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Did You Notice The Elephant? (Reflections on Grief)

I’ve been asked a few times write or talk about my personal experiences with grief. It feels like there should be a lot I could say but whenever try I my mind fills with questions.

What can I say?
What should I say?
What if I say the wrong thing?
What if my words offend someone?
What if my thoughts aren’t as valuable as someone else’s?

Ironically, as I reflect on those questions I’m struck with a realization.

Those are the exact questions that paralyze us from talking to others who are grieving.

But the thing is– it seems to me that more times than not, when it comes to those who are grieving, it’s better to err on saying something rather than nothing. Even if it’s not quite right. Even if it’s cliché. Even it’s stupid. Acknowledgment goes a long way in showing support to someone who is in pain.

When you suffer a profound loss—like the loss of a child, in my case– it can entirely consume your thoughts, flavor every conversation, color every observation. It’s really like that old elephant in the room. It’s big, everyone knows it’s there. There may be many concerns or varying perspectives on how or what do do with the elephant but it’s ridiculous to not address it. However, obvious observations (the elephant is there), may not always lead to congruent conclusions, or similar solutions (how and what we do about it). By not addressing the elephant of grief, we are often making a lot of assumptions, or we are fearful. We are fearful of causing more pain, or fearful of being uncomfortable. But, are assumptions or fear ever the most helpful ways to deal with people?

So I’ve decided–I’m just gonna write about the things that come into my mind. I’m not going to let the questions paralyze me. I’m going to hope and pray that something I say, at some point will resonate with someone, will help someone, even if it helps one person dealing with loss, especially the loss of a child, to realize they are not alone. The pain is real, it is hard, it is horrific.

I’m also acknowledging two things.

1) Grief is a feeling or an emotion, and thereby subjective. Emotions are allowed to be subjective. No two people feel grief the same way, just as now two people experience fear, anger, or love the same way.

2) Grief is non-linear and unpredictable. And that’s so darn hard for us finite humans. We want to know the plan, when the pain will end, but yet, if I stop grieving, will I stop remembering? We have good days, and then out of nowhere a trigger causes your eyes to burn and fill with tears.

So that’s my introduction to the revival of this blog.

For those of you who are finding me via google or pinterest, because that is where the majority of my traffic is from—welcome to the place where stuff is about to get real.

You can read about the loss I’m referring to here.

And I’m not apologizing—just informing: I have no idea how many posts I will do on this topic. There are a lot of reasons why I’m no longer a reliable blogger, but maybe those are for another post. 🙂

I know I have at least one post to come. And it’s about this plant—or part of a plant—and the oft misapplied concept of “letting go.”

reflections on grief, grieving mothers, loss, hope

Did You Notice The Elephant? (Reflections on Grief)


Chasing Sunsets

We went on a bike ride tonight. Just me and the two oldest after the two youngest were in bed. We biked a few miles to the south and east when I realized, we should have gone north and west—to chase the sunset.

I glanced at my phone, checking the sunset time, and current local time before announcing to the boys I had a new plan. They were excited at the prospect perhaps only to match the exuberance with which I pitched the idea.

We changed our course slightly, looped quickly around the park (our original destination) and picked up the pace. We only had 20 minutes until the official sunset time, and about three miles to go.

There was a clear spot, a vacant lot, which is somewhat westward facing. That was my goal. I watched the sky grow dimmer as we traveled the blocks, and without spectacular color like I wanted. We went on–a hopeful 8 year old leading the way.

We got to the clearing. There was nothing spectacular. With optimism my son said, “If we bike up further, to the bridge, we might have a better view.” So we did. It wasn’t much better.

It was a plain old, ordinary sunset. No streaks of purples, pinks, oranges or reds. No rays of sun erupting through clouds. Just some greyish clouds, and faint pink streaks, or maybe they were beige.

So-so sunset

But really, what sunset is truly ordinary? What is plain or dull about our light source, which remains ever faithful, perhaps in reflection of its Creator. It never leaves us, it simply leaves our view for awhile, and when it does, it illuminates new extraordinary things—things that are just out of our sight. It continues to warm lands, and peek through the cracks of curtains while people miles away are beginning their days as we end ours.

There’s beauty in every sunset. The most profound beauty is in the fact that we were even able to witness it another day. Even in the midst of a thunderstorm the sun sets– we just can’t see it. The colors in the sky, the clouds, or the reflections it can produce are indeed beautiful and enjoyable, but those are the times it’s not hard to notice and point out the beauty. In fact, it’s hard to miss. But when the colors are dull or seem ordinary, the consistency, the faithfulness remains. The fact that while the sun sets, it most assuredly rises, is the beauty we are temped to, and often do, miss.

