It is almost four weeks since I last wrote a post. It has been very strange to not share with you for such a lengthy period of time, and I have dearly missed our conversations here. Still, I make no apologies for it – the time away from this space has been crucial in allowing me to cope with everything that has transpired in our lives this past month.
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There are some things that I can tell you.
I had an early miscarriage – or at least I think I did. (Who knows? Sometimes your mind throws up roadblocks to protect yourself from the pain.) My mum got diagnosed with a cyst in her brain, and though we were later advised that we didn’t have to worry about it, it was a shock nonetheless. Around the same time, the boys were all sick. One by one, each of them fell victim to high temperatures and lethargy, and there was even one trip to the hospital. Needless to say, neither Rick nor I managed to get much sleep during this time. Our exhaustion was bone-deep, and our resilience to the ordinary, everyday stresses of life grew wafer thin.
There are also the things that I can’t tell you about.
The things that have filled me with anger. And hurt. And anxiety. And anger all over again. Things that have kept us up late at night. Things that have made me question this life that we’ve chosen. I have felt trapped, helpless, and suffocated. I have wept endless tears of frustration. I have been challenged to tolerate, and to forbear. To forgive, and to not resent. To love, and to not hate.
Even now, as I write this, there is no resolution.
But there is the sovereignty of God, and in Him I do trust.
And because of that, there is hope.
And a determination to stand firm until the very end.
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Amidst all of this, there was Cameron’s seventh anniversary and birthday.
It came upon us before I even had the chance to prepare myself.
The day of his anniversary was beautiful and bittersweet, with much to be thankful for. His birthday, the day after, was much harder to endure.
Though I have not yet written down all the details, I fully intend to do so.
Because I always want to remember.
Cameron, you are loved and missed. Every single day.
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In withdrawing from my blog, I also withdrew from social media.
The time away has been deeply cathartic.
Not just for my emotional health, but also for my creativity.
Today was Cameron’s due date. In four days time, it will be his seventh anniversary on the fifteenth. With all that’s consumed our personal life in this last month, I have barely had more than a few moments to grieve. To remember. To shed tears for my son.
Yesterday, I started reading what I wrote last year on his sixth anniversary, and I wanted to share it with you all. Once more, I am reminded of the power of words, the importance of journaling, and how I never want to forget any part of this journey…
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I want to remember how I lay in bed by myself this morning, entranced by the grey light seeping through the blinds. Even though I could already hear the three boys up and about in their room, I savoured that solitary moment to help me get through the rest of the day.
I want to remember how Jamie was upset because he wanted daddy. When I finally placated him, I invited all three of them to climb onto our bed. Angus and Pete immediately made their way to the head of the bed. They plomped themselves down onto the pillows and pretended they were in a car. Jamie, being the tiny rebel, stayed in the middle of the bed and wouldn’t budge even when I asked him to sit beside Pete for a photo. Eventually, I lay down on the bed with the three of them and we took a ‘group selfie’ with my phone camera.
I want to remember the short but heartwarming exchange I shared with Deb and Liz at church later in the morning. Deb had asked me how my week had been, and I replied by telling her how teary I’d been all week. Liz came over as well, and I opened up my locket to show them the photo of me holding Cameron close to me at the hospital. I felt so vulnerable opening up my locket, but I’m glad that I did.
I want to remember how Maria remembered that it was Cameron’s anniversary. I was incredibly touched. She embraced me at least three times that morning.
I want to remember the chat we had with Brett, our student minister, after church. We told him it was Cameron’s sixth anniversary and that we were headed to the Memorial Gardens to meet our parents. He was suitably understanding and didn’t say too much or too little.
I want to remember seeing the white Peugeot and the silver Toyota in the car park. Our parents had parked next to each other, but with one empty car spot between the two of them. Naturally, Rick pulled into the empty spot. I could see our mums in the distance, and my heart immediately lifted.
I want to remember how my dad walked up to our car, took Angus, Pete and Jamie by the hand, and led them over to the grass area. It was sweet to see the three of them holding hands, and walking in a line with my dad. Meanwhile, I grabbed the picnic rugs, my Canon EOS and a bag of jackets while Rick changed Edward in the back of the car.
I want to remember seeing Cameron’s plaque for the first time since we were there last year. It looked exactly the same. Mary had placed a small bunch of flowers in a bronze vase next to it, and it was perfect.
I want to remember how we spread out on picnic rugs and then everyone disappeared to bring food and chairs from the cars, leaving only Pete and myself. Pete immediately took off his shoes and sat down on the picnic rug, telling me that he wanted to eat. I sat down in front of him and he wrapped his arms around my neck. It was the sweetest embrace.
I want to remember the blue sky and the blazing sun. It had rained last night and all morning it had been heavily overcast. Yet, just as we were setting up our picnic, the clouds parted and the sun shone down on us.
