering why mommy is crying again. Though they are only 10 months old and they can’t speak I KNOW they sense the beautiful sadness tears can be, but also the beautiful serge of emotions which come from reading the inner workings of the emotions of someone else.
    I emote deeply and when I cry, I l cry deeply and I thank you for allowing me to cry lately. I have been so caught up with my life being so busy and wondering if and how I will be able to be a mom to my babies if I go back to work, and really being a mom is such a great job, I have to forget I can’t be supermom, but to them I am their super mom.

    Your daughters are beautiful and I so look forward to my early mornings when the girls are making each other laugh, shedding a tear over your truths i your life, so thank you from the Eastern Side of Canada…. Thank you!

  100. This comment has been removed by the author.

  101. I wish I could tell put into words how much your blog has meant to me. When I had Jana I felt so alone. I felt like no one understood what I was going through. You wrote down my feelings exactly. I have re read your blog about Nella’s birth so many times. Jana is 19 months now. I use to say in the hospital I just want to look at her and not see Down syndrome. I can honestly say I do not. I see my Beautiful Jana Elizabeth. She is blessed me in ways that I could never imagine. She has two older brothers that love her to death. She has changed our family in such a powerful way. Thank you again for putting into words what I never could do when Jana was born.
    I wish I could hold your hand and tell you it is going to be ok and 19 months from now you will be a different person. A Stronger person. a more loving person. A Mom that will fight for your daughter. Will stand up to a complete stranger for using the “R” word. You world will never be the same but it will be a better one.

  102. I am in love with your blog, the beautiful story of Nella’s birth and your raw honesty. Thank you so much for sharing.

    … I’m also in love with your chair!! Where did you get that?!?! I love the bright colors. :)

  103. “Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star…” E. E. Cummings


  104. Hi from the Pacific NW! My sister sent me the link to your blog and I enjoyed it immensely! I am a special education teacher and work with students with moderate to severe disabilities. I currently have a student with Down Syndrome and he definitely makes this world a better place! He is such a lover…always wanting to hug and kiss my head! He is so athletic and able to participate in general education PE. His favorite things are food, dogs, firetrucks, singing and shopping. My favorite thing is his laugh and smile…and he always puts a smile on my face!! Nella is one lucky girl to be born into such a loving family but, as I am sure you have already figured out, you and your family are the ones that are truly lucky to have Nella in your lives! :)

  105. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful birth story. You are going to be an incredible blessing to mothers who are so fearful of having these dear babies with Down Syndrome. The sharing of your story will literally save lives!

  106. Thank you so much for allowing me the honor of reading about your little baby girl.

  107. Thank you, God, for your perfect gift of Nella. She is indeed a blessing

    Thank you for sharing the gift that Nella is…the beautiful photographs of the family – of the love that is translated by them over the air…so like God’s kisses for the world to enjoy.

  108. Thanks for sharing your story. A friend sent me a link to your birth story and of course, after reading that I’ve been reading other entries. About 6 years ago I was in a similar spot as you are now, except that it was my first child. We had chosen the name Anika, which means beautiful and I’m so glad we had. Unlike you, however, we had a not so good experience with the pediatrician. For six years now, I’ve been thinking that I need to write a letter and tell them how it made us feel to be told in the way we were told. Thanks for the reminder, I think I will start that letter today. Everyone who has a child born with a disability needs to be told that their child is perfect and lovely no matter what.

    I appreciate your honesty; it allows all of us to embrace our humanity more fully. I remember those days when I fought with the whys and why me’s about having a child with D S. I remember trying to wish it away, times when I didn’t want to be around ‘typically developing’ children and times when I would look at Anika and wonder how I could be so blessed. I think she was about 2 years old before I didn’t often try to wish away that extra chromosome.

    I resonate with your decision not to do all the testing. I’m thankful that I fell in love with her and held her before I found out. I know it’s different for everyone, but that was important for me.

    I too am deeply grateful for my supportive husband. We have both grown so much through this experience. We have also gotten to know an incredible group of people simply because we all have a child with a disability. I’ve learned a new language, so to speak.

    Blessings and joy for your journey. Nella and Lainey are blessed to have you as their mother.

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  110. I just put my little man down for a nap. he feel asleep on my chest while i was silently weeping reading your posts. Maximus turns 5 months in a couple weeks. He just happens to have that extra chromosome as well. He is my angel. Just precious. Wouldn’t change a thing…
    But every now and again, I find I still have a few tears finding their way out. I thought I cried every tear I could. I sent your blog to my husband…he said “it hit home”. The emotional roller coaster reminds me of the loss one feels when they lose someone dear..BUT, the loss is only a personification of a dream..The reality is the Gift of Live, the Gift of Love that is our Child..which I am sure you know, has a stare that locks onto our gaze and speaks to us without words..a language that only angels know..and we are blessed to feel that everyday :)
    Thanks you for helping me in those moments I need to feel not so alone..thank you.

