The first balloon ever released...

The first balloon ever released...

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Happy 6th Birthday Kenna Bear!

I have been reflecting a-lot on what is the purpose of my life. I have lots of "purposes" but what is MY purpose, my one "thing" that only I can do in this life and nobody else? I don't think I would reflect so strongly on this question if it wasn't for McKenna.

Honestly, I have a lot of good things going for me, it would be easy to look around and think "nailed it"! I am a graduated doctor, I have a full time job that I love, financially stable, very happily married, 4 kids, live in the most beautiful state I know, active, athletic, good friends, church goer, loving family.... if it wasn't for her, I don't know if I would ask myself, "but what else?".

McKenna has been gone for 4 years now. You would think that I would have this CRYSTAL CLEAR answer on why she died and what does it all mean but I don't. I truly believe there is a crystal clear answer (I did not always feel that way), I just think I haven't found it yet. It's waiting for me to do something... but what is that something?

The last few months have been a lot of these questions rotating around in my head over and over again and then it finally dawned on me, I have to start ACTIVELY doing something if I want to figure it out. But where do I start? How does this work? How do you find purpose if you have no clue? I started to get frustrated with these questions and decided the first thing I would do is stop beating myself up and accept I am not perfect! Negative reinforcement is the way I love to treat myself and it doesn't even work! All it does is make me feel worse. So I threw away the "guilt card" and told myself from this point on, talk to yourself with kindness. (Easier said then done, but it is getting easier.)

Secondly, I turned more faithfully to the Lord. General Conference was coming up (this was in October) so the hubby and I decided to fast and pray for "What do you want us to do with our futures and what is our purpose?". (BIG LOADED QUESTION! I KNOW!) But I am tired of wasting time so I figured I might as well just jump right in.

General conference came and it was AMAZING! It nailed so many things on the head for me and gave me a great place to start on why it is important to ACTIVELY PURSUE ANSWERS!

Then we had a church women's conference, also amazing, also very specific to my question. At this meeting you could pick what classes you wanted to go too, low and behold every class I picked had to do with purpose or finding your '"thing". It was at this point that I started thinking to myself, "Wow, how odd that I fasted for answers on finding myself and then I hear all these great lessons on how to do it. Weird!" I then felt a soft nudge telling me to ponder on what I said a little bit more. Did I really believe it was a coincidence? "Umm.... yes? I think so? The Lord doesn't directly talk or answer my prayers like that. Who am I? I'm no one, why would He go out of his way to do that?" But then I felt that nudge again, not really an answer but more of a "dig deeper into that statement". So I thought about it again, did I truly believe, by some random luck, that I happened to pray for answers of purpose and future then attend 2 separate events that answered this specific question??? "Maybe... or maybe I am over thinking this. Trying to turn this into something it is not. I am no one unique, I am no one so special that the Lord would single me out like that. No way.... but... is it possible that I could be? Why is it I believe everyone has a purpose and are special in the eyes of God but not me? I really do believe we all have our own unique purposes, our own amazing stories, our own "thing", but why not me? Do I really believe that everyone is special except me? Do I really value myself so lowly that I would deny my own destiny just simply from not believing? Maybe I am special, maybe I truly am one of a kind, maybe I am worth a God answering a prayer." Then for a moment I felt this weird sensation while I was in the classroom, I felt like all the lights had just slightly dimmed except the light over me had brightened, as if God himself had put a spotlight on me and was saying "I see you, I see them too, but I see you as well."

It was at that time I felt inspired to make some kind of active goal to better myself and more clearly find my purpose. If I was really going to do this, then I needed to treat it like anything else I try to accomplish in my life. I needed to set goals, make plans, write it down, say it out loud, make it official. Make check list and specific activities that would uplift and inspire me to push myself further, to push myself from better to best. I had to make goals to be more like the person I want to become. You can't pray it to death, you can't keep hoping that one day you will wake up and somehow your the person you always hoped you would be. You have to do something!

I was on a spiritual high after that. I felt the spirit so strongly that I almost felt electric! I told my husband that I wanted to do some type of 1 year challenge but I didn't even know what that meant or what it would look like. It sounded over-whelming to be honest and I felt doubts like maybe I would never be able to accomplish such a thing but I shook it off and just thought "baby steps, one step at a time".

