Sunday, January 27, 2013

A few Goodlin happening in January

Hi everyone

I know this blog has been a little quieter lately, perhaps a little boring, sorry about that.  The month of January is a time I just use to take a little break from things, from the crazy business of life, from as much blogging,  from all the play dates, even from as much photographing.  I have been taking time to jut BE with my family.  Be with the girls without a camera always in their face, reading to them, playing with them and going swimming (inside of course).  And taking some time to just rest, rest and read and be refreshed.

We also might have some big changes coming up in our lives, I will share more when we better know if and when these changes might occur.
We did go to the dinosaur museum last week for Norah's class field trip.
She is growing up so much!
norah hung out with her teacher a lot, they even pushed her around in baby Sarah's stroller
what is this place mom?
my eager beaver
   Maya was completely enthralled, to my surprise!  She loved learning about all of the dinosaur facts, was at the front of the group during the tour and kept asking questions and sharing her own knowledge about dinosaurs (how does she know anything about dinosaurs???)  She even told the tour guide about the dinosaur called the "Maya-saureous" (and it did really exist).
the fossil of the dinosaur fish was found in Kansas
Sarah & Norah could really care less and I just had to keep them entertained (with no snack allowed for 2 hours.....torture!)

Brett has been a big helper around the house, he actually always is.  This is one of the biggest blessing in my life.  My husband does house work, ALL THE TIME!
doing piles of laundry
 The girls have been using their imaginations a lot, and yesterday it was playing in storage containers, they were everything from beds, to play pins, to hideouts.



Maya also got out a majority of her stuffed animals, organized them on the couch and then asked for me to take her photo.

this is probably about half of the stuffed animals....

Monday, January 21, 2013

Darren Letter # 2 (community)

I have another letter from Darren I would like to share.  You should first know about the support of the community and friends around us during this time.  It was huge!!  The youth group/college group at Paradise Alliance that surrounded Darren during this time was tremendous!  They would often come over, sing around Darren, pray for him, or just hang out with him so he wasn't so lonely.  Not to mention they played a huge role in helping raise support of his non-FDA approved treatment in Texas for his tumor.

In reading Darren's letters I have realized some of the loneliness and isolation he felt.  Can you imagine being stuck in the same room 24/7 as a 20 year old?  Life is happening all around you, you can hear your siblings coming and going, you can hear the laughter the joys around you, yet you just sit, helpless to the situation.  This has been a harder realization for me, I wish I had spent more time with him, just to be in his company.  I do remember time with him, I just wish it was more, I wish I could have filled some of that loneliness....  I wish I would have just shared what was going on in life.  All of this makes me realize even more how great of a support the college group was, how they were such a great source of encouragement during what was probably the loneliest time in Darren's life.

Here is another of Darren's letters

"Hello Friend,
The college group is over right now and we are doing a video tape interview.  They're going to ask a lot of tough questions about my life now and testimony.  I want to try to be an encouragement and use the situation God has allowed me to be in to glorify Him.  It's great having friends over.  I'm watching a lot of B-ball these days sine the "big dance" started.  I'm rooting for the UCLA Bruins and Georgetown.

Paradise is really beautiful!  It is kind of looks like Big Bear, but has more trees and mountains..... What do you dream about?  Dreams make life exciting!  Also hats off to your role in leadership.  You would be amazed at the influence you can have.  You may not think you're making a difference sometimes, but you are!

The college group just left, it went great!  All my friends told stories about me and my Plymouth Fury.  Dave's story was the best! This is what he said

One day Dave took me 4 wheeling, way way way deep into the woods.  We caught our breath and then I exclaimed " I've got to get home, I' supposed to cook dinner in 45 minutes.... Hamburgers my specialty!"  
Dave said "WHAT!"
 we jumped into the car and were going to have to fly home!  The road was so bad you couldn't walk your dog down it!  The vibrations bruised my rump so bad that I could hardly sit for a week!  I was actually holding on to the front seat so tight it actually ripped out of the jeep! We made it home ok........

All my Love,

The letter has a lot more, but some things I may choose not to share in all of the letters.  He is right about Paradise, it is so beautiful, I miss it often, even the smell.  It is one of the gems of California.