I want to remember the amazing picnic that our mums had prepared. Within minutes of sitting down, Mary took out egg sandwiches, salmon sandwiches, Vegemite sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches along with salad, crackers, dips, cheese and bananas. My mum in turn brought out half a dozen pineapple buns from the Asian bakery as I’d requested along with a thermos of hot tea.
I want to remember drinking that tea. It was still warm, and it was my favourite type of tea as mum had made it with evaporated milk. We drank it using the mugs that Mary had brought along. Mine was yellow. The tea brought me comfort and made me smile.
I want to remember the ANZAC biscuits that Louise had baked for us. She’d passed them onto Mary to give to us, and they were absolutely delicious. They were perfectly chewy and crunchy all at once, and the boys loved them. I told everybody to hold up their half-eaten biscuits so that I could snap a photo to show Louise later.
I want to remember how I asked Angus if he wanted to come with me to Cameron’s spot. He happily agreed, and we both got up and walked together, hand in hand. We sat down opposite Cameron’s plaque. He asked me again if Cameron was buried there, and I told him that Cameron’s ashes were under the ground just in front of his plaque. I explained that even though Cameron’s remains were here, he was actually somewhere else. In heaven, with God. As always, Angus understood perfectly. We sat holding hands under the sun for some time and then we started picking clover out of the grass together. We gathered a small bunch and we placed this in front of Cameron’s plaque. Soon after this, Pete came over and told Angus to chase him. I watched them run off together, and naturally wished that their elder brother were here to play chase with them too.
I want to remember how Jamie sat on my dad’s lap some twenty metres away from the picnic rug. Rick was the first to spy them together. We both grabbed our phones at the same time to try and capture the sweet scene before us. Rick told me later that he’d been close enough to hear bits and pieces of their conversation. Apparently, they were chatting about all the things that they could see, like the birds and the planes. When Jamie finally noticed him, Rick could hear him say, “What’s daddy doing?”
I want to remember how Edward happily sat in his pram for almost the entire time we were there. He didn’t really want to eat, so I held his tiny hand and chatted to him through the sun shade while I ate. After some time, my dad sat next to him and then some time later, when everyone was off wandering about, my mum took over. I was sitting over by Cameron’s plaque with Angus by that time and even then, I could hear the laughs and giggles that came from inside the pram. Mary later told me that mum had Edward completely entranced and that the two of them had a total conversation happening. Later, after our family photos, Grandpa held Edward in his arms and he instantly fell asleep…
I want to remember how Rick took me by the hand towards the end and we walked over to Cameron’s spot together. We didn’t really say anything. We simply looked at the words that we’d so carefully chosen more than five years ago. ‘In memory of Cameron Angus Mason, beloved first child of Richard and Rhonda. Died 15th Sept 2007. Born 16th Sept 2007.’ I’d seen that plaque and those words so many times and yet I still felt a degree of disbelief and incredulity. Could it really be that our precious boy had died? Our baby? “I miss you, little guy,” I heard Rick say. “Me too.”
I want to remember how I stayed behind at the very end. Everything had been packed up. Everyone had walked back to the cars. Yet again, I sat down in front of my son’s plaque. I looked at the words, but they no longer registered. My eyes misted over, and I started to cry. Through my tears, I sang ‘I Cannot Tell’ – the song that I would always sing in the shower when I was pregnant with Cam. I sang, and I cried. I cried, and I sang. I took off my locket, opened it up and placed it next to the bunch of clover. I stared at the tiny photo of me holding Cameron in that last hour, and wished with all my heart that he had not died. “Hey little guy, I miss you so much…” I yearned to stay there longer, but I knew we had to go. I reached down and picked up my locket, and touched the soil one last time.
“I love you, Cam. I love you from the bottom of my heart…”
And with that, I turned and walked away, my heart heavy and full of love all at once.
…I can’t even begin to describe all that’s taken place in our lives this last week. There has been a lot of turmoil, a lot of anxiety, and a lot of heartache. Please know that I do intend to return to this space when the fog has lifted a bit. For now, I need to focus on my family, as they are my utmost priority.
(Thank you to everyone who’s contacted me about being a part of the soft launch of our LIFE:CAPTURED site. Your enthusiasm and support has greatly encouraged me during this time. I will be in touch with you very soon.)