I was feeling so good and so confident, I was special, I was going to make a difference, I was going to find my purpose, and... I was pregnant! Zach and I had been trying for the past few months to have another child. I worried that it would be difficult. The last (and only) time I actively tried to have a baby was McKenna and that took us a year! I did not want to go through that again but here I was only a few months later and found out I was pregnant! Life was AMAZING and I was high on everything now (except drugs! haha) I decided to keep it a secret since I found out so early but almost spilled the beans with every person I talked too, I could hardly contain my joy. A few days past and another church conference was coming up. I was prepared, I got a baby sitter in advance (which I never do) and I knew I was going to get some more answers about the next few steps to find myself. I was pumped!

A few days before the conference I went over to a friends house who I had spilled the beans too (so weak) earlier that day. Zach and I were greeted with congratulations and I quickly ran off to use the restroom. To my surprise there was blood. I felt nervous and confused, I had never miscarriage before and wasn't sure what was going on, I tried not to over react, I tried to give it time, but one week later it was confirmed that I had my very first miscarriage.

It was an easy miscarriage compared to the stories I have heard. Honestly, if we weren't actively trying and checking for a baby, I probably would have thought it was an oddly late period. There was no excessive pain, just cramping, and in a weeks time, it was over. At least the physical part was.

Why! Things were going so good! I was high on life and electric with the spirit! W-H-Y!
It was now time for the conference and I didn't want to go, I kept saying things to myself like "Don't go and don't feel bad about it! Anyone in your shoes would skip! You deserve a break! Don't go and remember your not allowed to guilt yourself anymore. DON'T GO!" As I started to feel more justified in these thoughts I felt that nudge again. The question once again entered my mind, "Am I really special?" Yes, I am not turning off that idea, even if I am not, from this point on I am saying I am special, mind over matter! "So, if you are special, someone who is truly unique and the "chosen one" of whatever your purpose is, do you think that someone might actively try and stop you from reaching that potential (outside of yourself of course)?"

The thought scared me, I don't think Satan made me have a miscarriage but I do believe that he saw a golden opportunity for me to sink below the ground again and bury my potential under the dirt. What if Satan was actively trying to get me to miss my goals, what if this meeting was important and I just let him talk me out of it. I mean worst case scenario is the meeting wasn't something special specifically for me, it was still a church meeting and would probably leave me feeling better then what I was right now. Is it possible that I am so special that Satan and God would actually fight over me? Who am I? I am no one. Who would fight for me? Who would fight for some random girl? Who was I that outside sources would go out of their way to reach me? To push and nudge, to shape into what they knew I could or would not be?

I went to the meeting and it was special. I was CLEARLY inspired on how to pursue my one year challenge. Instead of thinking of it as a 365 day challenge (which made me feel very overwhelmed) I thought of it as a monthly challenge. Breaking it into 12 months with a "theme" for each month and then weekly goals on how to better understand that theme.

February: The importance of Scriptures
Week 1: Look up 4 talks, scriptures, or stories from church magazine on Scriptures and split it into 4 weeks. Study and read one each week. - Fast for help with your scripture reading - help to know how/what to read and the desire to read - Find a scripture to memorize for the month.

Week 2: Read materials for the week and recite scripture. - Double your reading time for one week and recite memorized scripture.

Week 3: Read materials for the week and recite scripture. - Read the scriptures with your children every night and bare your testimony to them at the end of the week on the importance of reading and how it has effected your life.

Week 4: Read materials for the week and recite scripture. - Find a scripture challenge you would like to follow (like on pinterest, etc) and do it!
April is my favorite (I chose this challenge specifically for McKenna's anniversary):
April: I love to see the temple
Week 1: same - except now on Temples - Fast for help to understand the importance of the temple and the desire to go more often. - Go once a week this month

Week 2: Take the family to the temple and have a picnic for McKenna's anniversary. Plan activities that would be appropriate for the temple (maybe a scavenger hunt?) and spend quality time with the family. Share and express you love with them. Focus on eternal families.

Week 3: Go to the temple and have a specific prayer in your heart of something that is going on at that time. (Maybe something about McKenna?)