The thing that stuck out to me the most in this letter is when Darren says, " I want to try to be an encouragement and use the situation God has allowed me to be in to glorify Him. "  What Darren? use the situation God has "allowed" you to be in?  What a perspective change, it was like a priviledge to him!  Most people would complain, grumble, or be mad at God, but instead what Darren's sees is a situation where God is using him.  And God certainly did use him, for all of His Glory

And I also loved how he said "You may not think you are making a difference, but you are."  He is speaking to me even now, sometimes hearing these words as a mother is all the encouragement I need. Oh how I miss him and so wish he was sharing life with us. 


I know God used Darren in tremendous ways, but sometimes I still can't help but think what life would be like with him still around, with a family of his own....

Sunday, January 20, 2013

For my BFF

Ok, I am not a big "linky" blogger or "sponsor me" blogger.   It is totally fine if people are (and I do on occasion), don't get me wrong, everyone's blog has a different purpose.  That is not the purpose of my blog though (if someone wanted to sponsor me I am not opposed to it :O) ) I just want to write about life, about my girls, and the journey with Norah, about what I like, and about the way Christ has given us hope.

With that being said, I do have to give a shout out to my BFF Sarah though (she doesn't know, she didn't ask me to do this).  She started a new blog, Sarah Bakes and it is all about great and amazing gluten free food and treats!!

I have been in Sarah's actual kitchen and eaten her food, and trust me it is amazing!  She is the best host and always feeds our family the most amazing meals while we are visiting.   She has a true gift and I am so proud of her! 
We would really never know that her food is gluten free, except for the fact that her husband has Ciliac and Sarah keeps her entire kitchen gluten free, always.
Sarah in the kitchen
 I know not everyone needs to eat Gluten free, but we all know someone who does! Sarah even has a recipe for her own Gluten free flour, it is like magic and allows people to make things they never thought possible on a gluten free diet.  She also has many healthy and tasty recipes!
enjoying Sarah's tasty food
 Sarah does lots of great food give-a-ways, so you should really check out her blog.

 OH yeah, and Sarah's family is totally cute and she includes them in her blog too!  

Love you friend

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Omaha & a Sunshine Baby Shower

I went to Omaha for a quick weekend to see my kindred friend Sarah and her baby girl Tatum (now 6 months old).  I flew out there for $8, so I really can't complain, it was like the price of 2 Starbucks drinks to see a great friend, I need to do that more often!

While there I helped Sarah with a baby shower for our friend Lindsey (who just moved to South Africa on Monday).  Sarah asked for a little inspiration and I found this idea .  We used that, Sarah's idea of "you are my sunshine," a small budget,  a few things I already had that would fit into my suitcase, and this is what we got!



DSC_0003 DSC_0009       DSC_0014 DSC_0015 
  DSC_0019 DSC_0018
  DSC_0013 DSC_0007 omahafriends

I didn't get a ton of photos on the trip, but a grab a quick few.  I had to get a few of baby Tatum of course!!



And Sarah's oldest daughter,  Londyn (beautiful girl!!) londyn

And one of just Sarah and I sarahandjenni

Sorry to leave you out Burke, you were just content sleeping in your huge jacket :O).  I loved my time there, as always.  When I am with Sarah I laugh like at no other time in my life, like the good crying, you can't breath laughing, we did that  a few times and it was so good for my soul.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tell me a Story & I'll tell you mine

Some of my favorite books are biographies, or autobiographies.  I love hearing about other people's lives, about their stories.  There is something about the realness and the truth of something that has actually happened.  There is something so encouraging about seeing the way someone else has lived, it is like for a moment their story somehow changes yours.

And my brother Darren's story did change mine.  I watched it in real life.  It was the most defining moment in my life, watching him die with the hope of Christ.  And over time it has been easy to forget about that defining moment, so much has happen between when I was 15 until now (that's 15 years!) and so much has been hard, which only further blurs the memories of my brother.

In reading these letters from my brother and sharing them on my blog, people that I haven't heard from in years have made comments or shared thoughts or stories of him.  It is incredibly meaningful and special, that even for these people the impact of my brothers life, 15 years ago, still matters.  I received an email from someone who used to be very close to our family, I can't even remember that last time I have heard from him so I was so shocked to receive such an amazing email from him about my brother.  
I want to share with you all some of what he said (he gave permission) because this was from a persepective that I never knew.  So please, get to know my brother a little, he was awesome!