The boys and I discussed concept briefly when we reached the new vantage point, with little change in view. we praised the Creator with our words, then biked home.

And I reflected on these things as the warm, sticky, late August air moved the hair on my brow up and down. As the locust hummed, the frogs sang, the crickets chirped, and the evening birds tweeted while chasing their dinner, I pedaled. It was beautiful—the end of summer, the edge of autumn. And I watched my children bike ahead with the joy and exuberance that comes from the of chasing sunsets, and the added pleasure of being able to ride on the path as the street lights turned on.

Riding with street lights

The View From the Pool

It’s been some time since I’ve blogged. It’s been so long I wonder if people still blog any more. If people still find them relevant. It’s probably been about a year since I’ve started to lose a grip, not like I ever had one (or cared), on what’s hip, cool, or trendy in this realm.

Although, Bright Shiny Things has never been about what’s hip, or trendy, or cool, or even about best blogging practices. What started as a little place for me to exercise writing, grew into a place for me to exercise all kinds of creativity. To create recipes, share ideas, and receive a shocking amount of, what I would consider, success. Even when my posts got “popular” and media came, and went, and came, I chose to keep Bright Shiny Things—solely my random world. No sponsored posts, no ads but my own, no attempts to make money.

I loved Bright Shiny Things as it existed for a season. I love that people are still finding and pinning my food creations, that people are using my Jesse Tree ornaments, that people around the world, amusingly enough, connect with me over coloring, of all things.

But the season has changed. It’s summer and I’m thinking about pool time. Bright Shiny Things has hung out in the shallow end. Maybe dipping it’s toes once or twice from the edges of where it starts to get deep. But mostly staying in the shallow waters. Shallow is safe, it doesn’t require much energy, you can sit, and splash, you can cool off and relax. Shallow is where you can touch–where your feet rest on something tangible and solid. Shallow sometimes gets a bad rap—shallow isn’t bad, shallow is nice sometimes, maybe even necessary. Staying in too long in the deep waters is exhausting and can be dangerous.

But my life as of lately hasn’t been spent splashing in the shallows. My life has been tossed in the deep end, sometimes life is bobbing up and down sputtering as I am tired of treading water. Life is sometimes sweeping, strong, front crawls. Life is sometimes, maybe most of the time, an inefficient doggy paddle.

The past 18 months I have experienced the joy of adding three different children to our family through adoption, I’ve experienced the pain of losing one. I’ve learned to live with grief, and trauma. Learning that the impact of either never goes away. And am hopefully on the road to broader understanding, even flourishing, within difficulty. I’m learning to look at life differently as I now parent my second child with “special needs.” I’m learning about the brain, about learning about bonding, learning about sensory processing, about people, relationships, about all kinds of things I didn’t think of prior to fall of 2014. I’m learning how to be a girl mom. After spending such a long time as the only princess—I’ve been promoted to queen.

From the deep end my perspective has changed, and everything in my field of view is drenched in new light. That, of course, includes Bright Shiny Things. I’m dissatisfied with shallow writings but there’s a problem. I’m not sure I have the energy, or more logistically, the time to write from the depths. I may still find time for some silly, fun, or even food posts—but I just don’t know.

I want to write of grief, I want to write of trauma, I want to write of the daily challenges and joys parenting children with needs can bring. I want to write of faith and of what the Lord has done, and is doing.

And as if we haven’t experienced enough change here, we just moved. Well, perhaps the past tense is a little premature. We are moving—I mean, we are staying and living in a new home, our address has changed, but it feels like it will be quite sometime before we are truly moved. It’s funny–when you double the amount of children in your home the square footage stays the same, possibly even shrinks. But we now live in a home where we can walk a little more freely. It’s been a tremendous blessing. It’s another thing I could write of—how God provided the perfect space for us, giving us things we’ve always wanted, but didn’t bother to ask him.

Like this porch.



It might seem silly but we’ve always wanted a porch. We didn’t think we’d ever find a porch with a farmhouse feel in the suburbs– we didn’t even bother to ask. And now, perhaps, the Lord will give us a brief respite, perhaps I will find time to sit here, and reflect and write from the depths. Perhaps.

Thank you for reading, thank you for pinning, thank you for sharing, thank you for allowing Bright Shiny Things to exist.

Until we swim again …


Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

HOLY COW! I’m here! I’m blogging! It’s astounding! (Maybe not the content, but the fact that I’m doing it at all.)

Bright Shiny Things has been on hiatus because we’ve had some big life changes here. About 6 months ago we were matched for another adoption placement, actually two. We were blessed to have 1 and 3 year old siblings join our family. And that’s really probably all I need to say. The hiatus is probably pretty self explanatory.