Week 4: Go to the temple with your spouse, invite someone to come with you.

I know it can seem very technical and even too much but I think it works perfectly for me. I am a check list kind of girl. I like having goals and then marking those goals off when I finish them. I don't do well with the idea of "winging it" or "figuring it out" because then I just settle for mediocrity but because I always enjoy a little competition, specific challenges push me to be better. The same tactics have made me a better athlete, chiropractor, wife and mother. How can it not work the same spiritually? Isn't is exciting? I am going to find my purpose in one year! Which is great because by then I will be 30 and I think that would be an AWESOME birthday present to myself.

I am so tired of not knowing what my "thing" is. It feels like such a waste of precious time. You know what I have had THE MOST guilt about since McKenna's death, not changing. You always see in the movies how people go through this hard core life changing event and it changes everything about them but that's not real life and most people DON'T do that! It's why I had to turn off the guilt "switch"! It was making me feel so bad for not changing that I couldn't move. I felt so unworthy and I covered it up with my job, hobbies, and even my family! I didn't realize it but deep inside it was making me feel like I was just another face in the crowd, that I was not special at all.

I think if anyone was to ask "Do you think Shannon has self-esteem issues?" they would say "No, definitely not!". I am not someone who hates myself, or tares myself down... at least not intentionally.  I am loved and respected by friends and family. All of this stuff I am talking about was internal, this was a battle of the heart and the spirit. I use to be so ashamed when McKenna died, when my OWN CHILD DROWNED, I barely changed at all. I thought I would somehow magically turn into Mother Theresa and yet here I was, changed in very small ways, but outside of that, had nothing to show for it. I couldn't handle it. It would make me so sad I would just turn myself off, pretend like I wasn't really feeling that guilt and shame, put it in a "time out" and save it for a day when I really felt like being hard on myself. But not anymore, I am not doing this to pat myself on the back or even to prove myself wrong. My quest is CRYSTAL CLEAR, I just want to find my purpose and knock it out of the park. I want to move on to the next step in my life, I want to be better then what I am! Not that who I am isn't good but can I be better? Absolutely! I want to see McKenna at the end of this race and look into her eyes knowing that she was the one who nudged me to do something I didn't think I could do, and I did it. I did more then just listen or thought about it, I followed through.

This past weekend was her birthday and we did a lot of stuff to honor her since it fell on a weekend. On Friday we went to a movie with just Dominic, Zach, and I because he is older and really the only one who remembers her. Of course we went and saw the "Justice League" and there was a scene that just made me lose it. *SPOILER ALERT* There is a scene when superman comes back to life and he takes off with Louis Lane. They are standing in a field quietly, she looks over at him and says "You wouldn't have been proud of me, I wasn't strong after you died" he looks at her with confusion, as if he couldn't even fathom the idea of being disappointed in her and they hug. I have felt that same fear. I have felt the worry of "You wouldn't be proud of me, I wasn't strong" and it's terrible! But I realized that McKenna is now perfect, and unlike me, this messy and confused human, she see's all of me. She see's my potential, the desires of my heart, my love for her, and there is NO WAY she could be disappointed! Having that pressure off of me makes me feel so much less guarded and so much more willing to take risk. It allows me to try giant one year projects that might fail and honestly accept it's ok becuase I can always try again. I am so happy to have that weight off of me. I am so glad that I can try over and over again. I feel younger, I feel her close by, and I feel the Lord's love. I am going to figure this life out to the best of my ability, and I am not going to settle for anything less.

I love you McKenna, thank you for always bringing out the best in me.
I look forward the adventures you have planned.
Love always, Mom
P.S. I really miss you.

Ok now for the details of McKenna's birthday WEEKEND!

It started with this masterpiece given to us by our BFF's in Texas. 
She purposely ordered it where McKenna would look her age and I love it SO MUCH!
She knows how hard family photos are for me so she got someone to make us the perfect picture!
Isn't it beautiful!

Here it is life size! It's huge! (30x40)

The "reveal" of when we saw the painting for the first time... it was emotional!

