Philanthropy Friday: Finding Sunshine After the Storm

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. You can view past posts from the series here.

photo via Sunshine After the Storm

photo via Sunshine After the Storm

I remember being in the hospital bed on that sunny morning in July 2005. I hadn’t been at the hospital for long. When G decided to arrive, he came fast. I wasn’t even admitted until after I delivered my baby boy. My first child.

It was early on a Saturday, and it didn’t take long for the maternity ward to became bustling with activity. I was lucky to get there before the crowd arrived. I enjoyed the quiet corner room with a view of the healing gardens outside.

While I was in pain, and probably a bit in shock from my first experience with childbirth, I couldn’t have been happier. Or more in love.

At some point during my hospital stay, I got a surprise (and welcomed) visit from the mom of a woman who attended our child birthing classes at the hospital. The classes were fun and really more of a support group for expecting first time parents. The mom had attended most of the classes with her daughter and was also a volunteer at the hospital. We bonded in those classes.

My visitor congratulated me and then told me that a woman from our class delivered her son stillborn a few weeks earlier. I felt the air sucked right out of me when she informed me of this fact. How could it be? She was just like me. She was doing everything right. She was healthy. How could she lose her baby?

I don’t know the details and I didn’t have her contact information to tell her how sorry I was. And, honestly, I’m not sure I would have known what to say if I did.

Sunshine After the Storm cover

Sunshine After the Storm is available in print and Kindle formats on

Sadly, parents lose children every day. I cannot fathom the pain a mother must feel when she loses a child. And it doesn’t matter how old the child is. From conception, that child becomes a part of you.

Back in October, my good friend Alexa Bigwarfe made her editing and publishing debut in Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother. It is a compilation of heartfelt, hope-filled stories to encourage bereaved parents that came about after Alexa’s friend lost her full-term baby. She wanted to impart her knowledge as a grieving mother and provide her friend with everything she needed to survive the terrible ordeal.

After reading the book, I realized that it is also a guide for those who have someone in their lives who has lost a child. Reading the stories painted a picture of the emotions that parents go through when they experience a loss, whether it was an early miscarriage or an older child. The feelings of isolation and sheer pain. Not knowing what to do next or when/if they would heal.

The contributing authors share their very honest, personal and different experiences with loss and grief. There are helpful tips throughout the book for those who are in the midst of dealing with a loss. There’s even advice on what to say (or not say) to a mother who has experienced a loss and several resources for grieving parents to utilize and find support. I particularly liked the stories from the men who were able to communicate how different the grieving process is for fathers.

Most importantly, there is a theme of hope beautifully weaved throughout the guide.

I share this book with you on a Philanthropy Friday because Alexa, being the advocate that she is, has also started Sunshine After the Storm, Inc. The nonprofit aims to raise funds in order to provide the book free of charge to hospitals and bereavement groups.

“It is our goal that, through Sunshine After the Storm, Inc.” no grieving mother should have to purchase this book on her own. We want to distribute the book to as many bereavement groups as possible, free of charge to them. If that is not possible, we will work with them to bring the price down to cost.” ~ Alexa Bigwarfe

Alexa is currently raising money for Sunshine After the Storm, Inc. through GoFundMe. It doesn’t take a lot of money to ensure at least one book is donated.

You can read more about Alexa’s story in a November 2012 Philanthropy Friday post called For Love of Kathryn. I also encourage you to read her blog, No Holding Back. You can purchase a copy of Sunshine After the Storm on in print or Kindle version.

Do you know someone who could use this book?

Guest Post: What Gen-Xers can Learn from Parenting in the 1970s and 1980s

The following article was written by Lynn Shattuck of Writing the Waves…Again

schwinnI am seven years old. I roam our neighborhood alone on my Schwinn 10-speed. No helmet encumbers my Dorothy Hamill haircut. My summer skin is brown and smooth. Later, my friend and I will pick blueberries in the pocket of woods down the street. We’ll bring them home to our moms, our fingers and chins stained purple.

Recently a friend and I were chatting while our kids screeched around the playground. We hovered near our toddlers while our preschoolers alternately hugged each other, climbed and fought. In between blasting our kids with messages about safety and kindness and taking turns, the subject of our own childhoods in the 1970s and ‘80s came up.

When our moms were pregnant with us, they may well have had a cigarette in one hand and a wine cooler in the other. They didn’t freak out over ingesting a little soft cheese. When we were babies, we slept on our bellies in cribs with blankets. Many of us were formula fed; none of my mom’s close friends breastfed their babies in the 1970s.

When we were older, we ate bologna sandwiches and fruit roll-ups and drank Kool Aid. We didn’t wear sunscreen.

And when our moms wanted to learn about parenting theories, they schlepped on down to the bookstore and bought a book by Penelope Leach or Dr. Barry Brazelton, or their mothers handed them a dog-eared text from Dr. Spock.

Most of us survived.

Guilt and doubt seem to be hardwired into our mother brains. I’m sure our 1980s moms doubted themselves. They had to worry about stranger danger and AIDS and whether they would become casualties of ascending divorce rates.

But they didn’t have the information overload that mothers today have, the dozens of conflicting theories on parenting. Attachment parenting, positive parenting, free-range parenting, French parenting. The hovering helicopter parenting that so many of us fall into.

And it seems to me that mothers in the 70s and 80s didn’t make things quite so hard on themselves. Sometimes they gave us spankings instead of trying to talk every little thing out using gender-neutral, politically correct dialogue. They weren’t so afraid to leave us in the car while they grabbed some groceries, or in the playpen while they read a magazine. My parents often hired teenage babysitters who tried to mimic Kim Carnes’ husky voice belting out “Betty Davis Eyes” while our parents enjoyed drinks with friends or caught a movie. My mom didn’t lug me to music lessons and baby sign classes and gymnastics while I was still in diapers.

