“We love him”

I found myself choked up this morning whilst reading this blog post by Handsfreemama, shared on Facebook by Rebecca of the simple as that blog.  If you aren’t already you MUST follow both of these lovely ladies’ blogs if you are a parent, artsy, crafty, into photography (even if it’s just with your iphone!) or if you just like to be inspired by others.  These ladies continually do a great job at inspiring and motivating me.  I suggest every one at the very least read the blog post “Six Words You Should Say Today” which is the one I read this morning.

I now have a son, his name is Harvey (or “Don Harvey” depending on who you ask!) and he has shifted my world in an amazing way.  Not only mine but my entire family’s as well!  When I read this post I immediately started to think of him and of how I will interact with him with regards to his activities in the future. I don’t know what he will like to do, maybe it will be sports, or instruments, or chess or working on cars like his dad?  It really doesn’t matter though, I imagine I will think that whatever he is into is the coolest and, here come those magic words, I WILL “love to watch him ____________”. I can’t possibly imagine not saying it outloud, but I can also totally see how such a simplistic phrase might fall to the wayside in lieu of lengthier and thus seemingly more sincere commentary.  I hope that my eyes are now opened to the beauty of allowing ones self to keep it simple, to not drown ones thoughts and intentions with unnecessary words.

After my trip into the future with my own son, I then allowed myself to travel back in time to the hundreds of soccer games and practices that my own parents were a part of and tried to remember the types of conversations we use to have with regards to my playing.  I don’t remember the exact words, but I can say that my memory of their involvement relays to me that they did in fact LOVE to watch me play.  The rest is irrelevant and they got their point across regardless of how they might have phrased it because I have no doubt if I were to ask them now or if I had asked them then, they would happily admit to how much they loved to watch me play.

There is something seriously magical about making your own parents into grandparents.  It’s a gift that can’t be measured and one that my parents have embraced with arms open wider than I could have possibly imagined, it’s so wonderful to watch their eyes light up at the sparkle in 3 month old Harvey’s deep blue eyes.  I once again glimpse at the future and see all of us thinking to ourselves just how much we love to watch him play, sing, dance, cook, jump, explore and discover this amazing world we live in. Now I just hope that we will all remember to say it out loud.  I will feel quite accomplished if that practice becomes a part of my sweet boys life in such a way that he lives without hesitation in expressing his joy in witnessing the lives of those he loves.

I do know that I love watching those that I love falling in love with my boy, it makes my heart sing.  And whether my mom, Harvey’s grandma, knows that shes doing it or not, she sends me a text after every time she watches him that simply says “We love him”.  It makes my heart swell with pride and puts a smile on my face every time.

Make a point today to tell someone how you feel and keep it simple with those six little words, “I love to watch you ________”


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One year ago I was NERVOUS, so very nervous heading to my parents house to celebrate Thanksgiving because we had news.  BIG news.  Seriously awesome news, but nevertheless a bit unexpected and surprising news.  I had JUST found out a couple days earlier that I was pregnant.  Don and I were going to be parents, MY parents were going to be GRANDPARENTS! Crazy town!  So, through deep breaths and shaky hands we announced to my parents and we were greeted with love, support and excitement.  We told them VERY early, I was only “1-2 weeks” pregnant at that point.


Long story short, that baby didn’t make it.  A year later, I am SO thankful for the lessons in life and love that that first little life we made together taught us.  Our hearts expanded permanently in the time that we were hoping you were growing inside of me.  That first little life made me a mom, showed me the way to opening my heart and my eyes up to change and compromise and showed me what is really important in this life and in this marriage of ours.

This year, we celebrate our good fortune in being able to conceive once again so quickly and that all has been well along the way with this pregnancy.  Baby Harvey had a tiny little helper pave the way for him and to show his parents how much they could possibly love one another and how much they could love a tiny human.

It has been an incredible year filled with fun times with fantastic friends and family.  I have been lucky enough to be a part of my bestfriend becoming a mommy and doing it with such patience and grace even though her little newborn threw her constant curve balls.  I can’t wait for our little boys to grow up together and get to know everything about one another.  I am completely smitten with my little “boyfriend” Greyson, he is SO beautiful and cute!



My longest running BESTFRIEND has shown me so much love, support and excitement for our baby boy, I couldn’t ask for a better lifelong companion, I just know she’s going to be Harvey’s favorite!


I am thankful for my husband who makes me absolutely crazy on a regular basis and who loves me whole heartedly for loving him to spite his constant need to “see if the fence is still electric”! Ha!  I am out of this world excited to see him be a dad to our little man, he is going to be SO GOOD at it! His sense of humor and patience will surely serve him well.  Not to mention he is an outstanding teacher, any one who has ever sought out his help with any sort of mechanical issue will attest to just how much he enjoys breaking things down and explaining them (even if you have NO DESIRE to have all that info. LOL).

I am thankful for my family and my friends who just showered us with love and well wishes for our new addition, we had THE BEST baby shower and feel so blessed and lucky to be surrounded by so much love and kindness!  My family seriously whipped up our family’s own special feast for sixty plus people which is a HUGE feat.  For those of you that attended you now know the kind of deliciousness we will be enjoying on this day, SO GOOD!



Above all, I am thankful for my son.  Donald Edward Harvey Ernst III, I didn’t know I wanted you, I thought I wanted a little girl, in fact I KNEW I wanted a little girl… But, I can honestly say, before I’ve even met you, that you my boy, YOU are EXACTLY what I have wanted and needed for as long as I can remember.  I can’t wait to hold you, love you, share all of the magic this world has to offer with you.  I love you with all of my heart already and your Dad and I just can’t wait to meet you! Next year you will be SO BIG and almost 1 year old, this year I’ll keep you safe inside of me and eagerly await your arrival :)  Thanks for my newfound love of sweets by the way, your Grandma has enjoyed catering to it!  Pumpkin pies, rolls and pecan pie in OUR future!


Happy Thanksgiving!



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Two Years of Marriage

2 Year Anniversary PictureInAPicture-1

Two years.
24 months.
104 weeks.
730 days.
17,520 hours.
1,051,200 minutes.
63,072,000 seconds.