She also made us home made cookies!
6 ballons for her 6th birthday. 
The temple
And a little plack with McKenna's motto:
"You will always keep us looking up"

We we're also surprised by someone doing this to our house:
Funny part is, I am really sure we walked out on the middle of them doing it but somehow totally missed it at the same time. I say that because I saw the big "M" and was like "aww", took a picture of it, and then I saw a mini-van I don't normally see but totally ignored the obvious sign. The Lord was looking out for whoever this sweet family was! I am still trying to figure out who it is!

Our Kenna flowers: these are from her daddy

And these are from our good friends from church
(they bought her roses last year too, they are so awesome!)

Leslie's gift to us:
It's called "Guardian Angel"
Our little Mckenna watching over our next baby to come?
It looks like a boy! (Yes, I really want another boy!) 
Perfect gift and perfect timing with the miscarriage. I love it. 


FIrst  we released balloons in Estes: 

Then the part I'm really excited to share!
This year we decided to go "star gazing" for McKenna's birthday 
so we could feel closer to her in the Heavens. I was worried this was not my best idea since the kids are so young and it's freezing right now in Colorado but we ended up getting the most amazing connection through our friends neighbor!

This man made his own "Observatory"! He keeps it in his front yard and it is free to the public! 
Our friend called him and told him our situation so he made special arrangments just to meet with us and show us some things he thought we would really appreciate, and we ABSOLUTELY DID!

It was a fantastic situation for us, we are so blessed! 
So, here is a picture of  the outside of his observatory!

The first thing he showed us was a star called "Bernards Star"
He picked this one specifically because it is exactly 6 light years away from us. 
Translation: it started showing it's light to the world 6 years ago,
AKA: The year McKenna was born. 

He had a ton of facts about that I wish I could've written down but I rememer one of them was about it is the fastest moving stars in our galaxy! 
Image result for barnard's star

He also showed us a star called "Fomalhaut" meaning "the loneliest star"
I got a little choked up on this one because I think we can all relate to this bright shining star, we can all feel a little lonely sometimes but we still shine bright for others to see. 
You can see this one in the sky without a telescope.
Image result for lonely star in the sky

He also showed us Neptune, Uranus, and a few other stars then gave us a personal tour of our galaxy outside with his fancy laser that reaches into the sky forever, literally, you could see it in space for a second if you were there! (This was Dom's favorite part of course!)

I let the kids completely make their own cake! 
They cooked it, baked it, and decorated it!
The ONLY thing I did was write "Happy Birthday" on the side
Zoe did the icing, I was super impressed! 
6 Candles of course!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Because she was mine

Here we are again. Every year I think this will get easier and every year I prove myself wrong.

Three years

Three long, life changing, heartbreaking, soul searching years.

Where does the time go and why does it go so fast?

Sometimes I swear it was not that long ago, others I find myself trying to remember the sound of your voice.

The vicious truth is that most of it is forgotten. Your voice doesn't come to mind when I try to replay it in my head. Only in videos can I clearly hear it and find myself saying "Wow, she sounds so much like her sisters.". I go back and even read some of the memories from this blog and go "Oh yeah, I forgot about that.". Memory has never been one of my strongest assets. I have always been forgetful and when you first passed away I remember panicking "Oh no, what if I forget?".

Dominic came up to me before bedtime as I was a little weepy eyed from a long day of holding back my feelings and he gently said "I miss her too" and hugged me softly. He then asked "Do you ever feel like you have forgotten her, not because you wanted too, but because you got distracted by other things, but then you remembered her? I remember her, but I have forgotten a lot.". Surprising how the thoughts of a 9 year old boy could be so fitting to this 28 year old mother. I shook my head yes and before answering him I paused to really think about how I wanted to respond, "There is a lot I too have forgotten because of distractions but also because of time... but when I think of her, I remember who she was in this family then my heart remembers what she meant to me and I hold on to that.". We hugged again and then he headed off to bed with the beautiful new gift our friends had mailed us for her anniversary.

The last 3 years have changed drastically, this past year has probably changed the most. When I think back on our journey I remember a lot of dark times. So much sadness and a never ending pit of hidden anguish in my soul. Constantly asking the question in the back of my mind "Why?". But this year has been different, there has been a lot of happiness. I graduated college and have a great job, Zach is finally getting to pursue his education, and the kids are growing and progressing each new day. I have learned to feel my Saviors love in a new way. I no longer see him as a drill sergeant beating on his soldier but now feel His love and compassion for me. Big strides have been made and I feel like it has done this family much good.