They are a delight, we love them, they are busy, and when you add homeschooling a 2nd and 4th Grader to the mix–it’s even more clear why this blog has taken a back burner.

But today. Today, I am going to attempt a post. I don’t know how long it will be before I have another one. I can’t even guarantee I will finish this one. It’s not that I don’t have ideas, it’s the time to sit down and write that seems to escape me.

I am writing this because I have a problem with vegetables. I love salad. I love baby carrots. I enjoy almost all raw vegetables. However, there aren’t a lot of cooked vegetables that I enjoy, and this has seemed to transfer to my children. In case you are unaware, it gets a little chilly here in Minnesota during the winter, and when it’s chilly I have a harder time enjoying salad and raw, cold, vegetables.

Enter spaghetti squash: a produce selection I have heard much about, but never made myself. So I decided to give it a whirl, and bake it into a lasagna type dish. And you know what? It turned out delicious, and as a bonus all of the solid food eaters in my house love it!

Now, let’s see if I remember how to write a recipe …


Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

1 Spaghetti Squash
15 oz of Ricotta Cheese (I use low-fat)
2 1/2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (divided)
1 cup Shredded Parmesan cheese (divided)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried parsley
a dash or two of nutmeg
1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce

Cut squash in half length wise and scoop out the seeds. Bake, cut side down, on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until the skin is easily pierced.

Allow to cool, and carefully scraping a fork across the squash, create “noodles”.

In a medium mixing bowl combine ricotta, garlic, parsley, and nutmeg. Add 2 cups of shredded mozzarella and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan.

Place approximately 1/4 cup of sauce in the bottom of a large pie plate. Layer with approximately 1/4 of the squash, and 1/2 cup of the cheese mixture.

Repeat layering and place 1/2 cup of mozzarella and 1/2 cups of Parmesan cheeses on top of the final sauce layer. The layers should be like this: sauce, squash cheese, sauce, squash, cheese, sauce, squash, cheese, sauce, squash, cheese, sauce, shredded cheeses

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until hot, bubbly, and slightly browned on top.

Tips, Tid Bits, and Photos

I didn’t want to do a whole write up about how to cook spaghetti squash, so if you don’t know how, and my directions aren’t clear enough, here is a nice tutorial.

Spaghetti Squash

And, if you’re short on time (like I often am) you can cook the a day or two before and put it in the fridge. I didn’t even shred it up until right before I assembled the dish–just cooked it and threw it in a Ziploc bag.

Whenever I make lasagna, or stuffed noodles, I add nutmeg to my ricotta. I don’t know why. I think I decided it was in a lasagna I ate once and I liked it so I always add it because it tastes good.  See the brownish stuff? That’s how much nutmeg I added on this day.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna




I like to set up a little, neat assembly line, like this.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

You can layer it however you want, just is just how I like to do it. It’s not an exact science, and the measurements aren’t precise.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

I assembled this in the morning, and kept it in the fridge until it was closer to supper for baking. So, this is a great recipe to do in steps or make ahead.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

I often serve it with garlic bread, and salad, even though I kind of implied it wasn’t salad weather anymore. Sorry to send mixed messages.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

So there you are and I feel SUPER accomplished for getting this out. I have so many things I’d like to write about … we’ll see what I can get out in the next year.

Until we meet again,

How I Came to Color on the News

Things are close to being out of control…

And never has this meme been so fitting.

Ladies Coloring Club--a big deal

It has been quite month for Bright Shiny Things. I still have sticky notes for recipes hanging on my kitchen cabinet that I still hope to get written up sometime, but I’ve been distracted.

I’ve been distracted with the normal things of life, especially as we’re getting ready to wrap up school for the year, but, I’ve also been distracted by coloring books, and crayons. (Insert some cartoonish sound effect of screeching breaks and canned laughter, for lame, un-funny, comedic effect.)

Well, it’s not the coloring that’s distracting me so much–it’s the attention my coloring, or rather my post about, and the group of ladies, who color is getting that’s distracting. Original post here: Ladies Love Coloring–How to start a Ladies Coloring Club.

Warning and background…

Be warned I will probably have a few posts dedicated to this topic, but you survived all of the random Elvis stuff so you can probably survive these posts. (Or maybe you’ll ignore them–but let’s pretend that’s not what you do.)

Be also warned this post is a little lengthy–but I hope you find it interesting or, at the very least, mildly amusing.

Now, the reason I intend a few posts about this topic is because there has been a lot of unexpected things happening. I’m going to go into some specifics on a couple of these happenings in follow up posts, but for now, I will focus on how I specifically came to color on the news.

A few weeks back I noticed a bit of a spike in my blog traffic. People were somehow finding my post and sharing it around Facebook. I don’t have a blog that generally gets a lot of traffic that way. If something gets around the interwebs it’s usually a recipe, and it’s usually via Pinterest.