“That is how long/how much you have been my husband. We are us. We have made it. I have made a promise to never underestimate how difficult this commitment we have made is. I have promised myself to each year, quantify in this way, just how long/how much you and I have been us, Mr. and Mrs. Ernst. Seeing the years, months, days, moments, seconds add up makes my heart swell with pride. I chose to allow your love to fill my life and my heart and whilst that makes me happy and content so much of the time, I knew going in to this that this was never going to be easy. Not by any fault of our own necessarily but because of the world, society, people that we will meet or have met that will influence us in one way or another, raw deals and lost dreams that we will have to let go of, money, air, wrenches and who knows what else… Easy or not, we are in this together, for better or worse, such easy words to say, so much more difficult to live them, I’m proud of us for doing so.”

Our second year of marriage has been a roller coaster:

o We found out that we were having a baby
o 12 weeks later we found out that our babies heart stopped beating
o I had surgery for that loss
o I fell in love with you even more for the way you supported me in the aftermath of my “missed miscarriage”
o We planned to move our home which then fell through
o We planned a career change for you, which then fell through
o YOU persevered, found a fantastic position doing what you love, working with people that make your days enjoyable and who challenge you
o We lost our friend, Joe, who was a neighbor but really so much more than that
o We found out I was pregnant again
o We got to experience the incomparable joy of seeing an ultrasound of our babies heart beating
o We celebrated with extreme caution and kept our lips sealed as much as possible
o We learned the ups and downs of having a “high risk pregnancy”
o Found out we were having a boy, I cried… (you rejoiced! Lol)
o Negotiated on a baby name (thank you for that!)
o We fought, about the important, stupid, and typical things
o We inevitably made up
o You worked on race cars and went to race weekends
o We went on our third movie date in our entire relationship
o We moved a prego pillow into our bed (it’s not your favorite)
o I continued to document our day to day life to spite being in a serious funk for months
o I painted, changed and rearranged the entire house in true prego nesting form
o You bought a “Family Car” #projectslowsaab
o I got in a car accident and learned just how valuable my headlights really were
o I got to be reminded how “lovely”? looking for a car with my mechanic husband’s stipulations can be
o We assembled insane amounts of furniture
o We made a nursery in our home for our baby boy to grow in
o We have experienced nocturnal swarming bees (and are apparently the only ones! Ha!)
o We laughed the hardest I think we ever have at the “Prince” episode of “New Girl”
o I got you to sing the Kit Kat jingle for a bite sized Kit Kat Bar
o You delivered one million fountain sodas with “the good ice” from Circle K
o You mastered the double flush and increased my morning happiness potential exponentially
o We have gotten to feel Baby Don wiggle, shimmy and kick in my belly, the look of awe on your face makes my heart skip a beat, I don’t know if I’ll ever really wrap my head around the magic that we have set in motion, it truly amazes me more and more with each passing day.
o We have learned to be home at the same time, which really never happened much before this year
o We have watched 3-4 tv shows together this year, yet another first in our marriage
o We got to see what the drive way looked like once again
o We fought a war over a friend built table and a pumpkin patch picture (we ended up with the cutest pumpkin patch pictures ever)
o We forgave and forgot ON REPEAT.

I am still smiling and still falling my love.

I’m quoting this part from our original anniversary post along with the intro because I STILL mean it:

“We are of a generation that is fickle, that runs away from the scary shit. I promised myself and you that I would not run away from the scary shit in our marriage. That in and of itself IS SCARY! But, I meant it, I will mean it. I may write this “review” some years and mostly hate you! But, I will love you, I will forget and forgive, I will smile and laugh, I will let go and move on, I will go crazy and find sanity, I will want to quit and join the majority and I will overcome and subscribe, once again, to the minority. I am yours, you are mine. It will not be easy. It will down right suck at times. I knew that going in. I knew that when I sat in the corner eating two bites of a fish-filet pushing you away to no avail that I had completely jumped into the abyss that is us.

I will get jealous, I will worry, I will cry, we will experience loss in many ways, but we will see our way through it. I will grow old with you, which means that there is so much that will occur, that the seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years will just keep stacking up to remind me just how sure I was/am that this is love, this is us.”

This past year was full of situations that filled us with sadness, frustration, disappointment, loss and heartbreak.  If there was a time to run we lived it and then some, but, we didn’t, we bared down and found the strength in ourselves and in our marriage to see our way through and to continue on loving one another even when it felt like the world was against us.  Thank you for after yet another year proving to me that you did in fact mean it when you said forever.  I hope you can see how much I mean it too.

I am overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation as we embark on this third year of marriage! It will most certainly be the most intense, exciting and rewarding one yet. Our son, Donald Edward Harvey Ernst III, will be here in 7 weeks or so and he is going to change EVERYTHING! I already love him more than I can reasonably explain and with each day that our son grows inside of me I fall a little more in love with you. I am so anxious to witness you interact with your him. I am positive that you are going to be an outstanding father.  Harvey is so lucky to have you. I know the two of you will make me absolutely crazy on a pretty regular basis, but I also know that you guys will also provide me with more love and laughter than I can even imagine right now.  I have “The Don Smile” across my face just thinking about it!

I’m proud of us husband and I love you with my whole heart.
Happy 2nd Anniversary The Don!

Your Wife,

THIS is what LOVE looks like!

I started my day as I normally do, scrolling through my Facebook feed and I stumbled across this  article.  I admired this woman’s take on the idea of a “soulmate”  and her honesty about herself and her husband.

“He challenges me, encourages me and talks me down off cliffs, but he isn’t the end-all-be-all of my world. That is a dangerous thing to ask of a relationship because I’m in love with and married to a flawed man. And he married a really flawed Mary. The idea that I can complete the hole he has in his heart, this want for something to fill him up, is wrong and destined to be painful.”

It seemed like a perfect segue to what I want to talk about and celebrate on this day, the 11th of June, 2014.  This is a VERY special day for my family, today is the day that my sister Anita and my brother-in-law Chris can stake claim on their impressive 20 years of marriage!  Needless to say 20 years is a monumental amount of time in any context but most assuredly with regards to marriage in this day and age.