This year Zach wanted the family to share a memory of McKenna so we could put it in a little book. My sister started it in a group message and all day I completely avoided reading them until I knew I would be safe at home to cry. I didn't tell anyone at work, I acted like it was a completely normal day, I didn't even wear pink like I normally would. This is not because I was trying to be sneaky, it's simply because even after all this time, sometimes I still don't know how to bring it up... and sometimes I just want to get through the day without crying. The second I got home I felt it fighting to come out and I finally let it go. After the kids went to bed I read all of the stories and they brought me so much joy. I remember bits of pieces of their stories and bits of her personality shinned through all of them. I don't have many memories but what I can say is I am so grateful for the little bits of memories I do have.

Not only did I avoid the family stories till the end of the day but I even dodged text messages, phone calls, and gifts as well. One comment from a dear friend struck me the most, "I didn't know her but I love her. Thank you for keeping her alive and making us all apart of her life."

I wept tears of joy over that statement. That's all I have ever tried to do, I just try to keep her alive.

Why after all this time does it matter so much to me? Because she was mine.

If I were to stop trying to keep her alive then the precious little memories I do have would completely fade away. I am 110% sure of this and as long as I am alive I am not losing her anymore then I already have, I fight for those memories everyday and I'm not about to stop now.

I was recently reminded of a memory of her that I had almost forgotten:
One time I was picking her up from daycare and she was in a different class then usual. Lots of kids were in there and they were all happily playing together in this giant circle. I finally got her attention and she ran to me SCREAMING with joy, "MMOOMMMMMMMMYYYY" (lucky for me she always did this when I picked her up and luckily this was something I never took for granted. I always loved those excited and tender embraces). She gave me a hug and a little boy said sadly "Aww, I want a hug." McKenna without hesitation heard the little boy and said "Ok" then she ran over and hugged him. Then the child next to him said "Hey! I want one too!" and again without hesitation she ran over and hugged him. This literally continued all the way around the circle till every child had been hugged sufficiently. She didn't even know those kids, she was just in there for a one time thing and yet so much love and patience was shown and she was so happy to do it! I was greatly touched at this sweet and selfless gesture from such a small child that I could not help to think what a wonderful wife, mother, and friend she would be someday, never suspecting that our time together would soon be coming to an end.

I also recently had a memory of her after she passed away:
One night I was having a really bad night. I was sobbing silently by my bedside begging God to let me see her. I had done this every night since the day she had passed. I told him that I would do anything, all I wanted was a simple good-bye and angrily cursed him from withholding such a precious gift from me. Then I felt this prompting to "look up". I was about to look up when I felt a force so strong that it literally made me tremble, I could NOT look up. Fear overcame me as I could clearly feel a force from my bedroom door. I hid by the side of my bed, I could feel it coming closer to me. Like a child, I ducked under my covers and crawled close to my husband who was sleeping. Still hiding and shaking in fear I internally argued with myself "It's her! Put the blanket down! Why are you hiding? Why are your afraid? Just look up!" but I could not. I felt something deep within me, as if my soul could speak to this physical body of mine and it said "I am not ready." I felt the force fade away and after waiting a few minutes I slowly peered out from under my covers. Nothingness. It was pitch black and an empty room. Shame overcame me and still shaken up from one of the craziest things I had ever experienced I closed my eyes and wept myself to sleep.

That same shame has followed me for a long time due to this night. Why didn't I just look up? I am no coward and there is nothing I want more then to see my daughter before me. Everything that happened that night was a once in a life time experience and I blew it. I have never known such fear or felt such a strong spiritual force in my life, things like this just don't happen to me. I have replayed that incident over and over again and have blamed myself for missing such an important opportunity. Over the years though I have learned not to be so hard on myself and instead have sought for the answer of why my soul told me "I'm not ready". Although I still don't really know the true answer, here is what I have come up with so far...

