Because of Cora…More on infant loss and grieving through the pain and happiness.

Infant loss. Baby girl Cora Jane LeFlufy. June 2, 2010.
June 2, 2018.
Infant loss. Baby girl Cora Jane LeFlufy. June 2, 2010.
Today would be Cora’s 8th birthday. Eight years ago today, she lit up our souls with her unexpected arrival. Eight years ago tomorrow, she plunged us into the abyss of grief and darkness with her untimely departure.
Eight years-some of them in a blink and some of them with the endless, painful ticking seconds on a clock composed of grief and despair.
Every year, these two days come and go and I power through a gauntlet of emotions-sadness, anger, loneliness, wonder, awe, gratitude-
but the journey always takes me to the same place: peace.
All that we went through-before, during, and after Cora-was a gift. Yes, you read that right. A gift.
It seems strange to think of it that way, but death (especially the death of a child) has this uncanny ability to trigger growth of our self-awareness and understanding. Grief shows us who we really are-good, bad, ugly-and, if we’re lucky enough (like I was) it shows us how to accept all aspects of ourselves and how to make changes that make us feel better about ourselves and our life’s purpose.
Because of Cora, I now understand all my shit and I know how to deal with myself.
Because of Cora, I no longer waste time on shit that doesn’t matter to me nor do I languish over anything that makes my heart hurt or causes me to question my feelings. If it makes me feel sucky, I feel through it and move the fuck on.
Because of her, I give less fucks. If something doesn’t directly affect my life or cause injustice for someone or something I believe in, I simply don’t give a fuck about it. Don’t take this the wrong way, I still give fucks, just about the things that matter most to me. I don’t care what people think/say/do about me unless it physically hurts me. I don’t care what people think/say/do about you unless it physically hurts you. But I still care about all the animals…they are one fuck I will always give. 🙂
Because of Cora, I’m both more compassionate and less tolerant (more about this in my next blog).
Because of Cora I don’t beat myself up over my mistakes and I’m faster to forgive myself and others.
Because of Cora, I’ve tapped into the power and presence of Source energy-where I can feel her and my other babies and my mom and so many others.
Because of Cora, I’m a much better human than I ever was without her (even though I am much less kind to whiners and complainers than I used to be).
How can a gal not feel grateful for that kind of gift? She was worth every second of the 30 hours we had with her.
Happy 8th Birthday, Cora Jane. 🤸🏼‍♂️👼🏼🤸🏼‍♂️

June 3, 2018

unplugging a baby from life support

Up to this point, it has been too painful to look at this pic, let alone share it.

It seems fairly boring unless you know that this is a pic of Cora’s BC Children’s caregivers unplugging her from life support. Now that I’ve told you that, it has a lot more impact, yes?

It was the first and last time I held her and she died in my arms almost immediately after they stopped her machines.
They wanted me to hold her for awhile while the machines were keeping her body alive, but I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t handle one more second of knowing she was already gone while machines kept her blood pumping and heart beating.

I brought her into the world and I was determined to hold her when she left it again.
After all, it was the least I could do for her after allowing people to poke and prod her for 24 hours.

Born healthy and thriving only one day before and braindead 30 hours later.

It’s hard to wrap my brain around, even eight years later.  Even knowing the sequence of events and the tragic mistakes that led to it, and regardless of how happy I am in my life right now, it still hurts if I think about it.

This pic is a painful reminder that love is a gift and we never know how long we have with our loved ones. It’s a reminder to love harder, laugh larger, give less fucks about the small annoyances and what others think of you (as I may have already mentioned a few times above…). None of that crap matters. Remind yourself regularly how blessed you are to have your fave people in your life (even when they annoy you so much you sometimes want to hit them upside the head with a plastic shovel…). As surreal as it sounds, they could be gone in a blink.

8 years ago today. RIP Cora Jane.

Are you a good houseguest or a bad houseguest? House Guest Etiquette a la Jo.

I just had the BEST weekend with the BEST houseguests, pretty much ever and it wasn’t just because they were my cousins, it was because they were so respectful of our space. They cooked, they cleaned, they bought (and brought) groceries and they were helpful and fun.

To be honest, we’ve had a few shitty houseguests in the past couple years, so it was so nice to see that my cousins were on the same wavelength as me. I was sad to see them go and, for me, that’s not a common feeling. I’m usually elated to bid our guests adieu, but it’s usually because I’m exhausted from entertaining them, cleaning up after them, and providing everything for their stay.

My idea of what makes a good houseguest stems from a childhood with a mom who had very particular Martha Stewartesque notions when it came to being a guest in someone’s home. She drilled it into me and, when people visit and don’t seem to have any houseguest common sense, I kinda lose my shit.