My sister and I are 10 years apart which I’m sure she would tell you was quite tricky for the first part of our lives.  Not too much in common for an 8 and an 18 year old!  But as the years have gone by the age difference has become less and less relevant and is now mostly entertaining for us both as she watches her little sister live through the same things she lived through 10 years ago.

On this day 20 years ago I was 12 years old and BEYOND excited to be a bridesmaid in MY big sister’s wedding!  I remember being ecstatic to give her her wedding gift, which was an “anthology” of poems, song lyrics and what not that I liked.  I typed everything up on the typewriter, and even included individual and unity friendship bracelets! Best wedding gift ever! Ha!

friendship bracelets

I remember being amazed at how relaxed she was when my mom and I went up to see her.  There she was floating in the pool in her super cool tie-dyed one piece bathing suit, hair wet and just chillin’.  I remember that I didn’t wash my hair because I wanted curls in my hair.  Apparently I went a little too long without washing because my hair was GREASY!  I ended up rocking a SLICKED back half pony tail with no curl.  My 12 year old self was seriously disappointed!  I also remember my sister telling me to CHILL OUT because I was freaking out about the cake topper not fitting on the cake.  I was a wee bit high strung I suppose…  I remember how beautiful my sister, my mom and my grandma looked that day.  All the guys looked dashing in their formal wear and other than that I don’t remember all that much. It’s funny the random things that stick with you.  I certainly do remember watching the father/daughter dance.  Anita chose “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong and in that moment I wanted to be JUST LIKE HER!  I couldn’t wait to be the bride dancing to that very song with my dad!  It took almost 20 years but I did indeed get to relive that precious moment at my wedding dancing with my dad to the sweet words of “It’s a Wonderful World” with my sister and her husband watching me.  It was a magical moment for sure.

One of the best parts about getting older for me was becoming closer to Anita and Chris.  It was as if we had entered a whole new world where I was privy to all sorts of juicy life details that I was just too young to be let in on before.  My love life was a constant rollercoaster for a long time (and not in the awesome “butterflies in your stomach excitiement” sort of way).  During that time Anita and Chris reiterated to me that marriage and relationships ARE NOT EASY!  They were not selling me any B.S. about how everyday was magical and they lived their lives on cloud 9.  They kept it real with me and let me know that  I should expect extreme highs/lows and LOTS of in between.  But during all of that that I should expect to FEEL loved and RESPECTED.  Eventually I got it right :)

It’s a beautiful thing to see how they have both learned to give and take, compromise, compromise, compromise, to laugh at one another’s imperfections, to fight and forgive, to push eachother’s buttons and drive one another crazy only to come out on the other side TOGETHER.

They have packed up and moved their lives MANY times.  Tampa to Tallahassee  to Pittsfield, Massachussetts, to Charlotte, North Carolina, to Daytona and two weeks ago life threw them another curve ball wrapped in new and exciting opportunities and they’ve JUST moved to Jacksonville Beach.  Each time, they seem to find their way, figure their lives out and make a home TOGETHER.

I have been incredibly lucky in my life to have such outstanding examples of marriage.  My grandparents were married for more than 60 years, my parents have been married for more than 40 years and now Anita and Chris celebrate 20 kick ass years of love and life TOGETHER!

Congratulations you two, I love you both so very much! Happy Anniversary and thank you for showing me WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE!

Hope you love your custom tiki commissioned especially for the two of you by those that love you most from the one and only Tiki Jeff at Surf Soul Tiki!

Anniversary Tiki


Your Short Story

I have been contemplating posting this for quite some time.  I consider myself an open book and fairly free in the “social media realm” but this has been a struggle for me.  I was inspired by the courage of a friend whom I already admired and respected for her talent in photography but for whom my respect grew even more when she announced the loss of her pregnancy on Facebook last week.  She did so with grace and gratitude for the love that she is surrounded by and it was a sad but beautiful thing to see.  So here it goes.  This is our story of loss.  It can’t all be butterflies and rainbows but it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and share something that hurts as much as something like this does.  I am hopeful that sharing this story will bring comfort and companionship to someone, anyone that has to go through this.  This is very raw and perhaps offensive at times, but it is as real as it gets and my true account of one of the saddest events of my life.  I wrote this mostly to document my experience and put it into my Project Life but it has always been in my head that I should and eventually would share it.  So here it goes….



What We Thought

The photo on the left is what we THOUGHT you looked like… The photo on the right is what you truly looked like when you stopped growing….


January 16th, 2014

The day seemed long because I was anxious about our appointment.  Your Grandma made me chocolate banana cupcakes with strawberry cream frosting.  They were a Pinterest request and “she just happened to have everything she needed laying around” so she whipped them up and brought them to work.  They were DELICIOUS!  Those pretty little cupcakes seemed like the perfect way to start the day that would be the day that we would FINALLY know you were “real”.  Your Dad and I would finally get to hear your little heartbeat and see your tiny little body on the ultrasound screen.  Yes, I was anxious but MOSTLY excited!  


Your Dad (always the multitasker!) was dropping a car off at Brandon Outback so I picked him up there.  On the way out to Brandon I listened to “Riding Elevators” on repeat.  I sang the lyrics at the top of my lungs with the windows down and my heart wide open.  I had such a content and peaceful feeling, so light and…. happy.  We were about to actually FEEL like parents!

We made it just in time for our 3:15 appointment.  I did my obligatory “pee in the cup” and luckily we didn’t have to wait very long.  So in we went to the ultrasound room.  She told me to just undress from the waist down so she could do an intravaginal ultrasound and get really close for the “pictures”.  So I did, slipped on a gown from the waist down and laid back in the chair.  The space was very small so it was a little awkward with Don in there, but he found a corner to occupy and the technician came back in.  We got started and she told your Dad that we would do the “fun stuff” first.  So he was ready with his phone to take pics and video.  Within a minute she had an image on the screen and I remember her saying something like “looks like you’re not as far along as we thought”…  To that I naively responded with something like “yeah we found out really early so it may be off a little…” (Whatever the hell I meant by that?)  I will hold in my heart the memory of this one flash, this one image where I could see “you”.  You were “floating” in darkness… and then in an instant, “you” were gone.  She started rapidly snapping through taking screen captures of every angle.  Still completely chill and unaware of what was happening to me, to us, in that moment I asked he if we could at least hear the heartbeat?  She said “No, I wouldn’t do that with this machine, let’s just wait till you see the doctor.”