  111. I have left a comment before thanking you for your beautiful story/stories and pictures. As a working mom of two (8 mo. and 2yrs.) I am pretty busy but I try to keep up with your blog. You have got to be tired of hearing all this, but jeez, you are so inspiring!! Its all just the purest form of beauty to me! I’m horrible with words so I will try my best to get this across: your girls are heavenly! I can’t look at them with out my heart absolutely bursting from my chest and me seriously physically melting, lol! Maybe because I have a soft spot for the girlies (mine are both girls). I dunno! Maybe what I’m trying to say is that when I see your girls, it makes me feel the same as when I look at my girls. I don’t even know you, so that’s gotta sound weird! It must be because we feel the same love for our children. But I like the kind of kindred mommy spirit thing there . . . oh so painfully in love with our babies!! Try to interpret that in the nicest way possible, I gave the words a shot! 😉

  112. Genial dispatch and this enter helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you as your information.

  113. I am the proud Mom of a beautiful 3 year old girl with Down syndrome. Another Mom shared this blog with me and I want to tell you THANK YOU for your openness and willingness to share. Your daughters are beautiful! You can use your gift of photography to show the world just how beautiful Nella and all individuals with Ds are…so they can see our children like we see them…beautiful gifts. Write a book and fill it with the images of your “normal days” so the world knows life goes on when you have a child with Ds, that they are a part of your family and your life just like any other child. Since having my daughter I am convinced that individuals with Ds have the ability to teach the world about acceptance, and to show people how to see others for what they truely are, not for what their external appearance may be. Hugs to you and your family!

  114. I thank you so much for putting into words the feelings of many. My brother is now 46. He has Downs…but he is so much more… he has brought joy and laughter into our family and brings the same to all those he meets. He has a wisdom all his own. Your pictures are awesome and your children are beautiful. Thanks you! Thank you for sharing.

  115. I too refused tests years ago when I had my kids, a few reasons:
    1) we had lost our first born daughter to a vaccine reaction at the age of 17 months
    2) God was giving me another gift to love, no matter how they were delivered, that is how God intended them to be.
    3) I knew I would never terminate even if it was bad.
    I’m glad I allowed myself the freedom (like you) to enjoy my pregnancies without worry or fear, I was fortunate to be blessed with two more healthy happy kids who are now teens. They are the loves of my life.
    Your sweet little Nella is so very precious! Absorb her like sunshine.

    By the way- you have the most amazing photos! What kind of camera do you use? I love photos, but I am not photographer. I just love to scrapbook the photos I take. Your making one hell of an album all ready with such precious photos. Best of luck to you all!

  116. Anonymous says:

    Kelle, I gave birth to a precious little boy one week ago that was diagnosed with DS. I am on a rollercoaster of emotions right now, but your blog helps me when I feel alone. I love the pictures and the honesty you share. Thank you for showing the world the beauty of our children…. my son is so wonderful and beautiful and a true blessing to our home. I look forward to more from you and Nella. Know that you also are not alone.

  117. Anonymous says:

    You are truly amazing. I know your writing is a way of healing for you.. It is such an inspiration. I am officially addicted to your blog. One of your latest comments to your Dad about being afraid of the future, well I think all good Moms fear that unknown. I am a mother of 3 children, My son is 14 and there was a recent drug case at his school, someone we were aquainted with. Boy do I fear the unknown too. We only want the best for our children. I know you will only give the best to your girls. Keep up the posts!!

  118. Anonymous says:

    You are truly amazing. I know your writing is a way of healing for you.. It is such an inspiration. I am officially addicted to your blog. One of your latest comments to your Dad about being afraid of the future, well I think all good Moms fear that unknown. I am a mother of 3 children, My son is 14 and there was a recent drug case at his school, someone we were aquainted with. Boy do I fear the unknown too. We only want the best for our children. I know you will only give the best to your girls. Keep up the posts!!

  119. That Nella is eye candy. Every photo is a Mona Lisa.

  120. Heart broken mom my son has ds

  121. Guilt, sadness, fear , he is 3 months old and I feel so little for him, WhY my son? Why me?

  122. A year ago, I pinned the cutest picture of a baby with DS- the caption about what an I spiring family she comes from. A few months ago, I started following you on Instagram and quickly, I realized that sweet little baby is Nella! I love reading your blog, so glad I came across you on IG!

  123. Inspiring*

  124. Julia Hoover says:

    I have just discovered your postings via pinterest. The last few days I find myself going back to your blog to read something else, even though I was planning to do something as mundane as order boots from Macy’s or look up a recipe for dinner. I know I’m years behind on discovering this beautiful site, but there’s people who are going to be reading this a hundred years from now because your writing transcends time, so hey, I guess I’m ahead of them! Seriously, thank you. Your writing is such a pleasure and has truly touched my soul.

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