Here’s what my dearly departed Mama Wendy made sure I understood if I was going to visit somewhere. (Also, I may be paraphrasing a little here):

  1. NEVER be a wanker who overstays your visit. Always ask BEFORE you go for a visit how long your host is willing to put up with you. It’s not rude to ask someone this, it’s polite. It doesn’t matter how much we love our friends and family – everybody has a saturation limit when it comes to houseguests. For example, I’m good for around three to four nights and then my eye starts to twitch and I start to feel a bit stabby. If I tell you that I’d love to have you visit for the weekend, it means I’d love to have you visit FOR THE WEEKEND. If you then decide that you are loving my place so much you want to stay longer, I’m probably going to secretly imagine myself stabbing you in the eye with a fork while I’m politely insisting that I’m okay you extending your stay. News Flash: I’m not okay with it. Nobody is. Get the fuck out and, while you’re at it, make sure you’re gone by mid-afternoon on Sunday and mop the floor before you leave, just for good measure.
  2. Food is fucking expensive, so unless you’re visiting millionaires, don’t be a freeloading asshat. If you’re by yourself and heading to visit someone for a night, it’s usually fine to allow your host to feed you. But bring a gift-dessert or something (or, in my case, bring me ALL THE WINE) just to let them know you appreciate their hospitality. HOWEVER, if you’re bringing more than just yourself OR you plan to be there more than one night, chip the fuck in on food, homie. Bring (or buy) some groceries or, even better, make a plan with your host for meals and offer to either shop with them when you arrive or bring the ingredients for a couple of those meals. This will not only make you the most-appreciated house guest ever, it will also get you sincere invitations to come back. For reals.
  3. Get off your ass and help. Help cook. Help clean up after meals. Help clean up anything that is a mess or dirty. Clean up after yourself. Don’t leave your shit laying around. Don’t treat your host’s place like it’s a hotel with a maid and room service. Again, that will just make your host stabby and nobody wants any version of Norman Bates for a host.
  4. Clean up your GD room when you leave. Strip the sheets and pillow cases and either put them in the laundry or wash them if your host prefers. Alternatively, if your host is much less anal than me and says it is unnecessary for you to strip the bed, AT LEAST make the bed then. Leave it as you found it. If you slept on the couch, use some common sense – clearly you need to clean up your bedding. Don’t be a fucking slob of a houseguest. This isn’t rocket science, people.
  5. Lastly, have some respect. If your host goes to bed early or you are a night owl, don’t blast the TV or stereo or dial up your buddies and FaceTime at midnight in a drunken stupor with your phone on full blast. Quiet the fuck down and have some GD respect.

Admittedly, when I was younger and didn’t fully appreciate the costs and tasks involved in running my own household, I was most likely NOT a good houseguest. I’m writing this in hopes that it will help the younger versions of me out there turn over a new leaf and start becoming more likeable when you’re visiting.

Peace out, stellar bitches!

Surviving Infant Loss: You gotta feel it to heal it!

Call it a combo of smoke constantly blocking out the sun, writer’s block, and social media sadness overload (or maybe it should be called Social Media Sickness – SMS)…Whatever it is, here I am, feeling like a bag of shit in the middle of my fave time of year and carrying that heavy cloak of grief on my shoulders again. Of course, it’s all for a really good reason.

Let me explain.

When I say “writer’s block” what I actually mean is this:

Trying to write a book about the death of our daughter (in hopes that I can send it out into the world that other grieving parents may find it, read it, relate to it, and understand that there is light in the darkness and still hope for happiness) is really brutal on the heartstrings045_DSC_0067-123-Edit.

I’ve spent the last seven weeks reliving every horrific moment of Cora’s life and death and even though I thought the darkest aspects of my grief were gone forever, I’m realizing they are always there, lurking below the layers of seven years of life that have grown over them. I may have buried them, but now I’m the Indiana Jones of Memory, just digging that shit up and bringing it back to the surface to cause chaos and wreak havoc on my heart and my life again.

Suddenly I’m feeling everything deeply, crying all the time, and I have no energy to be social or put myself out there into the world. It’s exactly how it was when Cora first died and I was exhausted, angry at the world, and intolerant of bullshit…Oh! Wait. I’ve always been intolerant of bullshit. Ha!

After I came back from the other side, I truly thought that all my grief was gone. I felt so alive and so full of love and understanding for the world. I felt as though I would never again feel sad or angry or ever let the state of the world drag me down. Of course, anyone who has ever died and come back understands that human emotions and thoughts eventually return and immerse us in the day-to-day ups and downs of life again. We can’t escape our human experience -we are not meant to- but I am still genuinely surprised that I can feel grief this strongly again after seven years.