And just like that she stood up and left the room, I put my pants back on and looked up at Don and shrugged my shoulders and said “well maybe something is wrong?”.  He looked at me with love and said “I’m sure there’s nothing wrong”.  Such sweet naive little love birds we were.  So off we went to the next set of waiting rooms.  As we sat there I still really had no idea what had just happened or what was about to happen I don’t think Don did either.  We were ill prepared to say the least.  Fortunately I wasn’t letting my mind wander to worst case scenarios, I was just existing in that space and time.  I was present in only that moment and that was all I could manage.  

My favorite, “Anna” (she’s a nurse practitioner) was in the hallway giggling and laughing, basically shit talking about a crazy patient.  Don and I giggled, it was hard not to hear them and it was funny.  A nice little distraction while we waited.  She saw us and proceeded to give us the story, we laughed some more and then she ducked away for a minute.  I took that chance to explain to Don how much I like her and that she was who I saw for my annual visit right after he and I got together.  She stole my heart at that appointment when she told me “this is the happiest I’ve ever seen your vagina”.  I mean how could I not love her after a statement like that?  She also made sure to hook me up with as many free samples as she could manage and extra scripts and what not.  So yeah, she’s cool and I really like her.

A few minutes passed and she came back with my file (“our file”) and she called Don and I into the doctor’s office.  We followed her in and sat down….

She had “the face”….

She began….

I remember so much about this day, but the next minute or two?  They are in there somewhere but it’s a blur.  I do know that in those two minutes I put on my “matter of fact face”, nodded, accepted the facts, asked logical questions and said “ok…” an exceptional amount of times but I don’t remember Don saying anything…  “Anna” left to “give us a minute” and so we could wait some more for the doctor…  As she shut the door behind her I remember her saying “the doctor will be in with you shortly”.  Never in my life has that phrase bothered me or incited any sort of anxiety, but, in this moment it hurt.  I couldn’t understand what the hell I could possibly need to see the doctor for at this point.

Time passed….

and also didn’t…

and we were quiet.

So very still and quiet.

I pulled out my phone and sent Anita a text.  She was at the port on a cruise ship and was eagerly awaiting an ultrasound snapshot.  Instead I crafted a text:

“Baby stopped growing :( I am ok, we are still at Dr.’s office now.  Just wanted to let you know before you left. I love you.”

That was seriously shitty but necessary.  She was moments away from setting off on a trip and I had to TEXT her the news that her niece/nephew didn’t make it.  Just one of many messages that would need to be relayed.

“Anna” came back in and said one more thing, what that was I couldn’t tell you because that’s when I broke.  My “matter of fact face” melted right off and right behind slid the first tear betraying me and my keep it togetherness completely.  The damn burst and then I was wide open and vulnerable.  Hurt seeping into every cell of my body as reality and her cold bitchy ways started to set up shop right in my dead womb.  As this is happening “Anna” says “There it is. It was inevitable.”….  She then hugged me and I wept.  Embarrassed and hurt I wept in her embrace.  She looked over my head at one point and asked Don how HE was, if he was ok.  I remember that but I do not remember hearing him respond but I am certain he had his “military/strong man face”.  She left again, this time leaving me with the box of tissues. Dammit.

Don and I alone in the room again I finally look over to him and said something like “I’m just worried about what you’re going to do…”  In my head I was worried about what he was going to do as in be mad or crazy upset?  Because I knew I didn’t have it in me to help him manage any of that in this particular moment.  His response was epic and so classic THE DON, he says, “Well I’m not going to divorce you.”  HA!  To that I said something like “you better not mother fucker! and that’s NOT what I meant!”

Dr. “S” finally arrives.  I don’t know her, never met or seen her before… Seems appropriate that she should have “this talk” with us.  So she begins by going over the facts.  The baby stopped growing at 7 weeks, I was in the midst of a missed miscarriage and here are your “options”.  A fantastic snapshot of our life at the time would be the first question I ask as soon as the “options” are brought up, “is that going to be covered by medicare?”. “Medicare? or Medicaid?” she asks.  I seriously responded with “I don’t know, I have a gold card.”  (Fuck my life.)   She said that she didn’t want me to worry about that, that it would all be covered…  She pretty much told me that having a D&C was my best option.  My body had let five weeks go by without aborting the baby itself so there was no telling how long the “limbo” could take if it happened naturally… So I chose to have a D&C.  We went over some paperwork, signed my name a couple times.  Then it was off to the checkout counter.  This part of the process was way too long and I was doing my best not to completely fall apart while answering questions, making decisions and scheduling.  Don kept it together too although it was difficult and I could feel his patience waring thin as we waited and waited to get out!  In the end it was decided that I would have the D&C on Monday, the 20th, Martin Luther KIng Jr Day and Mikaela’s birthday… As good a day as any I suppose.

We got in the car and it was quiet.  I had been playing “your song” through my iphone so now there was just silence.  We stopped at a gas station to fill up and headed home.  We didn’t say much.  Don seemed to be most worried about having to tell his sisters which pissed me off a little bit at the time.  But looking back it seems like a perfectly acceptable concern.  I considered turning on the radio but couldn’t think of any station that would be playing the appropriate soundtrack for the drive home after finding out your baby is dead.  So it remained quiet.

We took the new expansion off of the crosstown, mostly by accident but it turned out to be a good distraction.  It was the first time we were on that road, seemed strange to get such different views of our city from way up high.  When we got to “malfunction junction” it was almost five o’ clock and I knew that your grandma was waiting for an update…  I was so sad to have to call her and tell her this.  Nothing is ever real until you tell your  mom, you would have learned that I know…  So I took a deep breath, let out a sigh and called…

I think I said “Hey Mom” I don’t remember what she said after that, I think she asked a question about you.  I remember I managed to squeak out through my choked throat “there is no baby” and then she said “what?” in the sweetest most comforting heartwarming voice that can only come from one’s mom and then I explained that you had no heartbeat.  That you had stopped growing at 7 weeks.  A lot of what came next is a blur I just remember being very worried about her.  She was so excited about you and so very happy for us.  She will someday be the most amazing grandma.  I am so very sorry that she will never know you.  She asked if I felt like I needed her to come over and while her love is always welcome it felt like something that Don and I needed to tackle together.  Not to mention a mom hug in that moment would most likely have sent me into hysterical convulsions.  We said “I love you” and with that the hardest call was done.