There is a christian song "I Can Only Imagine" by Bart Millard. In this song the writer is actually writing about grieving his father and seeing him again in Heaven. In the chorus he sings:

"Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine"

Maybe the presence of my angel was too much? "I can only imagine" that seeing something so pure and perfect would make the soul quiver the way mine did. Especially knowing that this perfect being was my own child, a child I was desperate to see but hadn't clearly understood at that time what an actual angel she has truly become and how seeing an angel is no small miracle.

I really don't have any idea what was the main cause of that event ending the way that it did but I heard a talk that has struck a cord with me in this past general conference:

"If we let the Lord know in our morning prayers that we are ready, He will call on us to respond. If we respond, He will call on us time and time again and we will find ourselves on what President Monson calls 'the Lord’s errand.' We will become spiritual first responders bringing help from on high.
If we pay attention to the promptings that come to us, we will grow in the spirit of revelation and receive more and more Spirit-driven insight and direction. The Lord has said, 'Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good.'"
"Let The Holy Spirit Guide"
By Elder Ronald A. Rasband

McKenna has officially had more angel anniversaries in heaven then she has had birthdays on earth. She died at almost 2.5 years old. It sucks, I hate that she has been dead longer then she was alive. When people think "Oh 3 years is a long time to grieve" I would like to put in perspective for you that I had her for almost the same amount of time she has been dead. Just like that is a long time to grieve, that is a long time to have someone in your life. There is not enough time to erase grief just like there would never have been enough time to keep her in my life.

I am not sure what I can do to EVER be ready to physically see McKenna in this life but I know I want to be ready and if I am lucky enough to have it happen again, I will look up! With that in mind I have decided to accept Elder Rasband's challenge and am nervously saying in my prayers "I am ready". I know this is a step in the right direction of being spiritually prepared to "look up" when I am prompted too and I never want to miss that opportunity again. I also love the idea of being "on the Lords errand." Every birthday and anniversary I find myself asking the same question, "What can I do to honor McKenna, what is something that would honestly make her happy?" and it always comes back to service. Always.

So with this challenge of "telling the Lord I am ready" and the motto our family has made in honor of McKenna's life "You will always keep us looking up" I am continuing to raise money for the McKenna Eve Bundy Scholarship. This year we will be selling pink bracelets that are double sided. One side states "Keep Looking Up" and the other "Kenna Bear". We are selling each for $5. All proceeds will go the scholarship and we are starting with 300 bracelets. In addition, Dominic has been planning and preparing the past few months to start his first EVER job/business this summer as a.... (drum roll please)..... "Pooper Scooper" (so cute) AND he is devoting ALL of the first month earnings to the scholarship (insert ugly cry emoji here).

We are trying to raise the money by May 18th!

If you would like to buy a bracelet or make a donation, you can do so here:

Thanks to all of you who read this blog, who think about her, and keep her alive in your hearts. We are so blessed with all of the support we get. Below is some of the love we were shown this year:

A personal shout out I gave to everyone who honored my daughter the day after her anniversary. 

A gift from our best friends back in Houston
It's a 3D image of her in this big beautiful crystal heart. I love it because it looks like she is really looking at you. It has 2 different bases: 1 that changes colors which the kids love and one thats just white, which I love. 

Pink roses from my friend. 
The 3 yellow represent the children I have now.
I love when people honor ALL of my children. 

A framed picture of a famous statue of a mother grieving her dead child (Hard to tell in the picture but the mother is made of stone and the child looks like she is made of glass and reaching out to comfort her. I was told it's called "Closer then you know" but I don't know if thats true. Regardless I absolutely love it. 
The friend who got it for me didn't even know this but I have always loved this statue and have told myself someday I will buy it for myself so the picture is perfect. 
The same person who made the amazing McKenna painting in another blog I posted made these little bookmarks for my whole family.
Another friend was celebrating her wedding anniversary in Washington D.C. with her hubby and honored my McKenna on her angel anniversary at this memorial site. 
My sister and the rest of our family wore pink, wrote stories, and released balloons in her honor. 

My kids Easter Sunday
Dom: 9
(Kenna would be 5)
Zoe: 3
Eve: 2
Old picture of McKenna but I felt like it was very fitting with this blog entry.