"Darren was friendly. Always. I don’t ever remember seeing him without a smile. There was something different about Darren. It was Christ. It was so obvious. I grew up in religious schools (all but 1.5 years), going to church every week, and being immersed in Christianity. There were tons of kids who talked the talk and a few that had the glow, but Darren was different still. He wasn’t preachy and he never acted holier than thou. I think he was just honestly hooked in. Something lit him up in a way that was obvious. Before I got to cool for it I used to play basketball at the hoops off Skyway by the Mexican joint (I can’t remember the name). The game was rough and there was always older guys there throwing their weight. Talk was rough and I’ve seen people get shoved down quite a few times. Obviously, it wasn’t the hood or anything, but it wasn’t ‘nice’ play.  Darren would show up sometimes. I remember leaving once and thinking about how different he was. He walked onto the court with a huge smile dribbling his ball and waiting to see if a team called him in. They did and called someone else from the park to the other team. They treated him differently. They played just as hard but people didn’t curse as much. They didn’t push as much. I remember watching this KNOWING that everyone there felt he was different and respected him for it. That blew my mind then. These were people that if they found something to poke they would POKE. They didn’t with Darren. They totally respected him for who he was. When the game was over and Darren said his goodbyes and left with his friend, the cigarettes lit up and the ‘talk’ started again. I think that’s when it was really obvious to me that everyone was acting on their better behavior cause Darren was there. Half of these guys didn’t even go to school with him. They just knew him from playing ball a few times.

Darren and I weren’t super close but we talked openly. I would like to think we liked each other. I had a lot of respect for him and have talked about that even before he was sick. He was SO good to you guys. He always had one of you crawling all over him. I never saw him push you aside to do something else. He was always smiling and happy to play. He was never in a rush. He was real and had a mature honesty through all his goofiness.

At his memory service / pizza party (he wanted his friends to celebrate his life) it blew me away. I remember a big attendance. People stood up and told stories and talked about how he touched their lives. I get a choked typing this. It was amazing Jenni. I have never felt a high like it. There was an energy there that I have never felt before or after. It was such a strong current. I think that’s why I wanted to message you. I have been to a few memorial services for people young and old, close to me and not so close. There was something so different and I wasn’t the only one who felt it. Darren might have been here for a short time but he shined bright. Really bright. He touched people. I remember thinking in my teens, that out of a lifetime in church culture, he was one of the truest Christians I had met. I think that is what was so different about him."

Blessed to receive this.

"hope is just a ray of what everyone should see" Phillip Phillips.   
I wish everyone could have seen the ray of hope that my brother was.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January days

1. We always get a warm week in January when we are able to go outside and play, I love it!




2.  I go to Omaha tomorrow and finally get to meet baby Tatum Cz, daughter of my beloved friend Sarah Cz (oh yeah, I am just bringing baby Sarah with me :O))

3.I have had to cut Norah's hair twice since the salon (bangs & hair).  That is 4 hair cuts since December 1st!   We are trying to avoid the "bumpkin" look.  I am horrible at giving hair cuts and don't trust myself at all, but I couldn't handle it and just grabbed a pair of scissors after bath time (sorry Celine, I am sure this horrifies you)  but some how it is looking better, pics to come.
sorry Carrisa..... mom fail
 4.  I don't take many photos in January unless I go somewhere, it is nice just to take a bit of a break
I did snap a few earlier this week while we were playing
Maya Papaya
Norah after her bangs hair cut
You can finally see he top teeth coming in!
5.  I'm over winter

6.  I have been working on the 2012 photo book on Shutterfly F.O.R.E.V.E.R and I am finally in December!

7.  I have more letters to share about Darren and a surprise email I just recieved

8.  Baby Sarah is constantly making this face now
9.  We have turned Sarah's room into a playroom and having all 3 girls sleep in one room has changed my life! It is sooo much better to have all the toys in one place and all clothes in one place (pics to come on this)

10.  Whenever I go on a trip separated from my whole family I have a sinking fear that I won't see them all again, but I always do and praying that this trip will be the same.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

10 tips to help a friend who has gone through a loss (the complete version)

Sorry, if you got the first unfinished post of this on your reader.  I accidentally hit "publish" instead of save.  So here is the complete version of 10 tips to help a friend going through loss!

I am certainly not a therapist or an expert on loss, well maybe a bit of an expert if you count that it has happened to a very close family member 5 different times.

Death is hard and it is awkward, people don't know what to do when death happens, they are afraid of what to say, what not to say, how to help.  So from my point of view (and I know this is different for everyone) I am going to tell you some tangible things you can do that really help.