Once we got through traffic we stopped at Al’s aka Nebraska Mini-Mart to get ice and coke because we had decided that cocktails were definitely in order.  He gave us what we morbidly deemed the “Dead Baby Discount” after he asked how “things” were going and he became the first person we told… in person.  I just said to him that it didn’t work out and he reassured us that we’ve got time and we’ll try again but that he most definitely would not be taking our money on this occasion.  Good times.

Conveniently we had an appointment scheduled with Joelle to sign the new lease for our house.  So when we all sat down to go over the paperwork she became the second person we got to tell in person.  She too was reassuring and kind.  After she left Don and I went to ABC on Kennedy to get some more cocktail supplies and then we headed to Chipotle so that Don could get some comfort food. 

Doing the best we can

We came home, made cocktails, took a couple pictures to shove into my project life and Don ate not one but TWO Chipotle burritos.  He loved you a lot little one.  Dead baby grief requires double duty comfort food apparently. We spent the rest of the night making seriously inappropriate dead baby jokes which helped us to laugh instead of cry. I called Valerie and let her know, she too was heartbroken but, she and I are both very logical people.  Mother Nature knows best and she decided it just wasn’t meant to be this time.  Val does a great job of helping me to see the silver linings of things. Excelsior!  I decided that a round of informative matter of fact texts to close friends was the easy way to tell everyone.  There was no way I could speak out loud the explanation over and over.  I just couldn’t.  So I checked that task off my to-do list and had many heartfelt responses of sympathy.  I realized that Don had not called his “people” and I knew he needed a little push…. So, I texted Don’s bestfriends and let them know that they should call him.  One called after I had some time to text with him which worked out good because the other called right away.  He spoke to both of them for a little while each and he seemed to feel “better” once he had gotten those conversations off his chest.  I eventually got to talk to Amber which was an extremely hard call, but luckily Don and I had had time to loosen up beforehand.  It was really sad to realize what a precious opportunity it was for Amber and I to be pregnant with our first babies at the same time and to face the sadness in knowing that that will never be possible again.  It was a once in a lifetime chance that was now gone.  

We wrapped the night up dancing in the front room to techno songs to the point of pure exhaustion.  We cuddled together very tight in bed that night, neither of us giving the other too much space to move or to get lost.  Our grips were fierce having been reminded in such an intense way, just how very fragile this life is.  We are lucky to have one another and we will always love “you”.  You helped Don and I to see just how much we do want a family and also to feel and experience just how intense the love for one’s own child can be.  You were so tiny but you shifted our world in the best way you could by showing us a glimpse of everything we’ve always wanted. Thank you for that.  We needed you.


Your “Mom”


January 26th, 2014

It had been a long day celebrating Gasparilla and it was so nice and comforting to end the day at home with just my big sister.  Anita and I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning talking.  We covered every emotion that I was going through but also everything that she was and had gone through.  It’s tough work being a big sister.  It was the first time we had been together since everything happened.  It was so incredibly good for my soul to share everything with her.  

When she left the next afternoon, I was just starting to have “cramps”.  They came in waves and were uncomfortable but mostly manageable.  But as I stood in the frame of our front door watching her back out onto the street and drive away, I realized that I was alone.  And it started to ache.  Being alone is not something that normally makes me unhappy or vulnerable, but, I think my body and mind knew what lay ahead and being alone felt more relevant in that moment than it has in a very long time, maybe ever.

I was alone with what was left of “you”… and “you” were about to leave me completely.  There I was alone and becoming empty.  I ached for my husband but I quickly became too consumed with the process to think of much else.  I started to hurt all over, physically it would come in waves, later I would learn that those “waves” were similar pains to contractions… Thank you for the practice sweet one…  

My heart hurt the most.  I missed you, I missed the hope for you that I fell in love with.  What was left of you was leaving me and I was ALONE.  Alone in a new and foreign way.  

“I go home to the coast it starts to rain I paddle out on the water. Alone. Taste the salt and taste the pain I’m not thinking of you again. Summer dies and swells rise the sun goes down in my eyes. Take these broken waves, darkly coming to take me home. And I’ve never been so along and I’ve never been so ALIVE.”

-Third Eye Blind

A part of me wanted “your dad”, my husband, my partner…But this way was better. I was not in charge of managing anyone else’s emotions, instead I had the freedom to FEEL EVERY ONE OF MINE.  I now know that I needed this to be something just you and I shared.  An experience only to be remembered by “us”.  And so “we” did… and so it was.

After about 6 hours of painful waves, throwing up from pain meds and taking care of the physically real remnants of “you” I finally felt the last bit of “you” leave me.  It was done.  “We” were done and I was now left with the task of once again feeling complete with every piece of “you” gone.  I was alone.  But I, unlike you my love… was ALIVE.   

Thank you so much to all of our friends and family that have been so amazing as we have recovered from all of this and somehow managed to fall even deeper in love.  We are incredibly grateful every day.



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We made it through our first year!


Papered Heart Photography

One year.
12 months.
52 weeks.
365 days.
8,760 hours.
525,600 minutes.
31,536,000 seconds.

That is how long/how much you have been my husband. We are us. We have made it. I have made a promise to never underestimate how difficult this commitment we have made is. I have promised myself to each year, quantify in this way, just how long/how much you and I have been us, Mr. and Mrs. Ernst. Seeing the years, months, days, moments, seconds add up makes my heart swell with pride. I chose to allow your love to fill my life and my heart and whilst that makes me happy and content so much of the time, I knew going in to this that this was never going to be easy. Not by any fault of our own necessarily but because of the world, society, people that we will meet or have met that will influence us in one way or another, raw deals and lost dreams that we will have to let go of, money, air, wrenches and who knows what else… Easy or not, we are in this together, for better or worse, such easy words to say, so much more difficult to live them, I’m proud of us for doing so.