I saw a post on IG the other day and bells went off in my brain. Life is a spiral where we continually come back to the things we think we’ve conquered and understood so we can see the deeper truths in them. This is how spiritual growth happens. This is how we build up our strength and resilience – often through expanding our willingness to be vulnerable.

So I get it.

I get it that it fucking SUCKS to believe I’ve conquered a massive mountain only to find myself standing at the mid-way point again, staring up into the unknown above me with the weight of grief pressing me down, making it tough to keep climbing. I get that I will probably always be feeling it in one way or another until I, once again, head back to the other side.

I also get that I can’t just quit writing about her because it’s painful. I can’t just give up on this gut-driven, fierce compulsion to share our story in hopes that our pain will resonate with others and help them through their own. I get that it’s worth it and that I wouldn’t be compelled to do it if I weren’t meant to. I am and I will, even if it tears the scars open again.

When this happens to us, we can’t just shut it out. You gotta feel it to heal it, even when it pops up at inconvenient times or in my fave season when I should be full of light and mischief and beer!

So I’m rolling with it -feeling the feels, as they say – and balancing it out with exercise, friends, tears, beers, and belly laughs.

Hopefully, when this book is done and I’ve once again run the gamut of emotion and heartache, I will be able to sit back and feel the love and light of the incredibly positive impact Cora had on me and so many others in her short time with us.

Cheers.

Fuck the Box! Listen to your gut.

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Gut instinct. So often we ignore it and do what others tell us we should be doing, molding ourselves into a box we just don’t fit inside. I say fuck the box. Get out there, listen to your gut, and breathe it all in.

So many business experts preach that, in order to be successful in running a business, you have to specialize in one area. I call bullshit!

When I was hip deep in running a photography business, every business class I took (with extremely successful photographers turned business coaches) repeated the same mantra “you must specialize to be successful”. I wasn’t nearly as successful as they were, but I wanted to be, so I ignored my gut instinct and followed their advice.

There were some glaring issues with their teachings (that I won’t even get into here because, seriously, there are too many to even touch on), but at the time I ignored my intuitive doubts in my hungry pursuit to be great.

I just wanted to be like them, so I followed their models and narrowed my focus from a wide range of photography to Wedding, Family, and Boudoir and, eventually, to just Boudoir. I trusted that if I specialized like they advised, I would find extreme success. After too many years of struggling (and still ignoring my gut instinct) to make the specialization work and being ridiculously bored and stagnant because of such a narrow focus, I couldn’t breathe anymore. I was forced to give myself a harsh reality check and completely revamp my career goals, but it was during this much-needed revamp that I had a huge epiphany.

Why should a person, like me (who has developed such a wide variety of skills in my 42 years and has such a huge amount of creative energy), have to narrow down anything in order to be successful? Why should I limit myself to only one kind of photography or, even better, to ONLY photography, just because others say that is the only way I will find success?

I finally just said fuck it to that line of thinking. It certainly wasn’t working for me and it was stifling, so I decided to toss it out and start from scratch. I took stock of all my skills and choose the ones I was both best at and enjoyed the most and allowed a business to naturally develop around them.

The way I saw it, if I wanted to be a photographer and a writer and an editor and many other things (because I was good at all of them), that’s exactly what I was going to be.

I’m just not made to fit into any kind of box.

It’s now April and I am currently still shooting (weddings, families, boudoir, commercial…whatever I fancy), writing (blogs and articles for other businesses and myself), editing (two novels), AND marketing social media for some local businesses in the Health & Wellness industry.

And guess what? I’m killing it! I’m not even remotely specialized now. In fact, I’m all over the fucking map and I have never felt so strong and confident in my work or so motivated and challenged.

  • My brain is happy with the constant stimulation;
  • I am still shooting hilarious and interesting people;
  • I am constantly increasing my knowledge of all things social media marketing (and understanding how much easier it is to market someone else’s business than my own);
  • I have learned how to build effective, kick ass websites;
  • I can read Google Analytics and Facebook/IG insights like a boss (and apply them to my marketing campaigns and Ads);
  • I am learning how to adjust my editing from the proper English of my youth to the modern English we are now immersed in (and, trust me, this is a tough but satisfying experience for me); and
  • I am earning money doing a bunch of different jobs, all of which I thoroughly enjoy.

Basically, I’m following my gut and heart and pursuing ALL of the things I love the most and I’m finally able to let my creative lungs fully expand.

So my message to all of you peeps out there–who are feeling stuffed into a box that just doesn’t quite fit–is to listen to your gut, not the so-called experts, to be able to take a fully freeing, creative breath again.

Fuck the box. Get out there and breathe it all in.