1) Do make contact with a friend who has been through a loss.  Call, Email, Text, Send a card,  leave a FB message.  Really anything, it means A LOT!!! Wven if you don't hear back from your friend (which is likely) just let them know you care, that you are thinking and praying for them.

2) Make a meal!  This is huge!  Often when loss occurs a simple tasks like cooking can seem overwhelming and many people even lose their appetite.   Cooking is such a simple and meaningful way to help someone who is mourning and also remind them that they need to eat.  When we got home after Carrisa's death our fridge was stocked with meals, it was one of the biggest blessings ever!

3) Buy Groceries.  I know this is similar to making a meal (this can be for those of you who don't like to cook ), but even going to the grocery store can become difficult, so buying basic needs like milk, bread, healthy fruits and veggies and other snacks is a wonderful blessing.  My friend, Lynae did this for me, and I had never  thought about it, but I distinctly remember how nice it was to come home to a house fully supplied and stocked and not have to get out and go to the grocery store when I was feeling so sad and out of sorts.  It was such a wonderful gift!

4) Be with the mourner.  This can be uncomfortable for some people, but the last thing anyone wants to feel when going through a loss is alone and isolated.  Just hang out with them, stop by, you don't have to say anything profound, in fact you don't even have to talk about the loss.  Just be with them, watch a movie, give them a hug, ask how to help.  I remember this with all of the losses I have been through, being surrounded by people, people coming over, stopping by, people showing love and support, people just being by our side.  I remember who those people were, I remember those that just simply hung out with us with no words, just presence, it has touched my heart to this day.
Carrisa's house was always filled with people after she died, we needed that
 5) Clean their house or pay for their house to get cleaned.  Last on the agenda for priorities when going through a loss is usually time for cleaning, but as people come in and out of your home, you still have children to take care of and laundry to do the household duties build up.  When I got home from California, Hanna and scoured our home.  It was AMAZING!  Flowers are great too and each bouquet sent to us was meaningful and a blessing, but if you would like to spend your money in a little bit of a different way to help, seriously pay for a house cleaning.

6) Do something.  Rather than just ask, "how can I help?"  Just do something.  In reality there are many ways I needed and wanted help, but I just didn't ask, I felt like I was imposing on people or that it was too much. People who are hurting do need help, they just don't always know how to ask for it. When friends just did something without me asking it was very meaningful and sooo helpful!  If you don't know how to help, ask someone really close to them, or just specifically say, " I am going to help, what is something  I can do?"
People even helped decorate and provide for the memorial service
7)  Watch Children.  If the mourner has children give a hand and offer to watch their children.  Whether that means coming to the mourners home and watching the kids so they can go get things done, or taking the children out and about to do something fun.  When Carrisa died their were many tasks to get done, errands, paperwork, memorial plans.  It was hard to do that with 2 toddlers running around.  Thankfully Carrisa's friend Lyndsay came to help and my sister Danae works in a daycare and was able to watch the girls while we met with pastors and funeral directors.

8) Allow them to be sad.  You don't have to fix everything or give the perfect Christian answer.  It is hard to know what to say. To be honest sometimes the things people say aren't all that helpful, but just the fact that they care is what matters.  In fact, I have had people say some inappropriate or hurtful things, but they were not trying to be hurtful.  As the mourner I have learned to allows others a little grace, people aren't trying to be mean even if their words come across hurtful, they just don't know what else to say.  When my good friend Sarah lost her baby Harper, there was a photo posted on facebook after her death.  There were about 75 comments consoling the family about their loss, and one person actual wrote the comment "Congratulations!"  He just wasn't paying attention, he didn't see the other 75 comments nor payed attention to the fact of what was going on in this families life.  It was a pretty major "fail" but our friends mostly just laughed at how ridiculous it was and Brett made sure to call the person out on their comment.