Papered Heart Photography

We are of a generation that is fickle, that runs away from the scary shit. I promised myself and you that I would not runaway from the scary shit in our marriage. That in and of itself IS SCARY! But, I meant it, I will mean it. I may write this “review” some years and mostly hate you! But, I will love you, I will forget and forgive, I will smile and laugh, I will let go and move on, I will go crazy and find sanity, I will want to quit and join the majority and I will overcome and subscribe, once again, to the minority. I am yours, you are mine. It will not be easy. It will down right suck at times. I knew that going in. I knew that when I sat in the corner eating two bites of a fish-filet pushing you away to no avail that I had completely jumped into the abyss that is us.

I am still falling and still smiling.

I will avoid painting walls with you ever again! But I will count on your sharp scissors to cut through me when I’m resisting and pushing the most. I will obsess and stress and reassess and come right back to… I love you. Even when I hate you. Mostly.

I will get jealous, I will worry, I will cry, we will experience loss in many ways, but we will see our way through it. I will grow old with you, which means that there is so much that will occur, that the seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years will just keep stacking up to remind me just how sure I was/am that this is love, this is us.

You have been “mine” for just shy of 3 years, our “Jump Day” is November 14th, 2010. But this year, this year has been one of a kind, there will only be one first year of marriage and I’m so happy that I got to experience mine with my bestfriend, the one that will give me shit when I deserve it and who will hold me tight when my world is shaken. The man that will give me a hug when I ask for one, even after I’ve torn him to shreds and my face is puffy and my eyes are filled with tears of worry and frustration.

Thank you for this truly magnificent first year. A year filled with ups and downs, with humility, bravery, blind trust and most importantly love.

Thank you for being my husband. Thank you for your love. I am still the most beautiful I have ever been inside and out through your eyes.

I won’t give up on us, I love you.

Happy anniversary My Husband, The Don.

Still Smiling. Still Falling.
Forever yours,
Your Wife,

Jen Ernst

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Where I was 9/11/01

I will never forget.

This post was written and shared last year on this day.  My story hasn’t changed, but, I am going to make it a tradition to re-share it each year as well as share any new thoughts or life experiences that may be relevant as the years go by.  Last year, I read a number of stories of my friends with children struggling with the explanations that need to be made when you are a parent.  From what I gather, it’s a difficult piece of American life to explain to children.  I will cross that bridge when I come to it… But for now, this is my story, Where I was:

It has been exactly eleven years.  I was 20 years old. I had bid my teenage years goodbye just twelve days prior.  What happened that day however, made me feel smaller and younger than I had ever felt before.  I was living with my boyfriend at the time in a crummy apartment complex in Brandon, Florida.  We didn’t have much, but what we did have was fine by me, because I was in love… or at least what I thought love was at the time.

I was sleeping when it all started.

It’s funny how strange it can make you feel when you realize the things that have or can happen while you are sleeping.  Simple things like spiders or roaches crawling on you, to nightmarish things like someone taking your child from your home while you slept in the next room.  Sleep is such a wonderful state and one that I cherish… But… the fact that I was sleeping when the world as I knew it had started to shift is still mind blowing to me.  How could I not have felt that something terribly wrong was happening?  We all like to think that when disaster strikes our intuition will alert us and cause us to act appropriately… But alas, my “guts” did no such thing.

That day began for me with the ringing of his Nokia cell phone.  I recall being irritated that I was being interrupted in my slumber, but proceeded to check right back out once he answered the phone.

It took only one second for my instincts to kick in and I bolted up right, immediately realizing that something was terribly wrong.  It was as if that nokia phone was pressed up against my own ear as every word coming out of it was dripping with panic and terror.  His brother was in Queens.  He couldn’t stop talking and all I remember him saying, over and over and over again, “They’re coming for us!  They’ve got us! We are going down! It’s over!” and then one clear and properly enunciated sentence; “A plane hit the twin towers!”

I don’t remember if he said anything to his brother… I don’t think he had an opportunity.  We were told to turn on the TV, so we did. It was the first TV I had ever purchased, it had a VCR built in! and it swiveled.  I absolutely LOVED that TV, in fact, I still have it to this day, I somehow can’t bring myself to part with it…Never in my worst nightmare could I have imagined the horrific images that would be projected from it’s monitor.

At the same moment we turned the TV on he lost the connection with his brother, that would be the last we would hear from him for days.  In fact it would be days before he was able to check on any of his family, all in New York.  All cell phones and land lines were blocked.

That memory would stick with me and on August 15, 2003, I was living in Queens, New York and working at Bayside Outback.  There was a blackout.  The very first thing I thought was that we were under a terrorist attack.  Cell phones were already not working so my very next thought was that I needed to get to the land line and call my mom.  I called her and told her that I didn’t know what was happening, but that I was worried that it might be really bad.  I told her I loved her and that I would try and get in touch with her again when I could.  I will never forget the sickening feeling I had in my stomach making that phone call.  For a moment I had let myself think that it would be the last time I heard my mother’s voice, the last time that she would hear mine. Luckily, the blackout was just that and nothing worse.

What I saw on the television captivated me.  I sat on the corner of the bed with jaw dropped open in shock and just kept saying out loud, “This can’t be real. This can’t be real.”  At that point only the first plane had hit.

I started to realize that I was witnessing REAL PEOPLE jumping out of buildings.  Even typing that now I feel sick to my stomach.  Terror and pain so fierce that people were either choosing to or being pushed out of the burning building.  “This can’t be real life”.

Looking back it is outrageous to realize how incredibly slow my brain was working.  I was so overwhelmed with what was actively happening that at no point did my mind transition to the “what could happen?” or “what is likely to happen next?”.  It seems to me now that it is perhaps part of the “American Condition” to not have thought past what might happen next.  In other countries, where survival skills are part of daily life, it most likely would have occurred to them that there was no reason to assume that there wasn’t another plane on it’s way, that there weren’t bombs set up through out the city, that the terror was only in that moment.  They would probably have looked ahead and tried to see what terror may be next.  It seemed to me that what I was watching was as bad as it could get.

At 9:02, we watched live as the second plane was filmed crashing into the South Tower.  Time stopped.  I stopped breathing.  Screams, I could hear so many screams, the entire country screamed at that moment. Tears started.  And then the fear started to set in.  This IS REAL LIFE.