But the biggest difference I see between parenting now and in the 70s and 80s is that our parents didn’t have the internet.

Sure, I can now find out the real lyrics to Billy Jean and what to do when my baby gets croup. But I can also instantly find 350,000 ways in which I’m parenting all wrong. I can feel less than because I don’t harvest my own pumpkins and make homemade agave-sweetened muffins from their pulp before I carve a Pinterest-perfect dollhouse from the hollowed out gourd. I can drive myself crazy reading about the pros and cons of circumcision and vaccinations. All the information about BPAs and GMOs does not help my OCD.

When I listen to all those different opinions and childrearing strategies, I get tangled up. The interwebs become a spider web, and I am dazed and constricted.

When I listen to all those different opinions, I can’t hear my own.

While spanking your kids, smoking during pregnancy and wearing parachute pants can be happily left in the past, our 1970s and 80s mama sisters (and the Eagles) could teach us something about taking it easy.

I don’t subscribe to I am learning to trust that if I need important information pertaining to my parenting, it will find me—just like my mom always did at dinner time.

I need to give myself—and my kids—a little space. From all the opinions. From all the information and hovering and overscheduling.

I’m trying to harness that freedom and spaciousness my little girl self had when she rode her bike around all by herself. Her culotte-clad legs so strong and dark. The whole street is hers. She takes a big breath, and her lungs fill up with sky. She knows just where to go, just what to do next.

Lynn ShattuckLynn Shattuck lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and two young children. She blogs about parenting, imperfection, spirit and truth telling at Writing the Waves…Again and her work has recently been featured in elephant journal.



The Differences Between Raising Kids and Saltwater Fish

After reading a blog post from Coach Daddy about his recent foray into fish ownership, I commented that I can kill a beta fish but can somehow keep saltwater fish alive.

Further discussion resulted in me admitting to paying $50 for a fish in the past and noting that my husband and I had to give up saltwater fish ownership in order to concentrate on raising kids.

It was then suggested that I write a blog post about the difference between raising kids and saltwater fish.

Game on, Coach.

In case you were wondering, here are 5 notable differences between raising children and saltwater fish.

1. Kids are far more resilient than saltwater fish. 

If you don’t know what’s involved with raising saltwater fish, let me school you. (See what I did there?) There are a lot of things you need to keep track of, including the salinity and temperature of the water, lighting, pH, nitrates, aeration and filtration. You also have to consider what type of fish, coral, invertebrates, rock and sand you introduce.You can kill your brand new $50 fish if you don’t introduce it into the tank correctly, don’t give it enough space or if you pair it with the wrong fish. Did I mention everything is alive – including the sand and the rock – in a saltwater fish tank? You can lose everything if the electricity goes out long enough. Kids, on the other hand, are pretty easy to keep alive. Advantage: Kids

Beware of the lunar wrasse!

Beware of the lunar wrasse!

2. You can return a fish if it has behavioral problems.

We once had a lunar wrasse that absolutely destroyed our tank. He dug in the sand and gravel until he reached the bottom glass, making a mess of the tank. He tormented other fish to the point where we were afraid they would not survive and were forced to get a tank divider, the proverbial line in the sand. Then he got past the divider and started throwing snails and crabs around the tank. He was pretty, but his behavioral problems made it so that we had to bring him back to the store. I’m pretty sure you can’t do that with kids. Not that I’d try. Advantage: Fish


Imagine live rock, sand, fish and invertebrates in this cooler. In a car.

3. Kids travel better than saltwater fish.

My husband and I started our saltwater hobby in Denver before we were married and had kids. It was also before we realized we didn’t want to live in Denver. So when we decided to move to Maine, we had to figure out how to bring our 55 gallon fish tank and its saltwater environment with us. We spent a lot of money on our saltwater hobby and didn’t want to leave it behind. Plus, it’s not like you can just take your tank to the shelter and tell them you can’t take care of the contents anymore.

We sold our most sensitive fish back to the fish store (yes, some fish travel better than others) and put the rest in a big cooler. We drove across country with a battery operated air pump, plugging in a heater and filter at night when we stopped at hotels. Somehow they survived, and we were able to get our tank back up after a few days of getting the new environment set up. Kids? You can pretty much just throw them in a car seat, give them some food, pop in a DVD and you’re good to go. Advantage: Kids

4. You can leave saltwater fish alone for short periods of time.

Forgot to pick something up at the store? You can leave the house without worrying about family services giving you a call later in the day. Want to go out at night with your spouse? No need to pay a babysitter. As long as the electricity stays on and you’re not gone for too long – they still need to eat and have their water changed – fish are okay with being left alone. Also, they don’t talk back to you or make you feel guilty when you do leave them. Advantage: Fish

5. Kids will take care of you later in life.

With all the time, effort and money put into raising kids and saltwater fish, there is not a lot of ROI with the fish later on in life. While they are fun to watch and pretty to have on display, you can’t cuddle a fish and they’ll never tell you “I love you.” Though we did have fish that had distinct personalities, none of them are going to help me out when I’m old and ready for the nursing home. Here’s hoping at least one of my boys will put some time, effort and money into taking care of me one day. Advantage: Kids

So there you have it. When it comes to raising children and saltwater fish, kids have a slight advantage over marine life. Both require a good amount of effort and money. Both are fun and challenging. Both can be shown off to other people when company come over.

But only one will take care of you when you’re senile and rocking the walker.


Do you currently raise kids or saltwater fish? Are you brave enough to do both at the same time?

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