9)  Attend the service.  If you can attend the funeral or memorial service, even if you don't know the person that died very well it is important to simply show support your friend that did.  I remember after Fran died, one of my co-workers (who I hardly even saw once a week) came to the service.  I am not sure what led her to come, but her support blew me away.
These friends drove all the way from Omaha, NE after Brett's mom died.  They weren't close to her, but they loved us!)
10) Do something Later.  The first few weeks after death people are quick to help, you are surrounded by many, people who help and show support.  After a few weeks and into the following months time for the mourner can be very quite, hard and lonely.  Sometimes this is the best time to make a random meal, stop by, or pick up the phone.  Take your friend out to coffee, or dinner, just check in on them.  Even a year after, or around the year mark,  memories flood and sometimes the hurt is just as strong as when death occurred.  My friend Sara, sent me a card on Carrisa's one year anniversary with a Starbucks gift card, it was a simple and thoughtful way to show she was thinking and praying for me.  I also received many encouraging notes and messages, which meant so much.  These actually were just as important to me on the 2 year death anniversary bc so many others had forgotten. 
DSC_0120 2
My friend Lindsay came over and dropped these off on Carrisa's 2 year death anniversary

I know everyone's needs are different, and these tips reflect a lot of what helped me, but I think many of them can apply to most people.

What has helped you when you have gone through loss?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Letters from Darren {#1} My Favorite

In reading the letters from my brother Darren I have had some realizations that I never expected.  I think the biggest one being that I just forgot that my brother was a teenage boy when he became so sick.  A teenager!!  He was barely out of high school, in fact those were his last healthy years.   I always thought of my brother as so much older, because he was older than me, but now I can look back and see how truly young he was when he was stricken with a brain tumor.  Now I can see how truly amazing his strength was especially for being so young.

Let me set the scene slightly.  Darren was in our home when he was sick, not a hospital.  He was under hospice and my mom's care.  The brain tumor first affected the movement of the right side of his body, and he slowly deteriorated more and more and just basic movements became impossible, basic human function, such as going to the restroom and eating.  He was not well, a baby, an invalid as a 19 & 20 year old.  I remember him not even being able to roll over in his own bed and desperately moaning for my mom all night long, "momm, momm, momm" just so he could simply turn over. I am not sure why, but this is one of my most vivid memories and I just remember feeling so helpless.
this photo is hard to post, because this is not who my brothers was, but what the illness did to him
So by the time the "pen pal" friendship started, Darren was unable to write the letters, so others did the writing for him.  He could still speak, although as time progressed he became harder to understand, and eventually his only form of communication was blinking his eyes since he lost all movement in his limbs and the capability to speak.

I will start with my favorite letter that I have read from Darren.  I am not sure why it is my favorite, possibly because it was written by my brother Jordan (who was around 12).  So the words are truly Darren's words, because as a 12 year old I am sure Jordan didn't know how to elaborate or add his own thoughts and opinions in a note to someone else.

So in Darren's words:

"Dear Friend,
It sounds like you had a nice snow. With all of the rain we get here I think we should get some snow.  Everyday I look out the window and see the rain....  Every day I have several of my friends stop by just to say hi sometimes. 

My sister Candice is doing pretty good, she calls about once a week.  The other day Candice saw someone get run over by a car.  It shook her up pretty good.  Whenever I hear Candice's voice I feel better.. She is always encouraging me.  She is a supervisor at Longs and she is younger than everyone else working under her.

I am taking some new medicine that seems to be working a little bit.  My right side is still pretty weak.  I am getting and MRI on Wednesday January 29th to see if my tumor is getting smaller.  Pray for me on Wednesday.

Dave is my puppet.  He come over every day trying to keep my Spirits up.

My little brother Jordan wrote this letter.  I am so proud of him!  Jordan plays basketball on the Jr. High basketball Team and Jenni plays on the High School team.  I have been feeling pretty good lately.   Tell everyone in Rosamond I said "HI!" I would like to visit if I get well enough.  Pray for my grandpa he is pretty sick now, His name is Pop Pop.  We have been calling him that since we were little.  Write back if you get the chance, tell other people to write to me too, I have my little brothers and sisters read them to me.

Today the Lord gave me peace, He let me  see the joy in everything.  If you get a chance watch the Ken Davis video " A twisted mind"  It has encouraged me to just look around and have joy.  Hope to hear from you soon!
You friend in Christ,

 My favorite party of the whole letter is when Darren says, "Whenever I hear Candice's voice I feel better...she is always encouraging me" 

I had no idea hearing Candice's voice was so encouraging to him, but they were close, very close growing up.  This part of the letter just touches my soul in a very meaningful way.

Can you see a bit of who he was?  That he is still praying for others, that he is joyful despite his circumstance, that he wants and needs others to be around him.  Can you just see for a second why as a teenage girl watching this I wanted to be just like him? Can you start to see why he changed my life?