Again with the slow moving brain.  At no point did it occur to me what would happen next.  What could be worse?  I was watching the only reality I had ever known burn and realizing that I was helpless.  I not only had no concept of war, of battles, bombs, mass murder, terrorists, I knew I had no survival skills.  I felt confident that I had the will to live, but at what cost and against what kind of enemy?  I had never imagined I would have to think about such things.

In the next forty five minutes or so, we learned that we were under terrorist attack.  That all air traffic had been stopped.  That a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. More Americans were dead. And then my slow moving brain processed what the media had been speculating would probably happen as the first tower started to sink as if into quicksand, no longer visible in the sky, a black cloud even darker than the one that proceeded it racing upwards.  Again. There were screams.  “This can’t be real life”.

News of  Flight 93 going down started to be reported.  It was somehow a piece of “good news”.  Amazing, strong and brave Americans had banded together upon learning what else had happened that morning and decided to take control of their destiny.  They stopped what was intended for that plane from happening.  True American heroes.

Somehow, I was still holding on to hope, thinking that all of this was more reminiscent of a Hollywood Blockbuster than an early morning news reel and that surely there must be something that won’t go wrong.  My hope was shattered as the second tower collapsed and the reality of the last hour started to sink in.

We were under attack. “This is REAL Life.”

All of America was glued to their televisions or tuned into their radios for the rest of that terrible day and for days, weeks and months to come.  The footage that would be shown later would not be what I had witnessed live that morning.  As it shouldn’t have been.  I will never be able to get the images out of my mind.  People, real life people, jumping to their deaths, others trapped and never able to find a way out.  I don’t ever want to feel the way I felt that morning again.

I realized on that day just how small and insignificant I am in the grand scheme of things. My love for my country had never been greater.  But my pride had been taken away completely.  I felt like I didn’t know what being an American really meant anymore.  It had never occurred to me that we could possibly fall victim to acts of terrorism like that.  One of the craziest things to think about now, is that I was aware of other terrorist activity that had occurred in the U.S. before that day, but I think I am not alone when I say that it had never once occurred to me that there was EVER a possibility for something as monumental and detrimental to take place.

My fiance’ posted this on his Facebook Status today:

“Its been eleven years and I still reflect on that day for the week leading up to today, and weeks following today. I was in basic training, red phase. We had just finished our run for the morning and the ‘sick call rangers’ had met back up with us from being lazy and getting out of P.T. . They told us that the twin towers got hit, but noone believed their lazy asses because we had just gotten our asses handed to us by the drill sergeants on the 5 mile run. Chow hall, two minutes to inhale, back out the door and in formation. March to the armory warehouse. In single file line and with a quickness we are issued our rifles, return to formation, and are abruptly commanded to fall back in single file line to be issued our bayonets for the first day of bayonet training. Normally we roll out immediately after to get on cattle trucks, but today the commander was there speaking to the drill sergeants, and a few minutes later we all are ordered to return our weapons and bayonets. Much confusion at this point. We all assumed we were going to get smoked, but we had no idea why. First Sarg comes out and yells ya’ll are going to WAR!!!!! We then proceed to go out to the field where we are met by the commander and told about the plane attacks and then issued a day of relief for what I guess was to make sure that noone was going to kill themselves with their bayonets. 9-11-2001 I will never forget.”

Even though I had heard this story before, seeing it put into words and knowing that these words came from the man I am lucky enough to be spending the rest of my life with really struck me today and inspired me to, for the first time, put my own experience of that day into words.
It’s hard to believe how far apart and completely different my future husband and I’s realities were 11 years ago today, but, if 9/11 teaches us anything, it is to love one another, to cherish every moment and make the most of the life you are lucky enough to live.
So much more information came out after the day, facts, stories of heroism, love lost, love rekindled and the list goes on.  One of the most gut wrenching parts for me was hearing the voices of people who knew they were living their last minutes or sometimes even seconds.of their life and they wanted to make sure that the people they loved got to hear it one last time.  Don’t wait.  Tell anyone and everyone as often as you can, you will never regret it.
I will love my country and my fellow Americans for as long as I shall live.  I am the product of good men who have gone to war to protect and support this country and I will forever be proud of that.  I am honored that I will be married to a man who selflessly served his country.
In Loving Memory. 9/11/2001. I will never forget.
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Have you been to The Rolling Pin?

Have you been to The Rolling Pin? If not, you are missing out! I have been and it was so much fun! My parents and I went for one of their hands on style cooking classes. We each got a workstation, an apron and a glass of water (to clean our palettes with to ensure we fully enjoyed the flavors we were cooking with). We got to be active in every part of the preparation for each course. We used exceptional cooking utensils, which make all the difference when it comes to preparing meals! All the cookware items used in the class are available for purchase in the store and at a discount for class members as long as you purchase the same day. It’s pretty impossible to get out of there without finding something that your heart desires, especially after getting the chance to use them! This wasn’t just a how to cook type of class, we learned so much from Chef Dave about the origins of the food, the process, the cookware even had a story!

What is the most impressive thing that The Rolling Pin has done for me personally? My Dad is a cook now! My mom has ALWAYS been “the cook in the family”, but Chef Dave changed all of that! It’s been about 5 years now that my dad and mom have been taking classes at The Rolling Pin and it has been such a wonderful experience for all of us that have gotten to experience dad’s cooking!

Love everything dad makes!

Love everything dad makes!

My dad has taken a wide array of classes over the years and his knowledge of wine, cooking and ingredients has become a joy to learn about when we cook together at my parents’ house. He has accumulated a collection of cooking knives that any ninja would kill for! Everyone loves a man that can cook? Right? Chef Dave apparently figured that out a long time ago and it’s refreshing to see he and his wife living their dream by sharing their mutual love and appreciation for all things culinary. Here’s what my dad has to say about The Rolling Pin:

“I have taken about 20 classes at the Rolling Pin and I have enjoyed all of them and feel that I have learned a great deal. One of my favorite classes was one of my first. I don’t remember the exact name but it was something like New Orleans classics. Included in the menu for the class was Shrimp Remoulade, Sausage and Chicken Gumbo and Bread Pudding. The gumbo and the bread pudding have become a regular part of my repertoire. I have also taken some skills classes including knife skills I and II. The Rolling Pin also offers two series of classes on the fundamentals of cooking; Cooking 101 and Cooking 201. Each series is five classes and I found all of those classes so helpful and fun.
The classes I have taken have given me the confidence to expand from a “backyard cook” to a reasonably accomplished “indoors cook” as well. Some of the best lessons have involved very simple concepts and/or introductions to basic ingredients. For instance, I learned how versatile and how effective an ingredient shallots are. I also learned that with some basic skills you can significantly expand your repertoire. For example, I learned to make a delicious vinaigrette that is great on its own, but that also can serve as the base for other delicious dressings (including a blue cheese dressing that my friends are wild about). I’m very thankful my wife convinced me to take that first class. I suspect she is too.”
Well, there you have it, a happy man with a happy and full family thanks to The Rolling Pin!