After the Facebook traffic, there came another spike, this time the traffic was coming from I wondered what was going on. A little bit of research lead me to discover New York Magazine was a pretty decent news/media website (I mean they only have a modest 1.4 million Facebook followers). They had found my post, written about it, and I had no clue. Tell me, if you read it, wouldn’t you have thought we spoke? Or emailed? Or something? Click here for the article.

Shortly after that, people started sending me an NBC nightly news piece about adult coloring (not including us) and something about it sent me over the edge. I was slightly irked that people were publishing articles about me, without my knowledge–and feeling really, maybe, even taken advantage of because of my accidental trendiness. (I’m ok now, don’t think I’m complaining–it just kinda caught me off guard.)

So, I sat down with a cup of coffee at 7 AM. I went to the first news station I could think of. Why? Because they have a morning weather guy that I really like. That was my only criteria for picking them. I found a spot on their website that said news tips. I thought, “well, I didn’t think this was news but…”

I proceeded to (very quickly) write the following letter, which was too long for their website form, and required a direct email. It’s full of typos, which I left for your pleasure, as well as a bit of attitude–but as it turns out, they wanted to talk to me anyway!

Here’s the what I wrote.

Dear People Who Decide What’s News.

I have never written to a television broadcast station before. Forgive me for breaching any typical news-station-letter-writing protocol. (I’m not even sure where to send this—please forward or delete as you see fit.)

I am writing to you because I (and a group of ladies I know) are apparently, and initially unknowingly, a part of a large trend sweeping the country—or at least dusting corners here and there

In January, on a whim, I mused to my husband, “I bet if I started a club for women to come and color—bring you own books and crayons and just sit and color—people would come.” He laughed, scoffed really, and can now regularly be found shaking his head in disbelief. He shakes his head because now adult coloring is being talked about everywhere.

His first head shaking occurred when I was interviewed by NPR about our club. “MPR?” he questioned, “No, NPR!” was my reply. I spoke with NPR for 6 minutes and they witted it down to a few seconds. It can be heard here, on All Things Considered, around the 52 second mark:

I thought that would be the end of it but I also have a blog. It’s not a real blog, meaning, I just do it for me, and for fun. I don’t network, I don’t sell ads, or do those typical blogger things, but I wrote about our little group on it. Last week, somehow, my post was picked up (without my knowledge) by New York Magazine—New York Magazine! Then the LA times linked to that article, and there continues to be news pieces, national news pieces, about adults who color.

You can find these pieces at these sites: and

My original blog post is here:

Being a passionate lover of Minnesota, it seems a shame to me that the national news is getting to tell the story, of this local group of unassuming trendsetters. If you would like to learn more about our club, and this craziness, I’d be happy to talk to you.

If anyone would like to attend our club you’d be welcome.

There are coloring club rules though: it’s for Ladies, and you have to color at coloring club, but how and what you color is up to you (inside the lines, outside—we don’t judge). If you ever stop by some of our members have vowed to wear their nicest yoga pants.

We don’t claim to have started this trend, it was purely coincidental. We have spun off and inspired a few other clubs to start, and it has been great fun to be a part of what’s happening.

Truth be told I don’t watch the news like I used to—my lifestyle doesn’t allow for it often.

So if you have covered this, I missed it, and you my disregard these ramblings.

Jenny Fenlason
Founding Chair-Color-er of the Ladies Coloring Club

They contacted me that same afternoon. They wanted to feature us that night but we couldn’t swing it, so after some going back and forth we worked it out for them do a story on us and visit our club a week later. You can see the story here.

Since my first contact with the news, another media outlet picked us up–only it’s a tabloid, and it’s all wrong, but it’s given me great fodder for an open letter to them (one of the follow-up). And then, after the story aired, it’s been shared all over the place. It’s a little crazy.


For the record, this is the only news outlet I have contacted personally, besides the short blurb on NPR after I responded to their call for adults who color. Anywhere else you read about me–is not from me seeking it out, and at this point, most of them are not without my prior knowledge (other blogs linking to me are cool–that’s a blogger thing, that’s different).

A lot of good things have come out of the craziness. I’m making new connections and I love connecting with people. So many women have contacted me about our club, or starting their own that we set up a Ladies Coloring Club Facebook page to help people all over connect and color. 🙂

And, I’ve also been given some brand new coloring books that I’ll tell you about in another follow-up post. Maybe even give one away … I’ll work on it.

I think that’s it for now.

I warned you this was long. Sorry about that. Just know, this is only a fraction of the things that have been going on in and outside of my head with this. (Translation: It could be worse.)


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