Last weekend, I attended a Christian conference for women here in the Northern Beaches called Inspire. It was held at and organised by our partner church, St Faith’s in Narrabeen. The two main talks were about thankfulness and forgiveness, and I was greatly challenged on both these topics. In particular, the speaker Kara Gilbert issued us a coffee shop challenge: the next time we meet up for coffee with friends or family, we are to do our best to not grumble or complain about anything at all, and instead, to only talk about things that we’re thankful for. I think this is a tough one, but I’m up for it! The day ended with a Q&A panel session, and one of the questions was about contentment: How can we, practically speaking, find contentment when our entire lives seem to be geared towards ‘the next thing’ – whether it’s finding a relationship, getting engaged, getting married, having children, getting a good job, getting a better job, having more children, seeing your own children get married, etc. In response to this question, one of the speakers shared these words, which been ringing in my heart and mind ever since: “You can’t do anything about yesterday. You don’t know anything about tomorrow. But today. Today is a gift. Embrace it. Cherish it.”
Honestly, none of us knows what will happen to us tomorrow. It doesn’t matter how many projects I plan, or how many lists I write, or how organised I try to keep our house – tomorrow, it could all be pulled out from under me. The best thing I can do, in amongst all of that, is to thank God for today and to embrace it. And so friends, with this printable, I encourage all of you to embrace today with me. Like last time, I’ve created a 6×4 card and a 3×4 card. Use them as filler cards for Project Life or simply tape them to your wall as a gentle reminder that today is what matters.
The photo was taken back in July when we were down in Gerroa on our family holiday. A few of the boys had woken up before dawn, and both Rick and I had gotten up to resettle them all. As I was walking back to our bed, I happened to peek through the blinds, and I saw this: an immaculate sunrise. It, quite literally, left me breathless…
Last Tuesday, Silvie from Little Gem Flowers supplied these beautiful blooms for my photo shoot with Trish. Silvie had been the mastermind behind the stunning florals for our second LIFE:CAPTURED workshop so I was pretty stoked when she wrote back to say she would be happy to help us out again. I’d sent Silvie a very vague brief by email – something along the lines of “some purple flowers and maybe some neutral-coloured ones.” Despite my bared-boned instructions (and my obvious lack of savviness when it comes to florals), she somehow managed to grasp my vision and we ended up with some blooms that were simply perfect for the shots: white daisies, pale pink magnolias, beige orchids, purple sweet peas, dusky pink carnations, violet orchids, and my personal favourite – orange pincushion flowers…
I wrote about a week ago that I’d been battling a good dosage of self-doubt and insecurity about my creative work. So much so that it’d become quite a stumbling block for me, and I was finding it hard to push ahead with my business timeline. Obviously, I’m not alone in this, and I also know that this is something that will come up again and again. So today, I thought I’d share three things that have helped me along the way this past week.
The first I’ve already spoken about. I reached out to my friend Liz who shares a similar design aesthetic to me – I guess you could say we are both minimalists at heart. But more than that, I admire and respect Liz for her work ethic, her humility, her kindness, and her genuineness. She is truly one of a kind, and I’m so thankful that we’ve become friends through our blogs. I trust that no matter what question I ask of her, she will reciprocate with nothing short of 100% honesty. Anyway, in one of my more severe bouts of self-doubt, I wrote Liz a rather heartfelt email – inquiring about her experience in building and launching her Paislee Press brand, and whether she thought I was heading in the right direction. Despite the fact that it was close to midnight her local time, she wrote back immediately and basically implored/instructed me to keep going. This was exactly what I needed to hear, and every time I find myself hesitating and doubting, I simply repeat Liz’s mantra to myself: “Just keeping going.”
The second thing that has helped me was watching Joy Cho‘s video from this year’s Alt Summit. In her speech, she talks about her creative journey and all along the way, she shares her experience of creating something from nothing. It reminded me of a post that Elise once wrote on her blog: the fact that everybody starts from zero. Together, Joy and Elise’s words have reminded me of two simple truths. First of all, it’s pointless to compare myself with other people because everybody has to start at the same point (ie. at zero). And second of all, hard work is what matters. Behind every thriving brand or business is someone who has put in days, weeks, months, years of work. It’s almost ironic that I needed to be reminded of such wisdom, considering it’s what I grew up hearing from my parents. I guess our parents are (almost) always right after all.
And the final thing? Going away. Having two whole days of not thinking or worrying about my work or business was arguably the most helpful thing that could’ve happened. Two days of being free to indulge myself in rest, relaxation, and the things I actually enjoy doing: writing, journaling, reading, and chasing light and shade. It was incredibly refreshing for my creative soul, and I came by utterly re-energised to take on what lies ahead and to make it happen.
What has your experience been like with battling insecurity about your creative work?
If you don’t have a tripod, use your partner instead.
When Rick and I were away last week, we both got to indulge our creative loves: Rick read (three books) and I took (more than a thousand) photos. There was so much light and shade in the cottage we were staying at that I just couldn’t stop clicking.
There were also beautiful rooms and, therefore, beautiful backdrops, so I could hardly resist capturing some self-portraits while the sun threw beautiful country light all over the weathered, timber walls.
Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to bring my tripod. (Or more accurately, I didn’t think to bring it along at all.)
Thankfully, my trusty sidekick of a husband was more than happy to stand in for me.
I would set up the shot, frame the composition exactly as I wanted it, and then Rick would take over and hold the camera where I’d had it.
It worked a treat, and even more awesome was the fact that I didn’t have to use the self-timer and wait ten seconds between each shot.
Rick was incredibly patient and put up with my endless instructions.
“Keep the lines straight. Don’t tilt the lens. Can you count to three? Just keep clicking! Try not to get the floor. I want more ceiling. Let me have a look…”
On the way home, I made an offhand comment to Rick about needing to bring my tripod next time so that I wouldn’t have to interrupt his reading, and you know what he said?
“No, don’t bring the tripod. Use me instead. I liked being a part of it.”
Have you taken any self-portraits lately? Feel free to link below.
(You can see the other posts in this series here.)
On Tuesday night, I held Bear close to me at bedtime. He didn’t want to drink any milk so I read My World to him instead (“The fire burns. The pages turn…”). Afterwards, I switched off the light and handed him his two dummies. He popped one into his mouth and clutched the other in his small chubby hand. I put his head down on my shoulder and sang his bedtime songs: Amazing Grace, and You Loved Me. I then prayed. We hugged each other close. I breathed him in, and he tried to put his dummy in my mouth. In the darkness, we smiled at each other.
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It’s been a long time since I last chased shadows at twilight, and I miss it. This is the sort of imagery that I love creating. This is the sort of imagery that speaks to me.
I may have to do this more. Yes, I must do this more.
Grey light, darkness and shadows – who would’ve known?
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Looking back over the last few years, some of my most poignant memories have been made at twilight.
It is the hour I hold the boys close.
It is the hour I read to them.
It is the hour I sing to them.
It is the hour I slow down to embrace the moment.
It is the hour I remember how blessed I am.
So from hereon, I plan to document twilight more – both in words and images.
And if you don’t mind too much, I hope to share all this with you.
What about you? Are you impartial or partial to the twilight hour?
I have to admit that I haven’t touched my Project Life album in the last couple of weeks, but I’m okay with that. Once life settles down, I’m confident I’ll get back into the swing of things. My strategy of simply doing two weeks at a time makes it easy for me to catch up, so it’s all good. I’m also behind on the boys’ albums by a few months but the cool thing is that Rick and I have both been making a concerted effort to write down each day the special and funny things the boys are saying and doing. In fact, Rick is really good at it, and I’m truly thankful for that every day. (He’s a keeper.)
What happened in Week 22?
I spent a quiet Monday with the boys, and then the rest of the week was taken up with preparing for our third LIFE:CAPTURED workshop. Compared to our first two workshops, I remember being relatively calm and everything happened rather smoothly without much stress. We held the workshop at Studio Neon and spent a wonderful day teaching photography, photo organisation, memory keeping, and design to a lovely group of people. The day after the workshop, Rick and I took all four boys down to the lake where we ate buns and drank coffee (us, not them). I remember that day being quite gloomy but, all the same, I cherished every moment with the family after so much time apart.
How were the photos taken and processed?
All photos were taken on my Fujifilm x100s and processed with VSCO Film. You can read more about how I edit my photos here.
Favourite photos from Week 22?
Definitely the photos of the children: of Bear climbing and standing on the little white stool despite the fact that I was telling him to get down (middle row, first page); of Pete and Jamie playing in in our lounge room bathed in golden sunlight (bottom right, first page); and of Angus and Bear having a moment alone with daddy after quiet time on Saturday (top right, second page).
Number of extra pages and inserts?
Just two 8×10 inserts containing photos that Rick took while he was out with the boys.
The photo of the workshop venue with the big clock and the gorgeous Chesterfield couch anchors the layout of the first page really well. Even though it’s a busy page, it feels very balanced to me. As for the second page, I love all the warm, golden hues.
My friends call me Ronnie, and you can too. I'm a graphic designer by trade, and a neat freak by nature. I started my own design studio in 2005 and ran it for seven years. I live in Sydney with my man, Rick, and four of our five little boys. We lost our first son, Cameron, at 41 weeks and we miss him every day. I love memory keeping, I love coffee, and I love de-cluttering. This year, I'm making over my life. I've been blogging for ten years now, and love how it keeps me sane. Grab a cup of tea, and have a browse. It's lovely to have you here.
This is my other blog, one that's close to my heart. It is a chronicle of our journey after losing our firstborn son, Cameron Angus Mason. Cameron died in utero at 41 weeks on 15 September 2007. He was born the day after on 16 September 2007. We love him dearly and miss him terribly. We will never forget him, our beloved first child.