It’s no secret that we all love shows like Top Chef. Well, how would you like to meet and cook with one of the contestants? Chef Dave and his wife Karen make that possible at The Rolling Pin! They have in the past had famous cooks and chefs come to The Rolling Pin to share a night of cooking, laughing and learning! Recently he had Top Chef contestant Richie Farina

Richie Farina

as well as Chef Tre Wilcox!

Chef Tre Wilcox

Be sure to keep an eye on their website, they usually keep their class calendar updated for up to four months so you can plan ahead and keep an eye out for all of the new and exciting events they have planned!

The husband doesn’t know it yet, but he and I will most definitely be taking the “Couples Cooking Together” class sometime soon and the “Cooking 101” class series has my name written all over it. But that class is super popular so I am going to need to take my own advice and keep an eye out for when the next series starts. I will most definitely be sharing that adventure here.

The Rolling Pin doesn’t just show us grown ups how to have a good time in the kitchen, they also do cooking classes to support the kiddos. I know that I adored spending time in the kitchen with my grandma and my mom when I was little. It inspired such wonder to open a magic book, read a passage, gather some ingredients and make something that smelled and tasted delicious.

I really could go on and on about all of the magic that happens at The Rolling Pin, but this is your cue to check out their website and store for yourself. Stop in, say hello and let them know that I sent you with a glowing recommendation! If you are a lover of food, wine, cooking supplies and all things gourmet then you know where to go. The holidays are just around the corner, give the gift of cooking with Gift Cards that can be used for everything in the store as well as for classes!

I’m 32, the highlights

This past Friday I had the privilege of turning 32.  I have never been one to dread my birthdays or worry about getting old, to me it has always been a good thing.  This year like every other year a sigh of relief was heard.  “Thank goodness I Made it another year!”  This will be the first year that I have been  somewhat maintaining a blog and I am excited to start a new birthday tradition.  Each year I will post my highlights and this year seemed like a great year to start since it has been such a monumental year!  These highlights aren’t just what I would think of for typical yearly highlights, these are LIFE HIGHLIGHTS!  So here’s my list, in no particular order… (With the exception of #1 of course)

  1. My Wedding Day Jen_&_Don_Wedding_Papered_Heart_Photography621
  2. Ate THE BEST oysters with my husband on our own private balcony overlooking the Vegas strip.  IMG_7316
  3. Took a helicopter tour of The Grand Canyon and was moved to tears by nature for the first time in my life.  IMG_7365
  4. Did a bar crawl in San Francisco.  IMG_0137
  5. Took a cruise down the PCH in a Mustang convertible, top down THE ENTIRE TIME!  IMG_0540
  6. Moved to tears once again by the mountains of Carmel.  IMG_0464
  7. Had a Nerd Bachelorette party.  Nerd Bachelorette
  8. Shot my FIRST newborn session.  IMG_3762
  9. Had dinner at The Precinct with 3 generations of Ernst’s.  IMG_5205
  10. Started Project Life.  IMG_5578
  11. Had a blog post shared for the first time ever, thanks to Juliechats.blogspot.com with Whimzee’s Scrapbook Studio who shared my “Deep Thoughts of a Rookie Project Lifer” on the stores’ Facebook page.
  12. Completed (not ran, but… completed) my first 8k.  IMG_2805
  13. Celebrated Gasparilla for the last time at my bestfriend’s house on Davis Island… Bittersweet.  IMG_2072
  14. Set up my first Photobooth for my mom’s 60th birthday.  IMGP9860 copy
  15. Learned the basics of Photoshop.
  16. Made a book filled with 60 years worth of memories with my sister to give to my mom.
  17. Saw the fountain show at The Belagio.  IMG_7304
  18. Drove across The Golden Gate Bridge and took a picture with my husband at the lookout point.  IMG_0320
  19. Learned how to sew… on paper… (kind of…LOL)  IMG_4640
  20. Went to the top of the Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio with my husband.  IMG_5194
  21. Completed my first SMASHBOOK (it took about ten months).  IMG_4962
  22. Reached 1427 followers on Instagram.
  23. Inspired a friend to SMASHbook.
  24. Inspired 3 friends to consider starting their own Project Life projects.
  25. Won a 5 month war with the rats that were trying to take over our 100 year old rented Bungalow.  IMG_2653
  26. Went to my first music festival, The Hangout.  IMG_4234
  27. Did my first glow run 5k.  IMG_1852
  28. Created an awesome amount of crafts for my DIY wedding, including a backdrop, cornhole set and more.  Jen_&_Don_Wedding_Papered_Heart_Photography281IMG_7087
  29. Did Deal’s Gap with The Don in the QX4, it’s no Supra, but it did alright.  IMG_5354
  30. Attended the most concerts in one year that I ever have in all my years of living!
  31. Rode on a streetcar in SanFran.  IMG_0184
  32. Reached 3,557 view on thejensspin.com

Thirty two, you have been spectacular.  Thirty three, let’s see if we can top it.  Remember:

“For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”


My favorite quote keeps me grounded and grateful that each day comes and goes and that I am surrounded by love, family and friendship.  My heart is full and my eyes are open. Happy Birthday to me.


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ilovecharts.tumblr.com check them out!

Click here: Interactive Map of NYC, then and now to check out their blog and this awesome post!

Looking for something to distract you from what you should really be doing? Play around with this interactive map and see the difference between 1836 NYC and present-day NYC.


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